Category: The Charge Blog

My 5 Unique Solutions to Mindfulness Challenges

Roy T. Bennet once said, “When things do not go your way, remember that every challenge— every adversity — contains within it seeds of opportunity and growth.” 

And that has been the case with my mindfulness journey.  

By now, you’ve probably heard how beneficial mindfulness can be in our lives. The benefits include better emotional regulation, reduced stress, anxiety, a boost in cognitive performance, and improved physical health, to name a few. 

I have always wanted to live a happy, healthy, and peaceful life and I found mindfulness to be a good fit for me to achieve these 3 things in my life. I have worked with it for several years now and I have seen some improvements in various areas of my life because of it. However, I have also been faced with several challenges while trying to make it work.

The following is an account of my mindfulness journey to date: my personal experiences with it, the challenges I’ve met along the way, and the discoveries as well as unique solutions that have helped me overcome the hurdles and become more mindful. 

My Mindfulness Journey in Brief 

I remember very well when I got into mindfulness; it seems like it was yesterday. I desired to be more in control of my life. I used to be very shy, introverted, short-tempered, and very serious with life and I craved to be more social, understanding, and caring even when I was angry, and more open to life. 

The anger issue was the main reason I wanted to be more mindful. I had read somewhere that mindfulness has the ability to help create mental space that would allow me better react to emotion-provoking situations and I wanted to have that so bad. 

When I chose to begin mindfulness, my first mindfulness practice was mindfulness meditation. Since it helps give a taste of mindfulness, have a feel of what it is like to be mindful, and helps build the momentum of spilling over mindfulness into my daily activities. 

I began meditating for 5 minutes and then increased the duration of my meditation sessions as I felt more comfortable with the practice. Soon enough I was meditating for 30 minutes and would feel deeply moved by the practice. 

Eventually, in my quest to be more mindful throughout the day, I decided I would take up other mindfulness practices including mindful eating, mindful speaking and listening, mindful walking, and even mindful working so that I would have more moments of mindfulness in my typical day. 

I took each of the practices one at a time and slowly but surely made them work in my life. And at the moment, I feel I have made fairly good progress with them and I can feel the effects of the improvements in my life even I grow more mindful every year. 

However, the journey has not been as smooth as you may think. There have been many challenges along the way. From the time I was only doing mindfulness meditation to when I began incorporating other mindfulness practices into my routine, problems sprung up left, right, and center and really challenged me. 

Here are the main obstacles I had a while back as I was doing my best to immerse myself deeply into mindfulness. 

The Major Setbacks in My Mindfulness Journey 

1. Constant Mind-wandering

This is a common occurrence during meditation. I would often find myself having drifted off to other thoughts without realizing it. I would begin by focusing and being attentive to the progress of my meditation session and what I needed to do, and soon enough I would discover that I entertained thoughts about my work, my family, and other distracting thoughts, and I had been completely diverted. The constant mental chatter keeps on happening and I still lose focus once in a while during my sessions to date. 

2. Difficulty with remaining mindful over a long period when talking to people

When having conversations, I would start as being mindful, that is being mindful of myself as I listen to other people talk and when I was talking. I would be aware of my emotions and thoughts and how they changed, and I felt generally in control of myself. I would think before I speak, have good control of my reactions if the conversation was emotionally provoking and I would feel at peace. Deep peace from within that wouldn’t be disturbed.

However, as time went by, I would get lost in the conversation, my emotions would get the best of me and thoughts would race through my mind and I would speak them out without taking time to consider the effect they would have on other people. In the end, I would feel guilty, selfish and there would even be self-loathing afterward. 

3. Feeling overwhelmed by mindfulness and lacking mental energy to keep at it

At times, I would meditate and feel good about mindfulness in the morning. I would even make the intention of remaining mindful throughout the day and would go ahead to try and make it happen. However, around midday or late evenings, I would start feeling mindfulness has taken the best of me and was starting to weigh me down. Instead of the good control of life I felt it gave me, I would feel like it was mentally stressful and it made me feel too alert in a negative way that made me lose my creative touch and composure. 

4. Feeling like I had multiple personalities based on how mindful I was

As I progressed with my mindfulness journey, I would notice that there were times I was deeply mindful of my inner and outer world. When I talked to people, I conversed well and it felt right. I was aware of my thoughts and feeling even sensations and I felt in synchrony with the universe. There were also times when I felt a lesser version of that, and there were times I didn’t feel any of that. I was doing the same throughout but the experiences were different. And I would notice that when things felt just right my personality was really good, and when I experienced the lesser version of that things were slightly better. And when I didn’t feel anything, I would be “all over the place” with my thoughts, actions, and emotions. This felt like I was different people at different times and I wasn’t happy about it. 

5. Becoming technical with mindfulness and seeing it as a tedious task

I have always been a bit busy with my work and family but I still wanted to make mindfulness part of my life. This meant practicing it despite my busy schedule and making time through my busy periods to remain mindful as I went on with my daily activities. However, it would get to a point where remembering to be mindful and redirecting my attention to my inner and outer environment felt too much of a task. I was already having demanding things on my plate and mindfulness was also stretching me mentally and emotionally, and I would feel like it was a tedious task. 

6. Feeling like I’m being rude, selfish and inconsiderate of others because of mindfulness effects

The main aim of me doing mindfulness was to take charge of my life and be at peace by becoming more responsible with my words and actions. Initially, I was a thoughtless talker, quick to react but also very jovial and friendly with the people I was free with. However, as I kept practicing mindfulness and created mental space that made me think before I spoke and took action or even react, I also became more composed, less reactive in a good and bad way.

Instead of laughing my heart out at my friends’ jokes, I would smile or laugh briefly and this made me come across as rude and inconsiderate of the people I loved. They had not done anything to me but the change in my behavior made them question our friendship and they would often ask me about it. “Are you okay?”, “Is there something we did to you that you’re not telling us?” 

My 5 Unique Solutions to Mindfulness Challenges 

Every time I come to a mindfulness challenge, I take my time in the evening before I sleep and think about it in-depth, determining why I think it is happening and how I can solve it. I normally have a period of an hour before I sleep that I have dedicated to thinking about the problems in my life and coming up with proper and permanent solutions. 

In the case of the mindfulness challenges I’ve mentioned, I not only thought deeply about them but also talked to other mindfulness practitioners and consulted a few meditation teachers so that I would get accurate solutions that would solve the problem completely. And here are the solutions I got which have been quite rewarding over the years and have minimized the challenges greatly. 

Solution #1. Visualization 

Visualization solves the two problems of feeling like you are having different personalities and not being able to remain mindful for long as you are talking to people. See, the reason why we behave differently when are going through the different levels of mindfulness is that we have allowed the journey and progress to influence our entire lives. And that is what we should do. However, we should top that up with our personal intentions and effort of becoming the kind of people we desire to be. This helps to regulate our personality and inclines us more towards what we want to be in the long term. 

A good example of applying the visualization concept is by sitting down and taking time to visualize the kind of person you would want to become, the kind of personality you would want to have, and the attributes you would want to be known for. Then you go a step further and visualize different scenarios where you are applying those attributes and people are reacting the way you would expect them. 

