Change your mind.

Here's a photo of me enjoying the heck out of a long bike ride. It doesn't really have anything to do with this post, but I thought you'd enjoy it anyway.

Here’s a photo of me enjoying the heck out of a long bike ride.
It doesn’t really have anything to do with this post,
but I thought you’d dig it anyway.

How do you know when you’ve made the right decision?

Do you tend to question yourself, or freak out once you’ve decided? Do you call 20 friends to ask them if it’s the right move? Do you run it by your coach, mentor, boss, team, cat, box turtle, life-size cardboard cutout of Idris Elba (what?) or partner (or all of the above)? How do you react when things don’t go according to plan? (Hint: They seldom go according to plan). Do you feel good about things once you’ve made a decision, and trust your instincts to guide you?

When I make a decision and wonder later on if it’s the right one, I tend to look at three things: Desires, Results and How I Feel.

Example: Last month, I decided to only send this newsletter twice a month.

Let’s break that decision down, a few weeks later:

Desires: My desire was for greater clarity and to be more in alignment with how I work best, as opposed to listening to what experts say is best (which tends to translate into: always be posting/sharing/pinning/connecting). I find that business model overwhelming. Is that desire still valid? Yep.

Results:

I received almost immediate feedback from people who said they love reading my newsletters and were bummed I’d be sending fewer of them.
A decrease in traffic to my website, where I also post these newsletters. I do believe Google ranks sites based on a “use it or lose it” sort of deal, not that I’m all that concerned with hits or traffic in the everyday sense. But long-term? If I were to pursue a book deal or other partnership, they’ll look at that stuff. So it’s on my mind as smart biz growth, even if it’s not a huge everyday priority.
The less structure I have in my week, the less I tend to get done in general. I’ve talked to other entrepreneurs who have experienced a similar sort of lag. So for me, having that structure helped prop up my productivity on my writing days (which are separate from my coaching session days, where I am plenty busy–yay!). (Look for an upcoming newsletter on how structure–but not too much–can really help even the most wild-minded creatives flourish.)

How I Feel: I really, really miss writing each week.

So, guess what? I’ve changed my mind. Weekly it is!

::confetti drop::

I do NOT care about this in the sense of it being some sort of grand announcement. I’m fully aware that nobody gives a shit about how often I email them, unless it’s like five times a day or something (NOPE). But I DO care about it in terms of how my thought process and analysis might help YOU.

I think sometimes we struggle with changing our minds out of fear. Fear of what people will think (are we wishy-washy? Incapable of commitment? Weak-willed?). Fear that we can’t stick with anything — creative types who feel called to chase many ideas at once will get this one. Fear that we’re wrong and should’ve stuck with our first instinct, with an attendant fear that once we start in one direction, there’s no turning back. (Hint: There so totally is.)

That being said, I don’t think that fear usually leads us to our best decisions.

So my hope is that you can take this process and make it your own:

Do you have something that’s not quite working for you? Examine it in terms of your desires, results, and how you feel so far. Then decide from that place — a place of clarity and power — instead of from fear or doubt. You should have an answer after running your choice through those filters.

One last thought: Watch out for continually changing your mind, or getting caught in a cycle of perpetually starting new things and seldom or ever finishing them. Chances are, if you were to run THAT pattern through this three-part series of questions, you’d figure out that this isn’t serving you, either.

What do you think about all of this? I love hearing stories about all angles of these dispatches; if you’ve changed your mind with great or terrible results, I want to hear about it, and we can continue the discussion in future newsletters/blog posts. If you ask yourself these questions about a decision you’ve made, let me know how it goes.

As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll be in touch again next week. Yay!

That time we broke the bed

that time we broke the bed

Recently, my husband and I celebrated 17 years of marriage by going camping, just the two of us. With three kids and two adult relatives with specific needs living with us, this getaway was kind of a big deal to us.

We drove our popup to a favorite state park in Wisconsin only to discover it was full (many of their sites aren’t reserve-able in advance). Then we called a state park campground reservation center and learned that every popup site within a seven HOUR radius was also full. A ranger suggested a county campground 30 minutes to the north, and we found it was mostly deserted (a rarity when camping in a miniaturized version of the suburbs like this) and really lovely.

I was really hungry. And really grumpy as a result. My husband wanted to get the camper set up before we ate, and in his admirable quest for efficiency, he sort of fell out of one side of it. And straight onto his head. And broke one of the beds in the process. One of the beds that literally provides half the support structure for the entire camper. (If you don’t have any idea what a popup looks like, here’s a picture of a really cute family and one side of their popup containing the bed in question:

Our cute popup in happier days, before we broke the bed.

Now, this entire incident is hilarious to us both in the retelling, but at the time, it was super-stressful. “I have literally lost my sense of humor,” I told him, after checking to make sure he hadn’t seriously injured himself so I could get back to the important work of being pissy.

I felt like crying. I felt like breaking the other bed, just to show that popup — and the Universe — who was boss. I told Dan that I wanted to scrap this whole deal and go home. I think I may have even stomped my foot a time or two. Not very gracious. Full metal victim. Decidedly un-coach-ly behavior.

