Owning Your Title

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” A famous, practically cliche quote that floods Pinterest boards, but inspires many. While it might not be feasible for you to dress for your version of success everyday, there is an even more fundamental change you can make to go from where you are now, to where you want to be. Change your title.

When someone asks you about yourself, what do you say? What’s the first thing you think of? How do you want to be defined? These are some big questions, that have equally big answers. Most people probably begin with kind, funny, hard working. Then what?

We are more than our work, and what we do for a living does not need to define us. However, if you want to change your occupation, you need to begin by presenting yourself as such. You are no longer an aspiring artist. You are an artist. No more, “I want to be a writer.” “I am a writer.” You are a musician, you are a designer, you are a business mover, you are what you define yourself as.

You must practice what you preach. If you call yourself an artist, you must create art. If you are a business owner, you must have a business or be working to establish your vision.

The key is consistency in combination with belief. You must believe in yourself. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to, but your mind must be open to possibilities of what is to come. Every journey is unique. The first step is to claim your journey as yours, and to explore the possibilities of where that might take you. Then you must follow through on that promise to yourself.

Own your title. Claim it. Cling to it. You can be whatever, whoever you want to be, but you must follow through. You must own who you are in all its wonder and capability. This goes beyond living a dream, and circles right back to the first answers to the questions “Who are you?” Are you kind? Own it. Be kind. Act kind. Do not simply say that you are. Live through kindness. Are you hard working? Show it.

You can be whoever you want. You can change it at any moment. It all begins with how you define yourself, and following through on your definition. Believe in yourself. You can do incredible things. You are doing incredible things, right where you’re at.

Inspired By Plants

Plants rule the Earth. They account for 80% of the total biomass on this planet, and we rely on them to survive in every way from food, to clothes, to building materials, to oxygen. A world without plants- well we wouldn’t exist without one. More than what they can do for us physically, we can learn from their unique behavior how to handle crises and adapt in the most extreme situations.

A few of the most inspirational plants:

  1. The Sensitive Plant: Technically titled Mimosa pudica, this plant physically responds to touch- immediately drawing in its leaves. While plants must move (they grow bigger over time) it’s usually at a rate too slow for people to see. This plant has made a claim to fame through its sensitivity and shyness. So if you are someone who is soft spoken, introverted, or intimidated, think of the sensitive plant. If there are plants out there who have social anxiety, it’s okay if you do too.
Sensitive Plant: Britannica Encyclopedia

2. The Welwitschia: Native to Namib Desert in Namibia, is so important to the region it appears on the nation’s coat of arms. The welwitschia is a marvelous example to never give up in the face of adversity. This plant has two base leaves it keeps its entire life, and a tap root that runs deep into the desert ground to collect water. While it looks like nothing more than a squashed pile of leaves left to dry up in the sun, this plant can thrive for over 1000 years! The welwitschia teaches us to use our resource wisely. It is an inspiration to grow, even when people think you don’t have any reason to, or you appear too far gone already. You can always grow if you are willing utilize what you have. It doesn’t matter if your progress doesn’t look like progress to anyone one else. It doesn’t matter if your progress is slow and looks like a pile of dead leaves on the ground. A pile of leaves is more than a seed. And a pile of leaves that lasts for 1000 years is something extraordinary.

Wilwitschia: Info Namibia

3. Sierra Redwoods: These massive trees once grew across the Northern Hemisphere, now only reside in an the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range out in California. The enormous redwoods grow so large because their lifespan is over 3000 years and they can grow relatively quickly under ideal conditions. To grow quickly they need a ton of water, which they obtain from the winter snow once it melts, and need loose, breathable soil for this process to occur. The redwoods teach us that the most wondrous, magnificent, beautiful, gigantic accomplishments in life are still delicate. They take a lot of work and special circumstances to thrive in the way they do. They also teach us that it’s okay to be fragile, even if you look big and tough. We all need our own kind of care and there is nothing wrong with that.

Massive Redwoods: Save The Redwoods

4. The Night Blooming Cereus: This member of the cactus family blooms only once a year and only at night. The moment day begins to break the following morning, the giant white petals begin to wilt and fall off. These cacti wait an entire year until the right time to burst and bloom. It takes a ton of energy from a plant to produce a flower. This “Queen of the Night” waits until the optimal time to bloom. The cooler temperatures prevent the plant from drying out while it produces its fragrant blossom, and the powerful smell attracts local pollinators to quickly get to work to produce the next generation of plants. When they aren’t in bloom, these cacti look lifeless and small, however most of their mass lies underground- they can weigh up to 150 pounds once their heavy root system factors in. The night blooming cereus teaches us that we do not always need to showcase our progress and accomplishments to the world. Work on our roots. Develop a strong system of support to not just survive, but thrive in desert conditions. No one needs to see or know. You are not on anyone’s timeline expect your own. People flock the deserts of Arizona to try and snap a picture of this blossom, but they have to wait until the flower is ready. Work with consistency and patience. Then when you are ready, bloom with all you’ve got.

