Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What Good Are You Capable Of?

Have you ever wondered what you are capable of?  I mean really capable of?  Have you ever said or done anything that, quite frankly, surprised you?  That went beyond what you thought yourself capable of?  Whenever you start to think about your life and what you want out of it, or what you want it to mean, the question of capability will always arise. What is my track record this far?  What is my real potential? What could I achieve if I had ________ (fill in the blank)?

According to noted Businessman and Harvard Professor Clayton M. Christensen in his book How Will You Measure Your Life? the 3 components of a person's capability--or ability to act--include:

  1. Priorities--The "why" of what we think and do
  2. Resources--The "what" we have to work with
  3. Processes--The "how" of creating

Each component relies on the other for context and direction.  It's a highly complex, personal, and symbiotic relationship and every day our decisions reveal the truth about how we see these components in our lives.

Our Priorities

Priorities, either consciously or subconsciously, are set by what we actually believe and what we value, not necessarily what we post on social media, not what we sometimes hear ourselves say to others, and not even what others tell us we should care about or think.  Some of the ideas we value are transmitted to us through our culture, our religion, ethnicity, or are hereditary. Some come through our own experiences while some are faith-based and have yet to be proved by experience or gained by knowledge.  Some we wear on our sleeves, others are more subtle and may remain a mystery even to ourselves.  Some may be spot on while others may be distorted or incomplete.  The bottom line, however, it that our "Why", our reason for doing, or thinking, or living, is based on our personal systems of belief--our values.

How do I learn what I actually value?
Wherever our values come from, and however we have either adopted them subconsciously or chosen them deliberately, they influence every single decision we make.  Try this: look back at the decisions you've made in the past 24 to 48 hours and then answer in your head or on paper as many of the following questions as you can:

  • In the Beautiful Living System Focus Area Private/Inner Life:
    • How did you talk to yourself? 
    • When was it positive? When was it negative?
    • Did you pray? Why or why not?
    • What entertainment, if any, did you chose and why?
  • In the Beautiful Living System Focus Area Public/Interactive Life:
    • Who did you spend the most time with and why? Who did you avoid? 
    • If you spent time around others, what was the quality of interaction?
    • Who did you influence and how?
    • Who did you allow to influence you and how?
  • In the Beautiful Living System Focus Area Health & Wellness:
    • What did you eat and how much? Why?
    • How much did you sleep? Why?
  • In the Beautiful Living System Focus Area Personal Environment:
    • Where did you physically spend the most time?
    • Was it uplifting or draining? Cluttered or tidy? Clean or dirty?
  • Where did you go? Why? 
  • In the Beautiful Living System Focus Area Education:
    • What did you read? Why? 
    • What did you observe around you?
  • In the Beautiful Living System Focus Area Work and Career:
    • How much time did you spend working?
    • What did you work on?  were you pleased, indifferent, or dissatisfied with your work?
  • In the Beautiful Living System Focus Area Wealth Management:
    • What money did you spend?  What did you spend it on exactly and why? 
    • If you didn't spend money, why didn't you?
  • Overall:
    • What activities took up most of your time? Why?
    • What are you glad you did? Why? 
    • What would you change if you had a redo? Why? 

The answers to these questions can feel so invasive! They force us to really dig down and self-examine.  Sometimes the answers found in our daily routines are deeply satisfying, other times they may be embarrassing or maybe even a little bit regrettable.  Can you see the evidence of what you value or what you believe in the choices you've made or the thoughts you've had? In the food you ate (or didn't), the money you spent (or didn't), the entertainment you chose, your self-talk, what you put into your mind or allowed to change your mind through reading?  If someone outside of yourself took note of all the evidence of your behavior, what could they surmise about your beliefs; your values?

In a book written by noted spiritual leader and businessman, John Maxwell, entitled Today Matters, he says: "The secret to your success is found in your daily routine."

Our daily routines show real evidence of what we believe.  Therefore, what we prioritize daily, we value, not in theory, but in truth.

What do I do if my daily routine does not reflect the values I want to have or the life I want to live?  Check your resources and arm yourself with new habits.

