Three years ago, almost to this day, I went on my first Adventure Tuesday. I was newly self-employed and realized that, while I had bitten off more than I could chew and was still working too much, I really wanted to make spending time with friends in the outdoors a priority. After years of working full-time for a startup + blogging and freelancing on the side, I was done hustling. I wanted to spend more time with the people I loved doing the things we loved. And since one of the benefits of self-employment is that you’re able to set your own hours, that’s exactly what I did. I made my friends + the outdoors a priority, and pencilled in a standing date to explore a new town or trail with someone every Tuesday.
Approximately 156 Tuesday’s have passed, since then, and I can’t say I’ve gone on an adventure for each one. However, the intention behind Adventure Tuesday has stuck with me. To this day, I make sure there is breathing room in my calendar so I can say yes to walk/hike requests. This summer, I also made a bucket list of things I wanted to do and see in and around Squamish, and crossed most things off. I explored new areas, stepped on new trails, swam in new lakes. I made my friends + the outdoors a priority.
I’m not telling you this so you will lace up your shoes and head out. And this newsletter isn’t going to be filled with hiking tips or recaps of mine. Adventure Tuesday isn’t really about the outdoors at all. It’s about paying attention to your thoughts about how you want to be spending your time, and figuring out how you can turn them into realities. It’s also about setting healthier boundaries in your life, so you can show up for yourself and for others. I’ve made a lot of big changes in my life, over the past eight years. But putting Adventure Tuesday in the calendar felt like the first (tiny) step towards actively creating the life I wanted, rather than passively consuming the one I thought I should have.
That’s what I want to talk about in this season of Adventure Tuesday: the idea of creating vs. consuming. I want to talk about how we, as humans, are consumers. We consume non-stop around the clock, and it impacts our mindsets, our health, our money and our relationships. But we, as humans, are also creators. You might not think you create anything physical (and maybe you don’t really, aside from the meals you eat). However, you are a creative problem-solving human being, and that means you have a little more control over your life than you might currently believe.
This won’t be a how-to kind of newsletter. I’m not an expert, and I don’t have many answers about how or why we do things. What I am is a human with a lot of questions and ideas, and a writer who wants to share what she observes. (That’s what a writer’s job is, by the way: to observe and report back. It’s so simple. I won’t overcomplicate it.) I will do this by sharing stories: some mine, some others, and some things I research. I may also suggest the occasional “mini adventure” or “slow adventure” to dip your toes into the topics we discuss. But overall, the purpose of this newsletter is to share my thoughts, and hopefully have some great conversations with you each week. :)
Here’s what you can expect:
a weekly email delivered every Tuesday from now until the end of November,
we’ll take December off, and I’ll think about what the next season could look like,
and when we reconnect in January, I may switch things up and write less frequently (bi-weekly instead of weekly) or change anything else so it feels like it’s working for all of us.
I meant what I said last week about not only respecting my own boundaries as a creator but also yours as a consumer, which is why I will always be questioning how I can best show up (including giving us all space). But if it ever gets to a point where you find yourself deleting the emails rather than reading them, exercise your ability to hit the unsubscribe button (which is always at the bottom). It is my hope that we will all develop and practice healthier consumption habits together, and I’m not afraid to say that might mean you eventually don’t need my emails. Pay attention to how the things you consume make you think and feel, and let go of anything that isn’t serving you. If I’m one of the things you let go of, that means our work together is done. :)
I’m writing from the kitchen table at a friend’s flat in London. It’s 9am, around 11°C (52°F) and looks like we’re in for yet another classic British forecast: some sun, some cloud, some rain, and a little wind to mix it all up and sprinkle it throughout the day. Note that I’m not complaining! This weather is similar to what I would be experiencing at home. I’m only talking about it because that’s what you do in the UK. ;)
I’ve been in England for a month now, and it’s taken that long for me to feel like I can settle in and get some actual work done now. That’s not good or bad. It’s just something I’m going to have to think more about, as I continue to map out my travels. Because I’ve been here before, I assumed I would be able to quickly settle into a routine of writing, going for long walks, cooking, seeing some friends, etc. Of course, it’s never as simple as we want it to be, is it?
Within 5 days of being here, I reconnected with someone I met last year and our first conversation quickly opened my eyes and shifted one of my priorities. At the same time, it only took one trip to the grocery store for me to be faced with a new truth: that my thoughts and values around the consumption of single-use plastics have changed dramatically over the past year, and I feel really (read: really) uncomfortable shopping here now, where nearly everything is wrapped in it.
Before I left Victoria, I had coffee with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a few years. When we said goodbye, he hugged me and whispered, “you know you’re going to come back changed, right?” It hit me hard, and felt like the most honest thing someone had ever said to me. I said yes and, one month later, I can confirm that he was right. But it’s also true that I changed even before I left. I just didn’t know it, until I returned to somewhere I’d been before and saw it with new eyes.
Anyway, I still haven’t dug deep enough into those thoughts or feelings yet, to make more sense of them or figure out what’s next for me. What I have done is kept a detailed journal of everything I’ve done so far on this trip, along with little notes so I can remember what I was thinking while I was here. In flipping through the pages, I realized that some of my notes might actually be helpful for others. So I’ve compiled a list of 30 thoughts to share from my first 30 days away.
I hope at least one of them feels good for you. :)
Sometimes meeting someone one time is good enough, and you should leave the memory at that.
Sometimes meeting someone a second and third time proves to be better, and you realize you might have even more in common than you thought the first time.
You won’t know who the “one time only” people are, until you see them a second or third time.
You can change a lot in a year.
Your values can change a lot in a year too.
The people you can sit in silence with, or quietly read your own books together with, are special. It’s strange how being silent with someone can actually be more memorable than forcing your way through a conversation.
When you’re unexpectedly in the same place as someone at the same time, make plans. The universe wants you to spend time together.
It’s not always a good idea to meet your heroes. But sometimes, you meet them and are pleasantly surprised to discover they are exactly who you hoped they would be.
