It's April 25, 2014

Today we create.

And it's going to be awesome.

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Q&A: 10 Actions For Creative Unblocking

Dear Emily, I'm trying to figure out the best way to get my message out. I feel like it's in there, but is blocked by a lot of negative thoughts and fear! How do I dump my fear in order to express myself?

Creative Unblocking

Does this sound like you? Today’s question comes from Molly, who is struggling with creative block. In Molly’s case, her core message for her business is eluding her. But the actual message is secondary to the real problem: stagnation caused by fear. And if you’re like me, Molly’s struggle resonates deeply. I’m talking about that nasty little thing called creative block, caused by limiting beliefs.

Creative block can strike at any time and for any type of creative endeavor. Business-owners are particularly vulnerable since entrepreneurship is one of the most creative endeavors out there. Add to that, many of us are new business-owners, which means we’re voluntarily taking on a massive amount of unknown, untested responsibility. In other words: the perfect recipe for our inner critic to rear it’s ugly head and tell us all the ways we’re unfit for the job.

First thing first: take a deep breath and give yourself a break. Being your own boss isn’t easy – it’s worth it. Secondly: you’re entirely capable of doing this. But first, you need to get out of your own way.

Here, then, are my top 10 Actions To Unblock Yourself from Limiting Beliefs.

1. Write Morning Pages

If you’ve already read my 6-Step Clarity Guide, you’re familiar with my affinity toward Morning Pages. This concept comes straight from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and I list it here again because there is just no alternative to it’s effectiveness.

There’s nothing more distracting than a head cluttered with worries, fear, urgent to-do’s and negative self-talk. Morning Pages is a 30-minute, long-form (by hand, not screen), stream-of-conscious free-write. It’s called Morning Pages because (technically) you’re supposed to do it first thing in the morning, before doing anything else. I encourage you to do it first thing in the morning – and any time you’re feeling stuck, fuzzy, anxious or fearful. Get it out and then forget about it. It’s wonderfully freeing and I often find I have an ‘epiphany’ of some sort whenever I do it. It’s ok if you’re writing so fast that your handwriting is illegible. It’s not meant to be read again. Make it a priority.

2. Eliminate Nay-Sayers and Crazy-makers

Nay-sayers are people who never have a positive word to say about anything; people who reinforce negative beliefs, devalue, belittle and disrespect. They are people who allow their own inner critic to take hold and command the thoughts in their own head, thus forcing them to project their negativity on people close to them.

Crazy-makers (another nod to Cameron) may be charming and charismatic on the surface, but they wreck havoc on those around them. They create drama, hate order, disregard others time and effort – and, most importantly – are often blocked creatives themselves. They discount your reality because they are caught up in their own illusions.

Both Nay-Sayers and Crazy-makers are toxic. They’re a waste of your space. Your job right now is to create space for yourself – space to fall down without someone stepping all over you before you can get back up. Identifying these people (or person) in your life is a huge step toward unblocking… but it can be one of the scariest to implement. After all, your Nay-Sayer or Crazy-maker could be someone very close to you: a spouse, a best friend, a boss.

Once you identify the individual/s, begin taking steps to regain control of the relationship and your sense of self. Set boundaries. Take a physical vacation from them. Find refuge with a supportive friend. And during this time, evaluate whether it’s worth having this person in your life going forward.

3. Have Regular Heart-To-Hearts With Your BFF

You know that one person in your life that you’re comfortable – excited even – to pour your heart out to? You know how buzzed you feel after having an invigorating conversation with her? Call that person and make a date. Right now. This person is the opposite of your Nay-Sayer or Crazy-maker. She’s your Truth-teller, your Spirit-Igniter, your Positive Motivator – and you need her right now. She will listen when you need her to listen. She’ll give advice when you need advice. Most importantly, you can be uninhibited and vulnerable around her – especially when you’re finding it difficult to be uninhibited and vulnerable with yourself.

Think of this Action as your Accountability Check-in. Find that person who can be there for you – and be there for that person in the same way. Chances are, your BFF could use a non-judgemental Truth-Teller and Spirit-Igniter as well. Be accountable to one another. Be in the presence of someone who unabashedly accepts you for who you are. I bet you’ll find yourself pouring your dreams and ambitions out to her. You might even uncover that mysterious message you’ve been searching for.

