How One Simple Change can Improve Your Life

Photo By Cliff
  Remember The Little Engine That Could? "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can - I know I can, I know I can..." Well, you can learn a lot from that children's story. I realize many people think that saying affirmations is a little cheesy but there's something about having that positive mindset that can help us realize our true potential. We spend so much time going through life being bogged down by negative thought. We don't even realize we're doing it because it becomes so automatic. Whether we're looking in the mirror and telling ourselves we look like a cow or we don't try for the higher position in our office because we don't think we're good enough, we often bombard ourselves with negative self-talk. Who needs enemies to put us down when we're so good at it ourselves?

  Saying affirmations counteracts that negative inner voice and eventually, we will learn to believe what we say. Now, although I do believe in the law of attraction and I know affirmations are a huge part of that, I don't believe that you can just wish something into happening. However, when you combine those positive affirmations with positive actions then you're  really onto something. Don't just tell yourself how wonderful you are or keep repeating what a great life you live, make it real. Positive thought + positive action = positive reaction. I'm not necessarily saying fake it until you make it but allow yourself to really experience the way you will feel once you reach your goal, absorb yourself in thoughts of the lifestyle you want to live then go out and live your life in such a way to make things happen. You know an object in motion tends to stay in motion so once you've made the decision to make a positive change in your life do something right away to put that decision into action. Don't put it off - just do something.

  I must stress that while I believe it is important to learn to think positively it's equally (and perhaps more) important to not lie to yourself. Don't fill your affirmations with things that you know are absolutely not true. For example, if you're overweight and you are uncomfortable in your own skin, it doesn't matter how many times you say "I'm thin" to yourself, you're going to know it's a lie. There's a fine line between creating positive affirmations and flat out self-deception but be careful to not go there. Instead of telling yourself "I'm thin" you could say something like "I am learning to be comfortable in my own skin. I have complete control over my own body." The idea is to let your positive thoughts conquer the negative thoughts. And let me be clear, thinking positive and being optimistic are powerful but that doesn't mean things won't still go wrong. There will still be struggles and sometimes you may find yourself thinking your positive thoughts aren't getting you anywhere but it's during those rough times that positive thinking is most critical. Also, keep in mind that saying affirmations isn't a miracle cure for all that can go wrong in life. Think of life and all it's turmoil as the common cold and your affirmations as immune boosting vitamins and positive thoughts as the cold medicine that lessens the symptoms. Though there's no cure, there are steps you can take toward prevention and when all else fails, you can still find relief from the symptoms.

   Your affirmations can be as simple as "I am living life on my terms and working toward achieving my dreams" and you don't even have to say them aloud. That's right, if you're weirded out at the thought of talking to yourself you can achieve the same results by repeating your affirmation in your head! Set aside a bit of quiet time each day, get comfortable and allow yourself to relax, clear your mind and focus on taking some deep breaths as you begin to go over your affirmations. At first it's probably going to feel strange. I know when I first started I felt like some kind of new age wacko (not that there's anything wrong with that ;) ). In time it will become more natural and I now will catch myself automatically going over an affirmation in my head when I encounter a stressful situation. 

  One last thing before I end this post... I said there's a fine line between affirmations and self-deception and that you should avoid lying to yourself BUT that doesn't factor in visualization. I'm sort of a "if you can see it then you can be it" kind of girl. While you probably don't want to try to convince yourself that you're something you totally know you're not (self-deception) I don't see any problem in visualizing yourself as you would like to be. Visualization is very powerful and can be used in conjunction with your affirmations with no self-deception involved... but that's a whole 'nother post. (You can read more on my thoughts about visualization later this week). 

So, do you use affirmations and if so, how do they work for you?

You are a Badass! How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and...

