Navigate Your Life: Sarah Selecky

Aug 24, 2014

I believe in the transformational power of learning from each other.
Of sitting around in a circle sharing stories & wisdom, especially practical wisdom. That’s why I curated the series of guest posts that start today, written by women I admire for creating more of the life they want. To inspire me and you to do the same!
I’m kicking off the series with Sarah Selecky, an extraordinary writer, writing teacher, and kind person. Her writing has appeared in top Canadian magazines and her first book, This Cake Is for the Party, won and was nominated for a ton of big prizes. She’s the creator of the wonderful online writing program, Story Is a State of Mind, and the online writing school, The Story Intensive. She’s also a master teacher within my TeachNow program. Find Sarah at
Enjoy her wisdom and her video.


How do you choose the life you want?

1. When I was growing up, I remember hearing adults say, “You have to pay your dues.” This sounded to me like, “You don’t get to enjoy your life.” I rejected this straight away. I still reject this. It’s a lie, and a harmful one.

2. I write things down to make them happen. That sounds a little like magic fantasy – but I mean it quite truthfully. When something really matters to me, when I feel a desire for something important, like writing a book or finding a new home or a making a deeper connection with my partner, I put it in writing.

3. The strongest and best parts of my life are a result of choices I’ve made.

4. You know that cliche, that you should do one thing that scares you every day? Well, it’s true. It actually works. Over time, your brain links that “I’m too scared to do it” feeling with the “Oh this is awesome” feeling that results from taking a risk.

5. “When you are uncertain, you are alive.” Graham Greene

not sure + alive from Sarah Selecky on Vimeo.

6. One time a friend said to me, “You’re so lucky to have a great husband.” It’s not luck, I told her. It was a choice.

7. Human beings are the only animals who can make art. It’s our responsibility and our role on earth to be creative. Choice is creativity. Making choices about life is making art out of it.

8. This is the mission statement for my business, and every person on my team has a big hand-lettered copy of it:

Art is important and life-making.
Your work supports your true self.
Magic happens.

9. I consciously bring magic into my life and hang out with it. That’s the word I use for “it” anyway. Magic = something beautiful and unexplainable. For example, prisms and light are magic to me. I know the sun exists in the galaxy and prisms are about light refraction and it’s all very scientific, but really – think about it! Rainbows! I hang crystals in sunny spots so they can refract light in my house and remind me of magic. Crystals themselves, come to think of it, are magical. Again: rock formations, I know. But rose quartz? Wow!

10. When I really pay attention to what I’m doing, just biting into an apple can blow my mind. What!? What is that texture and flavour? How in the world?

11. I find it energizing and soothing at the same time to hang out with something I love that I will never fully understand. This is what writing is for me. This is what relationships are for me. This is what creativity is for me. This is what instinct is for me.

12. Instinct trumps everything.

13. Writing fiction requires me to lose the thread on my “normal” life and extend my mind and body into the fictional world that I’m writing. Even though this suspension can be jarring upon return, I think my writing practice helps me steer, shape and create my “real” life too. Creation is creation.

14. I use tiny life choices as practice for the big ones. For example, ordering the side salad instead of the fries. Or walking instead of driving. Eventually, bolstered by these accomplishments, I find myself feeling audacious enough to choose the big thing I really wanted to do, but was scared about, like writing a novel.

15. I have a Stop What You’re Doing rule. If I’m not enjoying myself, or feeling interested, challenged or becoming stronger because of something I’m doing — that is, if I’m bored, resentful, angry, stressed or numbed out — I must stop what I’m doing. Right away. Pause. Reflect. If I feel bad while doing it, I won’t keep grinding on to finish.

16. I have an alarm on my phone that is labelled “STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING.” I set it to go off in the afternoon, when I’m most given to grinding away at something on the computer. It goes off when I least expect it, and helps me remember to pause and check in with myself.

17. It’s unrealistic to think that I can avoid feeling bad, ever. But I know that negative feelings are there to tell me that I’m probably not going in the right direction, so I can be grateful for them. I take a rest when I feel bad, and see if I can find something about the task that makes me feel engaged again. But pressing on when I feel crappy is dangerous.

18. The Stop What You’re Doing rule also works for my writing. If I feel bored or resentful while I’m working on a scene, I stop. It usually is a sign that I’m on the wrong track.

19. I have to be strict about this rule, because I can be very good at numbing out and grinding through tasks. But grinding always eventually causes pain, complications, and expense. I don’t want to have to replace my clutch.

20. Three examples of important things my rule has saved me from grinding through: a Master’s program I didn’t really want to do, a business partnership that didn’t fit my life, a toxic relationship that was holding me back.

21. When I see other people making big life decisions and going for it in scary and exhilarating ways, I really try to let it sink in and learn from it. I remind myself that if they can do that, I can do this.

22. What if our ability to make stuff up – to imagine and create and choose – is our most potent human ability?

23. I don’t think anyone is supposed to do everything perfectly. At the end of the day, if I know how to listen to myself, and I’m brave enough to choose the things my instinct shows me to be true, then it’s been a good day. Ultimately, I want to do right by my true self.

Thank you for contributing, Sarah. This is a post I will read and reread!



P.S. This is the first in 10 guest posts about creating and navigating your truer life. On September 17th, I’m offering a Life Navigation Primer along with a collection of useful tools and a chance to ask questions about The Life Navigation program. It’s freeeee. Please sign up here.

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