Let Your Day Dreams Be Your Compass

I started this blog as a way for myself and others to embrace the places we are at in life. Be it where you live, where you are in your career, education, mental state, physical health, this is a platform to examine the potential that comes from embracing the present circumstances under which you currently reside.

It can be difficult to face the facts of your current situation. When you live for the present and you aren’t particularly pleased with the place you are at, sometimes the bigger picture of what’s happening around you starts to blur. I know that I can get so caught up in the moment, thinking about how if only I could leave where I am then I could start fresh and solve all my problems. If I lived somewhere else then maybe I would like my house better, so I would keep it cleaner. If I lived somewhere warmer maybe I would be happier and accomplish more during days that I spend wrapped in blankets. If I was done with school I could be working at a job I enjoy, earning tons of money, and living my best life. But none of these day dreams are likely to be true. If in some parallel universe I was a wealthy entrepreneur that lived on an island, I don’t know if I’d be happy.

We can’t know how we will feel in a world of what ifs. All we can do is embrace where we are now. Ignoring your problems, pushing them off, or dreaming about starting over without any action won’t take you to where you want to be, and it won’t make your current situation better. Work to remove what makes you unhappy by focusing your energy on what does make you happy. If you fill your time with more things that bring you genuine joy, you will have less time to overthink the darkness. Fill your life as it is right now with more of what you see in your day dreams, and eventually they will look the same. Instead of getting lost in your day dreams, use them as your compass to lead the way to where you want to be.

10 Unconventional Hobbies And Why You Need One

In our spare time it can be nice to unwind and watch a movie, t.v. show, or catch up with what your friends are doing on social media. Down time is essential to decompressing throughout the week. These activities can also enrich our lives through enhancing our social bonds. Watching the same show as your friends can give you all something to discuss together. Social media offers various platforms to connect with people who you might otherwise lose touch with, and to learn and grow in ways that would not be possible with out that technology.

It is also crucial to have other activities that bring joy to your life. Things that are not your work, but that do engage your mind on a higher level than passively consuming media. Hobbies allow you to express yourself, learn about new facets of the world, connect with new people on deep levels, and enhance your skills at something you love. We often see that people who practice a hobby tend to feel better, but why?

Researchers have found that engaging frequently in enjoyable leisure activities leads to overall better psychological and physical health. In their study, psychologists found participants who regularly practiced their hobbies had lower blood pressure, lower cortisol levels, lower BMIs, and overall better physical functions than those who did not, even after accounting for standard demographic differences. Why this happens could be for several reasons. A possible explanation could be found in a study published by BMC Psychiatry, which discovered that the sense of “mastery” over a skill that develops when taking on a hobby improves overall mental health and sense of accomplishment. An additional study published in the American Journal of Public Health explored the healing effects of artistic expression regarding mental health when practiced as a hobby, and found that activities such as creative writing, music, dance, and drawing aided in coping with stress.

The bottom line: exploring a hobby you enjoy can help you to improve your physical and mental well-being. If you already have activities that you like to do, keep up with them, and make sure you set up time in your schedule specifically for yourself to practice what makes you feel good. If you want to explore new hobbies or don’t have anything you like to do yet, below is a list of suggestions to begin your journey into making the most of your free time. Get creative, meet new people, get really into what you like. But, also remember it’s okay if you don’t like something you try and want to try something else. It’s also okay if you like something, but aren’t good at it when you start out (no one is perfect when they first try something). It’s also okay if you like something and don’t love it. Not everything you do has to be your favorite thing. If it brings you joy, do it. If it doesn’t bring you joy, then stop.

10 Unique Hobbies To Explore:

  1. Learn an instrument: There are a ton of YouTube tutorials on how to play almost every instrument under the sun. If you have a certain one you’ve been wanting to try, check it out! Although lessons can be pricey, if you have the funds, why not go all in, or see if there are group lessons at a discounted rate to start out. (Also I can not confirm this, but I have been told by many people the easiest instrument to learn is the ukulele. You can often find these and guitars super cheap at garage sales to start out and see if you like it before investing a ton of money.)
  2. Creative Writing: There are so many types of creative writing to explore, not just fiction writing. Try poetry. Or write a play. Or write non-fiction. Research your hero, and write a biography. You can write about whatever you want, and that is the freedom of creative writing. If you want a platform to share your work, start a blog, or create a goal of a finished product to try and get published. Or self publish. Or join a writing group in your community.
  3. Hiking: Get outside and explore nature. Start with walks at your local parks. Then a quick Google search will show you trails near and far from where you live. There are also groups that get together and organize hikes if you want to meet new people. Check out the American Hiking Society for more information.
  4. Community Theater: Wish you could go back to your drama club days? Check out your local theater groups! Attend a show, see who holds open auditions, and get involved. Whether you like set building, acting, directing, stage crew, or any part of the theatrical process, community theater is a great place to meet new people and explore your creative side.
  5. Upcycling: Turn old furniture or clothes into something completely your own. Get crafty and give new life to old goods. You can keep your finished products, give them to your friends as gifts, or sell them. There is an entire community of upcyclers who share ideas, and hacks to get you started. Even hobbies that you might not think of as social activities, can help you to meet new people- if that is what you are looking for out of your activity. Upcycling is also great for improving your carbon footprint!
  6. Baking: Trying to stick to a health plan that makes you feel good, but miss those sweets? Explore the world of food with alternative baking methods and get down and dirty, experimenting in the kitchen to see which recipes compare to your traditional favorites. Or go all out on the sugar and learn to create delectable delights that will wow your friends. The kitchen can serve as quite the therapeutic place, and you can sign up for cooking classes, donate your goods to local bake sales, or host your own treat swaps to get more involved in the community.
  7. SFX Makeup: If Halloween or makeup is your thing, try out special effects makeup. You’ll get creative with sculpting your own prosthetic pieces, shading the details of your characters, and bringing to life your art. With the beauty industry booming, and spooky season a favorite time of year for many, there are 1000s of resources and tutorials to get your creative juices flowing. Get those make up brushes blending! Check out SFX make up artist Glam&Gore, for some fun looks, and how to’s to get started.
  8. Sports Leagues: Did you love sports when you were in school? Do you miss the sense of belonging to a team and the energy of the game. Check out your local sports and athletic centers for adult leagues. Many areas offer a wide range of recreational teams you can join to get active and meet some new people who also have a shared interest as you. Whether it’s basketball, ultimate frisbee, dance, football, volleyball, or whatever your sport, check out what’s around you and get playing.
  9. Star gazing: Is most of your free time at night? Learn about the sky, track the stars, and planets, and enjoy the beauty of our place in the solar system. NASA even has a tool to help you connect with other star gazers in your area, so you can meet up and share your findings together.
  10. Embroidery: Sewing a straight line might seem like a daunting task to most in modern times, but cross stitch and embroidery are making a comeback. Try your hand at creating intricate designs, and soon you’ll be able to deck out all of your favorite clothes to become a local fashion icon. To get you started, here is a beginner’s guide.

