January 16, 2020

I’m Julie.
After my life transformed through style, my mission became sharing that process to help women experience that same magic - to live out the life of their dreams, too.

Having the audacity to go for what you want in 2020.

With everything that’s been going on with Olivia recently, I almost re-thought my own personal plan for 2020. My own personal goals. Can I give my all to her as a mom and also live out my personal and professional dreams? Some people might tell you no – that you can’t do both things, but I feel otherwise, and I’ll explain why. 

I chose a word for 2020 – it’s “focus” – and when I had this wake up call with her last week, it actually made that word have all the more meaning to me. Let me explain.

For as long as I can remember I wasn’t sure what I wanted to “be”. I toyed with so many professions. A Today Show news anchor was always at the top of my dream list, but I thought about being a doctor, a lawyer, school psychologist, actress, psychologist, therapist, opening a boutique, and everything in-between. Literally. My family and friends can vouch for this lol.

In college I started working with a girl with special needs. I fell in love with her and her family and that experience ultimately led me to my masters in special education and a job as a high school special ed teacher. I was a teacher for five years and then left when Olivia was born. I then got another masters in school counseling while I unexpectedly turned my Stella & Dot business into a full time gig. And then, I started this blog. I partnered with reward style as an “influencer”, and when I think about that journey, and where I started – a completely different place than I’m in now – it’s actually sort of bizarre. The amount of change that transpired (and that still is!) was actually unbelievable.

Moral of the story: my trajectory changed over and over again. Each time starting something new, it was scary. It was questioning all over again if I was making the “right” choice every. single. time. {Even with my hair as silly as it sounds! Change is scary because you’re so used to what you’re used to!}

And with any change, comes fear, and discomfort {like waking up to look at myself with a new haircut. you sort of feel different!} While you’re adjusting to something new, a new mindset, a new routine, a new form of putting yourself out there, it feels uncomfortable. That’s how change is. But if we don’t do things that scare us and make us feel that bit of discomfort until it becomes the “new normal” – then would we ever grow?

And the hardest part about change? The anxiety leading up to it. For me, this is even a day to day feeling. When I was teaching, every Sunday at about 4pm that “feeling” would set in. The one where you know work is creeping up and you have to be prepare – mentally – and literally. Making sure my lesson plans were done. Making sure I had testing complete for IEPs coming up, preparing for those meetings. All of it. 

And then once you get there, the week starts and you get through it – and you’re totally fine. Some days better than others, of course, but happy to be surrounded by your peers every day and making a difference in kids’ lives. And then you have the BEST feeling on Fridays knowing you have the weekend ahead of you – to just BE. And then the same feeling every Sunday all over again. And after a vacation – don’t even get me started about how much the feeling multiplied the more time off you have.

But generally speaking – anything you’re thinking about doing – any change you want to make, or shift, or starting something new – even a new hobby or new workout. You think about it and think about it – every part of it – how it will impact your day to day – how others might perceive it, if it’s the right decision or not, if something else would be a “better” idea. And then you think about it for too long and you change your mind about your decision.

When you think about anything for too long you can talk yourself out of it. I know that feeling so well. Too well. And I have to fight it all the time. 54321 – that Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins (highly recommend that book or TED talk!) Just do it before you have a chance to build it up in your mind.

But, ya know, at the end of the day – there’s something to be said about following your first instinct. The instinct you had before you talked yourself out of it.

When you close your eyes, what do you dream of for yourself? Whether that’s health, pyshical, mental, financial, your dream career, a dream vacation. Usually we’re the ones getting in our own way of going for what we want. I was the QUEEN of doing that – and I still have to actively work to focus on myself, what I want and dream of, and editing the stories I tell myself in my mind about the perceptions of others or the roadblocks I might face along the way. 

My most recent addition to my life has been this blog – making it a part of my week, sharing more on Instagram, doing weekly try ons, creating more content – and I can tell you that it’s been a shift for me – a change. And it can feel uncomfortable as any change is. I’m super conscious about being myself and being inspired by others, but creating my own content in my own unique way that helps others, that’s valuable to others, that others can relate to. But I do find myself getting in my own head about how others perceive me. And that’s when the fear sets in. The discomfort. The doubt. But that’s part of the change and the growth process. And in my heart, I know that’s very normal!