If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. (I already knew this lesson, but have been reminded of it a few times.)
There are people who understand you and people who never will. Don’t try to force the latter. It’s ok if only a few people really understand you. It’s a gift to have even one.
You don’t owe anyone an interaction. Hard stop.
Being a beginner sucks most of the time, until you’re no longer a beginner. When you start to see the early signs of your efforts paying off, you’ll be glad you tried something new.
Being self-aware is exhausting. But it can also be a gift for you and everyone who comes into your life.
You don’t have to always be right. One day, you will overhear a stranger from another country try to explain something silly/inconsequential about yours. And they will get it all wrong, but tell the story with such enthusiasm that you can’t bear to tell them the truth. So, don’t! Let them think they are right. Who is it really hurting?
It can feel really good to do regular daily life things in new cities.
Move at the pace that feels natural to you.
“Treat everyone you meet like an old friend.” (I first read this quote in a book last year, and have thought about it almost every day since—especially when it comes to dating.)
Rejection isn’t about you. Even if it seems like it is, it’s really not.
A breakup won’t be the worst thing you go through. You’ve survived worse.
The kindest thing you can do is let someone go on their own journey, even if it doesn’t include you.
Don’t be afraid to tell people what positive impact they’ve had on you. We don’t do this enough, probably because it’s scary. But put yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear how you had helped someone?
The thought of trying to do anything to help the planet is so overwhelming, because you quickly realize that basically everything you do is bad for the planet. Turn the dial back and remember what ONE thing sparked these spiralling thoughts. Start with that.
All you can do is live according to your values.
When someone invites you to go on an adventure, don’t ask too many questions. Say yes, pack water/snacks and go.
The state of your space is the state of your mind.
Decluttering is just a tool. You need to dig up the root(s) cause, so it doesn’t keep spreading and you aren’t clearing out the mess again every 5-10 years.
There’s no point in earning more money or being successful if you aren’t sharing it with people/the world.
Nothing matters more than the health of you and your loved ones.
When it comes to big/tough decisions, take your ego out of the equation and then ask yourself what you should do.
When in doubt, rent the pedal boat. You will laugh. A LOT.
PS – I wrote the intro to this newsletter in my journal, and am thinking about writing them all like that while I’m away and, of course, sharing them with you! It feels like I’m writing a letter to a friend (and who doesn’t love snail mail?). The tone will naturally be much more conversational, but I’m curious if my writing will get any better as time goes on and I can’t constantly self-edit? I won’t know, unless I try! Here’s to new experiments and being a beginner again. :)
It’s been just over four months, since I sent my last newsletter. A lot has changed in that time, and there are also a lot of new people who are hearing from me for the first time. So I’m here to say: hello to all! A very belated “happy new year”. And before starting the next season of the newsletter next week, I thought it would be nice to share some of what I’ve been doing, consuming + thinking about so far this year. Future newsletters may not make sense, without this info.
What I’ve Been Doing
Overall, the first few months of 2019 have generally been pretty quiet. I created a nice routine: writing first thing in the morning, going to the gym/hiking in the afternoon, visiting with friends (and spending many hours/days holding the new identical twin girls born to one of my oldest friends!) and having a night at home. As much as I like to challenge myself, I’ve also accepted that routine really does help me get things done—as well as supports my mental health.
What has made this a little more interesting is that I’ve done all of this in my hometown, Victoria, BC. Last summer, I began to wonder what it would be like to give up my apartment and travel full-time for a year. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it also seemed like a natural extension of how I’ve already been living. And so, after sitting on that question for some time, I ultimately decided to give it a go. I gave up my apartment in Squamish and left there at the end of 2018.
My idea, for this year anyway, is that I’ll spend a few months at my dad’s house in Victoria, and then spend the rest of the year travelling. I want to move fairly slowly, staying in places for at least one month at a time—and that’s both so I can maintain my routine and enjoy the new places I’m in. It’s not something everyone would enjoy, and I certainly won’t sell it as a dream, but it’s feeling quite natural, so far.
At the moment, I’m sitting at a cafe in London. I’m here for most of April, then will likely spend May in Scandinavia, and June/July in Austria and Germany. That could change, but this is the general plan for the first half of 2019. I’m still looking at places to stay (hopefully near some nature/the mountains) where I can walk to a grocery store and coffee shop. If any cities/towns come to mind, or you have a vacation home I can rent, I’m open to suggestions. :)
So, that’s a fairly big update on my personal life, I suppose! Aside from that, I’ve actually been working a lot. The paperback version of The Year of Less came out in January, and I did two events to support that: one at Powell’s in Portland, the other for a great group of people in Nashville. But most of the work I’ve been doing this year was on my proposal for book #2. And I’m so happy to share that it was acquired by Little, Brown Spark a few weeks ago!
I’ll be able to tell you a lot more about that, as time goes on. For now, I’m excited to share the title: ADVENTURES IN OPTING OUT. It should be ready for you in fall 2020. :)
What I’ve Been Consuming
Whew! Ok, that was a pretty massive update, haha. But oddly, I’m more excited to share what I’ve been consuming + thinking about so far this year. Because that’s the nitty gritty stuff, right? Some of the details that make up our days!
At the start of 2019, I still felt completely tapped out of nearly everything happening online—and in a lot of ways, that hasn’t changed. The general feeling I get when I look at most blogs/social media profiles is that everyone is an expert and they are all prescribing expertise I’ll never have or yet another long list of things I will never achieve, all of which, ultimately, just makes me feel worse about myself. And I can’t read it anymore.
I’ve been craving stories. Journeys to follow. Even just the “boring” (NOT BORING) updates we used to share on blogs. Like what are you thinking about right now? What have you been curious enough to actually learn more about? And where are the BEGINNERS!? Where are the people who are raising their hands and saying “I have no idea what I’m doing, but here’s what I’m attempting and my progress so far”? I miss those days. Blogging was actually fun, back then.
