10 Ways to Build a Team That’s Hard to Leave

I’m about to begin a new job, and though I’m excited for the new opportunity and looking forward to the adventure ahead, I am struggling with saying goodbye to my team. In the life of my career, I have certainly experienced running out the door as quickly as possible, barely able to contain the excitement that I’m finally escaping a job, a boss, a team for a fresh beginning. I’ve felt the relief of leaving a toxic environment for something new and hopeful. I’ve known the celebration that comes when a new job feels like a welcome release from the prison of work that was sucking the life out of me. I’ve survived those jobs in the past, and gratefully moved on, but none of those feelings could be further from how I feel now. I’ve been with this team for over 5 years, and they feel like family. I feel blessed to have been a part of this special group and I will grieve this transition. I am certainly looking forward to new opportunities that will build on my strengths and push me to grow, but with this change comes the loss of a team of women I hold near and dear to my heart…a team of women who lift each other up, propel each other towards growth, care for each other through professional and personal hardships, and celebrate successes. As I’ve reflected on how much these past 5 years have meant to me, and how hard it will be to move on, I’ve been considering what made this group so special and how it might be repeated. 

How to Build a Team that’s Hard to Leave 

1. Take a chance on a passionate rookie. Oftentimes, a person with a fire to learn can be a surer bet than someone with the right credentials and years of experience. I did not perfectly meet the criteria in the job description, but the hiring Director had seen my work in a volunteer capacity and heard from someone she trusted that I was eager and capable of learning, so she encouraged me to apply. Seeing my desire and passion for growth and development, she believed in me from the beginning and gave me the courage to rise to the occasion. I’ve developed more in the past 5 years than I ever thought possible, and it’s because I had a boss and a team that pushed me, believed in me, encouraged me, and provided a safe place to land for any falls along the way. Their faith in me enhanced my desire to live up to and exceed their expectations. They bet on me and I was determined to make them proud!

My hiring Director attending an award ceremony with me

2. Show compassion. We are so much more than employees. We have lives outside of work that touch every part of our hearts and minds and we must remember this as we work with one another day in and day out. I was in my third trimester when I was offered and accepted this position 5 years ago, and my start date was set for 12 weeks after delivery. I unexpectedly had a very difficult pregnancy and ended up completely debilitated. My maternity leave turned into short-term disability and I was out much longer than anticipated. The hiring Director showed patience and kindness and never once made me feel like a burden. When I finally did start (not knowing if I would be physically capable of working), she went out of her way to make sure I was comfortable and supported. My colleagues were gracious and understanding and never indicated that I had been an inconvenience due to my delayed start. In fact, this group of women embraced me at a time I wasn’t sure I would be able to hold down a job or live a “normal” life. After 6 months of darkness and hopelessness, I was attempting to complete typical daily activities, not knowing if I would ever be healthy again. Amidst my fear and trepidation they welcomed me warmly. They were a significant part of my new beginning and they brought light and hope after months of wondering if I would ever return to my standard way of living. As I stepped back into being, they were there with open arms showing nothing but compassion and acceptance. There are not words to describe the deep gratitude in my heart for them then, now, and forever.

3. Provide mentorship. When someone takes the time to transfer their wisdom, everyone benefits. Individual growth leads to team growth. When I started, there were only 4 of us. We were a small team, but I quickly observed how powerful they were as they worked together. They took me under their wings and spent their valuable time training me, guiding me, answering my questions, assigning me ambitious projects to enhance my skills, coaching me, encouraging me, believing in my ability, and seeing me through each challenge. They passed on their wisdom, ensured my success, and cheered me on as I grew. There was never any knowledge hoarding and I never once felt alone. 

4. Have each other’s backs at all times. Gossip is poison. Not one time in my 5 years did I hear someone talk negatively about another person on the team. If someone made a mistake, the team would jump into help repair it while building them up and helping them fight off shame. There was never any finger-pointing or blaming, just support and encouragement and moving forward. On day one, they made it a point to tell me, “we are a team that helps one another. We have each other’s backs and we NEVER throw anyone under the bus.” I thought this was a lovely philosophy, but I had never been on a team that actually lived this out. They soon proved that these were more than words. They stuck to this motto and we thrived.

