100 Days Project
If my thirties have given me nothing else, it’s the realisation that my gut always knows.
In my twenties, I spent a lot of time asking questions I already knew the answers to; delaying on making decisions I already knew I needed to make; missing opportunities to connect with people because of stubbornness.
Now, this is not to say I’m no longer making this mistake. Far from it. There are still countless instances of me ignoring my intuition due to a myriad of reasons—mostly fear and laziness. But I think I’ve gotten much better at listening to her.
This is interesting because I recently introduced to Human Design and discovered that I’m a manifesting generator—which is to say listening to my gut is literally how I was designed to function. I won’t get into Human Design here (maybe I’ll talk about it in another post), but basically my seat of authority is sacral, so before I make any big decisions i’m supposed to advised to check in with my gut.
So it’s interesting to me that I sometimes go out of my way to listen to that voice, though I’ve had more than enough experiences that affirm my intuition always knows.
Making a concerted effort to listen to it more.
I started a memory jar this past weekend.
It’s nothing fancy. It’s essentially a a glass jar that I’ll use to store happy/magical moments I want to remember. I write the memories on small colored index cards and add them to the jar on the day of.
The goal: To document the moment while it’s still fresh, while also providing an opportunity to relive them at a later data.
In a way, it’s really a memory bank that I can access on the days when I’m feeling a bit down and need a reminder that life has been good to me more times than I can count.
I’m really excited to fill it up.
This truly ruthless force that taints anything it touches. It paralyzes dreams before they are born; stifles creativity before it’s had a chance to breathe its first breath. Often mistaken for something good—it’s the excuse of those who would rather dream than do.
Nothing good can come of it—this quest to achieve a state that’s unattainable. It hurts more than it helps.
To truly embrace creativity in all its messy unpredictable, yet worthwhile glory is to give up perfection and become content with the creative process.
**Ruminations from my journal for my Creative Process class.
When it comes to building new habits and establishing new patterns of behavior, one of the absolute worst things you can do is lose momentum. Speaking from experience here.
Not unlike some of my other efforts to establish habits, this 100 Days challenge has come with its own set of roadblocks.
This has been my longest stall to day—5 days—and I have no idea where the time went.
I logged in this morning thinking I’d missed 2 days and it would be easy to jump back in, but alas, that was not the case.
I read somewhere (can’t quite recall where right now) that when you’re working on building a habit you should allow yourself a maximum of 1 day to miss or slip. Anything more than a day quickly turns into a trend that leads to a very slippery slope.
According to James Clear, when you’re building a habit, each day you complete the desired habit is a score in the ‘yes’ column for the new person you want to become. It’s an affirmation of sorts, if you will.
Conversely, on the days you do not complete the habit, you deposit a score in the ‘no’column; which is to say you signal that you are not the person you desire to become. This inadvertently convinces your brain that you literally can’t do it. (In the absence of evidence to the contrary and momentum, resolve wanes.)
The more days you fail to complete the habit, the more you affirm that you can’t.
This is why it’s so important to never skip more than a day on your path to a new habit.
As an artist I often struggle to embrace the messy side of creativity.
I love creating—whether that’s an acrylic painting on canvas, ink on watercolor paper, or some other medium. The challenge for me comes from the need to have things turn out exactly as I envision. Which is often unlikely. Hence my frustration.
This semester I’m taking a class called The Creative Process, which as the name suggests is all about what happens while creating something. Our instructor was very clear—”I care zero about outcomes in this class,” she declared. “You don’t get points for the finished product, I’m only interested in your process.”
We looked at the work of artists like Tim Knowles who paints with trees (yes, literally tree branches), and Andy Goldsworthy who allows rocks and snow to define his pieces. We even looked at David Bowie’s creative process in all it’s unconventional glory.
The task was simple—let go of outcomes and give yourself over to the process.
Scary, but potentially freeing(?)
Whenever I set out. to make or do anything, I’m usually obsessed with the outcome; where this experience is leading me; the end goal. I don’t
think I pause enough to really be present in the experience and all it entails.
It is for this reason that I am most looking forward to the class. It is my hope that this course will not only force me to be present in the experience of making art; but that this will also encourage me to be present in all areas of my life—which, incidentally is one of my themes for this year.
