One Simple Exercise To Recalibrate Your Life and Business

For eight  glorious days, Jason and I went on vacation to the island of Moorea, French Polynesia, to celebrate the paying off of our debt this year.

During our trip I did my absolute best to stay off of technology (hence the lack of newsletter), knowing that I wanted to give myself fully to the present moment during our trip.

I’ll be honest with you guys, this trip could not have come at a better time. I could feel myself approaching that familiar feeling of burn out right before we left.

I don’t know if it was just the creative hangover from pouring so much of my heart into Color Your Soul (which is unfolding beautifully, but still takes a lot of energy to produce!) or if it was just the changing of the seasons and a natural lull that hits occasionally for all of us creatives.

Either way, I was itching to take a step back and really sift through my life, business and creativity to see what was lighting me up and what wasn't.

Before I left, I found myself entertaining a never-ending deluge of uncertain thoughts:

Should I pour more effort into promoting Color Your Soul, or keep letting it grow organically?
Should I keep up my Abstract Affirmations Daily project even though I feel it’s no longer serving my creativity?
Should I stop doing monthly classes and instead move to live-only classes?
Should I pack up and just move to Tahiti permanently? ;)

A should-ton of shoulds, don’t you think?

To take back some semblance of control from my should-spiral, I tried approaching these big sweeping questions rationally. I tried thinking my way through it by putting my big girl business pants on. I thought about time vs. money and profitability and all that very adult, reasonable stuff.

But that approach just didn’t feel quite right. My business pants have always played second fiddle to my core-truth/intuition pants and that’s the way I keep myself aligned to a path that feels most vibrant. (Note to self: Intuition Pants = future business idea.)

Finally, after a few days of relaxation and SPACE and not forcing myself to “figure things out” on our vacation, I picked up Danielle LaPorte’s book The Desire Map on my Kindle. I knew of the basic core desired feelings philosophy from reading her other work, but I’d never really gone through the process of laying out my own in concrete terms.

This framework -- one that was actionable and concrete but still very soulful and heart-centered -- was exactly the catalyst I needed to work through this block of mine.

I’m sure I’ll be sharing more of how this philosophy is helping point me forward in the future, but for this week, I wanted to share one very simple exercise that actually helped me get my grasp back on what was working for me on a daily basis and what wasn’t. What was leading to my core desired feelings and what wasn’t.

One major feeling that I immediately identified as essential to how I want to feel on a daily basis was FREE.

Freedom to me represents doing what my core feels pulled to do rather than what I feel I have to do or should do. Freedom to me feels light, energetic, satisfying, unencumbered, and fluid.

So, half-way through the book, I I took out my one notebook I brought with me on my trip and I made two lists: MORE and LESS.

What did I want more of in my daily life and what did I want less of?

What things light me up that I can pump up the volume on and what things dim my light that I can start to remove?

What makes me feel more vibrant and what makes me feel more gray?

Two lists. It’s that simple.

Here are some examples from my lists:
 

More:

  • Freedom
  • Stillness
  • Connecting with other soulful creatives
  • Long walks with my favorite podcasts
  • Morning meditations
  • Lazy weekends
  • Writing
  • Checking in with myself regularly
  • Panting when I want to
  • Trusting my instincts
  • Viewing experimentation as productive
     

Less:

  • Deadlines
  • Urgency
  • Self-isolation
  • Obsessive notification checking
  • Morning email checking
  • Using weekends to “get ahead”
  • Second-guessing
  • Pushing myself to burn out before I check in with myself
  • Painting because I “have to”
  • Consuming the work of other artists/business owners
  • Viewing experimentation as failure
     

Writing these things down in these very specific terms and differentiating what made me feel free versus what made me feel constricted was key to getting back to my core self. It was like my compass had been gathering dust and with this one exercises I was able to see which way was North again.

Now even this long list can start to feel overwhelming pretty fast, like you have to make all these trades and swaps RIGHT THIS MOMENT. But that’s a recipe for disaster. I’ve come off of these breaks before and tried diving back in head-first, which only leads me right back to where I started: burned out.

So instead I’ve just chosen two swaps to try: morning mediations instead of email checking; and cutting back on my inspiration sources so I can reconnect with my own instincts.

Next Monday I put 5 minutes on my calendar to revisit this list and check in with how I’m feeling. (Okay, I guess that fits under “more checking in with myself regularly.” Huzzah! One more on the list!)

My challenge to you this week is to do the same. Take 5 minutes and write down your own more/less list.

Then, if you’re feeling frisky, head over to Instagram and share in the comments one swap that you intend to make this week to follow what lights you up instead of what dims your light.

My hope is that we can all encourage one another there and, by sharing, we can all remind ourselves that this journey to becoming vibrant is a DAILY journey, one that takes constant calibration.

The journey to becoming vibrant is a DAILY journey, one that takes constant calibration.

 

One HUGE clarifying thought that came to me on this trip is the reminder that this flux of flow and doubt, of growing and then re-assessing, is at the heart of the creative journey. It does not stop. This is not something to “figure out” or a puzzle to finally solve; it is something to constantly come back to and tend to.

Just remember, you don’t need to take a week or fly to a distant land to reconnect to yourself. You can make that space anywhere, anytime if you choose it.

Wishing you a week of more light, less stress.

 
 

The Causes Of (& Cures For) A Creative Hangover

Wow, last week was a bit of a blur!

Finally launching Color Your Soul -- a project that was basically four months in the making -- was such a joyful feeling. It was so comforting and validating to know that this creative idea of mine was in loving, accepting hands with you guys. Your warm email replies (especially from those of you that unhesitatingly jumped on board with this first issue and became subscribers!) was an incredible feeling.

Today, though, I want to get REALLY honest about the emotional aftermath of launching a creative project like this, one where so much of your heart is invested.

Truthfully I thought about not writing this letter at all, sticking to some safer topic that felt less raw. But, after thinking it over, I realized that you guys don’t open these emails each Monday for the sugar-coated stuff. I’ve always tried to share with you the REAL emotions and real insecurities behind running a creative, values-based business, and so today I wanted to honor that promise by keeping it real.

So here’s the truth:

This weekend felt WEIRD.

Despite experiencing the highest high introducing Color Your Soul to you guys on Thursday and welcoming many of you as subscribers, I woke up on Saturday and felt strangely OFF. It was a feeling I haven’t had in awhile, not necessarily one of sadness or disappointment but just of confusion, like this beacon of light I’d been chasing all summer was no longer illuminated and I was now fumbling around in the dark.

This isn’t how this is supposed to feel, I thought. I made the thing I’ve been dreaming of making! It’s alive and in the hands of people who appreciate it! So what is this strange feeling?!

It’s not that I was questioning my vision -- I believe more than ever in the vision I have for this movement toward soulful, inspiring, thought-provoking content -- and as I look at Color Your Soul and the canvas it’s provided me to go on making this kind of content for you guys, there’s no doubt in my mind it’s what I want to be working on.

So, if it’s not the idea itself then, what is it? Where was this sudden slump coming from?

I spent all day yesterday trying to sort through these emotions. I took my token beach walk to ponder the meaning of life (that’s not a joke, I actually do that), and I got really honest with myself, peeling back the layers until I hit on something that felt real.

What I decided was this:

I was experiencing a creative hangover.

A creative hangover is the emotional aftermath of bringing a dream into reality. 

A creative hangover is the emotional aftermath of bringing a dream into reality.


There are two primary causes of a creative hangover. (Duh, bourbon and tequila. Just kidding... Or am I?? 💃🏽😉)


Creative Hangover Cause #1: The loss of your guiding focus.

