Transforming Struggle

CalmUp® photo of dead flowersHow often have you set a goal that you didn’t achieve? It could be a major desire like getting a promotion or a minor hope like clearing your inbox daily. Yet no matter how much time and effort you put in, the outcome remains the same… no promotion and an overflowing inbox.

As a psychologist for over 20 years, I’ve heard countless stories about people being unhappy with their current life situation. Many people—including those who aren’t in counseling—have at least one desire they’re struggling to attain. What’s yours? Seriously, stop a moment and think about it.

We believe that the inability to accomplish a goal is a failure. We blame ourselves, or sometimes others, for our lack of success. What if we didn’t define success by our accomplishments, such as getting into the college of your choice, being chosen for the starring role, or having the fancy car, house, etc.?

The problem is the way that we define success, not the struggle itself.
I’ve wrestled with the following three ideas:

1. The Image: Mentally picture the outcome that you desire. Now imagine letting go of that outcome as you have defined it.

It’s All Too Much

Sometimes life can feel all too much. Yet, remember the title of Hunter Hayes’ country song, I don’t want easy, I want crazy! Can life get too crazy?

CalmUp® photo of orange flowers preparing to bloomThe solution for my own life this past year became clear when I re-prioritized what I consider to be most important. Determining what to let go of or add to your life doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might imagine. You’re the only one who can ascertain what’s of value to you.

I’ve found that generating personal priorities helps to maintain a sense of clarity. Yet priorities can change. Remaining flexible to one’s convictions, while remembering what’s important to your loved ones, is necessary when you’re seeking a degree of sanity. You don’t have to accomplish everything all at once.

CalmUp® photo of orange flowers blooming

Notice I wrote a degree of sanity! Then there’s the title of the movie with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, Something’s Gotta Give. So for the present time, I’m writing a quarterly instead of a monthly blog, and letting go of those Monday Morning Moments™. I’m still available for walks and talks.

Put Your Responsibilities on Hold

How can I put my responsibilities on hold?

One of my favorite childhood memories is when I asked my mom if I could stay home from school when I wasn’t sick—and she said, “Yes”!

These days, there’s something very enticing about letting go of the to-do list for a day. For me, I like not answering the phone, letting go of emails, and basically taking a technology day off. Your idea of putting responsibilities on hold may include watching football all day, spending a day playing golf, or going to the spa.

Let’s face it, there’s a reason the Sabbath was invented. Regardless of how you choose to replenish yourself, do take the time. The chores will still be there when you’re ready. Before you know it, you’ll be asking:

How can I face my responsibilities today?

state marching band championshipsI took this photo after spending all day and all night at the Colorado state high school marching band festival. Talk about putting responsibilities on hold!


  1. List 5 things you can do to replenish yourself.
  2. If it has been longer than 7 days since you’ve put your responsibilities on hold, schedule a day to do so and let us know how it goes!

18 Ways to Move from Cynicism to Enthusiasm

CalmUp® photo of Nicky looking cynical

  1. Understand that not everyone perceives the world the way that you do and life would be boring if people all had similar thoughts.
  2. When you’re being cynical, are you also being judgmental?
  3. When you find yourself feeling cynical, make sure that you’re not admonishing yourself at the same time.
  4. When you’re feeling cynical, are you being controlling and wanting others to behave differently?
  5. Open to the humor that can often be found in a cynical statement.
  6. Cynicism isn’t about “bad,” and enthusiasm isn’t about “good.”
  7. Admit that sometimes it feels good to be cynical, almost like an ego boost, as if others are wrong, while you are right.
  8. When it comes to moving towards enthusiasm, take small steps. For example, get in touch with the good feelings with which you are already familiar, such as stepping into a warm bath.
  9. Meditate and focus on your breathing. Observe how thoughts of cynicism and enthusiasm come and go.
  10. Notice your attitude when you first open your eyes each morning. Where are you in the range from cynicism to enthusiasm? Are you able to move from ugh to ahh?

Build Your Dream

I live in a comfortable neighborhood surrounded by tree houses. My husband and son built the first tree house on the block, a German-style cottage, high above our front yard. Two neighbors followed suit—one included real glass windows, the second, a loft.

Recently, down the block, a family moved into a house that sat empty for more than 18 months. We were glad to notice the trimming of shrubs and clearing of overgrown weeds. Then, the hammering throughout the July 4th holiday signaled our neighbors’ plan to join the tree house alliance.

While walking my dogs, I complimented our new neighbor on what I assumed was the completed three-tiered project. “Oh no,” he exclaimed. “The tiers are just the landings to the tree house that has yet to be built!”

CalmUp® photo of tree house

What dream are you building?

•    How would you describe your dream succinctly a la elevator pitch?
•    What are the necessary steps to develop your dream to fruition?
•    What would it mean to you to have your dream fulfilled or potentially unfulfilled?

If you happen to read my most recent blog, What Would You Be Willing to Sacrifice? you’ll find that I almost gave up one important dream for another.

The Pressures of the Holidays

A lot of people this year are experiencing economic difficulties that can lead to feelings of hopelessness. People with health challenges often lack the energy to get involved in holiday festivities. Can you make the holidays more enjoyable?

Yes. In the same way that there’s no limit to the quality of your day, there’s also no limit to the quality of the holidays. The paradox, however, is that improving your own holiday involves serving others. As I wrote in CalmUp® Journey: Your Daily Ascending Tool for Better Days, true self-help is really about “other-help.”

That’s easy to say and much harder to do, especially around the holidays. With the end of the year, you may be working on accomplishing tasks, not to mention heading out to buy gifts. In looking more closely at my own pressures this holiday season, I realize my son and I have been quarreling over asking each other to do stuff for one another. “When you empty the dryer of your clothes, would you mind throwing in the load that’s in the washing machine?” “Mom, can you come outside and give me a hand with the ladder?”