happy

The Only Thing That Makes Me Happier

I was ashamed of everything. I moved about 100 miles away so there was no chance I could run into anyone I knew.

I didn’t have a job. It was snowing every day. I never left my new, tiny home because I was afraid I’d cry outside. Like my dad when he had become depressed 15 years earlier.

I had no infrastructure inside me to find hope.

I’d lock myself in a small office. My tiny daughters occasionally knocked on the door, a ball in their hands. “Daddy, do you want to play?”

But then something happened.

I couldn’t sleep at all. I was too anxious. So at 6 a.m. I’d go to the local cafe. One day someone brought a Scrabble set.

A few of us started to play. Soon it became a regular thing. Who were they? Nobody. All of us, nobody.

First one game, then two games were going.

I had zero friends from the disaster I had left behind. But after Scrabble, sometimes one or two of would break off and we’d take a walk around the Revolutionary War ruins that littered themselves around town.

What was there to talk about? Scraps. Mistakes.

We all had been degraded and humiliated by people better than us. We were afraid.

***

I can’t believe the things I shared. The things she shared. He shared. They shared.

A friend listens. A friend is curious.

A friend doesn’t judge.

A friend offers suggestions but doesn’t force their solutions.

A friend laughs.

I’m not ashamed to ask for help from a friend. I’m pretty much ashamed to ask for help from anyone else.

Sometimes I meet a new person and BAM! Magic! We don’t need to be friends for 40 years. We can’t stop talking.

***

Sometimes I really like people but I can also sense I can never really be friends with them. Eventually they drift away.

I miss my friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. Some friends can pick right up even if it’s been years.

Friends don’t expect a lot from me and I don’t expect a lot from them. Then… guess what? Our expectations are always exceeded 100%.

Friends share ideas with me and I share ideas with them. I have idea sex with friends and we grow idea families together.

All opportunities bloom from the seeds of friendship.

To be understood, you have to understand. To be listened to, you have to listen. @jaltucher (Click to Tweet!)

I didn’t know that until everyone had stopped listening to me.

Every morning at Scrabble was a little friendship party. I like those. I wish… I wish I had more of those now.

Too many people wonder, “What’s my goal?”

Too many times I’ve said, I can’t be happy without X or Y!

Friendship requires less naked ambition.

I wonder how many friends I should have. How many? In a city filled with everyone.

I’ve only gotten off of rock bottom by gripping onto the hands of friends who could pull me higher. New and old.

Sometimes now, I miss these moments of shame. These moments where I was shy and hoping someone would reach me.

Sometimes I miss friends I haven’t seen in a long time.

Don’t worry. Even if we never see each other again… we saw each other once.


James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


Image courtesy of Anderson W Rangel.

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Seeing a Glass As Half-Full May Say More About Someone’s Personality Than Just Being Optimistic

“Seeing the glass as half-full” rather than half-empty is supposed to be indicative of someone’s optimism – but what about their personality?

The post Seeing a Glass As Half-Full May Say More About Someone’s Personality Than Just Being Optimistic appeared first on Good News Network.

Create a Little Bit of Bliss Every Day

“Follow your bliss and let the magic of life happen.” ~Janelle Jalbert

Is there something you always wanted to do as a child, and for whatever reason didn’t do? Is there something that you have wanted to do for years? Perhaps it is something that didn’t seem practical. Maybe you felt you wouldn’t be very good at it or you didn’t have the time or the money.

You can ignore the urging, submerge it, and choose not to follow through on it. But it will show up again and again, and sometimes in the oddest places. For me it was in the toy aisle at a local department store.

Here’s what happened.

My husband and I walked into a popular department store, looking for the toy and game shelves. We wanted a board game we could play with our young grandchildren. I assume there was some kind of bland elevator music playing, but I didn’t notice it until it changed to an upbeat dance tune.

The beat caught my attention, and my feet, seemingly of their own accord, started to move to the rhythm. A minute later they started to tap dance.

As a child I wanted to learn to tap dance, but for some reason I never expressed that desire. Perhaps I was afraid of looking big and heavy in a dance costume, or feeling awkward on my feet. Whatever the reason, I never told my mother, I never took lessons.

The desire to tap dance stayed with me, most times submerged beneath school, friends and family. As a teenager I learned one tap step from a friend, Shuffle Off to Buffalo, and enjoyed shuffling and tapping just for fun.

That’s as far as I went with it. There was always too much else to do. Besides, what would I do with it even if I learned how to tap dance?

Fast forward through fifty years and there I was in the toy aisle, tapping and shuffling my feet. My husband, tolerant man that he is, just smiled at me. But my feet surprised me that day.

I’d love to be the kind of person who can just break out in song and dance and not worry about what other people think of me. I’m not. For me to dance in the aisles of a department store is unusual.

Add to that the fact that I’m a sixty-four-year-old grandmother with an arthritic knee and ankle. I danced anyway and laughed at myself.

Back home again I went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. My husband sat at the counter reading a magazine. He said something to me and I looked over at him. The words “Take a Chance—Dance” headlined the page I saw in his hand in bold letters.

Okay, I thought, perhaps my feet and the Universe are telling me something.

“Bliss is doing that which fulfills you. Action that touches you deeply and fully. Bliss is active. Bliss is…following your dreams, desires, or heart.” ~Angie Karan

The next day I searched out a how-to tap dance video on my computer. I was delighted to discover a number of them specifically designed for absolute beginners.