And so it comes full circle. Like it always does.
I started reading bell hooks’ All about love last night and it was nothing I expected, but everything I needed and more.
The plan was to read one chapter for about 15-20 minutes before bed. What actually happened instead was that I ended up reading for over an hour and had to force myself to put it down halfway through chapter 4.
hooks—born Gloria Jean Watkins—was a scholar and activist who explored the connections between race, gender, class through her work. All about love is part one of an unofficial 3-part series that dives deep into the topic of love, but with an exploration of the three (race, class, gender).
One of my biggest takeaways from the earliest chapters of the book is an idea that isn’t new to me, but that still enlightening—the idea that love is a verb; not a noun.
“When we understand love as the will to nurture our own and another’s spiritual growth, it becomes clear that we cannot claim to love if we are hurtful and abusive. Love and abuse cannot coexist.”All About Love, page 6
hooks goes on to talk about the many dysfunctions—especially in the family relationship dynamic—that pass for love in the absence of knowledge, and the impact that this often has on many of our later romantic relationships. She talks about the role that therapy played in getting her to the point where she could acknowledge the dysfunctional nature of her own relationship with her parents.
In reading, I too am forced to examine my own relationships—familial, friendships, and my relationship with myself.
I’ll be sure to write an update once I’m finished. But so far, hooks delivers beyond my wildest dreams.
When I was doing my annual planning for 2023 I wasn’t sure I wanted to choose words for the year. What I ended up going with was choosing 4 adjectives that captured how I wanted to feel all year.
Happy. Healthy. Loved. Fulfilled.
These words will be my guideposts. They will determine what I do and don’t do; how I proceed. If a goal, task or action does not align with these words in some way then it will not be a priority.
I thought that would be enough, but then some of the challenges that I was facing toward the end of 2022 continue to play out even now. It feels like my faith is constantly being tested, and so had a thought last night. This phase of my life is a test of my faith.
Which led me to the following three sentences:
Practice faith. Be present. Surrender to the unknown.
It’s still early—we’re only 10 days in—but I already feel like these words/sentiments may hold some value as guiding sentiments for this year. Even if I relinquish them in the coming months, for now they’re very valuable. And that is enough.
Battling overwhelm continues to be a struggle.
On any given day there are a million and one things I want to get done, plus the five hundred that i usually forget and have to add throughout the day. And then there are those things I didn’t set out to do but in the moment they feel important—like redoing a landing page, or revising my Twitter bio when I should be working on threads for the week. That one I call productive procrastination (except, it isn’t really productive since it prevents me from doing the thing I’m actually supposed to be doing).
Sometimes when the overwhelm gets to be too much, my solution is to do nothing. Which is even worse that my so-called productive procrastination.
So I’ve started using a strategy I’ve been long aware of but never bothered with. A top 3 list. The premise is simple (and I believe widely known and used)—make a list of 3 things that MUST get done every day. And focus on those 3 things until they’re done. Nothing else matters as long as those 3 items are open.
3 seems like a perfectly reasonable and doable number right? So it’s easy to make the mistake of adding more things. Which I’ve done. And regretted it.
So these days I write out everything I want to get done in a day, then I
ruthlessly lovingly pare that list down to 3 main things that will take me closer to the week’s objective. If it doesn’t move along the big picture goal, it doesn’t make the cut. If it’s not important it doesn’t make the cut. (This is where the Eisenhower Decision Matrix comes in handy.)
Some days finding the Big 3 is easy, and other days it takes more time. But I’m finding that when I use this method I feel less like a headless chicken and a little bit more like a person who has a sense of what she needs to do and how she’s going to get it done.
I first came across the term ikigai about two or so years ago (can’t recall where). It was a visual with a venn diagram that was made up of four circles intersecting.
Ikigai—one’s purpose or reason for living—was said to be found at the intersection of all four circles.
These four circles comprise of the following elements:
- What you love
- What you are good at
- What you can be paid for
- What the world needs
Our passion is found where what we love and what we’re good at intersects.
Our profession is likely where what we’re good at meets what we can be paid for.
Our vocation is the intersection of what we can be paid for and what the world needs.
Our mission is the intersection of what the world needs and what we love.