5. Hold each other and yourself accountable. Knowing you’re on a team where others have your back at all times makes it easier to admit your mistakes and help others fix theirs. We raised our hands when we fumbled, and said, “it was me and I will fix it,” and with that admission, other’s on the team jumped in to help. We gave each other permission to speak up if something needed addressed, and we did so without condescension or contempt.

6.  Leave room for getting to know one another – Make time to connect. Knowing a little about each other’s lives outside of work helps develop relationships that go deeper than just getting the work done. Rapport builds compassion and empathy and helps resolve conflict when frustration during stressful times inevitably arrives. We spent the first 5 minutes of every team meeting getting to know a little bit about each other. Throughout the week we shared pictures, quotes, and articles we’ve enjoyed reading in an effort to offer connection and encouragement on a consistent basis. In a full time job, we spend more time with each other during the week than we do our own families, so it makes sense to nurture these relationships beyond the surface level. This doesn’t require that everyone be “friends,” but a little relational depth allows us insight into what makes each other tick, and aids in understanding each other’s reactions, strengths, weaknesses, and how to provide support and feedback in a more holistic way. 

7. Work hard and laugh together. As cliche’ as it is, “work hard, play hard” really does help build a connected and healthy team, and having fun together is made much easier when you’ve already established tip #6. We put in long hours and brain-stretching work to get it right. We took pride in our work as a team. We saw the value in each other and in the work we delivered, therefore we worked hard as individuals and as a cohort to support one another in getting things done timely and getting them done well. We got the work done and then we celebrated. We lived in all parts of the country, but when we connected on the phone, we laughed together. We told stories. We got silly and let loose. We’ve done the hokey pokey via video cam and shared pictures of our pets. We talked about our vacations, our kids, our gardens, our aging parents. We took the time to relax for a few minutes before the real talk began. Pushing the reset button is important and it’s refreshing to have co-workers who can let loose and not take themselves seriously 100% of the time. We didn’t get together face to face very often, but when we did…look out world! It’s a wonder we were never asked to leave an establishment due to our raucous laughter. We knew how to let our hair down when we weren’t pounding the pavement and this helped us survive the moments of overwhelm that regularly occur in our industry.

8. Offer constructive feedback with kindness and respect. In a high performance culture, we have to be open to feedback. In order to grow and develop we must look for ways to push ourselves beyond our comfort. We should desire feedback, however it is often given in a way that tears a person down and dissolves their self-esteem. I have had the privilege of learning from this group of women how to receive and provide professional feedback that is about genuinely helping the other person grow versus getting a leg up, making a power play, or destroying their confidence. Feedback should look and sound like, “I want to help you because I believe in your potential and I want to see you soar…here’s what I believe is holding you back. Based on this feedback, how can I help you reach the next level?” 

9. Proactively help one another. It is important to reach out to others and offer help when we can. This does not mean saying “yes” to every ask. This is about proactively offering assistance when we have the time. When someone on the team saw a need, they would reach out. When someone had bandwidth, they would send an email or IM asking if they could be of service in any way. This is more than saying “yes” out of obligation or guilt…this is offering a hand before anyone has to ask. This is proactively creating an environment of selflessness and support. 

10. Include the team in hiring decisions. Allowing employees to be a part of choosing new members for the team creates a culture of responsibility in making certain that the new employee succeeds. There is buy-in from the very beginning when employees are given choices and allowed to make recommendations. It makes sense that those who have to do the hard work together each day would have a say in who they will rub shoulders with all those hours. When we were asked to help interview for new positions on our team, we took the task very seriously. We met beforehand to discuss what we were looking for to ensure we were all on the same page. We met afterwards to debrief on the interview and share our insights before making any individual recommendations. We did our very best to find people who shared our work ethic and embraced our philosophy on creating a positive team culture, and that resulted in building an incredible work family that is now difficult to leave. 