4. Write a Gratitude List

This is probably the easiest and most immediately rewarding ways to move toward unblock. Gratitude lists remind us how wealthy we truly are – and also of the resources we already have at our fingertips that will help us toward our goal. The best part is, you can write a gratitude list anytime and as often as you want. In fact, I recommend making this practice a daily one. If you’re writing Morning pages regularly, perhaps you end the day with a Gratitude list. I bet you’ll sleep a lot better…

5. Move Your Body

This is it folks. A million people have said it before me, and it bears repeating: move your body. It works. Why? For a few reasons. Our body was made to move. It is natural and life-affirming to move our body. It declares that we are alive and healthy and it is an active state of being. Most importantly: it moves oxygen through our body. And guess what? The brain loves oxygen. The more it gets, the clearer it gets.

There’s just one tiny caveat: for creative unblocking, skip the monotonous trudge on the treadmill at the gym. Instead, swap it for a run/hike on a forest trail. The goal is to move your body in an environment that allows you to enter a state of flow. In other words, do something you enjoy and are even good at. Maybe it’s a solo dance party in your living room. Maybe it’s releasing some aggression on the tennis court, or perhaps it’s breathing through your stress on the yoga mat. Whatever it is, do it because it makes you feel good.

6. Write a Love List or Love Letter to Yourself

Here’s a novel idea: every time you have a negative thought about yourself and your abilities, you must immediately follow it up with something you love about yourself – or even better, an entire list! Make it a priority. Over time, I bet you’ll notice that you naturally move toward that love list, rather than the negative self-talk.

Why does this work? Because it’s a conscious effort to change our beliefs. A belief is simply a pattern or habit of thought. The thoughts we have about ourselves become our beliefs, which is why when we’re filled with negative self-talk, that negativity becomes our reality. When we begin to make space for loving Abundant Beliefs, we adopt a new reality – one that is primed and ready for creative abundance as well.

7. Find Yourself In Nature

Why does a walk in the woods rejuvenate, yet calm at the same time? For one reason: we come from nature. We’re part of it. Surrounding ourselves in that which we have sprung is confirmation that we are alive.

Nature doesn’t judge. Finding yourself in it’s abundance is a gentle reminder to stop judging yourself. Nature doesn’t lie. Reconnecting with it is an affirmation that many of the beliefs in your head are simply illusions. Nature just is. It’s not right or wrong. It is perfectly content on being. In fact, that’s what it does best. Reconnect with that from which you’ve sprung, and borrow it’s energy.

8. Make Art With The Intention Of Throwing It Away

Often, when we set out to create something, we have such great expectations for what it should be, that we miss out on the joy and journey of the process. This expectation can rob us of our sense of wonder and bog us down with what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

Creating forces you to be in the moment and allows you to be lost at the same time. Tweet It.

When you take away the burden of an end product, you allow yourself to focus on the process and freedom from right and wrong. Failure becomes obsolete; creation becomes a form of meditation.

Splatter paint on a canvas (and yourself), scribble crayons with your 2 year old, stack stones or sticks or leaves and then let the elements take them away. The purpose of this action is to create for the sake of creating and regain a sense of wonder and acceptance.

9. Write a Letter Forgiving Yourself or Someone Else

One of the most insidious forms of limiting beliefs is the inability to forgive. The burden you bear for past wrongs – either done to you, done to yourself, or done to others – can wear you down beyond recognition. It’s time to let them go and stop defining yourself by old injustices. It’s not who you are and it takes up too much space in your life.

It’s ok to never send the letter to the person to whom it’s written. In some cases, that person may not even be alive. The act of forgiveness is for you, not them. It’s ok to get angry in the letter, if getting angry gets you to a place of forgiveness. Often, it does.

If you’re forgiving yourself for past choices that you view as mistakes, take this opportunity to consider ways that your life is better for that mistake. A mistake is only a mistake if we fail to learn something from it. Forgive yourself for the momentary lapse in judgement and then commend yourself for soldiering on since then.

10. Swap ‘If-Only’ For ‘What-If’

The If-Only mentality is a sneaky little limiting belief that convinces us we aren’t ready to start – that we don’t have the resources, worth or skills to act upon something. Another version of this is ‘My Life Will Be Better When…’ mentality. In other words, you believe that what you have now is never enough. And it’s simply not true. It’s an excuse.

