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.

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.

You’re Town isn’t Holding You Back- You Are

 

Feeling limited by the area you live in can be frustrating. When you focus on all the things you can’t do, you close off opportunities for things that you can. I find we tend to limit ourselves in this same way not only with physical location but where we are psychologically and emotionally. We get in our own heads with thoughts like “I could never do that,” or, “I’m not as talented as so and so,” or, “I’m not going to try because I don’t think I will be good.” We cling to the familiar while aching for change. We can’t have it both ways.

I am not particularly good at drawing and painting. I’ve always loved it though. My mom tells me stories how in preschool my friends would have to drag me away from the coloring table to play outside. Now I draw for a distraction, or as a form of self expression, or just to pass the time. I don’t practice frequently or try to actively improve my skills. It’s just something I do.

IMG_4426[1]Most of my pictures like the one above don’t have any type of deeper meaning, they just came out of my brain and onto the page. I think there is a toxic misconception out there that to engage in the arts, or gardening, or math, or cooking, or science, or writing, you need to try your best to be the best. You don’t. If you like to do something or want to try it out, do it. It’s okay to just do something because you like. Overtime you will probably get better at it because that’s what practice does, but if you don’t that’s okay too. If you love to bake but your kitchen concoctions never taste to delight, keep doing it. If you want to become a bird watcher, but don’t want to memorize encyclopedias of every genus, phylum, and species, don’t. Just watch your birds and soak up their songs.

IMG_4427[1]I could fill a sketch book with unfinished drawings like the faint outline of this would be elephant. Sometimes I have an idea but I don’t think I can do it the way I want, so I just don’t do it at all. This picture could have turned out beautiful. We’ll never know.

IMG_4431[1]Almost three years ago I made my first and only New Years Resolution ever. I decided to “Stop telling yourself you can’t”. I wrote it down on the first page of a new sketch book and told myself whatever went on those pages would not end up in a garbage bin, no matter how awful. I also needed to change my mindset about my life. I have so many ideas for what I want to do in my life, but I don’t think I could ever check off half my list. Then again, why couldn’t I? I have kept myself contained in a box built by what I perceived my limitations to be. If I want to publish a book I can. I can be a hair dresser. I can be a motivational speaker. I can be an actor. I can be an artist. I can be an explorer. I can do whatever I want. Other people do, so why not me too?

IMG_4428[1]There was a stretch of time that I stopped drawing. I stopped writing. I stopped exploring. I stopped acting. I stopped dancing. I stopped smiling. I stopped everything. I was so afraid of making the wrong choice, that I didn’t make any choices at all. We can not allow ourselves to shy away from what calls to us because of our perceived skill level. We miss opportunities we didn’t even know were available because we never try anything new.

IMG_4436[1]Most of the things I gave up weren’t even career aspirations. Hobbies are supposed to be fun. They help bring joy and purpose and love to your life. I think because in many hobbies there are particularly talented people who make money off their passions, we think we all do too. If we aren’t good enough at it to do so then we just don’t do it all. I wrote a poem a few months ago that expresses what I’m trying to say much better than what I’ve written so far.

IMG_4440[1]Don’t stay stuck up in your head. Try out what you want, and leave behind what doesn’t resonate with you. You can do more than you think, what matters most is that you are happy doing it. Go build a robot, write a novel, direct a play, take photos of clouds, draw the flower. It doesn’t matter where you are at, it matters what you do while you are there.

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Forget the Big Picture: Magic in the Mundane

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One of the major inspirations for this blog came from walking a trail near my home. It’s not a particularly noteworthy hiking spot- more of a walking path really, but I always seem to find something incredible there. There are no mountain top views, no waterfalls, no caves, just some gravel through the woods. Yet whenever I feel angry, or upset, or frustrated, or uninspired, I find myself seeking inspiration from the trees in my backyard.

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Once I pass the baseball fields at the entrance I am submerged in a place brought to life by detail. Every visit I find something that reignites the dulling flame in spirit. I am in awe of the creatures that peak out to watch as people pass over their home without a second glance. The sporadic flowers that fill the fields on either side of the pathway change every year. The forest floor is covered in moss and leaves and rocks and stumps and it’s all blended together harmoniously.

