5 Things To Do While You Figure Out What You Want to Be When You Grow Up

I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I was 51 years old.

When I finally found “my thing” it wasn’t the thing I thought it would be, and it certainly wasn’t anything anyone would ever pay me to do.  But by that point, I didn’t really care about money.  All I really wanted was to know.  I wanted to know finally, definitively, and without a doubt what I was put on this earth to do, before I left it.

The day it dawned on me, the day I figured it out, that was the day I discovered such a deep, rich vein of contentment, happiness and stability within myself that I’ve been feeding off of it ever since.

Now I’m growing and evolving and learning to play this game of life for some really serious points.  No more dinking around. No more hand-wringing and wondering.  And what a relief it is, let me tell you.

When you finally know what you want to be when you grow up, this rock-solid self-knowledge allows you to even “settle” and take a job “just for money,” without any qualms, because you finally know what your real work is, and you don’t have to worry about being mistaken for a checker at Wegman’s, for instance, or a barista at some coffee joint.   If people ask you what you do for a living, you can tell them your job title, but then add, “But what I really am is a (fill in the blank here) which in my case was “a writer and a teacher of yoga.”  And smile.


Soon after I became certified to teach yoga at age 51, I found a little space to rent, just to see if I could get anyone to practice with me. It was a risk, for sure, but now, miraculously, I have a sweet little studio and every week a whole bunch of people come and practice with me. I’ve been consistently making the rent doing what I was put on this earth to do for the last 7 years.

Before I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up though, I must have read every book written about how to find your “vocation” or “calling.”  But it wasn’t until I started actually doing things, these 5 practices specifically, and doing them consistently, even religiously, over the course of a few years, that everything started to fall into place.

These practices will give you that all-important “self-knowledge” I was talking about. And I guarantee, you won’t find your vocation until you gain some measure of that.

So, if you still don’t have a clue about what you’re supposed to be doing with this “one wild and precious life” of yours, start with these 5 things.  They were the keys that unlocked everything for me.

1. Make Lists

Actually, 2 lists. In the first one, list all the things you Love/like.  In the second one, all the things you Hate/dislike.

Why do this? Because the act of listing these things will bring you into sharp focus. You might not know what you want to be when you grow up yet, but at least if someone asks: “Who do you think you are?! At the very least you’ll be able to say, “Well, I am a person who prefers chocolate over vanilla, and baths over showers.”

I keep my lists on tadalists.com.  That way I can edit them and even share them with others if I want.  You can check out my “Likes” list here. And my “Dislikes” list here.  Remember too, that your lists are an ongoing project and will evolve and change over time, just like you, so keep adding to, and subtracting from them as you think of things.

2.  Play A Daily Game of Freeze Tag

Remember Freeze Tag? If someone tagged you, you had to stand like a statue until someone “unfroze” you?  Yeah. So here’s what you do: you take a timer and set it for 10 minutes.  Sit down in a chair and don’t move a muscle for 10 minutes.  When the timer goes off, you’re “unfrozen.”  If you do this every day, you will know what you want to be when you grow up very, very soon.  Some people call this “meditation” but you don’t have to.  Just sit down, shut up, and don’t move for 10 minutes (minimum) every day.

3. Make More Time For Stuff You Like To Do.

(Unless the stuff you like to do involves passively staring at screens.) Watching football on TV, or playing on Facebook doesn’t count.  Make less time for screen-staring, and spend more time building a rock garden, or an ultralight plane in your garage. Sew a quilt or write a novel. Make a complicated new recipe or train your dog for an agility competition.  It doesn’t matter if nobody will ever pay you a dime to do this stuff, if you love to do it, you need to build in some serious time in your life to do it.  Don’t neglect what you love.  Remember: What you love is who you are.

4. Find a Body Practice You Can Do Consistently, And Do It.

Run, walk, do tai chi, practice yoga, bike, hike, swim–it doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s something you can do in all kinds of weather, and without a lot of equipment, and without a partner.  You don’t have to do it every day, just most days.

5. Streak Something.

Find something you can do every day and do it.  Build a streak.  You might even make your body practice your “streak thing,” thus taking care of # 4 and #5 in one fell swoop. I have had “yoga streaks” and “workout streaks” and “writing streaks” and “meditation streaks.” I have a 103 day writing streak going on 750words.com at this very moment.  Doing something every day, no matter how small, insignificant or silly it might seem, builds stamina and endurance and discipline. It will make you proud of yourself.  It will make you stable.  And when the streak ends (which it will, inevitably), you can start all over again, or streak something else.

