Living Life Forward

life backwards


Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

This is one of my most favorite quotes from Soren Kierkegaard because I find it to be so true. How many situations have you looked back on and thought “If only I had known what I know now…”  The (better) solution seems so clear when you have all the information in front of you. Unfortunately, information is always missing when we have to make a decision. Staying frozen in time is not an option; we must move forward with life.

I do believe that the past is the past – it cannot be changed therefore precious time and energy should not be wasted dwelling on it. BUT – and this is important – some time must be spent reflecting on the past. Pausing and taking note of the events that occurred and the lessons learned are crucial in planning for a successful future. By reviewing history (in any context) we have so many answers that can be uncovered. If we harness those lessons we can begin to enjoy living life forwards.

The start of a new year is an ideal time to make some space for that reflection. This has been my practice for several years and it has done wonders for my goal planning and overall outlook on life.

So what do you think?

Want to try conducting a year-end review on your own? Follow these steps.
Once you are finished, post a comment on how it went. What did you learn?

Does tackling a review by yourself seem a bit too overwhelming? Schedule a Visual Review (virtual or face-to-face) with a visual problem solver (that would be me) to help you start living life forwards.

Throw Out the Bucket

Over the summer I had a strategic session with the very talented artist, Jill Lena Ford. Jill also happens to be a part of my Awesome Family – she is my little sister. When I say “little” it isn’t by much since we are only 13 months apart – Irish Twins!

Something always seems to happen when we put our heads together – it must be the (Irish) twin synergy. This session for Jill was just as clarifying for me. It did take ALL summer to reach the clarity, but I got there. The Idea Seeds needed some time.

Just last week Jill showed me one of her new paintings that formed after our session and its amazing how her vision mimics mine – or is it visa versa.

What was so clarifying? My Bucket.
You know the one you are supposed to fill with the right mix so you can have a balanced, meaningful and stress free life. This is what MY bucket looked like.

My Bucket Before -

So how did this happen?!

I was drowning in the daily maintenance of life – we all do it…right? (please say you do this too!)
Whether it is the physical maintenance of keeping the garage clean and free from the piles – For Donation, No Use For This But Refuse to Part With It, Will Get to This Next Weekend, etc. Or the maintenance of taking time to reset your mind and body through exercise, meditation or even a 5-minute Me Time break. And don’t forget about all those relationships to maintain – husband, children, family, friends, community, etc.

My bucket was being filled with important things, but I had so many that I couldn’t see them and was drowning – not to mention taking everything (and everyone?) down with me.

So I threw out my bucket.

After -

Now I stand in the middle of my life with the contents all around me – organized rather neatly, but with room to move.

It may not sound very glamorous or fun, but I realized that everything which is part of our lives requires maintenance – it is essential to surviving, but more importantly to thriving. Hmmm…there definitely wasn’t any room in my bucket for thriving. Or it was hidden at the bottom somewhere. Now I know what needs maintained in my daily life, but I also am able to see out further in the distance.

For me thriving wasn’t choosing more things to go in my bucket, it was about taking a look at the things in my bucket and finding ways to expand what was there. As I maintain, ideas form for easier, better ways to do things and are put into practice. I feel life expanding. It starts small but grows quickly – an app to track expenses easier, an inquiry to partner on a project instead of doing work I don’t like, an overdue chat with a friend, etc.

I have started to let go of old ways or tasks that do not serve a purpose and improve what is already there. This allows for space – to reflect, to fill with a meaningful new thing or to leave it alone. Beyond the ability to refine what already exists are strands of ideas – not even tangible enough to create a verbal description. I have given myself enough space to allow those idea seeds some growth – maybe a new business idea or starting a new family tradition.

Idea Seed -

I can give it some time to grow and before I know it those seeds will drift into an area I can expand on and then it may find itself in the normal maintenance of my life. And it will begin again, but everything is out in the open where I can see it, nurture it and know when its ready to move to the next level.

This new perspective and clarity is refreshing!

Is there something you can expand in your daily maintenance to make it easier, more efficient or maybe obsolete it?
How do you leave room to let those idea seeds grow?

My Significant People

These last weeks of the school year has moved me into a reflective state on my childhood school days. As my daughter and I dig into college planning I find myself trying to remember how I made such big decisions at a young age. How did I end up where I am right now – a Visual Problem Solver?!

I found part of my answer at an event for GPAC, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, where I created visual notes for a roundtable discussion about Arts Education. I found the conversation interesting and important, but what was most serendipitous during that session is my art teacher from elementary school happened to be an attendee. We chatted for a bit about life, art and education before the session began. As the evening went on I had this feeling I couldn’t quite define. I said my good-byes and went home, but I could NOT sleep that night – I just stared at the ceiling trying to figure out that feeling which was bringing me to the brink of tears.

GPAC Arts Education Roundtable -

How could a small interaction with a person I hadn’t seen since elementary school affect me so much? I also wondered how is it that I actually remember this teacher so vividly and not only her, but also a piece of artwork that I created in her class close to 30 years ago.

As I pondered this, I had flashes of more memories from my childhood and into my college years. It wasn’t a bad feeling at all. It was a mixture of gratitude, love and feeling so VERY fortunate – fortunate to have been influenced by some really Significant People.