Our Resources

If you feel like your daily routine is out of sync with your values you can start to live closer to what you truly value by making small changes and starting new habits.  This is much easier said than done!  In some cases, you will need to evaluate your own thinking. Are there areas of self-sabotage you should address? What can you influence in your environment?  What do you need to let go of emotionally, mentally, physically?  In other cases, you will need physical tools to aid in your new life. Check your resources.  Every person alive has a unique set of 9 resources they can work with to varying degrees.

There are two aspects of each of your 9 resources: What you actually have and how you think about hat you have.  Do you spend your time thinking about how little money you have?  Or do you spend more time learning to maximize the money you already have?  Do you spend your energy using the knowledge and understanding you have to create, to problem solve, and to serve?  Or do you spend more energy worrying about things you can't change?  Truth be told, we all live, to some degree, beneath the possibilities of our own resources. Clayton M. Christensen rightly says, "If the decisions you make about where you invest your blood, sweat, and tears are not consistent with the person you aspire to be, you'll never become that person."  You don't want that!  I don't want that!

What you do with what you have can either increase or diminish your resources.  But, if you are more aware, you can catch yourself and make better choices more often. You can consciously choose to start new habits of both thought and behavior.  Evaluate your own set of resources.  Make a column for each resource.  Under each column head, list the specific resources you have access to.  You may be surprised at how much you actually have!

I can help you evaluate your resources.  I have created an inexpensive self-guided workshop called "How to Discover and Maximize your Personal Resources: The 9 Resources of Beautiful Living."  Just email me for more information at!

Our Processes

How do I build a better way of thinking and living? How can I live by my higher values?  How can I learn to use my resources more effectively?  Ahhh!

Start small. A wise prophet named Alma once taught his son, "...behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes...". Change can feel hard; it can be hard!  After all, we've established our lives based on what we thought would be right or would make us happy.  The cool thing, though, is that ultimately we are creators; we are our own agents of change. The processes or systems we live by, the resources we use to live better, the ability to create new systems of happiness, fulfillment, and success, can all be learned and created. You can live more aligned with what you want to value by evaluating your priorities, learning about your unique resources, and learning new habits through new processes or systems, Beautiful Living Systems!  There are 5 major systems you can explore which Beautiful Living Systems teaches and trains:

Creating a Beautiful Living System can help you establish direction and meaning through a Personal Mission Statement.  It can help unlock creativity through learning and using resources. It can help establish boundaries and unlock the ability to act by understanding the Push & Pull Factors in your life.  It can show you your growth potential in the 7 Focus Areas.  It can give you a sense of balance, progress, and growth by having a plan to implement your processes.   There is so much we can learn and do.  There is so much to celebrate!  There is a way to...

Live Beautifully!

Heather Butler
Founder and CEO of Beautiful Living Systems

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

"Goal" is a Four-Letter Word

Whenever I hear someone talk about making and setting goals I cringe.  It's like someone running their nails across a blackboard.  I can't.  My mind races to all my goal-setting failures since I was old enough to remember.  Then my faith in myself gets shaken and my fear swells and I start to feel emotionally paralyzed.  Better to not set goals and like myself than to set goals and realize how weak I am, right?! It's been a battle and I'm still trying to find my balance. "Goal" is a four-letter word, a curse word, and mama taught me not to curse.

My understanding of "goals" started to change when I began teaching high school English and History classes.  When my youngest son started 2nd grade I found myself wanting to be more involved in the community and maybe even make a few extra dollars.  I was open to going back to work, at least part-time, when the charter high school my older children attended started asking for front desk receptionists through weekly emails sent out to parents.  I let the chance pass for a few weeks thinking the tug in my heart would go away and so would the job opening.  Neither did.  As the opening remained unfilled, so did I, so I set up an appointment to interview.  I had done receptionist work before.  No big deal.  But getting back into a traditional job was a very big deal at the time for me.

