What The World Wants From You

November 6th, 2015

what the world wants from you

“My story’s not interesting. Nobody wants to hear it.”

How often do you and I think these unworthy thoughts? The sad universal truth is that we all think this way sometimes. We do it a bit too much … and sometimes, we don’t even realize we’re downplaying our significance. We get up each morning and go about our day. It feels like a hectic rhythm that we repeat as the calendar turns day after day. Things that used to feel exciting—moving into a new house, playing a particular boardgames with the kids, volunteering, and whatever you do—begin to lose their sparkle. The things that fill our days no longer seem fascinating, unique, or remotely interesting.

Midlife crisis? Time to introduce change?

Not at all.

I have found in my own life that the best thing to do is simply look at my routine a little differently. What would my grandmother think of these everyday things like streaming video or video chatting with faraway family? Would my great great grandma be blown away by the fresh oranges sitting on my countertop? Then I look to my left and right. What seems beautiful about my life to the woman on the opposite end of the country or the world? How about the one down the road?

The goal isn’t to brag and boast about what you have or emphasize anything you don’t. It’s to celebrate the little things (like video chatting!) that have become so everyday to us.

What would your neighbor or close friend compliment you on? What does she admire or appreciate about you? How would she call you brave?

That, my sweet friend, is a story that makes you beautiful. And the world wants it. We want you to write it down. (This time of year, I can’t recommend Gadanke’s gratitude journal enough. It’s a sweet and simple journal that triggers pockets of gratitude in everyday moments.) Carry your head high. And when we ask, “How are you?” tell us about that silly board game or the oranges sitting on your countertop.

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Could someone you care about use this letter of love and encouragement? Please forward this message to her, and mention how you appreciate her or think she’s brave. We can always use more love notes in our world!

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Each month, I write an essay about intentional living and storycatching. If you’d like to join me and receive these essays by email, securely sign up here. I also recently shared a similar version of this essay with Gadanke newsletter friends.

Recommended writing prompt journals to gift or keep for yourself on today’s topic: She, an introspective journal and The Little Things gratitude journal.

How to write a life list

October 3rd, 2015

how to write a life list

Patience is a recurring melody of my life. I’m either whispering the word to my toddler, praying for some myself, admiring it in other people, or wondering how we’ve become such a culture of criticism, arguing that no one knows how to wait anymore. I’m certain I’m not alone in singing the song of patience. Contrary to what the media constantly circulates, I really don’t believe that we all just live for instant gratification all the time.

Sure, there are times when no amount of logic can get us to hold on a minute. My one-year-old broke out in tears this morning because he spotted the playground—the very one we were walking to—and he had to wait until we reached the entrance gate. We’re talking giant tears, kicking legs, desperate cries.

I stopped the stroller and squatted beside my son. “Niklas,” I said. “I know you’re eager to get to the playground. We have to practice our patience. We will get there soon, but maybe there are things that you will miss if you cry the whole way to the gate.”

My most prolific moments of wisdom always come when speaking to this little person who can’t understand a word I’m saying, it seems. But what he can understand is the tone of my voice. So I speak gently for him, and I also try to really listen for myself. I’ve had plenty of silent kicking fits in my head. A good knock of insight on restraint is often warranted.

I realized that part of why patience is so hard is this: we tell ourselves that something much greater than what we already have is waiting for us just beyond that gate. And if we’re not telling ourselves, something else in society is. Why can’t we just be there in the playground now? I realize you and I have a lot to do, and there are plenty of temptations and advertisements telling us to hurry along.

I continuously see myself in moments where patience would actually pay off, both in little, everyday things and in big picture ideas. Especially in those big picture dreams.

During our first semester of college, a couple of my new friends were given an assignment to write a list of things they wanted to accomplish or have happen in their lives. In other words, they were supposed to write a bucket list. But to me, the phrase “bucket list” is jammed with often unrealistic I’m-going-to-do-this items that center around big adventures and travel destinations. I believe a better list focuses more on the type of person you want to be and the sort of values you want to live by.

