Decide What To Be And Go Be It

The Avett Brothers get it.  They say "decide what to be and go be it."

Maybe it's really that simple.

I've wasted more of my life than I care to admit floundering around, trying to decide what I was meant to do... what my purpose is... what my one true calling is.  

I'm starting to realize that that's all bullshit.

Maybe life's not really about discovering who we are and what our purpose is, but more about creating something of our lives and our selves.  

Maybe our passion, our talent, our genius could manifest themselves in a million different ways, but it's up to us to commit to something so that we can excavate the fullness of our potential.

Maybe it's more about committing to something, and having the patience and perseverance to see it through, rather than searching endlessly for that one thing that will finally fulfill us.

Maybe our calling is something that we sometimes struggle through, get bored with, and really aren't inspired by at times.  But we have made a commitment, and we keep our eye on the bigger picture so that we can make it through.  

Maybe world changing, meaningful work is not done in flashes of inspiration by those who will fizzle out before sundown, but rather by the slow and steady efforts of those who have committed to their craft or their business or their charity and who show up day in and day out regardless of their level of inspiration.  

Maybe we should understand that we must grow into what we want to be.  Maybe we're not capable of doing that thing now, but we believe in our potential to get there eventually.

Maybe we have to find the confidence in ourselves and our ability to grow into our purpose and our calling, before we can ever begin to achieve it.

Maybe we have to get a little pissed off by the fact that others don't see what we're capable of.  Maybe we have to make up our minds to show them.  Or maybe we have to say to hell with what anyone else thinks of us, and decide for ourselves what we want to be in this world. 

Glennon wrote last week about her daughter and her friends and how they looked around to each other when asked what they wanted to eat for lunch.  They sought outside validation instead of saying what they really wanted.  Glennon said she pulled them aside to have a little chat and told them that girls "need to figure out what they want, believe it on the inside, and speak it on the outside."

That's just about the best damn thing I've ever heard.  Decide what to be and go be it.

In Jeff Goins' new book Real Artists Don't Starve, he argues that artists aren't born, they're made.  This means we get to decide who we are and what we are going to do in this life.  First we believe it, then we become it.  Therefore, we face the task of constantly creating ourselves in this life, so that we can do the creative work that we aspire to.

I've seen this at play many times and it is always beautiful to watch.  When I get the opportunity to see someone who knows so deeply what they want that they will do whatever it takes to make it happen, I take notice because these are the people who will do great things in this world.  They're committed to a purpose greater than themselves; their vision transcends the everyday details of what they're doing, and that makes all the difference.

When we finally commit to something, we are willing to change, to grow, to stretch.  And even though we aren't what we want to become yet, that is a tiny insignificant detail.  No one is already what they want to be when they are starting out.  But they have a vision for themselves that they believe in.  They have an internal knowing that is far more powerful than anyone else's opinion of them, and that vision is what molds and shapes their reality.  That vision is what gets them through the tough times.  

Sometimes this may seem like we're trying to be something or someone that we're not.  But maybe, it's just us, learning to become what we are.

What about you?  Have you ever had the nagging feeling that the truth of who you are is buried deep within you, but your current circumstances just don't reflect what you know in your heart to be true?  Have you ever believed so intently in a vision for yourself that you were willing to do whatever it took to make it a reality?

Decide it.  Believe it.  Do it.  What are you waiting for?!

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo by Aleksandr Ledogorov on Unsplash


It's Yours If You Want It


That's what this week is all about for me.

Sometimes it takes shaking things up a bit to make us realize how blessed we really are.



I've had a hell of a couple of weeks.

Some big things are going on at work, and at home, and I've been stressed to the max.

Sometimes we come to a crossroads in life.  Or in our relationships.  Or our career. 

Sometimes we have to make a choice.  Make a turn in one direction or another, or stay where we are. 

I had a choice this week.  A big one.  I was told "It's yours if you want it" regarding more than one opportunity.

I had put myself out there, asked for something that I believed impossible, and the response was:  "Of course.  It's yours if you want it."

Ummm.  This caught me off guard.  I had expected rejection or a flat out NO.  But instead I got the opposite. 

So now I had to answer the real question:  Did I really want it?

You know, I think that a lot of life is easier than we think.  When we put ourselves out there and actually ask for something, it's not always that hard to get. 

The had part is deciding what to ask for.  The hard part is figuring out WHAT WE WANT.

When faced with this question this week, I realized that I had no idea what I wanted. 

And that's ok too.

