Life Lessons: 40 Lessons in 40 Years

1. People will argue for their own limitations in life. Don’t limit yourself because you believe you can’t achieve your dreams. Your everyday attitude will determine if you reach your potential.

2. Sometimes it is best to keep your mouth closed. It is always tempting to try to talk sense to people who are spouting nonsense. It could be the Mom at PTA who is bragging about how her son has developed a cure for cancer out of old lollipop sticks, or a blog post I disagree with, or someone’s political rant on Facebook. I’ve learned that I should just stay out of it. The risks are too high that I would look like a jerk (because it would be jerky, right?) or that I would look like a bully. It's best to avoid silly drama and waste emotional energy.

3. Happiness really is a choice. It is less about what happens to you and around you and more about who you are and how you decide to view life. We all see our present lives as either worse than we expect or better than we deserve. That perspective determines everything. 

4. No one spends their days judging you or criticizing you but you. Your worst enemy is your own critical voice in your head. This is the voice you listen to 10x more than any other. The constant thoughts that you aren’t good enough, you failed and things will never be better will steal your passion and your joy. Learning to silence, or at least ignore, the critical inner voice is key to happiness.

5. The day you look at other women and celebrate their strengths instead of think of them as competition is the day you go from a girl to a woman. 

6. Confidence is only gained by taking action. Try, fail, try again, fail again, try again, fail less, try again, sort of get it, try again, get it, try again, success. That's the only recipe to gain confidence. 

7. You will make mistakes and you will fail. That’s how you learn, it’s how you grow and become a better person of yourself. Take the bruised ego and hurt pride out of it and you will grow, you will flourish and be better than before. 

8. No one feels completely capable and has unlimited funds, time and energy to achieve their goals. And everyone is terrified of failure, looking foolish, and letting others down. Once you know you aren't the only one, life gets easier. 

9. Judge others by their actions and never by words, or worse, “good intentions’ alone. As Maya Angelou famously said, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

10. You can’t change anyone’s behavior, their brand of crazy, their perspective, or their opinions. People are complex, and have years of ingrained beliefs and a lifetime of experience that makes them who they are. Expecting change and getting upset when it doesn't happen is a recipe for misery. 

11. The world doesn’t owe you a single thing. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Never be that person with an inflated sense of entitlement. I’ve learned time and time again that pride really does go before a fall every. single. time.

12. We live lives of constant activity and noise. Busyness is a weapon to keep us from the life we are created to live. It keeps us on the hamster wheel of striving to be good enough, to feel good and it steals our joy. 

13. Everyone is consumed with the tornado of their own lives. When someone doesn't reach out, assume their life is full and be the one to make the effort. 99.9% of the time they will be overjoyed to hear from you. 

14. It's easy to look at the perfectly sanitized lives on Facebook, but behind everyone's smiling pictures and well-decorated front doors is often a world of struggles and pain. It's safe to assume we are all living the same life behind the scenes and we all only share the happy moments. 

15. Life is better when you are open to new experiences. Go to every conference you can. (Oh, How I LOVE conferences big and small. I never regret going, learning new things and meeting great people!) Adopt a dog, take those lessons you always wanted to take, or take the time (and risk) to invest in a new friendship. Say yes to the things that will make your soul come alive. 

16. Out-of-control emotions often reflect out-of-control expectations we put on ourselves. When you find yourself snapping at those you love, crying more than normal (what? Everyone has a normal cry level!?), and feeling out of control it normally is an indication you are too busy and living life over capacity. 

17. When you finally submit to the one who created you and learn to humble yourself, God will do things to you and through you that you could have never imagined.

18. Once you love God he will never let you stay where you are. You can’t hide and you can’t stay away for long. He will lovingly call you back time after time.

19. God’s plan is so much better than anything you have planned. It sounds so trite (I know, I know!) but it’s true. He takes our messes, rearranges them and makes something beautiful every single time.

20. "God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle" is flat out bad theology. Lots of situations will be more than you can handle, but God will help you be strong, be courageous and get you through them. 

21. The best life advice sometimes seems so simple that we don't take action. We want a long, complex way to work our way out of something. Most of the time we just need to do something easy and simple. Just taking that first step will create huge change in our lives.

22. Seven hours of sleep is a must. Without enough sleep you'll get wrinkles and you'll get grumpy. 

23. The decisions that determine your happiness and success are: your spouse, your close friends, and your mentors. Choose them well. Friends who celebrate your successes, support you when you make dumb mistakes, and love you enough to tell you the truth even when it is uncomfortable are a treasure. Never take them for granted. Tell them often how much they mean to you.

24. You should treat your spouse the way you want your kids’ future spouses to treat them. The marital relationship you model will stay with your children for a lifetime. Remember that next time you need to vent and your spouse is a handy target. (I'm preaching to myself here!

