“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.

When Your Best Isn’t Enough

If you have done the very best you can do, no one can ask any more of you- not even yourself.

Sometimes you try the best you can, you give your absolute all, and it’s just not enough. It’s crushing. Devastating. It’s the setback in life that hurts the most. How do you pick up and try to do better next time when you gave everything you had to give?

First of all, recognize that you did your best. You gave your all, and that is enough. Be proud of the work you did, because even if it was unsuccessful, or no one else saw it, or they did and it didn’t matter to them, you gave it everything you had. That is crucial. Reflect on everything you did right, not with resentment, but with a love for the work you did and a love for yourself. If you have done the very best you can do, no one can ask any more of you, not even yourself.

Next, get upset. After the initial shock of failure, then processing it through the lens of recognizing your work, grieve the loss of the effort you put in. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to get angry. It’s okay to question why this happened, and to feel hurt by rejection, or dismissal, or ignorance. Process that pain, and feel it in its entirety. You put your whole heart out into your work, and you put your time, and energy, and your intellect out on display only to have it be turned away. It’s okay to get upset.

After you’ve processed that pain, it’s time to analyze. You’ve reflected on everything that you’ve done right, you’ve felt through the wrongness of the situation, and now your head and heart have a clear space to freely analyze the what happened. If you plan on trying again, what went wrong? Where can you make changes? Can you tweak the project? Does it need fundamental changes? Was it just a fluke? If the next step is to move forward to something new, analyze the specific reason for the downfall, and brainstorm a list of ideas as to how to prevent it from happening again.

Sometimes in life we encounter roadblocks. But when we put out best foot forward and it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t feel like a road block. It’s more like a bridge on our life path crumbled while we were crossing it. And sometimes it’s your fault for choosing an old, rickety bridge to cross, sometimes it’s the bridge builder’s fault for building it with cheap materials, and sometimes it’s no one’s fault at all. Sometimes things just happen. What matters is how we respond to them. Will you lie in the river and let the current take you away? Will you swim out, and climb back up to the top? Or will you find a new path at the edge of the river? It’s up to you how to proceed.

Always try your best, because when you do, no one can ask anymore of you- not even yourself. When you do your best and it doesn’t work out how you hoped it would, do not let it deter you from doing your best in the future. People will respect you for trying your hardest and failing, much more than they will for only doing half the work and sort of succeeding. You will respect yourself more for trying your best, than if you only put in the minimal effort. If things don’t work out, you will know in heart you gave everything you had, and will be able to move onto other endeavors without regrets about how you handled yourself. You can not control the actions of anyone else but yourself. When you put your best foot forward it will pay off. Consistency, hard work, passion. Let them flourish in you. Take the time you need to heal from a set back, and then forge your new path that will take you to heights you may have never imagined you’d see. No matter where your path has taken you, split off, diverged, or turned around, you will find your way. You can accomplish so much with the vision that is in your heart. You can do anything, right where you’re at.

Conscientious Consumerism Part Two: Holiday Edition

The holidays are here and consumer spending on goods and services are at their annual peak. A study discussed by Stanford University, explained Americans alone throw away an average of 25% more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Years than any other time of year. This year, make a point to limit your footprint this holiday season as a gift to the earth. This week is a continuation of the “Conscientious Consumerism” series (a follow up to a previous article Conscientious Consumerism: Why The Smallest Steps Towards Sustainability Are Still Important). The simplest and smallest acts of mindfulness regarding sustainability have the power to create monumental change when we come together to create a greener, cleaner planet. Below are a few ways you can make a big impact this holiday season.

