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How To Be Present

At the most recent Making Things Happen Conference this spring, as I sat in the back listening to each of our attendees share over their two days at The Carolina Inn, I noticed something...

Over and over, a theme emerged: women want to be present in their lives. They want to be present for their spouses, present for their kids, perhaps present in their time with the Lord, or even simply present with the task at hand as they move throughout their day.

This sounds like such a twenty-first century problem, doesn't it? And there's shame there, like why can't we just do this thing that sounds so simple?? While I'm sure this has always been a challenge to some degree, the fact is that it is uniquely a "right now" problem: there are more distractions, and more powerful distractions, tempting us than ever before in history. (Can you tell I'm reading The Tech-Wise Family and LOVING IT? :))

MTH_Spring_Conference_Group

Photo by Rachel Coffey

But back to the MTH Conference: this deeply-seated desire to be present was so universal and so keenly felt, but by the same measure, attendees seemed at a loss for how they could create change in this area in their lives. I certainly don't have all the answers, but I wanted to share a few things that have worked for me and for other Cultivate team members. The catch? Very few of these will be surprises to you. We all know these things. The true challenge is doing them. I'm here to encourage you on that, too, as you'll see below! :) Let's go!

One final note: when we talk about being present, I don't think most of us are talking about achieving a blissed-out state of zen. What we want is to live deeply in important moments, giving the people we care about the gift of our attention, and maximizing (in the most heart-centered sense) each moment we have. We want to live and remember each day as distinct and praiseworthy instead of just one more in an undifferentiated slog. Okay, now let's go :)

1. Define what's truly important to you and remind yourself of it often. We will never stop talking about the importance of a "why" at Cultivate - it is central to everything we do, and to the message of the PowerSheets! Without a strong and personally meaningful why, we'll never stick with something that's challenging or requires something of us. So why does being present matter to you? Define it, write it down, and perhaps picture it visually (I have a simple inspiration board on my fridge that reminds me of the kind of life I want to live -- one that is very present).

As an example, part of my why was articulated beautifully in this opinion piece from the New York Times. The author writes that the quantity of "quality" (present) time is almost as important as the quality, that we delude ourselves when we think we can "plan instances of extraordinary candor, plot episodes of exquisite tenderness, and engineer intimacy in an appointed hour." The truth is that we never know when those moments will show up, so I want to be present and ready for them as often as I possibly can be. "People tend not to operate on cue... We reach out for help at odd points; we bloom at unpredictable ones. The surest way to see the brightest colors, or the darkest ones, is to be watching and waiting and ready for them."

2. Set a hard boundary. This is perhaps contradictory to my first point, but if being present is something you struggle with, start by setting a discrete time period when you commit to being fully present. It might be in the hour after your kiddos arrive home from school, the thirty minutes when you sit down to dinner or breakfast, or the ten minutes with your spouse before you go to bed. Making a commitment is the first step in keeping it.

3. Don't just hope things will work out - make a plan. Identify your biggest barrier to being present and make a plan to defeat it. For most of us, I would venture to say it's our phones. I have found that the very simple practice of putting my phone in the same place on the kitchen counter when I get home from work stops me from having to make a decision every day about whether I'll have my phone in my pocket, in the bedroom, etc. When I place that phone down, it's a physical reminder that I'm switching over into uninterrupted time with my daughter.

4. Find a way to quiet your mind. By definition, if we're not "in the present," our minds are in the past or future, right? Once my phone is put away, I focus on soaking in as much of the moment as I possibly can -- the sights, the sounds, the smells -- instead of focusing on what happened earlier that day or what's to come. It can also be helpful to focus on your breath, especially if you feel a pull to grab that phone!

5. Learn how to be together. Sure, perhaps the best way to be present with someone is to sit by their side and simply listen to them. But, I think we can also be present with each other in ways where our whole world doesn't need to come to a screeching halt. Some of my favorite moments each day are in the mornings when I'm getting ready for work and my two-year-old is sitting next to me in her high chair eating breakfast. Washing my face, doing my hair, and putting on makeup don't require much brain power, but since my hands are busy, it's easy to focus on her and whatever she'd like to talk to me about. If she's playing independently in the afternoon, I also like to sit on the sofa nearby and read my own book - giving her the gift of my available, present self, even though we aren't interacting constantly.

6. Make a system for capturing info. Aside from my phone, one of my biggest barriers to being present is all of the stuff constantly swirling in my head. You, too? To dos, worries, reminders, appointments to make, ideas to remember, birthday messages to send... the list goes on. Simply keeping a scratch pad out in our kitchen so I can jot those things down instead of juggling them in my mind goes a long way toward freeing me up mentally to remain "in the moment."