In the absence of reading whatever is on the internet these days, I’ve picked up more books this year. Way more than usual. To date, I’ve read 14 (about 4 per month)! And aside from Company of One and Digital Minimalism (both of which I love), they have been memoirs and works of fiction. Stories. Real-life thoughts and lessons. Characters you are rooting for (or some you’re not). And my gosh, it has felt both indulgent, and like a really positive shift.
A few of my faves so far have been:
Becoming by Michelle Obama (listened to the audiobook, which she narrated)
***THIS BOOK! UGH, so good! I read it after watching the movie (for the second time) and believe it is one I will read again and again. It’s written entirely in letters being sent between people, and has inspired an idea for this newsletter.
You might remember that last year I basically unsubscribed from everything, including most newsletters and podcasts. I also stopped using Twitter. Part of this was to help with the general sense of overwhelm re: how much content exists (reminder: you can’t read, watch and do everything). But I was also curious how my thoughts about them all might change. And change, they have! There were a few newsletters I missed (and a few more I unsubscribed from). And I kept experimenting with Twitter, but don’t think I’ll ever go back there. It’s simply too hostile.
The change with podcasts was a little bigger. First, I not only unsubscribed from them all but also deleted every episode I had downloaded. A little digital declutter, I suppose. Then, whenever I missed a show, I would download the latest episode that sounded interesting. Sometimes I enjoyed them, but I haven’t subscribed to any of them. Instead, I’ve taken recommendations from friends to listen to a specific episode of a podcast, and have found so many new voices and topics that way. I’ve also found a few people I enjoy and listened to many interviews they’ve done, so I can learn more.
This isn’t particularly helpful, I’m sure, but I’m sharing because it’s been yet another act of letting go. Releasing the expectation that you have to follow something entirely from beginning to end, and being ok with the fact that some things only come into your life for a reason or a season.
Anyway, here are the few podcasts I’ve listened to more than one episode of:
Climate One – candid conversations about energy, the economy and the environment. I started by devouring the episodes with Yvon Chouinard (who I’m fascinated with right now).
Front Burner – my new fave podcast by the CBC. Every weekday, Jayme Poisson takes one of the big stories in Canada and helps you understand what’s going on, what the impact is, etc.
Making Sense – Sam Harris changed the name of his podcast, which threw me off. I’ve listened to the eps with Jack Dorsey (Twitter) and Roger McNamee (Facebook). Also have the one on digital capitalism downloaded.
Real Talk Radio – Nicole has done TWENTY (20) seasons of this show now and I still love it! Have a few episodes from the new season downloaded for upcoming travel days. :)
The Slow Home Podcast – Brooke and Ben decided to change the format of the podcast and start doing it in seasons, which I am always in favour of (change is healthy). It was also lovely to hear about their journey home.
What I’ve Been Thinking About
The better question might be: what haven’t I been thinking about this year? As you can imagine, with giving up my home, selling another book, travelling full-time, there’s a lot on my mind. For the sake of keeping things simple, I’ll share two topics and some of the thoughts I’ve had around them both. I will preface this by saying there are no answers here. Just thoughts, questions, etc. :)
A few months ago, I listened to this podcast called The Dream. It’s about the history of MLMs (multi-level marketing companies) and I devoured all 11 episodes within a week. There were so many interesting points shared throughout it (including people’s experiences with them) but there was one that really stood out for me: the fact that, yes, there are some people who make a lot of money with MLMs. But they are the 1%. The majority of the money they earn comes from the people they have recruited. And while MLMs haven’t disappeared, more and more people now see them for what they are and avoid them at all costs. While I was listening, the only thing I could think about was: wow, this sounds a lot like selling the dream of being a full-time blogger. Yes, some people make a lot of money doing it. But they are the 1%. The majority of the money they earn comes from people clicking on affiliate links, buying products, etc. And people can package up their tips, tricks and expertise, but they can’t sell their unique experiences, character traits, or skills that help them do what they do. A few questions I’ve pondered since: I wonder how long the “make money online” industry will continue to seem appealing? If this hasn’t happened already, I wonder when people will begin to avoid blogs that talk about ways to make money, the same way we avoid friends who join MLMs and try to sell us products we don’t need? And I wonder if/when the whole thing will crumble? Maybe never! Actually, probably never! But anyway, that one podcast series opened my eyes in a way I wasn’t expecting when I first started listening.
How can I do more to help the planet? It’s the one question I’ve thought about more than anything else, this year. And it’s scary to start writing and sharing any of the thoughts that have come up for me, because I only know enough to know I don’t know much of anything yet lol. I am not an expert on the environment or climate change or consumption or waste or anything else. I’m also not interested in becoming an expert or trying to be “perfect”. But I’m standing in the place most of my other personal journeys have begun: where I’m starting to notice things and pay more attention, ask questions and figure out what feels right for me, before taking too many steps down a new and unknown path. One thing I have done is committed to donating 1% of my income to environmental causes via 1% For The Planet. I’ve also been looking for more podcasts on these topics, so I can find new people to learn from, books to read, etc. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears! Please! Anything you want to share. :)
Ok, I’ll leave it there for today, my friend! I’ll be starting up my newsletter again next week, and have a fun idea for it that I’m excited to share with you. But now I’d love to hear from you. How has 2019 been so far? What’s on your mind? Is there anything you want to learn more about this year?
Happy New Year, friends! Popping in to let you know I’m doing an event at Powell’s in Portland, Oregon on January 16th. We’ll be celebrating the release of the paperback version of The Year of Less—as well as the first birthday of the book! I’ll share a bit of my story, but would love to open it up more for Q&A and have some discussions about money, minimalism, being a mindful consumer, and whatever else is on your mind. If you’re local, I would love to see you there! :)
Well, friends—you asked many (many, many) times and I finally listened. After three years of creating Mindful Budgeting Planners that ran for full calendar years (January 1 to December 31), I finally made them evergreen! That means you can start whenever you feel ready, not just on January 1st.
If this is your first time hearing about them though, you might be wondering what a Mindful Budgeting Planner is.