That’s how I used to be with Stella & Dot before I realized how happy it made me and before I really threw my all into it. And then I just did it because it made me happy and that rubbed off on others and then I got on a roll and then – I was so busy focusing on what I was doing that I didn’t have as much time to worry about what others might think.

And after all – ya know – not everyone will fully support you. Not everyone will love you or want to “follow” you or “agree” with your decisions. But is that a reason not to do it? In the end, it’s the people who DO love you and DO support you that will bring you positivity – and those are the people you want in your life anyway – those are the people you want surrounding you -so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing in the first place.

Do what brings you joy. Do what lights you up. Close your eyes and picture what you want every single day and let that drive you. Change the screen saver on your phone to remind you every time you look at it. And then go for it. You’re the only person holding you back. Usually – we let our own minds get in our way.

So maybe you could relate to some of that or found some of it inspirational…

But the HOW is that hard part, right?

Well. It depends on what you want, but for me, when I want something – I have to focus. So let’s go back to my word for 2020. And that means a few things for me and maybe it will help you, too:

  1. Focus on myself. I tell this to my kids all the time. But sometimes I’m so busy looking at what others are doing and that can make me feel “less than” if I’m not doing “as much” or “as well” as they are. So I really need to work on changing that focus inward – to just myself.

  2. Focus on what I’m working on, when I’m working on it. That means time blocking. That means being really efficient with my time. It means turning notifications off, and not scrolling Instagram or Facebook or checking my email until I’m finished with the task at hand.

  3. Focus on my kids when I’m with them. If I’m being efficient with my time, I shouldn’t feel so compelled to be working when I’m with them. This is a bendy one because I work from home, and much of my work is on my phone. But separating my time is something I’m aware I need to get better at. And I will!

So here’s the thing. If I’m focused on myself and my personal goals, and do less of looking at what others are doing and comparing myself, and if I use my time super efficiently so that I’m getting more done in the blocks of time that I do have, then theoretically, that should mean that when I’m with my kids, I can have that more quality, focused time with them – playing with them, dancing with them, reading with them – without distractions. I’m not saying I haven’t been doing that – I do. I  just want to do it MORE and BETTER. There is always room for improvement.

So that’s why I feel like I shouldn’t have to pull back on my personal goals in order to address what’s happening with Olivia. And I also need to remember that the goals that I set for myself personally and professionally and the work that’s taken along the way have been some of the BEST lessons that I’ve taught her and that I will teach her. Hands down. So what would it teach her if I totally let those go? When something in your life gets hard, you should give up on other things that are important to you? I think not! It might mean a shift, but not letting go. I just need to FOCUS on being more EFFICIENT with my time, thereby executing more efficiently, with less inward and outward distractions – and then I will actually have more QUALITY time while working the same amount – or maybe even more!

So some practical tips I’m going to implement:

  • Sunday planning.

That will include not only planning out my content for the week for my blog and my Stella&Dot business, and the kids’ activities, but it will also include my workout schedule (because I choose to make that a priority!), some ideas for meals so I’m not scrounging for dinner every night, and I will prioritize each day. I know it feels so good to check the boxes off with those odds and ends you need to do in your life and so we check those off on our “to do” lists but then when our day is over, we’ve only really done those housekeeping items and not those bigger ticket tasks that will bring us closer to our goals. So – prioritize. Do one of the BIG things FIRST that maybe you don’t WANT to do as much, but one that you know is most important to bring you closer to that big goal. Turn phone notifications off and set a timer. Try not to allow yourself to browse the internet or check your email in that time and you’ll be AMAZED at how much you can get done without distractions.

Two planners that are great for time blocking if you’re a pen to paper gal like me are this one and this one. And for your week at a glance, this one I just started using and LOVE! It also has the option to customize with time blocking slots if you’d like (Rundown of each one in my “organization” highlight on my Instagram!)

  • Prioritize

The other thing about planning is that you might realize to do the things you want to do and live out the dreams you want to live out, you might need to adjust or tweak some other things in your life. You might need to wake up a little earlier. You might need to go to bed a little later – or a little earlier! You might need to DVR your favorite show and watch it as your reward to yourself once you’ve done your big tasks for the week that will bring you closer to those goals and dreams – or maybe save it until AFTER you’ve done that hard workout. You might need to say “no” more. That’s a hard one for me because I’m a people pleaser big time, but I’ll talk about that more a couple paragraphs down!

