Tag Archives: Self Help

How do I DO when I don’t know WHAT to do?

I had a lovely conversation recently with a musician who feels stuck.  He doesn’t quite know what the next step is and therefore doesn’t know what to do or where to begin. It is this conversation that inspired me to address this question: 
How do I DO when I don’t know WHAT to do?

Many of us have a fantasy-like idea that we will find the perfect life or the perfect career, and we will just know it when we see it.  Unfortunately this idea is most often not reality.  But when we look at people who are far into their careers, or have lifestyles that suit them, sometimes it might look like they ARE living our fantasy.  It is easy to think “they had it so easy”, or “they really have it all together”, when in actuality their life was not built overnight, but rather is the result of many little decisions along the way as well as much focused time spent.

Everything is built one piece, one step at a time.  I have been fortunate in life to have been raised building tangible things.  I built a deck with my Dad when I was 8 years old… yes, I really did help my dad build.  I was his right hand man.  I saw the project from plans to building materials, to effort and time put forward, to the finished product; a deck that is , 28 years later, still in great working order.  This was a wonderful education.  The catch phrase in my house was “make a plan, work the plan”.  It was simple, straight forward advice.

But what I did not learn or get much practice in was the process of deciding what to do. I was not always able to apply this sound family advice simply because I didn’t know what I wanted to build.

How do we decide what project (or goal) is worth planning and executing? 

We all have different challenges.  My challenge has often been my desire to build too many things, finding the multitude of choices overwhelming… and then most of the time not bothering to start.  Some others may have the challenge of wanting to build a skyscraper before learning to build a shack?  Others may be trying to build something for the wrong reasons; something that is not right for them?

We must begin by asking: How do I decide what to do? Once you answer this question, then (and only then) will you be able to “make a plan and work the plan”.

Step One:  Discover your motivation.

What do I have to do?  This can be “I have to in a metaphoric sense- like this is really important / exciting / meaningful – OR – “I have to in the practical sense- like I need to get a job that pays me $2000 per month.  Either way, what we decide to build needs to feel necessary. This is a BIG question. It may come with many answers.  It is possible to have several motivations and even to work toward several things at one time.  But quite often one or two motivations will feel most necessary now.  This does not mean you abandon the others, you simply decide to focus on one or two motivations for now.

Step Two:  Prioritize your time & schedule it.

Hold that which is necessary in your mind and decide how much time you can devote to it.  Assess if there is enough time, and if there isn’t make necessary adjustments.  The more you hold that which is necessary in your mind the less you will feel tempted to waste your time in social media or TV.  Rome wasn’t built by people who sat in front of an entertainment screen all day.  You know what is necessary, so it’s best to not make excuses or distractions to keep you from putting in the time and energy.

Step Three: Evaluate Expectations.

Realistically assess what you can accomplish in what amount of time.  If you feel you are not good at this, ask someone to help you. If you set your expectations too high, it will become easy to be discouraged.  For example if you decide that it is necessary to make $5000 per month but you don’t want to work full time, and haven’t developed the highest level of skills yet, you may be consuming too much stuff right now.  This does not mean that you won’t accomplish this someday, but for now you may need to reassess your expenses so that the necessary becomes attainable.  Another example has to do with the time needed.  Find someone who has what you want and ask them how long it took to get there.  This will help you create realistic expectations.

Step Four:  Get your head in the right place.

If you find yourself thinking of all the reasons why this is too hard, or you cannot do it, then this step will have the most impact on you. When you find yourself digressing into this pointless, whiny, defeated state of mind, do something.  Anything.  Anything other than thinking.  Negative, pointless, whiny, defeated thinking is simply a bad habit that only serves to perpetuate procrastination and misery.  Stop thinking and making excuses, instead just do.  For example write down a list of things and choose to do something on the list right now.  Yes, there is always an element of truth to our negative, pointless, whiny, defeated thinking, however, ruminating on that negative stuff is NOT AT ALL helpful, nor is it interesting to us or anyone else.

Step Five: Make a plan.

