Rewriting your story.

As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”  Nothing could be closer to the truth.  But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back….

That is how Marc Chernoff starts his powerful article on 30 Things to Stop Doing To Yourself.  Marc and his partner, Angel Chernoff,  started their popular personal development  Life Hack blog in 2006 and now have more than 130,000 subscribers.

Everyone has days when they want to shake things up and make a new ending.  Sometimes it is hard to find the strength or the direction.  If you are looking for a great resource, pop over and visit Marc and Angel’s extensive library of articles for inspiration and motivation.  You are sure to find something to help you rewrite your own story.

 

Long time listener…

…first time caller.

I heard this on a radio call-in show when I was driving this afternoon.  I don’t often listen to call-in shows but it seems whenever I catch one, at least one person makes this comment to begin their conversation.  Today it occurred to me that is a bit of a rallying call for action – a decision to do something more involved.

Almost two years ago (is it really that long already??), I  decided to cut way back on my time on line.  I was spending much of my working day on the computer for my job at a not-for-profit, and more hours weekly for client work on a small home business.  To find some balance, I wanted to spend more of my own time on other projects so I stepped away from some forums, shut down my blog (no loss as I hadn’t really built much of a following) and drastically reduced my other social media time.  It was not a difficult transition but life changed, as it continues to do.  My work responsibilities evolved and I had less computer time so I renewed some of my online contacts.

I started Keep the Stories to promote an idea that I had had in the back of my mind for some time.  It related to my business and some personal challenges to organize and reduce.  I started with enthusiasm, a growing list of ideas – and the best of intentions.   I did the first few posts and was getting a rhythm, building to more frequent posts but then lost any momentum while I was waiting.

Waiting to resolve some technical issues… waiting for the ‘perfect’ idea …waiting for the right picture for the header… waiting for enough time to write extra posts to catch up on missed days …waiting for the brilliant idea to launch with a bang … waiting for things that were not going to happen.

It is time to stop waiting – time to stop just listening and make that first call.  Time to start with one post and then the next one.  To write when the mood strikes and not wait for some big inspiration.  To tackle the technical issues – or not – as they come and do what can be done.  AND to not worry about gaps in the posts but to plan to write with some regularity and consistency.

It’s a perfect day to start

Long time reader, first time poster?   Well, not exactly first time but first this time.  As the Chinese proverb says “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The next best time, is today.”

Fall is here, leaves are changing.  It is a perfect time of year for new beginnings.

Are you ready to make that first call?    Perhaps it will be to literally make a call but maybe your call to action will be to write a letter, take a trip, clean a closet, end a bad relationship, look up an old friend….   How will you take action today?

5 things educators can learn from J.J. Abrams’s TED Talk | EdTech Avenger

This article was from some time ago but it appeared in my social media feed again this week and it still rings true.

——-

Mystery can be an amazing inspiration for telling and keeping stories.   When J.J. Abrams’ spoke at TED, he talked about how mystery drives his interests – AND his storytelling.

5 things educators can learn from J.J. Abrams’s TED Talk | EdTech Avenger.

Why tell your stories?

Who is your audience?

There are two possible audiences for your stories – you and others.   The motivations for reaching either of these audiences might vary greatly and probably blend together.  Do you know why you feel compelled to share your story?  The reasons might help you decide what and how you choose to share.

Do you write (or sing or paint or…) primarily for yourself?

Expressing your stories can help you document your experiences, recall pleasant moments, uncover lost memories, release anxiety, put things into perspective, process learning, [re]discover insights, clear your mind, overcome challenges, inspire creativity, drive action or any of a myriad of other emotions and benefits. Whether your story prompts positive or less positive reactions, the process of telling them can help you better understand and appreciate who you are and what makes you one-of-a-kind.

Do you want to share your story with family, friends – or the world at large?

You are unique and your story might help others to better learn about you and maybe even more about themselves.

Your story might:

  • help your children and grandchildren know you better.
  • lead family members to understand more about their personal history and influences.
  • encourage people battling similar challenges or roadblocks that you have met or overcome.
  • inspire new ideas, new approaches or new appreciation.
  • make someone laugh, smile, cry, scream, rage, dance, run, write, share, think …

Why do you tell your stories?

What stories do you want to tell and how will you share them?

Write a new story

On my last post Preparing to ‘let it go’, I wrote about approaches to get a realistic assessment of a situation in preparation to let go of lasting regrets or self-recriminations.