25. Being offended is ultimately a choice. Learning to see the situation through the other person's eyes takes more patience than Job and more strength than Samson but it’s worth it.

26. With kids, who you are is as important as what you do. Don't bother forcing them to learn how to play piano if they don't want to, just model how to be a responsible, loving human to them daily and they will be set up for success. 

27. Everyone thinks their children are above average. Actually, most people think their children are exceptional geniuses full of charm and blessed with good looks. It's just how we are wired. As my grandaddy said when I was bragging on how handsome my first baby was, “Every crow thinks theirs is the blackest.” I laughed and knew his country humor was spot on.

28. Parenting is hard.  All the exhaustion, the constant going-going-going, the neediness, and the noise wears on you. The worry that you aren’t doing a good enough job gnaws on your peace of mind. Remember to take care of yourself while you parent. You can’t give from an empty cup. Seek things that fill you up and help relieve stress. (But parenting, despite how soul-suckingly hard it is at times, is the most rewarding and joy-filled experience of our lives. It's such a paradox!)

29. Your kids will respect you if you are strong enough to occasionally 'be the bad guy' and keep them in check. No child, or adult for that matter, is happiest when given free rein. Too many choices and freedoms too early lead to dangerous mistakes. Give kids what freedom and space they have earned according to their level of maturity and by their behavior. When they mess up, rein them back in a little. You can do it and your kids will appreciate not being able to bulldoze you.

30. Sometimes you can do everything right and they will still behave like little jerks. You will take it as a personal reflection of your worth at first, but then as your kids get older, you let go of the illusion of control and love them through the ups and the downs. 

31. Holding on to unforgiveness and hurt will only steal your joy. Forgiving someone else doesn't absolve them from guilt. It doesn't mean what they did is acceptable. It means you are leaving it behind and moving on. Learning to leave the past in the past, and look to the future with an anticipation of good things, is the way to move on. 

32. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Delayed interest payments, easy lines of credit, ever increasing real estate prices, are all a ticking time bomb. Also, student loans are a millstone around your neck. Avoid them.

33. Thanks to the Internet we live in an age of unprecedented access to technology, information and freedom to create. The gatekeepers are gone and we don’t have to get anyone’s permission to be successful. Some people use this freedom to build their dreams, to educate themselves and create a new life. Others use this for candy crush and youtube. The choice is yours.

34. If you have even the smallest amount of ability, healthy ambition and a great attitude you will be successful. (Click to tweet that) Talent is overrated. You can have all the 'natural gifts' in the world, but if you don't work your tail off, they will go to waste. Emotional intelligence will take you farther than intellectual ability ever will.

35. You will never regret over-preparing. When you know something by heart, have planned for all the ways it can go wrong and how you will respond, you can relax and go with the flow.

36. Build relationships with people because you value them, not because you value their network. Relationships you build to help others will take you so much farther in life than ones you build to help yourself.

37. The one thing that will sink your business and your life faster than anything else is your ego. (Click to tweet it!) A bruised ego will cause more damage than a puppy in a shoe store. An overinflated ego will leave a path of destruction. Stay humble, work hard, love others and you'll be successful. 

38. You have to have systems for everything. A system is just a plan for managing lots of tasks, information and responsibilities. Sure, no one wakes up in the morning excited about systems, but without them you are destined to fail.

39. Everyone needs a coach- from the Olympian, to the corporate leader, to the author and the small business owner. You’ll never regret spending the time and money with someone who can walk the journey with you, share their knowledge and be invested in your success. Successful people all have coaches.

40. Great leadership requires a constant willingness to be transformed into the person we were created to be. (Click to tweet that) Leading well comes down to living well. Great leaders are made, not born. 

And one to grow on.. 

You can change the world around you by simply smiling when others enter the room, choosing encouragement over cynicism and saying, "I love you" more often than you do now. 

If you loved this list and want to add your own life lessons, share this on Facebook and add some of your favorites. Let's keep it going! 


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7 Secrets For Balancing Life

 "How do you balance it all?" That's the question I get asked more than any other. Sure, my life is full, I'll admit it. (I'm not exactly relaxing everyday on a beach eating peeled grapes.) With five sons, work, my books (Breaking Busy is especially relevant here!) and the normal craziness of life- my secret is great systems and amazing technology. 

Today I'm sharing some of my favorite tips, tricks and strategies on work productivity and life balance with you. 

1. Use Your Calendar to Make Time For What's Important

I'm obsessed with Gcal. I not only put all my appointments in it, I use it to schedule my life. I realized that if I want to actually live on purpose, I had to dedicate time to my priorities. I learned to schedule blocks of time for prayer, Bible study, for exercise, for paying bills, even to call a friend.

We have to make time in advance for things that are important to us and things that bring us joy.