I have learned a lot of lessons from this amazing group and I hope to bring these lessons with me to my future team. Although these women could never be replaced, I pray I can help build a team culture similar to the one that has blessed me these last 5 years. I’m not going to lie…I’ve already cried twice while writing about leaving these strong, kind, capable, loving, loyal, fun, smart women, but I hope I can carry on the spirit of this team to all future jobs. I am so thankful for their earnestness in helping me grow and their kindness in a time I thought life as I knew it was over. I am so thankful for their encouragement and wisdom. I am so thankful for their never-ending support. I am so thankful for each of them and who they are to me and to each other. I could not be prouder to have been part of such an incredible group of brilliant and powerfully caring women! Thank you ladies for what you poured into my life these past 5 years. You are easy to love and hard to leave!

The Perils of People Pleasing

I’ve spent a good chunk of my adult life trying to dispel the people pleasing bug that thrives inside me. I’ve done affirmations in the mirror, prayer, meditation, self-help books, empowering quotes on the fridge, and….well, you get the picture. Friends and family have gently encouraged me to remember that my value does not come from what others think of me, and I agree. My brain agrees that my worth is not determined by others, but my heart tells a different story. I’ve been thinking a lot about how this propensity for validation drives my behavior and I’ve been talking about it in therapy…praying and willing and trying to shift this perspective. I’ve explored the history behind this behavior, the advantages I’ve experienced that have kept me glued to this path. It’s obvious to me that I continue to walk this road of seeking affirmation because there is a benefit, an incentive, a pay-off. I wouldn’t plunge into people pleasing year after year if I wasn’t getting something out of it, either consciously or subconsciously. With this reflection I’ve realized that before I can change, I first must understand and believe how this way of living has ramifications that outweigh the rewards. I’ve been asking myself, “are there negative consequences to this lifestyle that outweigh the benefits?” As I’ve been seeking to understand the pitfalls of this driving desire, I’ve noticed just how ridiculously hazardous it gets for me.

Jerry Seinfeld said that most people’s #1 fear is public speaking, with the fear of dying being #2. That means that if given the choice, most people would choose death over having to give the eulogy. This is how I feel about letting others down. Letting others down = #1 fear. Death = #2 fear.

I choose pain and possible death over upsetting someone else…you think I’m kidding!!

I’ve had reflexology that was so intense I was bruised the next day, but said nothing during the treatment because I didn’t want to hurt the massage therapist’s feelings. I once laid on a massage table that was too short for me (because I am the biggest lady in the room), and rather than speak up about how uncomfortable I was, I just let my legs dangle off the end until they fell asleep. My feet were soooooo relaxed by the end of that memorable spa experience, that I couldn’t walk out of the room due to my numb stubs.

I take dangerous left turns to please others…for the love of God! I am so concerned that the people waiting behind me may become annoyed, that I find myself bolting into traffic. I fly out into the middle lane saying a little prayer that my sacrifice will be worth it, and that all the strangers will be pleased with the choice I’ve made. I can’t bare the thought of someone being irritated by my driving decisions or making someone wait to the point of impatience, so I opt to risk life and limb instead. “What if they think I should’ve gone already and they honk at me!?!?” Oh, the horror!

My sister-in-law recently shared something she read that said, an alarming percentage of those who are choking leave the room full of people and end up in a place alone where they die. I had to admit that I could imagine myself adding to this statistic. I wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s meal or good conversation, and I wouldn’t want to make a scene. I can picture myself making a swift exit to avoid being a burden even when the 2 choices on the table are regain breath and life or die from asphyxiation.

I am a chronic apologizer

A few weeks ago, I was pulling out of a parking lot and checked to make sure there wasn’t someone behind me before I stopped to enter an address into my phone. In my peripheral vision I saw a car turn into the parking lot and at the same time I heard a honking. My immediate thought was, “Oh no! what did I do wrong? Who do I owe an apology to?” For a split second I considered gunning it in case I was in the way and inconveniencing someone. I was tentative to look to my left just knowing that I had made a mistake and I was about to meet someone I had angered. Low and behold it was a friend, excitedly waving hello and wanting to know how I was and what I was doing there. As I drove away I couldn’t help but reflect on the knee-jerk reaction my brain has without any information…the voice on repeat that says, “you’re making a mistake,” “you’re upsetting someone,” “you’re wrong.”