I chose one, set the computer up where I could see it on the dining room table, and learned the first basic steps of tap dancing, shuffling and tapping around my dining room floor in my sandals.

My inner child was ecstatic. I smiled and laughed, stamped, shuffled, and tapped.

My husband walked in, no doubt wondering what all the stomping was about. “I’m learning how to tap dance!” I beamed. He smiled, shook his head, and left the room. I kept at it.

The emotional lift I felt from just those few minutes learning dance steps stayed with me all day. I smiled whenever I thought of it.

Our bliss may come in small packages. It may look like a subtle urging that has been with you since you were a child.

It may not be your life purpose, or even life changing. It may simply be something that allows you to express the childlike happiness that is within you. Something that many adults have forgotten is there.

I have no idea what learning to tap dance is going to do for me, or where it will take me. I do know that it is time for me to allow the desire that has been within me for years to express.

These longings stay with us for a reason. It is our soul talking to us through the language of our desires.

Why does my soul want me to tap dance? I don’t know. I do know that it’s fun and good exercise, and that’s enough for now.

What is your soul telling you? Let’s find out with a simple exercise.

Gather paper and pen and give yourself a few minutes of quiet time.

At the top of your paper write, “When I was a child, I loved to…”

Complete the sentence with a list of the things you loved to do as a child.

Now write, “When I was a child, I always wanted to…”

Complete the sentence with the things you wanted to do as a child but didn’t or weren’t able to do.

How many of these activities are part of your life today?

If your favorite thing to do as a child was to create models of rockets with plastic blocks, how are you expressing your love of creative construction in your life today?

What if you always wanted to go horseback riding as a child but only got to go once, and that love of horses is still with you? Could you sign up for horseback riding lessons today?

Perhaps you tell yourself you don’t have time or money for pursuits that are just for fun. Perhaps you tell yourself that you’ll get to that later. But if not now, then when?

Life zips by us while we are busy doing, doing, doing. Allow yourself to enjoy the journey. Listen to the urgings you feel inside. Don’t wait for some time in the future when you’ll have more time, money, or more accomplished. Do what you can to live a little bit of your bliss each day.

Now, if you’ll just excuse me, I have to Shuffle Off to Buffalo.

About Holly Hidreth

Holly Hildreth Ed.M. is the author of the blog OurSoulDoors.com. Soul Doors is a blog of practical spirituality for every-day living, gathered from many different paths. Within its pages we learn together through shared spiritual lessons, stories, exercises, inspired wisdom, and that indefinable teacher within. Holly is also an energy health practitioner, wife, mother, grandmother, and life-long spiritual seeker.

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Finding Peace in the Dark Corners of Your Life

“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” ~Thich Nhat Nanh

It’s easy to feel peaceful and positive when the sun is shining and life is going your way. It’s a different matter when you’re alone, afraid, sick, or so tired you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning.

As a three-time cancer survivor, I know something about getting through difficult times. I know what it’s like to feel exhausted and hopeless, but I’ve also learned it’s possible to find moments of peace and light under the most difficult of circumstances. You can too.

Here are six techniques that help me find the light when things are tough. I hope they bring you the same sense of peace and ease they bring me.

1. Stop pretending everything’s okay.

If things aren’t going well, acknowledge it.

Stop judging yourself for feeling tired, anxious, or miserable. Instead of yelling at yourself for not being upbeat in the face of trauma or trouble, speak to yourself with the same understanding and respect you’d use to support your friends and family.

Tell yourself you have every right to feel the way you do right now, but that feelings are like the tide. They come and go. And while things are tough today, you’re tough, too. You’ve been through hard times before. You’ll get through this, and tomorrow will be a better day.

2. Give yourself the gift of living one hour at a time.

When I was going through chemo for breast cancer, I was afraid I wouldn’t have the strength to make it through the six long months of treatment. And then I came across the idea of living my life hour by hour, and that changed everything.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say it’s 1:15 PM where you are. All you have to do is focus on doing the best you can until 2:00 PM. That’s it. You don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner tomorrow night. You certainly aren’t going to worry about that appointment you have next Tuesday, or how you’re going to replace your old car.

You just have to make it through this one hour, secure in the knowledge that the next hour, and all the hours after that will take care of themselves.

It sounds simple, but living this way has seen me through some really tough days. Go ahead, give it a try, and see how this one change can make this tough time easier.

3. Focus on loving yourself.

This is a time to treat your body and spirit with fierce, loving self-care.

  • Listen to your body and give it what it needs to stay healthy.
  • Make sure you get enough rest. Go to bed early. Take a nap.
  • Take an afternoon off and do something that soothes your heart. Go for a walk in the woods, head to the beach, or read a good book.
  • Eat as well as you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get all your vegetables, or eat an extra piece of fudge.
  • Move in ways that feel good to your body. And move as often as possible. Even a ten-minute walk or some gentle stretching can improve your mood.
  • Support your health and your spirit with loving words and actions throughout your day.
  • Remind yourself all day long of how many reasons and ways you have to love yourself.

My favorite way to care for myself when things are tough is to take a warm bath or shower. I love taking time alone to nurture my body and spirit. I love to relax and let the water wash away my cares and worries. For me, bathing is the perfect way to end a tough day.

4. Get busy.

Don’t just sit around worrying, do something. Even if you don’t have a lot of energy, you can still find something small to do to make your life better.

Clean out a drawer, or a closet. Read something. Learn something. Start a project, finish a project. Knit, tinker, build, garden, write, explore, give, share.