It wasn’t until I started making and tending my lists, sitting still every day, carving out time for the things I loved to do, moving my body, and building up long streaks of discipline, that it all  fell into place for me.

I wish I had started doing this stuff sooner. It would have spared me a lot of “path errors” and saved me thousands of dollars in books. You should really try it, especially if you are still wondering who you are, and what you are going to do with this “one wild and precious life” of yours.

If you start today and keep at it, I’ll bet in less than a year, you’ll know what you want to be when you grow up.  And when you do, write and tell me what it is, okay? I’d love to hear.

(This is a short excerpt from a book I am working on called “How To Win The “Well-Lived Life” Badge For Your Tombstone or Urn.”))

A Tsunami of Caring

Flag of the Red Cross

Image via Wikipedia

Here I am, sitting in my pretty house, typing on a very nice laptop, with more than enough food and warmth on this sleepy, newly-clocks-turned-ahead morning on the verge of spring, wondering:

How do I get to have the freedom of distance from all the horror and sorrow in this morning’s papers?

How do I get to take a shower, a walk, do some yoga, meditate, write 750 words, do the sudoku puzzle, put a load of laundry in, and plan tonight’s dinner?

How come I get the luxury of pushing “mute” or “off” and then go resume my pretty little life with all my pretty little things?

How do I even have the luxury of feeling nauseous, or crying, or feeling panic or hopeless?

I am sitting here wondering: What can I do?  What can anyone do? I don’t have the knowledge or power to cool down a nuclear plant.

I can’t board a plane to Japan and help dig through rubble.

I can wire money through Paypal to the American Red Cross which I have done, but that seems so little in the face of this.

Little me, with my pretty life, and all my things, and the luxury of turning the devastation OFF.

I can be nauseous, but that doesn’t help the situation one tiny bit. Neither does my sorrow, my tears or my anger. None of that helps.

As I was walking up the stairs just now to my cozy lair and my space chair, carrying my nice computer and pondering these things, I thought of the lyrics to, Let There Be Peace On Earth, and especially the line, and let it begin with me.

And although this is very slim consolation, it is something.

What can I do?  I can be unfailingly kind.  Everyday.

I can resist with every atom in my body: anger, hatred, pettiness and complaining. I can stay mindful, awake and aware.

I can try to broaden my sphere of influence so that as many people as possible can take shelter under my umbrella of kindness.  And maybe be affected by it, and then go and affect others.

That’s all I can do.  It has to start with me.  Every epidemic started with one person and then spread, right?  I can try to start an epidemic of kindness and caring and just hope that the “Butterfly Effect,” which states that when a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world it can cause a hurricane in another part of the world, is true.

I can try to start a tsunami of kindness and caring that might someday even reach Japan, but even if it just reached Main St that would be okay.





12 Things I’m Loving Right Now

I know that “The Best Things In Life Aren’t Things” but lately I’ve been trying to focus my attention away from this endless winter, and on all the things I do really love and appreciate in my life.  This post is about things.  Objects, food, technology, yoga apparel and gear.  All the things that I am really loving right now.

So here goes:

Kashi Frozen Pizza, especially the Mushroom and Spinach one.  It is saving me on nights when I come home late from class and just want a little snack and a glass of wine while I watch The Biggest Loser.  The crust is really thin, it’s light, has good ingredients, and I like the eco-packaging.

Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice.  I even posted about this on Facebook the other day.  I can get it at Wegmans, and they also sell it at Wal-mart, surprisingly. It’s a little pouch of microwavable rice that I put stir-fried veggies on top of for a satisfying lunch.  Cooks in 90 secs. It is wicked good.

Nourish.  This is a powdered meal substitute that I drank when I was on the Clean Program.  I am not on Clean officially anymore, but I love this stuff.  It’s filling when I don’t have time to eat.  I like the chocolate.  I make it with Almond milk, put in frozen blueberries and some flax seeds and buzz it up in the Vita-Mix.  It’s spendy, though.  Still, I would be lost most days without it.

IPad.  I love this thing with my whole heart and soul. It’s ridiculous how much I love this wondrous piece of technology.  I let G take it to Florida with her on spring break and I’m totally jonesin’ for it!  Love IT. If you’re on the bubble about getting one, think you don’t NEED one, think again.  I have the older model, and this link is to the new one.  I love my “old” one and they are being sold cheap on ebay now that the new ones are coming. You won’t regret this splurge.  Guaranteed.

Zen Timer. I am in love with all things gizmo.  I love my Ipad. I love my Touch, I love my MacBook Pro.  I love this app. I use it every single day to time my meditation. I use it in Yin Class. It’s really great.

