Sidestepping Barriers through Positive Thinking

You might have some big barriers and walls in your way to accomplish what you would would like and what is right. In your relationships, maybe there is contention and incompatibility that seems insurmountable. In your goals, maybe you have bad habits that always seem to ruin your productivity. You might simply not have the right opportunities. You might not have enough time. You might feel like there is no way to make this work.

But sometimes instead of spending the effort to overcome those huge obstacles, you need to step around them instead.

It’s good to have a destination in mind. You need to determine what you really want: greater peace, greater love, unity, productivity, achieving certain goals.

But then realize that there might be a unique pathway to bet there that makes everything a lot easier.

It’s really hard change certain habits: but can you still achieve my goals with your bad habits intact? Maybe it’s okay to stay up late or watch movies or get distracted–how can you work around those thing instead of having to eliminate them?

It’s really hard to stop arguing with someone all the time: but can you still build up a loving relationship, even with those disagreements? Maybe it’s okay to fundamentally disagree about certain things–and instead look at what you have in common and build on that.

Sometimes you might have to adjust your end goal a bit, but you can still hold on to the things that really matter to you.

And when you have enough hope in that destination, that hope can help you see a way around obstacles that appear insurmountable. When you are determined to make things better, you can see different pathways that you didn’t notice before.

It felt like the right thing to do

This is how I make all of my major life decisions, and most of the minor ones too. Where I went to school. Who I married. When to have kids. When to go back to school. Where to live.

It just feels right, so I do it. I have reasons. I list out reasons, but I really don’t make measured decisions from a pro and con list at all. There are usually always reasons for and against, and it’s pretty much impossible for me to measure them properly. I can’t tell the future, after all.

Sometimes, I feel like I do things without ever making a decision at all. Why did I end up going to graduate school? It just sort of happened. I didn’t really make the decision when I applied, and yet I had already made the decision when I accepted. I have no idea when I made the decision. At some point, I just became accustomed to it.

But then again, I think I do know when I made that decision: there was a moment when I felt like going to graduate school is what God wanted me to do–that it was the right thing for me. It was a feeling, and I had to submit myself to that and let go of my own reasons.

I trust my feelings more than I trust my mind. My mind is often mixed up in indecision, but if I pay attention to what I feel, I can better know the right way forward.

Comparative Advantages and Inequality in Marriage

Marriage isn’t equal and fair. It’s not about two people doing 50% of the work so it all gets done.

In many ways, my husband is better than I am. He can have more energy, and can work longer and harder than I can (particularly in physical things). He remembers to rotate laundry and he can work a full day and then be home and still clean up and do dishes.

It’s easy to compare and measure myself against my spouse. Sometimes I come out ahead: I am doing all the planning and organizing and making sure that things no one really notices get done. Sometimes I come out behind: I can get super distracted and unfocused, and my energy runs out earlier than the day does.

But we both have our strengths and weaknesses, and instead of worrying about fairness and equality, we both just need to jump in there, put in 100% effort, and then try to smartly divide who is doing what.

In economics, there is this concept called comparative advantage. Simply put, just because one person is better at doing something than another person doesn’t mean that they need to do that thing all the time. There are opportunity costs too–if I’m better at doing housework, and spend all my time doing housework, than I don’t have the opportunity to go to school or spend time with my children. And even though I may be better at both housework and playing Yahtzee at my kids than my husband, it’s better if we divide and conquer a bit more cleverly. If he doesn’t love playing games, then it makes more sense if he does the dishes and I play Yahtzee (and I ignore the fact that I don’t like how he loads bowls into the dishwasher).

If he is better at fixing up cars and he’s better at home renovation, he doesn’t need to do all of that. I can work on the home renovation even if I’m not as good doing it as he does, because that gives him time to do things that I can’t even fathom how to do.

As I’ve gone back to school, we’ve had to shift over responsibilities for a while. I was feeling particularly exhausted and realized that I was placing a lot more burdens on my shoulders than I needed to. I did not need to be solely in charge of the house, the children, and all my schoolwork. Since I go to school every day and Dillon works from home, it made more sense to shuffle things around. He is now in charge of rotating laundry, cleaning the bathroom every other week, and cooking about half the meals. And I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m not doing everything.

It can be really hard to divide up responsibilities right, but instead of aiming for fairness, just aim for works best for you in the season of life you are in. Keep adjusting as needed. Keep expectations low and try the best you can. And if certain things don’t get done, that’s okay. No one knows the last time you washed your bedding or dusted your lights fixtures, and it’s okay if it’s been a while.

Playing the Long Game, Slowing Down, and Becoming Better

Recently, I had a choice to make. I was working on a book and I could try to get that published and be a writer full-time. Or I could go to graduate school and keep learning. And I chose to go to graduate school.

I love writing and I want to write for my career (my career goals are to write books and teach college classes). I wanted to start writing multiple books and articles and blog posts and figure out how to get a social media following.

I went to a nonfiction writing workshop this spring, and at the end of my workshop, I talked with my teacher and told her I was thinking about graduate school. She suggested I was young enough that I could put my book away and just focus on graduate school and that what I would learn would enable me to be a better writer for the future.

