The Best of 2011: A funny thing happened on the way through 40

The life we planEditor’s Note: I wrote this early in 2011, a little past the halfway mark of my 40th year. It’s about how differently the 40 I’d planned was turning out to be. I’m 41 now, and a lot of this is still true. Maybe it will serve as a reminder that life isn’t in the planning, it’s in the living.

A funny thing happened on the way through 40 – nothing went the way I planned. Well almost nothing. But considering the previous 20 years, it really shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. One of my favorite quotes is by Joseph Campbell and it’s “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” So you’d think that by now I’d get it, yet I keep designing these elaborate plans only to have them morph into something they were probably supposed to be anyway.

Let’s see, my plan to grow the biggest-bad-ass-est blog to ever hit the blogosphere (and retire at the age of 40.5 from the tremendous rush of advertisers and sponsorships,) morphed into a nice, quiet little blog which gets pretty good notice, decent traffic and most importantly has a following of phenomenal woman (and men) of all ages, from all over the world.

My plan to be fit at 40 was sidelined by a ridiculously unbelievable but very real knee injury, and it’s taken longer to get back to the place I was before I tripped on the way to my printer (it’s funny now, but not so much when I heard my knee pop.)

Let’s see, there was also the plan NOT to go back to work but to make WAF my employer – the WAF being my employer thing worked out exactly as planned, the part about it paying me…not so much. Not yet anyway. But the ideas are still coming, the desire to hear and share stories remains, and hundreds of thousands of women turn 40 everyday – my audience, thankfully, isn’t going anywhere.

I also planned to return to Italy sometime during my 40th year, and while the year’s not over, as of today, the chances of that happening are slim to none. But like women turning 40, Italy isn’t going anywhere, and God willing I’ll get there one day soon.

So the funny thing that happened on my way through 40 is that I realized that sometimes the things we plan evolve while we’re in the middle of them, and we can go with the flow and evolve with them, or we can moan about the things that didn’t happen. I choose to appreciate the 600 plus Facebook followers the site now has and the truly awesome women I’ve met along the way. I‘ve chosen to use the knee injury as an opportunity to focus even more on a healthier lifestyle, not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well…and to be more careful when retrieving items from my printer. As for the job, I’m writing and editing and doing things I enjoy doing every day, for a company that’s making a real difference.  I’m slowly learning to move the life I’ve planned over to the side to make room for the life that’s waiting for me.

Update: That Italy trip, it’s happening in 2012 – God willing and the creek don’t rise 🙂

New Year’s Resolution: No new goals?

Editor’s Note: It’s that time of year again: time to plan, predict, calculate and lay out our goals for the new year. Setting goals is a good thing right? How will you ever get what you want if you don’t have clearly established goals? Well over at Zen Habits, Leo Babauta has some interesting ideas about setting goals. He, for the most part, lives without goals and argues that letting go of them prevents us from being limited. I’m not sure I can “un-goal” to the degree he has, but does he have a point? Read what Leo has to say and then decide for yourself…

the best goal is no goal – Leo Babauta

The idea of having concrete, achievable goals seem to be deeply ingrained in our culture. I know I lived with goals for many years, and in fact a big part of my writings here on Zen Habits are about how to set and achieve goals.

These days, however, I live without goals, for the most part. It’s absolutely liberating, and contrary to what you might have been taught, it absolutely doesn’t mean you stop achieving things.

It means you stop letting yourself be limited by goals.

Consider this common belief: “You’ll never get anywhere unless you know where you’re going.” This seems so common sensical, and yet it’s obviously not true if you stop to think about it. Conduct a simple experiment: go outside and walk in a random direction, and feel free to change directions randomly. After 20 minutes, an hour … you’ll be somewhere! It’s just that you didn’t know you were going to end up there.

And there’s the rub: you have to open your mind to going places you never expected to go. If you live without goals, you’ll explore new territory. You’ll learn some unexpected things. You’ll end up in surprising places. That’s the beauty of this philosophy, but it’s also a difficult transition.

Today, I live mostly without goals. Now and then I start coming up with a goal, but I’m letting them go. Living without goals hasn’t ever been an actual goal of mine … it’s just something I’m learning that I enjoy more, that is incredibly freeing, that works with the lifestyle of following my passion that I’ve developed.

The problem with goals

In the past, I’d set a goal or three for the year, and then sub-goals for each month. Then I’d figure out what action steps to take each week and each day, and try to focus my day on those steps.

Unfortunately, it never, ever works out this neatly. You all know this. You know you need to work on an action step, and you try to keep the end goal in mind to motivate yourself. But this action step might be something you dread, and so you procrastinate. You do other work, or you check email or Facebook, or you goof off.

And so your weekly goals and monthly goals get pushed back or side-tracked, and you get discouraged because you have no discipline. And goals are too hard to achieve. So now what? Well, you review your goals and reset them. You create a new set of sub-goals and action plans. You know where you’re going, because you have goals!

Of course, you don’t actually end up getting there. Sometimes you achieve the goal and then you feel amazing. But most of the time you don’t achieve them and you blame it on yourself.

Here’s the secret: the problem isn’t you, it’s the system! Goals as a system are set up for failure.

Even when you do things exactly right, it’s not ideal. Here’s why: you are extremely limited in your actions. When you don’t feel like doing something, you have to force yourself to do it. Your path is chosen, so you don’t have room to explore new territory. You have to follow the plan, even when you’re passionate about something else.

Some goal systems are more flexible, but nothing is as flexible as having no goals. Continue reading New Year’s Resolution: No new goals?

The day I got an email from The Today Show and then nothing happened, or The Third Time Is The Charm

I am the only person left in the world (well a lot of it anyway) without a smart phone. Actually, my phone probably has an average IQ, I just choose not to use it. I disabled text messaging about three years ago and don’t miss it one bit.

