The What If Experience

Explore a new "What If..." question about life each week with some thoughts, some answers and some action steps. Share my journey of personal growth and living in possibility.
RSS Feed
The What If Experience




All Episodes
Now displaying: January, 2018
Jan 28, 2018

We’ve been talking for the last several weeks about what you need in your toolbox to make lasting change in your life. We covered some basic gear-n-gadget things I use to keep myself on track and the last few weeks we talked about people, the people we do need and the people we don’t need around. This week, we’ve got one final tool. It’s your mindset. Don’t you roll your eyes at me…now, don’t, I can see them rolling, c’mon. Hang with me. There’s real science here and important information.

Carol Dweck, Ph.D. in Psychology and professor at Standford University became interested in her students’ attitudes about failure over 30 years ago and ever since then, she’s been studying how changing our beliefs (even the very smallest ones) can change our lives. You can read about her findings in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Here’s how she talks about it in her book:

For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.

Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them…

Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?

There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts…

Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.

So, how you think about how you think and how you think about who you are affects your behavior. Dweck found that people with a growth mentality are more successful in every aspect of their lives and live with lower stress levels.

A fixed mindset believes that the things that make us who we are, our personality, our intelligence level, our creativity, everything about our abilities is unchangeable. How smart we are is just how smart we are. How creative we are is just how creative we are. All these things are set at birth and can’t be changed.

A growth mindset, on the other hand, believes that all these things that make up who we are are simply a starting point. How you develop them determines your potential, not your birth.

People with these two mindsets actually think differently and respond to information differently. When brain activity is measured, those with a fixed mindset have more brain activity when they are being told how they did. They’re responding to how they’re perceived. Those with a growth mindset showed more activity when being told how they can improve. They’re more concerned with how they learn. The activity in their brain shows them translating critique into improvement rather than into judgment.

Why does this matter?

My son is a sixth grader. He’s always breezed through school and for the first time is starting to have to work at it a little bit. Not much, but a little bit. He’s always been told he’s smart by many people around him. So, imagine for a moment that you’re him. You think you’re smart. School is easy. You don’t need to work at it. All the sudden you run up against something more difficult. (remember, you’re not an adult able to think about it in adult terms.). So, you hit something that’s hard and you have a setback. You struggle. If you have a fixed mindset and school gets hard…what’s wrong? I guess you’ve hit your limit. I suppose I’m not as smart as everyone thought I was. I suppose this is the extent of my ability. This is where my smart runs out.

How does your belief about yourself affect your actions? What happens next time you start to struggle? Statistics say you’re likely to become uninterested and give up. If my son starts struggling, believes that means he’s just not good at something, becomes uninterested and gives up…what do you see happening in school for the next six to ten years? What would that habitual belief and practice lead to in his job? His marriage?

If, on the other hand, he has a growth mindset and he begins to struggle, he does not believe there’s a glass ceiling on his ability. So, a struggle is not a judgment on his capacity. It is simply a struggle and seen as an opportunity for growth. So, let’s say he struggles. And believes there’s no reason why he can’t succeed, so doubles down and works at it a little harder. Finds ways to improve. And succeeds. What happens the next time he hits a struggle? What patterns for life begin to be laid down because of his belief about his own abilities?

I don’t know what you’ve been told about your abilities. I don’t know the words spoken into your life and taken into your heart as truth. But, science is proving that our brains are far more malleable than we’ve ever believed. Our brains can be changed at any age. Scientists call it neuroplasticity and it’s really good news for us. If you’ve always believed you’re just not smart enough. Not creative enough. Not organized enough. Not outgoing enough. You’re wrong. You may not be those things…yet. But, where you are now is not at the fullness of your capacity. Where you are now is simply a starting point.

You need a growth mindset in your toolbox to effect change. How you think about your potential matters. What if you fall toward the fixed mindset? Are you doomed? Nope. Your mindset can be changed. Neuroplasticity, remember? Here’s a ridiculously long list of things you can do to move toward a growth mindset.