For years, I searched for this planner in bookstores. I would stand in front of the shelves, scan the titles and open every single one that looked even remotely look this—but I never found it. The daily financial planner I wanted didn’t seem to exist, so I decided to create it myself; that’s how Mindful Budgeting was born in 2015.
Inside these pages, you’ll find the things you love about a regular daily planner. There are blank calendars you can fill in. There is an area to write down your to-do list each day. There are also spaces to reflect on how you’re feeling about the changes and progress you’re noticing. (It could be a great companion to a shopping ban.)
mindful: attentive, aware, or careful
What makes this planner unique is the personal finance content. My own journey started with tracking my spending, so that’s what this planner was built around. Along with the daily spending sheets, you’ll also find spreadsheets and budget templates to track all your numbers for 12 months.
And the best part: like I said, the planner is now evergreen! That means it’s not dated (though I’ve made it easy for you to write in the dates) so you can start whenever you feel ready to change your financial life. Or pick it back up with no shame, if you’ve fallen off track. (This often happens with planners. It’s not bad. It just is.)
budget: an estimate, often itemized, of expected income and expenses for a given period of time
Unlike some other financial planning tools, you won’t find any pressure to be perfect in this planner; it doesn’t exist and that’s not the goal. But the more you use it, I think you’ll find you naturally begin to put more attention and energy into managing your money, because you’ll want to—not because I told you to.
My hope is that you’ll finish this 12-month period of your life with a new awareness of your personal finances and a vision of what you want for the future. If nothing else, I hope the planner helps you embrace the idea of being a beginner, let go of the past and start where you are. :)
So, What’s Inside?
Note: You can visit this page to see more pictures, or click to order and “preview” the whole thing!
Daily spending sheets to track both your spending and your to-do’s (31 blank days per month)
Monthly calendars (12 blank, so you can start whenever you’re ready, not just on Jan 1)
Monthly budget templates (12)
Spreadsheets to track your debt repayment, savings, bill payments and net worth
Two pages of writing prompts to reflect at the end of each month
Two pages of writing prompts to reflect at the 6-month mark
Four pages of writing prompts to reflect at the end of the 12 months
Motivational quotes to inspire you at the start of each month (12)
Every copy of the Mindful Budgeting Planner is printed on demand (meaning it gets printed and bound when you place your order). You will place your order directly through the Blurb website, which is my print shop of choice. They have printers in the US, the Netherlands and Australia.
Blurb doesn’t offer wire coil binding, but their hardcovers are beautiful. That means the planners don’t lay perfectly flat, which is something I’ve been wanting since I first launched the planners in 2015. However, it does mean they are printed a little closer to home, instead of being made in China like most other planners.
When you place your order through Blurb, they handle the printing, as well as the shipping and customer service. Because they handle everything, I don’t actually receive personal information about any of the orders. If you have any issues, you can fill out this request form.
One thing to note is that some countries collect custom fees/duty on orders. In all the years I’ve sold the planner, I’ve only had two people tell me this was charged (and both were in Toronto)—but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen to you. More information about this can be found on the Blurb website.
I’ll leave it there with you, friends! Thank you for challenging me to imagine this planner could take a different shape. This exists because of YOU! And I am grateful. :)
Two December’s ago, I finally took my friend Paul’s lead and spent the month offline. I checked Instagram occasionally, but the blog, Twitter, etc. all went quiet. Not surprisingly, I can still remember moments from that month vividly. Without the distractions of needing to keep up with what was happening on the internet, I made memories with people in real life. Baking days with friends, playing with the dogs, relocating to Squamish, walking through heavy snow, going up the gondola with my mom and brother. That’s not to say it was all simple and peaceful (the holidays rarely are, at least not entirely). But I remember it.
I don’t remember last December. Actually, the one memory that sticks out is breaking down crying and calling Anthony from the floor of my living room. I eventually laughed at how ridiculous the situation would look to an outsider (grown woman laying on her rug sobbing). But that’s what I remember. I was neck-deep in book launch tasks and had no idea what I was doing. Being my first book, it was completely foreign territory. I couldn’t see where the task trail was going to lead me, but I was running down it at an uncomfortable pace. It didn’t feel good, and it wasn’t sustainable. Unfortunately, because that’s the pace I set, I felt like I had to keep it up—and did so for five full months.
You know how the rest of this story goes. After doing more than 100 interviews in the first four months of the year, I took May and June off to travel and spend some time with myself. Then I took the summer off to properly sit still, think, and begin to process what happened in the first half of the year. In that time, I decided to stop blogging altogether, and opted to write a newsletter instead. My original intention was to write this weekly, but I missed a few here and there while travelling, and have no guilt or regrets about that. I wrote what felt good, when it felt good. And right now, I feel more like myself than ever for one simple reason: I changed the rules.
I didn’t change the rules for everyone, but I changed the rules for myself. The rules about what I thought a blogger was supposed to do after writing a book. The rules about what I thought a first-time author was supposed to do before/after its release. The rules about what I thought I was supposed to do next. And currently, I’m changing all kinds of rules about how I’m living my life. It hasn’t been easy (as you know from my stories, but more importantly from your own). It’s hard to change stories you’ve been told, and stories you’ve told yourself, about who/what/when/where/why/how we live this life. But there’s one thing I keep telling myself that makes it a little easier.
This thing we’re doing? Living, working, challenging ourselves, etc. It’s all an adventure. Despite the fact that it feels like we are living in a time where everything is right/wrong, there is actually no right/wrong way to do this stuff. We have to try new things and learn, and take new trails and see where it all goes. More simply put: we have to be open and considerate—of ourselves and others. Sometimes that means starting down one path and realizing it’s the wrong one for you. That’s ok. With every step you take, you’ll find new paths open up. And no matter which path you take next, you’ll never be able to see the outcome. Just stick to a pace that feels good and you’ll find your way.