Night Blooming Cereus: Desert USA

Plants teach us a lot about survival. They adapt to insanely difficult terrain, and thrive in regions no other life could manage. They fuel our way of life. They can’t move or leave a difficult situation. They must bloom where they are planted. You can too. You can create beautiful, wonderful, fantastical things, right where you’re at.

Silent Acts Of Kindness

Kindness fuels compassion. Kindness perpetuates love. Kindness creates understanding.

One kind word can change someone’s entire day. A small hello to a stranger, a compliment, a message they crossed your mind today. Kindness softens the heart and waters the gardens of dreams.

The absence of kindness kills. The absence of compassion, patience, empathy. When it happens every now and then, people can shake off careless or spiteful acts. They can see the problem runs deeper in the perpetrator than it does in themselves. But repeated offenses create complications. Life throws all kinds of problems our way in the fundamental pillars of our world: financial, health, love, family. Those facets are what really matter. But when those pillars of life begin to crumble, suddenly being cut off in traffic on the way to work, followed by a rude comment about your hair while in line at the store, followed by a coworker dismissing your ideas without listening, followed by an online comment about your body from a stranger becomes all too much to handle. These are just mild examples of a day when it seems kindness evaporated from the Earth.

Simple acts of kindness do not need to be loud, publicly displayed, or even spoken. Changing your mindset about what kindness means, and how you can create a powerful impact through action can change the world, one silent act of kindness at a time. Below are just a few of endless possible ways to commit silent acts of kindness:

  1. Creating Space: Open your circle of conversation when you see someone who wants to join in. All it takes is moving two steps back to let someone else in. Your steps backwards brings their voice forward. No one likes to feel left out, and in a moment you will have brightened their day without having said a single word.
  2. Listening To Learn: Listen to others while they speak. Really listen. Put down the phone, ask follow up questions. One of the kindest things we can do is be interested in what excites someone else. Think about the last time you were excited about something and the person you tried to share it with shut you down, didn’t pay attention when you spoke, or told you it was stupid. It probably didn’t feel good. Listen to others and learn about what excites them, what makes them sad, how they really feel. You might just learn something new that you find exciting too.
  3. Sharing Without Showing: If you see a need you can fill, share what you can to fill the need. You do not always need to show what you do to others though. Sharing out of kindness comes from a place of genuine compassion. Filling a need for another when you can, without a comment respects the dignity of the person in need of some kindness.
  4. Practicing Patience: Take your time, and show patience with others who seem stressed. If someone cuts you off, or becomes irritated in their speech, ask them what is wrong. Help them to reason through their problems, or at the very least give them the benefit of the doubt. Their day might be one catastrophe after the other, and others may not have shown them kindness today, or they might just be in a bad mood. Remember it’s not you. Do not allow someone to treat you with disrespect, but when you practice patience many people tend to naturally calm themselves as well. Practice patience on the road, in line at the store, in the drive thru. Most people are just trying the best they can in that given moment. The best they can give might not seem very nice at the time you meet them, but with a little patience they might be able to slow themselves and their day. You can also prevent yourself from getting worked up over minor inconveniences too. Practice patience.

Kindness matters. It changes lives everyday. There are endless ways to extend a gentle hand of peace to others- and in many instances you don’t need to say a word to change someone’s world.

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.

Meet Anger With Love: A World Through The Eyes Of A Hopeless Romantic

View the world through a lens of love. Sounds hopelessly optimistic. To clarify, I’m not talking about the romantic implication we often place with the word. When I say view the world through a lens of love, I mean something much grander than that one statement can contain. Open your heart to compassion. See the highs of life for the wonder they are and the lows as lessons in progress. See people as complex creatures of creativity, capable of constructing starlight into spectacular accounts of science and history, all while admiring the purity of the night sky. People are complicated. We are complicated. Your life is complicated. Full of anguish and elation, emotions that present themselves so strongly in the soul, life requires us to feel one in order to feel the other. Sorrow comes after loss, because we were able to love to deeply. Anger comes because the broken bliss that came from peace was so powerful.

Feeling through emotions is vital to maintaining a balanced life. An article published by Psychology Today explains the 3 main reasons why processing emotions, especially ones we don’t like is so important. They elaborate on the contrast between happiness and sadness, and note that when we numb one side of the spectrum, the other side also begins to numb. The second reason is since emotions work as signals to indicate how we feel about a situation, negative emotions serve as indicators that an area of our life needs attention. Taking the time to think about what that area is, and why it’s making you feel a certain way will help you move forward instead of trapping those negative feelings for a long period of time. The final reason they offer, is the energy it takes to run from unwanted emotion drains the mind and body. It consumes you to the point that the balance of your life can become disrupted and you become unable to focus on what is most important. So take the time that you need to figure out the root cause of your stress, your anger, your frustration, your pain. Process it. Feel it. Then you can begin to move forward.