For months I woke up and I had a clear purpose: to get ready for the launch of Color Your Soul.

I had a guiding vision that provided a structure for each of my days and gave me something distinct to measure my progress against. This made my creative spirit feel safe and purposeful.

My friend Steph often refers to this as “chasing the carrot.” When the carrot goes away, there’s a feeling of aimlessness that settles in.

This weekend, even though my purpose was technically unchanged (work on Color Your Soul), the big guiding beacon of “Launch Day” -- the carrot -- was no longer there. That absence no doubt contributed to my weird and aimless feeling.


Creative Hangover Cause #2: The dissonance between dream and reality.

When you pour your whole heart and your true self into an idea or a project or some kind of brave leap, when you spend days or weeks or (in my case) months daydreaming about it, you inevitably create a version of it in your head that feels real.

You spend so much time and invest so much of your emotional resources imagining it, that a part of you just assumes the reality will match the fantasy.

But, we all know that the reality NEVER actually matches the fantasy (that’s literally the definition of a fantasy -- it only exists in our imagination.)

When I experienced the high of launching last week -- a mixture of joy and relief and excitement and anticipation -- all of those amazing emotions fit the vision in my dream BUT they weren’t sustainable, not at those levels anyway.

After the high faded and my heightened state started to even back out this weekend, suddenly I became acutely aware of how my reality contrasted with my dream.

Think about it: we never fixate on visions of ourselves having a perfectly humble, mundane happy day; Instead, our dreams and fantasies tend to feel grand and elevated. It’s no wonder reality can often seem pale in comparison.

That dissonance -- the disconnect between the grand vision I’d fixated on for months and the happy-yet-humble satisfaction of reality -- caused a sort of emotional reverberation, my creative hangover.

This concept doesn’t just apply to some big project like I’m talking about, but I think it could be any big event in your life, any vision you’ve been working toward.

Once you reach that milestone and the high of it wears off, often you can be left in a strange emotional limbo.

So how do you work through it?

For me it was a matter of first becoming of aware of it and not feeling guilty over it. For a moment I thought to myself, “Snap out of it, Caroline, you made the thing you wanted to make and you should be elated!”

Criticizing yourself for your emotional response is never productive, at least not in my experience.

Once I recognized this creative hangover for what it was and realized it didn’t say anything about me OR about my love for Color Your Soul, then I just shifted my focus back to the long game. I let go of the fantasy of “Launch Day” and set my sights on a more sustainable, more reality-based vision -- one where I’m not building up some grand to-do or chasing down another carrot, but instead I’m reminding myself to aim for what’s sustainable. To recalibrate my emotional measuring stick to a range that’s much closer to the everyday kind of happiness that comes with doing work that’s deeply fulfilling.

It may not be the grand stuff that daydreams are made of, but it’s REAL and it’s rich. It can be that normal happy day where I get to continue to work on the thing close to my heart, serving people close to my heart (hint hint: that’s you!)

So my challenge to you this week is then actually just a question:

Have you experienced this emotional, creative hangover? A project or event or big leap that left you feeling a little lost or dazed afterward?

If so, how were you able to navigate that experience and how can you emotionally recalibrate your own expectations so that you find satisfaction in reality, however that feels? Let me know in the comments!

The reason I wanted to share these feelings with you all is to show you that no matter how long you continue to make things, no matter how many years you get under your belt running a creative business, there is always more to learn and further to grow.

Even if you do find the courage to MAKE THE THING (which is half the battle!) there will always be unfamiliar, often uncomfortable feelings to navigate, and that’s just part of the gig. Creativity at its foundation is an emotional pursuit.

Anyway, I hope this message came across in the way I intended it to. I want to be clear, I’m still 100% all in on Color Your Soul and I’m already so in love with the conversations starting and the community forming around helpful AND heartful themed content like this.

In fact, topics like this are exactly WHY I wanted to create it in the first place. I want to start conversations about the real creative journey, the one that’s messy and yes, WEIRD, and full of all sorts of tangley, disorienting feelings. Why? Because these topics are where the clues to living our brightest, most VIBRANT lives reside.

Hoping you had (and are continuing to have!) a restful weekend.

 
 

The Pain of Standing Still

As I gear up for the launch this Thursday, I’ve been reflecting back on the creative timeline of this project and comparing/contrasting it to things I’ve made and launched in the past. 

Through that exercise, I’ve been revisiting the many lessons I’ve learned about overcoming my fears and getting something out into the world.

These contemplations were swirling around in my head (what else is new) when a close friend asked me, “So, are you nervous to launch Color Your Soul?”

Instinctively I was about to reply “Of course!,” as I would with every other thing I’ve launched in the past, but instead I just paused.

I paused because while the answer IS yes -- there’s always that fear in your mind that no one will like or want or buy what you’re making -- I was actually astounded at just how little time I had spent thinking about that fear over the course of the summer, which is honestly a real departure from my normal operating procedure.

Truthfully it never even occurred to me NOT to launch Color Your Soul once the idea came to me in its fully realized form. And whatever doubts or fears momentarily arose, they were quickly quieted by my passion for getting the thing made.

BUT... this, as I said, is NOT typical of my process in the past.

And I know from the many emails I’ve received from several of you on this list that creative fear is a very real hurdle, one that has the power to take what’s in your head and your heart and allow it to gather dust.

So I thought to myself… When did it change? What made the difference? When did I reach that point where I was able to dull the voices of fear in my head and what nugget of wisdom might I be able to pluck out and pass on to anyone whose fear voices are the loudest thing in the room?

Well before I get to that nugget, a quick backstory…

Back in 2011, I was still working for a local ad agency back in Florida. In my less productive work hours, I would find myself straying away from my work and over to my favorite design and lifestyle blogs (I justified this distraction time as “gathering inspiration.”)

I would cozy up in the archives of these popular online spaces, clicking through page after page of words and images and all this juicy creativity, and I would find myself feeling equally inspired and envious. I was completely envious of these people who had such distinct and well-developed creative voices.

The more I saw other people expressing themselves in this very public way -- a way that had the power to connect with a random stranger like myself -- the more it felt like a mirror reflecting back my own desires, and, more importantly, my own UNREALIZED potential.

I could sense I had something to say, but I didn’t have the first clue about how to say it. I knew I had a voice that was begging to be shared too, but I was afraid that no one would care about it.

The fear and overwhelm of not knowing where to start just paralyzed me.

The days and weeks and months ticked by and I remember feeling more and more stifled and frustrated as I kept imagining myself as one of those bloggers I so admired, only to quickly return to reality, disappointed that this vision existed only in my head.

Until.

Until one day, the pain of carrying these suppressed creative impulses inside became so beyond frustrating that it finally drowned out every one of my fears.

The nagging desire to share my own voice became so persistent that it outweighed whatever hesitations I had.

So I finally started my blog.

I was reluctant and full of doubt and honestly kind of embarrassed at first, wondering what my friends would think. But from the moment I hit publish on my first post, I experienced this relief that's hard to describe. Like a colorful bird that had been trapped in a cage was finally free to fly.

That blog became a place that I could share my writing, my creative ideas and, really, work through my own journey of self-discovery. It was my sandbox to play in, to learn and to stretch the creative muscles that I didn’t even yet know the extent of.

That blog turned into a few side design projects which turned into my full-time design business which evolved into the Made Vibrant brand that exists today.

It’s five years later, but with every single thing that I bring out of my head and out into the world today -- whether it’s something as big as a new website or as small as one Instagram post -- the same basic battle is waged between my fear and my creative impulse:

Will I express what’s inside or will my fear keep me from doing so?