No matter what you choose to do with your free time, be sure to spend it doing what you love, with who you love. Your hobby doesn’t need to consume your life, but if it does drive you to get up in the morning that is also okay too. Make time to take care of yourself. Make time to decompress. Make time to do the things that are important to you. Regardless of where you’re at in life, you are deserving of time that makes you feel good and important.

Hobbies can take you to so many wonderful places you could have never dreamed of going before. Maybe you’ll find yourself on stage performing one day in front of an audience. Maybe you’ll be booking your next vacation to tackle the world’s craziest rock climbing adventure. Maybe you’ll meet the most wonderful people who will become extensions of your family. You never know where you will end up, but when you follow your heart you’ll end up exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Visions VS Goals: How To Stick To Your New Years Resolutions

Resolving to improve. This year is going to be better. I will be better. Kinder, healthier, grander, more present, more aware, more lovable, just more. Happier. That’s what we all hope every night on December 31st. Then January drags, we lose course, and next December we’re back where we started. Hoping that next year will be our year. It’s got to be.

Stop. It’s time to end this cycle of regretting the year before, with grand visions of the year to come. Life happens, and it’s never what you plan. But does that mean we shouldn’t plan anything at all? Of course not. How do we balance our dreams for a future that “could be,” without neglecting to appreciate the past that gave those dreams life? How do we make resolutions that we can stick to? How do we make it, so that come December, 2020 we can look back and smile, knowing we did our absolute best, and 2021 will be a continuation of dedication instead of a start over?

This week on Where You’re At, we are going to dive in deep, reflect, brain storm, and set up a beautiful vision of where you can take yourself on your journey in the new year.