Imagine a scenario where you are with your friends and you have become grounded in your desired personality and you are talking and acting in accordance to that personality naturally and seamlessly. After that, set the intentions to do just that when you are done with the visualization practice and put in the effort of making it happen in your life consistently. 

Apply the same idea and visualize yourself talking to people while being mindful for long periods naturally and easily, then set the intentions to do that going forward and actually do it. 

Solution #2. Planning Your Mindful Day Ahead  

Before I leave for work or to handle the day’s activities, I first plan my day. It takes about 5 minutes or less and it has a huge positive impact on my day and ensures I’m not feeling overwhelmed by mindfulness at any time. It also helped me make a smooth transition from being the person who expresses their emotions strongly to a quiet, composed but still friendly person to my friends and family. 

I normally plan my day right when I’m about to open the door and get out of the house. I ask myself what I’m going to do first, what I need in terms of resources to complete the first task as well as the others, and then what I need to remember in terms of personality and the person I am working on becoming and the things I need to do and when I need to do them to keep going with this self-transformation journey. 

Suppose I’ll be going to the mall and then meet up with my friends later for a cup of coffee and to catch up, I normally say to myself, I’m going to the mall to buy this product, which costs this much and here’s the money for it. And while I’m there I should be quiet, confident, composed, and aware.  

Then I’ll go to meet my friends to catch up and I’ll only need to be aware and composed and friendly in a well-mannered way but still make my usual jokes but moderately. And if I wander away and get lost in the conversation and my level of mindfulness goes down and I notice it, I will redirect my attention to my inner and outer environment and then keep going. 

And since I know I’ll have many moments of mind wandering, I’ll check up on myself immediately after I speak, or when I’m about to give my views, to ensure I’m still aware of myself. 

And when I leave the house, I’m mentally prepared since I have planned myself so applying what I’ve planned in the real world becomes easy and fairly smooth for me. 

For making sure I don’t come across as rude to my friends, I decided to keep doing what I was doing while with them and be overly expressive as I was, but slowly as we progressed with our conversations, I would be composed for a brief moment and then continue being expressive. And as I injected moments of composure while I still maintained my usual personality, they slowly got used to it.

Solution #3. Constant Remembrance 

When it comes to constant remembrance, there are 3 ways to go about it. First, it refers to complementing the planning your mindful day ahead solution. When I make plans about my day especially the ones that focus on me remaining mindful and having those moments where I check in with myself to see if I’m mindful, constant remembrance helps to keep me in the right direction. 

It is one thing to plan something and another to make it work, and constant remembrance is what helps make it work. By setting the intentions to remember constantly check in with yourself, you become more aware of the fact that you need to remember to actually do that, and soon enough it helps you be more mindful when you have forgotten about it. 

Second, when I feel like mindfulness is a tedious task that is only making my day hard, I constantly remember why I chose to get into mindfulness in the first place and it helps me remember my purpose. With the purpose in mind, I can now feel the hectic and technical aspect of mindfulness that was making me feel exhausted with it disappear and I re-align myself with the purpose and it becomes more fulfilling. 

Third, constant remembrance of the fact that the nature of the mind is to wander and that mind-wandering is going to happen every so often helps me to be easy with myself and gently redirect my attention to my practice when my mind drifts off. 

Solution #4. Mindful Observation  

Mindful observation of how I naturally do things has given me insight into where I am in my journey towards self-transformation and it also gives the motivation and opportunity to put in more effort into the needing areas so that I make even more progress and achieve what I have my eyes on sooner. 

For me, mindful observation is about being mindful and observing your life without interfering with it. I observe how I think and feel about everything I’m involved in without making judgments or opinions about them. This includes how I speak and act when I’m alone versus when I’m around people, how I talk and behave when I’m in my high moods versus when something is disturbing me, and all other aspects of my life. 

By being aware, I naturally find myself wanting to do things maturely and properly regardless of how I’m feeling. On top of that, it helps me know where specifically to direct my efforts so that I make the kind of change I want to happen in my life and succeed. 

Solution #5. Mirroring 

Mirroring is a technique where you mirror what you admire and desire to be and live as if you’ve already achieved it all. I have found that mirroring helps “get you there” mentally, emotionally, and even physically. By this, I mean that if you create the picture of the person you want to be with articulate details through the visualization method that I mentioned in solution #1 and then live as though you are that person, you will notice a huge improvement in the way you think, act and speak. 

Applying that concept in mindfulness, if you live as though you are completely mindful and like you have mastered the quality of mindfulness and have gotten comfortable with it, you will notice that it is easy to get past your barriers with it. 

I personally took one evening and visualized in great detail, how I would like to be when I’ve increased my level of mindfulness and had made it my second nature. I visualized how I would be living my life alone, how I would be interacting with people, how I would be going about the challenges I “once used” to have trouble with as a more experienced person and this gave me the confidence to get through the barriers I face and I also became more motivated to keep going with mindfulness. 

Repeating this mirroring approach regularly as you prepare to begin your day and any time you are faced with a mindfulness-related problem can help you find reliable solutions and help you enjoy mindfulness and have an easier time with it. 

Conclusion  

And those are the 5 rewarding solutions that have helped me go a long way in my mindfulness journey. 

I hope they will help you in one way or the other in your mindfulness journey too and will also set the pace for you to come up with your unique solutions too for your unique mindfulness challenges. 

One more thing to note is that, while these solutions are beneficial and solve the problems I have discussed, implementing them and getting good results requires discipline, consistency, patience, dedication, and personal effort. By being committed to the goal of improving your level of mindfulness, doing all you can to make it happen, and not giving up or doubting yourself, you’re surely going to get there. 

Which of the 5 solutions do you feel can help solve a problem you have in your mindfulness journey at the moment? Please let me know in the comments.  

mindfulness challenges

A Couple Drops in the Bucket: How to Resolve Conflict With a Friend

We were all in our cramped, college student-sized apartment kitchen. My two roommates, my closest friends, were sitting on the floor dying a couple of shirts and a pair of shoes. Leaning against the counter, I watched my two friends who sat next to their swirling black concoction of dye, water, and clothing like two young witches next to a Tub-A-Ware cauldron. They had a mission, but I was simply there for company. Apart from the heels of a pair of sneakers, the liquid was too dark to see below the surface. An unpleasant aroma drifted about our kitchen, something like old lake water and something burned. Through it all, we sat together on the floor. We talked and joked, laughed, and gossiped. It was a fun evening for the three of us.

When the clothes had spent their allotted time in the dye, my roommates began to pour out the used water and tried to squeeze out as much from the saturated clothing as they could. During this process, one of the girls somehow accidentally sent a handful of drops flying in my direction. These drops collided with my sweater, my favorite sweater that had been gifted to me long ago, instantly being absorbed and dyed. I exclaimed with panic, for I did not want my light grey sweater to be awkwardly spotted with black dye. My friend, the accidental propeller of those droplets laughed and played it off, saying it wasn’t her fault, that she didn’t mean to, and it “wasn’t that big of a deal anyways.” However, I felt the opposite, so I immediately took off my sweater and sprayed it with spot-stain remover. She laughed and said I was acting childish, panicking over something so simple. My other roommate told me the best way to wash out the dye after the stain remover and worked its magic. I then went to my room for the night.

