Why You Should Create a Vision Board for Your Goals

Last weekend, I attended a “vision board party” and created my very first vision board. It’s basically a big collage of photos, text, and graphics that symbolize your visions and goals for your life. They’re pretty popular in the self-help and wellness space thanks to The Secret and the so-called “Law of Attraction“. I’ll admit that I was pretty skeptical. First of all, I’m not very artistic (at all). If my school poster projects were any indication, then this was going to be a disaster! Continue reading

Tone It Up Bikini Series Non-Scale Victories

This is it: the last day of the Tone It Up Bikini Series!

For those of you who haven’t been following my TIU journey, the Bikini Series is an 8-week nutrition and fitness challenge leading up to summer. Daily workouts are a combination of cardio and light strength training. There are free and paid exercise videos, plus self-led session suggestions. Nutrition is guided by the mantra, “Lean, Clean ‘n Green”. Following the final week, there’s a more intense challenge called the 7 Day Slim Down. And you share the whole thing on Instagram to join in on the beachy fun with thousands of other #TIUgirls. Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous. But with all of the hardcore alternatives out there for women looking to get in shape, this is my favourite option. Continue reading

Girlboss The Millennial American Dream

I recently started watching Girlboss on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the highly fictionalized TV comedy version of Sophia Amoruso’s memoir #GIRLBOSS, detailing the birth and development of her online business, Nasty Gal. I’d heard good things about the series, so I gave it a shot. I wasn’t a huge fan from the outset. The main character was ignorant, naive, self-absorbed, and rebellious almost for the sake of rebellion. Her glaring flaws were kind of the point — she did call her business “Nasty Gal”. My biggest concern, though, was that she was giving ambitious millennial women a bad name. Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers watching the show, my parents included, might actually think we’re all like Sophia. (Rest assured, we definitely are not.)

But somehow I got roped into the hype of watching Sophia’s business take off. In spite of her questionable business practices and personal decisions, I wanted her to succeed. Why did I care so much? We root for the “good guys” because we see ourselves in them. And like every other millennial woman out there, I want my hypothetical, maybe-someday business to succeed too. (Insert girl power playlist here.) Continue reading

How I Faced My Fitness Fears

About a year ago, I published a blog post entitled “3 Reasons Hiking is my Favourite Hobby for Exercise”. I provided those three reasons: a clear goal to achieve, no expectations about fitness levels, and the chance to experience the great outdoors. But I’ll tell you a secret, friends. Sure, I love hiking and its many benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. But the only reason it was my favourite hobby for exercise at the time was the second one on the list. I was afraid to try anything else because of judgment, both from others and myself. I was held back by my fitness fears. Continue reading

2017 Tone It Up Challenge

*Peeks head out from under rock…* Hello there. Today is the final day of the 2017 Tone It Up Challenge. That means I’ve spent the past 4 weeks following along with the nutrition plan and daily workouts available on ToneItUp.com (since I started two weeks late). That means it’s been a busy four weeks. And I mean busy.

To recap, I started casually trying out Karena and Katrina’s Tone It Up (TIU) daily workouts back in mid-December. I posted about that here — and it’s funny, looking back, at how much has changed in two months! Continue reading

Yoga Revolution- Kicking off 2017 with Adriene

Happy Almost New Year! We’re counting down the hours with eager anticipation until…2016 is finally over. This year has been quite the roller coaster for most of us. I’ve found that one of the most positive, grounding experiences for me this year has been a renewed commitment to yoga practice, as guided by Adriene from the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. So starting tomorrow morning, I’m going to be embarking on the Yoga Revolution journey: a 31-day yoga practice video series with a daily mantra or focus. I’m pumped!

You may remember from that I participated in the “first annual” 30 Days of Yoga back in the summer. This video series launched in January 2015, so obviously I was a bit behind. It took me 44 days to get through the 30 videos, but at least I made it! You can read more about that experience in my Lessons Learned post. To summarize, I learned to build a habit of self-care, find what feels good, and expand my focus from just the physical aspects of yoga to the whole experience.