  1. Begin With Reflection: Before you start listing off everything you want to change about your life, reflect on where you’re at right now. When you reflect on your past, start small and specific, then work your way back to the bigger picture. (This is the opposite of goal setting which we will discuss in #3.) Key questions to ask yourself include: What have I done today I am proud of? What was I hoping to get done today that I was unable to accomplish? Why didn’t those things get done? You can then replace the word “today” in each of those questions with “this week,” “this month,” and “this year.” These questions will help you lay out your strengths and weaknesses, and help you to map your progress over time. When you reflect through your past year, think about your favorite memories too. Where did you go? What did you see? Who did you meet?- How much of that was planned? Probably not much of it. You can do your best to plan, but much of life (both beautiful and tragic) happens organically. Life is a balance of planning and going with whatever comes your way. As you close your time of reflection pick out the moments you are most grateful for. Then thank yourself for a year of perseverance, patience, and experience.
  2. Visualization: Next begin the process of developing plans for where you want your next year to take you. Visualize. The process of goal setting begins broad and imaginative. This is not the time to be “realistic” or doubtful about what you can manage. Think even beyond the year to come. Where do you want to be in 2 years? 5? 10? What kind of life do you want? How do you want to wake up feeling everyday? What do you see yourself surrounded with? What do you want your daily routine to be like at the end of next year? These big questions will help you to open your heart to the potential you have within you. Brainstorm big. This time is all about the “big-picture.”
  3. Get Specific With Goals: After you’ve thought about where you have been and where you want to go, it’s time to figure out how to get there. This is done through setting goals. Breaking down dreams into steps. Then breaking down those steps into smaller steps. Soon you’ll have a staircase leading you to your destination. When we reflect, we map where we have been by working from small and specific to larger and more broad. Goal setting is the opposite. Take your vision for the future, and write down what it will take to get there. Then break it down again, and again, and again, and again. Soon you’ll see how you can create daily habits that will lead you to tackling bigger projects. Those projects will lead you to conquering more complex steps which require more time, connections, homework, and effort. Your daily habits build the steps you climb through life. It all begins at the micro level. It’s okay if your long-term goals take a long time to accomplish. That’s why they’re called long-term. Move at a pace that is comfortable and manageable for you. If you push too much you’ll end up burnt out and giving up. If your long-term goal is to become more clean, start with making your bed everyday and vacuuming once a week. If your goal is to start performing your music live, begin by committing to your practice everyday, attending more local shows, and marketing once a week. If your goal is to write a book, write a little everyday-even if ‘s not for your book (keep up with the practice), talk about your intentions with others to grow your ideas, and create a tentative schedule for yourself. Start small. Then build from there. It begins with daily practice. Daily habits form life long changes. It won’t happen overnight, but when you come back to reflect again on how far you have come, you will be so proud of how you expanded the map of your life. For more information on setting daily-level goals check out the SMART goal system, which poses questions to help you keep the goals you set at attainable levels. When you use smaller goals as a means to accomplish your dreams, the steps you climb become a manageable hike rather than impossible leaps.
  4. Gratitude: After you reflect on where you have been, envisioned where you want to go, and determined how you will get there, take a few moments to be grateful for where you are at. Gratitude is a powerful tool that will keep you grounded on your journey of change. It is also important to recognize that your current situation whether difficult, painful, or one of the best times of your life is a piece of who you are and who you will be. Periods of our life don’t define us, but they can drive us to where we go next. Everyday has something in it to be grateful for. As the new year progresses, and you check off the goals on your list, pause after you tick off each one. Take a moment to thank yourself and anyone who helped you along the way to get to that next step. On days you fall behind, instead of beating yourself up, thank yourself for trying your best and know that you will keep trying again until you get it next time. More information on overcoming difficult set backs and breaking down the process of gratitude can be found in our article “A Field Guide To Finding The Silver Lining.” Gratitude will serve as your life boat when you’ve been tossed out into rough water. Cling to it. Gratitude will also keep you focused as you keep moving along your list of goals and chasing your vision. It will help you to see your journey is just as beautiful as the dream.

New Years Resolutions are often seen as the beginning of a new chapter in the story of life. However, they don’t mean you have to burn the beginning of your book. You can choose to change your life on New Year’s Day, you can choose to change your life any day of year if you like. Or you don’t have to change it all. But if you’re looking to overcome the obstacles that have held you back from realizing the picture of what you see your life could be, be strategic in your attack. You can build the life you dream. You can overcome the pains in your past. You can learn how to grow in the future. It all begins with today. It begins with you deciding to take advantage of what you have, right now, right where you’re at.

Eager To Learn: Why It’s Important + A Documentary Review

On December 26th, 2019, British Chef and vegan YouTube sensation Gaz Oakley (aka avantgardevegan) released his first full length documentary, titled, “Salt of the Earth.” In the film, Gaz explores his home country of Wales, combining elements of travel, food, and human interest all in an eye-opening, awe-inspiring piece. Without giving too much away, the documentary takes you around the country to see where your food comes from, visit the breath-taking (adventure-packed) sites Wales has to offer, and showcases the charm of the Welsh people.

Visiting the UK has always been on my bucket list, but Wales was never at the top of places I felt obligated to see. I never knew how stunning the country was, or how much there was to do in the Welsh countryside. Opening your eyes to the beauty of a new place that you may have over looked as an adventure hub, full of rich culture, and a diverse ecosystem is an inspirational experience. Exploring the wonders of a world far away from your own, through the lens of a personality so passionate about the journey of discovery, you can’t help but become encouraged to explore your own home.

Seek adventure in the most unlikely of places. It is all up to you what you will find on your journey. Appreciate the unique offerings of your hometown, your home state, your home country. Seek out beauty. Seek out joy. Seek out opportunity.

Try new things. Don’t be afraid to try something new, talk to someone new, be someone new. It is never to late to start learning, because everyday is a chance to learn that there is magic all around you. There are people in your community who know so many details of where to find the most incredible views, the coolest shops, the most interesting ways to spend a day- you just need to talk to them.

Gaz’s documentary embodied the wondrous possibilities that stem from embracing where you’re at. Explore. Enjoy. Live everyday in a mindset of gratitude for what you have. Be eager to to learn, and always ask questions. Always remember, you can do amazing things, right where you’re at.

*Gaz Oakley aka avantgardevegan’s documentary was linked in the first paragraph but is also linked here to watch. He also has a book and website full of more plant based recipes.

Kindness As A Mindset

Selfishness forces us to use tunnel vision to get to where we want to go. Kindness removes those clouds, so we can see that our worlds are so beautiful exactly where we are at.

We see over, and over, and over, and over again in the media how small acts of kindness quite literally change a person’s life. Smiles to strangers give them hope, a random compliment turned an entire day around, one small act of kindness was the difference between life and death. It seems dramatic to put it that way, but in a world so quick to jump to conclusions about people, so quick to judge, so quick rip others down so we can make it to the top, it means the world to stop and be kind. We live in a quick, fast-paced world. It’s not right, but it’s understandable to see how we have come to a point where people are caught up in their own unique and complex miniature universes, and that they sometimes forget everyone else’s is just as intricate. We are all just doing our best. In a society that is moving faster and faster, pushing and shoving to get to the next destination, screaming for answers to questions that don’t have solutions, how do we slow down and make an active effort to live a life driven by kindness?