Sometimes we need help with this too!  But excitingly, once we KNOW what we want to build, all of a sudden as we begin to share it with others we find that there are people and situations all around us that seem to be conspiring to help us succeed.  It is the passion and clarity of purpose that inspires others to help us.  Until we know what we want to build, it seems impossible to find mentors and help.  Once we know, they show up on every corner!

Step Six: Work the plan.

Keep a written account of this process (steps 1-6) with you at all times.  Read it whenever you feel off track or during moments of doubt.  Seek outside inspiration to help you continue on this plan. Be willing to ask for help and advice from those who believe in you and can help you… BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, keep working the plan.

Step Seven: Congratulations, you’ve built it, now you can enjoy it. 

But guess what, it’s going to need continued maintenance…and hopefully you’ll find that you enjoy the maintenance too.

So what do you think you’ll need to build next?
Do you need a some guidance in a life transition?  Contact me to schedule a consultation.

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CMH: Part 4 – Choosing

Continued from: College, Money & Hope – Part 1 College
Continued from: College, Money & Hope – Part 2 Money
Continued from:
College, Money & Hope – Part 3 Hope

Choosing the Right Path:
When we are at a crossroads in our life, trying to decide what to do next, we can sometimes be overwhelmed by the possibilities.  Keep in mind that  there are no perfect answers to life’s challenges; no perfect paths.  Try out the following exercise to get your creative juices flowing while getting in touch with your core self.  Allow yourself to answer these questions with a light touch.  No answer is wrong or right, just interesting.  Allow your imagination to bounce like a ball and see where it takes you.

These questions are a starting point.  They will help you begin to find your inner compass that will point you in the right direction.  Have fun with this.

  • What do I need to feel more fulfilled?
  • What do I want to improve in myself and my life?
  • What would I do with my time if I had all of the money I need?
  • What is my ideal work day?
  • What do I love?

As you consider your future path observe how you feel while answering questions like these.  Rate your feelings according to warm or cold, light or dark, excited or frustrated.  Keep in mind that sometimes a little feeling of fear or nerves can be a good sign indicating that the thoughts are significant – challenging – potentially rewarding.

Once you have a feeling for what will be your exciting next step, seek out people who have what you want and find out how they got there.  Share your dreams with others, and start doing something small everyday to set you on that path.  Seek career and life advice locally at schools you may be considering attending, or in the industry of your interest.  And lastly, as you move forward, be kind and patient with yourself.

Be courageous!

Much Love,
Colleen

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Choosing is part 4 of a series addressing this question:

How many ways can I utilize a degree in music? I am finishing my AA, and desperately want to get a BA in some kind of musical training.  I love to sing and perform but can’t decide if I should go for what I love, or what will “pay”? Please give me some hope!

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CMH: Part 3 – Hope

Continued from: College, Money & Hope – Part 1 College
Continued from: College, Money & Hope – Part 2 Money

HOPE

Hopefulness is a state of being that is cultivated and eventually can become habitual.  We as individual are responsible for seeking the inspiration and tools needed to maintain a state of hopefulness.

The first step is to become aware of our state of being at any given moment of any day.  How am I feeling?  Label it. Why am I feeling this way? Is this feeling helping me or hindering me? What can I do that would be helpful?

The second step is to choose a new state of being if we find the one we are in is not helping us.
For example:

  • How am I feeling? “I’m feeling really discouraged that my life is not what I thought it would be at my age.”
  • Why am I feeling this way? “I had dreams that I thought I would have accomplished, or at least be accomplishing.”
  • Is this feeling helping me? “Well, not really, because although I am realizing that I have not accomplished my dreams, I am not working toward them as I am wallowing in my own self pity.  This self pity makes me feel discouraged and hopeless.
  • What can I think/feel/do that would be helpful? “I can decide to accept where I am at this moment…since I can’t change the past, and spend the next bit of time that I have doing what will set me on a path toward my goal. I can choose not to beat myself up, and instead give myself some encouragement.

Sometimes when we ask ourselves what I can do that would be helpful, we find that the best thing would be to let go of that goal.  Our past goals can weigh us down, and as we honestly reevaluate, we find that they are not our goals anymore.  Getting rid of goals that are past their expiration date… or are simply not appropriate for our lives at this moment can help to create room in our hearts and minds for fresh & current goals.  It’s kind of like cleaning out your fridge.  Getting rid of the expired food makes room for new nourishing food.