Disclaimer: For the 20 & 30 somethings reading this blog, I am not an accurate reflection of 40. ALL of my 40 year old friends (and several enemies) have smart phones and use them. My father gets and sends text messages. I am a cheap, late adopter determined to beat the ubiquitous “MAN.”

I don’t check emails, FB and Twitter non-stop, although as a blogger, that’s probably a cardinal sin.  I have recently though, made a Kindle purchase, and took a walk on the wild side by getting the 3G version. Which now means I can access emails just about anywhere. And anytime.  So, a couple of months ago when I checked my emails at 11:54pm on a Tuesday night (way past my bedtime) my mouth FELL open when I saw that I’d gotten an email from someone at The Today Show and she was asking me for help.

Long story short, we tried to help, but she’d contacted me on a very tight deadline (hers not mine) and with very specific geographic requirements and alas, as women at 40 in 2011, we all have jobs, families and other obligations that are impossible to change last minute, even if it is for our beloved Today Show. *sighs*

Then a couple of months after that, BBC Radio called me on the horrendous signal I get on my average IQ phone and wanted me on the air for a segment on women in their 40s. In less than an hour. *Pulls hair from head and screams Nancy Kerrigan style, WHYYYY!*  I was at work and had a meeting with the CEO I was obliged to attend. OBLIGED. I’m still getting flack from some folks who think I should have ditched that meeting, but my dreams for this project will pay my bills in the future, that job pays my bills TODAY.

That said, the next media giant that contacts me, I’ll get on a plane, take a personal day, move whatever mountain I need to move to make it happen because I am determined that, for me at least, the third time will be the charm. (Photo: by i_yudai)

What opportunity are you determined not to miss if it comes your way? Share your Third Time Charm in the comment section or on our Facebook page.

Kalin’s Chronicles: New Year’s Eve — In Every Time Zone!

One of the things on my bucket list is to celebrate at least one New Year’s Eve at New York’s Times Square – preferably from a balcony.  The closest I’ll get to that this year will be catching the new movie “New Year’s Eve“.  In the meantime, here’s a sampling of hotel deals to help you plan your New Year’s Celebrations — no matter what U.S. time zone you’re in.

New York (Eastern Time)

Celebrate at Ground Zero in New York’s Times Square for a $600 package that includes hotel accommodations, free admission to the Empire State Building Observation Deck , water taxi around the Statue of Liberty,  and shopping discounts at Macy’s and Bloomy’s.

New Orleans (Central Time)

This home of Mardis Gras knows how to party.  So for one of the best locations for French Quarter partying and a rooftop view of the fireworks, stay at the Omni Royal Orleans hotel.  Currently room rates are $299 per night for a New Year’s weekend stay.  For more information on New Orleans New Year’s fun, click here.

Phoenix (Mountain Time)

At the Hyatt Regency, $189 per night let’s you enjoy a New Year’s Eve party with free champagne, and a breakfast buffet the next morning.  And if you’re just getting back to your room at 5am, no worries – you get a 2pm late checkout.

Las Vegas (Pacific Time)

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  So get your party on at the MGM Grand, where you can celebrate New Years on The Strip.  Various packages include a $1400 New Years Wedding Package, Cirque du Soliel at Ka Theatre for $69 to $180, and a dance party at Studio 54 for $150.

And if you wake up with a hangover the next morning, you may wonder  how in the world this outrageous celebration got started.  Check out this site for the history of the holiday, and all things Times Square.  I’d love to hear about your favorite New Year’s Eve destination.  And remember:  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.

STOP Doing That: 3 things I have to stop doing in 2012

I’ve seen these lists floating around for the past several years and thought that I’d get in on some “Stop Doing That” action in preparation for 2012.

Your “Stop Doing That” list is just what it sounds like – a list of things you’ve made up your mind to stop doing. I’m really good at writing (and then promptly ignoring) my daily/weekly/annual to do lists. And I’ve also started to rethink these lists/goals/plans I make for myself every year only to have something else, sometimes better, sometimes not, happen. But, things I can stop doing? That’s in my control – no outside forces, no unpredictable economy, finances or people. Things I can stop doing is all me.  (Image: Spanish stop sign because sometime the signs we get aren’t always in a language we can understand)

So here’s a list of 3 things I’m going to stop doing in 2012 

1. Watching mindless television. I enjoy watching television. A lot. But there are times when what’s on TV is so bad, even a devout TV fanatic can’t watch. Yet, I won’t turn it off. It’s a time waster and a really bad habit.

2. Lying to myself about the reasons I don’t do some of the things I should do.  I’m not fooling anybody, least of all myself. My knee and my migraine headaches are my go-to excuses for not working out, but if I’m really being honest, a lot of the times I’m not working out because I’m just too lazy. There I said it. I’m not proud of it, and the feelings admitting this generates could spawn a whole series of posts, but it is the truth, and if being honest with myself moves me closer to being the person I am meant to be, then brutal honesty is my mantra in 2012.

3. Hiding, being anti-social. I talk a lot. A lot. I’m quick with a joke and can have a long meaningful conversation with a bag of flour – that’s how much I love to talk. But despite that, on most occasions, I’d choose being at home reading or watching TV over being out in a crowd meeting new people. I’m hiding out. From what or whom, I’m not quite sure.  I’ve spent the better part of the past few years hiding out for whatever reason, and in that time who’s telling how many potential new friends, relationships and opportunities I’ve missed out on. Time to stop hiding.

That’s just 3 of the things I’m prepared to stop doing in 2012 – there’s a bunch more, but later for that. What are you going to stop doing in 2012? Share in the comment section below or on the Facebook page.