There are lots of ways to make decisions and a plethora of ways to go about addressing a problem or completing a task. You could choose the quickest path, the easiest path, the most familiar path, or the least familiar path. You could choose the most expensive path, the least expensive path, the path that will get you the most likes on Facebook or the one that will make your parents proud. Sometimes, one path rises above the rest as the best way to go. Other times you feel like you just don’t know where to start. When you have somewhere you’re trying to get or a goal you’re trying to achieve, I’d like to propose the idea of choosing the gentle path. Ask yourself: what is the way to get this task done or to go on this particular journey that is the gentlest to my mind, body, and spirit? Continue reading
Lately I’ve been pushing myself to do things I know I need to do in order to achieve my personal and professional goals. In Be Your Own Boyfriend, I gracefully refer to these tasks as “that which makes my eyes bleed.” When I have a particular task that I know I have to do, and putting it off is eating me up inside, I remember to make it fun. Making a chore, project, or obligation fun is tremendously helpful when it comes to achieving goals small and large.
For example, I set aside time to do my taxes this past weekend (yes, my 2012 taxes. Don’t judge me) and I was really dreading it. Then I remembered the importance of “making it fun,” and I did just that. I reached out to my friend Ashley and she suggested that we have a work party at her place. So on Friday night, I brought over a feast of steak tacos and queso, put on some French jazz, and worked on my taxes while Ashley worked on her projects. We took short breaks to talk about our hopes and dreams, and it made the work so much more bearable. To make it even more fun, I bought myself brightly colored binders to put my records in and gold and copper Sharpie’s to take notes with. The work party, French jazz, delicious tacos, sparkly markers, and pretty binders made doing my taxes so much more enjoyable than if I hunkered down to do them alone on my living room floor. I’m actually looking forward to doing my 2013 taxes in a few months (and filing on time).
Ashley and I will be continuing our adventures in making it fun in a few weeks when she hosts a vision board making party, which I am very excited about. I’ve already prepared to make it extra fun by gathering the magazines I want to use and getting ideas from other people’s vision boards.
Another example of making it fun happened just today when I had to clean my apartment in preparation for a photo shoot (I’ll share the photos when I get them back in a few weeks). Even though I love a clean apartment, I hate to clean. But before I started cleaning with a scowl on my face, I remembered to make it fun. I burned some incense, raised all the blinds to let in the sun, and wailed along to raunchy Bruno Mars songs as I rushed around stuffing things into closets (if the camera can’t see it, it counts as clean, yo). Then I went to the grocery store and put together three bouquets of flowers to put around the house. Not only did I get to practice my singing skills along with my boy Bruno, I now get to enjoy a splendidly clean (just don’t open the closets) apartment that smells good and is full of flowers. I never realized how much work it takes to look like you have a clean house! Making it fun made it a lot more bearable.
Every day, dozens of times a day, we have the opportunity to make whatever we are doing more fun. Often, we just plow through the task, hoping to get it over with as quickly as possible. However, I have a feeling that making it fun not only makes the experience of completing the task more pleasant, I bet it makes us complete the task more efficiently and effectively.
If you are wondering where to start with making it fun, use your five senses:
- How can I make this experience smell good? Burn incense, light candles, wear a new perfume (in moderation!), smell the paper you’re writing on or reading
- How can I make this experience feel good? Wear a beautiful, textured cuff that you can rub as you wait in line or wrap yourself in your favorite knit blanket while you do your reading.
- How can I make this experience look good? Paint your nails so you can admire them while you type. Buy a bouquet of flowers you can look at while you work.
- How can I make this experience sound good? Listen to your favorite music, sing while you work, open the windows and listen to nature.
- How can I make this experience taste good? Buy your favorite snacks, chew your favorite gum, or even take a quick break and brush your teeth to refresh your mouth while you work.
I even made writing this post fun. I have my bouquet of flowers in my line of vision, I ate a serving of popcorn out of my favorite mug, and I listened to piano music. It was splendid.
How do you make it fun?