But how do we move forward when we feel so defeated by the world around us? What do you do when life hits you with one thing after the other until you can’t help but stay on the ground because the strength you had to keep standing back up is gone? Rest. Love. Rest.

When we are hurt, really hurt, we need to make a point to take time off. It can feel impossible at first with our busy schedules, and when the rest of the world looks like they’re doing just fine. You might feel like you need to keep pushing through the pain and just keep going. You do not. Take time off. Even if you can only carve out a few hours in your schedule to decompress, take it. Do nothing, sleep, read something that makes you feel good, bake some cookies, watch a movie. Make a point to give yourself rest and make a point to show yourself love. If you do not take the time now, your mind and body will force you to later, as your emotions continue to build, you will reach a point where you can’t deal with suppression anymore.

Then remember love. Remember to show yourself love through the process of healing, and remember to show others love. While a few of the people close to you might understand how you feel during a difficult period of your life, most people won’t understand the layers of your situation. Similarly you won’t understand their’s. People are not one dimensional, and our problems rarely are too. They result from a series of decisions and actions which all leads to where you’re at right now. Remember to love. Remember to love those who try to understand but can’t. Remember to love those who appear unkind, because they are probably also enduring their own personal battles. We just see a glimpse of most people’s lives. A few seconds, a few hours, a few conversations. Meet them with love. Remember they had an entire existence up until the moment your paths intersected, an entire story, layered with love, and loss, and light. Just like you. Meet them with love.

Meet your anger with love. Process your feelings, then show them love. Show them you will work to resolve whatever the trigger of their release. See the world as the magnificent collection of star dust and chaos that it is. Accept what must be accepted. Overcome what you know must be challenged. Believe in yourself, for you have won so many battles already. Believe in everyone else too. Your neighbor is a beautiful creature of hope. Hope that the elements of the universe can meet and bind as a complicated person full of complicated problems, and those same elements make up flowers, and stars, and trees, and you.

View the world through a lens of love. Soften your anger with compassion. Level your head with understanding. Ease your pain through facing it head on. Most of us on this tiny blue planet are just doing the best we can to be the best we can be. You can find peace again, no matter where you’re at, through love.

Conscientious Consumerism Part 3: Self Care Through Sustainability+A Book Review

For the third installment of the “Conscientious Consumerism” series, we will explore how the process of incorporating sustainable practices can and should serve as tools to help you find more peace in a fast-paced, stuff-centric world. It shouldn’t be an overwhelming experience, but rather a journey of self discovery about what you value in life and more importantly, what you don’t. If you haven’t checked out the first and second installments, they are full of tips for sustainable swaps to help you get started.

In the wake of growing climate crisis, it’s more important than ever to be conscious of how we consume products and media. Every decision you make has an impact, and the collective power of more and more people demanding sustainable options is changing the present market. Many mainstream grocery stores now carry more varieties of plant based milks, cheeses, and meat substitutes than ever before. New and old brands alike are developing biodegradable packaging. The rising popularity of thrift stores and upcycling is creating new markets and diversifying our styles and economy. Your choices add to the collective whole and they do have the power to make an impact. You make an impact.

Madeleine Olivia is a YouTuber, activist, and expert when it comes to the process of learning how to lead a life that is more sustainable, but still functional for your unique needs. Her new book, Minimal: How To Simplify Your Life And Live Sustainably, launched on January 9, 2020. The book is a complete beginner’s guide to living a life more mindful of the how your daily choices impact the planet, and how they impact your own wellness. The 8 chapters cover topics from how to declutter your wardrobe, to the eco-impacts of food industry, to becoming a mindful traveler, to sustainable self care. Chock-full of information to help you understand the current state of the planet, and explanations for how your everyday actions really do make a difference, Madeleine answers almost every question you might have about how to start a journey into minimalism- even including worksheets and graphics to guide you along. She also writes her story through the lens of someone who has been through process, keeping the content relatable and understanding. She is consistent in reminding readers that while it is not practical for everyone to commit to everything she writes about, everyone can and should do something. Doing what you can, with what you have, until you are in a position to do better.

Minimal is a wonderful guide to understand how the process of becoming a conscientious consumer can help you bring more peace into your own life while having a more positive impact on the planet. Today, we will delve into how including mindful practices can help you to feel more connected with yourself in a world that is pushing us to move faster and faster to the next new thing.