My own quest to find ikigai
Just today I saw a Twitter thread that discussed the idea of ikigai, and as we’re still in the first week of the new year, I thought it would be a good idea to ponder some questions that may help me get to my own ikigai.
What do you love?
As you ponder this question, whatever you come up with here should pass the test of, “Do I still love this thing, even when it’s hard or doesn’t work out the way I hoped?”
I have a pretty solid idea of what I love and what I’m passionate about. I love art, writing, creative problem solving, design.
What are you good at?
This is a question about natural talent. The things in this category should be things that you’re effortlessly good at. You can like something and not be naturally gifted for it. Those things don’t make it into this section. This section is solely for the things you’re good at without needing to try. The things you can do without being able to explain. These are the things for which your answer to “How did you do that?” is always a shrug and the awkward, “Idk how to explain it, I just did it.”
For me, the things that fall into this category include art, writing, and project-managing the heck out of a situation. These are the things I don’t have to work at.
What can you be paid for?
The money-maker question. The things in this category don’t need to be a traditional job or something practical. If you can find a way to make money from it (whether locally or online), then it counts.
This section is where I often get carried away with the million and one options/business ideas in my planners and my ClickUp workspace. Here’s (the Cliff’s notes version of) my running list, off the top of my head:
- Handmade candles
- Website designing
- Social media marketing agency
- Canva template shop
- Copywriting coach/membership
- Business coach
- Marketing consultant
- Publishing consultant
- Visual artist
- Planner (design & sell)
What does the world need?
This is the one that I struggle with the most. Because the idea of what the world needs feels very abstract to me. I mean, one could argue that if someone in the world needs that thing then it qualifies. Which would mean just about everything on all these lists qualify as things that the world needs.
My responses reaffirm something I’ve always known. My purpose is rooted in creating. Creative endeavors are what I was put on this earth for.
These days my biggest struggle is finding creative work that feels good, pays the bills, and doesn’t feel empty. Which is where being selective about the kind of clients I write copy for comes in.
It’s not always easy, but for this year, I want to work exclusively with brands that do work that aligns with my values. It’s a small step on the path to fulfillment—which, incidentally, is one of my words for 2023.
Here are 3 things I’ll be doing differently this year to take me closer to my goals.
1. I’ll be checking in with myself more frequently (re: my goals for the year)
I’ve gone through the trouble of completing an extensive goal setting exercise that involved tuning in to how I want to feel and coming up with specific measurable actions that will take me closer to my goals. But what I want to remain mindful of is the fact that these goals may change at different intervals throughout the year as I change or as my needs or circumstances change.
The big picture overarching goals will likely remain constant, but I’m making it a point of duty to check in regularly to ensure what I’m working toward is aligned with how I want to feel this year.
2. I’ll be taking more leaps and trying things instead of overthinking
This is a difficult one for me as I’m a chronic overthinker. But I think if I can get to the point where I’m executing more than I’m planning and researching, then I’ll learn a lot more—from the things I accomplish as well as the false starts and missteps.
There is no debating I am an epic researcher. So for all the goals I want to accomplish this year, I already know everything I need to know to get started. The rest I will learn as I go.
3. I’ll be making small habit changes
2023 is the year I stop aiming for big sweeping habit changes. Instead of daily 30-minute walks I’ve committed to 10 minutes of yoga every day. Which means the -20 degree weather or a bad day won’t be able to deter this small goal.
Likewise, I’ve amended my goals in other lifestyle areas.
While I appreciate the value to be found in bigger goals that push us, I realise my habit muscle lacks the discipline and confidence required for those bigger goals. So instead of doing nothing or just stopping when I fall off the wagon, I’m making my habit changes more achievable, then I can build on my small wins toward bigger successes.
These short daily blog posts that take 10-15 minutes to write are another example of this approach at work.
I started my first gratitude jar back in 2013. I don’t remember where I’d first seen the idea, but every day, I’d write down one thing I was grateful for and then reflect on that thing in a short paragraph. (That second step made the whole thing feel more intentional.)
I haven’t had a gratitude jar since 2016, but that’s not to say I’ve given up my gratitude practice. I started using gratitude journals in 2018 and made them part of my morning routine.
