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Pick your word

It’s been a heck of a year and with a few days left, I want to share a ritual of mine: Choose a word, a theme you’d like to set for for the year to come. (This year my word was “Courage,” and boy, did I need it.) For 2021, I’m choosing “Joy.” I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to welcome more spark, more pleasure, more happiness, and more fun.

Tell me your word for the year to come @redheadlefthand.

Sending greetings and wishes for a restorative, healthy, and calm new year — a year filled with laughter, joy, and magic.

Become the student

As systems and communities continue to evolve and change, the need to learn and listen is paramount.

Where is the line between advocacy and appropriation, and how can you appreciate groups you’re not a part of?

Appreciation is grounded in honor and respect, a genuine curiosity for a group and its people. This rides on the wings of earnestness; a desire to explore and understand.

Appropriation, however, has personal gain buried into action. Attention-seeking behavior has the power to hurt and harm both individuals and groups. More often than not, a negative stereotype is reinforced.

The divide between cultural appreciation and appropriation is a delicate perimeter outlined by intention.

Failing to identify intention can turn any well-meaning action into a divisive mechanism. If your intention isn’t clear, chances are high that you may unintentionally play into harmful stereotypes.

Revisit the reasons behind what you’re doing and why — and who your behavior might reach. The more you understand yourself and the factors that contribute to the way in which you see the world, the better you’ll be at developing empathy and authentic respect. Once you’ve assessed the role of your actions and your relationship to the culture or group of people you’re interested in, set out to learn.

Bring curiosity and kindness into your interactions. Let others guide conversations. It’s important to remember that having an experience does not equal true understanding. Questions open doors. 

Genuine curiosity and kindness are roots from which appreciation and reverence can blossom. From intention, humility and respect grow.

Draft your dream team

As the coach of your life, be sure these players are on your team:

The Mentor – This is a person you respect and admire, someone who’s “been there.” You see their life and think “That’s what I want.” These people remind you to look at the big picture.

An Advisee – Someone you mentor. They are eager to learn from you and respect your work. Your willingness to teach them and spend time with them reaffirms your own knowledge and skills, even reminding you where you’ve come from and lessons you’ve learned along the way.

Your Advocate – No matter what circumstance you find yourself in, you need people who fight for you and honor what you stand for.

Supporting Star – You challenge each other to become the best you can be. You compare notes, support each other, and get competitive when it’s beneficial. This could be a colleague or friend, someone you feel comfortable delegating work to or can trust to help when you unexpectedly head out of town.

A Neutral – This is someone who can provide an outside perspective when needed, a person with no direct investment in your life or work.

The Wildcard – The Wildcard is just that, wild. Someone in an industry completely different than your own, an energy that keeps you on your toes and brings you new ideas and experiences.

The people around you can make the difference between pushing beyond your limits and settling for less. Find those who motivate, inspire, and encourage you to do better.

Modified from this post, March 2013.

Bookmark your dreams

Many years ago, a coach gave me an assignment that changed my life.

Write down 50 – 100 things you’d like to do.

My original list contained almost 90 items, goals ranging from learning to tie a necktie to finishing a marathon. I revisit this list from time to time. It has served as a guidepost for sorting out impulse and helping me decide whether my choices are circumstantial or made with intention.

It’s impossible to forge ahead if you don’t have a direction. (I didn’t always know this.) When you focus your efforts, you’re much more likely to get it done.

Step 1: Make time

Mark your calendar and commit. Set aside one undisturbed hour in a space you feel comfortable.

Step 2: Write

While writing your list, let yourself play and dream. Don’t pause to question. Don’t edit. Just write.

Step 3: Bookmark

Place your list someplace safe so you can return to it and reassess whether these goals are where you’d like to concentrate your energy. It’s never “too late” to dream.

Modified from Dream Chasers, posted December 2012.

Power up your inbox (and your life) with these free newsletters

Your inbox doesn’t need to be a source of dread. In fact, with a little attention, weekly emails can deliver inspiration and insight to your daily routine.

Here’s a few to get you started:

For body and spirit

This quirky Texan churns out free weekly yoga videos so you can stay mindful and active all year long. Adriene’s approach to health and wellness is both refreshing and fun. yogawithadriene.com

For self-improvement

Tonya pours champagne flutes of encouragement to help women and men live artfully and well. Her free podcasts and behind-the-scenes glimpses into her community mix lightness and direction for those interested in personal development. frenchkisslife.com/about

For your mind

James Clear’s 3-2-1 Thursday newsletter offers an inspiring mid-week pick-me-up of facts, quotes, and questions that also act as excellent writing prompts. jamesclear.com/3-2-1

To boost creative zest

This Sunday meal of art, literature, and and science is a must. Paired with a hot cup of coffee, Brain Pickings is a necessary ritual for a positive start to your week. brainpickings.org/newsletter

To build community

David’s “One Email Away” connects strangers with opportunity. Whether you’re looking for a mentor or a hire, this email is a fine place to expand your network and contribute more generously to the world around you. portfoliocareerpodcast.com/oneemailaway

For your business

Seth Godin is dedicated to daily missives of advice for marketers, entrepreneurs, and social do-gooders. He delivers. sethgodin.com

Want more? 7 ways to raise your standards today

“You dont get what you want, you get what you tolerate.”

Tonya Leigh

Tonya Leigh has great perspective on living life artfully and well. She encourages her clients to establish a Red Velvet Rope policy — the idea that you treat your life like a carefully cultivated VIP nightclub. Imagine a strict dress code, exclusive invites, and the best party around.

Sometimes, without even realizing it, we lower our standards. The way we speak to ourselves. How we treat ourselves. What we think of our own accomplishments.

Our minds determine what we are capable of.

When you raise the bar on your own life, you raise your standards. When your standards are lifted, your life will automatically experience an upgrade. Here are 7 ways you can raise your standards today:

1. Upgrade what you put into your mind. The books you read, the podcasts you listen to, the magazines you consume, the accounts you follow.

2. Change your conversations. Notice when negative outweighs the positive. Focus on creation, not destruction.

3. Invest in yourself. Sign up for a class, set a goal you hope to accomplish by the end of the month, schedule time to hit the gym, find a life coach.

4. Stop worrying. Anxiety chases dreams. Make a list of your worries, then set it aside. Sure, some fear is justified and real, but worrying won’t help you level up.

5. Edit your relationships. Minimize time spent with gossips and energy vampires. Find like-minded dreamers who encourage each other to succeed.

6. Expect more. Expect more from yourself and those close to you. You’ll love the results.

7. Rewrite definitions. So much of the way we see the world and ourselves comes down to definition. Those definitions can be changed. Tony Robbins says most people simply give up, stop trying, and accept “That’s just the way it is.” It doesn’t have to be this way.

Raising your standards isn’t about making money or becoming famous. This is about mindset.

Expect more. You’re worth it.