Tag Archives: Positive Thinking

“Life by Design”?!? …Pulling back the curtain on this buzzy concept

The phrase Life by Design seems to be thrown around quite a bit these days.  However, what the heck does it mean?  …or, perhaps, should it mean?

The perception of life by design can easily be swayed by lofty posts on photo sharing and marketing sites (you know the ones) of excess photos from beach walks, coffee breaks on decks with breathtaking scenery, and/or work on a laptop in a picturesque setting that is more or less polar opposite to an office.

Although these images are certainly inspiring and pretty to look at, they may not be representative of entirely realistic goals for everyone.

So what IS… realistic in thinking about a “life by design”?   

Essentially, life by design is an approach to mindful living with respect to overall well-being for one’s self as well as their influence on others.  Often this would consider how one eats, spends time, thinks, and outwardly behaves.  It may also include how and where money is spent.

A positive life by design typically consists of specific intentions and a heightened self-awareness for one’s abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and inter-relationships with others.  Meanwhile, as further illustrated in this Inc article, Do These 5 Things to Live Life by Your Own Design, it also emphasizes not playing a victim’s role.

However, most of all, it’s realistic.  Instead of a fantasy, it’s more of a grounded perspective on or a mindset for one’s circumstances which ultimately influences personal behavior, conduct, and/or engagement with the world.

…and, how can you make the shift?!?

A few steps to take in the shift to a more positive Life by Design are;

Identify your why or why’s:  This is likely the most cliche, yet relevant step in any personal or professional development plan.  However, there is a legitimate reason to give this significant priority.

People with a strong sense of purpose typically live happier and less stressful as well as have stronger relationships or bonds with others.  In fact, it is a key pillar in the Blue Zones Project, a world-wide, geographical research initiative centered on groups of people with most favorable health outcomes.

A simple way to integrate this into your life is to find time for self-reflection and write a few things down.  This can be a consistent placeholder on the calendar or something you do when the thought strikes you in some sort of easily accessible journaling tool.

Set realistic goals:  There are more than one valid frameworks to set great goals, aims, or objectives.  One option that coaches love is the SMART goal framework (click for a worksheet from the University of San Diego).  The approach has been leveraged in numerous evidence-based behavior change programs, is easy to teach and implement, and, best of all, “smart” is more than just an acronym!  The framework can help break down overarching goals into actionable steps which can be oriented towards daily, weekly, monthly or annually.

The art, so to speak, is to set goals, aims, and objectives that are both intentional and creative.  This is where visualization tools can come in handy.  We have likely all seen those vision board parties…  you get the idea!  Focus on where you can thrive vs get bogged down or riddled by bottlenecks in productivity.

Great times for goal setting and/or review are at the end or start of a year and some version of a mid-point to the increment of time that you are trying to achieve the goal.  Finding time and space where you can be clear of distractions, think creatively, and have sufficient duration for a full brainstorm.

Identify how you are spending your time:  This more or less boils down to making determinations for when you are operating on auto-pilot and, perhaps, not actually productive.  What are your power hours?  When do you feel most creative?  Furthermore, are you including time to focus on your passions, causes you wish to support, and relationships?

Once you have answers to these type of questions, you can shift your projects on your calendar around to best meet your personal tendencies and better fit to desired outcomes.  Bundling tasks that are synergistic with one another is also a great tactic.

My resourceful friend Janet, owner of Aligned Biz Systems, has even more tips and tricks on her company blog.

Reframe obstacles or challenges:  A significant facet to life by design is how you respond to your specific circumstances.  Behavior results from a combination of conscious and subconscious minds.

The subconscious essentially catalogs all the information you have been exposed to and experiences you have had across the course of your life.  It is typically more influential than many people realize.  Counseling Psychologist, Christiana Star, discusses this further in her Thrive Global submission, How Your Subconscious Beliefs Affect Your Life.

Reflection on how you have responded to hard times or circumstances in the past can help to illustrate tendencies.  This Mind Body Green article, Out-smart Self-sabotage: 5 Steps to Change Subconscious Beliefs, sheds more light on this.

A basic reframe tactic is to recognize setbacks as key lessons learned or stepping stones.  Furthermore, clear and transparent identification of what gets in your way can help determine where a little personal development and growth work may be relevant.

Be open to support when needed:  “Superwoman” or “superman” may be fun to watch on tv or in the theater, but is completely fictitious.  At some point, we all need a little support to balance our potential weaknesses or challenges we may be facing.  Most of all, accountability can help us stay on track and accomplish things.