Later that evening, the culprit of the splashed dye droplets wanted to know why I had left and not returned to spend time with them, just as we normally would almost every night. After telling her that I was upset with her, she explained that it was entirely unintentional, and her dismissive words weren’t meant to hurt me.

I felt as though I was being misunderstood, and it made me even more upset because her intention didn’t remove blame or pain. It wasn’t the dye that had truly hurt me. It wasn’t the words she had said. It was the shrugging-off of my worries that had hurt. It was the fact that she didn’t feel bad, that she attempted to remove guilt from herself and the significance of it all instead of apologizing for what had happened. I could recognize that even though it was my favorite sweater, it wasn’t something that would make me truly upset with her, but it was the lack of concern and any noticeable amount of regret that hurt me.

Of course, this conflict was eventually resolved. We had been good friends for a long time and this wasn’t more than a couple drops in the bucket. We had had conflicts, difficulties, and fights, but we knew how to straighten things out and come back together again. Throughout all of this though, I felt like there was an important lesson to be learned about intent. Intent does not always determine the effect your actions have on others. I feel like it is often used as a defensive position, as people don’t often “intend” to offend or hurt another person, especially friends, but it doesn’t take away the physical or emotional pain someone feels. This is even more prevalent nowadays in our social and political climate. Friends, relatives, coworkers, peers, fellow students… People of all kinds too quickly attempt to belittle their own wrongdoings or attempt to justify hurtful words or actions by claiming to be “too good” to do something wrong over the fear of being perceived as someone that isn’t respectful to others. Too often do people belittle the harm they have caused by saying things like “Well I wasn’t trying to be racist”, “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings”, “What I did wasn’t meant to make you feel excluded”, “I would never want you to feel violated” as if stating their intentions after the fact will change what has already happened.

This detrimental mindset, that intentions without malice inhibit harmful actions, aligns with the idea that those who admit to wrongdoings admit to being bad people, for those without malice can’t be blamed for their own harmful actions. But this isn’t accurate. All people make mistakes. Everyone will mistakenly hurt someone else in their life. A good person is the person that addresses those mistakes, identifies the pain they have caused, and does what they can to be comforting and prevent harm in the future. This is where growth can occur. If you’re too afraid to have any of your actions be perceived as hurtful, or too afraid of the idea that your actions, no matter what your intent was, could have been harmful, how will anyone ever have the courage to learn how to be a more thoughtful and more kind person? This isn’t to say that expressing regret, remorse, and apologizing will fix whatever has happened, but it will immediately make the one offended recognize that you truly wish they weren’t experiencing the wrongdoing that had upset them.

All friendships will encounter conflicts and disagreements; every party will eventually be wronged, or at least feel wronged, and long-lasting friendships will be the ones that engage in repentance. It is the first step in correcting wrongdoings. Even if it seems like “crying over spilled milk”, or spilled dye in my case, friendships will sometimes require you to swallow your pride and make a sincere apology. If you care for them, then you know a couple of seconds of embarrassment is well worth the intimacy of friendship.

how to resolve conflict with a friend

How a Challenging Time in My Life Led to My Surrender

Surrender – what an amazingly powerful world. It often engenders the thought of weakness and cowardice. In my case, it required all the strength I had to be brave enough to follow the invisible into the unknown.

– Michael A. Singer

I had forgotten my words. I had forgotten the sound of a regular heartbeat when I woke up and realized the worst of the storms of change had passed. It was a new season and the winds of change had blown chaos, loss, destruction, confusion, and pain into what I knew as my life. When I woke up though, and the worst was indeed through.

It’s a strange thing waking up on the other side of a hard season in your life. Just like watching the residual rain and thunder abate after a terrifying storm. I was no longer assaulted by volleys of dizzying, nauseating anxiety each morning. I could breathe and welcome a new day in neutral tranquillity. No barrage of thoughts assaulting my mind, reminding me that I live to keep fanning the flames of my own destruction. I woke up after months of living in utter darkness to find rays of hope streaming in, illuminating the promise of a different reality.

I had survived one of the most challenging seasons in my life where I lost everything: a place to stay, my job, an opportunity to go overseas and start a new life, and even a sense of connection to the world. I was lost in a turbulent sea of tears, debt, pain, poverty, and profound aloneness. Until I wasn’t. Here’s how surrender helped me find my way home.

The invitation to surrender.

When I realized I couldn’t live life as I was any longer, my primal instinct to fight my reality kicked in unbidden. Not that I could control it – my life at the time was characterized by a series of unconscious habits, reactions, and trauma responses seemly etched to my very genes.

So I fought to ‘fix’ my life, somehow. I figured finding a new job in another country far away from home could help me evade my pain. And I fought hard to make it work, amidst a pandemic while the entire world was recalibrating. I didn’t care about the real obstacles a global shutdown brought along my path, I just wanted to feel safe somewhere in this world. Interestingly enough, that was anywhere but wherever I could be with myself fully.

Like trying to gain distance by running on a treadmill, I knew my evasiveness was useless. But I ran harder, going nowhere slowly. As with all seasons, the utter collapse of a plan to move overseas I had worked on for two years catapulted me into a new rock bottom. And terrible as it was to lose an opportunity I had worked tirelessly for, I was actually getting an important invitation back home. To surrender. But the road wasn’t promised to be easy. And on the journey, I came upon challenges that made even my recovery from cancer when I was a teenager seem an easier cross to bear.

The walk home.

One day I had a job, my own place to stay, a healthy cushion of savings to help me move overseas, all my necessities and wants catered for. I was well on my way to finally getting what I wanted. I was finally going to free myself from all the trauma, pain, and poverty that had been following me like an imaginary monster from childhood that had long overstayed its welcome in my adult life.

And then, months later, I woke up one day and I had nothing. No job prospects. Nowhere to stay. Unemployed and in debt. At some point, I couldn’t afford a meal let alone a way to make a phone call.

I would wake up some days, stuck in the one place I dreaded most: the house I grew up in. And wonder “What if it’s all just one long nightmare that I’m never going to wake up from?”

I had no idea in those first few months when I was in such darkness I could hardly feel my own soul, that there was a sun about to rise in my life.

I fought for months. I tried applying for jobs, seeking spiritual clarity, distracting myself with meaningless connections with random men, spending endless days binging on food, technology, books, neverending conversations – all just to keep the noise up so I wouldn’t be able to hear my soul’s truth.

Then, after a particularly harrowing day, my soul broke. I finally surrendered and allowed myself to set lifelong burdens down. It was simple: life was inviting me to surrender control, relinquish my old story and begin a new one. At first, I kicked and screamed against a deep knowing in my soul that told me that I had nowhere else to run, nowhere to hide from the truth that I couldn’t keep carrying my story the way I was.