As you begin to think about what your goals or intentions might be for the rest of 2018 or early 2019, remember that you’re in control. You can change the pace or the rules to meet you or your family’s needs. If you do what feels good for you and those around you, there’s really no way you can go wrong. Again, you may not feel certain of that at the beginning. But eventually, you’ll find you have a personal map of your life and experiences. It’s only after you’ve taken steps forward, though, that you can look back and connect the dots to see where you came from. So don’t be afraid to take that first step. It’s the hardest one to take, but it’s also the closest.
Thank you for joining me for this season of the newsletter. I’ll be taking December off to travel a bit, spend time with friends and family, and think about what I want the future of the newsletter to look like.
Before signing off, I want to share quotes from two of the most meaningful pieces of content I’ve read this year. First, on the topic of consuming . . .
“While choice is infinite, our lives have time spans. We can’t live every life. We can’t watch every film or read every book or visit every single place on this sweet earth. Rather than being blocked by it, we need to edit the choice in front of us. We need to find out what is good for us, and leave the rest. We don’t need another world. Everything we need is here, if we give up thinking we need everything.” – Matt Haig, from my favourite book of 2018: Notes on a Nervous Planet
And on the topics of both consuming and creating . . .
“We are porous, highly susceptible creatures whose words and actions are affecting each other constantly. We’re taking cues from each other in every moment about who and how to be. The consequences of this are pretty massive. Everything is contagious. Every word, every action, every tweet, every Facebook post is a contribution to the collective. Every encounter affects us in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, and then that affects our next encounter, and our next, and so on and so on. We are wildly underestimating the impact we have on those around us. Those of us who are visible—and by that I really mean all of us—have a beautiful and holy opportunity. We can be contagiously good.” – Josh Radnor <3
That’s all for now, friend. Be kind, be safe and have a beautiful month! I’ll see you back here in 2019.
PS – I’m signing off from the newsletter, but not Instagram! From now until December 24th, I’m doing a daily post using the hashtag #tistheseasontobemindful. If you’re on there, feel free to say hi and follow along. I’ll be giving away a few bundles of books, too. It should be a fun month. :)
I was originally going to send out this newsletter next week, but then it dawned on me that it’s Thanksgiving in the US this week, which is immediately followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I suppose there’s no point in delaying the truth, which is that the holidays aren’t around the corner anymore—they are here.
For years now, I’ve been reluctant to write much of anything about the holidays for one reason: I don’t have answers. My holidays are never perfect, it’s a tough time for many, and I refuse to write something that offers solutions that won’t work for most. Or worse, solutions that are way too simple. Like so many other topics discussed in this space, we offer advice that is really general: say no, take time for yourself, give your presence vs. presents. And it’s not wrong. I would say that’s all part of how I handle the holidays. But in order to make that happen, I had to do one thing first: have tough conversations with family/friends.
I feel like this is the most danced around topic in any blog post about how to change your life, and I understand why: it’s not easy to start tough conversations. It feels even more difficult during the holidays, when perhaps some of the things you want to change have been traditions passed down for years or even generations. Nobody wants to tell their parents or grandparents that they want to opt out. (If you read The Year of Less, you know my grandma didn’t love the idea of having a minimalist Christmas.) So we write a sentence or two and acknowledge this is something that has to be done, but then move on because omg it’s not easy to navigate those conversations. But what if it could be?
I’ve had a lot of tough conversations over the years, but especially this one. If I’ve learned anything from them all, it’s that you’ll get the “best” reaction when you are open, and when you come from a place of love and integrity. (Best is subjective.) It’s not about being right vs. wrong. It’s about sharing your thoughts and feelings, being open to hearing what other people have to say, and going from there. Because the thing about starting tough conversations is that that’s all you’re doing: starting them. You might find a solution the first time, but often it takes multiple conversations to reach one. So, you need to start somewhere—and I’ve written 20 questions you can use to begin.
To ease in, I’ve included some questions based on this season of the newsletter that you could use to spark conversations with family/friends! These are meant to be a way to bring up the topics for the first time and get everyone thinking. Heck, if you’ve been quietly enjoying this newsletter by yourself, it could just be a way to share some of your thoughts offline and find out if anyone’s thinking about the same things you are. From there, I’ve written more questions about how to practice mindful consumption and be intentional during the holiday season. Pick and choose the ones you feel could help you + your loved ones create a season that is in alignment with your values.
As you sift through them, you may notice that most questions are open-ended; that means it won’t just get a yes/no answer, but instead creates space for people to share more. This is a really important part of starting any dialogue, and signals that it’s not about being right/wrong. Anyone who has been part of a tough conversation knows there is no quicker way to end it than to pass judgment or shoot down someone’s comment. If you’re going to wear the hat of “conversation starter,” please take the role seriously and make sure that everyone feels like they can speak and be heard. If a conversation starts from a place of love and integrity, that’s also how it should end.
I feel a bit bad about leaving you with so much homework in one newsletter! But honestly, this is the newsletter I’ve been most excited to share this season. My “solution” to managing the overwhelm might be tougher in the short-term, but it’s healthier for the future of your holidays. I hope you can create something that feels really good for everyone and, if nothing else, have some interesting conversations!
Questions About Being a Mindful Consumer (In General)
What does the term “mindful consumer” mean to you? Have you ever thought about the fact that we, as humans, are consumers? What are all the different things you think we consume?
How do you think your environment (location, culture, people) impacts your mindset and consumption tendencies?
How do you think you influence other people to shop/binge consume? How do you think you influence yourself to shop/binge consume?
Tell me about something you bought this year that you really enjoyed using.
What did you buy and not end up using? How did that feel? What are the lessons you can take from that experience?
Which book(s) or other pieces of content changed the way you think/act this year?
If you could only recommend one book to read, one podcast to listen to and one TV show to watch, what would they be and why?
Questions About Practicing Mindful Consumption During the Holidays
What role do gifts play in your current holiday traditions? Is there anything you want to change about that this year?
What are the stories you have told yourself about why you should buy X many gifts or spend Y amount of money on gifts? Are those stories still true for you today? Which ones do you want to rewrite?