5 Ways to Live the Best Life Possible

  I've never been much into the bucket list thing. However, for a college assignment I had to create one and once I got started, I couldn't stop. My list was incredibly long and when I was finished I couldn't believe everything I "wanted" to accomplish in my lifetime. Today, I can look at that list and laugh a little because I realize it's packed with a lot of fluff and goals that I'm not really passionate about (never was passionate about) but they seemed like good ideas at the time. Since then, I've done some major redesigning of that list and while there are many goals I'd still like to achieve, the goals which remain on my list are important to me, things that I feel are precious and worth my time. Sure, there are still a few that some might find a little far out there in terms of practicability but the first 5 goals on my list are things that I honestly feel everyone should do and I'm going to share those with you.

Five Things You Should Do Before You Die

Photo by Tristan Schmurr
1. Love and allow yourself to be loved. 
Love without expecting anything in return. Take notice that you not only love with words but also with actions. Accept the kindness of others as their acts of love for you. Let down your guard a little. Make sure those you love always know just how much you love them.

Photo by Courney Dirks
2. Inspire and be inspired. 
 Allow yourself to be inspired and return some of that inspiration back to the world. Learn to find inspiration in unlikely places. Listen and look with an open mind... you never know where inspiration may be hiding.

Photo by Photophilde
3.  Be Passionate.
Allow yourself to become healthily absorbed in activities you enjoy and learn to find joy in even the most routine tasks. Whether it is a hobby you adore or a job you despise, there are ways to be passionate in everything you do. Always be curious and explore. Your passions are probably not going to just fall into your lap - You have to seek them out! Search for the good in every situation. If you have a boring chore then find some way that it applies to your life, furthers your cause, or helps others and turn it into a source of passion. Learn to look at situations with "new eyes", as if you're experiencing it for the first time. Something you "hate" doing will always be something you "hate" doing if you endure it with a hateful attitude. Remember, you're not born with passion - you create it.

Photo by Ross Griff
4. Promote forgiveness. 
Forgive others, ask for forgiveness, and forgive yourself. Holding onto grudges isn't healthy - emotionally or physically. Learn to let it go. When necessary, don't hesitate to ask for forgiveness even if you know it won't be given. Once in a while, especially when it involves those you love, you might ask for forgiveness even when you're certain you've done nothing to be forgiven for. Most importantly, learn to forgive yourself for the things you've done. Don't hold onto regrets of the past. Life is too short to waste time beating yourself up over any shortcomings or mistakes.

Photo by Ed Yourdon
5. Never stop learning. 
View each day as an opportunity to expand your horizons and grow as a person. Never pass up a chance to learn something new. Remain vigilant in your journey for knowledge because learning opportunities often present themselves in ways we never imagine. Sometimes, actually often times, you won't realize you were being taught until the lesson is finished. 

Why You Should Consider Rewriting Your Bucket List

Photo by Roger
  I had a bucket list but the bucket got a hole in it from being so overstuffed with a bunch of blah-blah fluff and junk and I'm just going to toss it before I get a chance to kick it. This list of mine was a mile long and included items such as "Learn to play guitar", "Go on a cruise". It was literally the front and back of a sheet of legal pad paper. Now and then I accomplished something and crossed it off but for the most part, many of those things were left untouched. You see, I finally started to see what was important in life and most everything on my list was a bunch of poo. It's not about fulfilling all those accomplishments anyway. It's really about living your life in such a way that you can die happy. Just because there's this list of things you want to do/see/become before you pass on doesn't mean that you have to reach each goal. Actually, I think it would be sad to cross the last thing off. So, you look back over your list and that's what your life is all about? Will jumping out of an airplane, learning to play piano, or going to the Superbowl... make you a better person? Those experiences may enrich your life but when all is said and done the relationships you build with your family and friends, those whose lives you touch along the way and whose lives you've allowed to touch yours will be what actually stands out.

  Live life fully every day with intention. Love with everything you've got. Be passionate about something, anything, EVERYTHING. If you have to do something, you may as well do it wholeheartedly instead of half-assed just because you wrote it down on a list at some point in life. Priorities change, what you thought you wanted way back when might not be what you want now. Allow yourself to drop the cliche bucket list items. You don't HAVE to swim with the dolphins or learn to knit a sweater. Make sure you're doing the things YOU want to do and living the life YOU choose. Give your all in everything you do. Give of yourself every day. Be an inspiration and encourage others to do the same.

