Half-Year Check-In: How I’m Cultivating Focus

Does this [thing I’m doing, spending time on, using up energy on, taking up mind space with] support the life I’m trying to create?

Does this [thing I’m doing, spending time on, using up energy on, taking up mind space with] support the life I’m trying to create?


In the past month, I’ve said “no” to two really big opportunities. Ones that 10 years ago, I would have given anything for. Ones that many people would think I’m nuts for turning down. But 10 years later, because my priorities shifted, no matter how great those opportunities sounded, they were not right for me right now, and probably more importantly, they were not in line with the overall vision I have for the life I’m creating.

The older I get, the better I get about saying “no,” which actually makes me better at saying “yes.” Because when I say no to things that aren’t right, I make space in my brain and my life for things that I should be saying yes to. And that’s not just lip service. I’ve put this into practice. Because I’ve said “no” to a few things, I have made space to “yes” to a few others (like being part of the core Champagne Society team and operating in my zone of genius for a cause/company I believe in).

So here we are, halfway through 2019 — which, I might add, is insane and horrifying, but we’re here in spite of that — and after a brief relapse in loss of focus, I got myself back together. In taking stock of what I’ve actually accomplished so far this year, especially in relation to my over theme (cultivate) and ways of being (decluttered, open, agile, purposeful, resilient), I found that I’m actually, kind of, sort of on track.

A few tallies for 2019 so far (up to the end of June)...

  • Books read: 20
  • Miles run (not including Orangetheory): 242
  • Jewelry designs made: 15(ish), countless more sketched
  • Vacations taken: 2 (plus one in July as of the writing of this post)
  • Beagles acquired: 1

The details…

Reading — I love reading, but this year I actually prioritized it and I’ve read way more books this year than I have in recent years past. Some have cost me some sleep because I’ll pick them up at 8 pm and not be able to put them down until I’m finished, but hey, it happens.

Running — I’m way under my annual running mileage right now, but I’m hoping (fingers crossed) that I pick up some more miles in the back half of the year. It’s halfway through July and my mileage is already set to be my highest mileage month since last November. I really hope I can my act (and mind) together to run some actual races this fall.

Jewelry — While I haven’t made as much jewelry or created as much art as I had initially hoped I’d do this year, I did get way more done that I have in several years. I’ve filled up sketchbooks, and I’ve actually made some new jewelry pieces. And I have a collection brewing in my head, created a moldboard, and built a pricing and sourcing spreadsheet. So…progress? Again, like running, I’m hoping for some additional progress in the back half of 2019.

Family (beagles) — And we got a new beagle earlier this year. Sadly, my fur baby Lucy Belle passed away suddenly at the end of 2018 and she left a huge (unfillable) Lucy-shaped hole in our family. While we weren’t actively looking for another beagle, we stumbled upon Willow Rose, and the next thing we knew, we were driving 11 hours to Wilmington, Delaware to adopt her. No dog replaces a dog you’ve lost, but they certainly do expand your heart with more love. And we just love this little beagle. We’re so glad she’s part of our family.

As we head into the busiest time of year (because by August, it’s basically Christmas), I’ve got a lot planned.

And I’ve got my theme, ways of being, and focusing question(s) to guide me:

My focusing question is right in the photo at the beginning of this blog post:

"Does this [thing I'm doing, spending time on, taking up mind space with] support the life I'm trying to create?"

And taking that further, it’s helpful to get perspective by asking: Is this thing even going to matter in 5 years, 1 year, 1 month? Will I look back later in life and think, “man, I wish I had gone to more meetings or worked straight through the entirety of my son’s childhood.”


When I find myself getting distracted, I just whip up this little vision board I created at the beginning of the year as a reminder.

When I find myself getting distracted, I just whip up this little vision board I created at the beginning of the year as a reminder.


So no, I will not take on the extra stuff that doesn't move me forward but requires that I miss life and crowds my brain. I will not give up the things that are important for the things that barely matter now, let alone a year from now.

The back half of the year is packed, as always, but staying focused on (i.e. cultivating) what I really want longterm makes it easier to figure out what I should actually be doing.

So here’s what I care about for the remainder of the year:

  • A bit of career stuff, but mostly related to mentoring and teaching, and getting that side of my life into shape.

  • A few classes/certificate programs —

    • Coding snuck back in there because I am determined to figure out both front- (I know this, mostly) and back-end (totally new for me) code - I’ve dillydallied too long on this and after taking stock of my longterm goals, I realized this is one that’s holding me back

    • Illustration - again, I’m a decent illustrator, but I know there is so much more to learn and my lack of skills/knowledge are also holding me back from those longterm goals

    • Design ethnography - so there’s a theme here…things that I love and that I want to do but I want to keep learning so I can reach those longterm goals. Going deeper with ethnography is one of them.

    • Wrapping up the jewelry design certificate I started a while back

  • Running — I’m hoping this fall is a restart and a refresh. I’m not out for PRs, but I am out to start moving in that direction

  • Yoga — More yoga. Just more. I recently got back to yoga after over a year break from doing it regularly. And after just a few classes, the tightness in my hips is so much better, and along with it, the associated pain in my hips and lower back. Yoga for life, you guys.

  • Eating habits — I need to clean it up over here in a bad way. As much as I’d like to think I’m a healthy eater, I know I don’t eat enough of the right things (like protein) to properly fuel my lifestyle. I also struggle since I eat a mostly vegetarian diet and I really have to pay attention to what I eat to make sure I get enough of the essentials. I’m terrible about this. I’m a mindless eater and it’s not doing me any favors. But it’s time to change that, for a few reasons. First, I need the energy if I ever plan to get back to high mileage running. Second, I do not need the extra 10-15 pounds and way-too-high body fat percentage I’m lugging around right now. Better eating habits, more mindful eating. Stat.

  • Travel — There are 3 more vacations on the books for this summer (mostly long weekends, and one a longer trip back home to PA). Life and my career are demanding. Recharging is so necessary.

So as I head into the impending fall and holiday nuttery, I’ll continue thinking about the short-term through the lens of my long-term goals.