I like to go for a walk or head to the kitchen to cook something, but it doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is that you take one small action to get you back on the road to feeling better.

5. Be grateful.

Take some time every day to focus on all the wonderful things you already have in your life.

Even though you may feel you have nothing to be grateful for, I promise you, you are surrounded by an abundance of miracles. The trick is to seek out the little luxuries in your day, the moments of unexpected joy, the color, sound, and beauty of the world around you. Find them and then to celebrate them all with a full heart.

As you go through your day, look for things that feel good. Revel in things like the warmth and comfort of a quilt around your shoulders, the beat of your favorite music, the splendor of the morning sky, the juicy sweetness of a crisp apple.

See how many of these incredible things you can find. Make it a game to find more of those things today than you did yesterday. Play the game with people around you and see how this one simple activity changes your life.

If you’re still having trouble coming up with the good things in your life, complete these phrases:

I enjoy seeing…

I enjoy hearing….

I enjoy doing….

I enjoy knowing….

I enjoy being with….

I’m so glad about….

I love….

I’m so glad I can….

I’m grateful for…

I’m looking forward to…

When you start looking for, and talking about, things you’re grateful for, you’ll begin to welcome more of those wonderful things into your life.

6. Look up and breathe.

Finally, when you’re anxious, depressed, or at your wit’s end, all you have to do to instantly feel better is look up. Simply raise your gaze to the sky or ceiling or whatever is over your head. Take a moment to feel a connection to the universe.

Then draw a breath deep into your belly. As you continue to breathe deeply, feel a sense of relaxation begin in your shoulders and work its way down your spine. Feel your muscles soften as a sense of ease fills your body.

With your next inhale, repeat the phrase, “I now fill my body with peace and light.” As you exhale, feel your body soften and relax as you repeat to yourself, “I let go of the weight of fear and worry.”

Repeat until you are completely relaxed. Then take that sense of peace into your day, knowing you can repeat this technique as many times as you wish to bring this sense of peace into your heart, no matter what is going on around you.

It may not be possible to avoid the dark days in life, but it’s always possible to bring some light into that darkness and peace into your soul, by choosing acceptance, gratitude, focus, and love.

About Wendy Leeds

Wendy Leeds is a psychotherapist and a cancer survivor. She knows what it’s like to face anxiety and trauma, and she’s working on a book to share her experience and expertise. Her CD, Creating A Calm Day is available on Amazon. Wendy offers the gift of her B.E.A.R. technique for handling panic on her website, wendyleeds.com. Join Wendy on Facebook at @WendyLeedsKeepingCalm.

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There Is No ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ Thoughts

Focusing Awareness

Mindfulness is about being conscious of your mind and your body. It’s a practice of focusing awareness. When you are mindful, your attention is tuned into your emotions and all the sensations around you. It works with both the physical and psychological aspects of your daily life. As mentioned previously, reducing stress is one of the results of mindful meditation. There is evidence that it actually lowers the stress hormone in our bodies, and it also tackles stress by giving you perspective on all of your emotions. Mindfulness helps you to accept all your thoughts – positive or negative – and creates more resiliency. There’s no denying that life is stressful. The most effective way to deal with it is to acknowledge what you can change and what you can’t, and be mindful of moving through those feelings, knowing you can cope. Making situations disappear or transform, especially in the immediate moment, is not what mindfulness is about. Being mindful means you are accepting all that is happening, within you and your environment.

Non-Judgement

Non-judgment is at the core of mindfulness. There are no “good” or “bad” thoughts – only awareness. The choices that we make are based on either knowledge or ignorance. You can be living in an awakened state every day. When we make a choice in life it is neither good nor bad. It is just a choice that will lead you to the next experience that has already been programmed for you to meet. People think they have free will, but free will is only the choices we are given. Those choices come from being loving versus being non-loving. A great Master teacher, Sathya Sai Baba, said we should “start the day with love, spend the day with love and end the day with love” and if we do that we are constantly making the right choices in our lives. Every choice is a choice for love.

We should not be attracted to, nor have an aversion to what is given to us in every moment, but embrace and accept positive and negative as good. One cannot exist without the other. Being in a state of mindful meditation allows us to embrace both.

Getting Distracted

Life is meant to be a distraction. If you beat yourself up for being distracted, you’re creating more distractions. So start your day with a prayer that goes something like, “May all my actions today be for one purpose and one purpose only: to make God happy.”

Though you’ve set your intentions, one hour later you could very well be doing something that you know would not make God very happy. This is where your mindful practice comes in. If you notice your intention in that moment, there a good chance your conscience is going to tell you whether the action is in alignment with love/truth or not. And when it does, you have the opportunity to repeat your prayer again: “May all my actions just please You.”

You may be distracted again, sooner or later, but that’s all right. Saying the mantra or prayer starts a vibration that will automatically last for longer and longer periods of time. You will spend more time in a vibration of love and less and less time in the vibration of all that is not love. Focusing on love in the “now” helps to manifest your next moment – and all the moments moving forward – with love.

#LLLD


Derek O’Neill, fondly referred to as the Celtic Sage, inspires and uplifts people from all walks of life, offering guidance to influential world leaders, businesses, celebrities, athletes and everyday people alike. Distilled from his life work in psychotherapy, a martial arts career and study with wise yogis and Indian and Tibetan masters, Derek translates ancient wisdom into modern day teachings to address the biggest challenges facing humanity today. For additional insights listen to his free radio archives or or explore over 20 personal development books including Bullying, Love/Divorce, Grief, Mindfulness, Anxiety, Stress and Depression.