Instead, write a ‘What-if’ List. This is a list of endless possibilities. Then, consider all the things at your fingertips right now that can get you one step closer to any one of those possibilities. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things we need to do to accomplish our goal, but success doesn’t happen all at once. It happens step by step.

So, write that email to someone you admire and ask if they’ll mentor you. Reach out to that publication and ask if you can write a guest article. Go to that yoga studio down the road and ask if they’ll display your artwork. Begin with what you have. It’s much more valuable than you think.

A Parting Note
Some may be wondering where Meditation is on this list. I purposefully left it out because I believe that many of the actions on this list are inherent forms of meditation. The act of meditating is wonderful for curing creative block – and if you’re well suited for it, I encourage you to make it a daily practice. For those who aren’t, I hope you’re able to find the same benefits that meditation offers in some of the actions above.

Your Turn
What are some other ways you unblock yourself? Tell us in the comments!

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To My Husband, On His First Birthday As a Father

My husband and I usually don’t fuss over one another on birthdays. But this year is different: it's his first birthday as a father. I want to make a fuss.

Sean and Ella

First-time parenthood is a rush — a flood of emotions, mistakes, tears and laughter. Too often, we focus on the needs of mama and baby and forget that new dads need love and support too. For many, they are the glue bonding new families together, carrying out silent acts of tenderness between the seams. I couldn’t have made it through the past year without my husband – and I can’t imagine going forward without him.

Dear Sean,

Happy Birthday. Last year at this time, when I wasn’t glued to the sofa, my head was in the toilet. The only food I could stomach were bananas and bagels, and I couldn’t stand the smell of you. Yet, I was giddy with excitement for what was to come.

Reflecting on the past year feels like reflecting on the history of mankind itself — and in many ways, for our little family, it was. This past year was monumental. Today, as I write this, we’re all three hunkered down in our little apartment during an early March snowstorm, and there’s no place I’d rather be. Today, I want to thank you.

When I was pregnant…

Thank you for not taking it personally when I told you to get away from me because I couldn’t stand your smell.

Thank you for not taking it personally when I told you to not eat in front of me, because I couldn’t stand your chewing.

Thank you for not taking it personally when I told you to just get away from me.

Thank you for rubbing my back ‘with the touch of fairy wings’ every night.

Thank you for knowing what ‘with the touch of fairy wings’ should feel like, without asking me to elaborate.

Thank you for letting me leave for weeks at a time, when I just needed to be with my mom.

Thank you for never questioning our ability to be parents, despite my near-weekly meltdowns over the subject.

Thank you for never questioning my obsessive need to run to Target every day for a month before Ella was born.

Thank you for never asking how much I spent.

Thank you for riding your bike 7 miles to and from work in 100 degree temperatures, so that I could have the car, thus accepting the sweaty guy status at your new office.

Thank you for making me feel more beautiful, as each size of grannie panties increased around my growing belly, butt and thighs.

Thank you for wrapping your arms around me when I just needed to cry.

On the night Ella was born….

Thank you for simply following orders to frantically clean the apartment between my contractions.

Thank you for slow dancing with me during my contractions.

Thank you for not making fun of me when, upon seeing a fox outside our window, I believed it some kind of spiritual sign and decided to give our first-born the middle name of ‘Fox’.

Thank you for letting me realize, on my own, how bad of an that idea was, before submitting the birth certificate.

Thank you for sprinting back to the delivery room, abandoning the doula’s suggestion to go find me some broth (broth!?), after I was already 9 centimeters dilated and on the verge of needing to push.

Thank you for not missing the birth of our daughter for want of broth.

Thank you for not passing out in the delivery room, like you’re known to do when giving blood.

Thank you for standing by me, holding my hand and welcoming our daughter to the world with me.

Thank you for giving our daughter the longest eye lashes any human has ever had.

For the past 5 months…

Thank you pretending not to notice my unibrow.

Thank you for pretending not to notice my 5-day old leg stubble.

Thank you for giving me an ‘atta girl’ when I’m too tired to fold my laundry at the end of the day and throw it on the floor instead.

Thank you for never batting an eye when I’ve left you with a two-day-old pile of Ella’s poo-encrusted cloth diapers.

Thank you for Daddy, Mommy and Ella dance parties.