5 ways living more mindfully of the planet also serves your best interest:

  1. More Personalization: The best part about switching to reusable products is the ability to personalize them TO THE MAX. Have fun with your sustainable swaps. Investing in some reusable bags to take shopping with you? There are so many options to find some that can serve as an expression of your personality. Get some in your favorite color. Get some with your favorite characters on them (I definitely have a Spider-Man grocery bag). Get ones with plant prints or as souvenirs after concerts. Same goes for reusable cups, straws, silverware, lunch bags, etc. When you rid yourself of the bland single use plastic, covered in branding, you can pick fun items that are one time investments. They will save you money in the long run, and allow you to have in little fun in the process of helping the planet.
  2. Taking Back Your Time: Time is the most valuable asset we have. We all have a limited amount of it to spend, but we don’t know how much that is. Life is so short. We live in a world that is pushing us to keep up with an impossible rate of change. New clothes, new food, new makeup, new movies, new books, new classes, new jobs, new, new, new. Reinvent yourself. New you, means a better you. No. It doesn’t. You are wonderful just as you are. We are, at our core, all so diverse and beautiful in our own light. You don’t need to reinvent yourself, or feel the pressure to keep up with a world that releases a new product every few seconds. Personal growth should be focused on how you feel and what actually makes you happy. Focus your energy on experiences, not things. Focus your time on what really brings you joy. The timeline society has created for us to follow is not real. Everyone’s journey through life is unique to their own stories. Very few people follow the “mainstream story” where they graduate college in 4 years, get a job, get married with 2 kids by 30, have a house, then retire at 65 after working with the same company for 40 years. Very, very few. But that is what makes life beautiful. Your life is yours to live, and eliminating the mindset that you need to keep up with the latest fads, or that buying things is what will get you to where you want to be will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but free you to enjoy your life for what it is. The beautiful story that is yours, and yours alone. Take back your time, and say no to anyone or anything that makes you feel like you are “not keeping up.” There is nothing to keep up with. There is only following your heart towards what you love.
  3. Healthier Finances: Slowing down in a world constantly pushing and shoving those to the side who don’t play their game of “keep up” can seem like a daunting task. What you will find in the long run, is that your ability to navigate what actually makes you happy as opposed to what makes big corporations happy, is quite a bit of money saved over the long term. Not only are take-out meals, new clothes, new decor, and consistent habits of purchasing detrimental to the environment, they keep us stuck in a pattern of spending money. Stuff does not fill the emptiness within us. Exploring our own feelings, experiences, and spending time with those who are important to us will. That is what matters. As you learn to question what products you actually like, and what you actually need, you will find yourself spending less money. These savings can be spent on experiences with your friends, checking something off your bucket list you couldn’t afford before, or just as some breathing room in case things get tough financially. Purchases you do make, should be viewed as investments. Asking questions like, “Will this last a long time? What kind of quality is it? Does it serve a purpose?” are all great places to start when deciding if a purchase is an investment in your future or something that will be tossed out in a year. Changing your consumption perspective from buyer to investor will help you save the planet while saving your wallet.
  4. Connecting With New People: As you delve further into your journey of conscientious consumerism, you’ll notice that there are more people than you might have thought who also care deeply about the welfare of the planet. Attending meetups for vegans, local climate protests, or shopping small can help you to meet incredible people in your area who you might have never met before. Shopping small is one way to support your local economy, and small businesses tend to have a lower carbon footprint than big business. Go into your local stores. See what they have. Talk to local artists. Follow them on social media. Get inspired by the people around you, and you might find that there is so much more wonder in your community than you could have ever dreamed. Even shopping for plant based proteins (which impact the environment significantly less than animal protein) at the regular grocery store has lead to some interesting conversations with people that turned out to become the highlight of my day. Connect with people. Come together and talk about the climate crisis. Learn about their favorite sustainable tips or brands or second hand shops nearby.
  5. Developing A More Balanced Mindset: When we start caring about the planet, the animals, plants, and other people who inhabit it, it becomes easier to care a little more about our own health. You are worthy of a space that is comfortable. A space that is clean, and safe, and brings you peace. You are worthy of being taken care of. To take care of yourself is an act of rebellion in a time that values working past the point of exhaustion. The earth is a valuable, living, interconnected web of wonders. That web includes you too. You are wonderful. The act of slowing down to take care of the planet is a radical step, but one that will help you see that you are also worthy of radical love. Leaving an extra two minutes early to give the baristas at the coffee shop time to fill your refill cup with your favorite coffee is a seemingly small, but powerful act. You have defied the rush of the day to carve out time for yourself. You’ve saved money by getting a refill price. You’ve eliminated the waste of a cup. You’ve taken the time to balance your needs and your wants. Balance. Knowing that the smallest acts add up to a greater impact on the planet, especially when done collectively, is powerful knowledge. In the same vein, small acts of self-kindness add up too. Forgive yourself more. Take back your time. See that you are a part of this planet, and therefore also worth the time and energy to develop.