If we fill up our calendars with busywork we won't make time for what makes us happy.  (Click to tweet that)

2. Cut Out Errands & Save Money with Amazon Prime

What did we do before Amazon Prime?! Basically it was the dark ages. If you aren't an Amazon Prime you can try it out for 30 days FREE. Click here to try it.

Not only do I order all my home office supplies from Amazon (OK, if I'm honest 90% of everything I buy comes from Amazon) I even get everything from vitamins, groceries, to mascara auto-delivered every month. This saves me from running to Target and buying twice as much as I need because it's cute and right in front of me. :) 

3. Set Three Achievable Goals Per Day

We all love our to-do lists and have the habit of listing 20 things we want to get done in a day. Most days we accomplish five of those things and beat ourselves up over the rest. Instead of listing out everything, look for the three most important things for the day and focus on those. 

For more help on how to identify and achieve your goals everyday check out this article. 

4. Make Decision-Making Painless

In Breaking Busy, I shared the '5 F's of Decision Making' (click here to download the free downloadable printable) and my favorite part of the framework is focusing on the future version of yourself.

 I ask myself "What will 'Future Alli' say about this decision next month or next year?" It helps me say no to new obligations, pass up opportunities, and make decisions without worrying that I'll regret them later. 

5. Find Peace by Thinking in Terms of Seasons

When I face a big project, a time of busyness for the family, or even struggles in my own energy level I try to remind myself to think of life as a series of seasons. In some seasons I may have to work longer hours (for book writing, it means I lock myself away for 6 months of Saturdays to write).

In some seasons with the family we are just flat out going to be more stressed. Between activities, sports, and the constant desire for less parental rules (ahem)- Mark and I keep perspective (and our sanity) by reminding ourselves and each other that it's a just a season. 

6. Beat Digital Clutter Once and For All 

Digital clutter is the worst. The stress caused by wondering where that article you wanted to reread is, where that shopping list went, and where your files are can be overwhelming. The key to reducing stress is to keep everything organized in one place. 

I use Evernote to organize my whole life. It's like my extra brain. Here's a whole tutorial on how I use Evernote. 

7. Work Towards Ongoing Growth Not Perfection

We all know that nothing is ever really perfect. There's always an issue, a problem, a small flaw somewhere. If we aren't careful we can allow ourselves to focus on little issues and get stuck. I say, "Done is better than perfect" and strive for growth, not perfection. 

Hope you enjoyed these seven strategies I use to achieve more and stay sane while juggling a full life. If found this article helpful please share it with your friends on Facebook. 

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Are you at risk of burnout?

Have you ever wondered if you are living beyond what you were designed for? Wondered what are the signs of burnout? 

Have you ever said any of these things?

  • “I feel like I’m missing out on something, but I’m not sure what it is.”
  • “I thought I would be happy when …”
  • “I’m so busy, but so is everyone else; it’s just the way life is.”
  • “I’m stressed. Everything is an emergency all the time.”
  • “I thought doing so much for others would be fulfilling, but I just feel drained and empty.”

I once was the queen of busy and I wore my busy badge of honor. I even busy-bragged on Facebook about all I was doing.

Busyness made me feel productive and needed, it made me feel like I was doing all the things a ‘good person' does, and I ignored the havoc it was wreaking in my life.

Oh, there were warning signs of burnout, all kinds of them, but I just kept assuring myself I was a strong, confident woman, one who could handle the stress and chaos that had become my life. Wasn’t it like that for everyone? Wasn’t this how modern life is like? I told myself.

Researchers say that 70% of women report being ‘busy’ or ‘very busy’ to the point where we sacrifice our health, happiness, family relationships and our relationship with God. I wondered “But if we are all so busy, what are we even busy doing?” 

Many of us grew up hearing we could do anything we set our minds to, and we could have anything we wanted if we worked hard enough to get it.  As adults we all are bombarded with messages that we have to be more, do more, achieve more. The Pinterest ready house, the fabulous career, the home-cooked organic meals, the birthday parties with ponies and dancing princesses, and all while keeping our high school waistlines and vacationing in far off locations. Magazines and media have been lying to us and convincing us of this for ages.

But unlike what many of us have been told, we all have limits. We can’t handle it all, nor should we. We have to stop pretending we are superhuman with an endless supply of energy and time because we aren’t. And the busyness from trying to be all things to all people is killing us.

Maybe you’ve been there, maybe you are there now? Sometimes we all find our lives in such a crazy busy state of chaos that we need help to find our way out, help to find the confident calm we know exists.

The battle to break busy before it breaks us is constant. Busyness is always waiting in the wings to creep in when we aren’t looking.

Read over the following signs of burnout and see if any of them resonate with you.

If some of them do, you are at serious risk of having busyness rob you of the life you were created to live.