How do you feel about money right now? How do you want to feel about money at the end of this holiday season?
How do you feel about your health right now? How do you want to feel about it at the end of this holiday season?
What could you/we physically live without during the holidays?
How can you/we create less waste this season? Waste less money, waste less food, waste less physical stuff.
What do you want giving to look like during the holidays—and all year?
Questions About Being More Intentional During the Holidays
What is your favourite holiday tradition and why?
Are there any new traditions you want to create this year? What would they mean to you/us? (This post compiled of all your suggestions from last year is filled with great ideas!)
Are there any old traditions you want to let go of? What would it take to make that happen? Why is it worth doing?
What would make the holidays less stressful for you? Are there any commitments/expectations you really don’t want to take on? How can you/we handle this?
How can you/we get to the end of the holiday season feeling some of the words that are so often used to describe it: joyful, merry, peaceful. <3
How would you like to document this season (even part of it, or whatever feels right for you)?
I have just two more newsletters to share this year, both of which I’m sending out next week. So for now, I will leave you with these questions and wish my American friends a Happy Thanksgiving. And I would love to hear how some of these conversations go, if you want to share your stories with me later this season. :)
Communication is a fascinating field of study. I know that by including a variation of the word “unsubscribe” in the title of this newsletter, a number of people may feel inclined to either immediately hit delete or unsubscribe from mine. The word could stir up an internal friction (or an eye roll) for some, which could have negative results for me. But in this example, I’m willing to take the risk. I’m not afraid of the unsubscribe button. In fact, this week I want to share some thoughts I’ve had about unsubscribing from things, and make a new case for why you (as both a consumer and a creator) might consider getting a little more comfortable with the idea.
Before we jump in, I should first define some of the common “things” you can subscribe to. On top of newsletters like this, you can subscribe to information via blogs, websites, podcasts, the news and magazines (both digital and physical). You can also subscribe to entertainment via streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, as well as physical goods like recurring deliveries of your favourite items or boxes of random things you may or may not end up using. For the case of this email, I’m mostly talking about information, but you could apply some points to the other things too.
When I had originally thought about writing this, I assumed I would include a few paragraphs about how technology has taken over our lives. I probably would’ve talked about how we receive too many notifications each day and have too many distractions. I might have made the point that there is simply too much to keep up with, and we should stop pressuring ourselves to try and do so. And to go along with that, I would have then likened unsubscribing to a form of digital decluttering, and told you that having less to keep up with feels easier and makes things more enjoyable.
While there is truth in each of those points, they’ve all been made before—and often miss the bigger (albeit far less visible) picture. Similar to sneezing and blowing your nose when you’re sick, being distracted and overwhelmed are just symptoms of information overload. You can turn off notifications and delete all the bookmarks/podcasts you’ve saved for “one day”. It will help, the same way taking cold medicine will temporarily clear your mind and help you get through the day. But what is the real problem? And is there a healthier, more long-term solution?
You might remember that I’ve been feeling as though we are close to reaching a critical mass. There is simply too much content now, and the overwhelming amount of choice tends to cause people to opt out altogether, or go back to what they already know. I see this happening all around me, including in myself. And I don’t necessarily like it, but am usually on the side of doing what feels right for you, so that’s the way it has been lately. You might think opting out would come pretty easily to me, at this point, and in a few cases that’s been true. But I’ve also hesitated with opting out of content. I’ve stopped before hitting the unsubscribe button and essentially asked myself the same question over and over again: are you sure? And then comes the real problem. Rolling around in my head is the bigger picture—or rather, the stories.
The reason we struggle with information overload isn’t just because of how much there is; it’s also because of the stories we tell ourselves about the information that is available. The stories we tell ourselves about why we should subscribe. The stories we tell ourselves about why we should consume the content. The stories about what we will do with the information. The stories about how it will improve our lives—or who it will help us become. When we hit the unsubscribe button, we aren’t just opting out of a list/person. We are unsubscribing from every story we’ve told ourselves about why we wanted to subscribe/follow them in the first place. And before we actually do it, we tell ourselves some more stories about why we are afraid to let go, then have to unsubscribe from those too.
It’s not easy: to choose not to consume some information that could potentially help you (or simply help you keep up with the people in your life). It feels the same as when we have a hard time decluttering/letting go of things we bought and never used. This is why we often hit delete—or simply ignore—a dozen emails from someone, before finally making the decision to hit unsubscribe. Deleting feels easier. In reality, hitting unsubscribe takes almost the same amount of time (maybe two clicks versus one, if you need to confirm it). But then, deleting or scrolling past them also takes time because it causes us to add to the stories we tell ourselves. So, do you want to live with the permanent frustration of constantly ignoring something or embrace the permanent act of letting it go? It’s not always an easy choice, I know.
If the problem is that we subscribe to things because of the stories we tell ourselves about it, the long-term solution to avoiding information overload isn’t to stop telling ourselves stories (which would be impossible). Instead, we have to change the stories, so that we ultimately subscribe to fewer things. It can be difficult, especially if you’ve been telling yourself some of the same stories for decades. But what could happen if you tried? I’m intentionally using the word “could” because we are all individuals and there are so many possibilities. :)
Personally, the new overarching story I’ve embraced is: if/when I need the information, I will be able to find it. This has helped me rewrite stories I had about needing to keep up with any one person or topic. It also helped me rewrite stories I had about needing to improve all areas of my life (and therefore needing to consume information about anything and everything under the sun). I do better work—on myself and in my actual work—when I only focus on one or two things at a time. If/when it’s time to shift gears, I trust I’ll be able to find the information I need.