  1. Compost That Christmas Tree: Don’t let your tree end up in a landfill this year. If you get a real tree, check out your local government’s web-page to find out about curb side tree collection. Trees can be reused as materials for flood barricades, mulch, or composted. You can also compost or break it down for mulch yourself if you are planning on gardening come Spring. However you choose to dispose of your tree, make sure it gets a second use! If you are ever unsure about how to recycle something visit Earth911. Type in your zip code and what you want to recycle (anything at all, not just Christmas trees!) and it will tell where and how it can be done.
  2. Mindful Gifting: With sales and deals and steals in all the stores, it can hard to resist snatching up all those stocking stuffers. When you pick out gifts for everyone on your list this year, don’t spend money for the sake of spending money. Instead invest in fewer items that you know your loved ones will appreciate and use for a long time to come. Some extremists argue for a gift free holiday to save the planet, but there is a balance between excess and nothing. I enjoy shopping during the holiday season because I get to really think about all the people in my life. What do they like? What are the best parts of them? What brings them joy? When you are mindful about others when shopping, you will have a less stressful shopping experience, probably spend less on filler gifts, waste less on things that won’t get used, and you’ll remember all the best parts of your friends and family. I have some gifts I have received in the past that I have used for years, and will continue to use. Don’t feel bad about purchasing a gift for someone that will go to good use.
  3. Shop Small: Find some out-of-the-box gift ideas by shopping small and avoiding the high-waste, fast-fashion, fad-filled, big businesses this year. Did your friends start a business this year? Support them. Their business will grow which will enrich your own community, and the carbon footprint of a small business is often much smaller than corporate enterprises. Here’s a list of sustainable small business’s in each state! Search online for small business that also support causes you believe in. Bravery, is a small business brand that sells wristbands made of wooden beads, with one a unique color of your choosing that corresponds with a charity. A portion of each sale goes directly to the charity of the color wristband purchased. Check out your local shops as well as online brands. Walk down the main street of your town or city and see what the people in your area are creating. They might have that perfect, unique gift you couldn’t find in the super stores for that special someone on your list. You might even be able to get a custom order from them. Find local artists, and commission a piece from them. You can totally win the holidays with the ultimate custom blanket, painting, or whatever interesting things the people around you are creating. Connect with your community this year and you might find the most magical items to share with your loved ones.
  4. Give The Gift Of Something To Do: Everyone complains about not having anything to do, especially in areas that aren’t super urbanized. This year don’t give another pile of sweaters that will lay dusty in the back of the closet and end up in the donation bin next year. Instead give the gift of a reason to go out. Think about the interests of those on your list. Get them concert tickets if they like music. If they like the outdoors, see if there are conferences on hiking, or gardening, or camping. If they like cooking get them a gift certificate to a cooking class. In Scranton, the beautiful and homey Vintage Kitchen, is a locally run small business that offers cooking and lifestyle classes for all ages. They offer courses for children and adults with categories that range from baking, to meal prepping, to waffles, to happy hours, to vegetarian nights, and so much more. Get them a certificate to sign up for something that interests them, or sign up to take a class together as a way to spend time with them this holiday. You could also reach out to a local photographer and schedule a photo shoot for them. Either make them a model for a day with a solo session, or create some beautiful memories with your significant other in a couples session. You could also have a fun friends shoot to remember the great times you shared together. Now-a-days you can customize super creative photo sessions, and have a fun, memorable experience that reflects who you and your friends are. The gift of something to do eliminates physical waste, and keeps the cheer going even after the day you swap presents.
  5. Gift Products That Encourage Sustainability: If you want to add in a few extra stocking stuffers, or need a few smaller gifts for people on your list, look into products that encourage sustainable habits. Reusable water bottles that have something from their favorite show or book on it would be a great idea. Bento boxes are great for a friend who wants to start meal prepping, eating out less, or just wants to use less waste when out and about. Bento&Co. has a variety of boxes to match every personality type, and several other kitchen gadgets to make on the go eating a breeze. House plants also make beautiful gifts, and don’t need to be thrown out like cut flowers. Consider a potted plant instead of a cut floral arrangement as a gift for your party hosts this year. Research brands, buy from companies who create products out of recycled materials, or who work to create a cleaner, more sustainable world.
  6. Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String: The marvelous Julie Andrews was onto something when she sang that famous line about her favorite things. This year, instead of buying wrapping paper that will get ripped up and thrown out in shreds after one use, buy brown paper that can be recycled. You can still keep the holiday cheer by decorating them with fun ribbon and bows (reuse any old ones you have and keep any on gifts you get this year to use for next year). If you have extra paper from last year still on a role, use that up first before buying new paper or bags. You already purchased it, so don’t let it go to waste or throw it out with out getting any use at all. You can also use gift bags instead of paper, and encourage those you give them to to keep them to reuse in the future for when they have to give a gift to someone.
  7. Meal Prep Your Holiday Feasts: The EPA estimates food waste during the holidays increases by 25%, and the National Resources Defense Council estimates on average annual food waste amounts to about $281 billion! To cut down on your holiday food waste this year, plan out your big dinners in advance. Write out a detailed menu, keeping in mind the apatite and diet of your guests. Start preparing your holiday meals in advance so you don’t end up stressed in the kitchen the day of, throwing together ingredients. Also make sure to take advantage of your ingredients. Use every piece from root to stem if you can. Get creative in the kitchen with left overs, and if you can’t get through them all, send them home with guests, or freeze them. The freezer will keep your dishes preserved much longer, and then you can get cozy with a bowl of your famous green bean casserole again in a week or two.
  8. Enjoy Every Moment: The holidays are a time to come together and be with the people you care about most. Treat those around with kindness. Have patience when you’re in traffic, be gentle when you wait in line to check out at the stores. When you slow down you’ll realize that this time of year isn’t about all of the physical things we get, the food, the parties, the decorations. It’s about taking time for the people in your life and being present with them. With that mindset, you’ll see it doesn’t matter if you scale back a little to help protect the planet. It’s okay to reuse decorations, and reuse wrapping paper, and turn off the Christmas lights an hour earlier, because what matters is embracing everyday. This time of year is one time where much of the world stops for a few moments to just be together. So go and be with the people you need to be with, because at midnight on New Years, business will be back to usual, and there’s no guarantee everyone will be around next holiday season.