Thank you for scheduling Family Fun Days.

Thank you for repeatedly unclogging the shower drain of two-foot-long, rat-sized clumps of my hair, and laughing about it.

Thank you for going to the grocery store after work every evening, because you know how much going to the grocery store makes my skin crawl.

Thank you for cooking, even on nights you go to the grocery store.

Thank you for not rushing me back to work and Ella into daycare.

Thank you for getting up with Ella at 5am every morning, so that I can sleep in.

Thank you for making Ella and me feel like the most important people on the planet.

In general…

Thank you for always coming home after work with a smile on your face.

Thank you for putting a smile on Ella’s face every time she sees you.

Thank you for encouraging me to get out of the house, even on days I don’t feel like it.

Thank you never calling me out for lazy toothpaste-squeezing etiquette.

Thank you for letting me pick and prod at you like a primate grooming her mate.

Thank you for making me laugh uncontrollably.

Thank you for supporting every half-wit idea I have for making a living… and never questioning it if I don’t follow through.

Thank you for supporting every half-wit idea I have for making a living… and being my biggest champion when I actually do follow through.

Thank you for encouraging me to make art – even if I end up throwing it away – simply because you know it makes me happy.

Thank you for working your butt off for the past four years to secure a career that would allow you work anywhere.

Thank you for assuring me that, yes, even people on tropical islands need their taxes done, when I ask if that ‘anywhere’ can be a tropical island.

Thank you for making communication the cornerstone of our marriage.

Thank you for always seeing the best in people.

Thank you for being an optimist.

Thank you for being a phenomenal father.

Thank you for being a phenomenal husband.

Thank you for being there.

Thank you for making every new phase of our lives together the happiest one yet.

Happy Birthday. I love you.

{ 7 comments }

Q&A: How To Boost Traffic to Your Site or Blog

The short answer is: there is no short answer. Nor is there any trick or secret. Building an audience takes work and perseverance. But, it’s completely doable. Here are my absolute top 6 tips for attracting - and keeping - an audience.

How to get blog traffic
Before I begin, I’d like to give credit where credit is due: the following recommendations are a curated list of strategies first proposed by Marie Forleo in B-School and Derek Halpern in his fantastic program, Blog That Converts. These are tips that I’ve found most effective for myself and my clients. It’s not exhaustive by any means. Rather, I hope it will serve as a starting point for helping to build your audience.

(p.s. Just a head’s up that I’m an affiliate for Marie’s B-School. I’m not sure that Derek has an affiliate program for Blog that Converts, but I would totally be on board if he did — it’s excellent).

1. Capture Emails to Build Your List

List-building is the #1 rule to comes to running a successful blog or site. You build your list by placing what’s called an ‘Opt-In’ Form on your site, asking visitors to provide their email address in exchange for something. That something could be as simple as weekly blog updates straight to their inbox, or you could offer a free gift as an extra perk (and motivator) to signup. Whatever you offer, it’s critical that it create value. And, just because you’re offering it for free, doesn’t mean it can be shoddy. It should represent your best work.

How do you get an Opt-In form on your site? First you need to sign up for an Email Marketing Account. Personally, I use and love MailChimp. Their user interface is clean and simple to use, and they provide ready-to-embed opt-in forms that you can easily drop into your site.

Once you have the form in place, you’ll want to make sure you have things like confirmation and welcome emails in place, so you can make your new subscriber feel welcome and remind them how much they mean to you.

And, don’t get discouraged – list-building can be a slow process. Stick with it. Even if you have just a handful of subscribers for awhile, they are your biggest fans and are hungry for what you have to say. No one but you knows how large or small your list is — and it shouldn’t matter. What matters is that you provide your members with high-quality content that will improve their lives.

2. Write Consistently and Regularly

Now that you have subscribers, they will expect and want to hear from you. If you engage your fans with regular, high-quality content, they are more likely to share that content with others and keep the conversation going.

Consistency is key. Don’t let too much time lapse between email blasts, but be careful not to bombard your subscribers with so many emails that it becomes an annoyance. To ensure consistency, I recommend creating an Editorial Calendar for up to 6-months in advance. Whether you’re writing daily, weekly, or monthly, the idea is to plan out your topics ahead of time, so that you aren’t scrambling around for a good idea the night before content is due.