We're allowed to try different things, to feel our way around until we find our sweet spot.  No one is born knowing exactly who they are and what their purpose is.  Well, at least not most people.  So why do we think that we have to get it right the first time?  Why do I feel like I get one shot at life, then I'm stuck with whatever that is for eternity? 

But when I realized this week that I had no idea what I wanted, I panicked.  I thought that it was black or white, take it or leave it.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I didn't know.  News flash:  no one knows! 

I've been learning a lot at work lately.  And by a lot, I mean a mind-blowing amount of new information bombards my brain every second of every day.  I say something foolish at least once every 5 minutes and blatantly reveal my ignorance to everyone around me.  I struggle and curse architecture school and The stupid Fountainhead for ever making me interested in architecture in the first place.  I have a stack of books a mile high at my desk because I have to look up EVERY SINGLE THING I do.  ALL DAY.  EVERY DAY.  It's exhausting.  And overwhelming.  And painful.  These growing pains suck. 

And I'm tired.  I'm emotional.  I'm hormonal.  I want to sit and cry a lot.  I want to bawl my eyes out, gnash my teeth, howl and moan like a wild wildebeest.  I want to let it all out.  I am STRESSED.  I want to drink wine all day.  I want to complain to anyone who will listen.  I want to talk incessantly about myself and my hard times. 

BUT, when I put on my perspectacles, as Glennon Doyle Melton would say, I also realize that I am so lucky.  I am finally in the arena; I am facing my biggest fear in life, I'm struggling to develop into the architect that I know I'm capable of being... and I have an office full of people who support and encourage me every step of the way.  I have decades of cumulative knowledge within 10 feet of me.  My pals John, Randy, Jim & Donna are more than willing to help me and explain things to me and share their knowledge.  Sometimes I don't even have to ask... they sense me struggling and come to my rescue before I even know I'm in trouble.  What an amazing gift that I have been given!

So I try to control my howling and gnashing of teeth.  I don't let it all out...well, ok, maybe some of it.  But most of it I keep inside.  Why?  Well, because that wouldn't be very attractive now, would it?  And also because this is what I wanted!  This is what I've been waiting for.  This very opportunity to learn, to gain experience, to have my own project and be responsible for it's success or failure.  That is what I've been wishing and waiting and asking for for years, and I'm not gonna blow this opportunity now by complaining about every second of it. 

But now that it's here and I'm in the middle of it, I'm asking IS THIS STILL WHAT I WANT?  I'm allowed to change my mind, you know.  I'm allowed to try something and decide it's not for me, and move on to the next thing - guilt free. 

But do you know what I have decided?  Yes.  This is still what I want.  I thought I wanted the other thing, but maybe I was just trying to escape from the thing I already have because its hard.  And I wanted an out.  But I am happy where I am.  I'm learning.  I'm growing.  The stress and the struggle are worth it to me right now.  That might not always be the case, but right now, I'm exactly where I WANT to be.

So here I am, at the end of this stressful, emotional, exhausting week, in the exact same place that I started out on Monday.  But the difference is that I'm changed.  I have a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to my life just as it is, and I'm filled with gratitude for what I already have.  I don't need a change.  I just need to appreciate how blessed I already am.

Are you where you want to be in life?  If you had an opportunity to make a change in your life, would you take it, or would you decide that you're actually good right where you are?

Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear from you!

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Flex Both Muscles

I feel like I lead two separate lives.

In my day job as an architect, I deal with the details.  I have to pay attention to the physical world around me.  I have to know how things go together and why they work.  Sometimes this is not easy for me.  It's not my natural mindset.

My natural inclination is to ignore the world around me and get lost in the inner world of my own mind.  

So that is what I do in my second life.  I get lost in my own little world of reading and writing and decorating cakes and sketching and painting and whatever else suits my fancy in the moment.  This is where I feel most like ME.  

Since my second life is so easy and comfortable for me, I've considered on many occasions giving up on  my first life altogether so that I can be in isolated bliss and devote 100% of my energy and effort to my creativity.

But something keeps me coming back for more.  I'm not sure exactly what, maybe its the challenge.  Maybe the mystery.  It's certainly not the money, although a steady income is nice. 

The truth is, although I complain a lot about my "real" job, I'm not happy without it.  I need that challenge to be happy.  It's not easy, in fact its downright difficult for me sometimes to force myself into that mindset.  But that challenge is what makes me feel alive.  That challenge is what makes my other life so fulfilling.  That challenge is often what enables the other, easier life; it provides ideas for my writing, it allows me to so thoroughly enjoy retreating into my own inner world and getting lost in my creativity.  It's my laboratory for life and learning.  It is my inspiration.

