What’s On Your Bucket List?

By Shannon Boatwright

img_0946So every New Year’s Eve, I encourage…ok, sometimes I have to force, …my family to reflect. Every year it’s something my sweet Hubby and I do. He sometimes may think it’s a pain, but I know deep down he’s always glad I got him to do it. Most years we answer questions about our year – our triumphs, our trials, what we took pride in from the year and what major lessons we learned, our successes, our memorable moments of gratefulness, etc. We reflect, which in turn allows us to look forward to what we want to become and accomplish in the new year.  The experience helps us to establish personal and family goals for the new year. It’s very special to me and I believe very worthwhile to reflect and gain a sense of peace in letting the past year go and embracing the new year we’re blessed to enter.

So this year, I did my usual search online for some good questions to use for our reflecting, but I couldn’t get something out of my head. A few days after Christmas, my man and I happened to catch the movie, “The Bucket List,” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. We actually caught it at the start of the movie and were able to watch the whole thing together while getting small tasks done.  It’s definitely a favorite movie of mine – a favorite because it really makes you stop and think about your life. So when the time came for my ritual New Year’s Eve reflection questions, I couldn’t get the idea of a bucket list out of my head.

If you know me, you know that my mantra is Carpe Diem. As Robin Williams once pointed out in a little iconic movie called “Dead Poets Society,” life is short and one day, someday, any day, we could be fertilizing daffodils, so we should seize the day and make our lives extraordinary!  I preach this, yet I admit, I’m not always the greatest at living it.  Watching “The Bucket List”  and hearing Morgan Freeman’s character tell Jack Nicholson’s character of the two questions asked of the dead by the gods at the entrance to heaven, “Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others?”, well, it really got me thinking.

img_0945So this year, in addition to answering our New Year’s Eve reflection questions, I couldn’t resist the pressing urge to create my bucket list.  After the clock struck midnight on December 31st, 2018, my Hubby and I created our bucket lists, with the idea in mind – imagine we had 3 to 6 months to live, what things would we want to experience and accomplish before we die? It was certainly interesting and eye opening to share with each other the things on our lists. Most importantly, making yourself create a bucket list really gets you thinking.

Barbara Sher once said, “Whatever your dreams are, take them very, very seriously.” So I ask you, what are your dreams? What will you do to make them come true? What things would you want to experience and accomplish if you were given 6 months to live? Is it morbid to think like this? No. Life is short, if you don’t live it, truly live it, it will pass you by and you will certainly die with regrets.  Therefore, I encourage you to take the time to create your own bucket list. I’ll even offer a little extra help so that you can make it a heartfelt, meaningful bucket list. I came across this fabulous blog post by Sacha Strebe titled 12 Things That Arent on Your Bucket List – But Should Be. This is an excellent read that will surely help you really carpe that diem and make your life’s goals extraordinary.

Here’s to creating an amazing bucket list, checking things off of that list and living life to the fullest! Happy New Year!

Is Your Ideal Daily Routine Achievable?

By: Shannon Boatwright

hmmm-a-long-walk-everyday-sounds-so-lovely

I recently read an article in the September 2016 issue of Readers Digest. It completely fascinated me and well, frustrated me. The article is titled “The Daily Routines of Geniuses,” written by Sarah Green Carmichael from the Harvard Business Review. She talks about how she has spent her life searching for the ideal daily routine and how a book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work fascinated her. She shares all of these fabulous tidbits of information about artists’ daily habits… artists ranging from Jane Austin to Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Beethoven, Ernest Hemingway, Arthur Miller, Mozart, Andy Warhol and Picasso. She’s right, “the routines of these thinkers are strangely compelling.” Many of them took daily walks, sometimes for up to three hours! And that was part of their daily routine, part of what helped provide inspiration and rejuvenation for their inner spirit, their mindset, their physical wellbeing, for their talents.

It is compelling indeed, mostly because I cannot imagine ever having the time to take long walks like these late greats did, much less do it daily! Many of these genius minds would spend their mornings engaging in their main talent, whether painting, writing, composing, etc, then they’d spend the afternoon doing “busywork.” As I read the article, the entire time I couldn’t stop thinking, yea that was THEN! Way back then when there were no constant, overwhelming sources of communication and interruptions of everyday modern life. No emails, texts, distracting Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram photos… no absurd job requirements, work hours, traffic, endless bills… I could go on and on. But let’s face it, way back in the day, life was flat out simpler.

