Episode 25: “The Power of 1” + My Goals for 2019
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Hi. I'm Victoria Hefty, and welcome to Activate Purpose, where I talk about finding purpose through action while balancing motherhood and career. In today's episode, I'm sharing my goals for 2019. I'm giving an update on how the Power of One is allowing me to navigate the madness of taking care of my infant and preschool-aged daughters, while I work part-time as a consultant and start a whole new set of projects for 2019.
So thank you for joining me today. This is going to be a longer episode than normal, because it's been about four weeks since I last recorded an episode, and honestly, you know what? I needed that time off to really adjust to the postpartum period and sort of figure out how to balance ... not even balance. There is no balance. But how to take care of, you know, as I mentioned, my three-year-old daughter with my now three-month-old, and figure that whole thing out. So, while I desperately miss being able share my thoughts with you and get them out of my head, I wanted to be in a space where I didn't feel like I was just forcing myself to do this rather than being in a place where I could take a breath and enjoy doing this, which I do. So I woke up this morning, and I said, "Yep, I'm ready to record today. Today's the day." So here we go.
Becoming a mother of two young children has made me feel like what was already a hectic life, it feels like impossible on some days. The first month, as I mentioned, really the first four to six weeks were brutal, but I actually did manage to keep my head above water on most days. Right? By relying on what I'm calling the Power of One principle. It's not like a formal thing. That's just what I'm calling it. But, I'll give you some context before I talk about what that is. I didn't plan to work during my quote/unquote maternity leave, which I say quote/unquote because it's not really a thing since I'm independent consultant. For those who don't know, I became a management consultant after I graduated from the University of Chicago with my MBA. I went to Chicago Booth, for people who know. And then I worked as a strategy director for a healthcare company, and now I work as an independent strategy and market research consultant. Really, this is just a fancy way ... independent means of ... or the definition of that means that I really just have the privilege of working with different companies on a range of short-term projects.
So I get to work remotely, which is awesome. I really only select the projects that interest me. Doing this allows me to eliminate the mental stress of sort of waking up and going to a job that I hate. I also get to avoid all ... I would say all, definitely all of those office politics that just seem to have a life of their own. In short, it's an ideal situation for me at this time that really lets me raise my daughters in a way that, for me, is more sane and fulfilling than trying to work, you know, 60, 80 hours a week and also do all the fun things that I want to do on the side, project-wise.
So yes, there are trade-offs that I've mentioned before. I don't like to present the picture as if it's all rosy. There are days that I definitely miss chatting with coworkers. I miss that I don't have any sort of fancy title or fancy promotions. All of these are vanity things, but they do matter sometimes. But, like I said, all in all, it's working for me right now.
So back to the maternity leave thing. I guess the best way to phrase it is I didn't plan to work until after the baby was three months, or yeah, after the baby was three months or so. So about now, but I've been working for the past almost month and a half. What happened was an interesting project really came up that I couldn't pass. It was a chance to continue working, actually, for this nonprofit organization that I have been working with in the past, and the organization is really making a difference in the lives of young professionals. This project sounded interesting to me, and I said, "Yes," to working 10 to 15 hours a week. I thought that that was manageable.
I know some of you are saying, "Okay, but how does that actually look like? Because it seems like you're balancing a lot," which I am. My schedule, for those who are interested is, you know, I work in the mornings while my older daughter is in preschool. She goes to preschool in the morning a few days a week and while the baby is napping. On the days that I have important calls, which is rare. It only happens like once a week or once every other week, I schedule those calls first thing in the morning, and my husband watches the baby while I take the calls. He is an academic professor, and he's on paternity leave this semester, so I'm really fortunate that we have that arrangement.
After his paternity leave ends, I'll continue lumping all of these calls when I have them, into sort of back-to-back time blocks. For example, you know, Monday morning from 9:00 to 12:00, or 9:00 to 11:00, and I will then sort of hire a babysitter to come over for just for those hours. That's the plan.