This week we look at some out-of-the-box ways to go beyond a few intermittent acts of kindness, and lead a softer life, understanding why it’s important, and how to stay centered in a world that isn’t always as kind back to you.

Start with small acts. Weaving kindness into your everyday life can be as simple as letting a car that has been waiting to turn go first, or as complex as changing your entire attitude towards driving, transforming into a less aggressive driver. Those larger changes stem from a series of small changes. Kindness isn’t always paying for the order behind you in the drive thru or donating a bunch of money and stuff to charity. Those are kind acts, and are wonderful places to start if you are looking to integrate more kindness into your life, but kindness goes much further than material objects or isolated instances. However, every act of kindness is beautiful, and every act of kindness makes a difference. Never be afraid to do something you think will make someone else feel good, because you think it won’t make a difference. It will. Tell them their shirt makes their eyes pop, volunteer for a day, start a “pay it forward” at your local coffee shop. Your single act might just be the relief someone needs today.

Kindness as a mindset. Kindness as a mindset means intentionally slowing down in a world that pushes and shoves and presses forward. It means stopping to look around, take in your environment and be aware that your intricate universe is special, beautiful, magical, full of wonder, and so is the personal universe of the person walking next to you. It doesn’t mean you don’t look out for your own well-being. But when you have the understanding that you have a beautiful life with value and that the person across from you does too, life becomes a little softer to handle. It means you can give the time you need to show yourself kindness. Take time to care for your needs, your wants, your dreams. Don’t allow the harshness of this world to harden your heart so you forget to show yourself kindness too. It doesn’t matter what you have been through, the things you have seen, what other people have done to you, or what you have done to yourself. From this day forward, you are worthy of kindness. You always have been worthy of kindness. Some days that may only come from yourself, which is why it is so crucial to be gentle on yourself. You are doing the best you can. Give yourself the love you need. When you feel overwhelmed from the stress of the day, if there are people who one, after the other, after the other try to bring you down, remove yourself from the situation for 30 minutes and give yourself the space you need to breathe. Understand that you are doing the best you can with what you have at this time, and allow yourself to release that tension instead of beating yourself down further. Be kind to yourself. When you are kind to yourself, it will be much easier to be kinder to other people. Cut them a little break as well. We don’t know everyone’s entire story, just as they don’t know ours.

One of the kindest things you can do is be interested in what excites someone else. Imagine how much you could learn from listening to other people talk about the things that bring them joy. World history, technology, art, music, business, animals, engineering, intricate details of wondrous things in the world you may have never even knew existed. Listening is one of the kindest acts we can do in a world that does a lot more speaking than learning. Listen to understand, listen to learn, listen to grow. Have you ever had a time when you were talking about something you were passionate about, only to stop and say “This is probably boring, sorry, I’ll stop,”? Did they answer with, “No, keep going, I want to know more.” How did that feel? Awesome. Have you ever been cut off and told to stop when you were really excited to share something? It felt awful, didn’t it? When we listen to others, we give them our time, our attention. We give them a tiny piece of our own beautiful world, and they share a tiny piece of theirs. That engagement, a genuine connection between two people, grows so much more than a moment of conversation. Learning leads to new ideas. Innovative ideas. Collaboration. All key aspects of success and development. Growing your own garden requires pollination from plants that grow in a garden far away. Diversify. Open your mind. It all blooms from kindness.

Create systemic changes in your perspective. Actively incorporating kindness as a mindset means going against the grain of a society that demands you rush through your life to push your way through to the next stop on your journey. It means slowing down, and being okay with the fact that there are others who are not as kind. It means avoiding those aggressive drivers, blowing off those rude comments from a passerby, patience in tense situations, patience with yourself. It means freedom. Living a life with intentional kindness lifts the weight of the pressure society places on your shoulders. You don’t have to push your way through crowds of bickering bodies, dragging behind the weight of your personal pain behind you. When you are kind to yourself, you can drop those weights, and you can help others set down their own baggage. It’s okay to be a few minutes late because there was traffic. It’s okay to give up some time. Talk to some one new, go to a friend’s art show, read the rough copy of a book they have been working on, support a local business, ignore rude comments on the internet, skip the urge to scream when you’re upset, learn about someone else, pet a dog, bring cookies in for the office, send someone a meme that made you think of them. Small acts ripple to a big impact. The wave of freedom that comes with a life lived through kindness, will carry you further than you could have ever made it pushing your way through alone with the burden of all those weights.

Live softly. Live fully. Live kindly. When you open your heart to accept and share kindness from within, the world becomes a little easier to navigate. Selfishness forces us to use tunnel vision to get to where we want to go. Kindness removes those clouds, so we can see that our worlds are so beautiful exactly where we are at.

A Field Guide To Finding The Silver Lining

Sometimes it’s hard to look at the “bright side” of life. Sometimes it feels like you get hit with one thing after another, after another, and you just can’t seem to catch a break. It’s okay to feel upset when bad things happen. Get angry, work through those emotions, but the trouble comes when we allow ourselves to sit too long with those negative thoughts. We live in a time of constant exposure to media that showcases the very best of our friends’ lives, that highlights super stars, and the talents of everyone we wish we could be. We all fight our own battles behind the scenes, and sometimes anxiety, resentment, fear, sadness, they just take over. But why do we have so much negativity? How do we overcome it? Should we try to brush it aside?