I got the job the very afternoon I  interviewed and worked for a few months while watching teachers come in and out of the faculty room directly behind the front desk. I began to wonder what it would take to become a teacher there.  I had graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor's degree in Humanities with an emphasis in English.  Why couldn't I put my degree to use?!  I had the feeling to talk to one of the grandmotherly teachers who would often stroll in, say hello, and chat for a minute from time to time.  She was incredibly helpful and so kind! She told me about state-run programs created for people just like me who could earn a teaching certificate while teaching--if I were to get hired.  So I explored the idea further and talked to the school's director who I had the opportunity to befriend while working at the front desk.  She was very interested and encouraging.  By the end of my first year as a receptionist, I was applying to teach!  There was an opening to begin a new class for seniors and the timing was perfect.  I was hired.

The school has a unique approach to learning.  They combine the English and History classes into one course they call Socratic: a question-based learning system without formal textbooks.  I was hired to teach literature, writing, and history to seniors.  Because it was a new program, I had incredible freedom to create, which was both a blessing and a curse.  The blessing was the freedom to create--to include art, poetry, films, primary source documents, and stories in addition to the literature that we would explore. The curse was that the field to explore was so wide I hardly knew how to evaluate what the most important pieces and ideas were.  I was going to have to explore and prepare within the boundaries of my time, knowledge, and skills.

To do this monumental task, I had to create a system of order for myself which would help me judge what was most important--what to keep, what to let go.  As I combed through possible content I couldn't indulge in disorder.  I needed to create lesson plans: organized and purpose-driven plans that included daily objectives, content focuses, and modes of assessment to see what students were taking away--if anything.  I had to google what a lesson plan should look like--that's how novice I was. And guess what?! Nowhere, on any of the lesson plans that were modeled by other teachers, was the word "goals."  Why not?!  What is it about "goals" that they are not included in teaching?

One of my mentors and dear friends, Shannon Cannon, likes to quote Jacques Barzun, a teacher and philosopher of education (1907-2012), who teaches:

No man says of another: "I educated him."  It would be offensive and would suggest that the victim was only a puppy when first taken in hand.  But it is a proud thing to say, "I taught him"-- and a wise one not to specify what.

The point is, I couldn't set "goals" for my student's learning because I could neither guarantee nor predict what they would learn!  I could present information, ask discussion questions, and even test their content knowledge, but I couldn't interpret the information for them or tell them what to think.  Learning is unique, fluid, personal.

A true teacher cannot set goals; they have to create objectives.  Why?  Because a goal is an endpoint; it's a destination.  But an objective is open and flexible.  It has a focus but it gives space for progress that's personal and expandable.  I love that so much more than "goals"!  I love the idea that the journey is preeminent.  Measurable goals have their place, it's true, but real, day-to-day living is more truly objective-based and process-driven, more fluid and flexible.

When I studied the Humanities at college, my "goal" was to graduate but my "objective" was to learn about human nature by studying other's creations in the arts, poetry, literature, cultures, stories, and languages; it was to learn how to think for myself and perhaps gain some wisdom; it was to prepare to be a better mother if the chance ever came.  My goal was reached in 1996 but my objective remains the same--even to this day.

I believe that setting goals-- achievements, ends-- should be few and far between, but to set
objectives-- patterns and habits established for meaningful, purpose-driven, Beautiful Living-- that is what I can live with.  That's what I prefer to focus on.

The truth is we need plans!  Those lesson plans I prepared as a teacher helped me be accountable for my progress.  They helped me visualize where the holes were in my planning, and they gave each lesson if prepared direction, purpose, and structure.  Not every plan was awesome.  Most plans were reworked year by year as my skill increased and as my knowledge grew.  But those lesson plans also had to be flexible from day-to-day and from year-to-year based on the needs and abilities of my students.

Life plans need the same degree of flexibility.  They need to address opportunities for growth both planned and unplanned.  They need to be pliable enough to adapt to both unexpected opportunities or serendipities and also adapt to bitter disappointments or loss.  They need to be gracious enough to allow for mistakes and learning curves.  They need to be based in reality while shaping us into our ideals.  They need to be based on our own values and beliefs and reflect our unique purposes.