And then, to continue, so after ... That's the morning schedule. And then the afternoon, my daughter gets home around 1:00, and then I try and sneak in some emails while both kids are napping for an hour or so, and then I get the bulk of my work done in the evening after everyone has gone to bed, including my husband, who now falls asleep at around 9:00 PM because we're parents. So again, this may not be for everyone, but I do enjoy working at night. I usually end up going to be between 11:00 and midnight, which maybe sounds a lot for some people, but for me, it's amazing how much work I can crank out when I have two to three hours of just quiet stillness, uninterrupted time. I'm sure many of you can relate.
So yes, I am often tired, but this is where picking the right type of project helps and is one of the benefits of this sort of lifestyle. The right project, to me, gives me the energy that I need to push through and genuinely get excited about delivering a great product. I never feel like I have to do something. I'm excited to do it even if it's at, you know, 11:00 PM at night.
The other thing that has really allowed me to create what I think is a sustainable routine is, as I mentioned, a principle that I like to call the Power of One. The Power of One, for me, is waking up every day and giving myself permission to only complete one critical task or thing from my to-do list. For example, if I'm able to get out of the house and I only manage to run one errand that day, it's a win. If I manage to cook a really great dinner that day and accomplish nothing else, it's still a win. If I had one block of work calls, it's a win. I won't try and push myself after that call to then do all of these ... complete all these followup items. Instead, I'll say, "Nope. I already had my win," and I set the expectations that I will send out the work deliverables the following day. That will probably be my one win for the day.
Now, it doesn't mean that on some days I won't get more stuff done, but it means that I am essentially doing a tamed-down version of what I call the victory log. The victory log is where ... And I think this is in the Success Principles book, so it's not like ... It's not an original idea. But, it's where you write down all of your wins from that day. Those wins can range from creating something meaningful at work, to getting a praise for a job well done, or attending a workout class, or simply just taking a moment to stop and enjoy the sunset. Right? The point is it's a way to focus on all of the little things that you have accomplished, instead of going to bed feeling like you haven't really done anything. I think the key to feeling more grateful and positive about life is acknowledging all of the little wins that make up your days, not the one or two obvious big wins a year, like a promotion or bonus or whatever.
With everything going on in my life, I have found that paring things down to just one win a day is incredibly empowering and surprisingly effective. It may sound silly, but as someone who is a doer, and typically I get very anxious if my long to-do list isn't checked off completely before bedtime, I have found this principle completely freeing. It sets the bar low, which I know is weird to be excited about, but in doing so, that alleviates the pressure and stress of trying to do it all, as a mother, as a wife, as a career woman. As a result of this, I'm not burned out. Right? People ask me all the time how I do it all, and I think the key is that I am not doing it all. I'm breaking down everything I need to do into very, very small chunks, and slowly chipping away at it, day-by-day.
You know, am I tired? Sure. But again, what parent with young children isn't? Instead, I feel mentally stimulated and excited by my work. I feel present during the day, or I should say most days. When I'm with my daughters, sometimes you just can't be there 100%, but I would say, I feel actually pretty good about how I am present and I can actually be in a place to listen and get excited to my daughter telling stories or singing. My mind is still bursting with all of these creative ideas, which has to mean something good. Right? Can't be depressed in saying or thinking about all of these great things that could be. So I think these are all signs that I am not burned out, and I'm just excited about life in general. I think all of this is because I'm going the slow but steady route.
My new philosophy is that it's better to consciously and intentionally do one small thing every day than to do 10 things a day, stress myself out, and everyone else near me, and still go to bed feeling like I didn't do anything. Which leads me to my list of goals for 2019. Grab your wine. Grab a cup of tea and sit down, because this is going to hopefully not be too long, but I make no promises.
Last January, I believe episode 10, I shared three of my goals for 2018. During my last recording, which was episode 24, I gave an update on what I had learned while trying to achieve those goals. I really liked the accountability and transparency of sharing my goals with you, so I've decided to do it once again for 2019. This time, I'm taking on five goals. Some big, some small, but all of them are fun. I plan on using the Power of One to make it all happen. Just like last year, the outcome may be different than I expect, but I'm excited to share them with you. What are my five goals? Let's begin.