I actually used to have an aversion to goals.  I think I was afraid to make them anticipating that I wouldn’t accomplish them.  So, I had to redefine what goals were for me.  My goals grow and change and alter in form constantly.  Also, my goals are often not pertaining to anything particularly productive.  For example right now I am working on cultivating resilience.  I know that becoming more resilient will improve my quality of life and the consistency of my well being.  This is a goal.  It’s what I want for myself and I am conscious of how it will benefit me.  It may not get me a job, or elevate my status or income.  It’s just for me.  For me, this is the best kind of goal.  Just for me!

The point that I really want to drive home is that we are responsible for our state of being.  If we want to feel hopeful, we must seek it, all the while working to direct ourselves away from any thought, situation or person that will hinder us in our search.

  • Goal Statement: My goal is to be more hopeful.
  • Accompanying question: I this or that helping me in my goal to become more hopeful?
  • Accompanying action: I will think/feel/do ___ to support my goal.

A hopeful, positive, resilient attitude can be cultivated.  Focus on that which uplifts you and you will discover that you already have a wealth of inspiration at your fingertips.

Sometimes we find that negativity is overwhelming us, and we can’t seem to pull ourselves out of it.  If this happens to you simply shift your focus to what you are thankful for.

Write it down, say it out loud, think it inside:  I am thankful for _______, ________, & _______!
If you are at a loss, you can borrow these:  I am thankful for…

  • my sense of smell especially when I’m smelling my favorite perfume
  • my sense of touch especially when taking a hot shower after a long cold day
  • sight especially when when looking at my favorite picture
  • sound especially when listening to my favorite song
  • taste especially when eating my favorite dish
  • my legs that walk me around
  • my lungs that take in and release air in an entirely satisfying way
  • …you get the point… it can become a long list!

Continue to list or repeat what you are thankful for until your state of being improves. HOPE will follow!
Tools that will help to set you on the right path continue to CMH – Part 4 Choosing

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Hope is part 3 of a 4 part series addressing this question:

How many ways can I utilize a degree in music? I am finishing my AA, and desperately want to get a BA in some kind of musical training.  I love to sing and perform but can’t decide if I should go for what I love, or what will “pay”? Please give me some hope!

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CMH: Part 2 – Money

Continued from: College, Money & Hope: Part 1 College

About MONEY

First I must say that I think too much focus is placed on making money and not enough is placed on how it is that we will spend the precious hours of our ONE life.  The reality is that the more we spend our time doing what we love, the less we are concerned about $.  An enriched person, and family for that matter, can live off of very little.  I’m going to address how we relate to money and work in hopes that looking at money from a different perspective will help to alleviate some concerns we have about it.  Also I think it’s important to address how it is that we “treat” ourselves as we learn to reevaluate what is worth opening our wallets for.

Personal Spending Experiment:

If you are concerned about not having enough money try this for two weeks. Stick to it and then reevaluate:

  • #1: Eliminate non-experiential spending (ex. clothes, shoes, bags)
  • #2: Dine out only once or twice a week maximum. Eliminate coffee & snacks while out

In this two week time period you will see if you can become more satisfied while spending less.  Obviously we do occasionally need to buy clothes, shoes and accessories.  What’s important is to have this type of spending in it’s proper place.

Begin to think of money as energy and start setting some aside.  You need to build up your energy to begin something new.  If you begin to save a little up you will feel even better about yourself and even more hopeful about your future.

Treat yourself: Anytime you do feel depleted and need a treat, do something good for yourself that is free. There is so much we can do for ourselves that does not cost money.  Begin to find what those things are for you.  Some home pampering is always a nice treat, and singing a song or listening to music can quickly change our state.  Be sure to fill your mind with uplifting things.  I recommend getting a library card and using it to check out books that help to keep your mind in a good place.  As creative people we owe it to ourselves to seek hope and inspiration.  Make frequent plans to go experience something inspiring (this is where any extra $ can and should go).