Do You Have Harmony in your Life?

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Photo by Horia Varlan

   In life, we have many theme songs. Some days the theme song is harmonious, vibrant and upbeat and other days, not so much. Life itself in many ways is like a piece of music. Often it begins with an intense introduction, each verse builds upon the next until we find ourselves at the "glory years" of our song a.k.a. the chorus. We then continue, winding down toward the conclusion perhaps crossing a beautiful bridge along the way. When we reach the end of our piece, often parts of our past journey echo back to us as we gradually fade away.

  Just as in music, we must strive to maintain harmonious balance in our lives. In music when there is disharmony it produces a harsh, often annoying sound and we can immediately tell that something just isn't right. When we have disharmony in our lives it's basically the same - things are harsh, conflicting, we are faced with strife and can absolutely sense that something is off. It's difficult to maintain harmonic balance but that doesn't mean it can't be done. Before we can experience harmony in our interactions with the world, we first must achieve a level of personal harmony. All that we do in the realm of self-help is bringing us to that state of personal balance. The more we are able to take control of our thoughts, suppress the negative and engage in more positive thinking, the sooner harmony will replace discord and we will find our happy balance.

What helps you achieve harmony in your life?

How to Live a More Passionate Life

 You know how when you really enjoy doing something time seems to fly by? That's what happens with me when I paint. I turn on my music, set up my canvas, paints and brushes and just let whatever I'm feeling take over. I don't worry about what colors I'm using or about anything being perfect... I just paint. And in that time I become so absorbed into what I'm doing I lose all sense of time. 

  The canvas doesn't care that I should really be washing dishes, the paint doesn't expect anything from me and I can go off into my own little world. I can take out my frustrations with each brush stroke and paint splatter. It's all so very therapeutic. My paintings usually end up being very abstract and sometimes not perfect or very "pretty" in the eyes of someone else. However, I'm not painting for them, I'm painting for ME. Also, it's not just the end result that is important but rather the whole process. 

  That's sort of the same way I look at life. It's MY life and I'm living it for me, no one else. Getting from point A to point B is the goal but you should allow yourself to enjoy the process of getting there. If you are forcing yourself through it without passion and a feeling of absorption then maybe you're on the wrong path. Maybe you're on the path that everyone else wants you to take and trying to achieve their idea of perfection.

   Every day we're painting the canvas of our lives and in order to have our best life possible, there should be a sense of passion driving us. We may never find that passion if we're trying to make our painting good enough in another person's eyes. Our lives are truly our very own creations, works of art - our Masterpieces. Who are you painting for?

Beyonce - I Was Here

How will you leave your mark on the world so everyone will know YOU were here?

4 Ways to Be Happier and Live Better

     With all the problems in the world sometimes it's really difficult to focus on happiness. When you turn on the news or read it online there's almost always some horrible tragedy, crime, violence, or otherwise unpleasant story being reported. Yes, I know that's life and in the real world things get ugly, messy and life isn't all sunshine and rainbows but seriously, I often feel the need to just disconnect and get away from all of the drama. Some people may say that I'm not being realistic and I just need to learn to "deal" but I can't stay focused on positivity when I'm surrounded by such negativity. Surely I'm not the only person who feels this way so I want to share a few things that I do to escape from harsh reality being shoved down my throat.  

1. Take a walk. Getting out into the fresh air and just being alone helps. It's even better if you can spend time in a more secluded area as opposed to a city. There's something about getting back to nature that offers a calming feeling.

2. Stop watching television for a few days. Don't watch the news. Also, make sure your Internet homepage isn't a news site. Don't listen to the radio either unless it's a station that doesn't ever report ugly news. I understand this is difficult and many people would have trouble not staying up to date on current events but when those current events cause me a lot of stress and anxiety, I'd prefer to just ditch it altogether. If it makes you feel better you can ask a friend or family member to alert you if something you really NEED to know occurs - school closing, severe weather, economic collapse, zombie apocalypse... you get the idea.