Also, If it weren't for my studies and my efforts and my hard work in my career in architecture, I would be DRASTICALLY UN-rounded. (That's the opposite of WELL-rounded, in case you were wondering).  I would be freakishly oblong.  I would be grossly deficient in common sense and spatial reasoning.  I would not know anything about the simple beauty of math and physics or the natural order of the universe, the beauty of the earth and seasons and how the world works.  

I had to fight for that knowledge.  I had to FIGHT for every minute of time that I devoted to learning this stuff.  I had to step outside of my head, my safe place, my comfort zone, my imagination, and I had to work really hard.  I still have to work really hard.  Every single day.  

But that is what makes it worthwhile.  That is why my career is so valuable to me, because it wasn't just handed to me, I didn't stumble upon it.  I worked for it.

So my point in sharing all of this with you is this:  maybe you are facing something in your life that is downright hard work.  Maybe you're struggling with how heavy it all is, maybe you're wishing and dreaming of a life where everything is easy and flows so you can ride the waves of good fortune and luck and EASE.  Maybe you want to not have to work so hard for JUST ONE DAY.  

I get it.

But ask yourself what it truly is that makes you happy.  Would you still have the same motivation, the same drive, if everything in your life was easy?  Would you still possess the qualities that you love most about yourself if everything in your life had been handed to you on a silver platter?  Probably not.  It's one of mine and Dan's favorite soap boxes to discuss how hard we have had to work.  We both worked our way through college and grad school.  We both drove crappy cars and ate ramen noodles and easy mac to save money.  We both scrounged by, with little help from our parents, not because they didn't want to help and support us, but because they didn't have the extra to give.  And we both survived.  We both learned the value of a dollar and the meaning of a good work ethic.  And while we both may have wished that hard work away while we were in the middle of it, we both take great pride in it now.  I bet you will too.

Because I know that the most treasured things in life are the things that we have to work the hardest for.  The easy stuff is great, but it's also easier to take it for granted.  The hard stuff won't let you forget the work.  The hard stuff sticks with you.  

What about you?  What have you had to work the hardest for in you life?  Would you trade all of that hard work for the easy road if you could?  

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

It's OK To Be a Beginner

My very first 5K a few years ago

My very first 5K a few years ago

I've never really been afraid to be a beginner.  I love to learn, and am always up for trying new things.  Sometimes, when I try new things I catch on pretty quickly and move up to intermediate or advanced in no time.  And sometimes I struggle from day one.  I've realized that there are some things in life that no matter how hard I try, I will always be a beginner.   Take my fitness journey for example:

My history with fitness and exercise is short and sweet.  In high school, I devoted about a week to jogging around my neighborhood until I realized it's not as easy as those track stars make it look.  Aside from that, the extent of my physical activity growing up was marching with my clarinet in the high school marching band.  Needless to say, I've never really been in peak physical condition.

I've tried to rectify this situation over the last several years.  I've been jogging (sort-of regularly) and I'm pretty darn proud to say that I've gotten to a point where I can run 3.1 miles without stopping.  Of course, I use the term "run" loosely here.  Dan and my coach Jeannie can both walk at a leisurely pace while I "run" alongside them wheezing and gasping for air.  But whatever.  I'm out there giving it my all, and that's what matters.

There I am on the right running in a race

There I am on the right running in a race

Me and my Fleet Feet running coach, Jeannie

Me and my Fleet Feet running coach, Jeannie

The bottom line is that I am not a great runner and never will be.  But that's ok.  Even though the running itself is torture, I LOVE that I get to hang out with my running buddies Carla and Kenzie every week, I love my Fleet Feet running group friends, I love being outside and experiencing nature, and I love the fact that I can eat just a little bit more since I'm burning the extra calories.  

Me with Erin, Carla, and Kenzie at a race a few weeks ago

Me with Erin, Carla, and Kenzie at a race a few weeks ago

Dan and I have also started working out at the gym.  We stumbled across the most awesome little gym called Frankie's Body Shop one morning while we were stuffing our faces at a breakfast restaurant next door.  A few days later, we toured this gem of a place, met Frankie and his wife, and signed up immediately.  We're doing the whole 9 yards:  personal trainer, nutrition, power bars, electrolyte replacements, you name it.  We're all in.  

