Life Dreams, Work & Discovering Your Calling: An Interview with Jeff Goins

Last week I had the privilege of interviewing Jeff Goins, author of the new book The Art of Work, about work, calling and bucket lists. I have followed Jeff since his first e-book The Writer’s Manifesto in which he sets forth the mindset for embracing the calling of being a writer. His other (awesome) books are Wrecked, The In-Between, and You Are a Writer.


Here’s what Jeff had to say:

How did you come to focus on this idea of “calling” that you emphasize in The Art of Work?

Through personal experience. At 28 I felt like I should know more. I kept asking, “Is this as good as it gets?” Why weren’t my job and marriage good enough? I kept thinking I was missing out on something.

And then I began to take writing more seriously. I wrote a blog. I published books. And finally I moved to writing full time and supporting my family with my writing two years ago.

You say in the book, “Most people waste the best years of their life waiting for an adventure to come to them instead of going out and finding one.” That sounds risky. What do you say to parents who live in the tension of wanting safety and security for their family, but knowing finding and following their calling involves risk?

Be honest with yourself. There is risk in jumping out and doing something. But there is also risk in staying comfortable. Ask yourself, “What will happen if I don’t do this?” Maybe nothing.

The greater question is: what creates discomfort for you? Doing and failing? Or not trying?

I love how you talk about “listening to your life” when it comes to discovering your calling. What do you think makes this process so powerful?

We are unaware of our own lives. Awareness is a practice. We deepen that practice through paying attention.

We tend to look at our lives not as stories, but as scenes. We think, how do I get through this week, this day, etc. We look from scene to scene or moment to moment. And we miss the big picture story our lives are telling.

But if my life is a story, then I can ask, what genre is it? What is the conflict in my life’s story? Who are the characters?

The concept of a “portfolio mindset” in The Art of Work sounds like a great format for parents who want to be “present” for their kids, yet fulfill their own life purpose. How does that work?

It’s messy. You have to be careful. Don’t assume your calling is just work. A calling is deeper than that. The fact that I’m a dad colors and gives context to my calling.

Some things won’t get done. But a calling is more complementary to life than competitive.

So what is on your bucket list?

To go to South America. Skydive. Write a novel.

And I would love to take my son to Europe for a few weeks to expose him to the culture there – before he is in middle school.

I have travelled by myself and with people. It’s easier by yourself, but at the end of the journey there is an emptiness. You did cool stuff, but there is nobody to share that with.

There’s nothing like walking over a bridge in Venice and getting to share that with my wife. The same is true for your calling.

For more great advice from Jeff Goins about finding and living your calling, check out his blog at:

Adventurers in Training

Living out a bucket list is not as much about the items on the list as it as about being open to – and inviting – adventure. It is about being transformed into an adventurer.

AdventurersinTrainingOur family suffered two losses this past week.

On Wednesday, my husband’s grandmother died. A spunky Brit with a quick tongue, she lived 99 full years. Grandma Billie, as we called her, came to the U.S. many decades ago as a war bride and young mother, yet still spoke with a British accent to her last day. She had two long marriages, travelled extensively, and took care of herself and Grandpa with minimal help until only a few years ago. She made us laugh often and made it her objective to teach my three girls how to brew a proper pot of tea, taking infinite care to show them each step and making a show of setting out her fine bone china to serve it in.

On Sunday, my 66-year-old aunt died from a progressive palsy. And while she didn’t get to have Grandma Billie’s longevity, her life was full too. She had a career in corporate America before raising my two cousins. When my cousins studied German in high school, Aunt Sandy opened their home to a German exchange student. In turn, this fostered an interest in Germany and its culture and led her and my uncle to traveling there to visit their exchange student. I also watched my aunt dive into a second career as a school librarian, where she truly thrived. She carried this love for books and reading with her everywhere, giving my girls books as gifts and inviting them on her lap to be read to.