  1. Recognize and praise your own effort rather than typical success measurements.
  2. Practice doing things that challenge you, then find ways to enjoy the challenge.
  3. Don’t attribute your success (or failure) to ingrained ability; instead, notice the hard work and effort you’ve put in.
  4. Begin to link your struggles with a sense of adventure.
  5. Argue with your inner dialog that tells you you can’t. Talk Back. Take control of the words you listen to in your head.
  6. Find something positive in any setback.
  7. Constantly celebrate small victories.
  8. Exercise your mind. Try meditation and mindfulness training.
  9. Acknowledge and embrace imperfections.
  10. Reframe your thinking about challenges as opportunities.
  11. Replace the word “failing” in your vocabulary with the word “learning”.
  12. Stop seeking approval from others or performing for others.
  13. Cultivate a sense of purpose.
  14. Celebrate your growth with others and notice and celebrate others’ growth.
  15. Emphasize growth over speed. What you’re learning is more important than how fast you’re learning.
  16. Reward and praise actions, not traits.
  17. Determine to understand criticism as positive and desirable.
  18. Regard effort more highly than talent.
  19. Emphasize the importance of brain training.
  20. Cultivate grit.
  21. Use the word "Yet". You aren’t good at that…yet.
  22. Value process in life, the journey instead of the end result, the goal or the destination
  23. Follow the research on brain plasticity, steep yourself in the science.
  24. Practice taking risks.
  25. Never "get there" but instead see goal setting as a never-ending process.
  26. See learning realistically, it takes time.
  27. Realize that practice equals mastery.
  28. Take ownership over your own attitude.
  29. Become more aware of your gifts, talents, and abilities and how you've grown them throughout your life.
  30. Cultivate curiosity.
  31. Practice taking on challenges. Start small and grow with them
  32. Value learning over typical success metrics..
  33. Embrace failure.
  34. Seek out and practice receiving feedback.
  35. If you’re struggling with learning something, explore new learning styles, practices and tactics.
  36. Practice thinking about new strategies to use to change your results.

My son takes piano lessons. He hates it. Well, he constantly tells me he hates it. He cries, rages and complains. What he really hates is taking time away from his games. I make him do it for reasons that have nothing to do with music. I think a music education is important. But, he’s also doing it because sometimes we have to do things in life we don’t like and he needs to learn to work at those things he doesn’t want to do just as hard and with as much grace as he does the things he enjoys. As I mentioned the tears and whining, that lesson obviously has yet to be learned.

He’s also doing it so that he has a tangible example that effort makes a difference. That practice equals mastery. His recital pieces usually seem difficult at the beginning of each preparation period. But, working on the pieces consistently over time yields a beautiful performance. Doing these kinds of things can help him cultivate a growth mindset. It’s a tangible example of expanded capabilities.

Drawing used to be a part of every student’s education. It was regarded as a skill that was taught and learned, not the “You have it or you don’t” attitude we have about it now. I understand perspective and design, but I don’t draw very well. So, I started a sketch diary. It’s amazing to look back on my progress. Practice leads to mastery. I can learn to draw. Am I as good as I’d like to be? No. Will I be an amazing sketch artist in the future? Maybe…but, not likely. It teaches me to value progress. I post them on social media, so it’s also teaching me to embrace imperfection. And I believe that I’ll only improve with practice.

Nelson Mandela said, and I wish it for you, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

Where do you fall on the continuum of belief? How do you think about your own abilities? You need a growth mindset in your toolbox in order to believe that change is truly possible in your life. What will you do to move yourself farther toward a growth mindset?

