At one point recently, I realized that I did not have my shit together.
Even on days that I felt like I was crushing it at work, I would come home and wonder what in the world to feed myself. I knew I was making decent money, and there was a flurry of activity around managing it, but it felt like I was just surviving, not thriving. Since that realization, I’ve been very intentional about these 5 things to help me feel like I do, indeed, have my shit together.
Now that I have these somewhat squared away, I am confident in my foundation; my life outside of work has much less friction, which means that I can focus on going above and beyond in my day job and in passion projects.
Before we dive in, this is not to say that I do have my shit together indefinitely, nor does it feel that way some days. But these are things I’ve done that help me establish a daily baseline of personal success so that I am in a good position to handle all the rest of the nonsense.
This is the intro to a series where I’ll do a deep dive into each of these areas, especially calling out specific products or self-discovery exercises that helped me. Sign up at the bottom below the comments to get an email when each new post is live!
Aside: I debated on the phrasing “having my shit together” for a bit. If it is offensive, feel free to substitute “ducks in a row” whenever it pops up. I settled on this phrasing because the opposite — not having my shit together — evokes a stronger emotional response than the idea of having my ducks scattered about. Happy reading!
1. Finding a Budget system that works for me
This is a relatively new one for me, so it’s really too early to say that it has changed my life, but dang… it’s already made a huge difference. I have always been intentional in learning about personal finance, and I really thought that I was managing my money well, until I realized that I wasn’t. I heard a friend/colleague say “I know where every dollar I’ve spent in the last 3 years went, and that’s thanks to YNAB.” That was a wonderfully powerful statement that motivated me to check it this software for myself. YNAB is an acronym for You Need a Budget, and it’s got a cult following. It took some struggling, but now we’re BFFs. I, too, am a proud member of the fan club.
I dove into YNAB in parallel with the online course Grow Financially Well. I cannot say enough good things about Darcie from Green Bites Project, and I am so grateful I invested in this course! The course opens up every few months, so keep your eye out for the next time it’s open.
Knowing where your money is going gives you the information you need to make sure you are optimizing for your financial future — and present!
2. Finding a nutrition plan and workout regimen that make my body feel good
Throughout 2019, I ran an experiment: each month I removed one food group from my diet or added a food group to my diet. The goal was to see how my body reacted when I cut out certain foods that are known to have adverse effects on some people’s bodies. For example, no alcohol in January, no dairy in February, added a serving of vegetables to every meal in March. (Don’t worry, birthdays and other “celebration” days were days off!) The result? I developed a robust eating plan that fits with my body and my lifestyle. My body feels great, and that sets me up for great success for the other areas of my life.
I also was open minded about my workouts. I love yoga, and while I can still get a good practice in at home, I like to have other options that keep me well-rounded. I used to be a long distance runner, but my hips and my knees and that Texas heat aren’t very friendly to covering several miles. When we went into lockdown, I found an incredible solution: a spin bike. Now, this is clearly a new, not-popular thing (sarcasm, of course, Peloton rules the world basically) I hesitated because I had never cycled before. But I loved it for the same reason that I love doing yoga at home or doing Beachbody on Demand workouts at home. I can do them whenever, wearing whatever (even and especially yesterday’s smelly & sweaty workout clothes), and the barrier to entry is so much lower than running or going out into public for a workout. Between a yoga practice, BOD, and my Schwinn spin bike, I get a good workout in at home, anytime.
3. Defining big dreams that excite me
If you’re familiar with Enneagram, I’m a big ole 3. (If you aren’t familiar, I’d recommend taking a few minutes to google it and maybe even taking an assessment for yourself. I am always an advocate for self-knowledge, and people have made some really funny Enneagram-inspired memes that I don’t want you to miss out on.)
Either way, my 3-ness, commonly referred to as “The Achiever”, combined with my visionary tendencies, means that I do my best work and am motivated when I have a massive goal in front of me. In high school, I wanted to give the speech at graduation by being the student with the highest GPA, which meant I could close my eyes and envision myself at the podium, and then open them with new found energy to get my pre-cal homework done. A very similar story happened with college: I wanted to graduate with a red cap, symbolic of having a 4.0+ GPA. I did it one better, and graduated with that red cap and my Master’s hood (in 4 years, with 2 4.0s, and a ran a half marathon that semester, too, for fun, maybe?). I think you get the picture here. I need a vision, a dream, that excites me. For 8 years in high school and college, I had that vision. Once I graduated and started my day job… nada. Was it getting a promotion? That’s great, but not big enough. Was it running that office one day? That was closer, but wow, I couldn’t imagine staying with that company for the 15 years it would take to get there. Making a 30 under 30 list? Let’s be real, this is still a back-burner goal that I hold for myself, but one that I have very little control over, so it’s not a great metric of success.
Then one day, I decided that my dream was to own a condo at the beach. That’s something I have total control over. I can bust ass to earn the kind of money to make that dream happen, manage it well (see point #1), and then get the prestige of having a place of my own. That place could serve some rental income, but mostly, I would have that spot for my family and friends to congregate. I would have that spot as my oasis because I feel at home at the beach. This dream lights me up; it’s the right timeline for me, it’s gonna be hard to do but still feasible, it aligns with my values and my vision for the future, and it doesn’t depend on anyone else to bestow it upon me. Chasing after this goal for myself energizes me like few other things can.
4. Realizing that no one knows what they’re doing
There were a series of therapy sessions that built on this idea that I feel so wrong and broken for not knowing what decision to make with any certainty, when my therapist was finally able to get me to see that I have never known anything for certain. Certainty in that way is an illusion. No one actually knows how or when or even if something will happen in any particular way.
It’s all an illusion.
Which is terrifying. “What?! I don’t have any real control over any of this? How paralyzing!”
And empowering. “Well, dang, I mean, I guess that means that I can do whatever I choose to do, because there really isn’t one correct path or the right decision to make.”
And then terrifying again. “Wait, but if no one ever really knows, then that means people who are leading our businesses and our countries and our schools — even they don’t fully know anything with certainty? What a scary thing!”
And then it all kind of evens out to just be … reality.
This is how we’re all operating. Most humans are doing the very best they can. They make the best decision they can with the information they have at the time. Cool.
On days that I feel directionless or that I don’t know if I made the right choice, I remind myself that this is part of life; I am not broken because I feel this way, and that gives me the boost I need to keep moving.
5. In the same vein, realizing no one knows what is best for me, except me
Specifically, this looked like defining what makes me happy and what is fun for me via my gratitude practice. For a long while, I did a physical writing gratitude practice (5 things each morning from the last 24 hours that you’re grateful for; courtesy of Rachel Hollis), and while I should probably get back into that habit, it has now become an active and ingrained part of who I am. I can always find a silver lining. I will stop when I notice that the flowers have bloomed, and “look, what a gorgeous orange color!” I will savor for a few seconds the sweetness that is a cup of coffee brought to me first thing in the morning. I also let off the pressure that fun for me does not look like fun for other people, and that’s okay.
I also defined my core values, which are the principles that are my north star. There is SO much to say here because it’s honestly a way of life, but defining my values and how living unapologetically true to my values looks in my life (personal, finance, time, job, relationship) has given me the blueprint to a life that fits me beautifully, and empowers me to make decisions that are right for me without question.
Check out the mini-series on this topic below:
There ya have it!