It’s a joke in my circle of family and friends that they will inevitably receive an apology text from me after every gathering. As we give our goodbye hugs at the end of a party I often hear, “I don’t want any apology texts tonight or tomorrow Renee’,” and sometimes I will joke and proclaim a blanket “I’m sorry” at the beginning of an evening as to cover my bases upfront. It really has become comical and I can laugh at myself and the ridiculousness of it all, however deep down it’s that same voice that says, “you’re making a mistake,” “you’re upsetting someone,” “you’re wrong,” with an additional “and they’re not going to love you/accept you/be friends with you any longer.” The scariest words I believe are, “If you mess up, they will leave you.”

As I’ve reflected on these moderately embarrassing revelations I’ve come to realize just how unhealthy my desire for approval really is. Putting others happiness and comfortability over my own safety seems a bit (just a tad) unbalanced. I give my extreme examples to make the point that regardless of the “positive” things we’ve come to believe result from people pleasing (i.e. approval, worth, friendship, affirmation, etc.), none of that is worth our spiritual, emotional, and/or physical health.

As I continue to reflect on the results of my people pleasing habits I’m sure this list will grow longer, but as of today, these are the consequences that stand out to me.

7 Consequences of People Pleasing:

  1. Making decisions driven by fear of what others will think will either hold us back from our purpose or thrust us into something we were never made for. When I’m frozen with fear or jumpy with anxiety I must slow down, dig deep, pray for God’s guidance, and take a moment to check in with my heart. I must ask myself who I want to be regardless of the pressure to please.
  2. Joy does not come from other’s approval. Joy comes from leaning into who God designed us to be. Joy comes from tuning into our North star and knowing deep in our soul that we were created worthy, valuable, and beautiful.  When we are seeking approval from others we’ve lost sight of who God says we are.
  3. When we bend to fit other’s visions we lose sight of who we are, and this makes for unhealthy relationships, not just with them, but with ourselves. We cannot be in true authentic relationship if we’re not showing up as our true authentic selves.
  4. The expectations we think others have of us are often expectations we’ve created for ourselves. We may attribute the pressures we feel to someone on the outside, when in actuality the pressure is building from the inside based on our false assumptions of what others are thinking.
  5. Self-criticism and chronic apologizing is a flag that there’s something deeper going on. As I’ve engaged in therapy I’ve met a little girl, a teenage girl, and a young woman living within me, who all believe there was something wrong with them…that if they weren’t perfect, then there would be heartbreak. These parts of us need our empathy, our comfort, our encouragement that they are safe and loved and enough.
  6. It’s exhausting to constantly be on alert for what everyone else thinks. It takes an incredible amount of energy to try and please everyone because it’s IMPOSSIBLE. A mentor once shared a quote with me that says, “the only sure way to fail is to try to please everyone.” Living for others is a prison of constant disappointment as every person is unique in their needs, wants, and desires, and those needs, wants, and desires can change like the wind.
  7. People pleasing steals our health (physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually). The weight of wanting to be liked has me driving like Thelma and Louise, enduring torture at the spa, conjuring up reasons my friends and family must be mad at me, and possibly a future death by choking. Even without dramatic stories like these, trying to please others is a stressor that gnaws at our well-being, and keeps us from fulfilling our potential and being true to who we are.

If your examples of people pleasing are not as extreme as mine then congratulations, as you are a safer driver, and probably walk away from massage with feeling in your legs and glowing/unblemished skin. However, if this desire ever rises up in you (at any level), then I want to encourage you to consider the pressure it creates in your life and how the unfavorable consequences outweigh the gains. I want to assure you that you matter. I want to embolden you to consider who you are in God’s eyes. I want to incite you to believe that your joyful, fulfilling, soulful purpose is within you and your beautiful heart….not out there in the world’s opinion of you. I pray we can continue to move towards who we are meant to be and let the rest fall away.  

Reframing the Negative Beliefs We Have About Ourselves

If you ever hear a voice that says, “you’re too this” or “you’re too that” or “you’re not enough of this or that,” I want to suggest that you can gently steer that voice to a new truth. I think it’s possible that what we’ve come to consider our weaknesses, in many cases, might be our greatest assets. Let’s talk about reframing that inner chatter that has led to beliefs about ourselves that are not serving us well.