The planet is in dire need of attention. While massive systemic change will be necessary for long lasting improvements, the choices we as consumers make everyday influence the decisions those who have the power to make those decisions. No act of sustainability is too small. Every item that is reused, every single use plastic avoided, every meatless Monday makes a difference.

Not everyone can walk to work. Living in a more rural area, it would be impossible for me to walk anywhere that wasn’t for the sole purpose of going for a walk. There are people who do live in places where walking or public transit is a viable option, and they can include that as part of their sustainability practices. Some people cannot go entirely plant based due to other dietary restrictions, cultural reasons, or limited access to food. Many people can limit their meat consumption to once per day, or to a few times per week. It’s all about finding the right balance for you and your life. It’s about rejecting a society that tells you your worth is based on the stuff in your home. Your worth is not defined by how you look, what you wear, or where you are. You are defined by the love that is in your heart. By the actions you take everyday. By the words you speak and the wonder you create. You are enough, just as you are.

No matter where you’re at on your sustainability journey- whether just starting today, or a 50 year enthusiast- trying your best to be your best is what matters most. Your actions matter. You matter. Every choice impacts this planet, and your power to make a difference is beyond measure.

Be sure to check out our previous articles on Conscientious Consumerism for sustainability tips and tricks.

For plant-based recipes and sustainable-living hacks head over to Madeleine Olivia’s YouTube Channel, and pick up her book Minimal: How To Simplify Your Life And Live Sustainably, for a full guide on the life and planet changing power of minimalism.

“Situational Best”: What Does It Mean+Ending Toxic Self Comparison

Life gets tough. “To-do” lists get long, tragedies happen, life changes, you change. Our ability to deal with change changes. That’s okay. We often see the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” floating through Instagram and Pinterest boards. When we consider those words, we tend to think about them in the context of comparing ourselves to others. It serves as an important reminder to ground our mindset regarding where we feel we are in our lives compared to where others are in theirs. Personal success has an intimate definition that is unique to everyone, and focusing on what brings you love, and light, and joy will help you to manifest your dreams in a much more positive way than through spite or harnessing disappointment, because you don’t resemble someone else. The flip side to that quote, which is equally important to keep in mind, is to not compare your present abilities to those of your past or future self.

What do we mean by resisting the urge to compare your present abilities to your past and future self? You can only do the best to your abilities in this present moment with the resources, knowledge, and time you have to work with. Those key factors play a large role in the outcome of a situation. When reflecting on your past self, you might feel that you were able to accomplish more at a different part of your life. Maybe you were faster at reading, or juggled more activities, or read more books, or woke up earlier, or cooked from scratch everyday, or went out with your friends more, or were more involved in your community than you are now. If any of these, or whatever it is that you feel you did better in the past than you do now, is weighing down on you, let it go. Your life circumstances have also probably changed immensely since then. Have you had financial troubles? Personal traumas? Health issues? Changes in daily routines? Moved? Expanded your family? You are at a different place in your life, and because things are different now, does not make you less of a person, and does not make the work that you do accomplish any less worthy of celebration.

When you think of your future self in relation to your present self, approach it with a similar mindset. It can become overwhelming and discouraging to constantly stay in a mindset of escaping your present life for the dream of a new one. Thoughts like, “Once I get this promotion it will all be better,” “Once I finish this project I can finally be happy,” “Once I finish school everything will be okay,” “Once I move to this place I will finally be happy,” are all examples of extreme cases of comparing your present self to your future self. These types of thoughts place a heavy emphasis on your happiness relying on the outcome of a future external event. When your personal peace does not originate from an internal source, it becomes unstable. If things don’t work out or get prolonged, then the emotional consequences can be devastating. Overarching peace stems from within you, and from your ability to appreciate the wonderful love you have to share everyday. Thoughts that place your happiness largely on the outcome of how future events turn out, also limit your ability to appreciate what is good in your life right now.

This does not mean you shouldn’t plan for the future. Plan. Create goals. Dream big. Dream so big that the entire world can’t contain those dreams. You can do anything you set your mind to. However, it is important to not put off working on those dreams, because you are waiting to get to where you want to be to start working on them. Start working on them today. Start with the resources you have. Do not think that your present self is incapable of greatness, and that your future self will be the one who will take you to your dream destination. Begin today. For more details on how to get started on that project that is burning in your heart, even if you don’t feel ready, check out our article “Begin The Climb, Even If You Don’t Have The Gear.”

You have so many beautiful and wondrous thoughts and ideas every single day. Even if you feel that your thoughts don’t matter or won’t get you very far because you won’t be able to make extensive progress on your goals at this present time, that does not mean you shouldn’t start. Do what you can with what you have to work with. Then when you can do better, do. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not in the position you want to be yet. Don’t put off starting something altogether because you don’t have all the tools you need to execute it in the exact way you want yet. If you wait until you are ready, the ideas might slip, the right time might pass, or the window of opportunity might fade.