There are many other ways you can make a difference environmentally during the holidays, but even a few steps in the right direction make an impact. If just 1000 more people compost their Christmas tree this year, that’s a major impact. If a few people give reusable water bottles as gifts, and the people who receive them start using those instead of disposable plastic ones, that impact is enormous. Be mindful, be present, be yourself. You have enormous potential, and your actions have the power to create beautiful change. You can make a difference no matter where you’re 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.

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.

Cleaning Your Space Through Clearing Your Mind: 9 Tips To Tidy Up

Depression and anxiety manifest in many forms, and sometimes they become so draining that keeping your home clean is overwhelming and seemingly impossible. Or maybe you have physical limitations that make doing more than a few tasks a day too much. Or maybe life is just really busy right now. I’ve been battling all of these obstacles for quite some time, and as much as I wish I could be a tidy and organized person, I am just not. However, I have not given up on my mission to devise a system that works for me, so this week I have composed a list of tips to help other people who just can’t seem to get organized either.

  1. Change Your Mindset Towards Cleaning: I saw a quote a long time ago floating around on Pinterest that changed my outlook on cleaning. The essence was this- You deserve to live in a space that is clean and comfortable. You have worth and are full of love and creativity and passion and are worthy of a place that reflects your finest features. When you haven’t been able to muster up the strength to start cleaning for a while, the mess can be overwhelming to say the least. You might be thinking, “what’s the point? I won’t finish, it’s been this way so long, it doesn’t matter anyway.” It does matter, and no matter how much of your space you can sort through, it will make a difference and you are worth it.
  2. Reward Yourself Before You Begin: You read that right. You made the decision to start this task and you deserve to be rewarded for that. Something small that will help you while cleaning is probably the best idea for a treat. Maybe grab your favorite drink to sip on while you work, pick out a movie to play in the background, a new candle to burn while your cleaning instead of waiting until your done. Some positive recognition for yourself that you have decided to finally do the thing will help you want to do it again in the future, and help make the actual work not so bad.
  3. Start With One Area: If the room your working on is in a real rough state, break it down by section or task. Maybe pick everything up off the floor. Or just begin with one table. Or do the entire closet. This way if you run out of steam or have to go because of other obligations, you have a better chance of completing that smaller scale project. That sense of completion will bring pride, and if you can’t get to the rest of the room it can help serve as a positive reminder that you are capable of finishing a project and you can and will do it again. Embrace your accomplishment and allow yourself to fully feel that pride from your achievement too- don’t dwell on the rest of the room that remains. You will get there.
  4. Dedicate One Spot In Each Room To Stay Clean: If you finish only one area, or when you finish getting a room nice and tidy, designate a clean spot for yourself. Maybe it will be the dresser, or a certain part of the kitchen counter, or the night stand, or the chair, pick one spot that you will commit to keeping clean. If you walk in the door, you will not just throw down your coat in the that spot, you won’t pile the laundry that needs folding there, nothing. If you keep up with this spot and make it a habit to break the urge to allow it to go back to being a mess, eventually you can work up to more spots, then a room, then more rooms, then your home. It will be a long process, and if you break the commitment, forgive yourself and think about why. Were you tired? Were you upset? Did you just not care? Remember, you are worthy of a space that is comfortable. A space you can move in, stretch out in, breathe in. Commit to one spot and commit to yourself.