A few weeks ago I was in a work meeting where I found myself waffling back and forth between 2 sides who were making very good points. I suddenly felt terribly embarrassed about my lack of decision-making ability. Embarrassed that I couldn’t choose a side and stick with it. Embarrassed that I couldn’t make up my mind. My inner critic was turning up the heat with warnings of how ridiculous I looked. I pictured her rolling her eyes while she said, “Renee’ your inability to choose a side is reflective of your lack of intelligence. Everyone in this meeting is annoyed with how indecisive you are and you’re losing any respect you may have had from these colleagues. If you were smarter you would know which choice was the right one and stick with it.” When the meeting ended I sent a message to my co-worker apologizing for flip-flopping and joking that I would make a terrible politician. Her reply caught me completely off guard and offered that eye-rolling part of me a new interpretation of who I am and what I have to offer. My co-worker shared that if she had a choice of who would mediate a difficult discussion with 2 opposing views, she would CHOOSE me, because I’m fair and open to hearing both sides before making a decision. In a matter of seconds she turned a trait I have always seen as a shortcoming into a skill, a strength, an offering to help others. I was astounded! For as long as I can remember I have been frustrated with my inability to choose a side and then “stick to my guns.” For the first time, I was hearing that this “inability” actually made me capable of leading difficult discussions and bringing nuance to disagreements. In a matter of seconds my colleague took a 30+ year belief that I was a failure at being decisive and turned it right on its head.

Do you have beliefs about yourself that could be reframed? Maybe you believe you’re too emotional or oversensitive, but your friends and co-workers see a compassionate human being that heals hearts with loving empathy. Maybe you think you’re too shy, too quiet, but people feel a peace in your presence because you naturally make room for them to process their feelings and just be. Maybe you believe you’re too loud or too assertive, but others are drawn to you and inspired because you bravely stand up for what you believe in.

I encourage you to share your insecurities with a trusted loved one and ask them what they see. Allow someone who loves and cares for you help you redefine how you see yourself and your “flaws.” Explore those areas where you beat yourself up, and consider the possibility that those could be the very places that bring so much value to the lives around you. We will always have opportunities for growth and areas for improvement, but let’s first make sure we’re not trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

Hope In Times of Uncertainty

Have you ever struggled with self-doubt? Have you ever approached an ending or a beginning and wondered, “how did I get here?” Have you ever felt hopeless in changing the trajectory of your life? Have you ever taken inventory of your environment and thought, “this is not how I imagined it would be?” Do you ever lay awake at night asking, “Is this where I belong? Am I on the path that fulfills my purpose?” Have you ever struggled to give yourself grace in your circumstance? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone and there is hope my friend. A new day is coming.  

This past week I’ve been feeling stuck. Struggling with purpose. Searching for meaning. I’ve felt lost with an ache in my soul that fears it’s chasing something that doesn’t want to be chased. There’s a voice telling me I’ve run out of ideas, I have no more worthwhile thoughts to share, nothing left to say or write. This has me feeling dispirited and exasperated with myself for not being more thoughtful and creative, for not running deeper and longer. The voice is saying, “you have nothing to offer and quite frankly, you never did!”

I’m not sure where these feelings stem from. It could be that I turn 40 this year. It could be that we’re in the season of all the hard anniversaries that bring back the grief of losing my brother before his time. It could be that I truly need a shift in my life and quite a bit more therapy. It could be (and probably is) a combination of all these things. One thing I know for sure is that these are lies from an enemy that is doing his very best to tear me from the inside out with distortion and deceit. The truth is that we are all wonderful and beautiful creations with purpose and callings that we are uniquely equipped to fulfill.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 ESV

I heard a timely message on Easter Sunday that struck a chord in me. It was the simple reminder that His love brings resurrection. The love of Jesus brings life! When we are feeling lost, lonely, worthless, hopeless, small, insignificant, we can look to the promises of Jesus for light and life, hope and joy, restoration and resurrection. He breathes a new spirit into our tired hearts and worn out souls.

