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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? :))

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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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10 Things We Love About the Cultivate Family

One of our greatest joys is serving the women in our community, and we thought there was no better time to share 10 things we love about the Cultivate family than the eve of Valentine's Day!

1. You don't give up. This is my favorite thing about our Cultivate family, and it's on display this week. When the rest of the world decides their goals aren't worth it and jump ship, you buck the statistic and keep moving forward. And you do it with excitement and energy!

2. You are wise! When we create our PowerSheets each year, we work extra hard to make the best product for your lives, but you continue to blow us away with how creative you are with using PowerSheets in your lives. I've adopted many of your  PowerSheets hacks and tips for using Tending Tape, and it's helped my goal-setting process so much!

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3. You are willing to step out of your comfort zone and be vulnerable for the sake of encouraging others. We've witnessed and heard of countless stories of connection in the PowerSheets Facebook group and on social media. When someone is sharing a struggle, you're willing to speak up and say, "me too" so that others don't feel alone.

4. You celebrate the little by little progress. The number of you celebrating Cultivate What Matters week with us is proof! When the end of the month rolls around, you don't look at the empty boxes on your Tending List with a sense of shame or defeat. Instead, you look at the progress you DID make on your goals with an excited vigor to keep moving forward.

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So many friends showed up to Lara's Cultivate book launch party to celebrate! We love you LaShawn and Maggie!

5. You have fun! There's never any shortage of emojis, GIFS, high fives, and exclamation points from you ladies, and we wholehearted approve of that :)

6. Your story of cultivating what matters is uniquely important, and it has the potential to impact others in a profound way when you choose to share it. Whether it's on a blog or in an email to a single individual (including myself), taking the time to share your story takes bravery, and it pushes others to step out and do the same.

7. You make us look forward to Monday. We love our weekends with our loved ones, especially when they're social media-free, but knowing we get to start our Monday mornings dreaming up content and products for our Cultivate community!

8. You know where you're headed. In a world where distractions are calling out for us from all sides, your unwavering commitment to your purpose and big picture inspires us to stay on the forward path. It's one thing to ask yourself the question, "Where do I want to be when I'm 80?" It's another thing to have a clear vision, and our Cultivate family does!

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Real-life PowerSheets users from our 2018 PowerSheets photo shoot: Brooke, Bailey, Deah, Elisa, and Kaylee!

9. You're everywhere! There are PowerSheets friends meeting in all states, in countries across the world. This is amazing!

10. You are leading the way. Whether you realize it not, every single time you take a step forward on your goals or encourage someone else, you are the start of a ripple effect that changes lives.

And because we love you so much, we couldn't narrow the list down to only 10!

11. You appreciate color just as much as we do, as evidenced by the support of our sold out PowerSheets Goal Planners and Write the Word journals! Because of that, we're extra giddy to release the new products we have in the queue. 

Use the code LETSCULTIVATE for 25% off your entire order this week in the shop! Now's a great time to stock up on gifts for yourself or loves ones!

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Fruitful Summer Week Is Over. Now What?

What a great week with each of you celebrating Fruitful Summer, and this is only the beginning!

We talked a lot about making new friends, spent time together chatting about staying motivated on your summer goals, and talked about how to cultivate friendships in your life.

All week long we've had a blast reading your blog comments, listening to your stories via email, and hearing from you on social media, so we decided to keep it going!

Starting Wednesday, May 31st, Lara and I will be walking through the new Fruitful Friendships Workbook together every week through the entire summer! Grab your Workbook today to get it in time. We can't wait to get to know each of you better this summer!

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We've loved hearing how many of you are ready to dig into setting meaningful goals for the summer, so Lara has decided to host a live Get the Most Out of Your PowerSheets classnext Wednesday at noon on Facebook Live. No need to register--just mark your planner and be there!

 

 

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Celebrate Your Friendships with Traditions

Traditions help us cultivate connection through meaningful shared experiences. Guess what? You're never too old to start a new tradition! Whether it's something you've done before or a tradition you want to start, now is the perfect time to make it happen!

When I think about my favorite memories from my college years, it's easy to notice a thread-the place I called home my senior year of college, 2 Marilyn Lane. A house is just a shell, and what makes it a home are the people with whom you share it. We shared our lives-not perfectly, but willingly. One of my favorite traditions we have is gathering together for a weekend each year. No amount of technology can make up for time together, so early on we made a promise to prioritize in-person time together by planning a reunion weekend once a year. This trip consistently ends up being one of my favorite weekends each year!

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2 Marilyn Lane celebrating at a baby shower together last year

You might not have the finances or time to plan annual trips with your friends in this season of life, but that doesn't mean you have to wait to start traditions. We've created a list of friendship traditions you can start below!

Host a holiday gathering. Take it one step further and make it themed! An annual Friendsgiving potluck or an adult Easter egg hunt, the possibilities are endless!

Schedule monthly Google hangouts or FaceTimes with faraway friends. A group of my boyfriend's college housemates has started a monthly Google hangout on Saturday mornings. Everyone can join, and they get a chance to share big updates in their lives.