I remember the day my soul seemingly cracked open. I was a crying mess. I spent a long time on the concrete floor, praying and begging God to take the pain away. I cried like I hadn’t in decades, maybe. I cried until my inner child finally felt heard, seen, acknowledged. Then my soul began to speak, inviting me to lay down who I thought I was. To give up my anchor and cast the chains of my story aside. I had been doing healing work for the past three years, but for the first time that day it all coalesced into one single message: surrender and give in.

I heard the call and I accepted the invitation. It scared me, sacrificing an identity I had so carefully convinced myself was who I am for so many years. It terrified me to look at my tear-streaked face in the mirror and be filled with a fierce love for the first time. I knew then that something had shifted, I had arrived at a new door.

It was the first ray breaking through the darkness, but it would take a lot more than opening a door to finally walk in the light.

Arrival at ground zero.

I opened the door to a new sense of self and found the courage to walk through it. I slept many nights thereafter thinking all my problems had been solved, that I had discovered the answer to my life’s trickiest riddle.

I had no idea that opening a door, accepting an invitation, was far more than a flash in the pan moment. Life would keep inviting me to surrender every day for the rest of my life. Every day I live on this blue planet and God would ask for my consent to show me what life could be if I let it.

And I’d love to say I surrendered gracefully, willing to live in a perpetual state of the unknown with bewildering trust that everything happening really is happening for my good. But I would be lying. Instincts, and nurture (no matter how toxic it may be), don’t just go away overnight. The invitation wasn’t a one-time ticket to nirvana. It was a choice I would have to make every day.

And when the choices showed up every day – surrender to life’s flow or succumb to old patterns riddled with pain. I resisted for another few months, unwilling to make a choice, wondering why I was cursed with such understanding of the challenging times in my life. “Surely I’m cursed, and insane,  to want to see the goodness of this moment and how it can help me surrender?” I thought to myself the morning I got mugged while walking back from a clinic appointment. I believed I was deranged. But still, I surrendered because I knew it was the invitation.

After the mugging, I was left with absolutely nothing. And that’s when it hit me: I had nothing left to lose, so why not surrender anyway? I started accepting the invitation in small ways. During an unnecessary disagreement, I would surrender my ego’s need to be right. When I felt resentment, pain, anxiety, discomfort emotionally I would surrender to the feelings, honor them. When I felt calm, neutrality and peace, I would surrender to have the feelings stay as long as needed, without wanting to hold onto how good it felt. I surrendered and accepted that invitation consciously as many times as I could in a day.

And I lost more. I shed my anxiety slowly, the perpetual knot of pain in my chest I had known since childhood began to untangle and dissipate. Recurring negative thought patterns and beliefs doing reruns in my mind would be caught sooner and replaced with seeds of flowering thoughts instead. I was being made anew and that is when I knew I had arrived home, finally.

And now I am here, settling into being unashamedly myself. Choosing every day to accept the invitation with as much grace as I can muster, and forgiving myself for moments when I decline because I am still learning how to sustain my courage.

You’re probably wondering if I’m still living in pain, debt, and abject loss. For the most part, not anymore. As soon as I moved into being at home with myself, just as I am, life seemingly began working with me to create small miracles each day. And they are also invitations in themselves – to watch, surrender and be grateful for everything in and around me.

It’s still challenging, I still trip and fall over the unfamiliar territory, but I’m learning to surrender to being a lifelong beginner at the start of each day. And every day I still choose to the best of my ability to surrender.

The invitation is calling in your life, relationship, job, or heart. Will you accept it and walk the path to surrender?

I am so grateful that surrender had taught me to willingly participate in life’s dance with a quiet mind and an open heart.

– Michael A. Singer

my surrender

3 Minimalist Techniques to be More Creative & Productive

The people who can churn out masterworks in literature, visual arts, and the sciences are often called ‘geniuses’. We admire these super producers but too often we forget the words of Thomas Edison:

Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.

If you’re a creative professional like me, at least once in your life someone has asked “how do you do it?”  What they are really asking is: how can you be creative on demand and under pressure?

I’ve come up with so many B.S. answers to that question that I’ve forgotten most of them.  Truth be told much of my on-demand genius as a full-time speechwriter comes from large doses of caffeine and adrenaline.

The caffeine I get from Starbucks, the adrenaline comes from procrastinating until the last minute to start work.  This method has produced some truly awe-inspiring rhetoric.  It has also caused major screw-ups which are less tolerated the higher I rise in the organization.

Here are three minimalist habits I’ve adopted over the years that increased my productivity without destroying creativity.  They will work for you as well.  

1.  Set the bar for daily goals low.

True story.  Eight years ago I went to work on a Saturday with the full intention of producing a 20-minute speech filled with witticism, quotes, facts, and figures.  I emerged 25 hours later with an outline of fewer than 100 words. In my defense, the internet is a distracting place.

The moral here is that writing 20 pages in one session is psychologically daunting. This makes procrastination more likely. The more you procrastinate the less high-quality content you’ll create.

My daily goal is to write for forty minutes per day.   This is a goal that anyone can easily achieve and also easily exceed, which is important.

When you absolutely don’t want to work on a task, knowing that you’ll be working for a short time makes it more bearable.  There is also a bonus.  Motivation kicks in after we have started, so we are more likely to continue doing something after we begin.  Trying to ‘feel’ motivated before we start the task is actually an uphill battle.

Setting a 30-minute goal is more likely to lead to the completion of two hours of work.  One reason you’re not productive as you’d like is that you spend too much time psyching yourself up to work. 

2. Take a daily walk.

Escaping from the place where the creative effort occurs tickles my writing muse.  As everyone knows creative muses are feckless and unreliable. My muse likes to show up in places where I can’t commit anything to paper, mostly in the shower or while driving.  A long walk is an acceptable compromise for us.

This method of fanning the creative flame hurts no one, lifts my mood, and has been tried and tested by the great composers, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky not to mention many writers.

 The moment my legs begin to move my thoughts begin to flow. 

– Henry David Thoreau

I enjoy taking walks. I try to do at least a mile a day.  While I’m out I get to enjoy the familiar (the route, the buildings, and vehicles) and the inspirational (flowers, hummingbirds).  By moving away from my office and computer screen, I allow the ideas to fight in a Darwinian struggle until something useful emerges and becomes the foremost thought in my mind.  By capturing that idea I have new fodder for my writing. I am told that while on these walks, people see me talking to myself.

For good reason, if I didn’t talk to myself, how would I know what I’m thinking?

3. Reduce distraction, enhance concentration.

What is the bare minimum that you need to complete your task?  Most people choose not to know.  We know the things we like to have around us when we are trying to work but most of them are just distractions.

Our telephones, tablets, and their constant notifications from social media keep us from fully focusing on what needs to be done.  Remember that each distraction will rob you of as much as 20 minutes of focus. That’s why I put my phones in the desk drawer until I’ve completed at least 40 minutes of work.

To enhance my concentration, I play exactly the same music every time I sit down to work.  This method creates mental conditioning.  The association between the music and working means that once the song comes on, I automatically become more focused.

An added benefit of using this mental hack is that we don’t need ‘motivation’ to start.  Once the song plays the actions associated with those tunes will begin without thought.