This sort of intention-based project is exactly the sort of thing I want to have in my journal. (I keep my list on the back page of this introspective journal that I offer at Gadanke.) I wrote my first list that college weekend. (It sounded like way more fun than the homework I was actually assigned for macroeconomics!) My list included things like:

  1. Write regular letters to my grandmas
  2. Read the entire Bible cover to cover
  3. Live abroad
  4. Live in a big city
  5. Live in the country or a small town
  6. Fall in love and get married
  7. Teach my future kids how to swim
  8. Write a book that helps people

It also had some weird things like “learn to play the banjo” and “paddle 20 Montana rivers” … things I probably won’t be getting to because over the years, other items were added to my list (like give a TedxTalk, which I got to do!). That’s the beauty of a life list!

Write your life list.

I invite you to write your life list in your journal today. A journal is such an intimate, private space where you’re more likely to feel comfortable opening up about yourself and your wishes than you would be on a computer or pad of paper. I find that the intimate space within my journal makes me truer to myself, instead of trying to sound impressive or cool to other people. There are plenty of amazing things that we could put on our life lists. But as you prepare to write, as yourself: are they things you want to spend your precious time on and practice your patience preparing?

Turn to the last page of your journal and record today’s date. Think of this list as a sampling of things you’d like to do and values you’d like to foster. You’re only going to write twelve items. That way your list feels achievable and exciting, not overwhelming. A short list holds more intention, because you think about what you really want to say, and thereby experience. And this list is always subject to change. Know that it’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s preferred!

strive for happiness in life

Here’s a guideline I always try to loosely follow in my life list. Tweak it to work for you:

1. Jot down these categories and think of two different things you want to experience or share with other people in each category:

  1. Education (includes both formal and fun—especially the fun things you want to try!)
  2. Home and Family
  3. Faith and/or Conscience
  4. Leisure
  5. Health
  6. Work

2. Make sure your list includes at least one goal that:

  1. Doesn’t seem possible
  2. You really want
  3. Will take some hard work and incredible patience
  4. Betters your health (even if it’s not “fun” for you)

As you watch your list grow, shrink, and change over the years, it’s beautiful to see how experiences and preferences change you. It’s impossible to know where life will take us. We can’t know what’s on the other side of every gate. All we can do is be patient. We’ll walk through when it’s time.

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To help with my newly revised Life List, I started using a German-made backpack from Kauffman Mercantile. The company believes in pouring their hears into curating beautiful, quality products. Not clutter. Not stuff. As I craft my life list, one thing is consistent for me: I want to be outside and with my family as much as possible. If I can have comfortable, beautiful gear, I feel more at peace with myself on the outside. Then I can be more intentional about what I’m doing, who I’m with, and where I’m at. In other words, my attention goes inward. I’m not aware of how I look on the outside, and my gear isn’t irritating my shoulders, for example. It’s kind of the reason why I urge you to add something to your list that betters your health. When you’re not specifically exercising or picking carrots instead of crackers, you just feel better all day long. It enriches you indirectly.

Sebastian Kaufmann, the CEO, explains, “There’s a sense of clarity and groundedness that comes from slowing down and engaging in a meaningful process. Our hope is that by helping people fill their homes with meaningful products, products that have a clear sense of place and provenance, we’re able to bring them a moment of rootedness in their everyday lives.”


Disclosure: I acknowledge that Kauffman Mercantile is partnering with me to participate in a marketing program. As a part of the program, I am receiving compensation in the form of products for the purpose of promoting Kauffman Mercantile. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words.

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Each month, I write an essay about intentional living and storycatching. If you’d like to join me and receive these essays by email, securely sign up here.

Put yourself out there

September 1st, 2015

Put yourself out there

I still remember watching our coach tally the votes that the other seniors and I had cast for president of our  high school speech and debate team over a decade ago. I don’t remember what the club president’s role involved, all I can recall is that I wanted to lead my team. I really wanted to lead my team.

My fingers were crossed under my desk. My backpack was limp by my side—the biggest assignment I had in those first days of school was to write and memorize the speech I wanted to compete with. I’d chosen (and really, this is probably no surprise to this online community) to compose a 10 minute speech about unsung heroes and their impact on our lives.