But this year, I’ll be reintroducing my gratitude jar with post-it notes. The idea is as simple now as it was then, with a twist. I’ll keep my jar next to my bed and at the end of each day, I will write down one thing that gave me joy or that was worth celebrating that day.
The older I get the more I realise how important it is to document my thoughts, ideas, and frame of mind during different moments so I have them to look back on as I grow and change. My gratitude journal—and jar—is just part of that process.
There’s a thing that happens to me when I sit in gratitude. (I know this isn’t unique to me.) Gratitude reframes my perspective on the things that aren’t going well.
Whenever I’m actively practicing gratitude it’s difficult to be angry, frustrated, or worried. Gratitude always brings me back to the awareness that I am loved and taken care of my the powers that be—God, source, the divine, the universe. It’s a constant reminder that everything will work out as it should, which makes it easier to keep carrying on when things don’t work out the way I want them to.
Right now I’m between jobs and client work has stalled. A job I was really excited about fell through after I made it to the final round with a paid test project. So of course I’m disappointed and a bit dejected. Plus, there’s also an unhealthy dose of worry and frustration.
Whenever I feel those feelings bubbling up I actively practice gratitude—I’m alive, I’m healthy, my bills are paid, I have groceries in the fridge and pantry, I’m a talented writer who can always find client work or apply for another in-house role, and I could go on and on…
The point here is this. Gratitude has a way of pulling me back from the edge of some unpleasant places.
It also has the added bonus of calling into my life more of the things I desire by signaling to the universe that I am a worthy recipient who can be trusted with blessings.
It’s new year’s day. Which is to say most of us are feeling like the world is ours for the taking, more so than usual. A new year usually symbolizes possibility and opportunity, and with that comes a big (healthy?) dose of optimism.
I completed my annual review and goal setting session about 2 weeks into December, so for me, today is about reflection.
I started the day by reading through my manifestation journal that holds my big goals and dreams from 2019 onward. And the process reminded me of one thing I tend to forget.
Making goals is important; having something to work toward is important. But it’s also important to recognize that who we are changes over time. The Anna that wrote those goals in 2019 is not the same Anna who wrote down her 2023 goals 2 weeks ago. She’s different from the Anna who wrote down her list of Big Hairy Audacious Goals last year, and she’s also different from the Anna who will review and edit the current goals six months from now.
This is not to say the goals aren’t important, because more often than not, they remain the same at their core even as some elements change—just like we stay the same in some ways even when we change.
For me, this awareness means it’s important for me to be open to changes and fluidity as I’m defining these goals. My core values won’t change, but the specifics of the dreams I have and the things I want may change, and that’s okay.
So today, I’ve been reflecting on the goals I made two weeks ago. I’m assessing what elements of them are tied to my core values. I’m assessing what parts are none-negotiable, absolutely essential, and what parts I may be open to renegotiating with future Anna.
It’s a different kind of exercise than what I’m used to doing on new year’s day, but somehow it feels right.
Things we perceive to be bad happen all the time. Unfortunate undesirable outcomes that ruin days, weeks, months, and sometimes years of our lives.
Now full disclosure, I’m not talking about obvious catastrophes like death. What I’m referring to here is the smaller stuff that often feels like major stuff when it happens. (And sometimes it is.)
Whenever I’m faced with these experiences I resort to asking “What’s the lesson here?” instead of the easier, “Why me?”
While both may be valid questions, I have personally found that approaching my disappointments with curiosity about the potential lesson usually leaves me in a better place mentally than where I started.
Not getting a job I applied for, was qualified for, and really wanted sucks—especially as the bills are piling up. Losing my job days before signing a sales agreement to purchase a new house more than sucks. Finding out my Dad has cancer is a giant dose of fuckery. And no, these aren’t hypotheticals. They’re all real life scenarios I’ve had to battle within the last year and a half.
In every instance, I’ve paused to ask, “What’s the lesson here?”— not as a way to minimize/downplay my disappointment, anger, or frustration; but as a way of processing my feelings and figuring out the next step.
For me, that question is a way for me to remain a student of life, and to remain open to the possibility that life/source/God/the universe/the divine/whatever you believe in has a plan, even if I don’t understand it.