For those of you who wish to try this, find music that has a slow to moderate tempo and no human voices.  This is because even if we don’t understand the words of a song we will automatically listen to the human voice, which is distracting. 

Youtube has several ‘Classical Music for Studying’ selections which I’d recommend for increasing focus.  You might be inclined to use a favorite song for this but that’s not a good idea as any time you hear the song you’ll think of work. 

Wrap up

‘Genius’ is more about action than thought. Contrary to what is often told in the media, being more productive doesn’t require some great app or product. There are minimalist alternatives that you can use today to tap into your own inner genius.

minimalist techniques creative

How to Find Possibility

When I was in a stuck burned-out place in my career, I couldn’t see a different path. What I would tell my past burned-out self now is:

You won’t see what’s possible for your life until you move out of being stuck. Yet, to do so, you first need to leave. Yes, that makes leaving even more terrifying. Know that possibilities will be waiting for you once you are able to open to them. They’ve been trying to get your attention all along.

This is the story of how I came to find the possibilities seeking to find me. 

What came before I saw possibility?

I didn’t believe I could leave my career without a plan. I believed once I figured out what I wanted to do next, then I could leave.

I had so many rules about the perfect conditions needed for me to leave that I shut down. Unable to consider options.

When my daughter was born, suddenly I no longer cared about well-laid plans or perfect conditions. Suddenly it was clear to me: I had to go. For my family. For my health. For my life. So I listened to the wise inner voices calling me to leave. And I left.  

What is possibility?

Opening to the likelihood of something that doesn’t yet exist—a state, a way of being, or a reality – coming to be.

How did I find possibility?

It started when I was still working in my past career. It started while I was in and out of my own burn-out cycles.

Step 1: Watch others find possibilities

Long before I left, I noticed curiously that others left their careers without something else lined up.

“What’s next for you?” I asked a colleague on her last day at the organization.

“I’m traveling for nine months. We’ll see what opportunities come up me after that.” There was a lightness in her voice. She sounded so free.

“Wow, that’s great you are able to do that” I tried to hide my look of surprise: she was leaving without something else lined up?  

“I need a break! I’ll miss the people. But I won’t miss the work,” she smiled.

Others left with similar stories. It was always these women who caught my attention: the stressed, burned-out ones who needed a break. The ones who didn’t know what they were going to do next. Or what they even wanted to do next.

How could they leave without a plan? It intrigued me. Scared me. Did they know something I didn’t? They must have because they actually left. And I was still there, stuck, unable to make a change.

Over time, after others left, I watched something amazing unfold: some didn’t find another position at a company. Some created something new from nothing. Some built a career that was meaningful and fulfilling to them.

What I learned from watching others leave is that it is possible for something new to arise. They showed me that possibility exists. If they found possibility, maybe I could find it too.

Step 2: Intentional space

My intentional space came with a baby.

I craved a break from doing. From a fast-paced environment. From tight and often unrealistic deadlines. From working harder, faster. I was so tired of it all.

I craved slow, quiet space. With minimal external demands. I needed time in being energy.

It was not easy being home with my daughter at first. The newborn weeks were especially challenging. But, over time, as my daughter became more settled in this world, I found the space I needed.

In whatever time I had, I began to focus on my own development. Completing program exercises during my daughter’s naps and listening to program recordings on walks. A practical program on how to start a consulting business. A women’s empowerment program.

When I sat down to focus on a journaling exercise from the Feminine Power program about connecting with my deeper desires, I stared blankly at my notebook. The prompt stared back at me: “What do I most deeply desire to contribute in my life?”

The instructions specified to put the pen to the paper and write what comes up. I began: “I don’t know. I have lost touch with what I want to contribute.” I sunk into the chair, feeling heavy. My heart ached.

I was so disconnected from my career interests and aspirations. It was then I realized I would need to intentionally reconnect to my deeper career desires. To take time to repair what had been cut-off.

It was uncomfortable. To not know what I wanted or what would happen. To be in between what was and what would be.

It was when I became curious that possibility began to peak in. I wondered: how will things unfold? I wondered: what’s next for my career?

I found glimpses of what could be. Glimpses of a fulfilling and meaningful life I could create for myself. I discovered the seeds of what I desired to contribute. 

Step 3: Do something

I didn’t magically discover exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t envision my dream career in that space. That’s not how I found possibility.

Intentional space reignited me to move forward. To start with what I knew. To begin right where I was. 

Starting was clunky at first. I was learning how to start my own business. I was learning what it was like to be a consultant instead of an employee.

It’s in the living, the doing, that possibility has room to seep in. As I took more action, I learned what did and didn’t resonate with me. I learned the direction I wanted to go next.

Step 4: Come into aliveness

“Notice where your eyes light up and go towards it. If your eyes glaze over, ignore it.” A consultant suggested.

Another consultant shared an ah-ha that occurred while she was working with a client: “Wow, I love this work. How could I do more of this?” She lit up as she spoke. She realized she could find more of it. She could do more of it.

On a training program, the facilitator said: “What do you do when there are business decisions to make? You choose what you feel a big ‘Yes’ to.”

This is where aliveness resides.

When I started to go in the direction of what resonated for me, I felt a spark, igniting me. Tingly sensations spread through my whole being, radiating out. Bringing me into aliveness. In my excitement, ideas shot up so fast of how I could do more of this, like beams of light flying towards me from all directions.

Possibility blooms in aliveness. In places full of life.

This is how you find possibility: by coming into a relationship with aliveness. By going in the direction of what lights you up. By choosing what you feel a “yes” to again and again.  

What I believe now about possibility

I needed to pull myself out of where I was to see possibilities.

I needed to stop listening to limiting beliefs trying to keep me safe that really kept me stuck.

Ultimately, I needed to start to trust in possibility. Then, I could begin to grow into something beyond what I had been before or what exists now. 

There is nowhere for possibility to go when limiting beliefs reign. Possibility can’t break through the heavy fog of burnout, of stuckness. It hits a wall where there is no opening.

Possibility needs an opening. That’s how the light of aliveness gets in. Radiating its energy out into the world. Pulling you into fields of possibilities.

If you feel stuck or burned out, if it’s been a long time since you’ve felt lit up: it doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. There are ways to find your way back to aliveness. Where possibility flourishes.  

find possibility

How Painting Helped Me Conquer Perfectionism

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.

-JK Rowling

I’ve always described myself as a perfectionist. I wore it like a badge of honor.

To me, it meant that I had high standards. I was hard-working and dedicated. I cared about everything I did, and always did my best.

The opposite would be quitting. Giving up and being half-hearted.

I credited my perfectionism with good grades at school, turning out essays that were rewritten until they felt perfect. After I graduated, it meant doing well at my corporate job, putting in extra time, and taking on more and more responsibilities, often for no extra pay or even recognition! I did more all the time because I needed it to be exactly so.

But then I started to notice something. I was outwardly doing well, getting good at my job and earning recognition too. Yet it felt small.

I’d always thought of myself as someone who tried their best, but the truth is that I was a quitter, not a trier. I abandoned anything that I wasn’t immediately good at. And each time I made a mistake, no matter how small, I dropped that task or interest too. I was narrowing my experiences to a smaller and smaller list of things I was certain I could do well.