In those moments, I always think back to that day I decided to start my first blog because it illuminates for me this very simple logical conclusion in my brain:

The pain of standing still will always be greater than the fear of moving forward.

The PAIN (and yes, I do think it is a soulful, psychic kind of pain) of keeping untapped potential inside me is a fate far worse than putting it out into the world and seeing what comes of it.

Once you finally reach that rational conclusion, you start to feel you’re virtually unstoppable because you have no choice but to go on making.

THIS is the nugget that allows me to silence my fear and keep on creating things, and now it makes sense to me why Color Your Soul has felt like the most fearless thing I’ve ever created.

It’s not because I don’t HAVE these fears anymore (like I said, they’re always there, and, if anything, when it’s something you care so much about, they’re even more present); it’s simply that my fears are WAAAAY outgunned by the truth and vision and creative impulse I have within this project.

The notion of NOT publishing something this aligned with my creative spirit is so heartbreaking to consider that it makes the alternative -- overcoming my fears of rejection -- seem like nothing more than a necessary step in the process.

So, my challenge is to you this week is to get REALLY acquainted with the pain of standing still.

I want you to think about that thing -- that novel, or blog, or business, or song, or career -- still sitting inside you begging to be born. I want you to ask yourself what kind of impact that untapped potential is having on your heart, what kind of subtle shade it’s creating over your true spirit.

And then I want you to ask yourself:

What’s scarier -- overcoming your fears of rejection OR living your whole life with that subtle shade never being lifted?

I promise you...

Once you decide that your greatest fear is doing nothing at all, the courage to make things becomes a whole lot easier to muster.

Wishing you all an AMAZING week, and I’ll be back in your inbox on Thursday with all the details about the new website, Color Your Soul and more!

 
 

Are You Afraid of Taking A Break With Your Business?

Happy last-Monday-before-summer-sabbatical, my friends!

If you read last week’s newsletter, then you know I’m taking a five week break from these Monday morning missives.

As much as it pains me, I really feel that it’s important to practice what I preach when it comes to building a sustainable, well-balanced business and creative practice, and part of that means taking time to reconnect to my own voice and to refill my creativity tank.

I’ll admit though, that doesn’t mean this type of break doesn’t come without its own set of fears.

No matter what stage you’re in with your business (or heck, your life), every few months or years it's like you get issued this shiny NEW set of fears.

You start your business and you have this little arsenal of terrified voices saying: 

What if no one buys, what if no one cares, what if I fail, what if I have to pack it up and go back to a 9-to-5 job, what if I’m not good enough, etc.

THEN, once you’ve been at it a while (you’ve experimented and explored, you’ve gotten more comfortable with putting your work out there), it's like you finally graduate from your white belt to getting your yellow belt. You celebrate the quieting of those first fear gremlins to an almost undetectable level and then... SURPRISE! New fears, ahoy!

For me, my Yellow Belt Fears came once Made Vibrant was making enough money every month for me to live on. I was so thrilled that this was actually working, and I celebrated for about half a second before the NEW fear gremlins starting to rear their ugly heads: 

What if you make a wrong turn and this all goes away, what if the creative well runs dry, what if they get tired of what you have to say, what if you take a break and they forget about you, etc.

That last one's a doozy for me: What if they forget about you.

For whatever reason, I have this irrational fear that if I take time for myself, if I cut the cord even just a little, that it’ll all come crashing down. I have so much I still want to say, and I guess I'm afraid that one day I'll wake up and have no one to say it TO.

BUT, I’m finally ready to challenge those fears.

I’m ready to unpack them and understand them and DARE them to materialize so that I can prove to myself they’re really just constructions of my insecure psyche.

Despite knowing this is something I’m ready to confront, I still spent last week wondering if I was doing the right thing.

Is it too late to call it off? I have plenty of things to write about! Maybe I’ll just send out an email saying JUST KIDDING and I won’t have to see how it feels to walk away for a few weeks.

Then, last week’s #theimperfectboss campaign happened.

Did you all see this on Instagram? Ashley from Fire & Wind Co. decided to create a 3-day awareness campaign encouraging entrepreneurs to share their vulnerabilities, their confessions and their missteps in an effort to promote REALNESS among a community that is often all glossy, glamorous girlboss stock photos. She wanted to offer up an opportunity for people to share how it ACTUALLY feels to run a business, especially imperfectly (as we all do.)

If you have ever felt alone on your creative journey, I highly recommend scrolling through the hashtag feed because I know it will provide you with an amazing and overwhelming sense of comfort seeing so many fellow solopreneurs post their truths. I found the whole thing very moving. (I shared my own confession here about my tendency to hide behind my confidence in my work rather than my appearance.)

The timing of this movement could not have been better, because as I read through these different fears, post after post after post, it shined a spotlight on this simple truth: We’re ALL scared of something.

We create these stories in our heads and when we hear them enough times in our minds, they feel true.

But that's exactly why we have to bring those fears, those stories out of our HEADS and into reality so that we can upend their power. 

We have to bring our fears out of our heads and into reality so we can upend their power.

Now I know many of you on this list are still at Square One, working up the courage to even create in the first place. And I hope you’ve found discovered some of these weekly letters that have brought you one step closer to making that happen and unseating your own White Belt Fears. 

But I also know that there is a large group of you that have worked so hard to get to Square Two and you’re desperately afraid, like me, that if you take a week off for vacation, or go silent on social media, or pause for a moment just to BREATHE... that it all might come crashing down.

So I’m taking this break for me AND I’m taking this break for you.

To show you that these stories are just that -- stories.

We as creatives HAVE to find a way to deal with this false belief or we’ll run ourselves ragged.

So...here’s my plan.

I’ve decided to think of myself as a musician (mainly to further indulge my own fantasy of becoming Taylor Swift, OBVIOUSLY...)

Think for a moment about how musicians and recording artists view their work.

They disappear, often for months if not years, to craft and create an entire album. They immerse themselves in their process. They remove themselves from the burden of promotion and performance so they can simply MAKE. They evaporate from radio play and interviews and in many ways they disconnect from the general public.

BUT, when they emerge, they present the public with something they’ve painstakingly created, something they’re proud of as if to say “I went away to make this for you and now here I am again. I hope you like it.”

When Justin Timberlake goes virtually silent musically for 7 years between albums , do we forget how awesome he is? When Adele peaces out for four years to hang with her new baby and write gut-wrenchingly beautiful songs, and then comes back with a new album are we all like... YAWN, Adele, you’re old news.

HECK NO.

Because here’s the truth:

Good work is always good work.

A message that resonates is always a message that resonates, whether it’s delivered for 120 weeks straight or not.

Yes, consistency is key in building an audience from scratch, I still believe that. But if you’ve been delivering good work consistently, if you have a mission and a message that connects, taking a break won’t erase that.

The truth is, I’m not taking these five weeks off because I’m tapped out. Quite the opposite actually, I feel more inspired to write than ever.

But, the fact that I don’t feel I NEED this break is all the more reason to take it because I know that the next challenge I need to master in running an authentic business is the challenge of walking away.

I need to learn to be present in my own life even when it feels uncomfortable. 

I need to learn to be present in my own life even when it feels uncomfortable.

Because when we challenge ourselves to do the thing that feels uncomfortable, that usually means we’re growing.

So, that's my small challenge to you this week.

Ask yourself: what do you need to take a break from that you've been too scared to until now?

It might sound cliché, but I seriously am going to miss you guys over the next five weeks!