Want episodes delivered to your inbox each Monday morning? Click here

Jan 21, 2018

Do you have areas of your home that need purging? If you don’t, I’m not sure we could be friends! Everyone has at least a junk drawer…right? The first time I went through a home purge was before minimalism or KonMari was a thing. I had looked around my apartment after a separation and realized that I didn’t need half of what I saw. So, I decided to get rid of half of it. Half of everything in the house. With a few exceptions. The kitchen. My bookshelves. And my shoes. Those three things were exempt. They got a get out of jail free card. I went through each room, each drawer, closet and shelf and got rid of at least 50% of what was there. It was liberating. That was in 2008. Since then, I’ve gone through several more rounds of that and I’ve lifted the exemption on the kitchen, books, and even shoes. Yes, I’ve purged my books and my shoes. Shocking, I know.

Sometimes, we only need to tidy up. But, every so often, we need to do a deep dive and purge things. We’ve been talking for the last few weeks about what belongs in your change-making toolbox. I did a gadget-n-gear episode two weeks ago and last week we talked about people, about what kind of people you need around you. This week, we’re going to talk about people again, but switch it up a bit. Let’s talk about the kind of people you don’t want in your toolbox. The kind you might need to deep clean or purge.

Last week I asked you to take a look around you at the people in your social circles and begin to think about who does or could fill the roles of mentor, cheerleader or friend. If you did that, you might have noticed that there are probably other people in your life that don’t fall into those categories. Some of these people have a negative effect on your ability to make changes in your life.

First, there are the obvious enemies. Do you have people in your life who actively sabotage things? Or, they would if you tried to make a change? Maybe they feel threatened by you, maybe they’re jealous of you, maybe they don’t like the color of your skin or the clothes you wear. Maybe you’ve had a conflict with them. Maybe they’re an ex-spouse or a family member. Maybe you have no idea why they seem to oppose you every time you turn around. But, they’re easy to spot. They’re the obvious and overt opposition.

Then there are the silent ones. They may not be actively opposed to you, you might not even notice them. But, they affect your perception of what’s normal. Let’s pretend you’re part of a work or social culture that eats a lot, drinks a lot, and doesn’t move around much. You all have jobs that park you in front of a computer and after ten years of this you see a photo of yourself and it shocks you into the realization that you’re really overweight. Seriously overweight. But, how did this happen? Why didn’t you notice? Because those around you determine your norms and they were all gaining weight at the same rate as you were. You don’t have to follow the norms around you, but if you aren’t actively working against the ones you aren’t interested in, the odds are in favor of the norms.

Another way those around us affect us without even speaking is to fail to call us out on poor choices and behaviors. We tend, often out of politeness, to sanction poor behavior of others. I read a story recently of an anesthesiologist who had undiagnosed Alzheimer’s and it wasn’t until a patient’s life was endangered that co-workers admitted having seen the signs of Alzheimer’s in his work for a long time. But, no one wanted to bring it up. This wasn’t a bad behavior on his part, but silence can be unhealthy in many situations.

People can sabotage your change-making situationally too. What if your circle of friends participates in a habit that you’d like to change, but that’s what your social interaction is based around? Maybe it’s drinking. Maybe it’s shopping. Maybe it’s complaining or gossiping. You might really like the people and want to spend time with them…but time with them inevitably involves over-drinking or over-spending or over-speaking. In this case, it may not be the people themselves that are the problem, but the behaviors they lead to.

I remember vividly sitting in a small group in the early ‘90’s talking about habits that led us to choices we didn’t want to make. I remember realizing that if I wanted to get my spending under control, that one of the fastest and easiest ways to do that would be to stop looking at mail order catalogs. If I didn’t know something existed, I wouldn’t “need” it. How could I feel like I needed it if I didn’t even know about it existed! Shopping is a recreational activity for many women. If there’s a group of women who get together to shop, I need to think seriously about not being a part of that group. It’s way to easy to either feel pressured to buy things I shouldn’t or to unintentionally spend more than I want to. Similarly, if you’re part of a crowd that builds social interactions around a behavior you want to change, you’re going to need to take a hard look at changing your social circle.