Working to Make Ends Meet: Take a look at this phrase “make ends meet”.  The idea here is that our string of spending will equal our string of earnings.  Again, money can be thought of as energy.  You spend energy at work in exchange for money.  When opening our wallet it’s important to weigh out whether or not our purchases are worth the energy exchanged to buy them.  Seek a balance that allows you to enjoy the extra money you have to spend without wasting it.  Focus on getting maximum results with your money.

Obviously we all have bills and responsibilities and many artists do have to spend time at jobs that are not centered on their artistic passion.  This is normal and okay.  Working different jobs exposes us to different people and different experiences all of which can influence our artistic endeavors.  Once the spending of our money is in proper balance, we will find that we may not have to work full time at our ends meet job, which will allow us more time with our loved ones and our creative life.

There will always be work out there to make ends meet.  Some artists work in their field as an administrator or as a teacher.  Others prefer a separation and actually prefer to see their art as completely separate from money.  Jobs in service can be great because you can leave your work at the door. Bar tending, for example, is a perfectly legitimate way to make $, especially for someone who has a great personality and can really develop a clientele. Anything we do in life we can do well and with integrity – even just to pay the bills.

There truly is an art to any profession.  I know an amazing bar tender.  His name is Kevin.  His ability to talk to people and help clients who don’t know each other strike up conversation is incredible.  He always has customers!  In my life I spent many years in service.  I became a fantastic waiter and developed a profound respect for the art of great service.  If you need an ends meet job, just pick one where you like the people you work with and can make a consistent amount of money.

Your creative art will always be a part of your life even if you need to supplement your income in other ways.  This will be true whether or not you choose to formally study in a Bachelor’s program. Continue to spend as much time as you can on what you love.  The more energy we spend on what we love to do, the more likely we will someday make a living doing that (if that’s our goal)…AND…most importantly, the more time we spend with what we love, the more likely we will find our life fulfilling.

Part 3 will cover HOPE.  How to seek it & tools to maintain it.  Continue to CMH Part 3 – Hope

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Money is part 2 of a 4 part series addressing this question:

How many ways can I utilize a degree in music? I am finishing my AA, and desperately want to get a BA in some kind of musical training.  I love to sing and perform but can’t decide if I should go for what I love, or what will “pay”? Please give me some hope!

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College, Money & Hope: Part 1 – College

Hello Colleen, how many ways can I utilize a degree in music? I am finishing my AA, and desperately want to get a BA in some kind of musical training.  I love to sing and perform but can’t decide if I should go for what I love, or what will “pay”? Please give me some hope!

Even though a BA may not offer guaranteed work, it is now a baseline requirement for most opportunities.  I don’t find this reality entirely motivational but all the same, it’s true.  That aside, I feel the most important reason to get a BA is self development.  A BA will expand you in every direction.  You will gain a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and how those relate to your passions.  You will be challenged and stretched in every direction.  We can continue learning for life…but often it is our BA that really teaches us how to learn.  We grow our brain, increasing our capacity for learning.  Our world view and view of ourselves expand.  It’s the best!  I highly recommend getting a BA and studying what you love!

What we gain from a BA may not initially be quantifiable.  After all, the most important benefit of education is self enrichment, which is not exactly a skill per se.  But, to be sure, you will learn skills at college, and everything you learn you will utilize one way or another!  An education can be expensive and it is natural to be concerned about money, but I encourage you to place that concern lower on your totem pole for now.  Even without the assurance of guaranteed work after you finish your BA, as long as you’re in it 100% it will be worth every penny.   Earn a BA because you love yourself and you love to learn!  How you utilize the skills you gain at college will be up to you!

When we pay for a BA we are not only paying for the classes but also  for the environment.  The people you meet and are surrounded by are at least 50% of the education and that percentage is even higher for continued study.  When choosing a program it is really important to get a feel for the other students and the general vibe because the people you meet in your BA program will be your future colleagues, as well as continued sources of support and inspiration.  This has been especially true for me from my masters program.  I am now part of a huge network of amazing self-actualized people who are working musicians and creative artists.  Some have branched out from their degree focus and are now doing what is more authentically their own thing.  It’s incredibly inspiring to see what everyone is doing and how we are all growing.