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My forest has brought so much clarity. The details of my forest make it beautiful. Details are what make life special. At first glance I wouldn’t think of this trail as anything more than a place to get some fresh air. Picturesque views from mountain tops and sandy beach sunsets, couldn’t provide the same sense of amazement about the delicate intricacies this world has to offer. The uniqueness this town has to offer.

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When we discredit the everyday, we miss out on the details of life that make it worth living. The beauty of saying good morning, unexpected afternoon naps, cooking dinner, planting flowers, cleaning out the basement, slipping on socks fresh from the dryer, gets lost in the idea that most of life is unremarkable.  Your life doesn’t need to be flashy or attractive for you to create something beautiful.

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I tend to romanticize the way other people live their lives in my mind. When I think about how they grocery shop, or study, or write, or eat, or play with their pets, it always seems so different and magical compared to the way I do it. Of course in their minds, they are going through the routine of their day, but to me it’s fascinating. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. From handwriting, to style, to home décor, to pet names, the most personal and telling information about ourselves is reflected in the details of our life. In movies with the perfect background music, we watch characters get ready for the day and it all seems so much cooler the way they brush their teeth than how you do. What they eat for breakfast is the same old Mini-Wheats they have everyday, but it seems so much more appetizing when we see their life played out in quality lighting with a carefully selected playlist. That’s how I see the details of everyone else’s life.

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The details of your life are unique to you. Make them count. Examine how you spend your day and take time to appreciate the incredible way you operate. Your thoughts, your preferences, your choices no matter how small are so powerful. To get to where you want to go, you need to know where you are at right now. You may feel ordinary, but you are filled with the most intricate details that make your presence remarkable. Go out and seek the spots of your home that are packed with inspiration. Go and admire the details of those around you. Go and take note of the fantastical ways you live. Stare at the floor, look under, look over, look beyond what’s right in front of you.

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The Secret to Surviving a Small Town

I have wanted nothing more than to escape the mundane life of a small town just outside a not so major city. The problem with small towns is most people feel the same way. We all want to run away to places where “there’s always something happening.” We don’t even know what that “something else” is most of the time- at least not specifically. We want better jobs, better homes, better parks, better art, better night life, better food, better anything. What job, what food, what to do, we don’t really know. We just want better. Life in a small town seems so insignificant when everyone doing anything of importance seems to be somewhere else. Small town America while seemingly unexciting can offer unique experiences with their own kind of magic. You just have to look for them.

I live just outside the Scranton area, and everyone seems to hate living here. Our own local news reported on a Gallup pole ranking the city as the 13th most miserable city to live in the country (placing first within the Commonwealth). Some people want to leave but don’t have the option, others stay and just complain. I can’t help but think if everyone spent their energy on building up the good in the area instead of bringing it down, what it might look like. The area has so much to offer. You just have to look for it. I have a feeling other towns in a similar position as us are the same way. We have incredible hiking trails, a vibrant artistic community, a rich classically American history, and several universities throughout the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. The pieces are here, so why aren’t they coming together? I think it’s a lack of appreciation for the resources at our finger tips.

Place has a lot to do with our mindsets as well. We get so stuck in putting off our dreams for the right time and place. People don’t think they can manifest their ideas where they are. Physically, they might think they have to move to LA, NYC, DC, Chicago, Seattle, or Portland to begin their journey to success. They put off starting a project until they can save to move away. Or they put it off until Summer starts, or until they get a new computer, or until they start school, or until they end school, or until the time just “feels right.” The time wont ever feel right. You won’t ever get past your initial  idea if you place constraints on yourself from the beginning.  To get where you want to be, look around at where you’re at and see what you can do today. Film that video on your phone. Write a few chapters for that book. Teach yourself the piano. Do what you can with what you have. There are resources in your neighborhood you probably don’t know exist. Go to your community centers, talk to the small business owners in your area. Pick their brain. The only way to realize your dreams is to begin working on them. Right now. Don’t wait for tomorrow, because you won’t start it then either.

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