365 Days of Courage #91: "Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become."

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Hello and Happy First Day of April!!!

The last two weeks of March flew by in my world.  I celebrated my 51st birthday on March 15th and flew to Miami the next day with my 17 year old daughter to look at colleges.  It was a really special trip and there were lots of small conversations in addition to some BIG ones too.  

This is my second time going through the college process as my oldest daughter is in her second year at the University of Chicago.  I find that the process takes me on quite an emotional roller coaster.  It makes me feel ALL of the feelings.  There is a sense of disbelief and sadness that your child has only one more school year left at home and then she will be out in the world by herself.  There are feelings of "have I done everything that I can?" to support her and prepare her as she gets ready to embark upon this next chapter.

But, in addition to all of those normal mother/child emotions, I find that it makes me yearn for a do-over in my own college journey.  I find myself poring over the different major and minor options in the brochures that they hand out and taking myself on all these flights of fancy in my head of the lives I could have lived if I had known myself better and trusted myself better and had had people in my life who understood me better at that time in my life.  

When I went to University, I enrolled in an English and Philosophy degree.  Which in so many ways was a perfect combination for me.  Maybe - with hindsight - English and Psychology would have been an even better fit.  But my 51 year old self has to admit that English and Philosophy was a pretty good combo and shows that I knew myself better then than I thought I did.  The person I am now would still love to be immersed in those subjects.  But that isn't the degree that I finished.  I lasted less than one semester.  Towards the end of that first semester, we were assigned a paper to write.  I don't remember anything about the assignment other than it made me feel completely out of my depth and unable to imagine writing this paper and coming out on the other side.

So I decided to switch to a law degree.  I didn't ask for help with the assignment which seems so very odd to me now as a 51 year old mother of three children who feel completely comfortable asking me for help or advice.  I didn't go to a teacher or professor or reach out to my big sister (who was already doing an English degree) or to my parents.  Instead I decided to change to a law degree.  I had studied business law as part of a course I did between school and university and had enjoyed it and was good at it so I walked away from the challenging assignment and, perhaps, towards a completely different life.

The change to a law degree meant taking the rest of that year off and returning the following September as a first year law student.  So it was a MUCH more difficult and unsettling decision to make than it would have been to simply ask for help and write the f'in paper.  Which I find quite fascinating 30 odd years later.


I had an epiphany in the shower a couple of weeks ago (isn't that where the best epiphanies tend to happen?) when I remembered that assignment and how I handled or rather didn't handle it.  I hadn't given it any thought for years. Suddenly I realized that that habit - of giving up or changing directions or not asking for help when something challenging occurs - is a habit that I've carried with me for more years than I would care to admit.  As I thought more about it, I realized that that habit has tended to take me away from things that were meaningful to me, things that I truly cared about and towards things that came more easily to me or things that mattered less to me.

Since turning 50 last year, I'm becoming increasingly conscious of habits like that - habits that I've practiced (mastered, even) that have got in the way of the life I really want to live and I'm taking steps to replace them with habits that support me in moving day by day towards that life.

James Clear in his book "Atomic Habits" writes:

”Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity."

As I look back on my life, I realize that that single instance of changing from a degree in English and Philosophy to one in law wasn't enough in itself to transform my beliefs about myself.  But each time I made a similar choice, the votes built up and so did the evidence of my new identity as someone who changes direction or quits when something gets too challenging.

Now, with the wisdom of hindsight and the gift of midlife, I'm choosing to take actions that move me closer and closer to the identity of the woman I want to become (and who I believe I am beneath all the debris of the not-so-great decisions I've made during the past few decades).  A woman who moves confidently and courageously towards her dreams and goals and who meets challenges head on with confidence that I can overcome them.  Or, if I can't, that I can ask someone for help.

I would love to hear stories from your life.  Can you see patterns of behavior in your own life that may have sabotaged rather than supported the life you wanted to live?

Can you see ways of making different choices and taking different actions from this moment on?


All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.
— James Clear, Atomic Habits

I wish you a courage-filled April filled with actions that are votes for the person you want to become!


What has been inspiring me during the past couple of weeks


Talking of taking actions that are votes to become the person you want to be, I have been watching less TV and reading more books and listening to more podcasts.  I had found myself slipping into the habit of watching WAY too much Netflix and Hulu and that isn't a true reflection of how I want to spend my days.  As a child I LOVED to read and it has been such a pleasure to fall back into the positive habit of getting lost in great books.  

Books that I have read or am in the middle of reading:

The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature by Viv Groskop - I love, love, love this book.  I had NO idea what to expect but I really enjoy Viv's writing so when I was on Amazon buying her "How to Own the Room" book and saw this book, I decided to read it.  I'm half way through it and love it.  I haven't read any of the Russian greats and this book makes me want to.  But even more than that, I want to feel the way that Viv Groskop feels about Russian literature about more things in my life.  Her knowledge of so many Russian works of literature and her perspective on them blows my mind.  Plus she delivers it in such a funny and accessible way that you find yourself pivoting between big thoughts on the meaning of life and moments of belly laughs. Highly recommend!

How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking by Viv Groskop.  This should be required reading for all women. I was telling my 19 year old daughter about the book and she immediately said "I need to read that".  In my humble opinion, it is not only about owning the room but also about owning your brilliance.  

3 Word Rebellion: Create a One-of-a-Kind Message that Grows Your Business Into a Movement by Dr Michelle Mazur - I'm half way through reading this and am really enjoying it.  I had heard Michelle talk about her book on a few different podcasts and have followed her work for quite some time so I feel like I went on a lot of this journey with her.  I love the idea of creating not just a business but a revolution.  I'm excited to finish the book and dig more deeply into the exercises to get clearer on my own Midlife Courage Project revolution.

Podcasts:

I've discovered two new podcasts since writing my last newsletter - they are:

How to Own the Room with Viv Groskop and the Unmistakable Creative Podcast with Srini Rao.  I highly recommend both of them.

Here are links to some of the episodes I've listened to and found especially interesting:

How to Own the Room with Jessie Burton: Do men have more authority than women? Viv Groskop talks to bestselling author Jessie Burton about the male voice, the dangers of discussing your creativity, and why she wears an invisible Scooby-Doo villain costume to all speaking engagements.

How to Own the Room with Josie Rourke: Feel awkward about being, well, um, GOOD at what you do? Viv Groskop talks to Josie Rourke, film and theatre director, about owning your own fluency, the power of "messy spaces" and why we must never assume women are struggling to find a voice.

Unmistakable Creative interview with James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: Changing Your Identity to Change Your Habits.


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