I’ve written in the past about one of my mantras, which is Carpe Diem… Seize the Day! I do my best in this modern day and age to seize my days, making the very best of them. It’s not always easy and some days it seems near impossible. So I must admit that when I think of the days when some of our famous artistic idols lived and created, there is a part of me that is incredibly jealous of the time they had to focus on their physical, mental and artistic well-being. Now, I know some of them worked better in other circumstances and under certain influences, but the daily routines of so many of our late greats truly were what we would call a luxury nowadays. I start to think… how could I actually achieve that kind of time? Time in my daily life that would allow me to take long walks and rejuvenate my body inside and out. When I really think about it, I’m dumbfounded! I figure I’d either have to win the lottery or become a really well-off retiree. Or I’d have to never sleep. And I promise you, getting no sleep is not a possible part of my life if I want to actually stay alive.

So how do we conquer the modern day nonsense that keeps so many of us from living that dream-daily-routine, blessed life? What would be your ideal daily routine? Quite honestly, in this very moment, I’m so exhausted from a long day teaching, among many other things, my mind is mush and I just don’t even know where to begin to answer that question for myself. Maybe a super long, relaxing walk would do the trick. If only I didn’t have to get up in a few hours when my alarm goes off way too early tomorrow morning.

Addicted to Complacency

By: Chaunte McClure

complacency

Earlier this year I accepted the challenge to mentor a young lady who is trying to turn her life around. It’s a much greater challenge than I could ever imagine because she is addicted to alcohol and I’m often frustrated and baffled over the grip it has on her life.

To hear her talk about her credentials, academic achievements and previous career success makes me wonder how such a beautiful, smart, young lady could be crippled by such a debilitating disease called alcoholism; one that interferes with her thinking, ability to work, drive, thrive and be self-sufficient in a world that has its own share of challenges. But she says she wants to change. She wants to change, but I don’t think a day has passed since we’ve met that she hasn’t consumed alcohol.

Like her, many of us also have an addiction. Yes, we have an addiction that’s crippling our thoughts, actions, and even our would-be success. But our addiction is not to a narcotic or a depressant. It’s not to nicotine, LSD, ecstasy, heroin, marijuana, crack, or cocaine. It’s another ‘c’ word – Complacency!

We have great ideas, thoughts, and desires for ourselves, our families, and our communities, but they never go beyond the initial stage. It’s comparable to New Year’s resolutions, which in a matter of days go dormant. The bottom line is, we’re complacent. Without even realizing it, we are addicted to complacency and that’s why we are stuck in our comfort zone.

I sat in amazement this past July as I watched Michelle Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention. Her poise, class, delivery, and confidence left me with awestruck admiration. “I want to speak like that one day,” I said while sitting in my living room as I watched the crowd applaud, cheer, and chant following her compelling speech. The one attribute I’ve identified that I’m missing is confidence. With a manuscript before me, I can speak with certainty, but I can be like a fish out of water without it.

I remembered a life lesson from more than 10 years ago when I wouldn’t even entertain the thought of public speaking: You’ll never get over the fear if you never give public speaking a try. (I hated public speaking!) I realized that I will always be what I’ve always been if I always do what I’ve always done.

While preparing for an upcoming speaking engagement, I thought I’d plan to forgo the manuscript. After all, I’ll never learn to speak without one, if I never give it a try. With knots in my stomach, I was having second thoughts while I was en route to the event. When I finally arrived and walked in the room where attendees would soon gather before me, the featured speaker, I almost panicked when I observed there wasn’t a podium anywhere near the mic stand. (God, what are you doing to me?!) I quickly calmed myself down after confirming there wouldn’t be podium. (Gulp!)

It seems my introduction came too soon, but it was now show time. I took my iPad with me and sat it on a nearby table just in case I lost my train of thought. I had words and phrases highlighted and in bold type to guide me through the speech, again, just in case. Yes, it helped to have my iPad close by. It’s a good thing I don’t sweat much. Phew! I survived the speech. I was no Michelle Obama, but I delivered. Is there room for improvement? You better believe it. Will I keep working at it? You bet. This will be a growth process and I understand that I will eventually get there if I don’t allow complacency to win.