 

Image courtesy of Matheus Bertelli.

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9 Easy Ways You Can Speak Your Truth Today

“We are constantly invited to be who we are.” ~Henry David Thoreau

When your circumstances invite you to present your true self to others, do you accept the invitation?

I think of authentic communication as sharing the unfiltered essence of ourselves with others, including our identities, feelings, needs, boundaries, and desires.

It’s taken me many years to learn how to communicate this way. I’ve written in prior posts that speaking my truth once felt like an insurmountable challenge, like rolling an elephant up a hill or finding another living being who actually likes Nickelback. (Anyone? No?)

I was plagued by inauthenticity.

I would leave conflicts wishing I’d spoken up for myself; leave social settings feeling totally drained; over-commit to obligations and under-commit to activities that brought me joy; agree to be intimate with people, only to later regret my decision; and give more than I received in the majority of my relationships.

Somewhere beneath the layers of people-pleasing, white lies, and insecurity, I knew there was a bold, confident, self-actualized woman. I wanted, more than anything, to become her.

On the journey to becoming that woman, I have learned that authentic communication is like working a muscle: hard at first, but ever easier with exercise.

As with all exercises, you don’t run the 400 meter dash right out the of gates. You stretch; you jog a lap; you warm up.

Here are nine easy ways you can warm up your authenticity muscle today to prepare for a lifetime of authentic communication.

1. Name how you feel, right now, as you read this.

“There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life.” ~Tara Brach

Let’s start off on the right foot. Take thirty seconds to reflect on how you feel right now. Notice what’s going on in your heart; notice what type of tension you might be carrying in your neck and shoulders; notice how it feels to let a deep breath land in your chest.

Perhaps you’ve been operating on autopilot since the moment you woke up and reached for your phone. Perhaps you’ve stumbled down an Internet wormhole, and this is the first time in hours you’ve remembered you have a body. In order to communicate your feelings authentically, you first must know how you feel.

2. When a friend/family member/barista asks how you are, tell them the truth.

“The speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never had realized you had… And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” ~Audre Lorde

Social convention tells us that there are only two acceptable answers to the question “How are you?” “Good” and “Fine.” This is a microcosmic example of our cultural disdain for sharing our authentic feelings. Nonetheless, the habit persists.

Remember: Inauthenticity breeds inauthenticity. Authenticity breeds authenticity. Give yourself permission to say “I’m a little sad today, but I’m hanging in there” or “I’m fantastic; today’s been an inspiring day” or “I’m so stressed I can’t even feel my face.”

Whatever’s going on for you, give yourself permission to share it. These small moments of authenticity replace the loneliness of emotional isolation with the belonging of vulnerability, and allow you to receive others’ gifts in the form of compassion and empathy.

3. If you have nothing to say, embrace the silence.

“To become authentic, we require a thirst for freedom.” ~Don Mateo Sol

As a recovering people-pleaser, I spent much of my life believing it was my responsibility to facilitate, or ease the tension in, conversations. For many years, I feared “awkward silences” the way someone else might fear spiders or clowns.

First dates, group gatherings, work parties, and girls’ nights found me paving endless roads of conversation. For every answer, I had a follow-up question, and in every second-long pause, I rushed to find a story to tell.

Eventually, I realized that my silence-avoidance only led to 1) complete emotional exhaustion, and 2) many moments where I looked back and wondered, “Why did I even say that? I don’t think cybernetics are interesting at all…”

Free yourself from the pressure to perform. Embrace the silence. Sometimes, the most authentic response is to say nothing at all.

4. When someone makes reference to a show, movie, or news story you haven’t seen, tell them you haven’t seen it.

“I have the right to say ‘I don’t know.’” ~Edmund Bourne

I warn every new friend that I am pop-culture illiterate. If you name a TV series, movie, actor, actress, or rising pop star, the odds are I have no idea who she/he/they are. (I’m pleased to report that last week, I watched The Godfather, and on my list for next week is Breaking Bad. I’m making progress in this department.)

Anyhow, in the past, when friends made reference to such icons in conversation, I often feigned familiarity to help the conversation flow more easily. These were totally inconsequential white lies, right?

I’m not so sure. White lies add up, like small bricks laying the foundation for a falsified persona. I hyperbolized my knowledge because I wanted to feel a sense of belonging. (Nothing malicious about that: we all want to belong!) But presenting a false self in order to feel a sense of belonging doesn’t generate a real sense of belonging. It simply makes our authentic selves feel less acceptable.

Tell your friends you haven’t seen the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. Liberate yourself from the impossible responsibility of being all-knowing.

5. When someone asks your preference on a simple matter, tell them the truth.

“You denying your heart’s desires is not noble. It’s a waste of some damn good desires.” ~Jen Sincero

If you really pay attention, you’ll find that your daily life is chock full o’ simple, tiny choices, like:

Where do you want to go for dinner?

What do you want to watch on Netflix?

Where should we meet?

What are you in the mood for?

In the past, my de facto response was: “I don’t care.” (Can you relate?) But by “I don’t care,” what I really meant was: “I really want a burrito, but what matters more to me is that you’re happy with where we get dinner. I would rather sacrifice that burrito and deal with less-than-satisfying pizza than bear the burden of your disappointment. So can you pick?”

The truth is, I did have a preference. It was just buried under layers of people-pleasing.