It doesn’t make the pain, anger, or frustration any less real. What it does instead, is turn my attention to the thing I can control—my reaction.
Sometimes the lesson is clear—I didn’t really want the job; I just wanted to pay my bills, and maybe there’s another way to do that that doesn’t feel soul-sucking.
At other times it’s not so clear—because what the fuck can we possibly learn from cancer? Except, I’ve become closer to my parents and siblings since Daddy’s diagnosis and he’s now cancer-free.
And other times, honestly, it can feel like there is no lesson and this unfortunate situation is just a cruel twist of fate. And for those moments, I have no words. Because I’d never dream of trivializing the validity of another’s experience.
What I do know for myself though, is that for every tragedy, great or small, whenever I ask “What’s the lesson?” I always end up learning something.
Four days into this project and I already recognize that if I’m going to make it to the end of 100 days having written daily, I’m going to need a system.
For starters, staring at a blank page and not having any brilliant ideas can be demoralizing. And that’s the surest way to ensure this doesn’t get done.
So I’ve come up with a system for completing these posts.
I’ll be using the BrainSpark app to provide me with writing prompts, then I’ll set a timer for 10 minutes. During that 10 minute period I will sit and write whatever stream of consciousness comes to mind when I read the prompt.
And that’s my system—my way of making it to day 100 with 100 posts under my belt. The goal here isn’t to write a masterpiece every day. Heck, it isn’t even to write one masterpiece in the 100 days. It’s to show up consistently and write for 10 minutes on a predetermined topic. It’s to affirm to myself that I am a person of my word; that I do what I say I’m going to do, even when it’s not easy. And this simple system is how I’m going to get it done.
Sometimes I will write for more than 10 minutes; sometimes I’ll write something that may be usable in another context. But those will just be bonuses—the cherry on top, if you will—alongside the bigger goal.
In the past, I’ve made attempts to write for 100 days, but there was no real structure to my attempts. Just me, my hopes and baseless optimism. But that’s never enough when we’re trying to do things that go against the natural desires of our brains. Whether that thing is exercising, drinking water, eating properly, lowering our screen time, starting a hobby, we need more than hope and faith. We need a clear easy-to-follow system that eliminates the need (or inclination) to think or resist.
This Christmas was
a little very different for me. I spent it in a new town in a new province in a part of the country that’s still very new to me.
When I made the decision to move to New Brunswick, Canada, it was a decision I made based on the potential opportunities I foresaw. And while those still exist, there’s a part of me that wasn’t fully ready for the loneliness.
Being new anywhere is hard—a new job, a new school, a new town/city. It’s all hard. And I think being somewhat nomadic since 2018 didn’t quiet prepare me for this kind of hard.
The move has not been without its challenges, and somehow the holidays have exacerbated them a bit. Seeing others celebrate with their loved ones makes being alone a lot harder.
This is by no means a doom and gloom post. It’s more meant to be a reflection of the day’s events with some observations sprinkled in.
I ended up spending the day with 2 friends from school— C, who also lives in my apartment building; and R who brought her boyfriend. It was a nice small gathering or strangers getting to know each other while individually navigating the challenges of relocation. All 4 of us are new to the province. R and her boyfriend are new to Canada, while C is from Saskatchewan.
It was nice to be out of my apartment spending time with others, and it didn’t hurt that the food was good too. 🙂
As I reflect on the evening, one thing that stands out to me is how we all had some experience of feeling like outsiders who didn’t quite know how to navigate forming friendships and acquaintances in this new place. R was open and vocal, a side of her I didn’t experience at school. And I suppose I too, was way more vocal in our small group setting that I had ever been on campus.
What’s even more interesting was that this gathering was something I wanted to do but hesitated to ask R because I wasn’t sure she’d be interested. Turns out, she also wanted to invite people over to her apartment but felt unsure about doing it.
By the end of the night, we agreed we would get together again some time soon—perhaps for a games night.
Coming out of this experience I think I’ve discovered it’s almost always a good idea to take a risk and put one’s self out there. Many of us are shy and awkward in some way, unsure if the stranger we want to approach will respond in kind or be an asshole. But more often than not, that stranger’s a) not an asshole, and b) also wondering the same. So I’ll be doing more of that in 2023.