 
 

Using Prioritization to Make Values-Based Decisions

Using Prioritization to Make Values-Based Decisions

Prioritization has reduced overwhelm with my to-do list, helped me infuse more balance in my life by setting boundaries when it comes to commitments and obligations and it has helped me create a money mindset to get out of debt.

Using Self-Awareness To Adjust Your Aspirations

Using Self-Awareness To Adjust Your Aspirations

Examine WHY you want those things and what trade-offs might come along with that. Ask yourself what you can learn about yourself from the things and people you aspire, to not necessarily how you can attain them. The best life is not the one we have to chase down or attain; it’s the one we create for ourselves intentionally, day after day after day.

The Benefit of Going Deeper Not Wider In Your Business

One of the words I’ve been trying to live by lately is CURATE. 

After reading the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown (I highly recommend it), I wanted to frame the next chapter of my life and business with this notion of “thoughtful reduction” -- or the pursuit of less but better things. 

The first few years of Made Vibrant were an important period of exploration and discovery for me, expanding my projects to include offerings under all three pillars of the MV mission: 

  1. creative growth (ie. Better Lettering Course and my #AbstractAffirmationsDaily art prints];
  2. business growth (ie. Better Branding Course and Make Money Making];
  3. personal growth (ie. Connecting With Your Core and Color Your Soul).

These are all areas that I’m passionate about, and it felt amazing to see my business broaden throughout 2015 to serve all three pieces of my mission.

However, I’d be lying if I said that managing this many projects at once wasn’t a little bit taxing. By the end of the year I was starting to feel like I had planted all kinds of promising seeds without really taking the time or energy needed to help them grow to their potential.

While I still strongly stand behind the symbiotic, collaborative relationship between these three ingredients of creativity, business and personal growth (living my most vibrant life has certainly relied equally on all three), it became clear to me that serving all three properly would require a different approach.

In more metaphorical terms… I started to feel like it was time to take a break from planting seeds in order to properly cultivate my crops. To give each one the nourishment it deserved to really thrive.

Just as I was contemplating all of this, a few weeks ago I heard something that led me to think about this strategy in an even more meaningful way, which is really the lesson I want to share with you guys this week.

I was watching a live workshop with Marie Forleo where she discussed trimming back her business offerings to focus on her one signature program, B-school. In explaining this decision, Marie said something that really hit home with me. She said her gut was telling her to make an intentional choice to go deeper, not necessarily wider.

When I sat back and thought of my own business in these terms, I realized that my gut was telling me the same thing.

It’s no secret to most of you that ‘deeper’ is kind of my jam. As an INFJ, I love less but more meaningful friendships. I love digging into complex problems and peeling back a more profound understanding layer after layer. I love diving deeper and deeper into my own emotional and psychological worlds to get to know myself better.

But, despite knowing this about myself, something had been holding me back from incorporating this concept into my business. So I thought:

Why in the world do I struggle with wanting to dive deeper into my own business? Why do I feel resistance to doubling-down on my own programs like Marie mentioned?

That’s when it occurred to me that perhaps my business/emotional needs weren’t totally lining up with my creative needs.

From a creative perspective, I find that going WIDER not deeper is always my instinct. When that spark of inspiration hits, my creativity can’t help but want to follow it, and this often leads me in many different directions.

I’m aware this is not a particularly unique problem for creative people. So many of us find ourselves at some point or another with a wild case of Shiny Object Syndrome, bouncing from one project to the next because the novelty excites us.

For the past two years, this is the instinct I’ve been leaning into -- the allure of developing new projects, new services, new offerings in an effort to expand my business. And I think I know why.

For one thing, it feels natural. As humans we’re wired to want bigger and better and more, and so it’s instinctive for us to always ask ourselves What’s next?

Sometimes this also comes from a place of wanting to meet the expectations of those around us. I’m not just talking about our friends and family (feeling a need to have something to say when they ask “What’s new with the business?”) but also from the audience we’re building. I know I’ve thought on more than one occasion that I want to keep giving you guys new and exciting things to look forward to, and I’m sure this pressure to keep going wider is tied to that.

Lastly, and let’s just be honest here, new things are FUN! Everybody loves the beginning of a project when ideas are flying, possibilities are abounding, and you get to start molding that shapeless hunk of clay before you into something that resembles your vision. You know what’s NOT as fun? Following through. Pushing past challenges. Dusting off that project that has lost its shine and breathing new life into it again.

BUT, this is when I have to put my business hat back on.

Working on something that’s not necessarily as FUN might actually be what your business needs.

Working on something that’s not necessarily as FUN might actually be what your business needs.

For instance, I’ll let you in on a little secret here: my Better Branding Course was the project that brought in the most revenue for me in 2015 (48% of my revenue to be exact). It was also the program I spent the most time and effort developing, AND it still remains the project I’ve gotten the most positive feedback on in terms of the benefits my students have experienced.

AND YET... it’s the one program that has sat dormant, just begging for my attention for the past four months.

Why? Honestly just because my creativity got bored with it.

Now, I’m all for letting creativity steer the ship most of the time, but I’ve also been at this business thing long enough to know that our creativity only has the freedom and flexibility to do its thing if our businesses are profitable enough to allow us plenty of room to play

And our businesses will only remain profitable if we make smart decisions about where to invest our efforts.

Smart business decisions give our creativity the room it needs to play.

Once I realized that, I started fighting my urge to keep making NEW things, and instead I thought about how I could reinvest my time and energy into improving things that were already working. 

This means making decisions like: creating blog content and resources for new customers to find Better Branding Course and Better Lettering Course. Or teaming up with my husband Jason on BuyOurFuture, which gives you lifetime access to all our combined 35+ projects for one price.

So, as I cozy up to this new approach of going deeper, not necessarily wider…

Your challenge this week is to ask yourself: is it time to cast a deeper net with your business instead of a wider one?

If you’re still in the beginning phases of your business, you may very well want to stay in that exploration mode and cast a wide net. I’m all for that.

BUT, if you’re a year or two in and you’re starting to resist being pulled in too many directions, consider that it might be time to deepen your net for a while. To reinvest in what’s working in your business. To quit planting seeds for a time in order to see what you can really make grow.

Going deeper, not wider, allows you to uncover the true potential of your ideas.

Even if it means fighting your instinct to follow the shiny objects, consider the good you might be able to do (for your audience and your business) if you double-down on the projects that you’ve only yet to scratch the surface with.

Have an awesome week!

 
 
 
/color-your-soul
 

3 Ways To Become More Adaptable

I’m coming to you live from our new place in Oceanside!

If you’ve been keeping up with my Instagram, you know it’s been a wild week! First we hosted a film crew, Stillmotion, at our house in Poway for three days while they shot a short documentary film on Jason and then it was all hands on deck packing up our things on Thursday night and moving everything over to the new place on Friday.

I’ve never been so grateful to be a minimalist! With the help of our friends Omar and Nicole, the whole process went fairly smoothly (except for my stand-off with one unruly IKEA screw.)

Before we get into today’s email, here’s a group of snaps Jason and I took as we moved in.

 

There are still a few last touches to add (at the top of the list are wall art and a few house plants!) but overall it's feeling complete.

My favorite things about the place are, obviously, that view, all the natural light, and my dedicated art studio space on the first floor!

With this being our second big move in basically a year's time, there were some familiar feelings/thoughts that bubbled up as I settled in to our new environment this weekend:

This feels new. This feels different. Everything is unfamiliar. Where do I fit here?

Just like a musician trying to improvise with a band and pick up a new song, I've found that it takes a moment to find the rhythm of a place. To make sense of it all and slide yourself seamlessly into the mix.