Throughout my life, I’ve been a consistently indecisive person. After college, I decided to study Creative Writing in South Africa and then changed my mind and studied the art of going out to eat in Ghana instead. I decided I was going to Harvard for graduate school, got admitted, and then freaked out and tried to defer my admission so I could work for a few years. Earlier this year, I declared I was moving to France, and then decided not to go. I joined Weight Watchers and quit after only a few meeting (it works though, y’all). Left to my own devices, I’m very good at making decisions—or what I think are decisions—and then taking a u-turn away from that very same decision and deciding on something else—and that something else isn’t always what’s best for me but often what feels easier in the moment. It’s exhausting making declarations and then retractions. It’s wearisome to start over, again and again. However, I’ve recently encountered an idea that has helped me tremendously as I make decisions large and small. It’s not an idea that I came up with or that anyone living can claim they came up with, but—but it is an idea that I think can help anyone and everyone. It’s an idea I want to understand and practice more, and it’s an idea I want to spread. All of this makes for a great recipe for an impactful book, so read on and learn more…
Whenever I don’t know what to do next, rather than brainstorming, making a list of pros and cons, or posting about it on Facebook to get the opinions of the social mediasphere, I just ask God (feel free to substitute the word “God” for “The Universe,” “Higher Power” or whatever makes you feel comfortable):
God, what is the next right action for me to take?
And when I ask that question, I mean it very literally. Often, the answer is: Take a deep breath. Drink a glass of water. Stretch your legs. (As a writer, I sit in front of a laptop for hours on end without it ever occurring to me to give my body parts a chance to do what they were created to do.)
Other times, the answer to my simple seeking is:
Do your laundry. Reply to that email you’ve been avoiding. Eat lunch. Take out the trash. Call your mom back.
Over the last seven months, I’ve slowly (and often a bit painfully) started to live my life not by a five-year plan or even a five-month plan but a moment by moment plugged-in-to-Spirit seeking of what I should be doing now and what I should be doing next.
The idea of taking the next right action has helped me feel balanced, generous, connected, and happy in the past seven months that I’m pretty sure that my second book is going to be all about this idea. I even bought the domain name TheNextRightAction.com, which isn’t actually saying much since I own dozens upon dozens of domain names. (Some might call me a digital hoarder. I prefer “entrepreneurial, acquisitive wordsmith.”)
I want to write about this very simple concept and how it can be applied to all areas of our lives and in every moment. Any time we are feeling irritated, discontented, disconnected, lost, confused, or out of sorts, we can stop, take a deep breath, turn inward and ask, “God, what is the next right action?” Then, be still and listen for an answer. Next, be willing to take that action. Finally, take the action, and start all over again.
Each moment of being fully present and each surrendered decision we’re willing to make, we can apply this profoundly simple yet effective idea to journey our way into:
- the next right job—or even the next right career
- the next right relationship—or the next right stage of a relationship
- the next right meal
- the next right purchase
- the next right city
To add a bit of mystical glitter-juice to this post, I will share a story that happened just moments before I wrote this piece. To provide some context, over the past several months, I have been trudging through and groping my way out of the dark forest of some pretty gnarly writer’s block. However, I’m newly committed to showing up to the page even if I feel like I have nothing interesting, valuable, or publishable to say. I’m willing to sit and write even if I feel like doing something else. For weeks—maybe months—now, I’ve felt compelled to start writing about “the next right action,” to answer people’s questions related to this concept, and to really get started on my second book of the same name. However, I’ve also encountered an astonishing amount of capital R Resistance. Tonight, in one last attempt to defy writer’s block by writing a new post but still wanting to hold on to my own willfullness and not have to write the inevitable “this is what (I think) my second book is going to be about” blog post, I said, “Tonight, I’m going to write about whatever I flip open to in this book. Whatever it is, I promise that this is what I’m going to write about tonight.” For the last few weeks, I’ve been glued to Julia Cameron’s three-book compilation The Complete Artist’s Way, and don’t you know, this is the paragraph I flipped open to and landed on [emphasis mine]:
So much of an artist’s career hinges on the sense that we are going somewhere, that we are not just trapped by four walls of wherever we are. For creative sanity, I must believe that if I just do the next right thing, a path will unfold for me. I must believe there is a divine plan for me and my work.
And there you have it. You can’t ask for a clearer sign than that. As soon as I read that paragraph, I wrote this post and knew that the decision had been made astonishingly clear. I had my mission if I chose to accept it.
So now we have the title of book #2: The Next Right Action. Though my goal is to write at least 27 books, I have a strong desire to have a sense of order to which books get written when (though I’m realizing this may not be my decision to make). It has become undeniably obvious to me that the next right action for Kaneisha the Author is to write The Next Right Action. I’m not sure what the format will be, how long it will be, or when it will be done. But I am willing to start, and to keep starting every day until it is done. And so it is. Amen.
Some of the most dreaded words in a relationship are “We need to talk.” It always means you’re about to get the breakup talk. I know this statement well. After all, I’ve said and heard it many times! But there’s another all-too-familiar statement that has left me confused, angry, and heartbroken:
“I’m not sure what I want right now.”