I continued to attend weekly yoga classes at my office gym and walk through a YWA video every so often. But I was becoming uninspired and the habit was falling away. So in mid-October, I took on the 30 Days of Yoga challenge from January 2016: Yoga Camp.

The main difference between the 2015 and 2016 challenges was the introduction of simple mantras to each practice.

I am strong.

I am supported.

I go with the flow.

I’ll admit that I never got to the point of chanting the mantras out loud, but I did find them very helpful in focusing my energy and intentions throughout the practices.

For this challenge, I actually completed one video each day for 30 days straight, finishing on time! I could feel both my mind and body becoming stronger through the experience, and I’m so glad I did it. And now that I’ve done the New Year challenges from 2015 and 2016, I’m officially caught up — meaning I’m ready for 2017:

Yoga Revolution.

So this will be the first time that I’m following along with others through this yoga “bootcamp”, and I’m very excited! These practices are super diverse: cleansing, challenging, creative, you name it. And participating is totally, 100% free. If you’ve even considered doing yoga, I want to encourage you to join me. It’s going to be awesome!

Sign up right here!

For those of you that have been following my blog recently, you may be wondering, what about Tone It Up? In a previous post, I mentioned that I’ve been following along with the Daily Workouts on the website for a few weeks now. For the duration of Yoga Revolution, I’m going to let Tone It Up take a backseat. I’ll still complete the Daily Moves, but the other workouts/cardio will generally be replaced by my yoga practice — unless I somehow find enough time and energy to do both!

Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you tomorrow on the mat!

How I Won NaNoWriMo Six Times

Welcome to November – the first day of the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I hope you thoroughly enjoyed your Hallowe’en, because that’s the last chance you’ll have to experience joy and happiness for the next thirty days.

Just kidding!

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo six times over the past eight years. And each of those times, I’ve “won” the challenge, meaning I successfully wrote the first draft of a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. (Check out this post for more info on NaNo and why you should join me this year.) This is not an easy thing to do, but it is a fun thing to do, and it’s a really neat experience to be able to truthfully call yourself a novelist (at least in progress).

Many people have had false starts and failed years when participating in the writing marathon, which is totally normal. So how did I manage to win each and every time I signed up to write? Here’s my advice for current and future Wrimos hoping to knock it out of the park this year.

Start with a Winning Mindset

I’ve heard lots of people, in person and on the NaNoWriMo forums, saying things like this:

  • “I’m going to try NaNoWriMo this year.”
  • “I have a huge problem with procrastination, but we’ll see how it goes.”
  • “My cousin’s wedding is mid-November, so I probably won’t finish.”
  • “I’ve never won before, and this year likely won’t be any different.”
  • Or my personal favourite: “I missed the first day. Maybe I’ll try again next year.”

STOP. Right now. If you head into this challenge with the mindset of failure, or even potential failure, you are so much more likely to give up all motivation and sell yourself short.

I went into my first NaNoWriMo thinking that I was going to write a book in a month. I wasn’t going to try to do it, I wasn’t going to hope I could do it – I was just going to do it. This year is the busiest and most stressful of my life so far, and I’m still not thinking about whether I might fail. (Though I am thinking about whether this is the craziest idea ever…!)

I’m not just promoting a motivational technique here. From what I’ve seen, many people use the excuse, “I always knew I wouldn’t be able to do it” to drop out of the challenge long before they needed to or should have. Give yourself a fair chance. Consider it something you’re going to do for sure.

Get in the Habit

All it takes to win NaNoWriMo is 1667 words per day. Not perfect words, but simply words. I can usually bang that out in 30-45 minutes. Maybe it takes you a little longer, but that’s okay.

Now, if you wait for five days (because you’re so busy with work, school, or anything else to spare 30-45 minutes), you’ve now got a backlog of 8333 words (or so). And because we’re all human and not robots, it’s not simply a matter of multiplying 30-45 minutes by 5. You’ll need to add time for rest, food, interruptions, bathroom breaks, procrastination… and suddenly, you’ve spent an entire Saturday trying to catch up. Overwhelming to say the least. I’ve done it, and it’s definitely not the ideal case.