How does this new story take shape in my real life? Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been unsubscribing from nearly everything, seeing if I miss any of it and creating new rules for what I will subscribe to. On the entertainment front, this means I unsubscribe from Netflix when I know it’s time for a season of work, and subscribe again when I know specific shows are back or I have more time to watch. And when it comes to things like newsletters and podcasts, I basically only subscribe to things I want to engage with. Things that will make me think or act differently. Things that really excite me. :)
That’s my current criteria, and it could change in the future, but it has created a real sense of empowerment. I feel like I’m getting more from the few things I subscribe to. I’m hitting reply to more newsletters, or taking notes during more podcasts. I’m engaged in just a few things, but it feels good. And oddly, as someone who has unsubscribed from a lot, it also feels good to miss people. I love visiting their websites or checking their podcasts again, and finding out what they’ve been up to. I’m really enjoying seeing where life has taken people—when I’m ready to see it.
To sum up these thoughts . . .
A note for consumers (all of us): consider unsubscribing from nearly everything and see what you miss. Whose emails do you genuinely want in your inbox? Whose podcasts do you most want to listen to? Subscribe again, or just visit them occasionally and see what they have to offer. If you really need the information, trust you’ll be able to find it. And in this stage of opting back in, be open to finding new things too. You won’t be the same person forever, so it makes sense that who you are today might want different content than who you were a year ago.
A note for creators: consider the language and tactics you use to get people to subscribe/follow you. Don’t make them feel bad/guilty or create a sense of scarcity. Go back to the golden rule, and trust that people will find you when they need you. Something I like to remind myself of is that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Imagine how much simpler this business of subscribing/unsubscribing might be, if we all embraced that statement. (Great examples of this: Josh Radnor and Austin Kleon.)
Before I officially made the big decision to retire from blogging, I took a bunch of smaller steps toward it; dipped my toes in the water, so to speak. You might remember the first thing I did was decide to take two weeks off. After a month, I decided to take the entire summer off. And then I did a bunch of things behind the scenes that were less visible. After hearing my friend Paul say he removed Google Analytics from his website, it dawned on me that maybe I could do the same. Then I did a huge content audit and deleted 200+ posts from my site. And finally (I think this is the last one!?) I signed out of Twitter.
If you are a blogger or content creator, some of that might shock you. I’ve heard actual gasps come out of people’s mouths, when I mention the Google Analytics step, specifically. It’s a tool that keeps track of how many people visit your site, how many pages/posts they look at on average, which country/city they are located and so on. And if you’re trying to figure out how readers find you, so you can create more content that brings even more readers in, and ultimately build a huge audience who might pay you/earn you ad revenue, it’s a great tool! But that’s not my goal (and never was).
Still, when I first heard Paul say he had deleted Google Analytics, I let out a little gasp too. Because it goes against the narrative of what we are told we “should” do. And so, my first thought was that I couldn’t possibly delete it from my site—could I!? The more I questioned it, the more it became clear that I could. For starters, I couldn’t remember why I had installed it in the first place. I also never used it the way you’re “supposed to”. So if it didn’t have a purpose and I never used it, why did I have it!? (Also a question to ask when decluttering!) There was no good answer, so I let it go. Hit delete and said goodbye.
Taking a bunch of smaller steps toward the idea of retiring from blogging was almost like testing a few theories. If I do X, what will happen? Ok, now what if I do Y? And then Z?Thanks to my wild imagination (and anxiety), I envisioned countless things that could go wrong. But in the end, even after taking the final plunge, nothing bad happened. People understood. It all worked out. If anything, it was actually one of the most exciting times of my “career” (is that what this is? lol). Because making the slow, intentional decision to let go of what I didn’t want to do anymore also gave me the time to figure out what I do want to be doing—and being “good” at the internet is not part of the equation.
Before we dive deeper into this topic, I should clarify that I don’t aspire to be a luddite. I love and use technology every day, including my smartphone, computers and the electric standup desk I built last summer. On my phone, I send texts and make calls, listen to audiobooks and podcasts, take pictures and still spend a little too much time on Instagram. On my computer, I write this newsletter, read/reply to emails, do research, write, record podcasts, create graphics, watch videos and so on. I also store things in the cloud, buy products, sell products and manage all of my money online. It is an incredibly useful tool that powers so many of the good things in my life. I am very pro internet!
What I’m no longer interested in is being “good” at the internet. I’ve known this for a long time. In fact, I remember meeting an online friend at a conference and having her ask me why I wasn’t doing a long list of things to grow my site. “Don’t you want to build a big audience or start your own publishing company? You totally could!” When I said “no,” she looked confused and almost frustrated. And it wasn’t her fault for reacting that way. I was at a conference where people were literally there to talk about how to create content that would build audiences and make them money! I was just there for different reasons (to see friends, not attend sessions).
We had that conversation in September 2016, and it took two more years for me to finally realize that maybe being “good” at the internet wasn’t my career path after all. Of course, over the past two years, a lot of other things have changed the way the internet works and feels. Not just in politics, but in the world of social media in general. Some people even believe the internet is terrible now. I wouldn’t go that far, but I did enjoy this podcast interview with Tim Wu. My personal feeling is simpler: the internet is extremely reactive now. It is fast-paced, stressful and requires a lot of energy to keep up with. And that is the exact opposite of living a slow, mindful and intentional life.
So, I’m opting out—at least of the way many content creators use the internet today. In fact, I think my new career goal is to be bad at the internet. When people ask if I’ve read a certain post, or heard about what someone did or said online, I want to say no. I don’t want to keep up with what “my competitors” (that language is so toxic) are doing or which tools they are using. I just want to read/listen/watch stuff I find and then close tabs when I’m done. And I really don’t want to hear about another tool, plugin, or app that can make the internet “better” or easier to manage. I want to use the internet so little that I can’t even imagine needing them at all. Because I don’t want to be known as just a blogger or someone who lives online. I want to be a human who lives + helps in real life.
All of this is to say that, basically, I want to go back to using the internet the way I did when I was a teenager. I want to read/reply to emails, do research, create content and watch videos. And I will keep the few products I have, and of course log on for any workshops we do together, because the internet is the only way we can connect! But I’m done with all the extra stuff that happens online now. That feels scary to type, because it’s the world I’ve been caught up in for the past 12+ years. But there are a lot of people (including friends my age) who have always used the internet this way. Some have never had Facebook. Many have never read blogs. They only open their computers to do work, check email or perform a quick search. Then it’s back to real life with their humans—and that sounds really nice.