Easier said than done

If I express regrets, friends often advise me to ‘just let it go’ or ‘move on’.  Unfortunately, I have  that suggestion rarely, if ever, is accompanied by any strategies for doing that.  Those of us with the tendency to hang on know that ‘just letting go’ is easier said than done. It isn’t like you can hit the delete button or even more simply, just stop thinking about it. I wish that I could easily do that. Believe me, I have tried! But my success rate is, at best, mixed and usually short lived.

I have tried asking people what they do, how they ‘just let it go’.  The usual response is “I don’t know, I just do”.  Not really too helpful as a learning tip.  My husband, who, at least on the surface, is able to put things behind him, expressed some confusion at the question.  When I asked him how he moved on from something, he replied with “I don’t understand how you can’t.” He did have interesting observation though.  He said the difference between the two of us is that I still think that I can fix it while he feels that it is past and finished. Hmmm. Actually makes sense, though might not get me closer to a strategy.  I do hate it when he makes me think like that.

I did get some more direct responses to asking people what they do. One friend told me, she repeats this little mantra to herself: “quack quack – like water off a duck’s back” to help gain perspective.  It might sound to simple but that is the beauty of it. It doesn’t have to be a complex solution, just something that reminds you of the goal to let go of the negativity and prepare to move forward with more positive energy.

Rewrite your story

I have used some of the information that I gathered to create my own simple 3 Step Strategy:

STEP 1: Describe the event. Be realistic.

Be realistic and objective about the event / issue / comment.  Give it a name. Get more detailed steps in Preparing to let it go.

STEP 2: Replace regrets with positive action.

Can you ‘fix’ it? Should you try? Is there something that can or should be said or done now?  Would it be possible to clean up or backtrack?

This is not the time to do something that will stir up old anxieties, regrets or rivalries so before you say anything, ask yourself is it true? is it kind?  is it helpful? If you answer no to any of these questions, do yourself a favor and make it part of what you are letting go.

If you believe you can still do something positive, do it.  Don’t hesitate.  Take action now. Pick up the phone, write a letter, send a text  or extend a hand. Make the first move. You’ll feel better for taking action, especially if it has the potential to make a difference.  Even if you are not successful at driving change, you can tell yourself that you did what you could and accept it as done.

If there is nothing that can change the source of regret, learn from it. What will you do differently the next time or with the next person? How can you share with others and help them avoid the same mistake?

Replace regrets and self-doubt with something more positive. How can you break the pattern? Try to move from regret to learning, from a holding patter to action, and from recrimination to forgiveness  -of yourself AND others.

STEP 3: Create a ritual.

Give yourself a signal that it is time to let go. Don’t worry if it seems silly or too simple or a waste of time. It is just for you and if it makes you relax, forget or laugh, all the better. Here are a few ideas.

  • Write it down using the name you gave it in Step 1. Tear or shred and recycle it, throw it to the wind or burn it.
  • Write your story in a journal – and literally close the book on it.
  • Write it on sand and let it go as the waves wash it away.
  • Talk or shout it away.  Tell your persistent issues that you are through thinking about them and are moving on.   You might want to do that on your own where nobody will hear you or you might decide to share it with friends. Maybe share a meal or a few drinks and make it an event.  Needless to say, don’t make a public showing if it is later going to cause you regrets.

Today I close the door to the past,
Open the door to the future, 
Take a deep breath
Step on through
And start a new chapter in my life.

Author Unknown

Those are my three steps. The process is still evolving so let me know how it works for you. And please feel free to share any suggestions for modifications.

Good luck.  And here’s to fresh starts and new stories.

Preparing to ‘let it go’

Letting go

There are some stories that we need to let go.  Or more accurately, some related baggage that should be discarded.  It’s important to keep the lessons but unproductive, even unhealthy, to cling to all thoughts of would’ve, could’ve or should’ve.

You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

This is a tough one for me. I’m always reviewing, reliving and reprimanding myself over things that almost certainly are minimal or forgotten by others involved.  My husband, who is much more able to put things behind him, has come to accept that I do not easily move beyond a perceived error. He once told me that the difference between the two of us on that front is that I always think that I can still fix things. Pretty insightful really (he doesn’t have to know I said that). That idea definitely gave me something to think about as I strive to become [more of] a free spirit unfettered by regrets.

Today’s challenge

Strive to let go of stories that hold you back by prompting feelings of anxiety, anger, jealousy, regret, envy or any of a myriad of other draining emotions.

Take what  learning you can from the experience then let go of the rest.  Admittedly easier said than done but start today to find ways to begin that next chapter.