But I love that process. I LIVE for that process -- the process of taking in a new environment or new circumstances and adapting to fit with it.

Which got me thinking about the importance of adaptability in life and in business.

When Jason and I met, one of the first things we connected on was our openness to change. Jason moved around a TON as a kid (living in seven different cities before college) and having to make new friends every year at a new school will definitely teach you a thing or two about being adaptable.

While I didn’t have to cope with geographical change (living in just one city), our family dynamics were always changing and evolving. My parents divorced when I was very young and remarried other people (twice in my dad’s case) so there were always new living arrangements, new step siblings to get to know and new bunk bed configurations to figure out .

We both agree that while this kind of childhood had some downsides at the time, now as adults we can appreciate all the change we encountered for the role it played in strengthening our adaptability muscles.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how integral this quality has been to creating the lives and businesses we desire and to being content in each new phase that emerges.

We're always experimenting, always changing, always ADAPTING.

But that doesn't mean it's easy. Just like I mentioned above, our lives take on a certain comfortable rhythm, which can be helpful in aiding us toward our goals. Change sometimes feels like it interrupts that rhythm. Whether it's something as big as moving across the coast, or whether it's something as small as our go-to grocery store closing down, when change hits, our beat gets off track for a second.

What I want to share with you today are three ways I've learned to become adaptable in my life, and how you can minimize that "off-beat" time period so that change doesn't throw you off your own rhythm.

3 ways to be more adaptable in your own life:


1. FOCUS ON THE GAIN, NOT THE LOSS

Learn to see change as an opportunity, not just a challenge. 

My friend Eric Proulx made an incredible documentary a few years ago called Lemonade about people in advertising who were laid off during the financial crisis in 2008. While it wasn’t easy for any of them, those that made it out of that big change happier were the ones that came to the conclusion that getting laid off was actually an opportunity to finally pursue what they were really passionate about. They focused on the freedom they gained, not the stability they lost.

This approach doesn't have to apply to something as life-altering as losing your job. For example, when we moved away from our house at Poway, I could have focused on all the things we'd be losing: two acres of open green spaces, the privacy of having so much land to ourselves, etc. But focusing on all our new place is "missing" would only stall me from fully embracing this new chapter. By putting all of the past behind me and focusing all the positives that this new environment will bring, I can minimize that stall factor.
 

2. USE THE ENERGY OF NEW-NESS TO BUILD MOMENTUM

You know that feeling we all get when January 1st rolls around every year? There’s an energy in the air that feels like pure possibility. Not only does the year feel new, but suddenly it feels as though we could be new too. The novelty that comes with the turning of a new year makes us feel like the past has been wiped clean. We're starting fresh. That’s the kind of energy I want you to think about when you encounter a big change.

Use the novelty of a new place or new routine or new job to give your own motivation a boost. Lean into the new-ness and let it catapult you head-first into whatever goal or future you want for yourself.
 

3. FIND YOUR CONSTANT

Bare with me for a second, but are there any Lost fans in the house? Remember when the show got all weird (okay, it was always weird) and doubled down on the whole time travel thing? Well an important part of the plot was this idea of a "constant" -- something that a character traveling through time cared deeply about that their mind could latch onto so it wouldn't unravel from the chaos of floating across space and time.

I think that very same logic applies to coping with big change. To prevent yourself from feeling completely lost in all the new, unfamiliar variables that change can bring, it's helpful to find a few constants that can make you feel comfortable and ease you through a big transition.

For me, that constant is my simple morning routine: wake up with natural light, drink my cup of coffee, take 20 or so minutes to read a book, eat breakfast with Jason, write down my focus for that day, and then launch into work. Starting my day off with this simple series of steps that bring me joy makes me feel at ease no matter where I am.

Whatever that constant is for you -- a routine, a way you like to make your bed, a person you call, you favorite mug -- bring that with you to your new place or circumstances and take comfort in that when everything starts to feel too new.

Remember, change does have to interrupt your progress; if you learn to adapt, it can FUEL your progress.

Remember, change does have to interrupt your progress; if you learn to adapt, it can FUEL your progress.

So, this week I want you to answer this question: how good are you at adapting to change?

If you find that the answer is "not very," then I challenge you to read through the three tactics above and intentionally use them as your secret weapons whenever the next big change in your life appears.

Change happens in life whether we choose it or not, so learning to make the most of it can be a huge advantage. 

I'm looking forward to the next week to use these three tools myself in settling into a new rhythm here. Hopefully I'll be sharing a more in-depth photo tour on the blog soon!

Wishing you all a happy and creative week!

 
 
 
 

Tapping Your Past To Find Clues To Your Future

Jason and I are officially leaving our year-long home here in Poway this week to head up the coast to our new condo in Oceanside. We get the keys on Wednesday and we’ll be all moved in by Friday. Eep! 

I’ll definitely miss a lot of things about our setup here but I’ve always been the type to be energized by a new adventure and a new environment to adapt to, so I’m beyond excited! The anticipation has been killing me!

This week though, as much as I’m excited for all that’s ahead of me, I actually want to focus a bit on the opposite. I want to talk a little about the past. Namely, YOUR past.

To kick things off, I’m going to ask you to step back in time a little (or a lot, depending on how old you are !) I want you to try and think back to when you were a kid. Try to put yourself back in those (tinier) shoes.

Now ask yourself: How did you spend the majority of your time? What were your hobbies? When you weren’t playing with your friends or doing your homework, what did you gravitate towards that made you lose track of time?

Last week I shared with you my DIY approach to picking a path in life. Some of you hopefully found that method helpful, but I know there were others of you that may have thought to yourself: But what if I don’t yet have a vision for my future? What if I don’t KNOW what I want my DIY path to be?

That’s who I want to talk to specifically today, to those of you who still feel lost when it comes to finding that meaningful, whole-hearted work we all want to be filling our days with.

And my advice begins with a story…

Two weeks ago when I was on my hands and knees on the floor of my art studio hand-painting 100 envelopes for the Art Shop, I had this weird flashback to when I was a kid.

It was 5th grade and I told my mom I wanted something special to give my “best friends” on our last day of school since some of them wouldn’t be attending the same middle school as me.

At my insistence, she brought me to Michael’s where I picked out tiny wooden “jewelry boxes” in the shape of treasure chests, as well as a different color of craft paint to match the personality of each of my six best friends. Then, with newspaper sprawled out on the floor of our concrete carport, I hand-painted each personalized box and wrote a different custom word on the top of each jewelry box in metallic paint pen.

Something about being on the floor, completely obvious to the time passing, joyfully creating something that I knew would be personal and meaningful to the recipient... it transported me straight back to my 5th grade self.

The thought of this memory with its highly specific combination of art, hand-lettering, and meaningful messaging almost gives me chills with how closely it resembles exactly what I now call my everyday work. And I was doing it naturally at 10 years old!

The more I thought about what I loved doing as a kid, the more of these memories started to bubble up. More personalized arts and crafts projects, more newspaper sprawled out, more hours of creating. I can almost feel the mix of cold, shaded concrete still underneath me and the warm Saturday afternoon air creeping in from the driveway. Creating was so clearly what I always wanted to do.

And yet it almost didn’t happen.

I almost went a completely different path in my life — listening to what teachers and other adults were telling me, that my high performance in school is what made me special. That I was no doubt going to be “successful.” That I would “make a great doctor or lawyer someday.” Even from that young age, the message was clear: art is just a hobby, not something to aspire to.

Thank goodness that inner kid inside me spoke up when I felt myself headed down a road that wasn’t resonating in my heart early on in my advertising career. Thank goodness she said, “Wait, who cares about being “successful!” Do what brings you joy!”