Get in the habit of honoring your preferences, even if they’re seemingly inconsequential. After all, today it’s what to watch on Netflix, but a year from now, it might be what city to move to, or whether or not to have a second kid, or what to do with your lottery winnings.

6. Tell someone you care for that you care for them.

“Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it by use.” ~Ruth Gordon

A lot of literature around authenticity and truth-telling centralizes around saying no, boundary-setting, and self-care. That’s all well and good, but true authentic communication addresses both sides of the vulnerability coin: speaking truths that are hard, painful, or have the potential to distance others, and speaking truths that are intimate, loving, and have the potential to bring people closer. Such truths are equally courageous.

When we communicate care for others, we expose the soft underbelly of our hearts. We acquiesce omnipotence over our own emotional state and give another person the power to affect us, sometimes deeply.

Today, take a moment to tell someone you care for them. It could be your mom, your coworker, or your mailman. Let that sweet heart of yours peek out from its shell.

7. Acknowledge one thing you really want.

“A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.” ~Madonna

There are a lot of things I want. I want a new blender. I want to enjoy my own company more. I want more friends. I want to make six figures. I want to spend less time working—on my business and on myself—and more time having fun.

Our desires are a critical part of who we are. They reflect our values and our identities. When we’re not in touch with our own desires, we’re susceptible to putting others’ needs before our own.

If you’ve been out of touch with your own desires for a long time, saying even one thing you want—something as life-altering as a new job or as contrived as a new blender—can be scary and revolutionary. For now, give yourself permission not to worry about how you might get it. Just notice how it feels, to really want this thing you want.

8. For fifteen minutes, be without technology. Bonus points if you’re in nature.

“If you want more time, freedom, and energy, start saying no.” ~Unknown

At our core, we humans are intrinsically creative and innovative. However, it’s challenging to summon our deepest, truest, most authentic selves when we’re bombarded with stimuli from every direction. Many of us spend hours every day merely skimming the surface of life, hopping from app to screen to notification.

In such a state, we’re not thinking deeply. We’re hardly here at all. If we’re constantly in response-mode, how can our inner selves emerge?

For fifteen minutes, sequester yourself. No phone, no screen, no TV. You can drink your coffee while staring out the window. You can sit on the carpet and stretch your legs. You can go sniff your flowers, or dive nose-first into the green, green grass. Give your mind the space to explore uncharted territory, and watch with curiosity what arises.

9. If you feel uncomfortable, scared, resentful, sad, angry, or guilty, name it.

“Don’t light yourself on fire trying to brighten someone else’s existence.” ~Charlotte Erickson

Make your way to any water cooler or happy hour and you’ll find plenty of folks complaining, comparing, and airing their grievances. But genuine expressions of hurt, discomfort, and sadness are far rarer.

Growing up, I made it my mission to brighten my loved ones’ days and hold space for their unhappiness. With time (and therapy), I realized that “The bubbly one” was a role I had assigned myself—not my God-given duty.

After so many years of tampering down my sadnesses as if they were pests, I needed to retrain my brain and body to notice my own discomfort.

Today, give yourself permission to acknowledge when you feel off. You can write how you’re feeling on a post-it note or simply whisper the words “I feel sad.”

The inner liberation that comes as a result of this simple acknowledgement can feel enormous. It removes the conflict between what you feel and what you portray to the world around you, which is what authentic communication is all about.

Authentic communication has made my life simpler. No longer do I spend precious moments juggling my false personas and my little white lies. Working this muscle has been worth every growing pain because it’s enabled me to live in alignment with my inner truth and find freedom, self-respect, and confidence along the way.

About Hailey Magee

Hailey Magee is a certified codependency recovery coach who helps women find freedom by setting clear boundaries and speaking their truth in their relationships. Sign up for a complimentary, 30-minute consultation with Hailey to learn how codependency recovery can radically transform your life and leave you feeling confident, empowered, and free. Follow Hailey on FacebookInstagram, and visit her website, www.haileymagee.com.

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What to Do When You Feel Stuck, Stagnant, and Bored with Your Life

Sometimes when things are falling apart they may actually be falling into place.” ~L.J. Vanier

Earlier last year, I felt like I finally had it all. Good education? Check. Respectable corporate job? Check. Decent salary? Check. Fancy car? Check. Charming, funny, and handsome boyfriend? Check. Stylish apartment? Check.

I should’ve been happy. So why didn’t I feel like I was? My life looked perfect on paper. So why did it still feel so empty? I’d done everything I thought I was supposed to. So why did I feel like a fraud? I had everything I’d ever wanted. So why didn’t it feel like enough?

The answer is simple: I’d been too busy trying to curate a life that looked good on the outside to recognize how I felt on the inside. I’d been too busy trying to be who other people wanted me to be to realize who I actually was. I’d been too busy trying to seem important to identify what was actually important to me.

I’d been too busy blindly going through the motions to realize that I was settling for jobs that didn’t align with my dreams, relationships that didn’t align with my needs, and a lifestyle that didn’t align with my values.

For years, I’d been running on autopilot, my perpetual action serving as a convenient distraction. And it worked. Right up until the moment that I unpacked the last box on the day that my boyfriend and I moved in together.

Because, as I sat there in our big, beautiful apartment, looking around at the designer furniture that I’d so carefully picked out and the face of the man that I’d not-so-carefully chosen to spend my life with, it hit me: Everything that I’d spent so long dreaming about was here, firmly within my grasp. It was a moment that had I had always fantasized about. But this was not how I imagined I would feel.