  5. Work Whenever You Have A Sparkle Of Motivation: If you feel any urge at all to start tackling the mess that’s been calling you for months, jump of it. Even if it’s an inconvenient time, do what you can in the amount of time you have to work with. If you’re getting ready for work but your bathroom is too frustrating to get ready in, and for some reason right now is your breaking point, wipe out the sink while you swish your mouth wash. Clean off the mirror before you go. These small steps, while only a piece of needs to get done, will help you to feel better about your space, and help you feel better about taking care of your space.
  6. Remove Any Barriers To Tasks That Bother You: I am a texture person, and hate the feeling of grime and dust on my skin. I also can’t touch dirty dishes that are already in a sink. If they are on the counter next to the sink, that’s fine, but once they go in, I just can’t. The thought grosses me out, the texture of the slime that forms on them is repulsive in every way. To overcome this, I use cleaning gloves, so I don’t have to feel dust or grime on my skin when I wipe off particularly dirty surfaces. Or I place my dishes next to the sink, and try to skip the sink altogether by putting them straight in the dish washer after rinsing if it is empty. Similarly, if you don’t like the noise of a vacuum, get a pair of good noise canceling headphones or earplugs to help muffle the sound while you clean. If the smell of cleaning agents bothers you, look for ones with limited to no fragrance and wear a face mask. By identifying what it is about a task that hinders you from performing it, you can figure out a way to overcome that barrier. This can be such an empowering step. You are not lazy, you are trying, and now that you have eliminated the physical reasons a chore was difficult, it will be a little easier to start doing it more often.
  7. Stop When You’ve Had Enough: Once you feel the aches in your bones creeping in, or your brain starts shutting down because you’ve been at it for too long, stop. It’s okay if you don’t finish your whole list today. If you keep pushing yourself when you’ve hit your limit, that will only cause you to need time to recover from your efforts. Do not keep going. I have an autoimmune disorder that causes a lot of joint pain, and sometimes there are okay days and sometimes there are really bad days. I don’t want to turn an okay day into a bad one because the societal norm that you must always finish what you start or you are a failure. If you push your self past your limit just to say you got it done, you might end up doing more harm than good, and you won’t be able to keep up with the room you just cleaned. You can always come back once you have had some rest and finish organizing your space. When you wrap up your work, step back to admire what you did accomplish. This positive reinforcement will help you to continue to look at cleaning as something that you do to honor yourself instead of a chore that just needs to be done.
  8. Ask For Help: This is definitely the scariest and most uncomfortable piece of advice on this list. It can be hard to open up about what happens when life just seems to hit you all at once and then everything else gets away. Then to tell other people that you haven’t been able to keep up with what is typically seen as basic daily tasks can be embarrassing. But your friends and loved ones do not want to see you sad and stuck. If you confide in a few close people who you trust and ask if they have an hour or two to help you fold some laundry or clear out a space, they can help get you farther in your efforts to get organized faster. They might also have a few tips and tricks as to how they organize their own stuff that might help you stay on top of things.
  9. Don’t Allow Negative People To Bring You Down: If you live with other people who make negative comments about where you are at in your life right now, do your best to ignore them. Keep trying to get yourself back on track, and do not allow their influence to limit you from working on getting better. If they say things like, “Wow, look who’s finally cleaning,” or “That looks nice but it won’t stay that way long,” take a breath. Then take one more. Do not engage with people like this who cannot see the power of their own words. Instead, wield the strength of your own voice, and remind yourself that you are doing this for your own benefit and no one else’s. You will do the best you can to ensure your space is clean and comfortable. If you fall behind again, you will pick it right back up. You accomplished so much by deciding to make the conscious choice to make a change, and your work is for your self care.

