Sticky-notes are a gift from God. They hold the same life-changing magic for me that tri-folding does for Marie Kondo. Were it not for sticky-notes, I would never remember to renew the dog-license, take the meat from the freezer, order the book on Amazon, or focus on finishing a project. Sticky-notes are the colorful, convenient and clingy orchestrators of my life – which is precisely why there are currently six three-by-three-inch sticky-notes adhered to the auxiliary monitor on my desk. In black Sharpie and in my own handwriting, they say:
- Take the Risk
- Fail if you must
- Take Responsibility
- Be your own authority
- Why not me?
- Just do the work
While not much would change if I didn’t defrost dinner, these in-my-face notes are more than mere inspiration. They are self-prescribed, explicit instructions to follow in order to fulfil my dreams. At this point in my journey, one might think that directives of this sort would be already ingrained in my head. Unfortunately, one would most certainly be incorrect if one were referring to me. Allow me to illustrate:
Sure, I have taken some risks. I’ve paddled in dangerous waters without a life vest, had 2 children near and past my 40-year mark, and even eaten fruit straight from the market without washing it. But when it comes to putting myself out there in service to the world, taking risks has been challenging. For years I’ve kept myself small as a coach, writer and speaker because of the risk of hearing “who do you think you are?” I’ve been hesitant to invest in myself or my business because doing so would mean I would have to show up in order for my investment to pay off, which felt very risky. I’m realizing now, that time is passing quickly. Even if I live to be 100 years old, I’ll be unable to get back the time I’ve wasted wallowing in the fear of judgment over which I’m well aware I have no control. Thus, the reminder: Take the risk.
My firm belief used to be that failing was surely the direct result of taking risks. I’d ponder questions like “what if I put myself out there and it doesn’t work? What if I write a book and nobody wants to read it? What if I give a speech or produce a podcast and nobody listens?” All that pondering led me to discover that a heaping bowl of fear-of-failure will supply you with a steady diet of what-if’s when you’re willing to eat it. The answer to every one of my fear-based questions is “nothing will be different than it already is.” People can’t reject a book I haven’t written. Nobody can hear what I’m not saying. If I put myself out there, nothing can happen that would be any worse than the nothing that’s happing right now. On the other hand, if I do put myself out there and fail, at least I will have information and can say “this is what happened when I tried.” Instead of constantly questioning “what if?,” I will fail if I must. The information I gather will be invaluable.
Hard as it is to admit, I’ve used responsibility as an excuse to avoid showing up for myself. I wore on my sleeve that I was responsible for everyone else’s schedule, for keeping the family afloat and for making sure everyone was happy and getting what they wanted. Then, of course, I’d complain that I didn’t have time to do or get what I wanted. The Take responsibility sticky means taking personal responsibility for my own thoughts and actions, including showing up, taking risks and being willing to fail. It’s truly up to me.
There’s responsibility, and then there’s authority. Knowing I’m responsible for my own happiness is one thing, but Being responsible for myself is another. I hadn’t been valuing my own authority enough to even listen to my own instruction. I’d been waiting for permission to step up. I’d been waiting for permission to change my mind and for permission to be who I really am. Yet, wait as I did, nobody knocked on my door to grant me the permission I was seeking. Could it be that I don’t need anybody else’s permission but my own? Be your own authority is my reminder that it’s time to follow my own command.
While the other stickies are neon green, “Why Not Me?” is on a bright pink sticky-note to make it stand out. It’s a vivid reminder that there is no reason I should not or cannot have the things I want. It’s a reminder that I’m surrounded by evidence that the things I want are possible because other people have already achieved and experienced them. So, why not me? Why not start now?
Also bright pink, the last sticky-note says “Just do the work” and encompasses all the other sticky-notes combined. It reminds me to pick up the pen, make the call, write the program, stop making excuses, and do what has to be done. It means take the risk, fail when and where I must, take responsibility, be my own authority, and believe in myself because “why NOT me?” Just DO the work.
Where do you keep your personal instructions? You may be using an app, a paper or digital organizer, Google Suite or any number of other fantastic organizational tools to keep your goals and inspirations at the ready. If it’s working for you, great!! However, if you find yourself needing a bit more of an in-your-face reminder of how to keep yourself pointed in the direction of your dreams, I highly recommend the very nontechnical sticky-note and black Sharpie method. In more ways than one, it’s a gift from God.