Step #1: A Foundation for Action Step1

“…if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. 

In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden


A Foundation for Action… In Real Life

Getting big change done requires many things: vision, goals, time, resolve, information, emotional fortitude, deep purpose, tools, processes and more. The common thread that runs through it all is action

I consumed hundreds of hours of guru inspo and have read libraries of self-help books. I’ve walked the talk of every methodology, mindset, and new approach. And I’ve re-re-revised myriad “best laid plans” per all that guru content when inevitably real life would get in the way and quash my good intents. 

“When all the trains in your life have already left the station, guru books leave you inspired, yet running in place.” 

“When all the trains in your life have already left the station, guru books leave you inspired, yet running in place.” Your aspirations for big transformational change stay trapped in your mind rather than expressed in real life

So Easy You Can’t Ignore You

They say those who can, do. In my experience, those who can… get deferred because in a world full of need, those who can end up being consumed by the needs of other people and organizations. There is no green light that tells us when we can start applying our skills toward our own goals, our own greater purpose and our own passions. There is never a day when, if a child or loved one needs our help, or an employer needs a hero to put out a fire, that we are going to choose our own passions first. KindEdge offers a path to drive our own goals forward and through that invisible barrier, without building regrets.

Your aspiring self and your daily survival self are two separate beings. Your survival self is led by the nose, solving one problem after another throughout the day until the sun’s light, and your energy, expire. But your aspiring self has bigger goals that are at risk of remaining on the back burner indefinitely. 

Each KindEdge step simplifies big change into crisply-defined steps designed to deliver one clear decision and one clear next action. As each small step connects to the next, you build a bridge toward transformational change. It’s hard to shoehorn large personal projects into your existing busy life; by locking down small decisions and connected actions, you can pile-drive your goals through life’s wall of warring priorities.

KindEdge Binder IRL

IRL is a concept that holds a subtle but great power. When my goals were stored in excel spreadsheets and online apps they were too easily dismissed. Too moveable. Too timid. 

What I learned is that by tucking my plans neatly away in an out-of-the-way format, I myself was being too moveable. I was too compliant. Too reasonable. Too flexible. Too accommodating. Too ready to edit my online calendar tasks and push my personal goals forward week after week to make room to prioritize others’ goals. I had survived stage three metastisized thyroid cancer and was once told I had six months to live, yet instead of those wake-up calls teaching me to live each day as if it was my last, I continued to drop my greater aspirations to run about dutifully solving others’ false emergencies.

The antidote to this duty addiction was to produce all things In Real Life. When the object of your desire is a literal object, you can physically see the contradiction when you pick up your IRL project binder only to move it out of the way to make room for others’ goals. You can no longer ignore the metaphor. 

When you document activities in a physical progress tracker a kinetic energy builds. When you mark down progress repeatedly, you feel the positive momentum of a bridge being built. And when you document day after day that goals that are paramount to you are getting hijacked by other factors in your life, a productive anger builds; you can no longer passively absorb chaos, because you can visually see what it’s taking from you. Bubble baths and coloring books that keep you stuck and stagnant are not self care. Productive anger that energizes you to solve for you is true self care.  

When you see work amassing in your overflowing project binder, you get an intrinsic reward and thrill from that visible progress. So as you begin taking action on your goals, commit to do it in an IRL way. Calendaring, milestone tracking, and task reminders can certainly be captured in online apps. But to connect what’s in your mind with the real world, you must  indulge in taking up physical space.

First Steps

Step 1: Hire all the therapists and spend decades talking about the abundant lack in your life, enabling you to become an expert in treading water and running in place.

Step 2: Buy all the guru books and stack them on your bed stand as permanent symbols of undirected hope.

Step 3: Skip steps 1 and 2 for now… 

Step 4: Make progress visible today with ACTION: 

  • Purchase a 3-ring or 2-ring binder, a packet of loose-leaf paper, and dividers with tabs.
  • Purchase a journal or notebook with an attached pen
  • Nice-to-have: Dry-erase markers

The best notebook format is spiral-bound and hard-covered. Spiral-bound pages are easier to turn and hard-covered journals enable you to write on the hard surface no matter where you are. If yours does not have an attached pen, tie a string to the spiral edge and attach a pen to ensure you always have one at hand. Everything you do and touch should be solution-oriented in this way; smooth out all barriers in advance to get things done, on the go, in real life. 