3. Take a shower. Cry while you're in there if you have to. If something I've just heard has seriously upset me, sometimes I just feel the need to entirely cleanse myself of the whole thing. I couldn't possibly be the only person who does this. There are times when I just can't hold back the tears and besides, I've always felt much better after a good cry anyway.

4. Seek out inspirational messages and look for the good news. There are a couple websites that I like and they report nothing but uplifting, good news. A little time reading The Good News Network and Happy News can make a huge difference in the way I feel about the world. 

   Most importantly, we need to understand that no matter how horrible things seem we need to avoid letting ourselves get so absorbed into it. While it's impossible (and impractical) to entirely separate ourselves from the world we live in, sometimes a little break from reality is exactly what we need to remain optimistic, stay focused on living a happy life, and restore our faith in humanity.

Remember those commercials where the stressed lady cries out "Calgon, take me away!"? What's your "Calgon"? What do you do when you need a break from reality?

Do You Make THIS Mistake?

hatching egg
Photo by Grendel Khan

   Are you the kind of person with hundreds of great ideas but you rarely do anything about them? 

Well then, your ideas may be as worthless as rotten eggs.That’s mean, isn’t it? To tell someone their ideas are worthless is pretty cruel. 

But you know what? It’s true, well sort of anyway. 

I can’t count how many times a day brilliant (or so I think) ideas pop into my head. All these ideas for making my life easier, ideas about inventions that should be made, ideas about a better way to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without ever getting one in the others’ jar… you know, important stuff.

 Anyway, if you know anything about me at all you know I’m a daydreamer, therefore at any given moment I have about half a dozen ideas floating around in my already overcrowded brain. 

Here’s the problem – unless I make a plan and put these ideas into action, they’re basically worthless. If, however, I take one of these ideas and foster it, allow it to grow into something bigger then perhaps it will have some value. 

   When I was really young we used to hatch and raise chickens. We had the whole set up – incubator with temperature control, an egg candler (a light to see inside the egg), etc. 

We would take the eggs and wipe them with a dry cloth then place them in the warmth of the incubator. We would place an X and O on each end of an egg to make sure they had been turned and we would make sure to turn them several times a day. 

Every now and then we would use a light to look inside the egg and see the progress. We would just wait and watch and wait as the chick would grow inside the egg. 

After what seemed like an eternity, we would see a tiny crack and the chick would work its way out. The whole process takes a few weeks (seems longer) but is very rewarding. 

   I know, you’re asking “Where on Earth are you going with this and why do I care about your chickens?” 

   Here’s why you care: Ideas are like hatching eggs. You have to tend to them patiently, foster them, keep them warm, and every now and then examine them from the inside out to see from every angle how this idea in progress is changing and what it might become.

 Eventually, after we spend some time letting our idea develop, we can clean it up and set it free into the world. Oh, we won't entirely let it fend for itself, but if it's a good one we can, for the most part just sit back, let it find its wings and fly. (Yeah, I know chickens don't really "fly" so slightly bad comparison but that's not the point).

   If none of that makes sense, what I’m really trying to say (just taking a long time to get to it) is we need to nurture our ideas before putting them into action (or before giving up on them entirely). 

Some ideas might take a little longer than others to grow into something more. You know, the best things in life sometimes take a while to become the best things - like wine, cheese, fruitcake… well, maybe not fruitcake.  

Anyway, the point is you can have the most amazing ideas in the world but if you don’t nurture them and allow them to grow, well, in time all you’re left with is a bunch of rotten eggs. So yeah, they’re pretty much worthless.

 Have you been letting your eggs rot?

What Is Personal Development?

Among The Clouds
Photo by Arnel Dollosa

   I’m sure most of you have a good idea what personal development is. The answer is both simple and complex. Anything and everything that is done to improve who you are as a human being is personal development. There are many different areas of personal development and some are making improvements to your education, health, relationships, and self-esteem. Some things that most people would agree on when it comes to personal development are the need to set goals, defining exactly what it is that you want before you’re able to achieve it, not being afraid to work consistently to obtain what you want, as well as finding sources of motivation and inspiration to keep you headed in the right direction. 