There are only a handful of things I’m excited about these days. Getting back into + improving my writing (this newsletter has been a huge help!). Launching a new podcast (already have the skills for that). Learning new design skills (just for fun). Upcoming travel. And spending more time with my family and friends. Some of those things require the internet to work, but they don’t require me to be “good” at the internet. And, as you’ll soon see with my new podcast, they actually won’t require that I spend more time on the internet at all. Right now, I’m making intentional choices and shifts, so I can work online less in order to live offline more.
Last week, I returned home from a retreat in California. What I thought was going to be a creativity workshop being taught by two of my favourite authors ended up being more like two days of therapy being provided by them. While I know that the work was important for many of the people in the audience, it was work I had already done for myself over the past couple of years. Acknowledging and pushing through my fears? Yep, I’m basically always doing that. Actively pursuing things I want and creating an engaged life? It was fun to write the list of ways I’d done that recently. And trusting my clarity? I’ve been doing that, too (and is what helped me quit all the projects I’d been working on).
As I wrote each of the prescribed letters to myself, and then exchanged the words with strangers, I started to feel like I shouldn’t be there. I wasn’t going to the deep, dark places other people seemed to be venturing into. I wasn’t crying or having any kind of emotional reaction at all. I was just writing facts on paper. When others opened up and shared parts of themselves with me, I felt guilty for only giving them a few facts in return. I also hated that the whole setup reminded me of the documentary I Am Not Your Guru. It felt like a gross waste of money. So, when I realized day two was going to be a repeat of a workshop I’d done in London, I decided to skip it and sit with these thoughts.
Looking back now, I can see that might have been the most important thing I did all weekend: taken a step back. It gave me time to think about why I had signed up in the first place, as well as why I was disappointed in what it had ended up being. Sitting alone with my thoughts also prevented me from bringing other people down with me. Because, yes, I was disappointed and I did feel like I wasted my money. I could have moaned or complained. I also could have taken to social media and told others how annoyed I was. Or worse yet, used the event hashtag so the attendees/organizers could have heard my opinion too. But I knew it wasn’t meant to be shared.
And the reason I knew I shouldn’t share this is because that was my experience—not theirs. And it didn’t feel fair for me to alter someone else’s experience in an attempt to match mine (especially when mine was negative).
This has been, perhaps, one of the hardest things for me to learn—and actually practice—since embracing mindfulness: the art of not complaining. And I won’t pretend I’m good at it. Honestly, I think I’m just getting started. There are stats that say we tell anywhere from 2-10x as many people about a bad experience, compared to a good experience. Why is that? I don’t know, because I truly am just starting to think about this. What I do know is that the art of constant complaining is the main reason I deleted my Facebook profile + page, and finally decided to walk away from Twitter. I used to do it too, so zero judgment from me, but I simply grew tired of being dragged down.
So, instead of dragging anyone down at the workshop, I went for a hike then sat outside by one of the fire pits and wrote in my journal. After listing all the things I was feeling about the experience (including frustration about the non-stop pitches to visit the gift shop, which I did talk about on Instagram in a way that would hopefully open reader’s eyes to how often it happens) I asked myself why I was there. Why had I bought a ticket for this event? The answer had a few layers of influence.
I saw one of the author’s share it on Instagram.
It felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I didn’t think there would be many tickets available.
I was in a bad place and wanted something to look forward to.
Now, let’s really break that down:
Influence #1: my love of the author’s work (which is why I follow her).
Influence #2: a desire/dream.
Influence #3: a scarcity mindset (which is behind many impulse purchases).
Influence #4: my mental health.
Notice that none of those things are anyone else’s fault. They all had to do with me. I had no one to “blame” for wasting money but myself. I made the decision to buy the ticket. As for not enjoying the content of the workshops, I can take some of the blame for that too—and it’s not all bad blame. The reason I didn’t enjoy the workshops was because I didn’t need them. And the reason I didn’t need them was because I’d already done a lot of that work for myself. If I hadn’t gone, I might not have realized just how far I’ve come this year. So, what would I complain about? Why is that anyone else’s problem? Why is it a problem at all?
When we talk about becoming mindful consumers, we are looking at how outside things/experiences affect us on the inside. What we eat affects how we feel, what we read/watch/listen to affects how we think, what we consume affects what we create, and so on. We can talk about how all of those things influence us, and two weeks ago I did suggest you start keeping track of what you consume. But the “mindful” part means being conscious and aware of what’s happening in the present moment, and that includes recognizing your role in influencing each moment as well. We can’t blame everything on everyone else. Who we are today influences us as well.
This is one of the reasons I won’t leave negative book reviews. There are lots of books I read and don’t enjoy, but it’s not the author’s fault. It’s my fault I didn’t enjoy it. Either I already knew the advice (similar to the workshop, this is actually a good thing) or didn’t agree with the content or didn’t relate to the writing style. But it’s not the author’s fault they didn’t write the perfect book for me. They don’t know me. That’s too big of a demand! So, why would I complain about it—especially in a public forum, which could alter other people’s thoughts and stop someone from reading a book that could really help them? Who am I to think I should have any control over that?
My friend David once wrote that mindfulness is the opposite of neediness—and practicing it means “observing something without trying to immediately change it”. It’s noticing and accepting. And in the example of the workshop I attended, it was noticing that I was influencing my negative experience, and accepting ownership of that rather than blaming it on anyone else. Sometimes it seems easier to place blame or to act like a victim of circumstance. In fact, it’s a lot harder to recognize your role and take responsibility for it. But being able to see—and accept—that you are part of the equation makes you a better communicator, problem solver, and member of all your communities.
The original point of this newsletter was to get you to think about what influences you. But now I’m curious: how are you influencing yourself? And who are you influencing?