And lastly, what if you have someone in your life who actively holds you accountable to a bad habit? I have had friends who felt like my refusal to do something…shop recreationally, make copies of music, writing or art against copyright laws, or do drugs was an attack or a judgment about them. So, they’d go out of their way to put me in situations where I’d feel pressured to act in a way I didn’t want to.

Who are the people in your world who will be working against any changes you want to make? Maybe overtly and maybe in subtle ways. Ask yourself who’ll speak up or criticize if you start acting differently? Who are you afraid of disappointing or receiving criticism from? Who might get angry if you start making changes? These are the people you do not need in your toolbox. You don’t even need them in your workshop if we’re sticking with the toolbox analogy.

Once you identify them, then what? Do you need to get rid of all of them? What if you can’t? What if they’re relatives, co-workers or close friends? Here are some ideas.

First, try elimination. Maybe the people you identify as unhealthy for you can be eliminated from your toolbox. If so, do it. For the relationships you can control, you choose whether to spend time with them or not. Be your own gatekeeper and if a relationship is unhealthy and you can remove it, then do. It may not be easy, it may not be comfortable, but healthy isn’t always easy.

If you can’t eliminate the relationship, can you put as much distance between you and that person as possible? If they’re a co-worker, how can you change your routines, habits, or meetings to avoid that person as much as possible?

What if you have a relationship you don’t want to lose or can’t eliminate, but it’s unhealthy? Try turning that person away from the dark side. Have a frank discussion with them about the effect their behavior is having on you (don’t assume or label their intent, just talk about what the effects are for you) and explain that you’d like the relationship to be healthy and discuss what that would mean. I’ll admit, this won’t always work. When it does, you’ve gained an ally in your toolbox. A strong one. And when it doesn’t, at least you’ve tried.

There’s a lot of emotional immaturity floating around us and the more we can act like adults ourselves, model it for others and expect it in our relationships, the healthier we’ll all be.

Want episodes delivered to your inbox each Monday morning? Click here

Jan 14, 2018

My ex-husband is in the hospital this week. My son spent last week with him in Orlando and today, we’re expecting results of tests that may indicate liver damage or failure. The thing is, this was generally preventable. It’s the result of the progression of uncontrolled diabetes which itself was brought on by lifestyle choices. Friends, our choices are important. They affect us and those around us.

Certainly, change is hard. Usually, most of our circumstances and habits are stacked against us. But, while it may not feel like a crisis, the changes that we often want to make for our health and well-being, our spirituality or our relationships…these things are crucially important for our lives and the lives of those around us.

In the last mini-series, we identified the five commandments that we want to live by and where we’re falling short. In this mini-series, I’m covering the tools that you need in your toolbox to make those changes successfully. The first was a gear-n-gadget post last week. Mostly, that’s fun helpful stuff, rather than essential. The next few weeks are the essentials. What you must have in your toolbox to make lasting change. And the best part? You don’t need to spend any money. These things are completely free!

The first essential for your toolbox is people. You need the right people around you. People can have either a positive or negative effect on your attempts to make a change. They may intentionally be helpful or unhelpful. Or, they may be affecting your effort un-intentionally. This week, let’s talk about the positive side. What people do you need in your toolbox? There are several roles that people fill that make it much easier to make changes in your life. You need mentors, cheerleaders, and partners.


A mentor may be someone you know personally or someone you don’t. I know some of you who listen to my voice each week, but the vast majority of you I don’t know. But, if you’re listening, learning and putting into practice the things I talk about…I’m functioning as a mentor for you. You may have someone in your life who plays that role casually, occasionally, or unofficially. Someone you look up to and seek out for advice. Or, you may have asked someone specifically to be a mentor to you and you have a relationship built specifically around this purpose. You meet or talk on a consistent basis about the topics or behaviors you’re interested in growing in. You may be mentored by books you read or people you follow online. A mentor is essentially an experienced or trusted adviser.