  • Get a realistic picture of the situation that you are reliving, one that is not focused only on what you did / didn’t do and wish you hadn’t / had done.  Name at least one positive outcome or lesson or identify some progress that was made toward a goal.
  • Name the event so you can catalog and let it go (some strategies on how to do that next time)
  • Describe the event / situation. Try to be objective. Use as much or as little detail as you like.  This can be just for you or something that you choose to share.
  • Identify what you did wrong (by your reckoning) AND what you wish you had done differently.  Sometimes you might want to check your perception with others.
  • Try to objectively consider whether it would truly have resulted in a ‘better’ outcome, with ‘better’ meaning one that would not have caused you to have regrets.
  • Consider how other parties would feel about the situation Try to be realistic. How did they react? Would they even still be thinking about it? It is quite possible that they didn’t notice or place the same value on what you said or did.

With practice, you’ll soon be able to do these steps quickly.  Although it might be difficult, try to check your perceptions with others at least occasionally to help develop more realistic assessments.

Next time – strategies for helping move past the lingering negativity.

Organizing digital photos

Growing photo collections

It is increasingly easy to amass huge selections of photos and then find yourself spending long hours flipping through looking for a specific memorable image or trying to find one to illustrate a particular post or article.

I long ago lost count of how many images I’ve shot digitally.  PLUS I am of an age that I also have 20+ years of negatives and prints that I have been scanning to create printed  albums as a supplement to all the online collections.  My thinking is that getting the pictures in albums allows me to reduce the number of negatives and duplicate photos.

Making a system

Not long ago, I took advantage of a sale from a scanning service and had more than 1500 prints scanned, which was a big boost to digitizing my collection of old family photos.  Adding those images to my digital records is a good reason to review and update my filing system.

My own photo filing system is in serious need of review and refinement. Every time that I go to do a layout or gift project, I’m spending way to much time trying to find a certain picture that I have in mind, or waiting to be inspired by the right image for a project idea.  I have set a target to complete 4 of the photo books on my  to publish  list by the end of 2017.  To do that effectively, I need to streamline my process so I can spend time designing books rather than searching for the right photos.

Whatever system that you develop has to include backups.  It is devastating to lose pictures.  I speak from experience as last year I lost the better part of two years worth to a system crash.  I don’t like to think about it.  sniff.

Taming the image monster

Here are a few organizing tips for tackling your digital photo collections:

  • Plan a file naming structure that will make it easy to find images. For example, I used to organize by date but found that filing only by date didn’t work too well for me because I very rarely look for pictures on the basis of date. Consider a date AND a name in a consistent format that works.  If you do use a date format, year-month-day is the most effective way to keep chronological order. I still include the date but now put it at the end of my file name so images sorted by name are grouped by event first.  For example, Cathy1stBirthday-2017-06-02
  • Label all new pictures as soon as you uploaded from the camera.
  • Empty your camera card frequently, depending on the volume of pictures that you take.
  • Avoid edits when first uploading. Do that on separate editing session.  One exception, some people prefer to do simple batch edits on all photos at once.  For example, if the pictures were all in a poorly lit environment, you might want to do an action that corrects light on all photos before you file them.
  • Add keywords / tags to each of the pictures so they can be searched in different ways. Avoid copying the same picture into multiple files.
  • Batch changes – rename groups of files rather than one at a time.
  • Discard duplicates and near duplicates. Pick the best example of a series of similar images and discard the rest. Try setting a limit to a maximum for any venue or event.  Be selective.
  • Save pictures that tell different parts of a story – be sure that there are wide views, close-ups and pictures to provide context. Within reason, of course (see previous tip).
  • Avoid unfiled or miscellaneous photos to help minimize numbers of images ignored or forgotten.  Decide now to file.  You can always change later if it isn’t working but put everything somewhere.
  • Tackle a big organizing project in small bits. For example, work for a defined period of time or number of images sorted. Set a timer and move on when target is reached. If you open a file looking for a picture, label any identified pictures in that folder QUICKLY.  Don’t be sidetracked but do a quick rename with event and date.
  • Do new photos first and work back to the older pictures.
  • Do not feel that you have to work in a particular order if you are doing older pictures.  It is OK to work out of chronological order,

Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely [to the White Rabbit], “and go on till you come to the end then stop.
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I would love to hear your strategies and tips for photo organization.   Please share any tips or resources.

What are your goals for photo management.

KTS – A Two Part Challenge

I’ve broken my Keep The Stories project to a two part challenge. The first step is to capture the moments so you can tackle the second part and reduce the “stuff”.  It’s a simple idea but not always as simple in practice.