When I finally admitted to myself that I indeed wanted a launch party for my book, I gave my party planner (aka my mom) a budget to fit into. I’d read that launch parties can easily become expensive, and usually don’t result in many book sales. Since my mom was not only decorating the event but was also the primary financial sponsor, I didn’t want to waste my hardworking mother’s money. While I wanted the event to be special, I didn’t want to go over the top and end up financially stressed because of it.
And then wineageddon happened.
I change my mind often, and I usually feel bad about it. I hate to look flakey, unreliable, unstable, all over the place, flighty. And many times, I do look like all of those things. However, I’ve recently begun to be more compassionate with myself and much more okay with the idea that I change my mind. I realize that changing my mind is also a sign that I am willing to listen to my inner voice.
Seven months ago, my friend passed away and in a rush of emotion, I decided I was moving to France. Then when it came to renew my lease on my apartment here in Austin, I realized I really just wanted to stay right where I am. It may sound trivial, but I wanted to buy a huge leaning mirror for my apartment, the kind of furniture that is totally a pain to move. I wanted to partner with local businesses and plan events to promote my book among Austin’s twentysomethings. I wanted to make Austin my home, not just another stop along the way. Yes, I would love to spend time in France someday, but I finally admitted to myself that it wasn’t this year.
After releasing my book earlier this year, I was exhausted. I decided that planning and throwing a launch party would be too expensive and too much work. However, after a few months of having a real live book on the market, I admitted I really wanted to celebrate this momentous accomplishment. I’d set out to write a book three years ago, and it’s finally here! Instead of deciding not to throw a party at all, I reached out to my mom and friends for help. Now we have a date, a venue, and a very nice flyer that I made myself (thank you very much!). Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reaching out to local businesses here in Austin to try and get snacks, drinks, chairs, and a tent for the event. It’s no small task, but it’s nothing compared to writing an entire book (not to mention that Kickstarter campaign!). I’m so glad I changed my mind and decided to have a launch party for the book. You only write a first book once, after all. If you live in Austin, please join me for the celebration!
The most recent thing I’ve changed my mind about is that I no longer have the desire to leave admissions consulting. In fact, I’m excited to grow and expand this part of my business, to “lean in” you might say. Nearly a year ago, after reading Steven Pressfield’s excellent book Do The Work, I got convinced that admissions consulting was my “shadow career,” the job that feels like what you’re really supposed to be doing but actually distracts you from your art. Then, as I wrapped up the 2012-2013 season, I realized I didn’t want it to be my last. Sure, there are some changes I definitely want to make. I worked like a crazy woman in the last quarter of 2012, and I definitely don’t want to be that overworked again. But I’ve recently been infused with a new enthusiasm and appreciation for my skills as an admissions consultant. I’m realizing just how big a part of my life it is, and I’m grateful for it.
My revelation and newfound passion for admissions was the culmination of many seeds that were planted throughout the year. However, the big bang occurred just two weeks ago when I had a coaching session with my friend Shenee, who edited some of the copy on my website. For the first time ever, I was the client having something I’d done my best on edited. After seeing how she transformed my work from good to great, I was struck with the thought: This is what I do for my clients. I had always known that I was talented as an editor and a great guide for my clients, but it was hard for me to fully appreciate it, because in many ways, editing essays is very easy for me. However, I realized that admissions consulting is much more than just editing for me. It allows me to run my own business, to work from anywhere, to use the skills I learned in graduate school as I manage a team and limited resources. It allows me to help people achieve their goals, and it often gives me great fodder for writing my inspirational essays. I get to experiment with different marketing strategies and email my professors at Harvard for their advice on how to handle various issues. Now that I’ve mastered the editing part, I can use the business as a playground for my imagination to run wild (well, not too wild).
As a part of my realization that I want to continue with admissions consulting, I’m resurrecting the website for The Art of Applying. I’ve been working on the design, the pages, and planning out the blog posts. The admissions-focused newsletter, The Offer, will come back as well. Kaneisha.com will get cleaned up and serve as my author website. Kaneisha.com will be where I keep you all updated on what’s happening with the book, and where you can meet me in person and see me speak. I’ll continue to write and share personal essays like this one, though I’m unsure of the frequency. The big split will likely happen sometime this summer, depending on how quickly I can pull it all together—or rather, pull it all apart. I’m very pleased with the decision and looking forward to learning and growing as a writer and as an entrepreneur.
Change is often scary, but don’t let other people’s opinions keep you chained to decisions that are no longer right for you. We’re all constantly evolving, and it makes sense that our mind would change right along with our spirits.
Have you changed your mind about something lately? Tell me about it!