I was so afraid of failing, I wasn’t even trying anymore.

Because that’s what perfectionism is really. Fear of failure. It’s paralyzing because the gnawing pressure means you can’t start anything. It’s cowardice dressed up as high standards.

And there was so much I wanted to try. There were so many things I felt sure I’d enjoy, but never had a go at. What if I failed? What if I was rubbish? The idea was so unbearable that it was easier to leave it as an unknown. If I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail.

I often spent time watching other people do amazing things and feel bitterly envious. I spent hours scrolling through social media, watching people make beautiful artworks. I loved seeing their hands create, and I felt this pull to have a go. But I put it off, scared I wouldn’t be any good.

And then one day I was heading out to meet a friend, and she was running late. And I found myself waiting for her outside a shopping center when I spotted an art supply store. And before I could stop myself, I bought a tiny set of paints, some paper, and brushes.

I headed home full of anticipation, opened them up, and started painting. And the results were… really bad. Frustrated, I pushed everything into a drawer and decided to forget the idea.

But then a weird thing happened – I kept thinking about being a quitter. And so I got the paints back out and started again. And I’m still terrible at painting, but my motivation this time isn’t diminished. I decided to share my progress on social media, showing the workings behind the scenes, the effort instead of the filtered perfection.

Now, three years later, I paint almost every day and have set up my own art business. I regularly fail and make a mess, but I never quit. And even better, I’m constantly trying new subjects and other mediums. I’ve had experiences that just a few years ago I couldn’t even have imagined. I’ve taught online painting workshops and attended life drawing classes. I’ve sparked friendships with fellow creatives from around the world.

And most importantly, I’ve failed a bunch and I just kept going. Because I’m no longer aiming for perfection or even excellence, I’m simply enjoying the process. And I’m so much happier.

Now, my advice to fellow perfectionists who want to change their lives is this: recognize that’s a fear, not a strength. Pick something you’ve always wanted to try and get stuck in, and then make yourself come back again tomorrow too. You won’t regret it.

painting perfectionism

My Purpose was Hidden Behind My Greatest Obstacles

I truly believe that before I came into this world, God asked me ‘what would you like to do in this life?’ And I responded, ‘I want to teach about self-reliance.’ And God said, ‘then we better get your butt into an orphanage.’

– Dr. Wayne Dyer

You know the movie scene where the ship captain sees weather on the horizon, and when the storm hits, he’s up in the crow’s nest cursing the wrath of God?

That was me in my early twenties.

Angry, depressed, overweight, addicted – lost at sea. But then, things began to change. I turned my attention elsewhere and since have completely adjusted the sails.

Clouds on the Horizon

I grew up in a small town in Iowa. I’m the youngest of four brothers, and until a certain age, I experienced a relatively mundane childhood.

Unfortunately, you can’t see trauma coming like clouds forming on the horizon, and boy was I in for one heck of a storm.

Weathering Conditions

When I was around 10 years old, I was playing basketball in our driveway, my usual afternoon activity. However, one evening, my game was interrupted by something unexpected.

This night, a police car and a shiny black sedan pulled up beside our house, and out of it emerged a uniformed officer and our Priest – an ominous fleet.

The next thing I remember is running into the house after hearing the desperate screams of my mother, who was sprawled on the floor in a fit of agony.

My brother, Erik, who was just 17 years old at the time, had lost his life in a motor vehicle accident along with his best friend John. It was a devastating blow, and like waves pounding the hull, the years to follow were riddled with uncertainty, anxiety, fear, fighting, divorce, substance abuse, and at times, despair.

“When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Will Appear”

Fast forward 10 years. I’m living life on my own and carrying all of that unaddressed trauma with me. I’m overweight, depressed, borrowing money from family members, and living a life void of purpose.

Then, I came across a book. It wasn’t the first time this book had slipped into my consciousness, though. When I was 18 a dear friend offered it to me, but as the old saying goes, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

The book was called Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. It’s a translation of the Tao Te Ching, a book written in China by a man named Lao Tzu. The Tao was written 500 years before the bible and offers 81 verses that are a guide to living the Way.

I began to study and practice the lessons, and soon after, I noticed things start to change. As if the universe stopped colluding against me, and started orchestrating for me, the right people showed up, the opportunities showed up, the energy to take on new tasks showed up. Most importantly, however, I found a proficiency for allowing inner peace to prevail no matter the situation.

Finding the Calm After the Storm

As I sit here writing this, now 31 years old, I am filled with so much gratitude for everything that has shown up in my life. I am a Registered Nurse, I’m married to an amazing woman, and we have incredible pets and a quaint house where all of our dreams become manifest.

But it’s not just the “good” that I’m grateful for. I’m also grateful for the hardship that’s led me to this place.

My struggles, and the knowledge that has led me to overcome them, are all part of this divine purpose that I seek to fulfill daily. Truly, my purpose was hidden behind my obstacles all along.

All that weather, all that time in the crow’s nest, now lives in my mind as part of my education.

Because those experiences led to the dissolution of my so-called “self”, and what remained evaporated in the warmth of something greater.

Once again as the ship captain, I’m now gazing into sunny skies. Not even that, I am the sky, and the ground, I see myself in everything that enters my experience.

In instant acknowledgment of the light bouncing off of everything that I see, I see all as a reflection of the divine that flows through me.

Conclusion

When I look back now, there never really was a storm. All of that anger, fear, and emotional struggle, were just symptoms of a narrative I created to try to make sense of the pain.

But we’re all the authors of our own unique story, nobody else can write it for you. You, and only you, are in control of how you perceive everything that has led you to where you are right now.

My purpose was hidden behind my obstacles, and that purpose is to share my story and help those who find themselves stuck in the crow’s nest.

Have you had a similar experience overcoming trauma and adversity? How has that experience shaped who you are today? Post your experience in the comments section below and show others that they, too, can rewrite their story.

For more on the healing power of the Tao Te Ching, check out my course entitled A Journey of Transformation: Applying the Principles of the Tao Te Ching.

You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

– Franz Kafka

my purpose

Not Everyone Needs To Follow Their Passion

Everyone nowadays thinks that the pinnacle of self-expression and self-actualization is to follow your passion. The thinking goes that you must be passionate about work or you are basically dead and living a worthless life.

In fact, this has become somewhat of a litmus test to assess whether we are living a good life or even whether we are living a valuable life. It seems that the common thinking has become that if we don’t follow our passions, then we are wasting our life, that we are asleep, we are lazy or scared.

But that is not the case.

Not everyone’s life is defined by their work. And not everyone’s passion is their work.
Following your passion can mean more than one thing. As long as we have passion in our lives somewhere, as long as we are passionate about something, then we are living a life that’s worth living.

Because life should have passion as well as stability, life should have play and excitement, as well as structure and continuity. And maybe your work supports your other passions, those things that move you, like travel, friends, or your family.

So what do I have to say to people who are decidedly and, even consciously, not following their passion because they have other passions? I say, go forth and do you.

