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.

“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.

10 Unconventional Hobbies And Why You Need One

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

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

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

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

10 Unique Hobbies To Explore:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kindness As A Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

A Field Guide To Finding The Silver Lining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Every Season Has A Purpose: Do Not Waste Your Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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