Can two lives be summarized in two paragraphs? Hardly. But as I look at two buckets tipped over, pouring out the precious contents of memories, I see that our adventures here are simply training for adventures to come.

We can choose to live safely, going about our everyday lives – working, eating, playing. We can follow the patterns drummed out by the dominant culture that call us to stay busy, be productive, offer our kids an infinite variety of options for attainment and entertainment. Or we can dare to be adventurers. We can listen to the call to risk and be different. To try something new that issues forth from our heart’s longings. We can heed the Voice that whispers of who we were created to be. Here. And after.

Because I do believe there is more and that what awaits for those who choose to heed the voice of the One who made them is adventure upon adventure. From what I’ve been told, both Grandma Billie and Aunt Sandy were ready to go. And I like to believe that their lives came to a close in a manner like that in The Last Battle, the final book in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Peter, Edmund, Lucy and the others are led out of the old Narnia and into the new, real Narnia, climbing mountain after mountain with the urgent cry of “Further up! Further in!” The promise to them, and I believe to us, is truer, deeper adventure than they had ever known, but for which life heretofore was always preparing them.

Which makes us all, if we choose it, adventurers in training.

 Photo credit: Devils Head Fire Tower Lookout by Casey Reynolds on Flickr via CC License.


A Crisis Self-Care Plan For Moms

During a recent months-long crisis in our household, I surprised myself with how much strength I had as a mom. I gave myself to caring for my family like never before. But I also stretched myself thin, emotionally and mentally. I went to bed drained more nights than not. In case of emergency

When others reached out with offers of help, I tried to take them. But I often didn’t know how to respond or what exactly I needed. I realized then how unprepared I was to take advantage of opportunities to sustain myself.

I don’t think my situation is that unusual. As moms we can be great nurturers – for everyone but ourselves. This is particularly true in times of crisis, when our family needs us to stay at our best. All of our energy goes toward keeping our family afloat. And while we may know it’s a good idea to take care of ourselves too, we just doesn’t have the wherewithal to figure out what that would look like.

Which is why I suggest we plan for self-care before crisis hits. We need to be students of ourselves to learn what would help us most. Having just gone through it myself, here is what I wish I had created (and how you can create your own):

A Crisis Self-Care Plan

Decide now that you matter enough and it is important enough for you to have a strategy in place for how you will care for yourself. Then create a plan from the following prompts and put it in a safe place, like the back of your daily organizer, or the inside of your medicine cabinet (having it where your husband can see benefits you by giving him a tool for helping you out).

  1. Think of those people in your life who are the most supportive, positive and encouraging. Write down their names. Then, when you need to know that someone has your back, or if you need an upbeat distraction from your difficulties, you’ll know exactly who to call for a chat on the phone or over coffee at Starbucks. This may or may not be who you would call to help with the actual emergency/difficulty.
  2. Consider what most brings you comfort, that could bolster your spirits during the hard times. Maybe you have a favorite place to walk or meditate. Or a comfort food. Write them down on your plan.
  3. In crisis sometimes our need is for escape – to do something entirely different that takes our mind off the present difficulties. Name your ideal escapes. They may be ordinary, like “go to a movie (alone, which can be an adventure, as Shelly Najjar suggests).” Or they could be entirely new ventures. Believe it or not, a time of trial can provide a great motivation to check something off your life list.
  4. Make a list of “quick rechargers” that you can go to when brief opportunities for respite appear. Things like “take a nap,” or “watch an episode of Downton Abbey” Try to come up with ten or more that you can rotate through, should your crisis go on for a while. It’s important that you find time daily for self-care.

Knowing you have this written down, you can approach a crisis with more confidence. Instead of adding regret to the list of emotional burdens you bear, you’ll have concrete answers to offers for help. You’ll know who you want to be with and what you want to do, when you have time for yourself. And those around you can have a better idea of how to direct you toward keeping yourself well when tough times hit.

Photo credit: In case of emergency by waldopepper on Flicker via CC License

Watch for the release of my new book, Bucket List Living For Moms, coming next Monday. There will be giveaways!