My point is this:

Our childhood selves in many ways represent our purest selves.

In my TEDx talk, I spoke about this theory I have in my head that I like to picture sometimes. That we all arrive in this world with our own unique “color” — a completely one-of-a-kind hue that encompasses the truest mix of our human potential. Our gifts, our talents, our personalities, our spirits.

As we grow older, the expectations of the world can often dim that technicolor potential with things like fear and stress and quest for recognition. But it’s our job to find our way back to that original state — our brightest, most vibrant state.

And I think one way to do that is to dig into who we were when we were younger.

As Danielle LaPorte once said:

“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?”

I know we didn’t all have happy childhoods, and I’m certainly not suggesting that we all need to revisit those years if they drudge up bad feelings.

BUT, I am suggesting that our early years can carry CLUES as to who and what we wanted to be before the expectations of the world came tumbling into the mix.

So my challenge to you this week is to answer those questions I started with:

How did you spend your time as a kid? What were your hobbies? When you weren’t playing with your friends or doing your homework, what did you gravitate towards that made you lose track of time? What did you want to be?

And more importantly, WHY did you want to be that?

I’m not necessarily recommending that if you wanted to be an astronaut that you should quit your job now and enroll in space camp (though if that really is you’re dream, I’m all for it!)

All I’m saying is that perhaps the memory of that childhood dream can remind you of your curiosity for the unknown or for understanding the universe or for connecting to something bigger than yourself. And, as my favorite Elizabeth Gilbert teaches us, you don’t have to follow your passion, you just have to follow your curiosity.

Sometimes, when you don’t know how to move forward, a moment spent looking backward can give you the clues you need to take the next step.

Wishing all of you a happy and productive week, and be on the lookout for Instagram photos of the new digs.

I’ve got my own dedicated studio in the new place whose floor is just begging to be used to paint envelopes!

 
 
 
 

How To Make Big Choices With Less Stress

Today I want to talk to you about choices.

Whether it’s in life or in business, we are constantly being bombarded by choices from every angle.

Choose where you want your next travel adventure to be.

Choose the best name for your brand.

Choose what website platform you want.

Choose what to have for lunch.

Choose. Choose. Choose.

Never has this been more evident than in the past few days as Jason and I have navigated the process of choosing a new place to live!

As some of you know, we moved out here to California from Florida last year and were lucky enough to find an ah-mazing house outside of San Diego to rent with our two friends, Clay and Julia. 

The year has been incredible, and I honestly think this house had a lot to do with it — the natural light pouring in from every window; a dedicated space just for my art; the beauty of two acres of nature surrounding us at all times.

But now it’s time to move on. Our lease is up next month (March 31) and so for the past few months we’ve been on the hunt for our next adventure, the next place to call home.

We’ve looked in several cities: San Diego, Encinitas, San Clemente, and San Luis Obispo. We’ve thought about a house or a condo or an apartment. We’ve endlessly debated whether it’s more important to have a view or have an updated kitchen or big windows with natural light or about a dozen other variables. We’ve scoured hundreds of listings which has led us to tour about 10 different places for rent.

This whole process became substantially accelerated on Friday when after one particular showing of a beachy, modern, loft-like condo in the town of Oceanside, CA, we finally felt like we had a viable option on our hands -- a place we could really see ourselves in.

But on Saturday we already had about five showings lined up in San Clemente, so we decided to go ahead and see those places to get a well-rounded view of what was available to us. As the weekend went on, it became clear that this might be the big moment when we had to choose where we’d spend the next year of our California adventure.

Now, before I get into how that story ends, I want you to think about the last time you had to make a big decision (or perhaps a whole slew of tinier decisions at once.) Did you find the process exhausting? Stressful? Scary?

My guess is YES to all of the above.

Why? Because we’re all terrified of being wrong.

Over the past few years, I’ve recognized one particular archetype over and over again when it comes to decision-making, one type of person that takes this fear of being wrong to the next level. I’ve seen it in my friends and family, and from time to time, I’ve even seen it in myself.

This archetype is a person that I like to call “the Optimizer.”

The Optimizer is someone who is always interested in arriving at the BEST possible decision, the optimal solution to any problem, the greatest reward for the least amount of waste possible.

The Optimizer’s greatest fear is missing out on an opportunity — whether that’s an opportunity to have a better experience, to save more money, to convert more sales, etc. The Optimizer doesn’t just have FOMO, they have FOMOO 🐮(Fear Of Missing Out on Opportunities).

Now, some of you may be thinking — well what’s wrong with being an Optimizer? What’s wrong with wanting to make the best possible decision? Isn’t that what we all want?

Well, the danger with being an Optimizer is this: more often than not, this type of maximum pay-off decision making results in either massive amounts of anxiety OR, what’s worse, complete paralysis which leads to choosing nothing at all.

By the way, as the girl who waited a YEAR to start my first personal blog because I couldn’t decide on the optimal name, I’m speaking with a little bit of experience in Optimizer Induced Paralysis (man I really wish that acronym worked out to be OINK instead of OIP to continue the theme of animal-related clever acronyms. 🐷)

As blogger James Clear writes, our first choice is hardly ever the optimal choice. The first person we date is rarely the one that we marry, just like the first job we have is rarely our life-long career. We need to recognize this, become okay with it, and realize that the important part is simply that we make a decision and we move forward.

So, all that said, here are my three simple steps for less-stress decision-making and avoiding Optimizer Induced Paralysis:
 

1. Recognize the trade-offs associated with optimizing.

The first step is to recognize when you’re overly concerned with picking the optimal option. Bring awareness to what you’re actually losing in the present by trying to optimize your future. This could be your sanity, your sleep, your presence with your family or friends, etc. More often than any of those things, what you’re actually losing is TIME. The more you put off a decision because you’re looking for an optimal solution, the more time goes by that you could be testing, learning and living. Looking back, I kick myself for waiting an entire year to start my blog. That could have been an entire year of writing and learning under my belt and it was wasted because of my decision paralysis.
 

2. Choose hard.

This advice comes courtesy of my new friend and art-affirmation-ally, Steph Halligan. (Steph creates a daily cartoon with a positive message at ArtToSelf.com and even has a book with all her amazing cartoons. Definitely check it out!) Steph said this to me during a call we had last week and I think it could be one of those little phrases that sticks with me forever. Once you do move forward and decide to choose, it’s not necessarily about making the right choice as much as it’s about choosing HARD. It’s about committing to that choice. Going all in. (I shared more on this little bit of wisdom in Saturday's piece here.)
 

3. Close the door on outcomes not chosen.

Remember that FOMOO I talked about? Well making peace with your decision means not second guessing yourself. Don’t keep the mental door open on those other choices because if you do, you’ll find yourself wondering “What if I had chosen that.” Not only will this cause you inner turmoil, but it will also subconsciously have you pulling back from the reality you did choose. In other words, once you order from the menu, keep your eyes on your own food. Don’t waste time wishing you had ordered what the person next to you did. Savor the deliciousness of the choice you made.

And finally, remember:

The win is not in making the optimal choice, it’s that we simply MAKE a choice (often & with confidence.).


My challenge to you this week is to take one choice in your life right now that you’ve been dragging your feet on and see if you can use the three steps above to get you to a decision you’re happy with.

To wrap our story up, Jason and I found ourselves momentarily conflicted between a few properties from our house hunt, but ultimately we decided to take Steph's advice and choose hard. We submitted an application and we haven't looked back since. Hopefully next week I'll be able to reveal which place we chose and I'll be able to tell you more about our the next chapter of our lives here.