At first, I put it down to situational jitters. Sure, I was crippled with anxiety, paralyzed by fear, and plagued with self-doubt most of the time, but that’s normal, right? It was a big transition, after all.

And admitting to myself that something wasn’t working would mean making changes. Admitting to myself that I’d chosen the wrong path would mean stepping into the unknown. Admitting to myself that I wasn’t happy would mean taking responsibility. And I sure as hell wasn’t ready to do that.

But with each hollow day and each sleepless night that passed, the feelings of dread, dissatisfaction, and emptiness only grew more and more unshakable.

It wasn’t until the facade inevitably collapsed and I found myself single, unemployed, and moving back in with my parents that I realized: Those feelings weren’t a coincidence. They were a warning. A flashing, neon-lit sign that something was very, very wrong.

The truth is, no amount of external approval can truly satisfy us. No amount of material excess can rescue us from our feelings. No amount of romantic attention can make our problems go away. And no amount of hedonistic thrills can fill the void of a soul that’s been neglected.

For my entire adult life, I’d consistently and consciously chosen money over meaning, chemistry over connection, and validation over truth—and now I was paying the price.

When the objects and attachments that had long awarded me the illusion of safety, purpose, and identity were gone, suddenly, I was unanchored, drifting and directionless, grasping for anything to save me from drowning in the sea of emptiness that stretched before me.

I knew that I should be doing something with my life. But what? I had no hobbies, no interests, and no passions. I didn’t know what I enjoyed doing, let alone what I wanted to do.

Besides, I was too shy, too cautious, too boring. People like me don’t do brave and adventurous things like starting a blog or becoming a yoga teacher or traveling the world. People like me conform and comply and consent to the life that has been prescribed to them.

But rock bottom is a bittersweet place. Because when you find yourself face-to-face with your fears, you have no choice but to overcome them. When you no longer know who you are, you have no choice but to rediscover yourself. And when your entire life has fallen apart, you have no choice but to rebuild it.

A spiritual awakening, an early-life crisis, a dark night of the soul—call it what you want. All I know is that, up until that point, it felt like I had been asleep, and I was finally starting to wake up. And the world didn’t seem so scary anymore. In fact, it seemed full of exciting possibilities.

For the first time in my life, I felt alive and ready to follow my heart.

So began a magical journey of self-discovery. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, like a seed sprouting into a plant, like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly, I was reborn. And this new life that I’ve created is far better than the one that I left behind.

The thing is, the minute I loosened my grip on the plans I had for the future, the minute I released the self-limiting beliefs that had dictated the way that I lived, the minute I shed the fictional expectations I’d placed on myself, I was liberated. Liberated from the life that had been crushing my hopes, repressing my dreams, sapping my spirit, and bankrupting my soul.

The minute I gave myself permission to be me is the minute that I learned the true meaning of freedom.

This last year, I’ve seen places that I never thought I would, done things that I never thought I could, and changed in ways that I didn’t think possible.

I’ve launched a blog, joined a yoga course, taken a solo backpacking trip, taught myself new skills, made new friends and connections, started new hobbies, and set myself goals. I’ve said goodbye to the corporate world that was corrupting my values, the unhealthy relationships that were dragging me down, and the destructive habits that were holding me back.

And I haven’t looked back since.

So what can you do if you find yourself sleepwalking through life, feeling stuck, stagnant, dazed, and disconnected?

Slow down.

You don’t have to make any decisions right away. In fact, the more time you take, the better.

You can’t make effective choices if you’re afraid. You can’t make accurate assessments if you’re checked out. And you can’t discover what’s really meaningful to you if you’ve lost touch with your emotions.

So give yourself space. Make self-care a priority. Tune in to yourself.

And the answers that you’ve been looking for? You’ll probably find that they’ve been right there inside of you all along. Chances are, you just haven’t been paying attention.

Stop comparing.  

Too often, we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of measuring ourselves against others. And with Instagram feeds inundated with skinny waistlines, flashy cocktail bars, exotic adventures, and picture-perfect families, who can really blame us?

But just because something is right for someone else doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. Just because someone else seems like they’ve got it together doesn’t mean that they do. And just because the grass looks greener on the other side doesn’t mean that it is.

So stop comparing your chapter one to someone else’s chapter twenty. Own your mess. Know that you are enough, imperfections and all.

Get to know yourself.

In the midst of my personal crisis, I would spend hours trawling the Internet, frantically Googling things like “how do I find my passion?” But I learned that your passion isn’t something you find. It isn’t something you discover overnight. And it isn’t something that has the power to change your life. Only you can do that.

Life isn’t about finding your passion. It’s about being curious. Curious about who you are, about what you have to offer the world, and about what’s deeply and authentically important to you.

So get introspective. Explore new things. Learn what lights you up.

Ask yourself: What are your hobbies? What topics are you interested in? What are you good at? What are your values? Who do you admire and why? What have you always wanted to try but never had the money/time/courage to do? What activities did you enjoy as a child?

And if you find something that scares you and excites you at the same time, do that.

Let go.

Nothing in life is permanent. Everything is changing all of the time. And the more you resist, the more you cling, the more you struggle against reality, the more you’re going to suffer.

The reality is, most of what happens in life is out of your control. And in attempting to change, force, or manipulate your circumstances to meet your ideals, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment.

