why you want to be a decade older.

generous oddsThis month, I’m celebrating one more decade of lived experiences.

What am I thinking about as I age into the next decade? How I can use this birthday milestone as inspiration to refine my life. 

On birthdays, it’s helpful to reflect on the most recent year of life.  I have noticed that days, weeks, months and years seemingly speed up the older I get.  Which makes me wonder: “What moments did I allow to escape my notice? Which minutes did I miss?”  After all, as Annie Dillard reminds us, how I spend my moments is how I spend my life.

I also think it’s helpful to set intention for the next year.  My intention for the next decade basically fell into my lap as I was listening to my favorite podcast, On Being with Krista Tippett. In her interview with Adam Grant, professor of psychology and author of Give and Take, Krista hypothesized that generosity may increase with age because we age past the mindset of self-building and age into the mindset of community-building.  Adam Grant corroborated this with data from his research that found, “basically, every decade you age, your odds of being generous go up and up.” 

Basically, just by waking up on November 16, 2015, my odds of being generous increase.

2015-09-26 09.39.11 HDR-1

It’s a factual, data-driven phenomena that I will become more generous every day I live.  It’s completely opposite of the fear-based, media-driven campaign that I will become more prone to life-threatening wrinkles, unwanted aches and pains, and ‘life will never slow down for successful women in their thirties who want a family and a career’ induced anxiety.

Happy Birthday to me!

With that in mind, how will I refine my life over the next decade?  I surely can’t give all of my time, resources, and energy away indiscriminately.  Grant’s research showed that Givers were more successful, happy, and healthy when they exercised clearly defined boundaries about how they gave and when they gave.  So my personal challenge, and my challenge to you, is to focus on what Adam Rifkin termed “The five-minute-favor.”   Adam Rifkin posited that tech start-ups in Silicon Valley function on a favor economy and that a five minute favor can make a huge impact in your personal success.

In Five Minutes, I can:

  • call someone just to listen
  • pick up my neighbor’s recycle bin and take it to her front porch
  • start chopping vegetables for my Ironman’s dinner
  • write a note of encouragement to a colleague
  • share a blog post that will inspire a friend
  • recommend a book that has changed my life
  • allow a driver to go first on a narrow street
  • introduce two people who may have a connection
  • share my empathy with a yoga student who is having a rough day

These five minute favors are actual expressions of generosity that may increase the quality of my day; therefore, increasing the quality of my life.        

I’m challenging you to commit to the “five minute favor” routine until the end of 2015.  Once a week, spend five minutes doing a favor for a co-worker, a family member, a friend or a neighbor.  After you’ve given it a good go, consider setting it as your intention for the next year… or maybe even the next decade.  Remember: every day your age increases, your odds of being generous also increases. 

Happy growing up,


fill your heart with what’s important and lets be done with the rest. #MeditationThoughtMondays

fill your heart with whats important

Here are some things I think are important.

  1. Love
  2. Kindness
  3. Truth
  4. Integrity
  5. Dedication

Here are some things I think are not that important:

  1. Most everything else

Today, I want to challenge you to fill your heart with what’s important and ‘be done’ with everything else.  Meditate on the questions: “What’s most important to me?  How can I fill my heart with these things and let go of the rest?”  

For inspiration, I implore you to read this article, which features one of my favorite soon-to-be-fifth graders, Brayden Ingram.  I’m proud to call Brayden my cousin (he just graduated from being ‘my baby cousin’ this summer when I realized he’s only 2 inches shorter than I am!) because he chooses compassion and generosity with his peers.  This story is a perfect example of what it looks like when you fill your heart with what’s truly important and forget the rest. (You can read more inspiring stories here: Beyond the Spotlight.)

Jennifer Bradley, author of Beyond the Spotlight blog, writes:

“Missouri 4th grader Brayden Ingram is a “good kid.” In fact, he’s so “good” in school, that this year, he racked up piles of ‘good behavior tickets’ in the classroom. These tickets are the keys to unlocking all sorts classroom fun.

Brayden can use his good behavior tickets for special meals, fun events, and small prizes in the classroom. But it didn’t take long for Brayden to realize that the system that he benefits from is not entirely fair to other students. “I feel like the behavior tickets constantly leave someone out feeling hurt. I get sad when I see someone that didn’t get a prize. I get really sad when I see tickets being deducted from peers,” Brayden confided.

So this fourth grader decided to put his own spin on the system. He began to save his tickets so that he could share them with students who struggle more with classroom expectations and behaviors. “I got the idea when one of the boys at school used his tickets to buy me lunch in the classroom with him. Afterwards, I started saving up 110 tickets so I could buy lunch in the classroom for the whole class.” It took a month of saving up, but Brayden felt it was worth it to see the smiles on everyone’s faces.

But his generosity didn’t stop there. The fourth grade classes also held an end of the school year movie and party. Students were allowed to choose between 4 classrooms with 4 different movies, but there was a catch. They had to pay for admission and snacks, and admission cost 10 ‘good behavior’ tickets. Students who did not have enough tickets were to be sent to a separate room to read. Brayden thought that felt sad. He realized that some of his classmates did not have enough tickets for a movie, so he went around sharing his tickets with five of his classmates in the hopes that no one would be left out. He admits to feeling a bit nervous when he noticed so many of his tickets were being used, but he decided that if he was the one who needed to go read, he would be happy to do it for the good of the group. In the end, Brayden had enough tickets left over for his own movie and snacks. From buying lunch to his move at the movies, Brayden is a firm believer in paying it forward. “I did what I did to give other kids the opportunity to experience the fun events and to help them see kindness in the world and hopefully help them pass it on.”

And Brayden didn’t have to wait long for his kindness to spread.  His Auntie Jen teaches 3rd grade at his school.  Inspired by Brayden’s campaign, Jen decided to pay the library fines of 13 students so they could participate in the end of the year field day celebration activities. This story is so inspiring because Brayden not only practices caring and kindness in the classroom, but because at age 9, he was able to see how harmful seemingly “positive” reward systems can be for students who struggle with classroom behaviors.”

fill your heart with whats importantI know that Brayden and my cousin Jen (who has always been my ‘big cousin and someone I want to be when I grow up’) both spend time thinking about how to make the world a better place.  Brayden’s example of generosity, kindness, and dedication should inspire all of us to ‘pay it forward’ every chance we get.  One small act of kindness means one small decision for happiness.  Many decisions for happiness means we can pursue a small happy life, and fill our hearts with what’s important.

How are you going to ‘pay it forward today?’  How can you fill your heart with what is important and ‘be done’ with the rest?