In a study published by the Educational Publishing Foundation, titled “Bad is Stronger than Good,” researchers explain the necessity of negativity from an evolutionary perspective. Historically speaking, if an ancient individual saw the world as bad and honed in on negative situations worth avoiding over positive opportunities to take advantage of, they had a greater chance of surviving and creating the next generation. If you missed the chance for innovation sure, it was lost potential, but at least you lived to see another day back then. Made a mistake and got eaten or poisoned- forget about the notion of potential altogether. People needed to be hyper aware of danger to make it through the day.

Fortunately today we have significantly less to worry about, but our minds still get caught in a loop of negativity. While that negativity can still provide some type of protection, in the long run it will hold you back from acting on those remarkable opportunities ancient peoples of the past didn’t have the time for. Professor of Organizational Behavior, Psychology, and Cognitive Science Dr. Richard Boyatzis states, “You need the negative focus to survive, but a positive one to thrive.” So how can you switch gears when the anxious thoughts of worry, and confusion, and stress take over? And what about when things actually go wrong when you did your best to do everything right?

Below is a mini Field Guide to finding the silver lining:

  1. Breathing exercises: In the event of a stressful or overwhelming situation that is causing an immediate negative or series of negative responses from your brain, begin by refocusing your breathing. The brain is an organ- a part of your body and you need to regain control over your body. The 4-7-8 breathing exercise developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, is a simple method that will help you begin the process of redirecting you energy from stressed to success. Simply breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, then exhale for 8 counts. This process acts as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.” It will calm you, get oxygen and blood flowing through the body, and give you a minute of thinking that is focused solely on your breathing and not the problem at hand. Begin with the breath.
  2. Think about what could go right: Let’s say you’re in a situation where you’re thinking about all the things that could go wrong. What if my car breaks down on the way? What if it’s too expensive? What if they don’t like me? What if they start yelling? What if I get lost? What if I don’t know what to say? For every thought you have of a fake scenario where your situation turns wrong, produce the alternative if it went horribly right. What if it’s on sale? What if they turn out to be a new life long friend? What if they know someone I know already? What if I get there early and find a new store to look in with cool stuff? What if they don’t know what to say, and I make them feel more comfortable? Start thinking of alternates for your “what if” moments, and at the very least it might help calm some nerves. You might even come up with a few ideas to try out in the future of new things you actually want to test out.
  3. Stop asking “Why me?”: Be true in who you are. You are radiant. You are magnificent. You are on your way to creating so many wonderful things. The bad things that happen to you are not your fault, but they also aren’t anyone else’s fault either. Sometimes people aren’t nice, sometimes they do wrong by us, sometimes they hurt us. Do not allow their actions to control your mindset, and do not let that run the course of your life. And also, sometimes things just happen. There isn’t a reason why some people seem to get hit with one tragedy after another, and others seemingly glide through life. Everyone has their own personal battles, and some just don’t talk about it. If you allow your pain to become what defines you, it will eventually consume you. You must let it go. Some of the most beautiful moments of my life would have never happened had I not gone through the darkest times. I would never wish those events to happen, but they did and I am here and okay, and every sadness that touched my life lead to some type of good, because I allowed room in my heart for good to enter. You must be open to healing. Keep your heart open.
  4. Break down gratitude: Write a list of everything you are grateful for. Break it down into 4 categories: the essentials, accomplishments, people, and then everything else. Begin with the essentials. What basics of life do you have that you are most grateful for? Get specific, not just “food, a roof, clothes.” Pick out your favorite food, or the best thing ate all week, your favorite room in your house, your favorite shirt. Then move to accomplishments, what have you done today you are proud of? This week? This year? The past few years? Your whole life? Reflect on how far you have come. Think about the last time you felt discouraged and how you overcame that. Be proud of yourself. Honor yourself for the work you do everyday. Next- people. Who in your life are you grateful for? This week who helped you most? Who was a light in your life? Who has been a guide for you? Have you done anything for them lately? Finally, list everything else. What was the last you did that was fun? When did you last smile? What was the last celebration? Do you have a job? Have you worked on some personal projects? Have you had free time? Find something in everyday to be grateful for. Break it down. Reflect.
  5. Let the little things go: Don’t get worked up over minor inconveniences. If you aren’t allowing the small problems of your day to work you up, you will have more energy to rationally think through the tougher issues that are worth your tears and your heart. Out of copy paper? Long line at the check out? Store isn’t stocked with your favorite flavor soup? Breakfast spilled? Traffic jam? Ignore life’s little problems. Often times these are windows of opportunity to explore something new. Try a new flavor, pick a new store, take the scenic route. Keep your stress levels low by seeking opportunity from inconvenience. Innovation stems from exploration. So go explore. Change your mindset from routine to seeking new things. You will find there are so many more options available to you when you break habits, whether forced to switch up or by your own choice. Even slightly bigger things, like one mean comment from a passerby can ruin an hour, but don’t let it control the rest of your day. For every mean thing someone says about you think of one kind thing to say about yourself. Or take it a step further and think of one kind thing to say about them. For every mean thing you think about yourself, think of a nice thought to contradict that too. Don’t like your nose? But have you seen the way your eyes sparkle? You take too long to finish your workload? Your submissions are always flawless and done with care. Turn negativity into an opportunity to find something wondrous.

