Moving On

Some time ago, I wrote about my interest in exploring the ins and outs of making adventures, such as the wild and wacky Godzillavilla, a regular part of our lives. Now I’m ready to put that exploration into action in the form of The Practical Woman’s Guide to Living an Adventuresome Life. The Guide has been born from the stories of many women who’ve shared their experiences with me. In its final form it will be many things: a book with exercises and tools for becoming more daring; an online forum; workshops; and the blog linked above. Readers of Godzillavilla will have already seen some of the early posts on this new blog, and some will be fresh to you. 

Godzilla won’t be seeing any new posts until such time as it sells – there is sure to be a story in that! Meanwhile it languishes in the doldrums of Europe’s economy.

Thank you all so much for your interest in Godzillavilla and your many comments along the way. I hope you continue to enjoy and follow my writings on this new path. And keep your comments coming! It’s through sharing and conversation that The Practical Woman’s Guide truly comes alive.

Yours in adventure,

Shelagh

Just Who do You Think You Are?

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I’ve been collecting adventure stories from women over the past year or so, and a frequent theme is one of personal transformation. Not the kind that involves turning their entire life upside down. More like ‘I thought I was this kind of person and discovered I was actually this other kind, too’. The ‘too’ being important because they expanded their self-image, they didn’t make some kind of wholesale switcheroo.

This is pretty cool stuff. Monica discovered, after three decades as a nurse, she could be a highly successful CEO of a manufacturing company. Nicole discovered she wasn’t just a straight-up business person, she is also a talented painter. Rachel discovered that she is even more of a knockout as a ginger than she was as a blond. I discovered I can belt out rock and roll just as well as I sing Bach.

Practically every day I hear about someone else who’s expanded their own sense of ‘just who they think they are’. If you have stories, please send them to me! I’m creating a book, using this collected wisdom, to help everyone have the courage to do the things they’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet dared.

Planning’s Evil Twin

Ever notice how planning to do something feels a lot as though you’re actually making it happen? And how, once you’ve been in planning mode for awhile, it becomes a great excuse for not taking the final, scary leap off the edge and into action? I both love and value planning – I think it make success much more likely in most things – but it does have this shifty dark side.

Procrastination is planning’s evil twin.

You’ve examined your big adventure. You’ve made an impressive to-do list. But you want to wait for a perfect day to start. Monday might be more convenient; the beginning of the week has a freshness to it that makes everything seem more possible. No, wait, actually after your mother visits is the best time. Or maybe once Jimmy has finished his exams. Or when you get back from the family vacation to Aruba.

The evil twin in action.

If you want to make an action plan turn into real, live action, start the moment you’ve finished your plan. That very moment, start in at it with some small thing. Then do something else – whatever – the next day. And the next day. And the one after that.

As Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project (http://www.happiness-project.com/says: Put it in your schedule, or it will never happen. So true, Gretchen! Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.

Constipation and Unfulfilled Dreams

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I was speaking awhile back with a woman who is very good at making her dreams happen. She said “Unfulfilled dreams are like little points of constipation in our lives”. I found this very eloquent.

But it occurred to me that this phenomenon doesn’t always make us rush to take action. It often just leaves us feeling, well, perpetually constipated.

Dreams are slippery fish. We have a vague notion of some lovely thing, and an even more vague notion of how to make it come true. Maybe it feels scary and risky. The constipation occurs when all this vagueness leaves us with an impression that it’s impossible to achieve, even though we don’t have any hard evidence. We lust after it hopelessly and kick ourselves for not being able to make it happen. What an incredible waste of energy.

Being of a practical mind, this waste bugs me. Here’s a thought: what if you were to examine, now, what it takes to make your dream a reality? What is it really made of? What will it do for you? What are the actual risks and obstacles? How could you overcome them? Once you had done that, you’d be able to say, with conviction, one of three things:

  • Wow, I can do this thing and I’m going to start on it right now, OR
  • Wow, this thing I’ve been harbouring is actually not worth it to me considering the price I’ll have to pay in time, money, energy or whatever, OR
  • This dream is great but I can’t do it right now.

The first one is what we all want to be able to say, but the second and third answers are equally liberating. They’re all answers that allow us to stop wasting energy.

If you go through this planning process and discover your position is ‘not right now’, here’s what you can do. Put your dream, with all its beautiful details, into a box. Pull it out again in 6 months, a year, five years – whatever makes sense – and ask is it time yet? until it is. In between those moments, ignore it. It’s not gone, it’s not dead, it’s just patiently waiting, while you spend your energies on things that are more important right now. 

And you get to kiss that constipated feeling goodbye.

The Limits of Will

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A couple of weeks ago I found out something really enlightening about will power: it is a finite resource that gets depleted over the course of a day. Of course, dieters have always understood what science has now proven, but the mechanics are still interesting. I was even happier to discover will can also be built up and replenished.

Like a muscle, your will power has the most to give after a good night’s rest. You wake up filled with resolve and energy. Almost immediately, the depletion begins. Like draining the gas tank one drop at a time, it drops when you first say no to a second spoonful of sugar in your morning coffee, again when you resist running the yellow light on the way to work, again when you resist sending that snarky email to the co-worker who is infuriating you.

You see where this is going: by the time you get home at the end of the day, your tank of will is empty. No way you’re going to manage stopping at a single glass of wine or be able to do your taxes instead of watching TV.

Unfortunately, will is also needed to achieve goals. Say you want to take a sabbatical and move to Paris for three months. Somehow you keep putting off the planning of it, and you wonder why you aren’t more motivated to make that fantastic thing happen. You’ve been dreaming of it for years, for heaven’s sake. Here’s the trick: if you feel any fear about it, or find the planning process tedious, bringing it to fruition means using the same will you’ve been dipping into all day. So regardless of how great you think it would be to be there, the process of getting there becomes an impossible chore.

The good news is – like a muscle – you can give yourself little exercises to increase your will power. Things that become habitual, such as always eating carrot sticks at 3:00 instead of snarfing a cookie, actually make it stronger. You can also replenish will by doing things that bring you joy. And sleeping (it’s pretty joyful in its own way).

An obvious tactic to help yourself out: if you’re trying to plan an adventure, do any work involved in getting it off the ground first thing in the morning. Maybe even over breakfast. Make it a habit. Not only do you get the best of your will, but the routine will give you more of it.

Personally, I feel more energized just knowing about this. Any of you have experience with building up will?

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