Sudoku Daily.  If you love sudoku, electronic sudoku is so wonderful you’ll think you have died and gone to heaven.  This is a free app, and while it is not as good as, say, the sudoku game on The Daily (for the Ipad), this is a great app for your touch, your phone, wherever you play games.

Timex Marathon. I have been wearing this watch for years. When the band breaks I go buy another one.  I am stupid when it comes to wrist chronographs. I don’t need lap times or splits.  I want a watch with the date and time. I want a timer and a stopwatch.  I want to read it in the dark if I have to. I want everything to be intuitive to program.  I never have to consult the manual.  This watch tells me how to set it.  I love this thing. Not pretty, but it gets me there on time.

Kor Delta Water Bottle.  This is the bottle that is going to cure me of my hatred of drinking water. It is so beautifully designed I want to pick it up and sip it every time I look at it. I have ordered 2 to raffle off at the end of the Yoga Challenge in April.  This is what happens when design meets function.  True love.

CVS Lens Wipes. Without these I wouldn’t be able to see.  I like them because they are not really WET.  They do the job with just the right amount of moisture. I use them on my glasses, my spendy sunglasses, my Ipad screen–everything. They are individually wrapped so not eco-friendly, but they fit in my purse and go everywhere.  Love them.

Kickbooty Yoga Pants. These are the best yoga pants I have ever worn. They make my ass look amazing.  I love them. Period.

Manduka. I love my Manduka mat. I practice on the Pro.  But I recommend this Pro-Lite mat to all my students.  Can’t go wrong. Not too tacky, not too slippery, really easy to clean.  To my mind, the perfect light-weight mat for toting to class.

750 Words This site is just the most rockin’ writing site in the world.  If you ever tried to do Morning Pages, a la Julia Cameron, this the online version.  No Artist dates or any of that other hoo-hah, just 750 words of brain clean-out every day.  Like taking a shower.  I feel clean and refreshed when I’m through. Plus, Buster gives you BADGES!!!!

Okay, there’s my list.  What are YOU  loving lately in the world of “things?”  Would love to hear!

750 Words Freakout– Reconsidered

I was all in a dither yesterday because 750 words went on the blink. I kept pushing “force save” and cursing and gnashing my teeth and getting up from the chair, then sitting down again, checking every 2 minutes to see if the site had saved my words.

I was freaking because my streak of 95 days was in jeopardy.  The site refused to save any of my words after 748, and if you don’t get to 750 words, your day doesn’t count.

Yesterday would have been Day 95, today, Day 96, and on Day 100 (this coming Thursday) I would have earned my Phoenix Badge (!!)

Here’s a picture of all the badges I have so far:

750 Words Screenshot

Pretty impressive, no? (Yeah. I know. I is da bomb.)

Thing is, I am ridiculously and shamelessly motivated by these stupid badges. Stickers, badges, stars on spelling tests, trophies, plastic Beethoven statuettes–you name it, if there is a little prize to be had, no matter how cheesy, worthless and meaningless, I will go after it, doggedly.

So, yesterday, after sitting all morning fretting about my lost Phoenix badge, I finally gave up trying to make the computer do the right thing, and drove to Wegmans for my weekly food shopping.

On the drive I pondered long and hard this fixation with doodads. Didn’t I subscribe (at least in theory) to the Zen concept of “detachment from outcomes” and to doing a thing “for its own sake”?  Isn’t this a central tenant of the Bhagavad Gita, of Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras, of every wisdom tradition known to man?

So what if my words didn’t “count”? I wrote them. I know the streak is intact.  I know I did the work every day. I know I am becoming a better writer as a result of daily practice, as a result of the site.  What do I care if the site stutters? What do I care if there is an algorithmic tic that stops counting at 748 words?  I wrote over 900 words that day.  That’s all that matters.

When I got home I sat down and wrote a note of thanks to the creator of the site, Buster Benson. He does this site for nothing. Doesn’t charge a penny.  And most of the time, the system works flawlessly.  On the site’s status page it says that Buster knows about the glitch and is trying to fix it and will make it right with anyone who’s streak got messed up.

Aww… What a guy.  But even if he can’t fix it, and my “streak” comes to an end, I’ll be there tomorrow morning, writing my words.  I’ll just rename the site 748 words and…problem solved!

As for the badges?  Eh.  I don’t need them anymore.  They’re cute and all, but they’re not real. They’re just little pictures on a screen. But my words–ahhhh, those represent my thoughts, my inner landscape, the workings of my mind.  And to get into the habit of visiting that country daily, and create relationships with those inhabitants, now that’s the whole point of 750 words.

Thanks, Buster.