A Purposeful WIP Jettisons Judgment

Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been judged for something you did or said by someone who didn’t even know you or who didn’t know the full story? Maybe something was taken out of context or it was something that happened on a particularly bad day when you were extra frazzled, frustrated, or faced with a distressing situation that left you acting and reacting unlike your usual self. Regardless of the particulars, it never feels good to be the recipient of unfair judgment.

Now, let me ask you this: Have you ever experienced life from the flipside of that coin? Acting as judge and jury rather than the defendant? If being truly honest, who among us could actually answer in the negative? I, for one, could not. I have been guilty of casting judgment many times over, suffering from temporary memory lapses during which I either completely forgot my own mistakes or recalled the lessons learned from them in such a way that I deemed myself an expert in someone else’s life.

Naturally, I am no such thing. And, in fact, I sometimes question my adeptness for directing the intricacies of my own life. In which case, how can I, as this admittedly flawed and fumbling human, feel any compulsion whatsoever to throw stones of any size at an equally flawed and fumbling human? How can any of us?

Unfortunately, the way of our world in recent years has made judging each other even easier. Although I know comparison was already alive and thriving when I was a kid—I clearly remember numerous instances when my looks, clothes, development, and abilities were held up against those of my peers—at least back then our shortcomings and failures were only exposed to a small subset of people. Now, not only can we be shamed by complete strangers on worldwide platforms, but we are also subjected to the rosiest glimpses into other’s lives from which can judge ourselves more harshly.

But I wonder what would happen, if we, as Purposeful WIPs, jettisoned those judgments? Can you imagine the freedom that would follow on the heels of our choosing not to hang onto other people’s opinions of us? Can you imagine the lightness that we would experience if we decided to no longer burden our already overtaxed and overwhelmed minds with useless judgments regarding others’ choices and appearances and supposed missteps? Imagine the personal growth and progress we would see if we weren’t so concerned with what others might think or weren’t so caught up in wasting our precious time and energy worrying about what everybody else is doing? How high would we fly?

How big would we dream? How much would we love and appreciate the goodness in ourselves and each other if only we left the arbitrating up to the Divine Judge Himself? Let us forgo the judgments and instead reach for those great heights of compassion, acceptance, and grace.

What I’ve Learned By Blogging

Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

Last Monday, while enjoying a riverside walk with a friend of mine, she posed a question that at the time completely stumped me. She asked, “What have you learned by blogging?”** Although her inquiry was simple and should have been easy for me to answer immediately, it has taken an entire week and a considerable amount of pondering for me to formulate any type of response. And even as I sat down to write it out, I repeatedly asked myself similar versions of the same question while staring at the blank screen and blinking cursor.

What have I learned? Why do I blog? How have I grown over the last six months?

I have said before that writing is an emotional outlet for me. It offers an avenue through which I can make sense of myself, my thoughts, and (as much as possible) the world at large. Throughout my lifetime, the act of writing of any kind—be it work on my manuscript, blogging, journaling, or even a personal email/card/letter—has provided me with tremendous insight, understanding, and compassion. But thinking about blogging specifically, I realize I have gained three valuable skills.

I’ve learned Focus. For the first several weeks every post took hours to write. I was often distracted by worry and anxiety—judgment and criticism and comparisons, oh my—as well as to-do lists, drama (both real and imagined), emails/calls/texts, etc. You name it, my attention was likely diverted by it and I recognized very quickly the detrimental effects of my lack of concentration. The more time I wasted, the more time my butt had to be glued to my desk chair, and the less time I had for other life essentials. BUT when I focused solely on the task at hand, not only did my work improve, but I also got more done in less time. And as an added bonus, this learned focus has bled into other parts of my life, like when I’m working on my manuscript.

I’ve learned Stamina. My original intention in starting the blog was to keep my family and friends abreast of my novel-writing journey. But a short time later, it grew into a way to connect with other people who, like me, may have big dreams and goals and plans, but also experience difficulty following through on them. But blogging isn’t exactly an “if you build it, they will come” proposition. Building a readership is a marathon, not a sprint, and much like long-distance running, it takes stamina to keep going. And as a self-proclaimed quitter, I am happy to report that through training and persistence, this priceless trait is one that can be honed and strengthened.

I’ve learned Consistency. In the beginning, I made a commitment to myself to publish two blog posts every week. Twenty-five-and-a-half weeks and fifty-one posts later, I am still upholding that promise. This has been made possible mainly because of a consistent writing schedule. Creating blog content has become as much a part of my daily routine as working on my manuscript.

So, what have I learned by blogging? Focus. Stamina. Consistency. Three skills that I wouldn’t have necessarily expected to acquire, but I am grateful I have. For it is armed with these precious assets that I have also made progress in other areas of my life. And it just goes to show that we never know what unforeseen growth can come out of our experiences if only we keep our hearts and minds open.

What about you? Are there any qualities/skills/abilities that you have learned in an unexpected way?

**Thank you, Julie, for prompting the topic of this post.

A Purposeful WIP Invests Intentionally

Five weeks ago I wrote a post about Embracing the Essentials. I discussed the importance of paring down the number of opportunities and options available to us on a daily basis, of trimming the fat out of our lives so that we have enough resources—time, energy, money, focus—to devote to the things that we deem essential. Today, I’m taking that a step further. Today, I’m talking about intentionally investing in these most vital treasures.

What does it mean to invest intentionally?

It means forfeiting the nonessential in favor of the essential. It means walking the walk, not just talking the talk. It means not only saying something is important, but actually putting forth the necessary work to center our lives on that something (or those somethings). It means embodying our priorities so completely that our schedules reflect them.