The trick is to get into a habit of writing every day, or almost every day. Find the free time in your day at which you’re most productive, and use that time for a writing routine. For me, it’s usually around 9pm, but I’ll squeeze it in whenever I can – as long as I’m writing every day.

So what happens when you do fall behind? Try the next two tips:

Get Out of the House

When I’m in a writing rut, I find it’s so important to get a change of scenery, especially if the new locale has a certain buzzing, writerly energy about it. The typical spots are coffee shops and libraries, but anywhere will do.

It’s also often better with other writers! Take your Wrimo friends along, or join a local Write-In organized by your city’s Municipal Liaison.

SPRINT!

Sometimes, you just don’t have the time or energy to generate well-crafted, thoughtful prose to hit your daily wordcount. Besides, the focus of NaNoWriMo is quantity over quality – editing is where the quality comes in, and that can wait until December. I often use “word sprints” to boost my wordcount without taking up hours of precious time.

Word sprints are simply periods over which you write really, really fast, without really stopping to think or edit. You can either write for a defined length of time, or you can try to hit a particular word goal as fast as possible. NaNoWriMo runs “official” word sprints on Twitter so that you can race against your fellow Wrimos. But for writing on your own terms, you can definitely race against the clock instead.

It also helps to have some sprinting tools in your back pocket. My two favourite websites for this are Written? Kitten! and Write or Die (I use the free version). Check them both out for two very different varieties of motivation.

Tell Everyone You’re Doing NaNoWriMo

If I hadn’t blogged about it and talked about it with basically everyone I know, I probably wouldn’t be doing it this year.  For me, this is probably the most effective method for making sure I don’t back out. So here we are.


Well, folks, that about covers the entirety of my plan to write a novel in a month for the seventh (eek!) time. I am starting off today with a single idea and literally no other details prepared. I’m definitely pantsing it this year!

Are you joining me for NaNoWriMo 2016? What tips do you have for aspiring novelists-in-a-month?

Goal Check-In for 2016

I don’t mean to scare you, but there are only 70 days left in 2016! Boy, does time fly!

This year has been jam-packed for me so far, and I’ve undergone quite a bit of change. When I first started blogging last December, I had no idea whether I would be able to stick it out for longer than a couple of weeks. But hey — here we are!

One of the first posts I wrote back in January was a list of goals I wanted to achieve this year. I’ll be honest: I had forgotten almost all of them before starting to write this post. In the interest of transparency, let’s take a look back at the goals I decided were so important at the beginning of this year, and see where they stand so far.

1. More Steps per Day on my Fitbit

I have a confession to make. I lost the charger for my Fitbit back in August…and I haven’t used it since.

Yes, I know, it’s awful. I fully intended to buy a new charger and get back into it, but I got so used to life without it. Plus, having a more demanding work schedule was making it much more challenging to stick to step-count goals. Still, though, I should probably go buy a new charger.

However, the intention behind this goal was to focus on a healthy lifestyle. I’ve been practicing yoga fairly regularly, which is a step in the right direction, at least.

2. 8 Hours of Sleep

This goal is still a priority for me, though I haven’t been very successful with it. Heading to bed as early as is necessary for 8 hours of sleep (i.e. 10pm) is a huge transition. I think I’ve made improvements — but I guess I don’t really know without my Fitbit tracking my sleep. Hm.

3. Read More

I’ve read a bit more this year than last year, I would say. I’m currently in the middle of three non-fiction books, and bouncing between them depending on what I’m in the mood for. I haven’t found time for fiction recently, though, thanks to a little friend called Netflix…

4. Knit a Pair of Socks

In January, I was really into knitting. Like, a lot. But almost immediately after writing my list of goals, I basically stopped knitting altogether and moved onto something else. I daresay it has joined the Hobby Graveyard. I think I would be amenable to retiring this goal altogether for this year. Maybe some other time!