So how did I get here? With a lot of different experiences – the great and not-so-great ones. Some experiences I fell into, others I was pushed into and there were a few I worked so hard to have. The combination of all of those experiences, plus Awesome Family and some Significant People is what got me to right now.

Many of those Significant People were only a blink in my life. Some were teachers who I really only knew for 180 days or less, but left a lasting impression and truly helped carve out my path.

The Arts have always been prominent in my life in some form. My parents (part of the Awesome Family) raised me with craftiness. Who else had retro lamps made out of deodorant bottles or a one-of-a-kind RV made completely out of spare airplane parts for their Barbies?!

But I also realize now there was a huge influence in the Arts that came from those Significant People. They may not remember me, but I sure do remember them.

So Thank You….

  • Dr. Sarah Tambucci for fostering my creativity and independence in art at the very beginning of my school days.
  • Mr. Bowman for trying your best to teach me how to play the drums. Sorry I just did not have enough rhythm to get the beats down.
  • Mr. Edward Nemec for sharing your love of books, theater & jelly beans.
  • Mr. Robert Rodrigues for assigning visual projects like designing a newspaper so I could learn about history.
  • Mr. Hugh McGinn for teaching the skills of photography and the awesomeness of Hootie and the Blowfish.
  • Mr. Mark Barzan for giving me the opportunity to try out different art forms and the courage to choose art in college.
  • Mrs. Lisa Trainor for the opportunity to help create the school yearbook. Who knew that would be the start of my love for page layout & design.
  • Professor Rick Heisler for growing my photography skills and giving me an opportunity to teach others.
  • Professor Howard Lieberman for teaching me how to draw naked people with a three-foot stick.
  • Professor Lauren Lampe for guiding a lost transfer student through the graphic design journey.
  • Professor George Founds for scaring the bee-gee-bees out of me, but at the same time expanding my vocabulary and truly teaching great graphic design.

Thank You for helping me get to today. I have made my own mistakes, successes and decisions, but I believe the memories, lessons, and inspirations I took from all of you have added shape to who I am as a person and Visual Problem Solver.

So how have the Arts influenced you? Who are your Significant People?

Year End Review

It is hard to believe 2013 is almost over. Time seems to move by so quickly now, which is why it is important to pause and reflect. I started Year End Reviews several years ago when I followed Chris Guillebeau’s blog. This is the first year that I formalized my process so I could use it with a client though. I tweaked some things, researched a bit and this is what I settled on. Here is a free template to download and use for yourself.

Year In Review -

Waiting until the year is over before completing this process works best for me, but it can be done earlier. For whatever reason late December always brings me clarity, creativity and focus and I like to include that in my review. Just yesterday my interview with Propelle was highlighted on their Entrepreneurial Spotlight – which I am so honored and excited about (woo hoo!) – and that will definitely be included on my review.

This process can be used for business, personal or both. I actually use it for both as I am constantly striving to blend and balance my life – more about that in my next post. I divided the year up into quarters so it doesn’t seem so overwhelming which technically allows you to review after each quarter if you wanted. I just normally need time for events to marinate in my mind before I can reflect fully.
Here are the steps I follow:

What Happened?
Compile a chronological list of everything that happened through out the year. I review my online calendar and family wall calendar for important or not so important events – weddings, birthdays, appointments, networking events, projects, travel, etc. Sometimes I skim emails, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. That normally triggers my memory to what wasn’t captured on the calendar like starting a blog and being highlighted by Propelle. Basically I catalog how I (and my family) filled the waking hours of life for the year.

Remember to include the good moments like achievements, milestones and fun events but it is just as important to note the not so good moments. It is totally your choice on how detailed to get with this.

What Did You Learn?
When I first started to review each year I focused most of my attention on What Happened but then didn’t do much with it. In order for it to be worth my time I learned to start earlier so I could spend December finding patterns and lessons learned. This will probably look different for each person, but the key is to learn more about yourself and your work. Strive for more of the Great Work and less of the Bad Work. For example, last year I made a connection between my health and the amount of travel/work I was doing. It wasn’t a shining moment when I found myself at MedExpress because I thought I was having a heart attack, but instead was told my symptoms were due to high anxiety/stress. What had I been doing for the past 6 weeks prior to that – TOO MUCH!

Determine how you have grown (or not) from the last year’s experiences, accept it and then learn from it.

What’s Next?
This is the fun part for me. Once 2013 is cataloged and some hard (and easy) lessons are learned, decide what you will do with the next 365 days. Based on the two prior sections write some goals for 2014.

What do you need to start, stop or continue doing?
Was there something missing from your list of achievements?
What didn’t you allow enough time for?
Where do you want to be in a year?

I included an extra step in the process with my client this year and I am not certain if I like it or not. After each quarter or season I asked her to rate from 1-10 her satisfaction level. At the end we determined her overall satisfaction for the year. If you are a data person then this could be a nice quantifiable number to take with you and strive to surpass next year or it could be a little de-motivating (or severely crushing!) and you may want to skip it.

Happy Reflecting!
Let me know how this process works for you or share your own process for reflecting on the past year.