The Power of Baby Steps

Every morning, I receive my very own email message from The Universe. (I am sooo special! The Universe even knows my name.) I really look forward to this daily communication with the Powers the Be. (Full disclosure: I am a devoted member of TUTNotes from the Universe is a service mark and service of TUT Enterprises, Inc. Do yourself a favor and sign up.

These notes from the Universe are a delight — they make me laugh, make me think, and wake me up anew to the wellspring of creative possibility. I tuck away the ones that really touch me deeply.

Here’s an excerpt from one from this week: “You don’t take “baby steps” for the distance they cover, Laura, but to put yourself within reach of life’s magic.” Wow. I am personally a huge fan of baby steps. I think anything worth doing is worth doing in ridiculously easy baby steps. I celebrate every small step for humankind. But baby steps as a way to put yourself in the path of magic. Now that is something! What tiny step can you take today?

Why Games Work When Goals Don’t

I'm lucky. I did not play any organized team sports growing up. And I didn't participate in any competitions like spelling bees, dance recitals, or science fairs. And I never quite got the hang of playing the clarinet in 6th grade band. So for me, the idea of playing a game calls to mind a casual neighborhood round of soccer-baseball (a.k.a kickball), or attempting to jump rope for as long as possible without missing, while simultaneously reciting some weird story about a girl with a name that begins with A, then B, etc. and adding fancy steps until I tripped on my sneaker laces. Pretty low risk. No Olympic dreams. No athletic scholarships. And no, sports wise, I really never "could a been a contender." My history leaves me blessed with a rather childlike concept of play. I think playing a game is…well, fun. Your mileage may vary.

With this blessed perspective, here are some reasons why I think games work when goals don't:

  • Playing a game lightens the performance burden. We are "just playing" after all. No one expects to be perfect. We are energized to keep trying new things.
  • Playing begins with, and perpetuates a love of the game.
  • Playing fully engages all of our senses, and thereby unlocks abundant creative resources.
  • We more naturally identify simple, measurable steps. We can make those steps as easy or as challenging as we wish. I'm a big fan of easy — not because I'm afraid of hard work. I'm a fan of easy because an easy task gets me into the game, then my natural curiosity and desire take over.
  • If it isn't working, we can make-up new rules or call a do-over.
  • It's fun to keep score. Is there anyone who doesn't love amassing shiny gold stars? (Please, it's not just me, is it?).
  • A game naturally creates an environment that is designed for success. When we play a game, we think about things like equipment, and practice, and coaches, and fans. We learn or create rules that help us win. We begin to hone in on the actions that really make the difference (Just connect with the ball, don't try to knock it out of the park every time). Pick any game metaphor you like, and you have an instant framework for moving forward on something you want to be doing.

And, hello, we are playing here. It is supposed to be messy and chaotic, and loud, and punctuated by belly laughs. A lot like life.

The Great Writing Game

Have you ever had something you really, really want to do…and find that day after day, you just don't do it? For me, that "thing" is writing. To you.

Perhaps you've "tried" to motivate yourself, inspire yourself, or  egads, "hold your self accountable" (…ick, ick, ick!) I certainly have. I find that I am of two minds about writing (truth be told, I am probably of two minds about lots more than writing…so let's say…writing, for instance). One mind loves writing and sees everything else that gets in the way as a terrible distraction taking me away from my most important thing. If I could just clear my schedule, or my "to do" list, this mind thinks,  I would naturally write both regularly and frequently (and of course brilliantly and perfectly, but that's another topic altogether). This mind is both enthusiastic, and I fear, delusional.

My other mind likes to believe that if writing were important to me, it would show in my strict  discipline: I would put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) every day, until I write some number of predetermined words, or some designated period of time passes, or I pass out from all the blood loss (sweating blood is a real marker of commitment, right?), whatever comes first. 

And just to keep life interesting, I even have a third mind, my inner rebel, that gets all huffy and fights tooth and nail against anything that has even a whiff of "you have to…" or any semblance of "forcing myself" to do what it is I want to do. All these minds can get very confusing.

What I yearn for instead is a loving practice of writing that gives me pleasure, gives you value, and ultimately becomes an easy, natural part of "what I do." But how to get there?

Any practice has to start somewhere, so I've decided to play a game I'm calling The Great Writing Game. By virtue of reading this, you are officially a fan (how cool is that!). The season for The Great Writing Game runs from today through the end of the year. During that time, there are 5 series; each series has 4 games (1 game per week); each game is comprised of 4 plays. A winning play occurs when I write to you, either here or on Twitter. (If I happen to write somewhere else, I'll let you know here or on Twitter). Four winning plays in a week equals 1 won game. I invite you to play along, cheer me on, help me keep score, and most important, help me celebrate! And along the way, I'll share what I'm learning about the power, the possibility, and yes, even the perceived pain of creating a loving practice.

I Don’t Want To And You Can’t Make Me!

angry girlMy inner 5 year old is pitching a fit. You see, we made a writing playdate with a treasured colleague, because we want to write. A lot. Regularly. Because we’ve got a lot to say. And we think, with some humility, that maybe some of it will be valuable for others (maybe even you) to read. And we truly hate to deprive you of anything. ‘Cuz we really like you.

And now, my ornery inner kid is working up to a temper tantrum because, while she loves to do many, many things, she hates to “have to” do anything. (She is completely done with being a “good girl”). And it seems that once something gets on the calendar and begins to approximate a “practice” or (gasp) a “discipline,” (No, not that! Anything but that!) she wants no part of it. Even if it is something she loves more than a freshly opened box of Crayolatm crayons. (Exasperated sigh).

So today I give in to the truth that “I don’t want to and you can’t make me!” and meet it with curiosity rather than force or denial.

Let’s stay in the energy of “you can’t make me” and let’s see what happens. And if at any point pen touches paper in this exploration, or fingers dance across keyboards, bonus!

I don’t want to…? What, exactly? Here’s a quick top-of-head list:
I don’t want to:
…be forced to do anything
…get to the end of the day and feel like I haven’t experienced an accomplishment
…eat beets
…get started then have to end before I’m finished
…be too serious

OK. (excuse me while I talk back to myself — hope it doesn’t get too confusing).  I hereby declare that you do not want and will not be made to:

  • do anything by force
  • have an empty day with no accomplishment
  • eat beets of any shape, form, or preparation
  • stop before you are ready
  • or be a too-serious sour puss.

(And I really mean it!)

You know, “I don’t want to and you can’t make me” is such a classic expression of the dynamic tension of freedom vs. structure. And oppositions, being what they are, always hold within them an equally powerful flipside. If “I don’t want to and you can’t make me” is true, then so too is “I want to, and you can’t stop me.” Hmmm…now that’s interesting.

Let’s tickle the “I wants.”
I want…
…to feel a sense of freedom and fun
…to feel the sunshine on my face
…to pet the cat who has parked himself in front of the computer screen
…to jump up and down and shout “Ta Da!”
…to post a fun article today

Resistance disappears when there is nothing to push against. How curious.

Ta Da!!