The Importance of Action with Urgency

Even if you are reading this at 1:00 a.m. you can take action right now. Most U.S. towns have 24-hour pharmacies like Walgreens or CVS that sell all of these supplies. Outside the U.S. another option is to place an order online for these supplies. The key is to take action to dig in a groove of always treating this project with a sense of urgency and importance.  

On all KindEdge work it is critical that you create a pattern of action with urgency and ownership in order to build internal momentum and respect for this project. Inoculate yourself against the disease of being reasonable and patient with your plans; teach your brain that this project is not about writing future intentions down on a to-to list. This is about getting it done.

And when you do, say out loud: “Good Job, [your name]!!!” An important behavior required to make this effort sustainable is to reinforce actions with positive feedback and rewards. Cringey though it may be, applauding yourself will make your brain seek more of those positive rewards in the future. You are digging in a groove of action and progress. You will begin to enjoy doing hard things and you will crave progress. You can read more in the KindEdge article on rewards. 

Binder Set-up:KindEdge Binder

  • Print (by PC or by hand) the title of your big goal or project on a sheet of paper. Slide it into the cover slit of your binder where it will, be visible. 
  • Insert the dividers and several sheets of paper for each section. It’s up to you re: how you aggregate and label each section. As you complete more KindEdge action steps on direction-setting, decision-making and project management, your sections may expand. For some visioning may be quick and simple, with project management taking up multiple section. For others, the direction-setting and priorities-clarifying activities may expand into several sub-sections. Customize your binder per your needs as the project evolves.
  • In the first section, jot down the simplest description of this project off the top of your head. State what you plan to do, or what you will end up with, without too much concern for the “how.”: 
    • I am going to transition my career from X to Y.
    • I am going to become an entrepreneur in a new X business.
    • I am going to see 12 countries I’ve never been to.
    • I am going to complete one Iron Man.
    • I am going to compete in one amateur golf competition.
    • I am going to learn calligraphy and make it part of the way I express myself.
    • I am going to build a non-profit that distributes un-used restaurant food to needy families. 
    • I am going to become an expert on roses.
    • I am going to write a screenplay and have real screenplay writers critique it, and I will continue doing this to build a new network of screenplay writing peers. 
    • I am going to stop giving my expertise away for a safe W2 paycheck and accelerate my learning by going out on my own, taking on risk, and having more control over the types of work I take on and the types of clients I work with.
    • I am going to generate revenue from creative work rather than rote work.
    • I am going to make my remaining minutes matter by ____________________.

Writing your aspiration in simple terms gives you an anchor to refer to in the future when you need to recenter your focus.

Crossing the First Threshold

The project name label you place on the cover of your binder becomes visible to you and any others in your household or close circles. This project is no longer a secret, humble, “on-hold” aspiration. It’s now real, and you are going to practice taking it seriously. This cringey, visible binder will train you to confidently respond to others when they ask about it. You may initially recoil or say things that minimize this goal. That uncomfortable feeling in your gut is your first “edge” in KindEdge. You strengthen your muscle for change when you push past this edge. Wrestle with your timidity about your personal goal. Feel it, deal with it, and get the fuck over it.

That uncomfortable feeling in your gut is your first “edge” in KindEdge. You strengthen your muscle for change when you push past this edge. Wrestle with your timidity about your personal goal. Feel it, deal with it, and get the fuck over it.

Instead of leaning on deflection statements: “Oh, this, this is just some dumb little exercise I’m testing out,” practice showing that you are taking this goal seriouslyTry saying “I’m focused on making changes to enable me to live out my bigger goals sooner rather than later. This binder is a key part of making this project real to me and others.” Or maybe “I’m doing an important project focused on putting in motion a life of greater purpose, specific to me and my passions.” Study the various responses you receive and make note in your KindEdge journal which people support your aspirations though your plans may yet be unrefined. These notes about others’ reactions to your new goal will be valuable when you get to the 360* Closet Cleanout and Build your Board of Directors steps….

