“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.

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.

The Entrepreneur Mindset: Building A Business By Embracing Your Community

Starting a business is scary. So are most major life changes. Changing careers, going back to school, moving, expanding your family, trying a new hobby, joining a gym, breaking your routine is a scary process. It’s uncomfortable and overwhelming, and it might feel like you don’t know anything about what it is you’re trying to do. Do it anyway. Begin the process. Learn as you go. Struggle. Learn more. Overcome. Learn more. Reflect and be proud of how far you have come from the first day you were scared to try something new.

Of course when it comes to a major financial investment like starting a business, take the time to do your research. Prepare as best as you can before you dive into applying for loans and pouring all your money into your big idea. But, if you have an idea that keeps you up at night, that lights a fire in your soul, chase it! There are people and resources in your community who can help guide you through the process. They want you to succeed. When you grow, you bring your passionate love to your community, and it only enriches the place you live. People want to see their cities blossom. They want to see you bloom.

In areas that are not typically seen as major business hubs like New York or Chicago, it might seem impossible to move and idea from planning to production. Many people in small towns complain there aren’t jobs let alone the resources to open a business from the bottom up. While investors might not have a building on every street like the in the big cities, they are present and actively looking for the best and brightest to grow their region. You are the best and you are the brightest. The first step to realizing your dreams is to start talking to people in your area. Open up to them and discuss what your goals are. Learn about their goals and what they do too. Maybe you can help each other, or you know someone who can help them, and they know someone who can help you.

In the North East Pennsylvania region, many locals often see the area as a washed-up, frozen, once-was, coal town. They have given up on the potential this beautiful community has to offer. The city of Scranton has a gorge with stunning views right in the middle of the city. The art scene is a growing and thriving component to the area that is literally brightening the streets with color to awaken the locals and show them how talented they all are. If you wanted to open a business, this is the place to do it.

On November 8, 2019 the 17th annual Entrepreneurship Institute Conference took place at Lackawanna College in downtown Scranton. The event was sponsored by tecBRIDGE, an organization committed to “growing entrepreneurship, innovation, and the knowledge economy in NEPA.” Several speakers provided their expert advice in workshops on networking, mindful living, website marketing, strategic business planning, and much more. More than the technical knowledge offered at the event was the opportunity to see the developers and creatives (established and rising alike) working to bring their dreams to life in a community often seen as decaying. Prior to this year, I had never even heard of tecBRIDGE, this conference, or most of the incredible projects that were discussed at the event. Seeking opportunity in your community is key. Often times there is more around you than you think, and if you don’t find what you need, then that is the perfect space for you to come in and innovate to create change.

Pennsylvania isn’t the only place with the potential for booming businesses outside of the typical corporate cities. In a piece published by Forbes, they list the top 10 small cities entrepreneurs can find success. Who made the cut? Cities ranging from Holland, Michigan to Cheyenne, Wyoming to Aberdeen, South Dakota. These areas embrace their natural features and market them to their fullest. In Holland, MI locals and tourists can walk along white sandy beaches, go for a hike, visit an art walk, and experience the world renowned Tulip Time Festival all in the same day. There are beautiful and unique characteristics within towns across the world. Everywhere has the potential to become a hub for growth. It just takes the people to believe in their neighbors, and to believe in themselves to make it happen.

It doesn’t matter if you live in the middle of nowhere or if you live in the center of largest business centers in the nation. What matters is you, and you matter. Get out and meet people, see what they’re doing to enrich your community. Learn from them and get new ideas. Keep trying your best, because consistency is key. Radical change will not happen overnight, but the slow growth you will see in your community when you begin to involve yourself in it will be awe inspiring. The more you invest in your projects, the more you yourself will grow. Your mindset will change from one of longing to escape your reality to one of hope to build your reality. Create change. You are capable of accomplishing so many wondrous feats. You can do anything, from right where you’re at.