This brings us to the main point of the week. It is okay to work on somethings at your situational best. If you have a vision in your mind of what you want your life to look like, or how you want a specific project to turn out, it is okay to work on it, even if you can not make it look like the final image you are trying to achieve yet. Starting somewhere is better than not starting at all. Challenging self imposed perfectionism is an extremely difficult battle. What’s important to remember is that you are doing the best you can do given the resources at your disposal, the time frame you have to work with, and the knowledge you have about the situation at hand. Maybe your past self would have done something “better.” However, you can’t know that. Your past self hasn’t seen what you’ve seen or felt what you’ve felt. Your past self might have frozen in the face of some challenges your present self is dealing with. Maybe your future self would be able to handle this more efficiently. However, if your future self hadn’t learned how to be resourceful through making the best of tough situations, they wouldn’t know how to act so efficiently either.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” You can only do what is possible in the now, but make the absolute best of your now. Learn from your mistakes. Forgive yourself for setbacks. Allow yourself time to rest. Enjoy the present. The present is your experience of life. It is your feelings, it is your thoughts, it is your place in the world. It is where you’re at. You are here, and what you are doing is wonderful, because it comes from inside you.

Too Much Self-Improvement?: The Balance Between Goal-Getting And Life-Loving

*Disclaimer: This article is purely addressing the “self-help” industry, NOT advice/counsel provided by licensed medical professionals, psychiatrists, counselors, etc. If you have concerns about your current course of treatment or what has been discussed in sessions, please have a detailed discussion with your provider. Professionals have been trained, certified, and have the time to manage cases one-on-one. This article discusses the open access to advice given by anyone, through a variety of formats, regardless of credentials. I am NOT a licensed mental health professional. I am just someone trying to make the best of tough situations, and share those thoughts as a way to help others who might be in similar positions not feel so alone.

Think about how many times you’ve ever said, “I need to get my life together.” Do you binge watch self-improvement videos, reread self-help books, or share 300 quotes on Pinterest to get you ready to “get it together”? Do you rearrange your furniture? Do you buy a planner and fill out the next few days full of productive activity? What’s your go to method for getting it all together? Why don’t you feel better after a few days into your self-improvement journey?

Self-improvement, self-care, self-love, self-acceptance, self-help, all trending topics over the last few years, and especially in the first month of the new year. We are taught from a young age, that life is a journey of continual growth. There is something new to learn everyday. Someway to improve your work. It can always be better. Nothing is perfect. Anyone ever have a teacher who never gave 100% because, “There is always room for improvement”? This mindset while beneficial in some cases is also damaging in others.

This is becoming a little existential, so let’s start breaking it down. Too much strive is toxic. No drive at all, and then what? Never work towards anything? Simply seek contentment? This is a strange topic to discuss on a website that’s all about the power of positivity and personal growth. We’ve put forth a lot of questions, so let’s dive into the research.

In the US alone, the “self-improvement” market is worth an estimated $11 billion. This includes products, retreats, events, books, CDs, apps, etc., that try and motivate people mentally, spiritually, physically, or in any way want to influence people to improve in an area of their life. This statistic can be seen as both a positive and negative reflection on where our society is at. Since I prefer to think positively, let’s dissect this figure with our rose-colored glasses on first. Clearly, a lot of Americans are looking to improve in some way or another, and this number illustrates that they are finding answers to whatever questions they might have. This number also shows that there is hope for a society often seen as lost. People looking to improve, wanting to do better, is crucial to actually doing better. It shows that we are not content with the troubled state of where we are, and that we know there is so much more we can give. Sometimes we just need help to figure out how to get to the next level, and that’s okay.

Time to take off those rosy glasses. To quote the iconic modern poet Atticus, “I worry there is something broken in our generation; there are so many sad eyes on happy faces.” Are we a generation eternally trapped under the pressure of never being “enough”? Why are we seeking $11 billion worth of self-improvement? And here’s the not so nice reality of analyzing that enormous number. With that much content out for consumption, how can we guarantee that what is for sale is quality, accurate, and helpful? The truth is, we can’t. However, people are smart, and can determine what sources of media best serve their needs and their unique situations. (With that much content comes plenty of variety.) Trouble arises when people who are experiencing pain, who feel lost, get taken advantage of by companies trying to profit off people who are in a place of hurt, rather than provide genuine help. Research the media you consume. Self-help doesn’t always come from a kind place.