Journal Use

KindEdgeJournalYour KindEdge journal will house all of your self-reflections and learnings: people, environments and tools that work, and that you’ll design into your new life, and people, environments and tools that simply don’t work, and you’ll need to shed to make room for what serves your goals better.

Moments of clarity on what really works, and what invisible barriers stand in your way, are gold. Document them here. Despite any inspirational guru advice books you’ve read thus far, you’ll be amazed that when you flip back through the pages of your journal, the wise words of your own insightful self in moments of raw truth and clarity will often prove to be your best guide. 

When you record your raw reflections, a future you has something to refer back to. Our moments of clarity get clouded by daily busy-ness. Documenting your reflections ensures you have access to your clear-thinking wise self in future days when the mind is more muddled.

Document, document, document.

Objective Metrics on Time

Before you put down your binder and journal for today, we need to hook this energy to the next task so we keep the chain unbroken. Over time, we’ll work on testing and ironing out the ideal “daily arc” for you and your own energy cycles. But for right now, we need to simply track some metrics. Objective data delivers visibility into any barriers to you owning the time you need to move your goals forward.



This three-page worksheet details a series of short check-ins you’ll need to do for the next 28 days.

You will print the worksheet, insert it into your binder, and simply track your check-in’s daily so that this project can begin to take up space in your life. Even short 15-minute check-in’s will help you get used to defending this time, negotiating with others, and making tough choices, to be sure you succeed in simply checking in. Reinforcing these behaviors through repeated practice is part of growing your muscle for change

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What about the dry-erase markers?

Ok, those colorful dry-erase markers are to keep in your bathroom. More is written in my article on the importance of Totems. But for now, let’s just ensure that when you wake up, your brain gets a positive infusion of energy around this project. 

Every night when you go to bed, have fun writing a message on your mirror. KindEdgeMirrorWords

  • Applaud yourself: “Good job, [Your Name], you are doing it.” 
  • Remind yourself of your resolve: “I’m betting on me.”
  • Encourage simplicity of action: “Just one thing each day” or “S.L.O.W.”
  • Simply draw a giant heart that frames your face when you look at it. Below that write “Self-care is action, not palliative care and coloring books.”

Each time you have an epiphany, anchor to a word or phrase that speaks to you, energizes your mind and galvanizes your resolve. Embed those words in your real life so a future, tired, unfocused you will be re-energized. Read more about how embedding Totems throughout your day enables your wise self to cheer on and refocus to your busy, muddled mind. 

And now, reward yourself for reading this page and starting to give your greater aspirations a path forward IRL.

Good job, you. Good job.

Once you print this worksheet you can use your daily check-ins to do the next KindEdge activities (see: Master Checklist) to help you clarify the details of your vision and the tough choices you’ll need to make in order to make room for it. More instructions are included in the Step 1 Worksheet

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Mary Sue IRL

Please stay in touch…

I’m committed to sharing this series of action and decision guides; they daisy chain into a bridge to real change. When all the guru inspo and self-help books failed, I created these to guide myself like I guide my change management clients and it finally worked.

Author Bio is a collection of bite-sized action steps that help people make transformational changes in their lives, even when there seems to be no time in the day to get such grand endeavors in motion.

I built this suite of guides for myself. They enabled me to pile-drive my dreams through the chaos that was my life. After decades of consuming self-help and guru content I remained stuck and running in circles. I only saw true progress when I applied my consulting “change management” approach to my own life. I developed short, well-defined decision and action tools that enabled me to see progress every day, even if life landed me in the emergency room lobby at midnight to tend to a child’s sports injury.

I now live a fundamentally different and better life that I designed for myself. I wake up every day energized to live out my purpose and enjoy a daily arc that fits me. I’m a mom of two incredible young men and one beloved black lab. I’ve lived in many cities within the US and abroad and I call St Pete home. Read more at:

Now here’s to you pushing to your edge… to make real change and arrive at the most fulfilling part of this journey.

Cheers, cin-cin and hugs.

~ @MarySueIRL