Thanks & see you soon!

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Like the caterpillar that becomes a butterfly, we are always evolving into new versions of ourselves.

On this lovely Saturday morning, I’d like to take moment to thank each of you for supporting my run at this thing. The voting for the Good Mood Gig “talent search” ended last night at midnight. At the end of the day, I wound up with 711 votes – not only a very respectable tally, but also two lucky numbers, right? Unfortunately (or not … more on the not below), because I was 4,361 votes shy of the 20th spot, I will not be making the cut into the second round of the competition. 

I’m very excited about that.

Here’s the thing – I’ve been blogging professionally for about two years now. I love what I do and am very grateful to the folks who give me the opportunity to write for their audiences about specific topics, usually motherhood. But, I have to admit that writing for my very own blog about whatever topic caught my fancy was quite a different feeling. And, I liked it. Over the past few weeks, I realized that I don’t want to give that autonomy up.

As I’ve mentioned before, the deadline pressure of the Good Mood Gig competition was just the kick in the arse I needed. Launching by own blog is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time. If it weren’t for the hype of the blogging contest, I might have waited months (or even years) longer before actually getting it done. So, I thank the folks at NatureMade and Ignite Social Media for giving me the jumpstart I so desperately needed.

And I thank you for joining me on this little journey. I thank you for your votes, your comments, your enthusiasm, and your encouragement. I thank you for stopping me in the coffee shop to say you voted. I thank you for sharing my links with your friends and family through email, facebook, and twitter. I thank you for jumping on board with my fundraising drive. I thank you for taking the time to read my posts and for each kind comment. I thank you for sending pep-talk emails telling me how perfect I’d be for the job. Every gesture, no matter how small, warmed my heart and made me realize more deeply just how lucky I am to have so many thoughtful and caring people in my life. This experience made me take a little leap of faith, and you were there to catch me.

So, why am I so excited about not making it into the second round of NatureMade’s competition? Because I’ve realized that sharing the questions, ideas, and random thoughts I have is too important to me to sell it off to the highest bidder. I want to keep writing about being in a good mood, living life to the fullest, figuring out how to get things done, and enjoying each moment of the now; but I want to do it for myself and for you.

I’m going to take a break for a couple of months – November to finish writing my first NaNoWriMo novel, and December to have some down time with my family – but come 2010, I’ll be relaunching my blog under a new name. I hope to see you there and look forward to taking the next step of this journey with you.

Thanks again, from the bottom of my heart.

All the best,

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Start NOW

rosiehimageMy run at the Good Mood Gig may be drawing to a close, but I’m just getting started with this blog. Although I’m a little sorry that I won’t make the cut into round two (unless one of you has 5,000 friends who’d be willing to vote before Friday ;) I feel like this really is the “start of something beautiful.”

You see, over the last year or so, I’ve been toying with the idea of launching my own blog. I have a notebook journal full of ideas, a domain name, a WordPress theme, and a lot of passion for my topic; but – until the Good Mood Gig Campaign gave me a much needed kick in the arse, I hadn’t done much about actually STARTING my blog. I hate to admit it, but if it hadn’t been for the jumpstart the contest gave me, my ideas would probably still be gathering dust amidst the pages of that journal and in the back of my mind.

Do you have an idea or a project you’ve been thinking of for a while? What’s stopping you from starting? They say the first step is the hardest, but it’s also one of the most exhilerating parts of any endeavor. With each first step, you embark on an adventure that could lead anywhere, you fill your world with new possibilities. Like most things, starting becomes easier with practice. Though at first you may struggle to take each first step, eventually, you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier. Soon, your starts will lead you to new experiences that you would have missed if you hadn’t taken those first steps. Starting also sometimes leads to finishing, but that’s a story for another day.

Today, I hope you’ll think about starting something. It doesn’t matter what it is; all that matters is taking that first step. Go for it. Free yourself of any weighty expectations. Don’t think about the finishing, just focus on the starting. There’s a pretty good chance that your journey may take you places you never expected; but you won’t go anywhere until you take that first step.

Photo Credit: Rosie Hardy

Do something. Do anything.

whalesjawIn my small and very unscientific poll about the “root of a good mood,” nearly half of you said that a “sense of accomplishment” was a great source of happiness. Though popular culture often defines ultimate happiness as the absence of activity (think woman lying motionless on the beach, relaxing into a massage chair at a spa, or reclining on a chaise eating peeled grapes), I tend to agree with the popular vote. It’s not that I have anything against doing nothing. I don’t. In fact, I think doing nothing is an essential part of creating a sane and balanced life. However – big picture here – doing something is usually much more fulfilling.