And then, I looked up.

We’d chosen a site in a far corner of the campground, off to ourselves, and there were very tall evergreen trees all around us. I took a few deep breaths and just gazed up at those trees, and I noticed several impossibly tiny birds flitting around up there. They brought me back to myself.

This is why I’m here,” I thought.

I heard my husband banging on one of the bed rails with the trailer hitch (I am not even kidding) in a futile attempt to fix it.

I also thought: “He’s why I’m here, too.”

My hero. My partner. My best friend. Fixer of Broken Beds. Dude who makes me laugh every single day, and who produces my podcasts because I asked nicely and he loves the work. Awesomesauce daddy and all-around hunky guy.

The tone of the trip changed from there. Were we frustrated? Sure. Did we decide, then and there, to make the best of it? Yep.

The next morning, I woke to a strange bubbly-fizzing noise outside the camper.

“Coffee,” I mumbled.

“I don’t even want to talk about it,” he replied, sounding so defeated that the only reaction either of us could possibly have was to burst into laughter.

Yeah, the stove wasn’t working. Though he fixed it a few minutes later. I came outside and huddled with him in the cold, clean air and we laughed together. The trip was already becoming a “We can laugh about it now” experience. Those are often some of my favorites.

We ended up having a fantastic weekend and went home wishing for just one more day away together, just us two. My man fixed me the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. We played Trivial Pursuit, we wandered, we laughed a ton, we talked about our future and explored how far we’d come from when we first started out together.


I’m sharing this story with you so you can know that stressful stuff is happening all around us. But so is beautiful stuff. And we have the power to choose where we put our attention at any given moment. (Click to tweet that!) Sometimes just that choice to look up or look around and breathe deeply and notice something other than whatever it is we’re upset about is enough to create a new perspective and a lighter mood. We have a beautifully designed reset button resting right between our ears.

This is also important: All that I’ve shared online about our trip so far is the photo (above) showing the view up into those beautiful trees and a really cute selfie (my bio pic, below) that I took on the drive back home while texting with my brother (an adult with Down Syndrome who loves texting me selfies, so I often reply with silly faces or whatever to entertain him, too).

Nobody saw me stomp my foot in the dirt at the campsite. Or grump at my husband. Or complain about how it felt like everything was just going SO WRONG all around us right then and how AWFUL that felt. (If a “Wah!” cries out in the forest, does anyone hear it?)

Most of us don’t share those sorts of stories on social media, and maybe we shouldn’t. I don’t like to complain out of habit or to just vent because I can. But at the same time, I don’t want people to think my life is comprised of some glossy collection of carefully curated moments, either. I am gloriously messy, y’all. In the best ways. I am flawed, I can stomp a foot, I get sad, and frustrated, and I complain. I’m also loving, present, and funny, and happier and more fulfilled than I’ve ever been in my life.

Being in this generally-good place in life doesn’t mean it’s all perfect, but it does mean I know how to navigate my way back to my center when things go sideways. Literally.

So the next time you’re in the thick of a terrible situation, try looking up. Or outside. Or removing yourself from the situation, if you can, to go take a few deep breaths in your car. Look for the moment where you can break open the tension with something funny, or by saying something kind; it’s almost always there. You just have to look for that tiny miraculous moment that will break it all open and move you somewhere that feels better.

Oh, and here’s that selfie I mentioned, which I included at the end of my newsletter (you can subscribe to my weekly newsletter by filling in the web form at the top of my site).

Toni McLellan selfie

 

Make it yours.

make it yours by Toni McLellanI have an announcement: My newsletter (which also lands here on this blog) will now reach you twice a month instead of weekly.

Well, first off: Who really cares, right?

I’m not really big on announcing sabbaticals or other relatively minor tweaks to my biz, but today I want to share a bit of my thinking behind why I’m making this change because I think it might help you, too.

When I started out as an online solopreneur (first as the host of retreats for creative people, then as a life coach), I followed a lot of what others were doing. I subscribed to dozens of newsletters for a variety of reasons (loved their voice/offerings/humor, wanted to see how they did things, get a sense of their social media strategy, or to follow a launch). I worked with two different coaches and this year hired a biz consultant coach to do an assessment of my online presence and get some insight into how to continue to grow my biz. I took an e-course or two. No regrets about any of these moves, by the way.

In my own business, I tried a bunch of things and failed at many of them, or decided they weren’t a good fit for me, for whatever reason.

I kept going, and learning, and adapting.

Right now, I’m at this really wonderful place in my business. I’ve been coaching for just about 18 months now. I have a healthy client roster. I’ve started public speaking and podcasting and am really enjoying that. People are starting to refer business to me and I feel really comfortable talking about my work, sharing my rates and assessing whether a potential client is a good fit or if I can maybe refer them to another person or resource(s) instead (all which used to feel soooo scary when I first started out!).

My work feels soulful, like me, like coming home.

I’m glad I kept going.

Part of this good feeling includes losing the need to follow what others are doing. I think when we’re starting out, it’s normal and even important or necessary to study, to emulate, to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why. Sometimes you have to know the rules before you can break or tweak them.

