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Going Back to a Hard Place

Imagine revisiting a place you’d been long ago during a hard time in your life. Maybe that time was long, long ago, and the place far, far away. Or maybe it was last week, and the place is the coffee shop down the street.

Whatever the story, you walk in and experience an unpleasant flashback. You remember what happened when you received bad news, that thing that someone said, or whatever the hard time was about. But it’s not just about the memories. You can feel it. The anxiety tightens, and maybe you’re short of breath.

There's no doubt about it: that thing was hard! Not just a little hard, but hard in a life-changing way. Back then, during the time of the hard thing, you had no idea how you'd recover. You couldn't fathom ever being "okay" or normal again.

But maybe there’s also something good about this experience, the one that feels so unpleasant at first.

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2016 Annual Review: Let’s Look Forward to Big New Things!

In this (very abbreviated) Annual Review series…

I’ve never really had writer’s block. I think it was Seth Godin who said something about how writing is the only profession where it’s acceptable to stop working because you can’t be “creative.” There’s no such thing as nurse's block.

But … for much longer than usual, I didn’t know what to say about my review! I really didn’t.

One thing I know is that it’s important to pay attention to how things make you feel. If you look forward to something, that tells you something. If you dread something, or even if you just don’t feel that excited about it, that gives you other information.

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Why I’ve Resisted My Annual Review for the First Time in 10 Years

I can trace whatever success I’ve had to instituting and diligently following the practice of completing an Annual Review. It’s helped me write books, travel to every country in the world, start various businesses, produce events for thousands of people, and so on. After feeling that my life wasn't well-aligned, I recently added more categories focused on wellness and relationships—that decision helped a lot too.

But for some reason, as this year’s review time rolled around, I felt some resistance to it. I didn’t look forward to it the way I always have in the past.

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It’s Time to Change the Road You Walk On

You could make a big change at any point in your life. The world could be floating along, with or without you, just as it usually does. Then one day you go out for a sandwich, and while you’re eating it in the park, you think to yourself, “You know, I don’t think I’ll go back to work.” That same afternoon, you book a flight to Tanzania and spend the next ten years volunteering in a nature reserve.

It could happen.

Most of the time, though, that's not how it works. Usually we've been thinking about something for a while, and then those thoughts collide with an unexpected external event. Discontent + stimulation = motivation.

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The Change of Loss

"It feels very old-timey and theatrical to say 'This experience has changed me' but still things do happen that change us. When those things happen we can’t go back in time, we can only go forward or face the uncertain ambivalence between the past, present and the future."

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Just Because It’s Supposed to Work Doesn’t Mean It Will

Dan finished his education degree without ever stepping into a classroom.

After he graduated, he realized he didn’t like teaching and wasn’t good at it. The very first day of student teaching, where the goal was to serve as an intern before accepting a full-time position, he knew that this was not the career for him.

You’re probably thinking: hey, that’s life! He just had to stick it out, and then he’d be fine. And it’s true, sometimes there’s a learning curve on the road of purpose. We’re supposed to challenge ourselves, and it takes time to gain real-world skills.

This was different, though. Dan really didn’t like teaching. It felt uncomfortable and unnatural. He knew he could probably soldier on through the internship, but he didn’t want to go any further.

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How Goals Change Over Time, and What to Do About It

The other day I was cleaning out my home office, and I found some old notes. The notes were from more than eight years ago before starting this blog. At the time I was planning to undergo some big changes and attempt a new career as a writer.

As I looked through the notes, I smiled in recognition of many of the items I’d listed so long ago. I’d been to about 70 countries then, and was officially beginning the quest to go to all of them (193/193). I achieved that goal almost three years ago.

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Warning Signs That Your Life Lacks a Consistent Vision


You don’t know what to do at the start of the day.

Someone else or some other external events determine how you schedule and spend your time. Sure, you eventually jump into something, but your priorities are not your own.

You are pre-occupied with tactics and short-term opportunities.

Instead of seeing the long-term goal, you see only 2-3 steps ahead. You are a tactician instead of a strategist, in other words.

You are disillusioned with the things that used to bring you joy.

What once made you happy is no longer sufficient. You do the same things you used to, but without the same feelings of anticipation and enjoyment.

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How to Change When Change Is Hard: Lessons from a Timid Mouse

496852946_4c9e3f6824_zI was coming back from a run up and down Mount Tabor in Southeast Portland. I know the route well. It’s about a 5-6 mile loop from my house, depending on which path I take. More often than not, when I’m home for a while I run it at least once a week.

As I neared my neighborhood toward the end of the run, I noticed a cat in a driveway. Being a cat person, I often say hi to felines when I see them out and about on my run. Cats being cats, sometimes they follow me for blocks, intent on being my friend for life, and other times they can’t be bothered to acknowledge my presence.

This cat, I noticed, was different. He was sitting on his hind legs in the driveway, staring intently at something. Maybe it’s because he was so intent on the object of his fascination, or maybe I was just tired toward the end of the run—but for whatever reason I decided to slow down and walk over to the driveway.

“Hey, what’s going on?” I said to the cat. (Yeah, I talk to cats the same way I talk to people. If you’ve ever had a cat, you understand.)

The cat gave no response. He was fully immersed in something, and as I got closer, I could see what it was. There was a mouse! A tiny one, shivering in an isolated section of grass near the driveway—and just a paw’s swipe away from the cat.

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The Fear of Losing Prestige

2995435776_a6d1e63a54_zChiara Cokieng, born and raised in the Philippines, has been on a journey of multiple career changes. After graduating from a prestigious university program and landing a nice gig as an international consultant with assignments in America, she then quit her job to work on a business idea. The business idea didn’t pan out, at least not right away—so she took on a new role as a full-time employee for a startup. She plans to see this commitment through, but eventually wants to go back to her own thing.

In all of these changes, she’s had to manage the emotional labor of shifting directions, including telling people that what she hoped to do was no longer happening.

Here’s what she describes as the most important thing she’s learned...

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To Stop Insanity, It’s Not Just About Doing Things Differently


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"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

-attributed to Albert Einstein, but likely apocryphal

Whoever said it, you’ve probably heard this quotation at some point. And in one way or another, you’ve probably fallen into the trap of doing the same thing over and over, all the while expecting a different outcome.

I think the real danger of going insane doesn’t come from something new, but rather from something that we’ve been doing for a while.

Most of us are smart enough to realize that if we try something new and it doesn’t work, we can’t just keep trying the same way and expect different results. We might try again, but we’ll usually switch up the tactic. Even mice in a maze will learn to adapt and attempt different solutions.

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Sometimes Life Sucks, So You Might As Well Do Something About It


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I've always liked Trent Hamm's tagline: "All I care about is making your life not suck." This is what good bloggers, and good people of all kinds, do well. If you're trying to figure out the next step for your blog... or your life... think about how you can make other people's lives not suck.

Taking action on it will probably make you happier, too.

A couple people have suggested that the phrasing of Trent's motto is poor. Can't you make it more positive? they ask.

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The Cure for Boredom

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” –Dorothy Parker I strive to live in a sense of wonder, yet often I fail. Even on the road, where I feel most at home, I become acclimated to beauty and experiences. This champagne on my First Class flight is flat! … The…

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