This photo is a quick snapshot my beau took of me a couple weekends ago. On an impulse, I decided to scale the impressively high “Whale’s Jaw” boulder at the Gloucester park called Dogtown. You can’t really get the scale of the thing from the picture, but I was a good forty or so feet up in the air. That may not sound like much, but when you’re scaling a slippery, steeply angled, smooth rock face; it sure seems high enough.

There was no reason for me to climb this boulder. No one asked me to do it, and I’m actually slightly put off by heights. I had to ditch my socks and shoes to get enough traction to make the climb. I’m honestly not sure what came over me; but, I have to tell you, I felt pretty damn good when I got up to the top. It wasn’t about doing it entirely on my own. (I didn’t. My beau provided some great on-the-ground coaching and also spotted me on my somewhat less-than-graceful descent … going down is always harder than going up.) It was just about doing it. Why did the man climb the mountain? Because it was there. Sometimes, it’s great if you can stop thinking long enough to just do something. I didn’t ask myself why I wanted to climb the boulder or whether I should climb it. I just had an impulse, and I went with it. I DID something.

And the accomplishment – however small or irrelvant to my everyday life – was just as sweet as if I’d completed some task I’d been planning for months. It may have even been sweeter on some levels, because there was such a sense of play about the whole endeavor … the “just because” part of the equation.

Yesterday, on November 1st, I started another “just because” project. Alongside about 140,000 other wannabe writers, I started writing a 50,000-word novel for the 30-day National Novel Writing Month challenge. Though I am full of self doubts and second guesses, though I have only the glimmer of a storyline and a hazy sense of my overall theme, though I have an entire chorus of inner critics foaming at the mouth inside my weary head; I am just going to go ahead and do this. There’s no big prize at the end. Busting my ass all month to write what is sure to be the crappiest of crappy first drafts does not  have any moral, business, or financial benefit. I’m doing this just because I want to see if I can do it.

And, each time I push myself to do something – anything – just to see if I can do it, I’m amazed at what I can do & that makes me happy.

How about you? Have you ever done something “just because?” Have you ever surprised yourself by doing something you didn’t think you could do?

What fear can teach us about happiness

fearThe only thing we have to fear is fear itself. This phrase, made famous by FDR, speaks volumnes about the paralyzing nature of fear; but have you ever considered how powerfully fear motivates?

We all know that fear of something can stop you from doing things that might benefit you. A fear of flying might keep you from traveling. A fear of public speaking might keep you from impressing your boss. A fear of dancing might keep you from having a good time at the holiday party. But, fear can also motivate you like nothing else. For instance, a fear of illness might make you eat healthier foods. A fear of being fired might make you work harder. A fear of being embarrassed on stage might make you practice your backup vocal part over and over for six days straight until your family wants to rip your tongue out. Oh, wait. That was me.

Yes, fear can definitely motivate you by frightening you with potential consequences. But, what if you flipped that tactic on it’s head? What if you could motivate yourself by thinking about the positive benefits of overcoming a fear?

With the spooky, scary Halloween holiday upon us; I’d like to invite you to do something that scares you. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something that makes you uncomfortable, something that makes you push just a little bit past the boundaries of your “comfort zone.” You may be surprised at what you can accomplish if you set your fear aside for a minute. And, if you do succeed, you’ll reap the benefits of new experience, expanded horizons, and increased confidence. Even if you fail, you can still say you tried. In truth, the act of trying is more than half the battle when it comes to conquering fears. You may not succeed the first time out of the gate, but it will be that much easier to go for it a second, third, or fourth time.

Each time you conquer a fear, your capacity for happiness grows. Happiness is often a by-product of feeling in control and accomplished. When you eliminate fears, you increase your ability to control your world and to accomplish whatever task is at hand. Think how wonderful it would be, for instance, if you no longer had to agonize over every little presentation you had to give. Or, what if you didn’t have to spend time worrying about looking silly in front of your child’s Kindergarten class (and the other moms), but could just go in there and have a great time?

Fear has it’s uses, but I prefer to focus on the positive ones.

How do you use fear? Do you motivate yourself with the threat of punishment, or the promise of a positive benefit? Which works best for you?