Because following your passion is not always an easy choice nor is it a sure path to happiness and I can tell you that because I follow my passions (in the plural) when it comes to work.

Unless you are doing this for one reason and only one reason, following what you consider your passion, will leave you frustrated and disappointed.

I will get to that reason shortly, but first, let’s talk about why following your passion is not always what people think it is.

Firstly, following your passion is not a road paved with gold that leads to millions of pounds and untold riches. Most people who follow their passion build things brick by brick and often, especially if your passion involves the creative arts or entrepreneurship, you are likely to be broke at times, sometimes frequently, and for lengthy periods of time.

And trust me, financial instability is not for the faint of heart. Moving back in with your parents, which is what I had to do in my 30s, is probably not going to be the highlight of your life.

I am not saying that you can’t make money following your passions, because right now is one of the best times ever for doing what you love, just because we live in such a globalized world with so much access, but that doesn’t make it a surety or easy.

The bigger pie, to which we now all have access, has just as many people with spoons at the ready … and they are eager and hungry! And also, if you do this for the money, you most likely won’t survive, because making money through your passions is a long game, not a short one. I know of people that basically worked for free for 7 years before they started making a sustainable income.

Secondly, following your passion doesn’t mean it’s fun. I know, I know. Now I am really ruining it for you. But this is what I mean; it is still work. You have to show up every day and put in the hours and there will be things that, just like with any job, you don’t enjoy doing. In my work, for instance, the passion for what I do is an overall feeling, rather than a daily feeling of elation and joy.

I love building things that mean something to myself and others, and I love to express my ideas through words as well as design (in the case of my fashion business), but am I passionate about updating the website? No. Am I passionate about social media? Not really.

There are a multitude of tasks I dislike as much as you dislike about your work and following my passion doesn’t make these mundane tasks more fun, it just makes them a little more meaningful, because they are part of the whole. I can understand why I need to do them, but I don’t always enjoy them.

I think this one is important to focus on, and think about, because so many people say, admiringly, to their crazy friends, who are bravely following their passion, something along the lines of, ‘well, at least you enjoy it’ or ‘it must be great fun’. Sometimes, it is great fun. But sometimes it’s not and sometimes it’s boring and sometimes it basically sucks.

Thirdly, there is a myth that by following your passion, you have more flexibility and a better work-life balance. Again, incorrect. Obviously, this depends on the industry, but you may actually have less of a balance because, if you are obsessed with your work, like me, it’s difficult to draw a line between work and play.

When you love what you do, you can find that you really need to be conscious of carving out time for other things, which, in the long term, you would be sad to miss out on in your life experience.

It’s also the case that your schedule is often determined by the demands of your customer and suppliers and other stakeholders. If you are the boss or a freelancer, you are not necessarily more in charge of your day or calendar, at least not for a long time.

So far, I am making this sounds hopeless and pointless. And so I’ll answer the question: Why do we follow our passion? What is the one and only reason you should follow your passion?

The answer is this – because you cannot not do it. You must do it. You are called to do it. And that voice keeps whispering through years and years, even if you try and ignore it. You can’t live without it and, if you had to, your life would be smaller, dimmer, less fulfilling, and one in which your full talent and potential are not being given life.

That is the only reason. Not for money, not for fame, nor for ease, not because you’re bored, not because it’s cool to have a business or start-up or foundation or creative venture, not for access to men or women, not for status or power.

Only because you seem to have no choice but to follow the call, and that call is as much a part of you as your blood and bones.

So, think about your reason. Before you dive into pursuing your passion, with all the trials and tribulations that path sometimes includes, and all the sacrifices in time, money, and relationships; think about what’s important to you.

Because, truly, not everyone needs to follow their passion at work to have a life filled with passion and meaning!

What do you think? Do you pursue your passion for a living? And why?

following your passion

From Fear to Faith: Overcoming the Lies We Tell Ourselves

From starting to stalled. Excited to deflated. Passion-filled to filled with self-doubt.

You see, my thoughts and I… we don’t have the healthiest of relationships. 

For all my life, I’ve been everyone else’s cheerleader.  Helping others realize their potential and feel good about who they are is a real passion for me.

But what happens when the same voice that encourages everyone else discourages her own self? 

That’s my story.  I’ve often allowed my fears, doubts, and suffering self-esteem to override any good sense I’ve been blessed with. 

Those fears began to produce unhealthy patterns, thoughts, and behaviors.  I got into abusive relationships, stopped taking care of my health, and allowed my identity to become who everyone else said I was. 

Over time, these sneaky, self-defeating lies and patterns become so familiar to us that we get comfortable with the dysfunction, even if it’s killing us.

If your inner critic is a loud, obnoxious, constant talker like mine, all hope is not lost. 

So, what do you do when your own worst enemy is you? How do we break free from the lies that hold us at arm’s length from our dreams; always hoping but never actually achieving?

Joyce Meyer says it best, “You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.”  Believing everything you think can set you up to fail before you even begin. 

We can challenge our ‘stinking thinking’ by becoming more mindful of what we allow to aimlessly wander through our hearts and minds.

Settling for less than we deserve and accepting lies as truth, is not something we have to put up with anymore.   

We all have a story to tell.  Some are darker and more painful than others with more twists and turns.  In my case, there was a lot of dysfunction and emotional abuse, lacking in love and acceptance.

Your story may be different from mine, but I’d be willing to bet most of us have experienced some difficult days that have shaken our confidence and trust.

If you see yourself in any of these lies, I invite you to face the lie for what it is so you too can grow into a life you love.

I’m not ready.

Healthy caution when making most life decisions is a good thing. Rushing into marriage, a career choice, or a business partnership without weighing the pros and cons could end in disaster.

However, there are times in our lives when our hesitancy is no longer healthy. Truth is – if we wait until we are “ready” for many decisions – we will never start.

If you find yourself stuck in a rut of overthinking; could it be you know what’s right, but are just afraid to go for it?

As a woman of strong Christian faith, I like to ask myself this question as I pray over it, “Do I have peace about it?” If something in my gut/spirit feels off, there’s probably a reason.

Let’s be honest, though. How often is, “I’m not ready,” or “I can’t, because…” just a cover-up for “I’m afraid to…?”

What I’ve discovered in my own life is that sometimes I just have to do it afraid.  When we are doing something we’ve never done before, it’s going to feel uncomfortable and uncertain.  That’s why it’s called, “getting out of our comfort zone.” 

I’ve just decided that I’d rather try and fail than look back 10 years from now and mourn for all I didn’t do.  What about you?

I’m not as good as them.

I’ve struggled with this one a lot throughout my life.  The more I compared myself to others, the more I lost sight of what makes me one-of-a-kind.  Instead of focusing on what I do have, my fixation became on all that I didn’t have or couldn’t do.

Because my focus was wrong,  I ended up doing nothing at all.  

We humans tend to have a bad habit of looking at someone else’s best and comparing it to our worst.

What would you say if I told you that when the person you look up to considered your strengths against their weaknesses – they’d feel exactly the same as you do?

That’s right.

Truth is, no one has all the answers. No one has it all figured out. There’s not a “secret formula to success,” that the person you admire has the monopoly on.