That’s hard sometimes. It’s hard to play the long game, to work on improving yourself and your skills instead of just going for things.

And sometimes that is not the right decision. I know some people who may have spent too much time developing their talents and not enough time sharing them. Some people hesitate when they need to go for it.

So how do we know when we’re ready? How do we know when it’s time to slow down, and when it’s time to speed it up?

First, I think we always should be working on self-improvement and becoming better. We should be continually learning and improving ourselves, even if we have obtained some success. We should maintain humility that we can become better.

Second, we should look at our long -term goals and see if slowing down would work better for those long-term goals. I could have pursued writing full-time, but I have always wanted to teach college classes, and so going to graduate school was the opportunity I really needed.

Third, we should look if our actions are governed by fear of rejection and failure. If you don’t think you’re good enough, is that simply because you are afraid that you might fail? Would there be any harm in trying?

Fourth, we should always be working on good long-term goals that will enable us to improve ourselves and help others.

You might not have a clear direction of exactly where your life is going, and that’s okay. But how can you become better? How can you serve others? In what areas of your life do you need to slow down and in what areas do you need to go for it? Maybe your answer is that you need to do a little bit of both–step by step, improving yourself, sharing with others, and working towards being the best you can be.

Two years ago, we built this wall brick by brick. It was a long and slow process, and we weren’t very good at it, but we tried our best and it worked out.

The Penalty Box

The Easy Way to Simplify and Delete

Like many of us, I have a hard time letting go.

I don’t want to let go of some things I own. I spent money on those things. I really liked them. And even when they no longer fit into my life, I want to figure out how I can save a space for them.

I hate deleting something I’ve written. Even if a paragraph doesn’t fit into a blog post or a chapter of a book, it may still hold insight that I really like.

And I really don’t want to delete things off of my to-do list and the goals that I have for myself. I may not be quite capable yet, and I may not really have the time, and there might be higher priorities, but I really wanted to accomplish that thing.

There is a common phrase in writing to “kill your darlings.” This phrase has been floating around since 1914–so writers have been hearing it for over 100 years now. But at a writing conference recently, I heard a writer say that instead of killing his darlings, he puts them into a penalty box.

So if I’m not quite able to get rid of my possessions, or the things that I create, or my goals and to-do list, then I can put them into a penalty box instead.

A penalty box might be a cardboard box in the garage. Or a drawer somewhere. Or a separate computer document that never gets looked at again. Or a new textbox in OneNote with the label “Penalty Box.” Or a folder in your Inbox.

Your penalty box might expire at some point, but it doesn’t necessarily have to either. You can decide the rules.

It’s really painful to get rid of some things from our lives, things that we love, even if they don’t serve us well. And a penalty box sort of cheats that pain on both sides. It allows us to remove something from our daily lives and move forward, but it also defers the pain from losing it completely.

What do you need to put in your penalty box right now?

3 steps to better use social media

Sometimes I waste a lot of time on social media. Honestly, it’s scary that these companies know so much about me and regularly use algorithms in order to steal and keep my attention. I know a few people who have deleted social media accounts, and I strongly support people doing that if they are only using social media to consume.

But social media can be a positive force in your life. Here’s how:

Create First.

Before you log on to social media, create something to share. It’s okay to just share a little bit about your life and what you are thinking. You can share a photo of your life or something you’ve seen that is beautiful. You can ask a question or do a short status update. You can also use Canva to make a social media post. I like to share quotes from books and articles I’ve read, my own blog posts, projects I’ve completed, and insight from my life.

You might think this takes a lot of time–but so does scrolling through social media! If you don’t have time to create a post, you probably don’t have time to be on social media in the first place.

And don’t worry if your posts are good or not. Just make them. Try things out and experiment. Your friends want to hear from you, not just from influencers and commercial creators.

Again, let me stress that you do this before you go on to social media. If you go onto social media first, you will be too distracted to create something.

Connect Second.

After you post something, spend time connecting with other people. This is not just looking at posts. It means interacting with posts: Share them (and say why you are sharing). Comment on them. Answer questions. You won’t want to interact with every post you see, but try to find something that resonates with you and then respond to it. If nothing is inspiring you in your feed, than change your feed–unfollow people who don’t bring you joy. And send personal messages to people you know and love.

Set limits to resist consuming.

I don’t have social media on my phone. Sometimes I will install Instagram to make a post or a story, but then I often uninstall it. And I use two apps with time limits on them: Digital Wellbeing (which is standard on Android) and YourHour. On my computer, I use FocusMe. But there are lots of other apps and programs to use. You don’t have enough willpower to not waste time on social media. Social media is designed to suck away your time, so you need backup to tell you when you need to look up and do something else.

Create and connect instead of consume. Social media can be a good force in your life–and if it isn’t, get rid of it.

The Right Time

In 2018, I put a book I had written (One Thing is Needful) in a figurative drawer and thought I would never look at again. But in 2020, I got it out again and started working on it. Two years later, I’ve basically finished it. I’m working on sharing it more soon.

I try to follow the Lord’s will about when to do things. Sometimes I do the right thing, but it’s not the right time yet. Sometimes it takes me a whole lot longer than I want it to.

