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Do What Matters

Do what matters.

This is my new motto.

When you really stop to think about what matters in life, the world seems to stop spinning quite so fast.  There are so many things in life that vie for my attention every day - emails, bills, people asking me to do more, my iPhone in general, you get the idea.  But do they really matter in the bigger picture?  Not so much.

Sometimes things happen that put things back in perspective.  You make choices about what you are going to do and what you are going to leave undone. 

Sound familiar? 

This happened to me last week.  The decision seems easy at the time but it makes you stop and think.  How often would I make this same choice on a normal day?  How often do I scroll through Instagram during our after dinner conversations?  As recently as last night, I'm embarrassed to say.  How often do I fret about meeting the expectations of others or getting everything done in a day?

This is a reminder to myself: Do what matters. (Forget the rest.)

Missed Opportunities

"Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss." - F. Scott Fitzgerald Most of the time, I'm an advocate for taking chances, trying new things, and taking advantage of any good opportunity that comes my way.  I'm still early in my career and for the most part, any experience is good experience.

But sometimes, you have to say "no" to good great opportunities in favor of something else.

Last year, I had the chance to visit a private prep school in the area.  They have beautiful facilities and an excellent fine arts program.  Walking through the halls of their new music building, I overheard an open chamber music jury (playing Beethoven's Piano Trio, Op. 1, No. 3.  Hello.), a group lesson for string players, a theory class, and a few students rehearsing on their own in the practice rooms.  I would love the opportunity to teach here , I thought to myself.  I met one of the coordinators of the music program that day and she quickly put me in touch with the director.  He had my resume and I was hopeful that a part-time position would open up within a few months.

A year later, I received an email from the program director with these words: "We are anticipating some staffing needs for the next academic year and beyond..."  This was a GREAT opportunity - one I had been waiting for for a year now - but the timing was all wrong.  I had just committed to a PhD program at Eastman and was within two weeks of giving notice to my employers.  My heart sunk.  Why couldn't this have happened last year?  Of course, I am so, so excited about the work I will be doing at Eastman next year but I hated having to turn this down.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's said, "Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss."  Yes.  Reading these words made me rethink things.  Opportunities are turning points.  They define the path we take.  We say "yes" to some and "no" to others.  Instead of lamenting the "no's" we should feel like our "yes's" are clearer and more defined because of it.  Saying "no" to great opportunities gives us clarity for the things to which we've already said "yes."

What have you said "yes" to lately?

When Mondays Happen

I gave in to Monday pretty early in the game today.  I admit it. Perhaps it was the man who walked out in front of my car on the way to school this morning and DIDN’T EVEN TURN AROUND as I slammed on the breaks.  Perhaps it was having to bounce back and forth between my office (shared by other adjuncts and students taking make-up tests) and the conference room trying to get a little work done before class this afternoon.  Perhaps it was the student who didn’t show up for their lesson this morning.  Or perhaps it was 45 minutes later when I decided to take that phone call and within minutes, said student appeared, knocking on the door of the practice room where I was “hiding.”

The point is, I gave in.  This was not my timing.  Things were not going according to my plan for the day.  I was frustrated with myself and the people around me.  I cringe just reading those words.  Who wants to be that person?!

At some point in the afternoon, I realized the response to things not going as planned is not to give in or give up but simply to go with it.  Accommodate.  Adjust.  Revise.  Move on.  You know what happened after I made this mental switch?  I spoke with a student before class instead of meeting with her during my lunch break.  I got a sweet message from a friend.  I had great lessons with a 6- and 8-year-old brother/sister pair preparing for the upcoming recital.  My last student of the day cancelled (not great in and of itself but it meant I got to leave early!).  I had cheese straws as a pre-dinner snack.  We received an unexpected, generous sponsorship for the WCMW.  Suddenly, Monday wasn’t so bad after all.

Change your expectations.  Adapt.  Adjust your course of action or make a new course altogether.  Go with it and live today to its fullest potential.

Purpose

This week, I want to live with purpose.  I want to tackle my ever-growing to-do list with purposeful effort, use of time, and decision-making.  I want to make great things happen for the WCMW this week (currently putting together some very exciting [and adorable!] sponsor/donor packages!).  I want to finish reviewing my 2011 financials and file my taxes this weekend.  I want to update my grade book so I can give back the stack of papers and quizzes that have invaded my workspace.  I want to refuel by exercising and spending more time outside.  I want to spend my working hours working with purpose so that I can be true to the boundaries I’ve set for my personal life.  I want Friday to be more like this.  I want each day to count for something.

I read a quote yesterday that reminded me how powerful purpose-driven days can be: “Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart.” – George B. Hinckley.  Let’s live this week with purpose, with meaning, and with intention.  Be intentional about the way you work.  Eliminate distractions.  Make decisions.  Work hard.  Invest yourself in what you do.  Go forward with purpose.  Let’s do this!

Surround Yourself with Those Things

"In order to lead a fascinating life - one brimming with art, music, intrigue and romance - you must surround yourself with precisely those things." - Kate Spade Art.  Music.  Intrigue.  Romance.  Who wouldn’t want to surround themselves with these things?!

We all have days where we feel surrounded by those less-than-pleasant people, places, or tasks.  Take control of the things you choose to surround yourself with and make sure they’re the things that inspire you and fire you up.  For me, that means escaping to the empty conference room on my lunch break (with a wall of windows where I can look out on the world) so I get that necessary 20 minutes of solitude in a busy teaching day.

When working from home, I surround myself with good music that keeps me focused and working hard and a little inspiration board hanging over my desk to refresh my energy and attention span.  Five-minute detours to Pinterest also work to clear my head and inspire my creativity.

The people I choose to surround me are encouraging and inspiring – they work hard and challenge me to constantly reevaluate my priorities.

Lead a fascinating life.  Who’s stopping you?

Possibility

"Dwell in possibility..." - Emily Dickinson To dwell in possibility is to claim hope.  The idea of possibility strengthens the confidence we have in ourselves.   “You can and you will,” it whispers.  “Nothing is impossible.”  I think we often get caught up in the realities of life – we’re encouraged at some point to ground our dreams and ideas so they are more attainable and more realistic.  There are some things we just can’t and won’t be able to do.  Face the reality.  As it turns out, our reality is what we make of it.  Never be afraid to dream big, to set seemingly unattainable goals, to work hard, to take action turning new ideas into reality.  As Audrey Hepburn once said, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!”

What is doubt saying is impossible for you?

For me, it’s achieving excellence in music performance where the most impossible task always seems to be overcoming myself – overcoming the intimidation of being vulnerable and completely exposed.  It’s learning to let go of situations that are beyond my control and keeping calm in my heart.  It’s setting work aside, turning off all of the creative ideas in my brain, and living.

Reality is what you make of it, friends.  Will you choose to dwell in possibility?