Most likely, they’ve just put in the work that it required to get where they are — which means you can too.

You weren’t designed to be a carbon copy of anyone. It’s fine to be inspired by others, but just remember, there is something you offer that no one else can.

It is good to be different. What makes you unique is what makes you shine.

They’re not smarter, better looking, the “right” age, or more talented — they’re just different from you. And you are different from them. My friend, that’s a truth worth celebrating.

I am learning to show up as my authentic self, no matter what others think.  Guess what happens next?  We begin to form real relationships with people who actually like who we are and what we offer.          

The needs of others matter more than my own.

I’m a recovering people-pleaser. Far too often, my value was tied to how well I served others and what they thought of me.

If you can relate, then you know the end to this story: burnout, frustration, emptiness, exhaustion, and unhealthy habits.

Self-love is not selfish. In fact, it is the very opposite. If you love those around you and want to be there for them, taking care of you is the perfect place to start.

Consider these examples for how to show yourself some love today:

  • Take time out to rest, even if only for a moment
  • Practice saying no when something doesn’t work for you and don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for it
  • Let go of toxic relationships
  • Heal from unhelpful mindsets through coaching or counseling
  • Find time for health-and-happiness-boosting activities
  • Be mindful of the foods you put into your body
  • Forgive yourself for past mistakes and wrong turns in life
  •  Boundaries are good. Don’t forget to use them wisely

We really do teach people how to treat us.  As I learned to treat myself with kindness and respect, I realized what was and wasn’t working in my life. 

Anyone who doesn’t respect your boundaries doesn’t respect you. 

I have to be perfect.

Perfectionism is a poison that many of us, including myself, drink every day and wonder why we aren’t well.

May I ask you a question?

Would you rather be friends with, and learn from, someone who is humble and shows their struggles; or someone who seems to never struggle with anything?

Most of us long to connect with the stories of others who have been where we are. It makes us feel less alone in our mess.

The world doesn’t need more phony, filtered, “perfection.” What we need are people willing to be real –  sharing the good, bad, and the ugly.

You have the power to make someone else see the hope in their own story. What you’ve been through can serve a purpose. Your pain doesn’t have to be in vain.

Choose the power of authenticity over the illusion of perfection. We are all growing and learning.  We will make mistakes along the way, hopefully, learn from them, and be better for it. 

I’ll be happy when ____.

Ever said this lie to yourself? I sure have. We convince ourselves that when we have a certain thing, reach a certain weight or goal, suddenly we’ll be happy.

It’s okay for us to have goals and to work toward growth in our lives. These are healthy, but it becomes unhealthy when we get so future-focused that we miss the gift of here and now.

No, we may not be where we want to be, but look how far you’ve come since last year, or even a few months ago! Celebrate that with a heart full of gratitude and notice how much happier you instantly feel.

Gratitude is a weapon. Use it.

I re-visit that quote from Joyce Meyer about being unable to have a positive life while thinking negative thoughts. 

It’s not easy, but little by little, I’ve been training myself to take those lying, mean-spirited thoughts, out to the trash where they belong.  You can too.

In my office, there is print art that reads, “The past is your lesson, the present is your gift, the future is your motivation.” 

Let’s choose joy right now.  In the simple things.  It could be the smell or flavor of your favorite cup of coffee, the way a fresh breeze feels against your skin, or the way your pet makes you laugh and feel unconditionally loved. 

Whatever it is for you, how about we determine that “I’ll be happy when___” turns into, “I’ll be happy now because this moment is a gift not everyone was given.”

Letting go of the lies.

By no means do I intend to make letting go of these lies sound easy. A lie must be replaced by a truth. Changing our minds is a process.

It is possible, though. One step, one day, one thought, at a time.

Challenge yourself to think about what you’re thinking about. You might find patterns in your thinking that are holding you back out of fear, and keeping you stuck in limitations that you may not have even created.

As you work your way through those cobwebs of lies, you’ll begin to see possibility where you only saw problems. You are worthy.

What lies do you tell yourself?  What is the best piece of advice you could give others who are struggling in the same way?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Great conversation helps everyone!

lies we tell ourselves

Don’t Wait For Life To Come At You

You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft, that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.

David Goggins, Can’t Hurt Me

Are you at a place in your life where the above quote rings a bell? Is there a nagging thought in your head that goes like this?

“My life is meant to be more…”

Do you feel a bit overwhelmed though because you’re not quite sure what to do?

I understand completely what that is like. I’ve been there. I know how impossible it can all feel. I understand how weak it can make you seem to yourself.

You are not weak, though, and change is possible. Will you keep reading to know more? I hope so.

The problem with growth, healing, and, ultimately, becoming who we are meant to be is…

…fear.

It’s one hell of a roadblock. 

Fear of not knowing where or how to start. Fear of what might change because of the change required. Fear of having to deal with things being run away from. Fear of losing things or someone you’ve been holding on to for too long.

It’s hard and scary, but as the quote above at the top of this post insinuates…

…do you want to live your entire life missing out on your true potential?

I drank for a really long time to avoid all of this. Alcohol was fun at first in college, but at twenty-four I started self-medicating when I suffered a tragically emotional event. 

There was so much grief, guilt, and shame wrapped up in it, and with no one to talk to, I turned to alcohol. It became my best friend and numbing agent for thirteen years.

And then 2014 came along where I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer in less than six months and became a father a little over three months after she died. 

I became a parent while losing a parent.

The truth is this duality broke me. Even in the face of being a new father, I was drowning in grief. Not only that, but my unnamed alcoholism was almost quite literally drowning me as well.

Grief and alcohol. 

There is only one way that that dangerous combo can go which is down.

I hit rock bottom in June of 2015 and that is when I realized that life was forcing me to change.

I’ll spare you extensive details about my journey between then and now. You can learn more about how my self-growth and healing journey began, but in essence…

  • I befriended my grief
  • Dealt with bankruptcy
  • Battled alcoholism
  • Got sober
  • Relapsed
  • Got and stayed sober for good
  • Got divorced while learning to be sober
  • Started life all over with no money
  • 2020 COVID pandemic and now…

…here we are.

What do I have to show for it?

I have my sobriety, my mind, my body, my spirit, and, most importantly, my son.

Where did it all begin?

When my mom died.

I know that might seem morbid, but it’s literally just the truth. My mother’s death was the catalyst that forced me to change everything in my life in order to start becoming who I was meant to be for myself and my son.

This is my story of change. Would I prefer that my mom was here and I got to watch her and my son playing together? 

Hell yes, but that’s not part of my story. I railed against that truth for a very long time, but once I released a hold on a future that I thought was intended for me that is when life started to truly change for the better.

Learn from my story. 

Don’t wait for life to force you to change, but change nonetheless. Even if you think you have it all figured out, remember that life is a marathon and not a sprint. 

Becoming who you are meant to be takes a lifetime. It has to start somewhere, somehow and sometime. 

Do you have the courage to look within you and find what needs to shift in order to become who you are meant to be?

If so, what is one thing you can change starting today that will move you in that direction?

don't wait for life