7. Acknowledge the tension. Like I mentioned at the beginning, just the fact that we struggle with being present can be a source of guilt or shame. Shouldn't being with our kids be the easiest thing in the world? Shouldn't sitting with our spouses bring us the most joy? They very well might - but that doesn't mean the pull of long-held habits is easy to break. You are learning a new way of being, so simply acknowledge the little by little steps you're taking as well as the set-backs, and keep moving forward!

8. Listen to older people instead of resenting them. We've all heard about the frazzled mom at the grocery store who wants to strangle the grandma who says "you're going to miss these days!" as she tries to wrangle her three screaming kids out the door. Well, my own grandma's best parenting advice when I asked her was "I just tried to enjoy them." What a simple, poignant, true thought. To me, that is what being present is about: simply enjoying the people and time I have been given. Keeping that as my focus instead of resenting it, even in the difficult moments of parenting or life, has been a game-changer for me.

Friends, I'd love to hear: is being present something you struggle with? What tactics have helped you be more present in your life?

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Cultivating What Matters in Finances, Wellness, and Faith in Kids

If you've been in the Cultivate family for long, you know we don't create products for the sake of creating products. We create products we are excited to use, and our Summer Launch coming April 24th is no exception. Not only are we restocking Six-Month PowerSheets in White, we're releasing a new collection of products we dreamed up to help you continue to cultivate what matters!

Three of our favorites? Our brand new Finance Goal Guide, Wellness Goal Guide, and Write the Word Journal for Kids!

Whether you're cultivating your finances, wellness, or hoping to plant seeds of faith in your children, we've teamed up with experts in these arenas to offer practical advice and encouragement and answer all your questions!

FIVE WAYS TO CULTIVATE WHAT MATTERS IN YOUR FINANCES

Wednesday, April 11th at 2pm ET with Shay Cochrane

Our resident finance guru, Emily Thomas, will be teaming up with Shay Cochrane, commercial photographer, to share their top five ways to cultivate their finances. There's no need to be an expert, because no matter your financial situation, you have everything you need to change the course of your financial story! Register here.

HOW TO CULTIVATE FAITH WITH KIDS

Wednesday, April 18th at 2pm ET with Lara Casey

Our brand new Write the Word for Kids has our entire team excited about planting seeds of faith in young ones. Join Lara Casey, mother of three under six, for a live class on how to cultivate faith in the lives of children. Register here.

HOW TO CULTIVATE WELLNESS

Thursday, April 26th at 2pm ET with Amia Freeman

Taking care of yourself is far from selfish–it's necessary to cultivate all aspects of your life. Join Lara Casey and Amia Freeman of inneractive FITCLUB™ as they talk through how to live a healthy, full life. Register here.

Please note: Crowdcast works best on the Google Chrome browser, and we recommend downloading it ahead of the webinar. If you experience technical difficulties, please reach out directly to Crowdcast support.

If you aren't able to join us live for any of these events, there's no need to fret. A replay will be available for all those that have registered, so be sure to sign up to receive access to the broadcast afterward! Note: you will have to sign up for multiple events.

Leave us a comment, and let us know you're coming! We can't wait to see how your little by little progress will add up to help you cultivate what matters in your own life.

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When It’s Time to Take a Leap of Faith…

Our team is busy preparing to host our newest group of Making Things Happen Conference attendees in Chapel Hill, NC next week for our two-day intensive to help them uncover their goals and take action on them. These ladies are taking a huge leap of faith, and we wanted to offer encouragement to them and anyone who might be stepping into the unknown with the expectation of great things to come. Whether you're packing your bags for Chapel Hill, NC or making progress on one of your PowerSheets goals, this is for you!

Ask yourself this question: What if today is the day that everything changes?

Let that sink in for a moment. What if the small decision you make today is planting the seed for great things to come?

Taking any big leap forward–into whatever it might be–can be daunting.

There is a lot of pressure in today's world. Whether it's pressure put on us by others or pressure we put on ourselves, it can oftentimes feel overwhelming to get started on anything new at all. A fear of failure or underachievement oftentimes stops us dead in our tracks and paralyzes us from taking any action on the things that matter to us.

But making the decision to step forward is often the hardest part because it's the first step. It takes bravery to step into the unknown. Making good things come to life requires physical action. And then another action. And another.

Over time, goals and dreams that were once leaps of faith turn into a new life. You have a choice. You can choose to start fresh. You can choose to put the phone down, stop scrolling, and turn comparison into celebration.

This leap of faith? It is not selfish; it takes bravery and gumption. Whether you're taking two days away from your work and family at MTH Conference, spending a few hours on your PowerSheets Prep Work, or stepping outside for a moment to breathe in the sunshine and fresh air, you are worth the time investment.

You are worthy. Just as you are. There is no guilt or shame for taking time to invest in yourself. 

The process of cultivating–breaking the soil, planting, tending, and waiting for the harvest–is where life happens. It's where change and growth happen. The journey to making it happen is where the good stuff lives. Soak it up, friends.

Dreams become decisions when you cultivate them, and the best is yet to come!