This message reminded me of my own Jesus-breathed renewal. I laid in chronic pain for months, depending on others to care for me and my newborn son, most days believing that my life as I knew it was over. And yet, there came a day when I rose from my bed and the pain fell away. There was a day that I woke up and with the arms of Jesus wrapped firmly around me I slowly re-entered life. Jesus carried me through the shadows of pain and defeat into the glow of victory. I walked hand in hand with Jesus into a new morning of hope and joy and I knew I had been given a second chance at life. I embraced a gratitude for life at a depth and width I had never experienced in all my 33 years. This was my new becoming. In that moment I celebrated the joy that comes with knowing my Father will never leave me, that he is always faithful, that he loves me unconditionally, and that his plans for me are always good. I was a new woman in Christ. I embraced life with a new fervor. I felt a peace and strength and confidence in him that I had never before experienced. He had resurrected my heart and spirit and nothing would ever be the same. 

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My hopeless place. My storm.

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My resurrected place. My new day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Easter message was a timely reminder that there is hope in each new day. A timely reminder that this broken place we may find ourselves in today is only a small moment in time on our journey with the God of love. A timely reminder that he is a God of new beginnings and he continues to lay a path before us, whether we see it or not. A timely reminder that we are all precious in his eyes, adored by our creator, and made for a great love and abundant life in him and him in us!

If you are hearing a voice that says, you’re not where you should be, a voice that doubts you have what it takes, a voice that says you’re not enough, a voice that says you’ll never find your path or purpose, a voice that calls you a failure and tells you that your circumstance is hopeless, I want you to know and believe that voice is a liar…The Liar. You are on a journey with peaks and valleys, midnights and mornings and it is the journey with Jesus that brings you wisdom and strength. It is the journey that equips you to shine love and light into the lives of those around you. It is the journey that brings you into a new morning and a new life. You were created for wholeness and he will make you whole. Have hope my friend, there is a new day dawning! 

You are enough! You are worthy! You are loved!

 

Delivered From Fear and Filled With Love

If you are living with crippling fear and anxiety, there is hope. If you are living in a place of dark depression, there is hope. If you are living with a resentment and bitterness that won’t leave your weary soul alone, there is hope. If you are experiencing any stronghold in your life, no matter how long you’ve fought, there is still hope!

This is good news, and what makes this great news is that this hope is not dependent on you or anything you can do. It does not depend on your behavior or your prayer. It does not depend on your religiosity or your repetition of memorized verses. This hope comes from Jesus who is in the business of supernatural peace and joy, comfort and love, repair and restoration.

Below is my dad’s testimony about how the Lord delivered him from a crippling fear and filled his heart with a love for others that dispelled the bitterness he held onto for many years. This was not an immediate transformation, but an extended exercise in trust and a release of religious formulas.

If you are struggling with a stronghold in your life I pray this 20-minute video will bring you hope. I pray you will believe deep down that this road you’re on will open to a space of freedom you have never imagined. I pray you will hold onto the hope that this journey leads to a strength far greater than anything humanly possible and that one day you will find glorious healing and wholeness. I pray that you will take rest in knowing that someday peace will come over you “like warm oil.”

I’m thankful for my dad’s vulnerability in sharing his testimony. His transformation has given me the courage to face hardships in my life a thousand times over. The work I’ve seen Jesus do in my dad’s life continues to keep me open to work that is yet to be done in my own.

I encourage anyone who has experienced supernatural intervention to share openly as a way to give God the glory and to bring expectancy of a brighter future to those who find themselves in the pit of hopelessness. Let us remind each other of the victory that lies ahead!

 

12 Tips to Read More Books

Have you been setting the same New Year’s resolution to “read more books” for years now? Are you wondering how you can possibly find time to fit reading into your already extremely busy life? I had set the same goals and wondered the same thing for years. I finally found a rhythm in 2018. Some of these tips may apply to your personality type and some may not. Take what you can and leave the rest.