Life plans ideally take into account the following:
1.   A Personal Mission Statement that clarifies your mission and purpose
2.  An understanding of and an accounting of your Personal Resources both intellectual,
      tangible, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
3.  An understanding of the Push (negative) & Pull (positive) Factors you'll need
      to anticipate and influence.
4.  An in-depth look at the 7 Focus Areas of your life today--a Personal Assessment.
5.  A Customized System for each Focus Area of your choosing.

It looks like this:

Are you ready to make your own plan?  

Here's the worksheet I have created and use to keep my objectives in front of me regularly:

Do you want to see some of my most recent objectives?
(Then you have to promise not to laugh that one of my goals is still to make my bed!)
Remember, when you are working on creating a plan for your life, try to discern the difference between a goal (a one-time accomplishment) and an objective (a state of being or living).  Maybe, then, you won't be discouraged or experience guilt palpitations everytime you're reminded to set "goals"!  Until next time...

Live Beautifully!

Heather Butler

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Beautiful Living Systems Embrace 7 Focus Areas

Everything is connected--at least that's how we, as women, tend to view situations, experiences, relationships, and so much more.  We tend to understand holistically, which means we "comprehend the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole" (Google definition of 'holistic').   We see the bigger picture and look for understanding as to why and how things are interconnected.  

In an article written by Bob Goldman for the Spring 2017 publication Stanford Medicine entitled, "Two Minds: The Cognitive Differences Between Men and Women," Goldman relates:

        In 1991, just a few years before [Nirao] Shah launched his sex-differences research,
        Diane Halpern, Ph.D., past president of the American Psychological Association, began 
        writing the first edition of her acclaimed academic text, Sex Differences in Cognitive 
Though her idea was largely seen by academics as a futile study, Halpern disagreed and continued her research.  What she found may not be a surprise to us as women but it did open a new branch of research in the scientific world.  Thank you, Dr. Halpern!

As research into the biological differences of male and female brains progressed, an interesting study was conducted in 2014 at the University of Pennsylvania which Goldman also references in his article: 

        The two hemispheres of a woman’s brain talk to each other more than a man’s do... 
        Researchers imaged the brains of 428 male and 521 female youths — an 
        uncharacteristically huge sample — and found that the females’ brains consistently 
        showed more strongly coordinated activity between hemispheres. 
What does this mean?  As women, we tend to think whole-brained--again, we tend to see the bigger picture and look for understanding as to why and how things are connected.  

This is very important to understand when we are talking about how we see our place in the world, how we set new objectives, and how we dream about better lives and opportunities. 

As a woman, I tend to be more empowered about the decisions I make, the reactions I express, and the degree of confidence I feel, when I can see as many angles as possible.

The same is true when I'm looking at my life.  I want to try to cover all my bases.  I want to experience complete and balanced living.  To do this, I need to understand the full spectrum of living.  What are my options?  Where do I need to focus in order to be rebalanced?  How can I live and experience life more fully?

As I pondered the experiences and opportunities I've had so far, seven focus areas developed.  Now, I set my goals, view and develop relationships, choose opportunities, and measure my balance according to these 7 Focus Areas.  I believe that a beautiful life can be a harmonious, orderly, and balanced creation even in the face of unforeseen challenges, uncontrollable circumstances, and painful learning curves.  

My hope is that I can help women access tools which help them to learn, understand, and actualize their capacity to live a beautiful life with greater meaning, purpose, and joy within those seven areas of focus: 