A cheerleader is an encourager. Someone who is pushing you toward doing the right thing, celebrating when you do it, and encouraging you to try again when you fall short. It’s someone who not only believes in you but is vocal about that belief. When you leave the presence of these people, you feel refreshed, refocused and able to do things you didn’t think possible. They don’t need pom-poms and a back handspring. But, they do need a consistent willingness to be “for you” and to tell you about it.


A partner is someone who will come alongside you and share the journey with you. Maybe they’re working on the very same change you’re working on. Maybe it’s something different. But, they’re willing to share the journey with you. The everyday nitty-gritty of it. The failures, the triumphs and most importantly, the day in and day out work of the journey. The mud-on-your-shoes kind of work of it.

The Three Roles

If you think about your change-making as a journey, a mentor is someone you stop and check in with on a regular basis. Like putting fuel in your gas tank, checking a GPS for course corrections or looking something up in a travel book. It’s knowledge, strategies, and wisdom. A cheerleader is someone who pops up around every corner saying, you’ve got this! You can do it! I believe in you! Try again! Like the fans with signs along the side of the road at the Tour de France. Only, not the weird, freaky, war-painted half-naked fans that chase the bikers. The more normal ones. With signs. And a partner is the one walking, biking or driving right next to you every step of the way. Every pedal turn. For every mile of the journey. They share the ups and downs and road dust with you. They experience it alongside you.

These roles don’t have to be different people, they can overlap or be present in the same person. You can have a friend who functions as both a partner and a cheerleader. But, don’t discount how valuable each of these different roles is. Each of them will be necessary to you at different times.

Can you make lasting change without having these roles in your toolbox? Sure. Probably. But, it’s going to be a whole lot harder. Like painting a Michelangelo masterpiece with your feet. I’m sure there are people who can do it, but why work that hard if you don’t have to? There are a lot of things in life that conspire against you making changes. We’ll talk about them in the upcoming series. You want to do everything possible to stack the deck in your favor. And these relationships will help you do that.

Begin to look around you for the people who do or could play these roles in your life. Who would make a great cheerleader? Who already encourages you? Who do you look to as a trusted adviser? Who could you learn from? Who might you know that would be interested in making lasting change, either the same type as you or other changes?

The changes you want to make might not keep you from kidney failure in 10 years. But, then again they might. Maybe they are that critical for you. Maybe they’ll save a marriage or improve a relationship with your kids. Maybe they’ll allow you to succeed in your career. Whatever change you’re interested in making, it is possible. But, it’s going to be a lot easier with the right people around you.

Choose Your Friends

I want to mention one other thing about the people in your circle of influence. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. After combing through 30 years of data from 12,000 residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, Nicholas Christakis, a Harvard sociologist determined that having obese friends increases your chance of obesity by 57%. 57%!

Who you have around you matters! This has a few applications for our discussion of change making. As a child, your friends were chosen for you in large part by proximity…who lived in your neighborhood, was in your class at school or was the child of family friends. You had very little influence on who you spent time with.

Today, you can choose your friends that way too. Who you work with or parents of your kids’ soccer team can become your social circle. But, as an adult, you have the opportunity to do something different. You can pursue friendships with whomever you choose. You can intentionally choose your friends. Thinking about that Framingham study, if you want to be a physically healthy, spiritually mature, fit, person who drives a vintage truck…who do you think you should hang around?

What if you intentionally chose your friends? What if you fill your social circle with mentors, cheerleaders, and partners? Where might you be in five years?

Want episodes delivered to your inbox each Monday morning? Click here

Jan 7, 2018

I love gadgets and tools. I love my leaf blower and my cordless drill. I took my Instant Pot to the beach a few weeks ago. I’m eternally grateful for my refrigerator, washer and dryer, my laptop, Kindle, iPad, and camp stove. I love my kitchen gadgets too: my microplane, tea bag buddy, and rice cooker. I’m sure we all have favorite tools and gadgets.