  1. Read more than one book at a time – If you ever have FOMO or wonder what else you could be learning, what goal to attack next, what knowledge could change your life, then read more than one book at a time. If sitting still is difficult and your foot is constantly tapping, then read more than one book at a time. If you have many interests, many hobbies, many passions, then read more than one book at a time. If you have a job for 1 year and immediately begin wondering what you could learn next, do next, how you could grow and develop, then read more than one book at a time. If you bore easily, then DEFINITELY read more than one book at a time. I remain motivated and eager as I switch from spiritual to career development to self-help to memoir to psychology to a fiction that can take me away from it all.
  2. Have a bathroom book – For goodness sakes, leave your phone in another room and if you have kids, lock the door! A bathroom book allows for guaranteed reading time. Depending on how many cups of coffee or tea you drink throughout the day, you may have more reading time than others! A little time is better than no time.
  3. Set a goal for each time you pick up a book – I am goal-oriented and easily incentivized. Deciding an end point and reaching that end point creates a little hi-five party in my head. If a book has short chapters, I decide that every time I pick it up I will read 1 chapter. If it’s a book with long chapters, I’ll read to the next page break. If it’s my bathroom book, I read 2 pages. Side note: Thank you to all the authors of books with short chapters. Your books allow me to celebrate often and make me feel so capable!
  4. Write a review when you’re done – Writing a review of the books you read is like keeping a list of your accomplishments. I find it fun to write reviews on social media and/or goodreads.com, but it feels just as good to write them in a journal or in a document on your computer. If you’re a list-maker, this is an action that feels like you’ve crossed something BIG off your list and at the end of the year you can see just how much you accomplished.
  5. Read books recommended by people you love – Sharing the love of books with friends and family is an excellent way to connect. I have found that discussing books with others often helps us to dive deeper into each other’s lives. Conversation with depth leads to relationships with depth.
  6. Wake up earlier – I recommend doing this in small increments so that it feels less challenging. I began the year waking up just 15 minutes earlier so that I could do a little reading before the kids woke up and now I’m up 30 minutes earlier. My goal is to be awake an hour earlier by the end of the year. This has been the biggest and best habit I have changed so far this year. This routine has absolutely changed how I feel when my kids wake up after me. I’ve already had my quiet time and I feel more prepared for the chaos of the morning. I am a more patient and present mom when I give myself this time. 
  7. Choose and create an inviting space to read – I begin my mornings by making myself a hot chai tea that smells like cinnamon and vanilla and all things lovely. I turn on enough light to read by and I light 3 candles in different areas of the house so there’s just a flicker of light wherever I look. I am not exaggerating when I say that there are moments I feel like I’m on a retreat. These magical moments of relaxation help me to remain grounded throughout the day.
  8. Underline, highlight, write in the margins – I’m a note-taker and have always enjoyed the study required in school settings. I’m more likely to remember what I’ve read and have more take-aways when I engage with a book the way I used to when I was a student. With my highlights and notes, not only am I more likely to remember the content that I valued, but I can also easily re-read it, search for quotes I loved, and write my review.
  9. Buy a book you can hold – I know many people (including my husband) will laugh at me and call me old-school, but I love the feel of a book in my hand. I love being able to see the layout as I flip through the pages. I love the cover. I love the way a new book smells. I love that a new book goes from firm and clean to worn and seasoned expressing how loved it was in coffee stains, highlights, notations, dog-ears, etc.  I love being able to look at my bookshelf and quickly pull something out to refer to when I’m writing or having a conversation or working on developing a skill. In addition, tip #8 is easier for me to do in a real book.
  10. Bring a book with you – Almost anywhere we go these days, waiting is involved. I get a lot of reading done in airports, planes, Urgent Cares, waiting rooms, restaurants, etc. I’ve found myself changing my chronic habit of being a few minutes late everywhere I go, to being a few minutes early all in the hopes that I will arrive before the others and get a little reading done while I’m waiting. 
  11. Put the iPhone away – If you’re sitting down to read, put your iphone in a place it cannot be easily accessed. Increased distraction will inevitably come with increased accessibility. I am amazed how quickly the minutes disappear as I scroll “real quick” through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If I put my phone out of reach, I easily get 10-15 minutes more of solid reading in.
  12. Make reading a must – On the Happier podcast, Gretchen Rubin recently said that if you feel like you “must read,” then you will. This is what it feels like to me now that I’ve been doing it every day for over a year. It’s as natural as, “I must eat something” or “I must use the restroom.” It’s just a thing that must be done during my day because it’s as much a part of my routine as any other necessity.