Goal number one is to take a graphic design course. I have been dabbling in a very DIY, learn-as-you-go type of thing when it comes to graphic design for my various creative projects over the past three years. You know, my blog, my book. I made a guide. All of this stuff. While I'm proud of myself for "making it work" as Tim Gunn from Project Runway would say, I can't help but think that a proper professional course on graphic design would be immensely helpful for me. And in the long-run, save me money and time, not to mention I just think it would be super fun. Have you ever heard the advice that says, "Pay attention to when something gives you energy and gets you excited"? Well, I have noticed that whenever I'm creating some form of digital content, I spend a lot of time playing with the design, the color, the layout of the final product. It's frustrating because I don't always know what I'm doing, and the process can be slow, but I just love it. It gives me so much energy, and it makes me happy to sort of use my creativity in that way. And so, even if I have no clue what I'm doing, I like it. I'm taking note of that advice and paying attention to when something gives me energy and excited and taking a step of action to plan to take a course to further, I think, cultivate that curiosity.
Goal number two is to one ... It's actually, I guess it's two goals in one. Goal number two is to one, learn how to sew, and then two make a casual dress as evidence of that sewing prowess. This one is a bit out of left field. Let me explain. I have a good friend that is this like crafty DIY goddess. She's got this great sense of style. She sews these adorable outfits for her young daughter, makes awesome clothes for herself. She does stuff like, for example, she signs up for classes on how to make scones, or she takes pottery classes with her husband. Just last weekend, she signed up for a workshop on how to make your own bra. I mean, it's to the point where if I tell my husband that this friend of ours signed up for another amazing crazy cool class on how to make something, his response is, "Of course she did," and we both just sit there shaking our heads, wondering why we aren't doing these fun things.
So this year, I'm tired being an envious sideline spectator. I've decided that I'm going to learn how to sew a dress. Fun fact about me is that I hate wearing jeans. I just feel like they don't look good on me. I don't feel comfortable in them. I honestly haven't worn a pair of jeans in, I think, almost seven years. If I have, it was once. So I often resort to wearing dresses, which is fine by me because I just absolutely love, love, love wearing all kinds of dresses. I feel beautiful in them. I think that they sort of complement my shape better. So I think this is a great goal for me. The challenge will be to hopefully make something I can proudly wear.
The other minor challenge is I have no idea how to sew. None. Like, I can't hem anything. I just don't know what to do, so I have to figure out that first before I can start dreaming of sewing this dress. So yeah ... But ... there's always a positive. The Power of One is going to help me not get overwhelmed. Even better, when I told this friend of mine that one of my goals this year is to learn how to sew, she kindly offered to help me. I plan on having a ton of fun with this one. Christian Siriano, which is my favorite designer from Project Runway, better watch out because I'm coming for him. Well, actually that's 100% false. I am not coming for him, but let this mama dream. Right?
So goal number three is to either write a new book or a downloadable guide for working professionals. In 2017, I wrote the Insider's Guide to Maternity Leave book, and then in 2018 I wrote a children's book based on my grandmother's childhood. Using the concept of paying attention to things that get you excited and give you energy, I've come to realize that I genuinely enjoy the process of writing. I mean, why else would I spend time I don't really have writing about something that wasn't going to make me a ton of money? I was essentially doing it for free because one, I thought it was valuable information, and two, I enjoyed the process. Again, it doesn't mean it was easy, but it means that in spite of the frustrations that can come with not being a properly trained writer or whatever, whether that is writing in my journal, writing for work, writing a presentation or writing a book, I enjoy writing, imperfect grammar and all.
So what am I writing? Well, I'm constantly asked about the independent consulting thing. I'm going to write about how this whole new world has led to independent professionals making six figures or more in what they call the White Collar gig economy. So personally, this new way and lifestyle of working has allowed me a level of freedom and flexibility that I didn't think was possible when I first left my full-time job to become a stay-at-home mom. I now know so many other moms and professionals who are leaving their traditional nine to five for various reasons, and use this type of work to support their own passions and lifestyle. I feel like I have a lot to share about what it takes to succeed at this in a super practical way, so I thought why not write down what my friends and I have learned, and honestly, I'm at a place where I'm not going to overthink it. Instead, I'm just writing away, little by little, all of the things that I would find helpful if I was considering this type of career ... career path I should say. And you know, it's been helpful because I've been focusing on one, again, tiny, tiny subsection of this book, or downloadable guide, a night, and I think it's coming along really nicely, so stay tuned.