This HuffPost article, Life by Design, Not by Default, presents a light-hearted, yet likely relatable story of “falling on her face” a few times.  Yet, details further the intricacy behind making a positive “life by design” a priority including surrounding yourself with positive examples.

Finally… define your version of success!  (BONUS TIP: this may not be the status quo!)

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

 

Motivational Monday: Marathons & Life’s Journeys

Yesterday was the Chicago marathon.  Since moving to Chicago in 2011, it has become an annual tradition to cheer the thousands of runners and wheel chair racers.

The event is quite motivational to observe and many people come out to watch one of Chicago’s best “parades”.  For many spectators, it turns into quite the social affair with outrageous signs, creative outfits, various noise makers, and planned brunches at places along the course.  The positive energy can be infectious!

Each year has demonstrated its own sense of character.  One year, I had three out of town friends who traveled in order to run it and my cell phone was signed up for the tracking notifications..  (Talk about an added boost to the exhilaration from watching the event!)  This year, one sign that became the hit of social media for the day read “I complete Netflix marathons”.

As the sign implies, the theme of “marathon” can take on multiple meanings and purpose.  It can indicate a literal showing of athletic sportsmanship or it can be a figurative representation for various journeys throughout life; each with time committed and a respective end goal.  I have come to hold particular appreciation for the term marathon used as an analogy for one’s health journey.  This can be significantly relatable for one who is working very hard to send a chronic condition into remission.

Training for a marathon requires intent, commitment, and following a plan.  However, it also requires key aspects of resilience.  Beyond having the ability to get back up when one falls, it is the self-awareness to know when to take slower steps toward the end goal.  As the photo below reveals, there may be a few storm clouds along the way, but further down the path, the sun will shine.

For this week’s Motivational Monday, it is only suiting to focus on life’s journeys and many accomplishments.  Whether they are health related or not, each deserves its own form of “hurrah” for completion.

Congratulations Chicago Marathon entries and for all of you completing your own versions of marathons throughout your daily lives!

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Running is in the Air

Fall is in the air… 

For many Americans, the Fall season is a time to think about pumpkins, hot chocolate, changing color of the leaves, and, without further ado, football.  I, however, don’t care much for watching football and hold an even greater apprehension towards the less than healthy food options that go along with spectatorship.  Stadium concessions and sports bars aren’t exactly targeting the “clean eating” crowd and most spectating involves extra hours of sitting, something I do enough of during the work week.

Without disrespect to those that love this way of life as one of American’s greatest past times, I have come to accept that with football season, I will lose 50% or more of my social circle on “game days”.  Therefore,

…I must find delightful diversions for myself.

Summer’s heat and humidity, as well as the strong temptation to make a beach day, typically wreak havoc on my running game plan.  Yet, the Fall season is a great time to reverse this pattern and up my game at the practice of running.  Cooling temperatures and generally clear mornings create an ideal outdoor environment for hitting the trail, city streets, or neighborhood path.

Although not for everyone, running has been a great activity for weight loss and maintenance, physical endurance, and overall peace of mind for me.  Often, I have found greater mental clarity on or after a run.  However, I wasn’t always a runner.  Running laps or short distances for conditioning was a regular component of my training protocol in high school and college sports, but the “fever” that many people experience from running was something I never caught.

Embrace and gain focus.

Alas, I learned to get over it.  Through trials and tribulations with progress here, setbacks there, I eventually became a runner in my early 30’s.  The biggest hurdle was to quit making excuses.  In order to gain this mental clarity, I had to get over myself in many ways.  Part of this strategy included overcoming a perfectionist mentality while accepting that less active times were o.k. and not reason to throw in the bag.  In fact, as I learned from a collection of seasoned experts, taking rest periods in running can be beneficial to the body and more helpful than hurtful for long term athleticism.  After several years of taking a stab, then giving up, I finally paced myself to a reasonable running protocol.

The iconic slogan of Nike, “Just Do It”®, is a pretty good one for running motivation.  It also embodies the classic “K.I.S.S.” principle; keep it simple stupid (or silly as I prefer to use).  Finding the subtle joys in it versus focusing on any negatives has been the easiest way for me to let go and embrace running.  Now, about 8 years of greater focus to include running in my physical activity protocol and approximately 5 years of taking the practice more seriously in terms of setting goals and entering timed races, I jump for joy for Autumn weather.  After all,

…Fall, is now running season in my play book of life!