But if you learn how to relax with the uncertainty, how to surrender to the natural flow of life, and how to release what no longer serves you, you’re going to make way for what will serve you. So let go of the old blueprint you had for your life, the expectations that you set for yourself, and the idea that the past could or should have been different.

Be open to change. Allow things to fall away. Trust that things will unfold as they are supposed to.

Be true to yourself.

This is your life. It’s up to you to decide what you do with it.

The only thing standing between you and your dreams is you. And if you let your fears dictate your choices, if you let external opinions govern your actions, and if you let negative thoughts influence your beliefs, you’ll end up settling for what’s comfortable for you instead of what’s best for you.

So stop getting in your own way. Define what success means to you and say no to everything that isn’t that. Don’t be afraid to share your gifts with the world—because we’re waiting.

We might not be able to choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we spend our time on this Earth.

We can choose to spend it working toward our dreams, or we can choose to spend it working toward someone else’s.

We can choose to spend it doing something that is meaningful to us, or we can choose to spend it doing something that is meaningful to someone else.

We can choose to spend it following our hearts, or we can choose to spend it helping someone else to follow theirs.

I know what I’d rather be doing. Do you?

“There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky, and you ask ‘What if I fall?’ Oh but my darling, what if you fly.” ~Eric Hanson

About Jen Ainsworth

Jen is a proud Aquarius, introvert, and vegan from Hertfordshire, England. She loves writing and recently launched her blog, You Can Make Your Soul Happy, to help people on their journey toward healing a broken heart. In her spare time, you can find her travelling, doing yoga, listening to podcasts, drinking green tea, or cuddling Peaches, her Siamese cat. Instagram/Facebook.

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How to Reach Your Goal (And Why Three People Showing Up Isn’t Failure)

“If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles.” ~Wayne Dyer

I’ve been part of a social meet-up group for the past few years, one that’s helped me through tricky times like quitting my job, dealing with anxiety, and having my first baby. When I first joined the group, there were three people who attended the events. (Yes, you read that correctly—three people!)

There were lots of people in the group itself, but only three of us would regularly attend monthly events. It meant that if one of us couldn’t make the meet-up, we would have to cancel the whole thing (or it would be a rather intimate evening).

And yet, in the last year, the monthly attendance has quadrupled. (Admittedly, that only takes us to twelve people… but that’s still a 300 percent increase!)

Not bad in a year (and anyone who’s organized an event knows how hard it can be to get people to actually show up). And we’re talking twelve “regulars”—people who love the meet-ups, and who come back time and time again, enthusiastic and inspired.

Plus, our attendance is still growing, and interest is mounting. Who knows where we’ll be in a year’s time!

As we tested out ways to increase our numbers, I realized that the lessons I was learning could be applied to life—not just to meet-up groups. I started using them in my own life, with great benefit.

I realized that anyone going after a goal or project could use these strategies (and most of us are going after a goal, in some form or other).

So here are five lessons I learned about getting what you want, as taught to me by our small (but ambitious) meet-up group:

1. Be patient; play the long game.

When we set out to increase numbers, we didn’t get disheartened if we didn’t see results straight away. We knew the long game was the most important thing. The first meet-up had four attendees. The next one had five. Then we went down to four again. It took a year for us to get more than ten regular members, and to really notice how the group had changed.

A year can sometimes seem like a long time when you’re pursuing a goal or dream. But the time will pass anyway! Why not spend it doing something you love or are really passionate about?

2. Do things that scare you every now and then.

One of the ways we increased attendance was by messaging every single member of the group—to say hi, tell them about the monthly events, and to ask if there were specific reasons why they hadn’t attended in the past.

At first, this felt scary. Are we bothering them? Will they tell us to go away? Or will we hear something bad about the events? It’s daunting reaching out to people you don’t know, and putting yourself out there.

And yet, more often than not, it’s the best thing we can do! Let’s face it, if the things you’re doing currently aren’t working, then you might as well change it up. Try something new. What have you got to lose?

Pressing “send” on that email, or saying yes to that call might feel scary for a few minutes, but imagine how great it would feel if you got the thing(s) you wanted. Are a few minutes of discomfort worth it for long-term progress or growth? I’d say so.

3. Remember that things grow exponentially (one thing leads to another).

The best thing about taking action is the snowball effect: your action sets off another action, which sets off another. And before you know it, you’re storming ahead.

With our group, as more members attended, we could post more photos of our events (that didn’t show the same three people hanging out!) And as more people saw our photos and started coming to events, they told friends about it and invited them too.

It’s the same with goals or projects. You might nervously share a few of your blog posts and think nothing is happening; you’re not gaining any traction. But you never know what’s happening out in the ether. Perhaps one of your posts resonated with a local professor, who shares it with her colleagues, who share it with their friends…

The fact is, you never know what’s going on behind the scenes. So take an action step, and then another, and let the momentum build!

4. Ask for help.

No one does anything worthwhile alone. There’s always a team involved.

The three of us emailed group members, posted on our Facebook wall, and spread the word however we could. We contacted friends. We held brainstorming sessions for ideas. We sought advice from peers and local event leaders.

The best thing about asking for help is that most people want to help. In fact, they love it! Think about the times that you’re asked for advice. Do you get annoyed by it, or does your chest puff out ever so slightly?!

Use the resources around you. Don’t be afraid to do so—because when the tables are turned, you may well be able to help in return.

5. Be passionate about it.

I’ve left this one till last because it’s the most important one, in my opinion. Be passionate about what you’re doing.