   Personally, I like to think of personal development as a human investment. Think about something – Why are so many people willing to pay out thousands of dollars for items such as cars, houses, boats, clothing, etc. but these same people are hesitant to pay for self-help books or seminars in personal growth? What’s worse is that many times these things can be had for free from the library or online but people will say they don’t have the free time. An investment in YOU is the best investment you will ever make. It took me a while to figure that out for myself. Every book I read, every bit of knowledge I gain from reading or hearing about someone else’s experience, and every cent and minute I spend becoming more fulfilled, more educated, more in tune with who I am, the stronger I become as a person. I understand time is a huge issue and that’s one investment that people feel they don’t have the luxury of making. BUT it’s usually the people who are so pressed for time who benefit most from personal development. Even if it’s as simple as taking a few minutes a day to sit and think in complete silence that’s better than nothing at all. If you don’t have time to invest in yourself you can’t possibly live every part of your life to the fullest. What’s holding you back?

Paying it Forward - Helping Yourself by Helping Others

Photo by Tim Green

    I’m always talking about how you get what you give but I was really reminded of that last night and I wanted to share it with you. My family went out for dinner and as we sat enjoying our meal, a gentleman approached our table. He commented on how well behaved the children were and I told him that yes, they have their good moments. He chuckled and said something about kids usually being rowdy in restaurants and then stepped around the corner to place his order, or so I thought. He came back around and sat $20 on the table and said we should buy them a treat for being such good kids. I said thank you and prompted the children to do the same. Normally I would have tried to refuse it but a while back someone told me that I shouldn’t always turn down someone’s offering because doing so took away a piece of the happiness they would receive for doing something nice. It’s almost instinct to say “Oh, no, please we can’t accept this.” BUT I fought the urge.

   On our way home from the restaurant, there was a man standing in the median at the intersection of the highway holding a sign and a gas can.  It was below 30 degrees out and snowing and he wasn’t really dressed for the weather. I took $20 from my purse and had my husband roll his window down and call him over to our van as we sat in traffic. You could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t expecting that much (Not that it was a lot of money but he had one of the smallest gas cans I’d ever seen.) He was very appreciative and apologized. He told us he wouldn’t usually do something like that but he didn’t have any other way. I assured him it was perfectly fine. I was so glad to pay it forward so quickly. From the moment the gentleman in the restaurant put the money down on our table I was thinking of a way I could return the kindness. I didn’t expect it to happen as soon as it did but I saw it as a true sign that you get what you give. You never know when it will happen or where but your kindness will always come back to you.

Create Your Perfect Life Map Using a Vision Board

Creating Your Perfect Lifestyle 

Photo by Nanette Saylor
  Most of us have in our minds the image of our perfect lifestyle. For some that might mean living in the middle of nowhere on a farm and being completely self-sufficient and for others it might mean being a big shot executive with a multimillion dollar home, lots of power, and money to burn. I often ask myself “What’s one thing that you can do today that will bring you one step closer to your perfect lifestyle?” I’m a believer in the law of attraction, although I do think that a little work and planning never hurt anyone. One of the best tools I’ve ever used has been a vision board. If you’re not familiar with vision boards they are basically collages that you create of things you want and need.  You then take these collages and put them in places where you will see them every day. 

Recently, I read an article by Martha Beck that explains 7 steps to getting the lifestyle you want. This article explains how you can map out your perfect lifestyle. It involves using vision boards but there’s a twist because you’re also going to create a board for the lifestyle you currently have and step by step go through the process of enhancing different areas of your life and doing research to figure out how to eliminate the negative aspects in your current lifestyle.  Of course, this isn’t meant to get you where you need to be in order to have that lifestyle but once you’ve finished you’ll have a pretty clear picture of what you want in life and a better idea of how to get there. With anything worth having there’s going to have to be some effort put forth so don’t expect instant gratification and be willing to work for what you want. I know it’s cliché but where there’s a will there’s a way. Hey, I’m a poet and didn’t know it. =)