It’s important to feel through your emotions when you’re upset. Grieve. Love. Get angry. Be sad. Just don’t dwell on them. Life is full of highs and lows and sometimes the lows seem to dig deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and we start to feel like we are drowning. Don’t give up. Breathe. Regroup. Visualize where you will be once you work through this, and remember how much love you have to give to this world. You have talents and gifts that are entirely your own. Every experience is something you can draw from later on in someway or another. Keep going. Keep growing. You are capable of so much. You can do anything, no matter how dark it may seem right now, allow the light to come in. It will guide your way. You may feel stuck, but no matter where you are at, you can do anything.

Every Season Has A Purpose: Do Not Waste Your Winter

A morning snow fall was a pleasant surprise yesterday morning. I was surprised that I found it to be a pleasant surprise. Winter is my least favorite season by far, and I do not do well in the cold. Most winters I tend to bundle up, muttering through the wind whipping my face, under grey skies, and shivering as I struggle to find the car keys in my purse, that I should have pulled out when I was still inside. Anyone else been there? A few weeks ago we talked about drawing inspiration from (and the actual physical benefits of) house plants during the winter months. Beyond setting up a comfortable and personally inspiring indoor space, it’s also important step outside during these cold months and embrace the winter weather. Take a even a few moments to appreciate the unique happenings that occur at this time of year.

Don’t waste your winter waiting for the warmth of summer to return. Go out and enjoy what you can. The perfect day, the perfect time, the perfect opportunity to start whatever it is you’ve been putting off will never come. Go and start that project you’ve been planning, talk to the person you’ve been thinking about, plan that vacation you’ve been wanting to take. Stop allowing reasons and seasons to hold you back. Those roadblocks don’t matter. What matters is your attitude towards those roadblocks. It’s okay to get discouraged sometimes, and you may have to change your course because of those roadblocks, but do not let them put your entire life on hold. I only spent half an hour outside in the snow, when on a summer day I might have spent 3 hours if I had the time. Do what you can, when you can, where you are at. Then when your summer comes, imagine how much more you will be able to do, because of the ground work you laid out while it was cold.

Every season has a purpose, and even if you are not in bloom, it does make you any any less stunning in the snow.

Jump on moments of inspiration. If you suddenly feel an urge to work on a project you’ve been waiting on, to get back into a hobby you’ve stopped, to try something new, to go outside because it’s snowing unexpectedly one morning, do it. Explore. Follow those urges. Live in the moment and embrace life to its absolute fullest, because you don’t know how long the winter will last, or even if you will make until next summer. Every day is a gift, and everyday you are able to pursue the things that fill your heart with warmth is a greater gift. Do not take them for granted. Do not let this winter keep you feeling stuck inside. Do not let your road blocks turn into walls that keep you in an inescapable prison. Face them. Find out what you can learn from them. Find what is beautiful in them. Grow from them. Step outside into winter and see what you can build with your snow. You can create magnificent things, during any season, from where ever you are at.

Stepping Stones To Success: 3 Key Qualities To Build Your Personal Pathway To Peace

What defines success? How do we become our own version of successful? How do we get from where we are at right now to where we want to be next? These questions, while simple, have answers that are far more complex.

Let’s start with what defines success. That can mean different things to different people. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines success as “1.b. favorable or desired outcome.” It’s vague, but at least it gets us somewhere in the ball park to define the scope of what we want to discuss. An article from Business Insider titled, “How 9 Incredibly Successful People Define Success,” compiled the thoughts on the topic from a diverse group of role models such as, CEO of Zappos Tony Hseih, founder of The Huffington Post Arianna Huffington, Maya Angelou, and Winston Churchill. The common theme among their replies: personal satisfaction with your work and your life are the main components to success. Again, vague, but still helpful in that it sets us on a track to exploring where our own versions of success lie.

Since success is a personal journey comprised of completing a series of individual goals, it makes sense that everyone’s route to the top is uniquely their own. There isn’t a formula or a check list to follow to accomplish your goals. As much as we would like a step by step guide on how to be “successful” there isn’t one, and anyone who tries to sell you one doesn’t really have the answer. There might be ideas to get you started or motivate you to gear up and start working on your dreams, but there isn’t a guaranteed route to success in the same way there isn’t a concrete definition of what success is. So where do you start?

The journey to your own success begins by accumulating a few essentials, then hit the ground running, and watch yourself soar.