Goal number four is to continue exploring coaching, which is an area of curiosity for me as well as actually writing, now that I think about it, was also an area of curiosity. I'll explain. In episode 19, I talked about how following your passion is bad advice because the vast majority of people can't name something that they're passionate about. Instead, you should follow and further explore things that you're curious about. Of the five things that I shared in that episode, one was coaching, and now that I think about it, the other one was writing. At the time, I was uncomfortable with the idea because I was thinking ... When I thought coach, I thought life coach, and I just don't have a positive connotation when it comes to that word. I'm always skeptical of life coaches because I'm not sure anyone has this whole life thing figured out.
On the other hand, I was noticing that in addition to my strategy and like market research corporate consulting work that I do, I was coaching young professionals about how to prepare for upcoming interviews, or coaching them on how to think through job offers, or I was even helping them think about what their next career should be given that I've sort of navigated a couple popular careers that a lot of young people are interested in with professional degrees like an MBA or like an undergraduate degree in finance. So, I really, really enjoyed being on the phone with these candidates. As you can guess, I would end the calls feeling super recharged and energized, so this year, I'm planning to explore that feeling by continuing to, I think, help these young professionals and perhaps take this whole coaching thing more seriously than I have been. Instead of thinking of coaching as a hobby and consulting as my primary skill, what if I switch that around? You know? What if becoming, let's say, like a strategic career coach or whatever is my calling? Who knows? But I'm willing to put myself out there and see what happens.
Finally, goal number five is to plan a small workshop or maybe like a one-day summit that will take place in 2020. Right? Based on the philosophy behind Activate Purpose, which is finding purpose through action. In many ways, this is what all of my goals for 2019 and even 2018 are designed to do, to challenge and drive me closer to finding out what my larger purpose is. I'll talk about this workshop or summit in a future podcast, but I basically had a really inspiring, like what she calls a pick-my-brain session with Ahyiana Angel, the podcast host of Switch, Pivot, or Quit, and she reminded me that I still have a voice and valuable skills to share even if I don't believe that I have all the answers. So with that, I have had this desire in the back of my mind for some time, to create a space where attendees can meet like-minded people, explore what is holding them back from trying something new, find out what they're curious about, and identify most importantly, what actions they can take to move closer to finding their purpose. The idea for this event may change, right? But I am determined to have a date and the details worked out by December 2019 so that can have that event, whatever it is. It's not going to be a huge event, but just a small event, either way, to have that happen in 2020.
That's it. So just to recap, the goals are one, take a course on graphic design. Two, learn to sew and make a dress. Three, write a book on how independent consultants are making six figures in the white collar gig economy. Four, take coaching more seriously and consider treating it more like my primary profession. And five, plan and organize a small Activate Purpose workshop or summit that will take place in 2020. I know this seems like an ambitious list, and maybe it is, but I'm going to rely on the expression, "If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough," to give me comfort.
I know that was a lot to take in, so thank you for allowing me to share my goals with you. As a bonus, I have two challenges for you today to end this episode. First, spend time over the next couple of weeks and pay attention to moments when you feel a rush of energy or excitement. Write down what you were doing or thinking at the time that made you feel that way. Keep track of those moments. We'll come back to this in a future episode. Two, if you're ending your days feeling like you're stretched too thin and taking on too much, consider using the Power of One principle. Before you start your day, ask yourself, "If I could only get one thing done today, what would it be?" You can even do this the night before as you get ready for bed. Having an answer before the madness of the day overtakes you will help you feel like the day isn't happening to you, and you will be surprised at how much you can accomplish at the end of the week or even a month, if you just focus on one tiny thing a day.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to me. Again, I know that was a lot, but I really appreciate it. If you have any questions or even suggestions that will help me to achieve my goals for 2019, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll include links to the resources I used in the show notes, or that I mentioned, rather, in the show notes at activatepurpose.com/episode25. Finally, if you enjoyed today's episode, make sure to leave a review and subscribe to the next episode.
Until next time. Bye!