I’m in a new town, province, and country. And with that comes the opportunity to forge new friendships, meet new people, and discover new things about myself.
I am most afraid of dying an unlived life.
Which is to say I am afraid of not living, trying things, doing things that scare me. I’m afraid of not using my talents or failing to live in my purpose.
So I am always exploring new ways to challenge myself, to try, do, and be more.
I am constantly asking myself ‘What am I here for?’
Sometimes it can feel like I am too preoccupied with this fear, like maybe I should just relax a bit and allow things to flow. But for me, to forget it is to run the risk of having it come true.
So I am always moving, doing, trying. Sometimes too much.
I recently concluded a year of mindset coaching, using Human Design principles, and I have learned so much about myself in that time. But the thing that stands out most to me right now in this moment as I’m thinking about my greatest fear, is the fact that I am allowed to just be.
This was a difficult lesson to learn, and admittedly, I am still learning it. This idea that I do not need to do anything to be worthy or enough. The idea that just as I am, I have inherent worth and value. Just as I am, if I never do another magnificent thing, I am still worthy of the love and acceptance I desire.
Now I don’t know how much of my fear of dying an unlived life is tied to a preconceived notion that I have to live a ‘full’ life for it to have been a worthwhile life. I’m beginning to think a lot of it. And I’m not sure what to do with that realization, beyond just sitting with it, as uncomfortable as it is.
The fear is real, and it is valid, but it does not get to determine the course of my life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want 2023 to look like. I’ve done my planning and I have designed my vision board but beyond the general goals and wishes, I’ve been spending more and more time thinking about the specifics.
For example, I’ve been thinking about things like how I want to feel. The goals are a good starting point but on their own I feel like they mean nothing without emotions and feelings connected to them.
So I’ve been spending some time really focusing on how I want to feel. My words for the new year are all connected to feelings I want to experience throughout the year – happy, loved, healthy, fulfilled. And for every item on my list, I’ve made sure each one is connected to at least one of these feelings. That way I’ll always be in alignment.
The process of planning for the new year is an interesting one. For starters, there are all these big goals and dreams that I’ve written down. And not everyone gets to make the Final Cut. Some get eliminated because they’re not my goals and dreams, but things I think I’m supposed to be doing; others get shelved because there simply isn’t enough time. With only twelve months, 365 days, limited hours, and multiple obligations, not every goal or dream gets to make the cut – a lesson I’m still learning.
My natural tendency is to go crazy and put everything on the list with very little consideration for the actual time and effort I will need to find to make them all a reality. But this year I’m being more intentional and taking a detailed approach that involves action steps and estimated time to complete, as well as consideration of all my obligations including work and school.
This has helped to introduce a degree of realism into the process, that’s not meant to stifle or limit what’s possible, but to avoid overwhelm and indécision paralysis. So far it’s been working.
I’ll be leaving the post-it’s up for another week or two to see if anything feels out of alignment before I fully commit, but I feel pretty good about what I have so far.
The idea next year is to do monthly and quarterly check-ins to see how we’re progressing and to see where I may need to alter or tweak my plans.
2022 was rough, but it brought some blessings. For 2023 I’m feeling optimistic at this fresh start and all the possibilities that it holds.
100 days is a long time to do anything. Well, to do anything consistently.
I’ve tried many a challenges, began many a projects, and truth be told the ones that made it past 100 days didn’t have 100 consistent days of effort. I’ve started and stopped, shifted, lost focus, forgot, got distracted.
In essence, despite my best intentions, life often got in the way. Which is not to blame life. Or maybe it is while shifting the blame from myself…I’m not sure yet.
If all goes well, this rant will be just for me. For me to see if I can painstakingly—or with some joy? who knows?—make it to the end of 100 days having written something on this blog every day in that window.
There’s no particular topic. I’ll just be writing random streams of consciousness. My goal? To write for 5 straight minutes.
Maybe at the end of 100 days there’ll be some usable morsel, but if after 100 days all I get to walk away with is the satisfaction of having done this thing consistently for 100 days, then that will be enough.
There’ll be no word limit either, just me sitting down on my laptop—or my phone (I downloaded the WordPress app so I’d have no excuse on the days if/when I’m away from my laptop)—to get this done.
Here’s to me then.