Google Calendars is a great tool for keeping an Editorial Calendar. And, if you use WordPress, you can create Saved Drafts in your Posts section and even schedule their publish date for a specific time in the future (if you use that WP feature, just make sure the content is ready to be published when the time comes!).

I like sending out a newsletter to my list once-a-week. If I feel inspired to write more than one blog post in a given week, I still only email my list once, but I make sure to link to all the content I’ve created that week, so no one misses out on anything.

Another perk to writing regularly: it will inject your site with organic SEO-building keywords, which can only mean good things for your Google rankings. This is a topic in and of itself, so I won’t get into SEO now, but rest assured that if you make writing consistently a priority, good things will happen.

3. Write Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is content that doesn’t lose relevance. It holds as much value two years from now, as it did the first day you published it. This allows you to focus on quality over quantity.

Evergreening your site or blog will allow you re-promote top-performing content at different times. Maintaining a successful blog does not mean creating content to exhaustion. A better strategy is learning how to promote your most valuable stuff over and over again, to attract new folks who are just finding you for the first time.

So, when creating your Editorial Calendar, ask yourself: is this topic time-sensitive, or will it stand the test of time?

4. Contribute to Other Blogs and Sites

When you’re found your groove, contributing to other sites and blogs is a huge step in gaining more traffic. The key is to approach other blogs that attract your ideal audience. This may take some time, as you may need to go out and find where your audience is conversing. But, I have a hunch that you may already be in those spaces.

If you feel uneasy about approaching the blog’s owner about contributing, make a presence as a valuable commenter first. When you’ve established your value as part of the engaged audience, feel confident in approaching the owner about contributing more.

When you’re ready to do this, I recommend having content prepared and ready. Perhaps something that you’ve written specifically for that space and catering uniquely to it’s audience. Most importantly, add value.

The point of all this, of course, is to be seen – to get your content in front of audiences larger than yours, so you can expand your reach. Keep in mind that the goal is not to steal fans from one site and bring them to yours — the goal is to align.

One more note on this: don’t be afraid to reach high when guest contributing. It’s good to have a wishlist of places you’d like your writing to ultimately appear, But, when just starting out, also be open to approaching site owners who are in the process of audience-building themselves. Those folks will probably be very eager to collaborate, as they can also benefit greatly from aligning audiences.

5. Use Your Friends

This may be a no-brainer, but do not limit sharing your work with just your email list (unless you’ve promised exclusive content). After you’ve written that brilliant article, blast it out to your Facebook friends and Twitter followers. If you believe in what you’re sharing, your friends will be your biggest champions.

6. Provide a Call-To-Action

This is the last tip, but a super important one. At the end of any article or blog post, you must, must, must have a call-to-action. A CTA is direct invitation for your reader to do something. It could be that you want them to leave a comment to keep the conversation going. Or perhaps you’d like them to share the article on Facebook or Twitter. Or maybe, the CTA is an opt-in form, asking new readers to subscribe to free updates.

Chances are, if you provided highly valuable information for free, your readers are going to want to thank you. Make it easy for them, and tell them exactly how you would like them to show their gratitude.

So there they are – my top 6 recommendations for building traffic to your site or blog. I can’t stress enough that doing this will take time and energy, and it won’t happen overnight. But, if you keep at it and implement every item on this list, I guarantee you’ll be rewarded.

Do you think these strategies are worth implementing? Do any of the tips feel daunting or unclear? Tell me in the comments!

To any new visitors out there, if you’ve found this post helpful and would like to submit your own question to my Q&A, sign up below for my list and you’ll have your very own chance to pick my brain. (You’ll also get my free guide Free Clarity Guide with signup).

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What I Gave Up For Motherhood

I spent most of my adult life believing parenthood would be a death sentence for my dreams. Five months into motherhood, I never could have imagined all the things I would actually give up.

1901965_10101367917988196_1571555503_nRecently, my husband and I were visiting with a few friends who had come to meet our daughter, then two months old. After sharing a few requisite stories about getting intimate with our daughter’s poop, the conversation inevitably turned to a more sobering discussion on parenthood.

One of them half-jokingly refer to having children as giving up. A thoughtless thing to say in front of new parents? Maybe. But I wasn’t offended. I understood exactly how he felt.