For the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about what’s important to you and what changes you’d like to make in your life. As I’ve been working through that series, I promised you a practical episode about the tools I use in pursuit of a better me. We’re actually going to spend a few weeks here. Your toolbox is really important. There are some key items you need to have available to be successful in making changes. This particular episode is actually the least important of the next three, but fun for gadget and tool loving people like me.

As we talk about these tools, something else you should know about me is that I love well-designed things. I’m also very tactile, so how something looks and feels matters a lot to me. I want to curate an environment filled only with things that I really love to use or to look at. Are all the things I'm going to talk about necessary? Nope. Are they the best options? Maybe. Maybe not. These are the things that I’m using right now. Your mileage may vary.

Let’s talk about planners. A million years ago, when I got my first real job and needed to be able to keep track of tasks and appointments, I began using the Franklin Covey planners and materials. I used them for years. They’re effective and useful. I don’t use them right now because they don’t fit my lifestyle. They don’t work as well for what I need. I’ve used an awful lot of different planners and systems since then. I mention that to explain that all of them are more effective than nothing and all are perfectly suited to someone. So, if my tools don’t appeal to you, just try something else until you find something that works perfectly for you.

Standard calendar-based planners don’t work well for me anymore because my life is really variable. Sometimes I need a daily calendar system and sometimes I don’t. So, all planners that are based on a calendar only get partially used and because I don’t need it all the time, I don’t carry it with me and so even when I would need it, I don’t have it along. Usually, around February or March, it becomes buried on my desk, never to be used again. If you need a calendar-based system, there are many to choose from.

Here’s what I do instead. I use a combination of a Google calendar, a journal, and a goal-planning system. I use Google calendar for appointments and long-term plans, like vacations. I check it every day and have it available on my phone. It’s with me all the time when I need it.

I got intrigued by bullet journaling a few years ago. I did a ton of reading, understood their philosophy, saw beautiful examples and decided to try it. Very quickly I realized there were things about it that made sense for me, but most of it did not. I do use my journal for to-do lists, brain dumps, tracking things, and daily calendars when I need one. But, I also collect notes, thoughts, lists (like books, I’ve read or art projects ideas). I use it to think through life questions. To brainstorm plans and to keep track of things I want to remember. I use it to get ideas out of my head so that I can move past them. In these activities, it more resembles a commonplace book than a planner. Commonplace books are typically collections of thoughts, ideas, recipes or things to be remembered that you might gather as you go through life. I do create daily calendar entries when I get especially busy and need to plan how to get everything done.

My journal of choice is a Leuchtturm1917. They have hard covers and come in a variety of sizes, colors and page styles. I use a medium size with a dotted page. I like them because I can choose a different color for each year - I tend to go through at least two per year. Last year was lime green, this year is emerald, which really is more like a seafoam green and reminds me of the ocean. I like the dotted pages because it gives me some guidelines without being as rigid as a graph or lined page.

But, the best part about them is that they have numbered pages and several blank tables of contents pages in the front. As I use pages, I can choose to enter them in the front with the page number or not. I don’t need to know where my daily calendar-type pages are, because once past, I shouldn’t need to reference them again so I don’t note those in the front. But, lists, plans or ideas pages…those I can enter on the contents pages and they’re much easier to find in the future when I need to reference them.

I’m also partial to colored pens. I’m an artist and love art supplies. When art and office supplies intersect, I’m even more of a sucker. So. I have a pen holder with a jillion colors of pens. My favorites for daily use are Pentel EnerGels in a variety of colors. If you do any research at all on bullet journaling, you’ll find beautiful, elaborate, lovely journals with colors, stickers, washi tape and gorgeous design. While mine has lots of ink color, it is not like that at all. Those journals are impressive. I love looking at them. But, my journals tend to be raw, messy, and not designed. You have permission to use your journal however you want. Other than one particular kind of entry, I use color completely randomly. I’m messy. My journal is a tool to keep my head and life organized so that I can do my art - live my life - out in the world. Many people’s journals are their art, and that’s a wonderful thing. But, they don't have to be like that. Mine is definitely not.