In the end of 2018, I moved to this home in the mountains and I thought I would live here for forever. But I didn’t stay more than a few months, and when I moved away, I thought I would never come back. A year later, at the end of 2019, we owned this house and it’s been my home for almost two years now.

I really worked to get a novel published before I had kids, but it didn’t work out. I thought I wasn’t good enough to be a writer and that I failed. But years later, I went to a conference, surrounded by authors and people trying to write, and I realized that I didn’t fail because I wasn’t good enough. I failed because it wasn’t the right time for me yet, and I had more things to learn.

The right people will be in your life at the right time. I have felt very much alone and I thought no one was there–but those times forced me to reach out to people who needed me. And then people came when I needed them to. I was led to people who I needed to connect with. I learned from others when I needed to learn those things.

I still don’t know the timetable for many things in my life. Some things will be a lot slower than I want them to be. Some things might happen a lot quicker.

But if I trust in the Lord, I can do His will.

And His will is much more about becoming the person I need to be than just getting things done.

There is no better time because it is your time. -Boyd K. Packer

10. How do I become more decisive?

  1. Instead of trying to determine the decision with the best results, view life more as an experiment, where the results are unknown and you just have to go for it.
  2. You will choose food that doesn’t taste good and activities that aren’t worth the time and money. You will waste time and effort and energy in choosing something that is not optimal. This will happen no matter how much you try to make the right decision, because you simple don’t have all the options available to you right away.
  3. View decisions as an ability to learn: choose a good option, and then learn if it’s right or wrong for you while you are doing it.
  4. Be patient. Large decisions can take time, and that’s okay. Don’t force yourself to make important decisions you aren’t ready for.
  5. Stop trying to maximize the value you get for your money, and instead just call something good enough.
  6. Set limits, like only looking at the first page of search results when shopping online or only looking in a single store. Purposefully narrow your options so that the decision becomes easier.
  7. Let someone else make unimportant decisions, or decide by default.
  8. Make decisions ahead of time instead of making them in the moment.
  9. Have a fallback that you go to when you can’t decide.
  10. Pretend you are making a decision for someone else.

Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

Challenge the voices you hear

I read a few articles lately about people leaving their 9-to-5 jobs in order to live the life of their dreams. And it sounds like a good story. It makes me question for a minute: would I be happy if we were financially independent and self-employed in some creative task?

I think the answer is no. I enjoy having my husband’s predictable income, sending him to work five days a week, and having the safety of good benefits.

Some people like to take risks, but I don’t enjoy it much. I’m not afraid of it and I’m not limiting myself through my fear; I just prefer stability. It’s like when I go to a theme park and I feel pressured to ride the intense ride. Sometimes I do. And it’s okay, but I don’t enjoy it enough to actually pay money to go get motion sick.

I always wanted to be a writer, but in my adult life, I realized that I despise promoting myself. Which means that I would also hate being a successful writer.

I get caught up in what other people think is successful. It might be nice to go to nice schools and get high-paying jobs. It might be nice to travel all over the world. It might be nice to get a homestead and work from home. But just because someone else loves their life doesn’t mean I would love their life.

I have to be careful: I asked myself the other day if I wanted to pursue graduate school because I actually wanted to be in that environment or because I felt it would be prestigious. Did I want to tell other people I had a specific degree, or did I really want to actually get that degree?

I really enjoyed working as a legal secretary, even though it was a low-paying job that didn’t require many qualifications. I have to look at myself and what I want to do instead of just copying someone else’s success.

Being true to yourself sometimes that means abandoning dreams. Sometimes that means being completely normal and boring and eating vanilla ice cream because you like vanilla.

There are things that I know about myself: Money does not motivate me. I never want to be famous. I don’t enjoy taking huge risks. I like working on computers. I like spreadsheets and math and paperwork. I like being told what to do. I like teaching and I like creating as well.

Ultimately, I want to live in a way that helps other people in small and simple ways.

If that means my life is boring, then I’ll live a boring life.

It’s okay to make a decision even if you are uncertain

Recently, I’ve been making some decisions about my life. If you know me well, you know I am not the most decisive person in the world. I feel a lot of uncertainty sometimes, and it’s difficult for me to make a decision.

Part of this is that I see pros and cons without being able to measure them very well, and I focus on the fact that even good decisions aren’t perfect. I can’t see the future, so I’m not exactly sure if I will really enjoy something or not. I don’t know if it will be worth it. But I have to make that decision anyway.

I want to be 100% certain of something before I decide to do it. But I’m rarely very certain of anything.

So instead of just going for it, I languish in the land of uncertainty.

The other day, as I was rethinking a decision yet again, I realized that I could still make the decision and be uncertain about it. I didn’t have to make a complex calculation of what was best and if it would be worth my time and money. I could just go for it and see.

I think that’s what decisive people are good at: they aren’t certain all the time, but they are willing to make decisions and go forward even with the uncertainty. If it feels and sounds mostly right, that’s enough.

I want to know exactly how things will turn out before they happen. I’m afraid of making mistakes. But we will make mistakes, and it’s okay. We just do the best with what we have and go forward without fear.