5. Improve my Technical Skillset

My progress in regards to this goal has gone in an entirely different direction than I had anticipated. While I didn’t end up taking a course in programming, which was the original idea, my transition to a new department at my company has led to the development of some bomb Excel skills. Plus, I wrote the book on using our database interface for standard queries. (Literally — I made a training guide. It’s only 30 pages, but still.) So while it’s a little off-track compared to the January intent, I’d say this goal could be counted as a success.

6. Keep Blogging

I’ve made it this far. Only 70 days to go! Obviously my post frequency has decreased a tad, but that’s just a product of a busy life and blogging authenticity.

7. Identify my Dream Job?

The real purpose of this goal was to do some soul-searching and try out some new things. I made a change to my career path this year, and it was definitely a valuable decision. Beyond that is still a work in progress.

8. Track and Plan my Goals

I was pretty good about this early in the year, but I fell off the wagon over the summer. Honestly, I think that’s okay at this stage in the game. I have some vague targets and I’m not letting everything in my life go wild, but I don’t think the rigid goal structure I’d originally conceived would be very helpful for me right now. Keeping track of these goals (or what’s left of them) for the next 70 days should be good enough for 2016!


What goals did you set for 2016 — and how will you achieve them in the next 70 days?

5 Reasons to Love Fall

Fall is my favourite season. Hands down, no doubt about it. I know a lot of people associate fall with the stresses of returning to the daily grind, whether that’s school, work, or some other exhausting routine. But for me, the positives outweigh all of the downsides. So even if I’m jumping the gun a little bit, that’s why I get so excited when September rolls around!

Sweater Weather

Winter is freezing cold, spring is rainy and unpredictable, and summer is scorching hot and humid. Fall weather, especially early fall, can be refreshingly chilly and sunny — making it a perfect time to break out those sweaters I haven’t worn in months. I personally love the feeling of wearing light layers outdoors. Fall is also great for getting some outdoor exercise and sight-seeing (without getting too sweaty).

Energy and Anticipation

Whether or not you’re currently attending school, fall represents a second chance at a “new year”. With summer over, it’s a time to buckle down, reorganize your life, and focus on your priorities or create some new ones. I’ve found that the “back to school” buzz is what energizes me as I align myself with my goals for the season.

Fall Colours

I live in Ontario, Canada, which is known for its beautiful fall colours.

 5 Reasons to Love Fall - Fall Colours

 

It’s a great time for a hike to take in the natural sights!

The National Novel Writing Month

Let’s face it: in spite of the lovely weather and colours in September and October, the atmosphere in November is usually pretty dismal. So it’s a perfect time to hole up indoors and write a novel!

I’ve discussed the National Novel Writing Month before, and I definitely will again. As a brief summary, though: you write a 50,000-word novel in November. Simple, right? If you’ve ever wanted to write a book and just need a kick in the pants to get it done, NaNoWriMo is for you. Stay tuned for more posts on this writing marathon, and check out the website to sign up and access resources.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes!!!

…Just kidding.

As a devout Tim Hortons junkie (and employee), the Starbucks PSL doesn’t have a particular hold on me. However, hot drinks in general are a huge plus for me as the seasons change. When summer gets unbearably hot, I’ll partially transition to iced coffee or the occasional frappuccino (yes, that one’s from Starbucks). But it’s always half-hearted, and I can’t wait to warm my hands and my heart with tea, coffee, or espresso drinks.


In short, I am so glad it’s September, because it means fall is upon us!

What do you love about the autumn season?

30 Days of Yoga: Lessons Learned

A few days ago, I finished the final video session of 30 Days of Yoga on the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. It was an empowering and enlightening experience that taught me quite a bit about yoga — and myself.

I mentioned in an earlier post back in the spring that I was just beginning to practice yoga regularly, so I definitely classify myself as a newcomer. After taking a weekly class at work for a couple of months, I realized that my yoga practice was hindered by the length of time between classes, and the amount of stress endured during that time. I felt like any progress made was superficial and I wanted to take things to the next level. In the interest of a healthy lifestyle, I decided to undertake a 30-day home practice video series.

30 Days of Yoga — in 44 Days

With my highly variable weeknight schedule, I knew it would be more reasonable to commit to a morning yoga practice. I took “days off” from the videos in order to attend my usual morning yoga class on Wednesdays. Plus, after the first full week of the program, I went camping and delayed my progress until I returned. So all in all, it took me 44 days to complete 30 videos.