For much of my adulthood, fear permeated my thoughts around motherhood. As a self-proclaimed creative, I worried that I wouldn’t have achieved everything I had dreamed for myself before becoming a mother. I knew (in my heart, if not my mind) that I wanted children. But this fear surrounding my own freedom overwhelmed me – and persisted well into my pregnancy.

After becoming a mother, many of the things I had been told would happen, have, invariably, happened: my life has been turned upside down. I’ve given up countless personal freedoms. I’ve lost sleep. I’ve spent more money on one tiny person than I ever have on myself.

I’ve given up a world in which I am the center. Lazy days don’t exist anymore (or at least, not in the way I once knew them). Dropping everything and just going doesn’t happen anymore. And it’s true what they say: there is no right time to have a child. Even when it’s planned, doubts persist: do we make enough money? Will I know how to be a mother? Are we ready for this?

Parenthood is not easy. And yes, you give things up you wish you didn’t have to. But for me, that was only half the story.

Before I go further, however, I should give a disclaimer. This article is not meant to convince people who are happy not having children to suddenly question their life plan. For those people, having a child probably isn’t going to make them happier. I’m well aware of the current debate being waged around this topic. In my opinion, it’s a pointless argument. If you know you want children, then having them will probably make you happier. If you know you don’t, then not having them will probably make you happier. It’s an intensely personal choice. I don’t prescribe to the notion that we should all have children and live happier ever after.

Rather, this article is for that subset of people – women in particular – who look toward motherhood longingly, but are fearful of what they’ll have to give up to do so. And let me be clear: you’ll have to give up a lot. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For me, giving certain things up for motherhood meant finally accepting freedoms into my life that I hadn’t expected. And I realize that my experience won’t be the same as anyone else’s. My goal is simply to tell my story, in hope that it may help others release their fears. Here, then, is my experience:

I gave up questioning my value to the world.
This is not to say that I didn’t value myself before having my daughter. It’s to say I now value myself in a new way – one that is utterly intrinsic. I stopped feeling like I needed to prove something. In an instant, everything I had been striving for was validated. For my fellow empowered females out there, I hesitate even writing this (let alone, listing it first), for fear that it sounds like I’m suggesting that a woman’s only purpose is to have children. No.

Here’s my point: I realize now that everything I’ve been working for in my adult life – independence, freedom, self-sufficiency, self-worth – was a form of preparation. I had been practicing, so that I could teach her these same things and could pass on to the next generation this radical idea of the unmitigated power of a woman. The idea that yes, as a female, my daughter can do whatever she wants and that her value is inherent. And that, as a mother, I will lead by example. My value as a woman has existed since the day I was born, and for the past 32 years, the world has done it’s best to try to rob me of it. Now, as far as I’m concerned, the world can stop trying, because it doesn’t have a chance.

I gave up feeling insecure about my body.
As someone who spent almost 10 years of her life in the throws of a serious eating disorder, this is another one I write with both relief and trepidation. But I remind myself that it’s just one way the world has tried to steal my self-worth — along with the billions of other women who are told daily that the path to success and happiness is through a number on the scale, or a reflection in a mirror.

So who would have thought that having a child would lead to feeling the strongest, sexiest, most beautiful and most productive that I ever felt in my life? Because I do. I love my fleshy curves. I’ve earned every one of them. The extra 15 pounds I’m carrying around is a plush layer of confidence. I eat to nourish myself and to produce nourishment for my child. It’s a revolutionary feeling – but it shouldn’t be. I’m elated that I finally feel pleasure living in my own skin, but I’m sad that it’s taken 32 years to feel it.

I gave up drama.
Friends not being able to get their you-know-what together; colleagues bringing me down with bad habits; overly needy clients. The Real Housewives (yeah, I know). Drama, in it’s many forms, has no place in my life anymore. More important (and enjoyable) things occupy my time these days.

I gave up self-destructive behaviors.
In your thirties, self-preservation becomes paramount. For me, the visible signs of aging began. When I got pregnant, I had to take a deeper look into my habits and ask, ‘what can I do better?’. I was bringing a life to the world and I needed to take care of myself, so I could take care of her. It’s not to say that things like eating better and exercising got easier – they haven’t. And I’m far from perfect. But, what goes into me, goes into her. And that is a very persuasive motivator.