1.   You secretly feel resentful at all the responsibilities on your plate.  

I’ve never met a woman who didn’t want to do everything well. We all want to be great wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and friends.

When you have a big heart and want to do everything for others and never risk disappointing others by saying no, you can end up completely overwhelmed because you wear yourself out and hold yourself up to a standard that isn’t humanly possible.

2.    You feel guilty for not doing enough even though you don’t have more time to give.

This follows well from the last example, doesn’t it? When we get in cycles of saying yes to everyone and everything we run out of time in the day, but still end up feeling bad for not doing more.

Here’s the thing, other people will always need more of you, so until you learn to break busy and say no with confidence, the guilt will follow you.

3.    You don’t take care of your needs.

  It’s not fun to admit it, but I can totally relate to this one. I’ve often justified skipping a shower and working in my jammies all day because I had too much work to do. I've made coffee and a snickers bar my go-to lunch. Even though it made me a caffeine crazed maniac by noon. And I used to never get enough sleep because there was always more I had convinced myself I had to do. 

Taking care of yourself may seem selfish, but self-care is one of the most other-centered choices you can make in your life. That’s because you can’t live the life God created you for, with space to be aware of his leading, if you don’t take care of yourself. Self-care is never selfish. 

4.     You feel tired all the time.

From the moment you wake up to the time you go to bed that frazzled around the edges feeling leaves you tired. Both physically tired and emotionally exhausted from the pace of life.

5.     You are too busy to spend time with those you love and with God.

A huge sign that I am at risk of burning out is when I ignore my most important relationships- my family members and my good friends. Also, when I don’t pray because I need to dive straight into work and I neglect my relationship with God altogether.

If you are like me, you have found yourself nodding along with many of these examples and statements. If so, you might be missing out on the life that you are meant to live, missing out because you are operating in a world of crazy busy where the noise and distractions are keeping you from what you were meant to do.

Life doesn’t have to be so hard, your purpose doesn’t have to be a mystery, and you don’t have to live life feeling like you are stuck on a hamster wheel, always running, but getting no where. That’s why I wrote Breaking Busy, as a guidebook for me and for you to take back our lives and live the life God created us to live.

God never tells us we have to achieve more to be loved, to be happy, to be enough. He makes us enough and gives us our worth. I count my blessings to have escaped that hamster wheel of striving and busyness (at least on most days!) and I hope the encouragement and practical tools in Breaking Busy will help you do the same.


Check out the free digital toolkit for Breaking Busy and find the free first chapter, downloadables and free gifts. Click the button below and enjoy! 

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3 Tips For a Less-Stressed Holiday Season

Fall has always been my favorite season, the kids are back in school, pumpkin spice lattes abound and the weather here in Nashville is absolutely perfect.

What I’ve realized is October and November tend to be the calm before the storm otherwise known as the holiday season.

There’s too much to do, too many people needing us to be in two places at once, and we sometimes feel like we are letting everyone down.

My life is a balancing act between work, my five sons and all their fifty-gazillion coaches and teachers, and other responsibilities. Growing up I watched the women in my family seem to work themselves ragged to produce big holiday parties that they didn’t seem to ever enjoy.

I used to try to live up to all the excess myself. There’s something about the holidays that can make us feel like we have to be all things to all people.

I’m here to say (once again) holidays don’t have to be this way. You can actually enjoy the holiday season, and I’ll share with you my secrets for taming the beast of holiday craziness.

1. Prepare as much as you can now.

Late October and early November are the perfect times to order your Christmas cards, order Christmas gifts, submit your vacation time requests at work and work out as many details that seem far away as possible.

2.   Give yourself permission to say no.

We all know you can’t be in two places at once, no one’s budget can afford to take part in every gift exchange, and sometimes more than one holiday party in a week leaves us all exhausted and grumpy (kids and their parents)!

When it’s time to say no, just use this script, “Thank you so much for (the request). I’m so proud of you for (what the person is doing). I have to say no because (your reason). Thank you so much for thinking of me.” You’ll want to add more to this, of course but it gives you a framework to be able to say no with love.  

3.  Focus on the spiritual, not the material

It seems trite to say, "Jesus is the reason for the season," but the reality is it's easy to lose site of why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. It’s easy to fall into the trap of making the holidays about consumerism. It’s especially easy when you have kids and they see constant advertising convincing them that they can’t live without a certain new toy. But even as adults, we can get caught up in the excess. I blame Pinterest for making us all believe every party must have dancing unicorns and chocolate fountains.

This year try to say no to a couple of parties and say yes to allowing time for peace, for reflection, and gratitude.



This article is reprinted from the Propel Women Magazine, The Propel Collective, Fall edition. It is free and you can download your copy by signing up to the newsletter here! 

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