Before I leave the topic of my journal, there are two things that I used to do in my journal that I’m separating out this year. I’m adding two other journals to my toolbox. One will be a book journal and one a sketchnote book. I read a lot and I read fast. Two years ago, I decided to read 100 books a year. I didn’t do it. Because I realized during that time that that’s a really bad goal for me. I was reading just to meet the goal. I wasn’t absorbing the information from the books the way I should. So, I’m planning this year to have a dedicated place…my book journal…to slow my reading down. I’m going to record the books I read and either take written or visual notes as I read or at a minimum write a synopsis and my thoughts about each book when I’m done. Instead of a particular quantity of books, my goal will be 30 minutes of reading a day with the note-taking helping me to absorb and apply the information. This journal will stay at home.

The other thing I want to separate out is a note-taking journal that will stay in my bag. I’ve started taking visual notes of speakers at workshops, sermons, and meetings and I want a different type of paper for that, so will be putting that into a separate journal with art paper.

That’s the practical everyday side of my tools. But, there’s a planning side too. I’ve tried a lot of different planning systems over the years, but my favorite right now is Lara Casey’s Powersheets. You can find out all about them and her philosophy at The 2018 Powersheets are sold out (I know, I should have done this episode a month ago, right?), but you can always get the non-dated six-month version, it will work just as well. The powersheets mimic much of the planning approach that I have found to be effective in the past. They’re about cultivating the life you want. Lara has also written a few books, the most current is Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life.

The Powersheets are a really thorough, powerful planning system based on cultivating the kind of life you really want. It’s a planning system only, there’s no calendar in it. However, there are activity sheets for each month that help you figure out what you need to be doing each month. I highly recommend it. By the way, I don’t get anything from talking about these products, they’re just what I’m using right now.

One of the monthly activity sheets that I’ve found especially helpful in the Powersheets collection is the Tending List. It’s essentially a goal tracking list of daily, weekly and monthly goals for each month. I mention it because a daily habit tracker is something that I have always drawn into my journal each month. The things I track often change month to month, but I got tired of drawing the chart…it gets messy and always looks the same anyway. I don’t always have the powersheets with me and I usually track more things than the powersheets have space for. So, doing it there is kind of a pain. Instead of redrawing it every month this year, I decided to create a tracking chart document that I can print and tape into my journal. Then I don’t have to repetitively draw it and it looks neater. So, that’s what I’m doing this year and you can download a copy of it below if you like. It’s simple and functional and not cutesy or fancy…but, if you decide to track some habits in the new year, it might be helpful for you. You can print them off, cut them out and tape them in a journal or leave them as is and put them in a three-ring binder.

[check the website shownotes for the download]

There are a few miscellaneous items I want to mention also. I add a pen loop to my journal and usually have one pen hooked to the outside of it (my pens don’t fit inside the loop well). Most of the pens I carry in a RusticTown pencil case. It’s a brown, vintage leather zippered roll and one of my most favorite things ever. The leather feels wonderful, it looks like a well-traveled vintage piece and I have about 12 colored pens and sketch pens in there right now.

Another random item I use is a chalk marker. I have a set of MooMoo Creative chalk markers and use them to write notes to myself on my bathroom mirror. In November, we write things we’re grateful for. Right now, my 5 commandments are on the mirror. It's a good way to remind yourself of attitudes you want to have, quotes or verses you want to memorize or things you want to do or aspire to.

I’ll probably be mentioning these tools in the upcoming series on making lasting change and I wanted to give you an overview of them. You don’t need any of these to make changes in your life, but Leuchtturm journals, Pentel EnerGel pens, and Cultivate What Matters Powersheets are some of the tools I have in my toolbox. Tools I use to organize my head and my life.

Want episodes delivered to your inbox each Monday morning? Click here