  1. Visualization: Know where it is you want to be, and what makes your life fulfilling. Lay out your goals in specific terms. Have larger, long-term goals, then break those down into smaller goals. Write everything down. This will help you to track your progress and see where you are headed next. There are several tools you can use to help you with this step, it all depends on what you like best. If you like online resources there are several goal tracking apps and websites, or even resources like Evernote, which has a free basic plan and can be useful for creating folders of notes and long-term goal timelines. For those like me who prefer a more tangible format of organization, planners (when utilized to their maximum potential) work wonders in keeping you on track everyday. For the bigger picture, vision boards can help provide you with a reminder of what you are working towards and why. Be conscientious about what you put in your vision boards and calendars. Make your dreams big, but your goals attainable. Your goals are the steps to achieve your dreams and if they are not broken down enough it might become discouraging. You can can and you will make those dreams come true, but it will take time and work. Your goals are the stepping stones to your dreams. Space them out so you can jump from stone to stone, and eventually you will make it to the other side of the river. If they are too far apart, you will fall in and get pulled away by the currents.
  2. Mindset: The next key component to moving to where you want to be is mindset. You need to believe you can do anything. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else is going to? You are your number one advocate, you know your strengths, your weaknesses, your capabilities better than anyone else. You know you have what it takes, now you need to take that knowledge to the next level. In a TED talk presented by Angela Lee Duckworth, distinguished psychologist and founder of a nonprofit that aims to advance the science and practice of character development, she discusses the concept of “grit.” This concept is essentially will power, and through a series of comprehensive studies, Duckworth has concluded that regardless of talent, circumstance, or other outside factors, the largest contributing factor that determined how successful someone would be, is their level of grit. Factors that contribute to a person’s ‘grit’ include: how easily are they distracted, how are they impacted by set backs, and how committed are they to completing a project. If you want to test your own level of “grit” and see what areas you need to improve on, you can take her test here. What this concept boils down to is, do you have a vision, are you consistent in your efforts to realize that vision, and do you persevere through challenges that take you off course? It’s all about mindset.
  3. Gratitude: Live your life with a grateful heart. This is one of the most important steps you can take to lead a life peace and success. Find something in each day to be grateful for, and you will feel a change in how you see the world. You will start to see more open windows, instead of all the closed doors around you. Every small step you take in your journey to accomplishing your personal big-picture goals is worth celebration. When you check something off that long and seemingly endless to-do list, pause for a minute and reflect. Think about how far you have come, and be grateful that you were able to get to where you are at now. Remember where you started your journey. Reward yourself for the work you’ve done. Find gratitude on days you encounter setbacks. Those days are opportunities to learn. Those days while tiresome and discouraging, are important. They teach you to be creative, rework problems, or dig deeper within yourself. It’s also okay if there are days where nothing seems to go right, and you feel completely defeated. Feel those days. Process them, take a break, but do not let them deter you from your dream. Remember all the work you have done. Remember all the victories. Tomorrow will be a new day and you can get back into your rhythm again. Be grateful for your support system. Even if it’s a few people, or only one person, or just you, tell them thank you. Always remember they can help you. Gratitude is vital to overcoming set backs, and through the eyes of a grateful mind, you will see the opportunity around you when your thoughts are not being clouded by a negative attitude.

We all have our own aspirations and dreams. Dreams can also change or evolve over time as we learn, and age, and grow. What makes dreams beautiful is they are your own, and the way you find success is your own journey too. If you are currently struggling to figure out how to accomplish your goals remember there isn’t a single route to success, and the path to get there isn’t linear either. There will be ups an downs, and it’s going to be hard. But you know yourself better than anyone else. And you know you can do it. Visualize where you want to be. Get specific. Then dig within yourself and don’t let anyone or anything derail you from you goals. It might take a long time, but with perseverance and consistency you can accomplish so much more than you ever thought possible. Celebrate. Be grateful for every small success along the way. Embrace every moment, because they won’t happen twice. Open your eyes to the community around you and all it has to offer. To go from where you are now to where you want to be, will be a process. It will take work. It will take “grit.” But you can do it. Do the best you can with the resources you have right now, then as you work you will find better and more efficient methods of work, more opportunities, more ideas for improvement. But you have to take the first step and just start. Always remember, you can do anything where ever you are at.

Lost? Hike Your Way Back To Your Life Path

Get out and explore. Go down the street and feel the breeze on your face. Walking outdoors can help you to overcome several personal obstacles in your life, through a journey of connection with your immediate environment and dedicated time for reflection on your personal pathway through life. Most North East PA natives have visited Nay Aug Park at least once, if not many times to find peace on its beautiful trails. It also offers pavilions, play grounds, an animal sanctuary, and a swimming pool. Spend some time clearing your mind at your local place of peace.

Below are a few ways exploring a local landmark can help you forge your way out of a cluttered head space:

  1. Removing Yourself From The Distractions Of Life: This seems to be the most obvious reason why getting outside- to any outside space (hiking trails or not) can help to clear out your mind. You are physically removing yourself from the places and distractions causing any anxiety. No matter where you live, being outside can bring benefits to your mental health, even if you just sit and listen to the natural world go about its routine. Studies show that the sounds of nature put people into a state of relaxation, and those who are more stressed experience a more drastic effect from the sounds of nature. That’s why there are so many soundtracks produced of the sea, the forest, the wind, birds, anything to simulate the natural world helps people to unwind.

2. Connecting With Your Community: We just discussed the benefits of removing yourself from the distractions of your world, but when you explore beyond the realm of your immediate street (or maybe even a walk down your street will foster the same feelings) you might learn something about your area that can help you to feel closer to the community where you live. Nay Aug is a giant gorge in the middle of the city of Scranton. While many locals blow it off since it’s just something that’s always around, it’s actually quite remarkable. This area has been preserved in the midst of an otherwise developed section of the region, and features several historical landmarks that represent the areas rich past. An entrance to a coal mine serves as a reminder of the city’s former residents, and to see the memorials around the park is a reminder that the things you are doing now matter. You are apart of history, and even if you feel like you just go to work everyday and are not making a difference, you are. Someone might see your name on a plaque one day. Keep working on your dreams, keep searching and learning from those around you and those who came before you.