Start a group text message thread or photo stream. There's a good chance you already have this, and if so, start being more intentional with what you're communicating. Offer encouragement, ask for help, and send funny photos! It will help you feel connected to your friends throughout the day.

Take an annual vacation together. This takes some forethought and intentional planning, but it's worth it! Use Doodle to find a weekend that works for everyone, get creative about your locations, and start planning!

Start a traveling scrapbook. One of the traditions I want to start (you'll see it in my Fruitful Friendships Workbook!) is to create a notebook that is mailed from person to person. When it's received, the person will fill it out before mailing it to the next person! Whether it's funny memories from their week, a day in the life, photos, or anything, I know it will be a sweet and funny thing to look back on together.

That's a small list, but it's a start! Our Fruitful Friendships Workbook is full of lots of other ideas! It will also walk you through brainstorming and action steps, and then helps you transfer those goals to your PowerSheets.

I'd love to hear from you! What tradition do you want to start with your friends? Leave a comment below!

 

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How to Cultivate the Friendships in Your Life

One of my PowerSheets goals over the past two years is some iteration of loving others well, and while this is something I like to think comes naturally to me, in reality I know I have a long way to go! One of the hardest parts of an ambiguous goal like "love others well"? Figuring out tangible action steps for you to make little by little progress on that goal!

When we were working on creating the Fruitful Friendships Workbook, I was pretty adamant about having a section with Tending List ideas so that you could easily transfer them to your PowerSheets Tending List each month. We didn't want the Workbook to be just a pretty magazine you flipped through; we wanted it to be practical and encouraging as you cultivated friendship in your life.

I'll share a few of the ideas below based on where it could fall on your Tending List (monthly, weekly or daily goals). I'd love to hear how you incorporate friendship tending into your goal-setting routine, too!

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Monthly Tending List Ideas

Make a list of things your friends love. I keep a running note on my phone of things my friends love or things I need to know about them. A few ideas: their favorite candy, shirt size, any significant holidays or milestones, their Starbucks or Chipotle order. The possibilities are endless here!  The times I feel the most loved are often because someone is recalling a detail about me that seems insignificant, but shows that they listen to me.

Plan a summer meet-up to bring together friends in your community! We created an entire meet-up packet to make this easier for you! Send a text, post it on Facebook, or email a group, and start making new friends in your neighborhood.

Leave an unexpected treat on your friend's porch. Whether it's a sweet treat you baked or a small gift you picked up at your favorite shop, it's sure to be a fun thing for your friend to come home to at the end of the day. Bonus if you download one of our bright notecards or punny gift tags.
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Weekly Tending List Ideas

Call a friend. I've oftentimes said I am a terrible long-distance friend, but here's the thing, picking up the phone for a catch-up call or Facetime isn't that hard! Adding this to your monthly PowerSheets is a great way to stay accountable while showing your faraway friends that the distance isn't keeping you from caring about their life.

Send a gratitude note. My best tip for gratitude notes? Keep stamps and notes together and in a place where you are often sitting. For me, it's my top desk drawer or my car (in case I have a few minutes to spare). It'll make it so much easier to write a quick note of thanks or encouragement to someone.

Offer to pick up something for a friend on a grocery run. If you're already headed on an errand, why not text a friend to see if there's anything you can pick up for them and drop off at their home? A new momma might especially appreciate having someone offer to grab a new pack of diapers as they're throwing the last one away and preparing to load the baby in the car.
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Daily Tending List Ideas

Respond to your text messages. How often do you get a text message, read it, and then wait to respond at a "better time"? No one else? Just me? I might be preaching to myself here since I'm the worst at responding to texts (I have 5 currently sitting unread on my phone). Here's the thing: if your friend were to ask you a question to your face, would you turn away and not respond? Absolutely not! So don't treat them that way with your electronic device. I'm working hard on this, and I've added it to my PowerSheets daily goals for a few months now.

Make eye contact. Commit to looking your friend in the eyes when she is talking to you. Nothing is more distracting and hurtful than watching a friend look around or worse, check their phone when you are spending time together.

Encourage someone. Smile, and offer a genuine compliment to someone today.

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There are more Tending tips in our Fruitful Friendships Workbook as well as worksheets to help you set friendship goals. We created each of our companion guides to be used in conjunction with PowerSheets, so if you're not a PowerSheets user, now's the perfect time to join us!

Our Fruitful Summer Bundle is available to help you set meaningful summer goals and grow meaningful friendships this season. It includes a set of Six-Month Undated PowerSheets Workbook in White, Fruitful Friendship Workbook, Fruitful Summer Postcard Set, and Take the Leap Mini Print.

Save the date for Wednesday, May 31st when Lara and I are going to work through the Fruitful Friendship Workbook LIVE alongside each of you on Facebook! We can't wait to spend some time together chatting about our friendships. Grab your copy today so you can have it in time for our hang-out!

 

 

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