One thing that’s been helpful for me – instead of saying “I’m so busy I don’t have time” – change that to “I’m not making that a priority right now.” I learned that from our S&D CEO, Jessica Herrin. That it’s ok. We aren’t going to prioritize everything. We can’t. But try to avoid using lack of time as an “excuse” – because most often – that’s what we do. I do it all the time and I’m actively working on getting better at that! 

We were talking about this very thing at our Stella & Dot meet up last night. All were working moms sitting around the table who have working husbands and we were talking about exercise. One friend said her hubby wakes up at 4am to do yoga and meditate after he feeds their baby because he gets home from work close to 10pm some nights and he really needs that time, mentally. Would it be easier for him to say that there’s no time for that? Of course! But he CHOOSES to prioritize that wellness time for himself. Another friend? She said her extra hour of sleep is her exercise lol. She has no desire to. But that’s the thing. She doesn’t WANT to. If she wanted to find the time, she could prioritize it. Another mom? New mom to a 5 month old. She said sometimes she does crunches holding her baby because she NEEDS to get that time in for herself mentally. She creates that time, even if her baby is part of it! I totally admire that!

  • Yes vs Hell Yes!

And the other thing I’ve been loving? Don’t say “yes” unless it’s a “hell yes!” Make space in your life for the things that you’re excited for, the people who are positive and who will bring positivity back to you – and the things and experiences that excite you! Example? I have SO much travel coming up. I could have said no or not have made the effort to plan or to figure out childcare for the trips that are just me or just me and Adam, but I’m EXCITED for every single trip. Looking forward to each one so much for a different reason. They’re all a HECK YES – so I made the extra effort to plan them. 

  • Saying more “No”

That’s hard. But ya know what? I’ve literally had to practice this one to get better at it. Being class mom? This is going to sound awful, but I was class mom when Olivia was first in pre-school, and I seriously hated it. That sounds harsh, and I’m sorry if that’s offensive, BUT I’m just being honest. It just did not bring me joy, but I felt like I had to because at that time I was a stay at home mom and I did have the time!

But then – when I amped up my work from home business and realized that I had to prioritize my time, take stuff off my plate to make more time for the things I needed to do and wanted to do in order to live out my personal and professional dreams, I realized I didn’t “have” to say yes just because I was the “work from home mom”. That doesn’t mean I don’t work, just means my work looks different. And don’t get me wrong – if no-one else can and the class really needs someone and I’m asked again – of course I would feel at that point like saying yes would be the right thing to do – and I would. But I’m just not going to be volunteering like I have in the past. And it also doesn’t mean I can’t be involved in the school in other ways that I want to be and it doesn’t mean I’m not a good mom. It’s actually a great lesson to teach my kids!

Am I SO happy I get to be at every single function for my kids because I work for myself? Oh my gosh – YES. It’s a DREAM! But I had to figure out where to say no and that’s one example of something that I had to say no to – not because I’m not a good mom or not a good person – I’m a good mom and person – but something has to give, and saying no is ok! In fact, it’s a good thing. It can be uncomfortable, at first, but building the confidence to make that choice to say no is so liberating. Truly. It’s been such a process for me and still is, but it’s really been so important for me and continues to be. And it opens up more time for the things that are a “heck yes!” and to live out those dreams that at the end of the day, are for my family.

In conclusion…

Your dreams are up to you. You care about them more than anyone else will. And you also are the only one who can make them happen – and you’re also the only person that’s ultimately getting in your way – in your mind.

You don’t have to wait to turn the page on a new year to set intentions for yourself. Start with something – anything. It takes 30 days of doing something for it to become a habit – to feel “normal”. Have you given yourself 30 days of doing something new? 30 DAYS! That’s a long time. But think about it. 30 days. 30 times. It’s almost helpful to have a concrete number to work off of.

And guess how many days/times of NOT doing something for it to feel like you’ve never done it. THREE! 3! Three! Crazy, right? That’s why it’s hard to go back to the gym after a vacation or not exercising. Because it’s like you unlearn it! Fascinating.

I wake up every morning with the intention to go for what I want. And some days that’s harder than others, and some days I let my head get in the way more than others. But I plan to stay the course. Hold me to it, friends! It’s just going to take some FOCUS <3

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Julie Kraus | Stylist
〰️ I help you take the struggle out of style
Founder of CHIC▫️Podcast Host▫️Mom of 2