Like alcohol, complacency controls our lives and keeps us from being as great as we are capable of being. Complacency stunts our personal, professional and even spiritual growth.

What has a grip on you that’s preventing you from being your best self? Is complacency preventing you from starting a business, writing a book, earning a degree, getting a certification, becoming active in your church or community, joining an organization, changing jobs or careers, or speaking in public? Fill in the blank: Complacency is preventing me from ____________.  Now, what are you going to do about it? Reading this might be motivating, but what will YOU do to change?

You’re great! But there is greater inside of you. But you have to see the need for change, the need for greater so that you can embrace change and allow it to take place in your life.

You want to change, but if you keep feeding that which keeps you from changing, you’ll always be the same.

Live. Love. Laugh. Hope.

By: Katie Austin

live_laugh_love_hopeToday I woke up. That’s always a start to the day. 🙂 I had plans to go to work, dinner with family and then whatever I could fit in afterwards. I started to go through my get-ready-for-work routine and I wasn’t feeling well. I have been fighting a stomach virus for a few days and was trying to get back into a regular routine. I didn’t feel like myself. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something was different.

Everything in the house was the same, in its place where it was when I went to bed last night.

I looked in the mirror and what was looking back at me was the same.

Why was I feeling this way?

Did something happen that I wasn’t aware of?

I checked my phone. No text messages or phone calls. Surely if something happened I would have at least gotten a phone call or text message.

I then checked Facebook. Nothing new there either.

I thought I was losing my mind and chalked it up to not feeling well. Maybe I was running a fever and my thoughts weren’t clear. I emailed work to let them know I would be taking the day off, fixed a cup of coffee, sat on the couch and turned on the morning news.

I just couldn’t shake the feeling I was having. What was going on?

Then it came to me. Like someone tapping their finger on my shoulder to get my attention. It took me a minute to know that someone was trying to get my attention. I turned to look and no one was there.

You see, it was God.

Here I was, frustrated the last few days because I had a stomach virus and couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. It was like a lightbulb went off. I realized I needed to use this time to not only get myself well, but to re-focus my life. Today was my tomorrow to make the needed changes. It was time to start healing.

I needed to stop making excuses and to start making a plan to get where I want to be. I wouldn’t get into my car and start driving to a new place without bringing up directions on my phone or GPS. If I did that, I could expect to drive in circles or at least take longer to get to where I was going. That is, if I knew where I was going.

So, I need to look at my life as a map. Not 100% planned out, but at least a map to get me going in the right direction. But without a destination (aka goals), a map won’t help me. The first thing I need to do is set goals for myself. More importantly, life goals.

I turned off the television, opened the door to my porch so that I could hear nature talking, and moved to the table on our porch so that I could feel the sun for the first time in a few days. I need the vitamin D anyway 🙂

Within a few mouse clicks, I found a wonderful article, “4 Easy Steps to Setting Your Life Goals,” on the Huffington Post website. Here is a summary of what the article recommends:

  1. Brainstorm your life goals. Take 5-10 minutes and write down everything in your life that is really important to you. Write down anything and everything that comes to mind.
  1. Setting your life goals. What you wrote down in Step 1 does not have to be the definitive list. Look over the list, narrow it down to the things you couldn’t live without, and then come up with a specific target and defined outcome.
  1. Building a plan to achieve them. For each life goal, think about the last step needed to accomplish it and then work your way backwards. It’s an interesting approach and after you do this for your first goal, the steps to take for each become clear. Almost like they were right there in front of you the whole time but something was covering them.
  1. Getting after it. Simply put – it’s time to put your plan into action. The key is to work on each goal one at a time. If you’re like me, you will want to multi-task them all. BUT we all know multi-tasking is putting less than 100% of yourself into everything in your life. It will take longer to accomplish your goals and you will feel overwhelmed.

Always remember that everything happens for a reason and each day is a new day. Don’t spend time looking in the rearview mirror when you will miss out on what is in front of you. Easy to say, harder to do.

Live each day to the fullest. Love each other. Laugh often, as this is good medicine. Hope for a better tomorrow