I gave up self-destructive thoughts.
Another work in progress, but like behaviors, the thoughts we have about ourselves do not begin and end with oneself. The thoughts that pass through me, pass through her too – and in some cases, they stick there. I’d like for positive ones to mark their territory in that spongy little brain of hers – and with the tightest grip they’ve got.

I gave up urgent for important.
That hundred item to-do list that just had to get done? In the trash. Suddenly, I adopted a ‘slow-living’ lifestyle. One catering to the natural cycle of things, rather than the rat’s nest of ‘gotta-dos’ in my head. There’s nothing like having an infant that forces you to live moment-by-moment. Want to know a phenomenal form of meditation? Lie down beside your five month old and just watch her play and coo, happily comforted by your presence, and perfectly content in that single moment. Soak it in. Submerge yourself in it’s purity. For me, the world begins and ends in that moment.

I gave up the need for control.
If there’s anything having a baby teaches you, it’s that you aren’t in control. And for a self-proclaimed control freak, this was actually the break I needed. I’ve always struggled to delegate. In business and in life, I used to try to do it all myself and the only thing that’s ever given me is bitterness and burn out. Becoming a mother has taught me how to ask for help. I can’t do it all and, finally, that’s ok.

I gave up doing stuff I didn’t really want to do in the first place.
Having a baby gives you a great excuse to bow out of things you feel peer pressured into doing. I waffled on this one, in an attempt not to offend anyone in my life, but my friends know I love each of them and support their dreams. That said… if I don’t really feel like going to my friend’s up-and-coming band’s show tonight? No problem. Can’t make that destination wedding in Tahiti this month…oops. The truth is, I do not feel badly about using my child as an excuse to stay home and cuddle with her over going to your poetry reading. To my friends and loved ones: I miss you dearly, and I adore and treasure each of you. But, at least for awhile, time with my daughter will take precedence over time with you.

So…what does all of this giving up mean?

It means I’ve created a lot of space in my life. Enough space for catering to a new little person and for achieving my dreams. Yes, that’s right: achieving my dreams.

Since having a child, I have gained focus for the work I truly want and love to do. I don’t have time to fuss with the stuff that isn’t pushing my ultimate vision forward. That little smile has ignited in me a purpose and drive I never would have experienced had she not existed. I want to be an example to her. I want her to be proud of me and to learn to be proud of herself.

I’ve gained creative inspiration. I see the world countless new ways every day, right alongside her. I wonder, like a child, with my child.

I’ve gained a very deep understanding of my own parents love. I thank them everyday for everything they have given me.

I’ve gained a new appreciation and insight into what my body was made for and is capable of. It’s astounding.

I’ve gained copious amounts of laughter and delight. Try not being excited about every squeal and giggle emanating from a tiny little body. It’s intoxicating.

I’m attracted to my husband in ways I never expected. Seeing him cuddle with our daughter is an unbelievable turn on.

I’ve gained perspective. I have a much greater tolerance for other parents and families. I feel deep empathy for those who want children, but can’t have them. I’ve been humbled and grounded by motherhood.

And finally, I’ve gained a indescribable amount of love. The kind that squeezes your heart until you’re breathless. The kind that pushes your stomach into your throat and the kind that lies down dead, just to give someone else a chance to live. And if that kind of love doesn’t inspire you to go after what you want in life, I’m not sure what would.

Even if motherhood had meant giving up a dream or two, not doing so would have left me blind to an infinite number of new possibilities. Dreams that never would have had a chance to be realized. The day I became a mother is the day I realized that these dreams of mine – the ones I was so afraid of giving up (but not really going after like I should have been) – are now a must, not a maybe. I’m committed to proving to myself, and her, that it can be done. And if I don’t succeed? Well, I’m not worrying about that – it takes up too much space in my life. Space I need to conserve for other things.

So what about you? For the mothers and fathers out there… what has been your experience? For mothers and fathers yet-to-be, what are some of your fears? Let’s keep this conversation going in the comments.

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Hi Friends, I made this for you today. Another gentle reminder that, while difficult at times, change is natural and good. Download the hi-res version here and if you get it printed and hang it, please take a photo and post in the comments for everyone to see (especially me). And as always, it’s free, I just ask that you spread the love and share it via one of the social links below. Happy Thursday!Change is the only constant in life

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