A Private Undertaking

Since I started this blog, I’ve taken on a number of “challenges”. I wrote a post a day back in April for the A to Z Challenge; I basically invented my No Buy July to save money (but mostly so that I could blog about it); and I committed to a number of monthly goals that I posted for the world to see. It’s helpful for me to use this blog as a form of accountability. But when I decided to begin 30 Days of Yoga, I kept it to myself, with the exception of a handful of close friends and family.

Why didn’t I declare my intentions online? There were two reasons in this case.

First, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to commit. Waking up at 6 is quite the adjustment when you’re used to 6:45 — especially when you know you don’t need to be up that early.

And second, I felt that using an external form of motivation would defeat the purpose of the commitment. If I really wanted to use this time to deepen my practice and create a ritual, the drive would need to come from within. And while it took two weeks longer than intended, I think the decision to keep my 30 Days of Yoga to myself was a good one.

“Find What Feels Good”

One of the things I love about yoga is that its main focus is not on the poses themselves. Many sequences are physically demanding, and can be out of reach for some people, depending on their practice and development. From what I’ve learned on this so-called 30 Days of Yoga journey, there are two priorities in yoga that overshadow the quest to “achieve” a certain pose: mental/emotional/spiritual connection with the body, and physical alignment.

Without a focus on the first priority, you may as well be exercising in a boot camp class rather than taking yoga. And without a focus on the second, you may cause yourself unnecessary injury and stress. There are ways to modify essentially every pose to allow for a positive, yet challenging, experience. Adriene provided a lot of direction on this topic in the video series, which I found very helpful. She summarizes this concept in the slogan “Find What Feels Good”. The self-love aspect of yoga feels very authentic, even at the beginner stages, especially when compared to other health and wellness trends that are popular online.

Spoiler Alert: Day 30

Note: I’m going to spoil the ending here. Only read this section if you have completed 30 Days of Yoga, or if you have no intention of ever doing so, for whatever reason.

Or maybe you’re the kind of person that reads the last page of the book first. In that case, read on.

It’s easy enough to follow along with a yoga video. Sure, there are tricky poses and pranayama techniques, but you learn the tips, the tricks, the physical alignment “checklists”, and the lingo along the way. But as I neared the end of the sessions, I started to panic. What would I do once it was all over? Would I stop practicing daily? Would I find a new series of videos to follow? Or would I have to — gasp — make up my own routines?

As the series neared its conclusion, Adriene’s instructions tended to be more open-ended. At a given point, I could take on a challenging flow, use the time for rest, or anything in between. She was building up my confidence in directing my own practice. She convinced me that I could, in fact, have a self-directed practice.

I made grand plans to do my research. I’d develop some sort of weekly plan for the types of poses for which I would prepare each day. I wanted to create the perfect playlist that would ease me into each portion of the practice. Maybe I would set goals for developing my endurance, strength, or patience. I procrastinated on all of this. I figured it could wait until the evening on the day I completed my 30 Days of Yoga.

But then, a twist!

Adriene intro’ed the 30th day video as a self-directed practice!

If I had been really paying attention, I would have known that each of the previous 29 videos had been leading up to this one. Without my intense preparation, though, was I really up to the task?

Turns out, yes, of course I was. (Plus, the video provided the playlist.) It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. The important thing, though, was realizing that my preparations would have defeated the entire purpose of the exercise. There is a whole lot of yoga I have left to learn, but when it comes to making the most of a home practice, as Adriene says, it’s all about finding what feels good.


Now that my 30 Days of Yoga are complete, I intend to continue with yoga at home, with a blend of both personal and video-led practice. If you haven’t tried 30 Days of Yoga for yourself, I would definitely encourage you to try it out, whether you’re brand new to yoga or a little further along. The videos are light-hearted and instructive, and Adriene is hilarious and awesome. I really believe you’ll get a lot out of the experience, like I did!

What has been your favourite yoga experience?