Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Life Responds


"Life isn't happening to you. Life is responding to you." --Rhonda Byrne


This quote arrived in my “Best Year Yet” daily email at exactly the right time. I had just finished an interview for a part-time job that I almost didn’t apply for because I didn’t want to update my references. If I hadn’t reached out to my references, nothing would have happened. My application would be incomplete, and consequently it would never be brought to the selection committee. Instead, by putting something into motion, life responded with an opportunity to interview. My actions made a difference.

Psychologists call this feeling of control over actions and their consequences a “sense of agency.” It serves an important role in our mental and physical health. And yet, research suggests starting at around age of 50 years, and especially between 60-80 years old, we increasingly feel less control over what happens in our lives. Often this has to do with poor health and a reduction in quality of life. Which brings me back to the quote: “Life isn’t happening to you. Life is responding to you.”

For life to respond, you have to put something into motion. The good news is even the smallest movement matters. Frans Johansson of The Click Moment agrees, "By taking action, you open up a wide range of new ideas, possibilities, and connections." By putting something into motion, you "create something for these forces to latch on to. You must actually do something, even if you are not sure where it will lead."

What can you do to increase your sense of agency? Put something into motion and then enjoy the thrill of seeing how life responds!

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Working Out and Knowing How It Worked Out


I believe if something grabs my attention, I need to pay attention.  That’s why I asked the bartender if I could take home the paper copy of their menu. Printed at the top was this quote:

Maybe this won’t work out. 
But maybe seeing if it does will be the greatest adventure ever!”

The menu is hanging on my refrigerator.

Why does this speak to me on such a deep level? What does “won’t work out” mean? Doesn’t that sound pessimistic? Like you’re planning to fail even before you get started?          

Does “won’t work out” mean if I try something and it doesn’t end up the way I think it should, that it wasn’t worth trying?

That’s what we tend to think. We avoid trying because the outcome is uncertain. And when something is uncertain, we fear being judged by our decisions. When we try something new, we don’t know how it’s going to work out. And to other people, it might appear that it didn’t work out if we decide to stop doing this thing.

With this type of thinking, we’re missing something—and this something is really important. This something is freedom from regret.

That’s why “working out” and “knowing how it worked out” are two different things. And the most important of the two, the reason to get started, is to know how it worked out. It’s also the most certain. If we start, we’re assured of learning how it worked out. If we wait to start until we’re sure it will work out, most of us won’t get started.

Knowing how it worked out is what keeps us from feeling regret in the future about what we didn’t go after. Instead of imagining how great something could have been, we’ll know. We’ll have a complete story.

When my children were 3, 5, and 7, I started a children’s clothing business—designing, manufacturing and distributing two clothing lines/year to boutiques across the country. And then, after being in business almost four years, I decided to close the business.

I knew this was the best decision after speaking with another company that started their business a few months after me. The owner said he was setting his alarm for 15 minutes while he slept on his cutting table. Then getting up to go back to work. Wow! Both he and his wife had worked for Calvin Klein before going out on their own. They knew what this business took to succeed. I knew I didn’t want to sleep for 15 minutes on my cutting table. I knew I wanted to be present during the precious years of my young children. And so, I finished the season and closed the business.

So, what do you think? Did it work out? To you and others, it might seem like it didn’t work out. I tried to open a children’s clothing business and I failed. But to me (and that’s who really matters to me) I didn’t fail. The only way I could have failed is to not try. If I hadn’t tried, I would still be thinking I could have been really good and had an amazing life as a children’s clothing designer.

Instead, I got something even better. I got the knowledge of knowing how it worked out. I got my full story. And I had an adventure along the way—exhibiting at the International Kids Show in NYC, winning the most creative booth competition, seeing my clothing in storefronts, catalogs, and magazines. I have no regrets about not trying. And with the experience and knowledge I gained by being in business, I have no regrets about closing the business.

Is there something you have been putting off because you’re afraid it might not work out? Instead, shift your thinking to “knowing how it works out” and get started on your next adventure! 


Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Relevant References


Every so often I apply for a job—or I should say I consider applying for a job. It's not about the money. Instead, I need the psychological benefits of working—a sense of satisfaction, achievement, challenge, and community. I want more of this in my life.

Often I'll complete an application. Perhaps write a cover letter. But when it comes to naming references, I get stuck, and usually stop. It's one thing to apply for a job that I think I'd really enjoy. It's another to have my high-ranking professional contacts learn I want to be a staff assistant when I've been an assistant academic dean. What will they think?

I recently faced this question when considering a part-time student success and development position at a local university. This job fits me well. I'm a natural cheerleader and encourager. I love helping students reach their academic and life goals. And so I submitted my resume and cover letter. But when I saw the third requirement—references—I stopped. That is until I asked, “Why not?” Maybe I won't get this job, but by having relevant references, I'll be prepared for something in the future. I'm living from a place of expectancy, and that feels really good.

Now is the perfect time to shift your focus from resume building to lifestyle building. Whereas before you might have accepted a job because it looks good on your resume, now you can accept a job because it's what you want to do. Before you might have rejected a position because it was “below” you. Now you can do a job, regardless of the perceived status. You have already proven your professional self.

This shift might also require a change in beliefs about financial compensation. For many jobs, we won't make our top earnings. We need to make peace with the pay. Instead of viewing a paycheck as compensation, view the satisfaction from work as compensation. You can't place a dollar amount on a job that pays happiness dividends.

So get your reference list up to date. Keep it relevant and live from a place of expectancy. Be ready for what good things may come into your life.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Today is Yesterday's Tomorrow


I’m curious about how success starts. When I meet a business owner, especially someone who is still very enthusiastic about her work, I want to ask, “How did you get started?” It’s easy to see the results of her starting, but I want to know the story behind her success.

When we see other people’s successes, be it starting a business, a non-profit organization, or fulfilling a lifelong ambition, we see the finished product. It appears to be a linear process. They had an idea, made a plan, and worked the plan step-by-step. One success followed another until now they have a thriving business, organization, or lifestyle.

We believe this is how it worked for them, but we don’t think it can work for us, so we don’t get started. The divide, the gap between where we are and where we want to be feels too big. I agree. This approach won’t work for us, and it didn’t work for them either.

I’ve learned that success starts by just doing something. Learning from our actions. Doing something more. It’s a spiral more than a linear process, and it takes time. But it always begins with putting something into motion.

I’m going to be writing a lot about starting. It’s the topic for my new book, The Power of Starting. If you want to get the most out of these blog posts, think about something you’d like to start. Why do I care so much about starting? Because at your 80th birthday party I don’t want you to look back with regret about what you didn’t do.

There is only one perfect time to get started. It’s TODAY. Right now. Even before you finish reading this blog post, you can put something into motion. Send an email. Make a phone call. Sign up for a class. Don’t put it off until tomorrow. You’ve already done that because today is yesterday’s tomorrow. If we don’t start today, we’ve missed lots of tomorrows.

Just do something. That’s how your success starts.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 15, 2019

You Are Your Choices


Waiter: What can I get for you guys tonight?

Dave: We’re going to split a burger. Medium-rare.

Waiter: Fries or greens?

Patrice: (after hesitating a moment) Greens.

As the waiter walked away from the table, I noticed a message printed on the back of his t-shirt: You Are Your Choices

Hmm…Inspiration for better living can come from anywhere, even at a brewpub. I was glad I chose the greens.

We have the option of choices in retirement. We’re no longer confined to a stressful work schedule or the daily responsibilities of raising a family. And yet, many of us are uncomfortable with the freedom that comes from choices.

Sadly, we’re what Seth Godin describes as “birds that are unhappy until we find a cage that takes away our freedom.”  This “cage” might be going back to work, or keeping so busy that we don’t have to figure out what will bring meaning and purpose to this next stage of life.

In the long run, it’s going to be a bunch of short runs, daily choices that contribute to the lifestyle we want to live in retirement. Make your choices count.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.