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A Pep Talk About Little by Little Progress

If you've been following us on Instagram, you've likely seen that we've been talking a lot about using your PowerSheets Goal Planner to set broad goals for the year and breaking those down into smaller starting steps. For example, instead of setting multiple goals to "become a runner" and "eat healthy" this year, I set one overarching goal to "take care of myself". For me, this goal encompasses healthy eating, physical activity, and emotional care.

And guess what friends? I LOVE IT! Why? It gives me permission to take small starting steps. It gives me the flexibility to grow and change my goals and priorities over the course of the year. It gives me room to embrace the mantra of "little by little progress adds us" and to flourish, cultivating what matters right where I am.

A few weeks ago, our team came across this article outlining the shift in New Year's resolutions over the past two years. A decade-long top resolution of "losing weight" fell on the charts to a broader goal of "being a better person." As I flipped through my 2018 goals in my PowerSheets, I realized how that could be true of my goals, too. My WHY for each of them is so much bigger than myself.

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I want to love Logan (my fiancé) well and invest in our marriage because I understand the importance of building a foundation and legacy for our future family.

I want to put my phone down and keep my eyes up because I want those in my life to know I value their friendship more than I value likes on an Instagram photo or being the first to reply to an email.

These are goals rooted in what matters most to me. Goals that run to the core of my hopes, my dreams, my values. If you're burnt out by the quick fixes and promises of overnight results, you can choose a new story. A new path where your days align with what matters most to you.

Being the very best version of yourself doesn't happen overnight, but taking the first step can.

Making good things come to life requires physical action. And then another action. And another. Over time, goals that were once huge leaps of faith turn into a new life. Our lives will bloom through daily decisions and habits–daily tending, nurturing and pruning–not just the giant leaps made once in a while. Yes, the big leaps are important, but the way we live our moments–even the seemingly mundane parts of our lives–can up to a life of purpose.

As I flipped back through my 2017 PowerSheets and look at the small starting steps I've been taking over the past year, I see growth. Words scribbled on a Tending List reminding me the importance of daily stepping back, looking at the big picture, and evaluating my actions. A daily goal to listen before speaking. Checkmarks and filled-in progress bars. A daily goal to assume the best in all my interactions with others. These are all intentional decisions–many that must be made multiple times over the course of the day–that bring my goals to life and allow me to look back on the year with confidence in the progress I've made. Little by little, I'm making what matters happen. And you can, too.

As Lara says in her first book, "Begin anywhere but just be sure to begin." Join me, and make 2018 your best year yet.

What about you? Where did you begin? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Introducing our Word of the Year

Each December, our team works through a set of company PowerSheets to help us navigate heading into the new year. Every team member has a voice, answering each question and prompt, including offering suggestions goals, encouraging words, and ideas for our Word of the Year.

Our word of the year is more than just a word we choose once and leave be. It's displayed in the office, we remind each other of it during team meetings, and each team members has a slip of paper with our core values and WOTY on it attached to her computer. We take choosing our Word of the Year seriously, though we also know there is room for flexibility in the PowerSheets Goal Refresh every three months! And judging by the number of you discussing your Word of the Year in the Facebook Group, I'd say you feel similarly!

I'm excited to share our team's Word of the Year today, and more importantly, why we view it as an opportunity for each of you, too.

When Lara shared the Hebrew root of the word RISE during our conversation, it all clicked for us:

To abide or accomplish
To confirm
To be clearer
To raise up
To strengthen
To succeed
To build
To make binding
To carry out
To make good

Each product in our shop is intentional. We create them to help YOU cultivate what matters in your life, right where you are. Whether you're looking to cultivate your marriage, your friendships, your faith, your family, or set good goals, our hope is to provide products and resources to encourage you along the way.

This year, more than ever before, our team is rising up to our potential. It's a year of growth for us–a year of stepping into the unknown. A year of saying no to doing what's always worked, and saying yes to what makes our heart sing. A year of saying yes to hiring new team members. A year of humbly serving others. A year of embracing challenges as opportunities, and having a lot of fun along the way. Most of all, it's a year of continually growing ourselves and our impact, not for the sake of growth, but because each of us firmly believe that our mission can encourage each and every woman on this planet.

Our favorite part about the word RISE? It means we get to take other with us. Like the aphorism says, "a rising tide lifts all boats." As we enter into 2018 prepared to make good on our mission to encourage and equip you to cultivate what matters, we look forward to knowing we're doing it alongside an incredible community–each of you! As our team steps out in faith to rise to our potential, we're asking you to do the same alongside us, believing the best is yet to come.

Your turn! Have you chosen your word of the year yet? If so, I'd leave it in the comments and let us know! If not, what are you leaning towards? We want to hear from you!

Feeling stumped on your word of the year? We wrote a blog post earlier this year with some of our best tips for choosing your word of the year.

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