Dan and I after a workout with Reed at Frankie's Body Shop

Dan and I after a workout with Reed at Frankie's Body Shop

One day, a few weeks into our new adventure, I was feeling pretty bad-ass as I did something similar to a bench press.  Our trainer Reed is awesome, we just show up and he plans out the routines, selects the proper weights, shows us what to do, and kicks our asses.  So, I got into position on the bench, and Reed handed me the barbell.  I was giving it my all, exhaling really loudly like I'd see others around me doing. I had laser-like focus on the task at hand. I looked over at Dan on the bench beside me to see if he noticed how amazing I was and that's when I noticed something was off.  I noticed that he had huge weights on the ends of his bar.  I looked back at mine and realized I was giving it all I had and there weren't even any weights on my bar!!!  This knocked the wind right out of my sails.  I went home, depressed and hungry.

But the next day, I witnessed a miracle.  I was reaching for my coffee cup when I saw it:  a MUSCLE.  A real, live, actual muscle on my arm.  Nothing major, of course, but I could SEE it!  I asked Dan if he noticed anything different about me.  He didn't.  I pointed to it triumphantly.  He squinted, leaned in closer, and shook his head.  "I'm pretty sure that's just a shadow" he teased.  Whatever.  I had seen it with my own eyes.  I earned that muscle and nobody can take that away from me.

I know lots of folks who simply won't do something if they're not good at it.  They're not willing to step too far out of their comfort zones.  They're afraid to fail or look like a fool.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for focusing on and developing your strengths and talents, but I also think there is something to be said for being willing to do some things that you're really bad at.  Let someone else be the expert.  Allow yourself to learn from them.  Allow yourself to be a beginner, and maybe fail miserably.  Or maybe not.

Sometimes, I wonder why I continue to do these things that I'm not great at.  I wonder why I keep jogging even though I curse every step.  I think maybe I should just ditch the whole thing and focus my time and energy on things that I'm good at.  But then I'll have a good day, and I'm hooked again.  I guess I'll always feel like a beginner when it comes to running.  But I do lots of things in life that I've excelled at more easily too.  I have a pretty good balance.  I want to keep learning and growing, and the only way that's gonna happen is if I continue to put myself out there and try new things - despite the possibility that I may fail.  I realize that if I had let my fears and my pride hold me back from allowing myself to be really bad at running and lifting weights, then I would never have ran my first 5K or developed these awesome (almost visible) biceps.

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Haley McManigal and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

10,000 Hours

Photo from

Photo from

          I recently read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and one of the many things that I took away from the book was his theory of 10,000 hours.  He states that it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to effectively master any skill.  10,000 hours!  That is almost 5 years if you do it full time (40 hours/week) or 19 years if you squeeze it in as a hobby (10 hours/week).   Umm, that’s a long time.

            What really struck me about this, though, is the idea that natural talent has a lot less to do with mastery than hard work, consistency and practice.  Of course, your chances for success are better when you have an underlying natural talent, but you are not doomed to failure if you’re not at the top of your game the first time you try something.  For example, I just recently ran my first 5k.  I have walked several 5ks, but I actually ran the entire race this time.  That may not seem like much to some, but for me it is a major life accomplishment.  Due to the fact that I don’t have a shred of athletic talent, it took me over a year to train for that race.  A talented runner could have trained for a marathon in the time it took me to do a 5k.  But the fact is that I did it.  I stuck with it and didn’t give up no matter how hard it was.  That’s the beauty of the 10,000 hours.

            But when I think about my life’s work, it doesn’t make much sense to me to choose something that I am not naturally good at.  Why would I want to put myself in a position that will require me to work twice as hard as the naturally talented folks just to keep up.  That’s insane.  Why not spend my 10,000 hours getting good rather than just getting by.

            I took some time to think through what skills in my life that I have already dedicated 10,000 hours to, whether I’ve done it as a job, or simply for the love of doing it, and there are only a few:  Architecture, art, self development.  There are many other skills that I would love to develop, but given this enormous amount of time that it takes, it seems risky to take on too much.  Its really interesting to think how few things a person can really do well in a single lifetime, if their goal is mastery.  I’m starting to realize more and more how important it is to FOCUS in life.  I am like most creative people and at any given time, I have a hundred different things raging through my brain.  It is extremely difficult to focus and narrow down and simplify my thought processes.  But anything worth doing is worth doing well.  And in order to do something well, it requires dedication and commitment and focus… and according to Gladwell, 10,000 hours.