Choices surround us day in and day out. Don't let the fear of choosing "wrong" keep you motionless. Keep choosing hard and keep moving forward my friends.

Ultimately, an optimal life is the one in which you're not constantly stressed out from the notion of choosing.

Until next time!

 
 
 
 

Are Your What Ifs Helping You Or Hurting You?

Good afternoon, friends!

I’m coming to you a little later today because Jason and I spent the morning driving around San Luis Obispo looking for houses to rent…

Wait, what?! I thought you loved San Diego, Caroline! Didn’t you guys JUST move?

Thank you, rhetorical email person, and you are correct. We do love San Diego and we did only move about 10 short months ago! BUT our one-year San Diego lease is ending in March and over the holidays, Jason and I found ourselves wondering what it would be like to move again to a completely new city. To experience the magic and adventure of moving to California all over again. And to challenge ourselves with new people, new places and a new environment.

That’s why we decided to take the current week-long trip to visit three areas up the California coast and see how we like them: San Clemente/Dana Point; Santa Barbara; and San Luis Obispo.

Each of these spots has its own charms and its own quirks, and it’s been a short-but-incredible trip for the simple fact that it has forced us to see the world through a lens of possibility.

Every Airbnb we’ve stayed in, every restaurant we’ve eaten at, every quaint downtown we’ve traversed, every stranger we’ve met, every coffee shop we’ve enjoyed…. we’ve had to ask: Could we see ourselves here? What would this look like for us?

What if we found a place at the foot of those mountains? What if we came to this coffee shop every Monday morning to work? What if I hosted art workshops at that cool studio space? What if we took Plaxico for his daily walk with this gorgeous view of the ocean?

What if.

I find myself saying this phrase over and over in my head. It’s so fun to see a blank canvas before us because it feels like the possibilities are endless.

But, believe me, I haven’t always been this comfortable with the notion of an uncertain future.

In fact, I used to be terrified by it.

We’re conditioned from the time we’re young to think sequentially. When we finish 8th grade, we know 9th grade’s ahead. When we finish college, we know we’re expected to get a job. When we get a job, we’re supposed to aim for the promotion.

There is comfort to be found in the predictability of this sequence.

So back in 2014, when I started Made Vibrant and suddenly there was no sequence, it honestly freaked me out. A whole different slew of What Ifs ran through my head…

What if I don’t make any money and the business fails?

What if I’m not cut out for this entrepreneur thing?

What if nobody gets what I’m trying to do and I feel completely embarrassed?

These other What Ifs were a manifestation of my fear of the unknown, and I would spend hours just diving deeper and deeper into them.

That was until I stopped worrying and I started doing. I walked into the unknown in spite of my fear and I found out if my fearful What Ifs were grounded in truth. (Spoiler alert: most of them were not.) The further I waded into uncertainty, the more I actually learned to enjoy it.

The thing is, our relationship to the unknown is all a matter of perspective.

We get to choose whether WHAT IF is a question of possibility or of fear.

We get to choose whether WHAT IF is a question of possibility or of fear.

There are constructive What Ifs and there are destructive What Ifs. One breeds possibility and one breeds worry. One chooses to err on the side of hope, one chooses to err on the side of disaster.

And my question to you this week is: Which kind of What Ifs do you entertain more?

The worrisome kind or the possibility kind?

I have absolutely NO idea where I will be living in two months time. I don’t know what my routine will look like or what my favorite hangout will be or how I’ll feel. But this no longer scares me; instead it excites me.

I know not all of us will choose to move to a new place each year. But my hope is that this letter will help you stay open to opportunities you might have otherwise been too afraid to attempt.

I can’t wait to take you guys along for the ride and share with you our experiences wherever we end up!

And I’ll end it this week with one of my favorite quotes from the young writer Erin Hanson:

“ ‘What if I fall?’ ‘Oh, but my darling what if you fly?’ “

Have a great week!

 
 
 
 

The Power of Sunk Cost Bias in Decision-Making

Happy Monday, friends!

Hope you’re all jazzed up for a new week to begin!

This week I want to kick things off with a quick story…

Two Sundays ago I sat staring at my laptop, eyes glazed over and on the verge of pulling my hair out. I was going on four solid hours of trying to fix a monumental issue between my website (on Squarespace) and my email list (on Mailchimp).

My website forms weren’t collecting properly (a fact I had just found out about a week prior), and after finally finding a workaround to fix that issue, like a hydra, three more had popped up.

I was deeply concentrating, trying to make sense of the complicated system I was patching together — this form to this Google Sheet to Zapier and back to Mailchimp — just desperately trying to manufacture an efficient system that would work properly AND make sure I was sending you guys the emails you wanted to get. Finally, amidst the intense focus, I had the good sense to take a step back and look at what I was doing.

I knew that a solution to my exact problem existed because it was a solution I’d known about for months. My friend Nathan Barry had been telling me about his software service ConvertKit for so long and how it’s built specifically to organize subscribers and send emails for bloggers.

So, the question is, if I knew a solution to my problem existed, why was I practically beating my head against a wall rather than simply signing up for ConvertKit?

Well, for one thing, I had been using Mailchimp since I started my business over two years ago and I’d invested an unspeakable number of hours learning how to use it effectively. I knew how to segment my list and customize my template and check out my stats like a pro. So every time I encountered a problem with Mailchimp and even considered switching, my brain would think of all the time and effort and energy I had already spent. Switching providers would feel like all that work was for nothing, a feeling I wasn’t prepared to confront.

On this particular Sunday though, finally I decided I’d had enough. I popped over to ConvertKit and signed up for an account, telling myself I would just give things a test run and poke around. Within the first few moments, I experienced complete relief from the problem I had just spent hours troubleshooting. The deeper I dove, the more I was kicking myself for not switching over sooner.

That’s when I realized I was the only one responsible for keeping myself in a frustrated and confused state, stubbornly refusing to jump ship on a system that clearly wasn’t working for me. And it was all because of a little thing called sunk cost bias.

Which brings me to what I want to talk to you about this week — how sunk costs can cloud our judgment and keep us fixated on things that simply aren’t working for us.

But first, what exactly is sunk cost bias?

Sunk cost bias is just a fancy psychology term to describe our tendency to keep going with something we’ve invested our time or money or energy in, even if that something is a losing proposition. It’s a way of justifying our efforts when we’ve taken on a cost that we can’t possibly get back (hence the term a sunk cost.)

Essentially, the more we invest in something — the deeper we see it through, the more money we throw at it, etc. — the harder it is for us to walk away.

Now let’s talk about how this can show up in our daily lives. Think about how many times in life we make decisions based on a sunk cost we’ve already put in to something:

A friendship turns toxic but you won’t distance yourself because you’ve “known each other forever.” It becomes clear that a relationship won’t end well, but you avoid breaking up because you don’t want to feel like you’ve wasted months or years of time on it. You keep throwing money toward a bad investment like a junky car that keeps breaking down on you.

Heck, I even know people that are lawyers and hate it but they refuse to quit because of how much money they’ve spent on law school! Can you imagine working at a career you loathe simply to justify an expense that is already long gone?

That’s exactly why acknowledging our sunk cost bias is extremely important.

Decision-making is one of the most essential tools to living our brightest, most vibrant lives. We need to be clear-minded when we’re evaluating which projects to take on, what activities to spend our time on, what relationships to invest in, etc. Part of that sound decision making means recognize our bias and then having the strength to overcome it and discard or disrupt a course of action when it’s no longer serving us.

It comes down to this:

Don’t let poor investments in the past sabotage the right decisions in the future.