Part 1: Capture the Moments

Find ways to capture the stories of your life – from the everyday routine to the once-in-a-lifetime moments. Express your stories in ways that work for you. Use the same approach or mix it up as the mood strikes you. Use one style or many, in sequence or in combination.   Keep your creation private or share it with the world in print or online.

  • Shoot a photograph
  • Scrapbook (digital or traditional)
  • Write a song, a poem, an essay – or a blog post
  • Make an audio recording or a short movie
  • Stitch a quilt
  • Paint a picture
  • Incorporate the object into a unique piece of art

How will you capture your moments?

Part 2: Reduce the Stuff

Once you have captured the story, it is time to let go of the stuff.  Having a ritual might help.  In my case, I’ve decided to tell the next chapter and include what happens next to finish the story.  I’ve created a worksheet for telling the stories and have a section for the next step for each item. So far I’ve   identified donate, reuse, recycle/freecycle (http://www.freecycle.org/ to find a location near you), trash (sometimes it is the best or only option but I use this as my last resort).

I am accepting that it isn’t necessary to keep the things we associate with memories and finally getting rid of the stuff, though there is a still a way to go.

Take the challenge to keep the stories and lose the stuff.  Reduce the clutter, reorganize and change the way you think about the things. Recycle, repurpose or donate.

Do you have rituals that help you let things go?  Share in the comments.

Let go for a fresh start

Get rid of stuff

Over the past few months I have resolved to make a more focused effort to reduce the amount of stuff that I have accumulated.   I have started this blog to track progress, create accountability and share some strategies.

One of the biggest challenges around reducing collected artifacts is the tendency to attribute too much importance to any one item.  I find, for example, that it is difficult to get rid of somethings because they evoke memories of people or places or events or trips or something else that I don’t want to forget.

Why it is so hard to let go

The reasons excuses that I have for getting rid of things include:

  • “It was a gift.”
  • “I might use it — someday.”
  • “Maybe I will need that.”
  • “I’ve had it for too long.”
  • “I haven’t had it long – you never know.”
  • “Oh, I remember when I got this because…”
  • “But I got this when (or ‘at’, or ‘during’)…”

Sound familiar at all?

Simplify Simplify Simplify

The old way hasn’t work so it is time for a new strategy.  Rather than setting multiple goals and making big plans,  it is time for a new approach.   Simplify.  My new mantra and it is all encompassing.

  • Too many things complicating your life?

 Reduce the clutter to SIMPLIFY.

  •  Too many projects on the go?

Set priorities and say no to SIMPLIFY

  • Too many unfinished crafts or other ‘someday’ projects?

Pass them on to others or get some help to SIMPLIFY

  • Too many distractions?

Put down your phone, resist social media, unsubscribe to SIMPLIFY

You get the idea.

And that is the origins for my Keep-the-Stories project.  I’m on a quest to record the stories and get rid of the stuff.   I’m going to share some of my efforts as well as some prompts and strategies that might help you reduce, declutter and simplify.

I hope you will join my challenge to keep their stories – and reduce the stuff.   Today is a perfect time to start.

Are you like me in having trouble letting go of things?  What are your  biggest hurdles to letting go?

Keep the stories – Lose the stuff!

I’m a collector. Some might say pack-rat is more accurate but, to be clear,  I don’t keep everything indiscriminately; I am big on recycling, reusing and donating. My problem is that I keep too much because I struggle to part with things that were gifts or that are associated with a trip, event or occasion.

For years, I have most often captured memories pictures and memorabilia. I am able to evoke many wonderful experiences – and some not-so-wonderful ones – by looking through these collected photos and artifacts. This can be nostalgic, even comforting. But there is a huge downside to this approach in that it tends to make it hard to let go of things because they evoke memories of people, places and activities that have been important.

In the past, I would start with the best of intentions to par down the various flotsam and jetsam accumulated through my life, an effort that more often than not ended with me traveling on a trip down memory lane perhaps making, at best, a small reduction in the amount of stuff.  Sometimes I convince myself that I might use /display / repair / re-purpose some particular item but usually it just went back in the box.  Which inevitably meant that I still needed to keep the box, even when I reduced the number of items it contained. I was eager to get more space and clear the clutter but struggled with letting go.

Recently, it hit me.  It is so simple! I don’t know why I didn’t realize this years ago.  In fact, I did realize that but didn’t take action on the connection.  What I am really collecting is stories.  I don’t need the stuff to keep the stories.  Instead, I need to make sure that I record the stories so I can release the associated things, hopefully to a new life out of storage and to use as intended.

And from that  realization, the origins of my Keep the Stories project.