3. Finding Unexpected Inspiration: The beauty of going new places (or revisiting old favorites with a new mindset) is that you never know what you might find. When your out on a walk take your time. It does not matter how far you go, how long it takes, or how many sites you see. What matters is that you take away at least one thing that makes you feel good and means something to you. Pay attention to the details. If you see something that sticks out while walking, stop and really notice it. Think about why did this jump out at me today, and just appreciate what’s going on around you. On this particular hike, I noticed a lot of graffiti. It was jumping out to me, not because of a disruption to the scene, but because of what was written. People wrote about their deepest secrets, their Snapchat names, art, words of inspiration. All of these expressions are other people like you and me who went for a walk to clear out a cluttered mind, and just wrote down what was inside for me and everyone else to see. *This is not condoning vandalism, just an appreciation for the expression of human emotion.* So go out, and clear your mind by connecting with what was left behind for you to find. Notice the details of the world around you. You might just find exactly what you needed you hear.

4. Exploring Creative Pathways: Walking has shown to improve creative output and through exploring your local sites with a new open mind, you might experience exactly what you need to pull yourself out of that rut. This particular park has views of a gorge, train tunnels, and wildlife to draw inspiration from. Check out what surrounds your home that can offer a fun day of creative enlightenment. As you follow the pathway of the trail, you will find your own head space clearing and begin to realize ways to redirect your own life path towards the goals you want to achieve. Hiking a literal mountain can help you to find the route to overcome the figurative ones in your own life.

Go out and explore your local landmarks. Clear your mind and escape the thoughts that thwart your progression or personal growth. Sometimes to find your way when you feel lost on your pathway in life, taking a walk on an actual pathway can help serve as a reminder that your past has provided you with the tools you need to get to where you want to go. You can connect with your area and remember that there are other people who walked the same trails and trials as you, who in their own ways worked through them, and you will work through your own mountains too. You will notice details of this complex Earth that will inspire your creative channels that you didn’t know where there. You will see remnants of acorns nibbled on by tiny squirrels, flowers growing in a crevice you thought light could never reach, rivers break off into the tiniest trickles that feed miniature ecosystems. You will see your world reflected all around you. Your place in this world, one part of a much larger whole, but still so impactful is a force that you drive. You have the ability to choose the direction you take, what details you focus on, what views you stop for, and what mountains you will climb. Find a place to clear your head space and overcome your obstacles. You can find inspiration all around. You can create beautiful dreams. You can overcome, where ever you are at.

Begin The Climb, Even If You Don’t Have The Gear

Ever put off a project or idea because, “I could never do that”? Maybe you thought you didn’t have the talent to accomplish that dream, or there weren’t resources at your disposal to execute your vision exactly how you would like. Maybe it’s just not the “right” time. When you maintain this fixed mindset, you limit your potential for the progress and growth that comes from learning as you go.

It’s crucial to think of life in terms of what you will learn from an experience rather than how you will perform while executing a task- particularly for the first time. If your project turns out different than you imagined, it is not evidence of failure, but a reflection of progress.

Don’t put off doing something because you don’t have the resources you need to do it or don’t know exactly how to do it. If you want to get into photography but can’t afford a high tech camera, start with your phone while you save up to buy one. Although it might not have the fancy features more advanced equipment can offer, it will teach you how to be resourceful, play with lighting and focus to create interesting shots. This might even lead to you becoming a better photographer once you get your hands on a camera since you will have had to learn how to take advantage of your space and environment to get those jaw dropping shots.

Similarly if you want to become an artist but don’t know how, or don’t have the means to obtain premium art supplies, start with any pencil you have around your house and draw on any piece of paper you can find. Use a pen and your grocery receipt, just keep working and trying and practicing your skills. Sculpt out of empty containers and candle wax. Then once you save for the supplies you need you’ll have the skills and ideas prepared to execute a vision that’s been mulling to perfection.

Maybe you just want to get out more, but don’t know where to go. Start by going for walks at the park closest to your house. Check out the fliers they have pinned on board, see if anything interests you. Look around while you’re there and see what you can see. Do you see any buildings? Any other trails or parks? any people? What are they doing? Just by gong somewhere, anywhere, it can lead to to your next step, even when your not sure where you want that next step to be.

More importantly, start talking to other people about what you want to do. You never know people’s stories, just like they don’t know all of yours, and they might also be interested in your passions, or have a friend of a friend who is and can help you. They might know a lot about grant writing, or showcase events, or where to get cheap courses in a particular subject. Or they might just be a place to come to for support. Talking to people is probably the scariest piece of advice from this article, but always remember that when you are doing your best to build the life you want, if someone has a problem with that it is a reflection on them and not you. Connecting with your community will open so many opportunities that you didn’t know existed. They may start small, but the more time and love that grows from you persistence, the more you will see your relationships, and dreams expand to places you didn’t dare dream possible.

If you start doing what you want with what you have, you will begin to develop the skills to become a master at your craft when you get to where you want to be faster. You are also training your brain to act resourcefully and always stay on alert for opportunities that are around you. As you immerse yourself in the world you want your life to become you’ll find a new perspective on what it is you wanted to do that will help you to evolve. The key is beginning. No apologizing for not being prepared, no procrastinating because you are not ready, no waiting because maybe there is something you might want more later. Begin today. With exactly what you have. Right where you are at.

You never know what can grow from those first steps