Help for Spring Break, Spring Cleaning & More: March/April Articles

The kids are bickering, the house is a mess, and you’re just wishing you could get away from it all. Does that sound like your family’s spring break? No? Maybe yours goes more like this: the kids are bickering, your car/hotel room/suitcase is a mess, and you’re just wishing you could get away from it all.

Spring TipsParenting and its challenges has no end. There is no getting away from the needs of children and the pressures of running a household. But there are ways to keep yourself in the midst of the joy more often. There are solutions that help you get away from the stress to regroup and refuel – together. I’m thankful as a journalist that I can take some of these common problems and run them by experts and fellow moms for interesting, helpful and doable solutions. In the March and April issues of parenting magazines in the U.S. and beyond, I have articles that offer great insight and tips on these very problems. I hope you’ll read them for yourself so that you can enjoy your family – both during spring break and in the months to come.

Spring Break & Having Family AdventuresFlagler Parent

Planning a Spring Break that Doesn’t Break You, Calgary’s Child

Have You Ever: An Invitation to Adventure, Flagler Parent

Spring Refreshers & Why Kids Should Help with The Chores

31 Refreshers That Take 15 Minutes or Less, Okanagan Child

Chores Make the Grade, Houston Family

Sibling Spats

A Special Solution to Sibling Strife, Atlanta Parent

Public Restroom Comic

Parent-Child Relationships

Mother & Daughter, Shoulder to Shoulder, Family Australia Magazine

Humor for Moms of Preschoolers

The Perils of Public Restrooms with Preschoolers, The Village Family Magazine

Photo credit: Tulip Era in the Ottoman Empire… by Kivanc Nis on Flickr via CC License.

Why You Need to Rethink Social Media This Spring Break

We’re a connected society. Ellen DeGeneres’s record-breaking 2014 Oscars Twitter selfie is just one proof. We text, tweet, pin and post our way through our days. We browse, troll and read too. It keeps us in touch and informed. We can be supportive and get support. But there comes a time when social media usage can do more harm than good. And that’s when we are on a break or vacation, in particular, Spring Break.

no cell phonesHere are two reasons why you may want to unplug from online connectivity for that week (which you are probably planning for right now):

– Comparison kills contentment. It doesn’t matter if you’re off on that much-awaited trip to your favorite destination. If you glimpse FaceBook posts from a friend’s getaway that is just as nice or nicer than yours, you may experience a let-down. Even more so if your break is a humdrum one to begin with or your plans have gone awry. In fact, no matter what you plan to do during your time off, hopping on social media may bring you down. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that subjects felt a greater decline in at-the-moment mood and overall life satisfaction the more they checked in on FaceBook. Social comparison plays a big part in that decline. Whether you will be home or away, relaxing or jet-setting, cut your risk of succumbing to the comparison trap by avoiding the urge to network online.

– Playing for an audience is distracting. Admit it, it’s hard to focus on the task at hand if you’re constantly wondering how it will play on social media. Should I tweet a photo of this meal? Update my status from this museum? These thoughts, conscious or unconscious, about how we will appear to others based on how we are spending our vacation can pull us away from engaging fully where we are at. Tell yourself you can review photos and post updates from your time off after the fact. Giving yourself the freedom to disengage from the expectations of the invisible social media audience allows you to satisfy the people right in front of you, especially yourself.

It might be hard to do – staying off of your favorite sites for multiple days. But I think you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Give your whole family the best chance to thoroughly enjoy all that you have planned (or unplanned) for your vacation. By setting up that expectation now, you can make the most of your time in advance (including notifying followers that you will be checking out for a week). And you can plan for no-pressure break that doesn’t have to measure up or appeal to anyone but you and your family.

Does the idea of a week off from social media relieve you or scare you? Have you ever taken time off from your online networks? If so, how did that go? I hope you’ll stop and share your thoughts.