I’ve settled into a schedule, pace, and variety that feels right for me and works for my marriage and family, too. I have the experience and skill to charge what I do for my services and to set high standards and goals for my biz. I love my work coaching, having great conversations, and speaking to groups of all sizes. I’ve also started unsubscribing from anything that doesn’t make me excited or ready to be inspired when it lands in my inbox: “Oh good; Kate‘s newsletter is here. And Judi’s. Yay! And I love my daily Notes from the Universe!”

As I thought about my own newsletter, and where it fits into both my life and yours, I realized that I don’t need to reach out weekly. That’s an arbitrary timeline I bought into that works for others, and I can shift it in a way that I’m hoping will suit us both. Because we all get enough email, right? And I want the email I send out to be useful to you, or inspiring, or to make you laugh or think, or to create connection. I hope to do just that continuing onward, just at a different frequency.

I’m hoping you’ll use these thoughts to consider what you’re following, using, or doing in your own life or work that you might be ready to let go of. Or what you can tweak by releasing a sense of obligation, shifting toward inspiration and/or enlivening usefulness. How can you make what you read and create yours?

I’d love to hear about your experiences with creating a life + biz that suits YOU, your feels about the deluge of email we all get, what makes the cut within your inbox and what doesn’t (and maybe has to go). I think there’s a lot of potential for some great conversations around all of this. Post a comment and share your thoughts.

Let it be easy.

Toni McLellan Coaching Let it be easy Hey there, awesome friend!

When you plan on trying or creating something new, do you sometimes feel daunted, or overwhelmed? Do you start playing “What if” games where you envision in detail every conceivable scenario in which things could go wrong, to the point where you start to believe that they probably will go wrong?

Yeah. That’s totally a habit, and a mind game. The good news is that both habits and minds can change and be replaced with better ways of doing, being, and thinking. (Click to tweet this!)

So I’d like to ask you: When’s the last time you let a new thing be easy?

I mentioned my love for public speaking in last week’s newsletter. When I first thought about speaking in front of a room full of people, my brain immediately went to The Best Speech Ever — a TED talk, with slides, in which I am wearing killer boots and the audience adores me. But my actual speaking gigs so far have been tech-free (the only reason I’ll ever use slides in a talk is for sight gags. True story). My boots were cute, but not killer (they’re on my “to buy” list for fall, though). And, I mostly winged it. I even bombed once, like, whoa. I do outlines on colorful note cards to corral my brain, but I don’t rehearse over and over, I just show up, pay attention to the people who are there, and go with it. It all flows, it all comes to me pretty easily, and I absolutely love it.

Easy.

I had a speaking gig this week for a local networking group of female biz owners. I’m as excited as I was honored to be asked. I knew what I was going to talk about, but hadn’t yet created my outline last week when a pretty bad headache struck. I got a cool washcloth, put it over my eyes and laid down to do some deep breathing. Not even two minutes in and I had my outline. I love you, Toni’s brain.

Easy.

Now, I do plan on getting more training as a public speaker; totally on my “level up” list for this fall. But I’m not holding back even though I don’t have it all figured out, I’m honoring my natural gifts, and I’m having a blast.

Secret sauce, babies.

Recently, my friend Mike and I started a podcast called Serious Business. It is not at all serious and has little, if anything, to do with business. That’s how Mike and I roll. We’d talked about collaborating somehow over the years, and this year we just decided to do this. We knew little to nothing about podcasting or editing, got my awesome husband-the-former-radio-producer on board to be our editor, and we just started recording. No detailed road map, no actual experience, nothing but a desire to have fun and share our wandering creative brains.

Easy.

Soon after (like, literally, after Episode One), our friend Jeremy Fuksa invited us to join his podcasting network, Mistit Radio. Both Mike and I asked him a ton of questions and immediately learned that Jeremy has it all figured out and then some, and is a generous guy who operates under a collaborative/creative model (as opposed to a competitive/scarcity one) that appeals to both of us on a deep level. Easy. So I’m psyched to announce that both the Serious Business and the still-in-the-works Do What Lights You Up podcasts are joining the Misfit Radio network!

Easy.

A couple of brief thoughts to distill this into something you can use:

  • Cultivating ease instead of struggle/worry/what-ifs involves three elements:
    • Honoring your natural gifts and desires and
    • Taking action in some form, without waiting for perfect conditions and
    • Paying attention to what happens when you act — are you hitting roadblocks at every turn, or are doors opening and is positive feedback flowing to you?
  • Your actions should be designed to generate results and not simply be busywork.
  • ‘Easy’ doesn’t equal ‘effortless.’ You’ve still gotta put in the hours to make things happen, whether lifestyle/career change, writing a novel, or starting and running a podcast (or a podcast network).
  • If you’re gonna put in the hours, you might as well spend them doing something that feels fun, that feels like coming home, that feels right in your gut.

I’d like to ask: How can you invite some ease into your life and work, starting today? Post a comment below and tell me your plan and what action you’re going to take.

Thanks for reading, and have an EASY time this week!