A Private/Inner Life  
  • This includes all things spiritual, emotional, and mental.  
  • It takes into account, our need to ponder and think, process and understand, pray and meditate, visualize and feel, remember and record, correct and reanalyze, renew and refresh.
A Public/Interactive Life  
  • This includes our families, in all their varieties, our social connections on all public levels, and our civic or community connections.  
  • It takes into account our capacity to maintain and strengthen our families as the fundamental unit of society, our manners, and etiquette, our ability to cultivate enriching and renewing relationships, who we allow to mentor and influence us, and the wisdom and courage to create standards of behavior and boundaries that are healthy and soul-affirming.  
Health & Wellness  
  • This includes hygiene and physical care, what we consume, health and fitness, rest and leisure, dress and grooming.  
  • It comprises being physically prepared to handle life’s opportunities and challenges with stamina and confidence.  It also means presenting oneself in the best possible light and loving it!
Personal Environment
  • This includes safety, order, home care and management, physical work environments, care and keeping of my possessions, and organizational skills
  • It takes into account our ability to create and enjoy a physical environment wherever we are which is both protective and renewing.
  • This includes all formal and informal avenues for learning, learning by observing the experiences of others past and present, and through our own experiences both joyful or painful.
  • It takes into account the preparation needed to realize our goals and create new opportunities.  It also includes actively searching for new knowledge from multiple avenues and turning that knowledge into wisdom because we interpret that knowledge appropriately and have gained understanding.
Work and Career
  • This includes preparing, being available to serve within our circle of influence, providing meaningful service, learning how to access and use available resources, networking, creating income for our needs and wants.  It also includes both paid and unpaid use of our time, talents and abilities.
  • It takes into account our capacity to be actively engaged in creating and adding value to others, our world, and ourselves.
Wealth Management & Creation
  • To make money is not to keep money.  This Focus Area includes our abilities to budget, invest, use thrift, protect through insurance, and to be generous through philanthropy, tithing, and volunteerism.
  • It encompasses our ability to secure, manage, and grow the resources necessary to sustain and enrich life.  It assumes an abundant life and mentality.

These are the 7 Focus Areas of Beautiful Living:

I have set personal objectives in each of these areas.  Some of them are extremely simple.  Like my goal for Personal Environment which is: I make my bed before I leave my room 5 days a week. Simple right?  It may seem small but every time I walk into my room and enjoy how tidy and organized it looks I feel like I can make order, I can keep a promise to myself, I can live more beautifully!

My next post will include a planning sheet and instructions which accompany this system.  Until then...

Live Beautifully,

Heather Butler

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Any Attempt to Change Our Lives Includes Changing Habits

To create change that's measurable and clear, a system for improvement is so important!

When Benjamin Franklin was 20 years old, he began a serious search for personal development.  It was natural for him to turn to religion.  His own father, Josiah Franklin, had immigrated to America for the primary purpose of finding religious freedom in 1682, but Franklin found that the faith he was investigating was self-serving.  Franklin said, "their aim seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians than good citizens" (The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, 101).   His greatest concern was that "not a single moral principle was inculcated or enforc'd...".  There was no focus on personal improvement either as citizens or as principled, self-disciplined people.  He was discouraged at the lack of direction and leadership, but did not lose hope.

Feeling confident that he could find his own way to improvement, he writes, "It was about this time I conceiv'd the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection, I wish'd to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom. or company might lead me into.  As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right or wrong, I did not see why I might not always so the one and avoid the other" (The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, 102).  I love his confidence and determination.  I also love his perspective on the role character plays in building a life.

But, Franklin quickly ran into frustration: "I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined" (ibid, 102). 

This is the understatement of the century!

How do we make new habits?  
We need systems, Beautiful Living Systems!

A personal development plan needs to include the following:
  • It needs to be customizable and personal.
  • It needs to be rooted in reality but married to possibilities: your dreams, your gifts, and talents, your most valued life objectives.
  • It needs be focused and specific.
  • It needs to be measurable.
My next post will include the 7 Focus Areas that support Beautiful Living.  Until then...

Live Beautifully,

Heather Butler

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Beautiful Living is a System of Living Well

Having dreams, aspirations, and hopes are vital.  They keep us inspired during difficult seasons of life, they keep us moving ahead in mundane patches.  However, having a plan to work them into new habits, to breathe life into them and nurture them as they materialize, is something altogether different.  We need systems to show us where we are now, to evaluate where we have been, and to help us make plans that are measurable moving forward. 

My mission is to search for, understand, enjoy, and bring into my life, all things beautiful.  Subscribe to my blog.  Share it with a friend. Comment along the way.  Add your stories--your hopes, discoveries, learning curves, ambitions--with mine.  My purpose is to share what I've learned, teach the systems that I have discovered, find more beauty, and live a more prosperous, joyful, and meaningful life by intentionally choosing Beautiful Living.

Heather Butler