Is it easy? No. Do I struggle with this? Absolutely. It is a struggle Every. Single. Day. But we are talking about progress, not perfection. And that progress cannot happen without intentionality. It will not happen without an investment of effort on our part. No one else’s priorities align with ours, so no one else is going to do it for us. No one else is going to write that book or start that business or relieve us of other demands so we have more time to spend with family and friends. Whatever we claim as our essentials, it is on us to intentionally invest in them. We have to do the work. We have to make the sacrifices. We have to take our lives off autopilot and jump back in the driver’s seat.

Unfortunately, this often means giving before getting. If you’re starting a business, you have to invest a lot up front before ever seeing that bottom line in the black. If you’re writing a book, you have to invest the time and energy into writing it without knowing whether or not it will be published. You may adopt a new workout program or a healthier way of eating for weeks or months before seeing results. And just because you dedicate a larger chunk of your attention and affection to that friend or family member, it does not guarantee reciprocation.

The reward is in investing intentionally in those things that create purpose and fulfillment. The reward is in simplifying and cutting out excess busyness in order to make room for that which elevates our level of joy and contentment. The reward is knowing that we are making a mindful attempt at being our best selves and living our best lives.

Because we only get this one life, and more than that, we only get once chance at today. We can choose to live it in tension—always at war between that which we know is essential to us and that which we’ve been told should be essential. Or we can choose to live it with intention—learning to carefully tailor our days until they exemplify our essentials.

Which will you choose?

I Know What You’re Thinking

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Do you ever make up stories in your mind? Self-made assumptions about how a conversation, situation, or experience will go? Maybe you’re like me and you have a tendency to do this when you’re faced with the unknown or put in an uncomfortable position that will lead to tension (yuck!) if not dealt with through confrontation (double yuck!).

For me, it’s about preparedness. I like to know how things will play out and I’m certain that by rehearsing an imagined discussion or visualizing a scene, I can foresee and therefore plan for every possible scenario. But, alas, my crystal ball is often if not always faulty and my expectations, skewed. No matter how well I think I know someone at present, my powers of prediction are limited by the past. Past insecurities, past experiences, past judgments. I think I know what someone will say because he/she has said it before. I think I know how they’ll react because they reacted the same way all those other times.

But in truth, I know diddly squat for sure. Every circumstance is riddled with random variables and all my supposed knowing leaves out one important element: The possibility of change. We are all works-in-progress, but becoming better versions of ourselves requires a certain amount of grace and forgiveness. From ourselves and from others. Because how will we ever grow and progress if we are continually thought of as “the one who always . . .” or “the one who never . . .”?

If you have ever felt the effects of someone treating you or approaching you as if you are still the ten-years-ago version of yourself, you know it isn’t fun. It doesn’t feel good to be judged by an older, shorter measuring stick, when you now tower over it. We don’t need someone else to point out our shortcomings. We are all fully aware of and constantly faced with those areas of our lives in which we constantly strive for improvement.

So why not give others the grace we, ourselves, so desperately need? Why not create a little open-minded space in our often closed-off minds? Why not turn our own stubborn perspective on its head and rather than looking for that which we know will remain unchanged in someone else, let’s look for the same tiny seed of growth that we hope they will see in us.

A Purposeful WIP Honors Her/Himself

Let’s talk about honor. In terms of relationships with others—spouses, significant others, parents, children, friends—honor means treating them with respect and kindness. It means upholding vows and keeping promises. It’s those times when someone needs help or asks a favor and we follow through even if in the end we are tired or overextended or it took longer than we thought it would. We show up because we said we would, because the other person is counting on us.

But what about those promises we make to ourselves? How often do those lay in shattered remains on the ground? We say the words “I’m going to . . .” but then never actually get to going. Or it’s those secret wishes and dreams and goals that we bury and keep to ourselves because if we never mention them, we don’t have to worry about letting anyone else down. But guess what? We’re letting ourselves down. And the more we do it, the easier it is to keep doing it.

When I was writing the first draft of my novel manuscript, I’d become really gung ho about my goals for a day or two. I’d get out my planner and make a note of my target word count in the upper right hand corner of each calendar square and then circle or highlight the new completion date for which I was then aiming. “This time is going to be different,” I’d tell myself. “I’m going to finish this first draft by such and such a date. I’m really going to do it this time.” Did you catch that? Those three magic words? I’m going to.

Well, guess what? I didn’t.

That time was no different than the time before because just like in my previous attempts I didn’t honor myself. I didn’t honor my time. I didn’t honor my goals. It had become my habit to set and then ultimately disregard the promises I made to myself and unlike those promises, the bad habit was harder to break. I had to interrupt the cycle.

And on July 6, 2018 that’s exactly what I did.

I made a contract with myself. An actual typed, printed, and signed contract which stated that I, Sandy Randazzo, would complete the first draft of my novel manuscript by September 15, 2018. The contract included a bulleted list of action steps and literal promises to myself. For example, I wrote: “I promise to write and/or edit with focused attention in a distraction-free environment for at least five hours a day, Monday-Friday.” And “I promise to remember that perfection is not a requirement and mistakes present an opportunity for growth.”

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you know I completed that first draft by September 15. You also know that since then, I’ve also completed a second draft, and as of last week Friday, a third.

It’s amazing the progress we can make when we decide to start honoring ourselves and our goals and our time. And so that is my challenge for you this week. To make a promise to yourself and then keep it. Follow through on it as though someone else is holding you accountable. Because there is someone who is counting on you to show up . . . YOU! It doesn’t have to be anything big. It could be as simple as saying your goal out loud for the first time or writing it down someplace where you can see it. Get started today and honor yourself by turning that I’m going to into I WILL!