Photo Credit: Luna DiRimmel

Lower your expectations.

sadprincessYes, that’s what I said; but it isn’t as pessimistic as it sounds. It might be more accurate if I said, “ditch” your expectations. Let me explain …

Have you ever gotten yourself all worked up about an event (like a party, concert, dinner, etc) only to be really disappointed when the big day finally arrived? I’ll bet you’ve walked away from more than one Big Deal something-or-other thinking, “Wow. That was anti-climactic.”

It’s easy to make the mistake of setting yourself up for disappointment by placing huge expectations on something. The “something” might be a new job, a special event, a relationship, or even – gasp! – you. The trouble with expectations is that you expect them to become reality, and then – when they don’t materialize the way you’d expected – you are sorely disappointed, even angry. You feel gypped out of something that was rightfully yours. You feel betrayed. You might feel foolish.

But, you say, you don’t want to go through life low expectations. Of course you don’t, and I don’t want you to either. I want you to go through life without any expectations. Ditch those expectations and replace them with aspirations. It’s a subtle but powerful difference. Put simply, an expectation is something you expect while an aspiration is a goal or objective. Often, expectations spring from a sense of entitlement, but aspirations usually spring from a desire to attain something through your own actions. An expectation is passive, but an aspiration is active. If you expect to have a great time at a party, you’re waiting for someone or something to create that good time for you. If you aspire to have a great time, you’ll find a way to have a great time – regardless of outside circumstances.

You should fill your life with goals and objectives, but put expectations out of your mind. Instead, work towards your goals while enjoying the journey. Expectations can be very limiting – closing us off to undiscovered possibilities. Ultimately, nothing we do is as much about the end result as it is about the journey … but that’s a post for another day.

Do you have expectations or aspirations about things? If you have expectations, how do you think your outlook would change if you shifted to aspirations?

Image Credit: Gabriela Camerotti

Good Moods ‘n’ Gratitudes

gratefulIt’s after 9PM and I’m feeling like I ought to just give in, take a shot of NyQuil, and call it a day. So far, this week has been plagued with technical difficulties, insane work schedules, a nasty cold, and – to top it all off – continued falling in the Good Mood Gig voting polls. Rough week, and it’s only Tuesday.

So, what does all this have to do with being in a good mood? I’m so glad you asked.

Whenever I’m having a particularly rotten day – you know the kind I mean – I take a moment to make a mental note of the things I’m grateful for. From the huge items that we often take for granted (like our overall health) to the small details that we often overlook (like sun shining through the window, warming the back of your neck while you work), each day holds many large and small pleasures for which to be thankful. The act of expressing gratitude automatically puts you in a positive frame of mind. How can you be cranky when you’re in full appreciation mode for the wonderful gifts in your life?

Think I’m crazy? You may want to try the gratitude journal experiment: For one month, take a few minutes at the end of each day to jot down five things you’re thankful for. I did this for one year and was amazed at the power of this tiny committment to consciously appreciate the good things in my life.

Today, I’m thankful for:

  1. Being able to take time to chaperone my daughter’s Kindergarten class on a visit to a local farm
  2. A great first meeting between two business associates that I referred
  3. Having the money available to buy my mom a couple nice birthday gifts (she deserves them!)
  4. The patience of my wonderful beau who always looks out for me – even when I’m the one driving me crazy
  5. An easy-breezey bedtime with my daughter tonight – bath, books, & bedtime

How about you? What are you thankful for?

Image Credit: Sno Shuu

How to easily turn on your good mood

ericHDo you have a personal soundtrack? I highly recommend getting one.

Whether you capture it on your iPod or 8-tracks, a collection of songs that put a little extra spring in your step is a valuable asset and a gift that keeps on giving. The right music can calm your nerves, bolster your courage, and brighten your mood. The right music mix can be a highly effective health tonic with no side effects (unless you count involuntary toe-tapping ).

Here are 10 grooves that always do the trick for me with a random pick for the embedded video:

  1. Amazing – Josh Kelley
  2. New Shoes - Paolo Nutini
  3. Stitched Up - John Mayer with Herbie Hancock
  4. Sounds Like This – Eric Hutchinson
  5. Rock & Roll - Eric Hutchinson
  6. Ok It’s All Right With Me – um … Eric Hutchinson again :) … see below
  7. Agua del Pozo - Alex Cuba
  8. Don’t Tell Me - Soulive
  9. Legendary - Hamilton Loomis
  10. Fibre De Verve – Paris Combo

So … what tunes get your mood into an upswing?