    I hope you find at least 2 or 3 of these tips helpful. Reading has brought me so much joy and I hope you’ll find the time to let all those amazing books out there do the same for you! I wish you all the best in making reading a must and may you throw many mental hi-five parties! 

9 Tips for People Who Hate Running but Want to Do it Anyway

Do you suspect that people are lying when they talk about a “runners high?” Do you wish you knew what all the hype was about? Are you willing to do something you hate just to see if a habit really can be created in 21 days? Maybe you’re just looking for something that you can do outside that is free and good for your health.

For many years I made goals around running, hoping I would catch the fever, but it just never stuck. I was following what I believed to be the traditional advice yet it never worked.

I finally stopped trying to BE a runner and just started doing what worked for me. Below are the things that finally clicked, including lessons I’ve learned along the way. Enjoy!

1. Don’t spend a fortune on new running shoes

Shoes from a store that specialize in their ability to find you your best running shoe (including a treadmill diagnostic and undoubtedly a pair of $75 custom-made inserts) will not make you faster, and more importantly, they will not make running more enjoyable. In fact, it may end up that you experience buyer’s remorse and twinges of bitterness as you continue to despise running while staring down at your $200 running shoes that have completely disappointed you. Stick with those $60 Nike’s on sale at DSW and feel the freedom of a smart purchase propel you forward.

2. Have a reasonable goal

Don’t start running with a goal around speed or distance or weight loss. With goals like these, you are more likely to push yourself to that familiar place of: running hurts, running sucks, I’m terrible at running, I run so slow, I may as well be walking, I hate running, and so on. Find a goal that will motivate you, such as: I’m going to run so that I can get 38 glorious minutes away from my beautiful, wonderful, energetic, needy, overly verbose, nerve-gnawing, button-pushing children, or I’m going to run in the hopes that I get to see my cute neighbor mowing the lawn (single ladies only), or I’m going to run to escape the fishy smell infiltrating my house thanks to my husband’s new Paleo diet, which calls for a salmon salad every day. Make running serve you!

3. Don’t fart without checking behind you first

It might just be me, but all the jiggling and wiggling created while I run makes me gassy. It didn’t take me long to learn that “real” runners are stealthy ninjas that sneak up behind you without a sound and they have uncanny timing! If you think it’s safe to “release” the discomfort, remind yourself that you’re probably not alone.

4. Listen to something that transports you

If music takes you to another place, then by all means listen to music, but don’t discredit the value of other listening pleasures. Music pumps me up, but it’s not enough to remove the obsessive, “I hate running” thoughts that drum out with each step of my affordable shoes. However, when I listen to podcasts I can almost forget that I’m running. Whether it’s music, a podcast, a book on tape, a running meditation (this is for real), or whale sounds, find something that takes your mind to a place where it’s not screaming, “why are you doing this to me?!? This is awful! I hate you and your stupid goals to get healthy!”

  5. Wear cute clothes

Expensive shoes don’t make running more enjoyable, but cute clothes do! As you run for 30 seconds (during your 5-minute walk, 30-second run rotation), you’ll feel stylish and think to yourself, “everyone driving by right now thinks I’m a real runner.”

6. Apply baby powder to your inner thighs

This tip is especially true on hot days, when you’re wearing shorts, and/or if you just shaved your legs.

7. Use the bathroom before running (especially important if you have given birth)

7a. Do yourself a favor and map out large bushes and empty canals as your back-up plan

If you must resort to your back-up plan, please refer to tip #3…#ninjas

8. Stretch before running

My son made me add this. I’ve literally never stretched before I run, but he’s right, a good stretch is just plain practical.

9. Keep running

Claim victory over your running nemesis! When you hear yourself thinking, “maybe running isn’t the WORST thing in the world” or “I would rather run than have to handle the mess that results in a 2 year old pooping in her bath,” or “I’m pretty sure I would prefer running over breaking my toe or stepping on a Lego,” then you are approaching a great transformation!

Happy running and may you one day shockingly say, “I want to go running!”