My challenge to you this week is to identify three ways your sunk cost bias has played into your decision making recently.

Has it stopped you from quitting the job you don’t like? Or scrapping the website you hate but that you’ve paid someone good money to design? Or is it even smaller than that — Have you been using the same terrible vacuum for years because you invested in the expensive attachments?

And when you encounter a decision in the future, I challenge you to ask yourself: Would I still choose this route if I hadn’t invested any time or energy into it at all?

If not, that’s your cue that sunk cost bias is swaying your vote.

I’m still working on the kinks in my new ConvertKit system, but I’m so glad I finally made the switch! Hopefully it means less headaches for me and more quality email content for you!

Wishing you a motivated and happy week filled with decisions that are conducive to living as your best and brightest self!

 
 

3 Lessons I've Learned About Time

Happy Monday, dear friends!

I hope some of you are enjoying a bonus Sunday with the holiday!

Last week, as part of my daily drawing exercises on Instagram I drew this set of playful, colorful watches. As I drew them, I was suddenly reminded of a charming and poignant movie I saw months and months ago called About Time. Have any of you seen it?

The film was disguised as a romantic comedy (and was promoted as such), which is maybe why I never bothered to see it in the theater. (Something you should know about me: I think there’s nothing more luxuriously girly than watching a great rom-com when Jason is out of town in the comfort of my own bed with my favorite yoga pants on. It’s just delightful.)

After the movie ended, I remember just sitting there in bed, struck by all of the philosophical questions that were raised about this powerful force called time. Questions about how we choose to spend it, what we’d do if we could expand it and travel through it, and the beauty of the seemingly mundane moments in the practiced pace of our daily lives.

As these thoughts came back to the surface of my mind, around the same day I had a Skype call with a friend and fellow creative in which she was asking me about things I’d learned on this journey to owning a creative business. I was surprised to find that SO many of them boiled down to lessons on time:

  • Charging clients what you’re worth is about valuing your time.
  • Being more productive is about getting intentional about your time.
  • Completing “less, but better” projects is about recognizing the limitations of your time.
  • Prioritizing projects is about demonstrating your values through your time.

It’s about TIME.

Time is the most precious, non-renewable resource we have.

Time is the currency of our human lives, with the all-important caveat being: we do not get to replenish the piggy bank. However many days and hours and moments we have until we’re no longer here, there’s no getting more of that so we’d better treat our allotted moments for the precious things they are doing things that matter the most to us.

To further emphasize this fact, in today’s newsletter I thought I’d share just three of the many lessons I’ve learned over the past few years about time, and how each one has helped me live a brighter life and run a brighter business.

+ What you do with your time should be a direct reflection of your values.

People have said “you vote with your dollars” as a way of saying that we demonstrate what’s important to us by the things we spend money on (ie. you opt for the more expensive organic veggies because you care about eating food without pesticides.)

Well, in this case, I say “you vote with your minutes.” You show what’s important to you by the way you appropriate your time.

But, this doesn’t always feel like it’s the case, does it? We can say that family is important to us or that we value deep friendships, but if we choose to work the day away instead of making that phone call to Mom or finally mailing that birthday card, what it appears that we’re saying is: work is more important than those other values. (Hi, I’m especially guilty of this.)

Knowing that I vote with my minutes, I’ve learned that it’s important to take a step back, evaluate how I’m spending my time and to ask myself: Does my schedule accurately reflect my values?

If it doesn’t — if, say, working time is incredibly disproportionate to family or friends or relationship time — then that’s when it becomes clear to me that I need to start making the time to employ those values.

“Making time” usually refers to something we value — something we WANT to do — but something that doesn’t fit into the habitual schedule of our daily lives. It’s something that requires a conscious reallocation of our time to achieve.

This practice of evaluating my time and comparing it to my values has been essential in making sure I’m living authentically — in making sure that what I do aligns with who I am.

+ Time that is budgeted is spent more thoughtfully (and efficiently).

Now, let’s get more practical for a moment. We can have the best intentions about spending our time on what we value, but it always seems to get away from us, doesn’t it? How can we make sure that minutes and hours don’t just slip away from our days? The answer I’ve found is through budgeting.

Budgeting is an incredibly helpful tool to help us consciously spend our money, right? It creates a mental boundary that keeps us from mindlessly allocating too much money to something we don’t need. Well, why wouldn’t we want to do the same thing for a resource even more valuable than our money -- our time.

When I was starting my design business, I couldn’t figure out why it felt like I was working all the time yet never making enough money to sustain myself. That was until Jason did a simple exercise to show me just how much time was leaking out of my day. “How many hours a day realistically could you work on client projects?” he asked. My answer was five. “Now multiply that number times 20 week days in a month.” My answer was 100, roughly how many “work hours” I could charge for each month. “Finally, multiply that number by your hourly rate to get your potential client revenue for a month if you were fully booked and if you spent the same amount of time you quoted clients on their projects.” It was $7,500!

That was thousands of dollars more than I was making at the time and it was all because I wasn’t using my time thoughtfully or efficiently. I would quote a client a certain number of hours but without an intentional way to track my time, I was spending way too long on things and letting hours creep by without noticing.

Here’s the lesson there: Your brain needs those hard stops, those boundaries, in order to operate at its most efficient capacity. Once I started blocking out my time (two hours for this task, 45 minutes for that), my project estimates started getting more and more accurate and I was able to fit in more clients each month.

I truly believe that budgeting my time saved my business. It was that point when things turned around and I was able to get my head above water financially.

Whether it’s your business or your life, experiment with the idea of blocking out tasks on your calendar. I know it might seem overly regimented, but it can be highly effective in actually giving you more freedom within each task because you’ll be at ease with the control you have over how you spend your days.

+ Down time is not wasted time.

I used to feel guilty for spending time relaxing. A moment away from my business or work felt like a missed opportunity to accomplish my goals sooner and faster. But, I’ve now experienced enough phases of burnout to know that down time is absolutely necessary. Rest is an essential part of my creative process. (And, yes, sometimes rest looks like an entire Saturday under the covers watching Netflix.)

Here’s what I believe:

If it’s spent with intention, it’s not wasted time.

If I know that I’m having a lazy day because I need to re-charge my batteries, then I have no reason to feel guilty. If I know I’m taking two hours away from my computer to go on a hike with Jason because being in nature grounds me and inspires me, then that’s time well spent.

It’s the mindless, intention-less time that’s the wasteful time. The involuntary scrolling of social media feeds. The 8 minutes spent reading a celebrity news article you got click-baited into because you’re resisting whatever creative work you’re afraid to dive into. Those are the moments that I've trained myself to become aware of. Those zombie-alert moments when my conscious mind kicks up its feet and the habitual mind takes over.

If we want any hope of making that time I mentioned earlier, we have to recognize when we're spending down time thoughtfully and when we're spending it mindlessly. Cutting out social media and senseless blog scrolling has been one of the best decisions I've made for my productivity (and my self-confidence for that matter.)

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I'm sure I could go on and on because I truly do feel that this shift in being more intentional with my time has created so many positive benefits in my life over the years. I hope that you'll take a few of your precious moments today to think about your own schedule and how small changes in how you view your time could add up to a larger impact.

Because I value this limited resource we all have so much, I can't tell you what it means to me that you all continue to spend yours reading my words each Monday. I choose to spend my allotted hours writing to all of you because I truly value this dialogue we continue to have. I love hearing from you all, and I love knowing that these weekly letters help you stay mindful and ever-evolving toward your best and brightest self.

Thank you so much for that! Now go have a great week!