Here are some key questions you can ask to determine if a source is something you should continue to follow as a place of inspiration:

  • Where is it coming from?
  • Who is creating this?
  • Why are they producing this content?
  • What do I have to gain from consuming it?
  • What do they have to gain from me consuming it?
  • Is this worth incorporating into my life?
  • How can I use this information in my life?
  • Does this make me feel better or worse about myself?

These questions can help you to filter what content will actually serve you, and what content will harm you, or is eating up your time unnecessarily. Follow and consume content that genuinely inspires you to do good, and makes you feel good about yourself. Unfollow and get rid of anything that isn’t genuinely fueling your soul, makes you feel worse about yourself, makes you jealous, anxious, or feel like you aren’t enough. Balance is the key. Don’t write off self-help, because the self-improvement community is full of some incredible and genuine people, striving to create a real impact. This community has broken down barriers to discussing topics like burnout, depression, anxiety, positive self-talk, body positivity, the list goes on and on. So much good comes out of exploring your own potential. As with anything in life, just be mindful of the time you spend on it, and where you get your information from.

Why is too much self-help toxic? If anything, the constant mindset of growth and development should keep us in a place of balance and positive thinking. When we constantly strive for something more, we forget to enjoy what we have. In times of darkness, there are still small things to be grateful for. In times of prosperity, even more to be grateful for. Sometimes, we still don’t find it to be enough and keep looking for the next best thing. That’s when the cycle begins to get dangerous. When we find ourselves, never content with what we have, and always focusing our energy on what’s coming next. Take time to enjoy what you have worked for. You set goals, you achieved them. Take in that moment, and just feel that for a while before going on to the next project. The mindset that you always need to be creating, and working, and moving to the next phase takes away from fully embracing where you are at right now. Balance. Working towards your goals while living for the present.

In his article, “The Disease of More,” Mark Manson (best-selling author of The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life), discusses the notion that in the early stages of life, our own personal growth is somewhat linear. As we learn how to take care of ourselves, learn to read, master skills, obtain a job, the trajectory of our growth feels as if we are on an upward path. Then at a certain point, life is no longer about growth, but “trade-offs.” Essentially, once you become a fully functional human, and establish yourself in a field, you don’t grow anymore, you simply trade time. If you learn something new then you give up time that could have been spent advancing in an area you already excel at, or vice versa.

This theory, while interesting, failed to get to give up on the self- help industry altogether. The main point of contention I have with the argument is that growth begins as linear. Life is full of ups, downs, and twists, and everyone’s path is always different. Life never has been linear. Life can be seen as a series of trade-offs, as perpetual growth, as a circle, a spiral, whatever metaphor you choose, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how we define the path of our actions. What matters is the actions or the inaction we take. What matters is if what you do everyday makes you feel good. If you are being true to your authentic self. If you are kind to others. If you are doing the best you can with what you have to work with.

There is nothing wrong with wanting more from your life. Wanting to become the vision of what you know in your heart you can become. You should want to achieve those goals, create those goals, chase those goals. There is also nothing wrong in seeking guidance from others when you need it. Surround yourself with positive light. Take in the ideas of people who share their thoughts and experiences. Digest them. If there are resources or programs that help you to feel good about yourself, and help to inspire you to become the best version of yourself take full advantage of them. Keep working towards your dreams, but don’t forget that where you’re at is also just as beautiful as where you are going.

Inspiration for the Uninspired

Inspiration is all around us. It’s hidden in moments of the everyday. The golden color that glows around the flowers at sunset, the smell of rain in the city, the early morning conversations about the day to come, the view of the valley sliced in half with a set of never ending train tracks, all hidden inspiration. What inspires you is a personal and intimate experience. Sometimes elaborate works of art, complex problems of war, or stories of triumph inspire us to create. Other times, the tiniest details ignite the soul and set the mind ablaze.

While the world flourishes with lovely moments everyday, when our own lives become clouded, or we experience difficult times of pain, disinterest, or frustration, it can become near impossible to see that the tools we need to escape these ruts are scattered all around us. Whether you are looking for creative inspiration, the motivation to get work done, or to just feel inspired to embrace the warmth of life again, there are ways to seek out what you need to feel re-energized and excited about what’s to come again.

This week we examine a list of methods to find inspiration when you feel lost:

  1. Free Write: Utilize writing as a tool for catharsis. Get down what you’re feeling on paper. All of what you are feeling. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, format, just write. You can write your thoughts as a list, a stream of consciousness, an essay, however you write is okay, just do it. Write about what you’re feeling in this moment. Talk about how you are feeling stuck, why you are feeling trapped, what is it you want to overcome, and why you think you can not. Then write about how you see yourself once you are out of the rut. Where do you want to be? Visualize it. See that image in your mind and describe it in such vivid detail that if you didn’t know it hadn’t happened yet, you’d think it already had. Now you have down on paper where you are, and where you want to go. One place, one writing session, one document holding your vision and reality. Research shows that expressive writing can help to reduce stress and promote clearer thinking. Why this happens is at the moment unclear, but scientists currently think a combination of factors contribute to the freedom felt after writing your current story on paper. One of those reasons is that in writing down what’s going on that is troubling you, your brain is automatically stimulated- forced into the creative process, because you need to reconstruct the details of your life into a story format. Writing is stimulating and gets the brain working, while allowing you to express the feelings and events of your life free of judgement. You are forcing yourself to process what is happening to you, while engaging in the creative process. Free writing might just be the perfect first step you need to clarify your situation and find inspiration once again.
  2. Create a Mood Board: Another tactic to try is creating a mood board. You can do this during times when you are inspired, so it’s ready to go with ideas and feelings that evoke a sense of wonder on days when your interest dwindles. You can also create one on days when you don’t feel your best. It can be a visual method of laying out how you feel and what you want to feel when you don’t know what your next move is going to be. You can create a physical mood board if you have the time and resources to do so. Things to think about when piecing it together include: color story, texture, images, and layout. Select images that speak to you, but don’t over think anything. Look through photos you’ve taken as well as other sources for inspiration. While looking through your old photographs you might remember times that brought you joy, or peace, or love, or sadness, or hope, and inspiration might start flowing through the process of creating the board. You might find more inspiration from searching for images and pieces to include from other sources as well. You can also create a digital mood board with tools such as Canva or Pinterest. Whatever your medium, mood boards are creative tools for visual expression of where you’re at.
  3. Get Out: If you feel caught up in your head, change your physical location to help clear your mind. Go somewhere new, somewhere you don’t normally go. Change your physical routine, to change the routine of your thoughts. Find a place to walk outside that isn’t your usual spot. Or if you don’t go outside often, spend sometime outdoors. Breathe in the fresh air. Take in the landscape. Embrace a brief change of scenery. Try a new restaurant, go to a store you’ve never been in before, see a different part of town that you don’t often pass through. You don’t need to buy anything, or even like what you see, but experiencing something different from the norm of your everyday will awaken your senses.
  4. Talk it Out: Reach out to your friends and family when you are feeling unmotivated. You can ask them for help, or just talk to them about anything at all. Ask them how they are doing, how they are feeling. Find out what is new in their life. It will take your mind off whatever is weighing on you, and will help you to focus your attention onto something new. It will break your fixation from the task at hand and focus you onto something new. The break might be what you need to see how to solve your problem later on. If you end up discussing your own feelings of frustration, they might be able to offer a solution. If their ideas don’t help, at least you’ve begun the brainstorming process with a fresh set of eyes. Your friends care about you, just like you care about them. If they were feeling stuck and trapped, you would want to help them too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
  5. Do Something Unrelated to What You Want to Accomplish: Similar to distracting your mind with conversation, distract it with another project entirely. Do something you enjoy, unrelated to what you want to accomplish and focus your attention completely on that project. You can draw, read, watch a movie, clean, listen to a podcast, ride a bike, paint your nails, play with your dog, bake a cake, anything that isn’t what you are already trying to do. When you give your mind a break from thinking about the solutions to your problems, you give it a chance to just take in what’s happening. To experience those everyday moments that are inspiring. You might think of the answer to your questions, during this time and you might not. Either way, you will feel better after taking time away to do something for yourself. You don’t have to figure everything out right now to still enjoy life. This exercise will help you to see that it’s okay to move on from something and come back to it later.
  6. Track Your Progress: Keep documentation of your progress on your projects. This can be as detailed as a fully flushed journal entry every day about what you did and how you feel about it, or as simple as a bullet list of what you accomplished to achieve your long term goal. This will help you to monitor your progress over time, examine where you have been, and determine if you are on track to get to where you want to be. It is also encouraging to see how far you have come on days you feel you have nothing to offer. You have armed yourself with a record of your work, and reassurance that you will eventually rebound to keep making progress. If today you are uninspired and don’t already have a log of your journey, start now. Think about all you’ve done to get to where you are, at write it down to look at. Then from here on out, continuously update the list. Reflection is a powerful tool to help you remember your purpose for your project, take pride in your accomplishments, and rekindle the fire in your heart.

Some days a simple “motivational quote” is enough to get us going. Some days, a few words someone said when they were having a good day isn’t enough to get us through. And that’s okay. You, and your problems, and your life, and your passions are so much more complex than a few sentences or a list of feel-good ideas. What’s important to remember when you are feeling uninspired by the world, is that emotions (good and bad) are temporary. You will get through this period of uncertainty, this deeply dug rut. Inspiration is all around us. You are an inspiration. The work you do is important. The words you speak matter. The life you are living has beauty. Even on days you feel empty, you are so full of life. The periods of darkness will end. You will find your spirit again. You can do anything, right where you’re at.