If you do enroll in a full time bachelor’s program, know that full time study can be difficult if you have other family obligations or have to work too much.  It is important to be in a position to immerse yourself into your studies.  It’s a gift to have the time to focus on your own growth.  If you enroll in a full time BA program, it would be best to not work anymore than 10 hours per week.  Not working at all is preferable so that all of your energy can be focused on either yourself related to your schooling or on your family.  This is enough.  Balance and focus are both critical in getting the most out of an education. Choose a school and a major that you are really excited about.  The excitement will motivate you along the way.

Now, About Money: Money is a common worry for everyone and especially creative artists. Part two addresses our concerns about money and challenges how we think of money!  …Continue to Part 2: Money

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College is part 1 of a 4 part series addressing the question at the top of this post:

How many ways can I utilize a degree in music? I am finishing my AA, and desperately want to get a BA in some kind of musical training.  I love to sing and perform but can’t decide if I should go for what I love, or what will “pay”? Please give me some hope!

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When You Think of It, DO IT.

This one I learned from my Mom!

Most of the things that we procrastinate doing will take somewhere between 3 minutes and 1 hour to finish, yet we will spend double or triple that amount of time thinking about having to do it, instead of just doing it.

When you think of it, DO IT. Do yourself a favor.  If you have the 3 minutes it will take, just get-er-done.  Seriously, once you get in the habit of this your mind will become so free.  Free to be creative, free to enjoy the moment.

If, however, at THAT moment you cannot do it, WRITE IT DOWN.  My grandfather carries a small notebook in his shirt pocket, my mom keeps a list, I have a list on my blackberry… and sometimes on what I call “the master list“.  No matter what works for you, just write it down.  This will free up some mental energy that you’ve been devoting to trying to remember it.

But here’s the catch: when you have a free 3 minutes…say, during a commercial break, get out your list and do something on it.  This is the only way your mind will begin to trust you and stop obsessing about the lists of things you have to do.

Even if your task will take longer than 3 minutes, you can probably get started.  It’s okay to not finish it then, but once you’ve started you’ve got momentum on your side.  3 minutes spent is always better than zero.

With Love,
Colleen

Tasks that CAN be done in 3 MINUTES:

Clean the toilet
Clean the sink
Put the dishes in the dishwasher
Sweep the floor
Pay one bill online & switch to on-line statements
Write two thank you notes
Call your brother (he doesn’t talk much anyway)
Call your grandma (she still thinks everyone pays by the minute)
Sew on a button
Water your plants
Vacuum your bedroom
Throw away rotten food from your fridge
Take out the trash
Answer e-mail
Go through junk mail
Start a load of laundry
Put away laundry
E-mail your Senator
Do 50 sit-ups
Do 50 leg lifts – both sides

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The MASTER LIST

This is for when you are REALLY OVERWHELMED by how much you need to/want to do with your day/week/month/life!

Okay, you have a million things on your mind.  Maybe you can’t sleep.  Maybe you’re feeling sick…but not really sick…just kind of sick.   Maybe you’ve got so much to do that you don’t want to start anything.

What you need is THE MASTER LIST!

I thought that THE MASTER LIST would totally and completely overwhelm me… but trust me on this one, it has complete opposite effect.

This will take about 15 minutes.  This may seem like a long time and you may think you don’t have it, but trust me, your brain is so comatose right now you are not going to be productive with those 15 minutes anyway.

Step 1: Paper & Pen

Step 2: Start writing down everything you want/need to do in absolutely no particular order.

Step 3: Pick one item and do a little of it.  Accept that some of the “have to”s will not be super fun to do AND some of the “want to” s totally freak you out, and then do a little of them anyway.

Step 4: Keep looking at THE MASTER LIST every day or three and keep doing a little more of it.  Try to mix up the “need to”s with the “want to”s.

Step 5: Keep crossing out with excitement as you finish.

Step 6:  Add to THE MASTER LIST whenever you have a nagging thought.

With Love,
Colleen

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