Some people have found cleaning as a source of relaxation and a method of coping with troubling times. Other people have just always been tidy and organized. And other people are just messy. There are many complex reasons why some people have a hard time staying on top of caring for their spaces, but there are ways to overcome the barriers that impede our journey to healing our hearts and homes.

Caring for your personal space is an extension of caring for yourself. It’s not as glamorous or peaceful as a face mask or a massage, but it is important. You could even put on a face mask while you clean and do a “quick clean,” just picking up as much as you can while you wait for it to dry. You deserve a space that makes you comfortable. A space that makes you feel safe, and welcome, and like you are at home. Sometimes you might not feel worthy, but you are. You are capable of accomplishing amazing feats, and in your clear space you might just find some clean head space to figure out those goals. No matter where you are at you can and you will do beautiful things.

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

Veg Fest and Beyond: Creating a Custom Community

Saturday September 21, 2019 marked the 3rd annual “NEPA Veg Fest.” The festival was held at the Dunmore Community center, and featured vegan friendly vendors from across the state of PA. There was produce, baked goods, t-shirts, sustainability information, soaps, jewelry, and of course lots of delicious food. The indoor/outdoor setup allowed for visitors to enjoy the nice day, but also get out of the sun when they needed to. The event also hosted several speakers that covered a range of topics.

Something that holds a lot of people back from trying out plant based foods or switching to a more planted based life style is a perceived lack of access to meat and dairy alternatives in places that aren’t extremely urban. This collection of vendors proved to me several key points regarding accessibility to living a life you want to live. This doesn’t just have to apply to plant based foods either- but we’ll get into that in a moment.

The festival only started 3 years ago, and this was the first I had heard of it. That means that it’s reach and audience is growing. The more people who campaign for change and the getting the things they want to see in their communities, the more activities and events surrounding those interests there will be. This can be for vegan menu options, art festivals, musical acts, museums, anything that piques your interest you can bring to your area if you advocate and collaborate with others around you.

I watch a lot of vegan YouTubers and YouTube in general, and I see them going to fun events and festivals all the time. I wished that I could do something like that, or that someone around here would host something similar. Turns out there was. I just needed to look for it.

Sometimes people get so stuck up in the idea that “their town has nothing to do,” or “they don’t have access to that stuff,” because of where they live. While it might not be as easy to find, and it might not be on as large of a scale as a major city, smaller communities have a lot to offer. And if what you want to do isn’t already happening, talk to a few people and find out how to make it happen. Instead of sitting by and passively contributing to the narrative that small towns have nothing to offer- change the story. Create something worth spending time at. Get out and see what other people are doing to. You might be surprised that your neighbors are as ready to make a change as your are, it just takes some momentum to get started. And remember you can do whatever you want want, wherever you at- you might just need some extra creativity.

Chocolate cookie dough cake from Vegan Treats that was as amazing as it looks

Floating Towards The Sun

This year from July 26th- 28th Readington, NJ held their annual Festival of Ballooning at the Solberg Airport. This field at a town in New Jersey transformed into a playground for people of all ages and backgrounds. Vendors from internationally recognized brands handed out samples and sold new products in between classic fair style rides. The festival also featured performances from groups such as The Band Perry and The Beach Boys.

The main event, of course, is watching 100 hot air balloons float across the sky, and for half an hour thousands have a reason to keep their heads held high. They stop thinking about the problems at home, the pain on the ground, all the reasons they stare at the sidewalk. Right now they can look all the way up.

I often wish I could fly away from everything on my mind. I feel like if I could climb into a hot air balloon and float off into the sun, I wouldn’t have to ever look back. But that’s not how hot air balloons work. They go up above the crowd of hate and negativity, dropping the weight of sand bags that keep them tied to the ground. Then they just float for a while. They get to rise and see things from a new perspective. Eventually, they must come back to the ground. When they do, they can touch down knowing how to get a little closer to the sun.

Standing in the crowd I heard at least 5 different languages, saw people of all ages around me dancing, laughing, and taking pictures. We were all so different, still on the ground, and yet so lifted during the experience. Taking the time to stop and drop the weights of whatever is weighing you down for even a few moments can be so freeing. Instead of running away from your problems, float above them for a little while. Then come back down with a clear mind, and a warmer heart. You will rise above whatever is hurting you, and you can float towards to sun, where ever you’re at.