Our coach put down his pencil and looked at us. “The new president is …” he began. I took a deep breath and squeezed my crossed fingers together. “… John!”

My hands went limp in my lap. The corners of my mouth dropped a little, and I didn’t know what to think. But I knew what I needed to show on the outside: I put a big smile on my face and congratulated John, like everyone else in the room. John walked up to the front of our classroom as the coach stepped away from his teacher desk, gesturing for John to run the rest of our meeting.

As we were walking out of the classroom twenty minutes later, the coach asked me to wait a second. Apparently he had some materials to give me for my speech. When everyone else had gone, he looked at me. His face softened, and he asked, “Katie, why did you vote for John?”

I knew my coach could read my handwriting. I was always drafting the team’s reports and various notices—the sorts of things the president would be managing. But before I could open my mouth to describe how important it is to express your support for other people, he held up his hand.

“You lost by one vote, Katie. Your vote.”

One of the reasons so many of us often feel like we’re not doing good enough or that we don’t deserve something is because we never give ourselves credit. We never vote for ourselves because we are so busy putting other people first, and we’re justifying our actions as the “kind” and “expected” thing to do. It’s kind of a good girl syndrome.

The truth is that John probably made a fantastic club president. The question is: Would I have? Would you?

We don’t know unless we put ourselves out there. And that’s a scary, vulnerable place to be! It’s much safer when we close the door. Stay at home. Eat peanut butter straight from the jar.

But let’s think about that. At first, it would be great! There’s no one to judge you when the door is closed. No one can correct you for double dipping in the jar or crack jokes if your pants start getting snug. It’s easy. There’s no risk!

But what happens when there’s something you really want, and it’s a thing you know you’d be great at? Can you just jump out of your quiet space and beat the drum and blare the horn?

Let’s use an example where many of us actually say yes. It’s love. And when we find it—in a child, a partner, or someone close to us—we happily share our song with the world. We don’t really think of love as being chancy. Yet it exposes so much of you, because you pour your whole heart and your entire self into true love. It isn’t perfect. You experience pain and frustration. And if you’re like me, you occasionally have days where you think, “If I just lived alone, none of this would be happening. I’d be happy right now!”

Sure, maybe we’d be happier in that moment without the people we love. But would our lives be richer without them? That old saying is true: It’s better to have loved than not at all.

Why is that?

Because love makes us feel good. It makes us feel connected to something bigger than ourselves, and we are wired to want this interwoven tie to one another. We crave connection. We have this deep desire to give something of ourselves, and we hope we receive something in return. I think that’s why I wanted to be speech and debate president. I had something I wanted to share with my team, and it wasn’t just reports and notices.

I spoke about isolation and how connection and joy all begin with self-love in the TEDxTalk I gave several years ago.

What I’ve since learned through the hundreds of journal pages that folks have shared with me is that we’re all vulnerable somewhere. The writing prompts in my best selling She journal make these stories come alive within us. The effect of one person sharing her vulnerabilities with herself and the world has a ripple effect that grows and grows across a pond. Then another woman bravely places hers out there. Those ripples grow, and they overlap the previous ones. It goes on and on as we keep sharing our stories and gaining strength. I couldn’t have asked for a better present through the work that I do.

As an entrepreneur, putting myself out there is still the thing I struggle with most. I’m trying to figure out how to turn this imperfection into a gift. I have found that the most difficult and most inspiring moments of my work as a storycatcher is learning how to catch stories while also making sure I share my story. I’d much rather listen.

Over the years, I’ve learned that a good listener does not a great salesperson make. I stumble a lot, not in situations where people clearly don’t care about my message or relate to it. Instead, I miss the chance to share my story with people who really identify with my Gadanke journals and want to sit down to genuinely listen. Why? Because I just told them to vote for John.

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If you’d like to receive these monthly essays by email, sign up securely here. These musings were inspired by a journal entry I wrote in August 2015, using the She journal.