The three of us in the group really believe in what we’re doing. We love holding the events. We love the sense of community we’ve created. And we’re so passionate about what we’re doing that we work on it—willingly—in our spare time.

If you’re working on a goal or project and not feeling passion toward it at all, why are you doing it? Are you doing it for someone else, or to look good?

Things are so much easier when we enjoy doing them. So choose wisely. Choose things you’re passionate about. And then during the tough times or dips (which do happen) you’ll be more likely to keep going, and you’ll feel even more committed when you come out the other side.

About Claire O’Connor

Claire O’Connor works with people who struggle to get things done. They desperately want to make progress on their side-hustle, project, or business, but keep getting stuck. Through her accountability program, she helps them turn their feelings of overwhelm into progress and moving forward. Check out her blog at The Five Percent.

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What Happens When We Compromise Our Core Values

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” ~Roy E. Disney

I got out of the car and could immediately tell that something was amiss. There were far too many glum-looking people milling around outside the building my meeting was scheduled to take place in. I worked for Yellow Pages at the time, and I regularly met with business owners who were interested in placing ads.

At that moment two burly men exited through the warehouse adjoining the office carrying a filing cabinet. A man who was carrying what looked like a paper shredder followed them.

There were probably ten men, most of whom were wearing coveralls, stood around smoking, talking in hushed tones and generally looking despondent

I turned around to look at my manager. She shrugged and motioned for me to go into the office.

At this point the veil lifted and I realized what was going on. The men carrying out the office furniture were repo men, or bailiffs as we call them in the UK. The other people outside were staff members who by now were starting to realize they were possibly no longer in employment.

I stopped in the office doorway and again turned to my manager looking for a cue that it was okay to pivot and leave, but I didn’t get one.

Instead, she nodded toward the clearly anxious business owner, leaned into me, and whispered into my ear, “Quick, get him to sign the order while he still has a desk to lean on.” She wasn’t joking and I was momentarily stunned.

I knew that the owner would probably sign because he had nothing to lose. If he went bankrupt he wouldn’t have to pay the bill. And if he managed to survive he would need to renew the advert he had previously placed with us to generate business—though he likely still wouldn’t pay, given the circumstances.

Many years ago, when I was about eleven years old, I was trying to fit in with some boys a year or so older than me.

It was near the beginning of my first year at a big, new school. I had few friends close to me because those of us who had moved up together had been split up in different classes across the entire year. As such, I was eager to please the other new boys in my class so I could feel included.

I had latched onto a group of about four others, and we were walking home from school one late afternoon.

As was already common practice, we stopped to go into a small convenience store that sold everything from fruit and vegetables to the more desirable candy.

In those days, we all wore school uniforms, and I had on a new blazer that was a bit too big for me, making me look a bit like Paddington Bear minus the marmalade sandwich under my hat.

I was wandering around the store, ruing the fact that I didn’t have any money to buy anything lovely and sweet, when suddenly I felt something heavy drop into the right-hand pocket of my blazer. I nervously looked down and could see an orange nestled neatly in the pocket.

I looked back up to see one of the other boys grinning at me. He put his finger to his lips and gently pushed me toward the door with his other hand, obviously wanting me to leave with the ‘free’ orange.

I immediately felt sick with nerves.

I’d never stolen anything in my life, and this didn’t feel good at all. Neither did the thought of my trying to put the orange back and getting caught. Or, even telling the store owner that my new friend was encouraging me to steal his produce.

I must have had guilt written all over my face because I was barely a half dozen paces through the door when I felt a large hand on my shoulder.

I spun round hoping it was my friend but deep down knew it wasn’t.

My worst fears were realized as I faced the angry storeowner, who immediately thrust his hand into my pocket and pulled out the errant orange. I was so anxious that I had to fight the urge to throw up all over the man’s shoes.

He brandished the citrus reticulata in front of my face and said, “What do you think you’re doing with this? Are you a thief? I’m going to call your parents.”

I could barely talk, I was so frightened. My fear intensified as I saw my new friends walk off laughing, obviously not in the least bit concerned by my predicament.

To the best of my knowledge, that was the first time I was introduced to core values and their crucial importance in our lives.

It was a chastening experience explaining to my parents why I’d done such a thing, after they had been called to collect me.

They felt let down, but probably more importantly, I felt I’d let myself down to such an extent that I vowed I would never allow myself to get dragged into such behavior again.

I value honesty and integrity, and I’d demonstrated neither. Of course, I had no idea at that age what core values were. I just knew something was badly amiss.

As I stood in the doorway to the office, years later, the orange stealing incident came flooding back to me in glorious technicolor. Only this time there was no desire to fit in and no need for external validation.

I was well aware why my manager wanted a signature on the order. She knew, irrespective of whether the guy would ever pay—he clearly wouldn’t—that she would still earn a financial bonus and the ‘sale’ would go toward her target for that campaign. It would be a great many months before our employer realized they were probably never going to get paid.

Enough was enough. I turned round and walked passed her, thrusting the order into her hand, and hissed, “You sign him up.”

I knew she wouldn’t. It was one thing having my counter signature on an order that defaulted, but quite another to have a manager sign off on it.

As I walked back to the car I knew I was done.

I was done with a manager who had zero integrity. Done with a company that only cared about its bottom line. And done with an entire industry that seemed interested in one thing and one thing only, generating revenue.

Prior to that day I’d had what many people would consider a successful career. I earned excellent money, won numerous sales awards, and was a team player who was always looking to help my colleagues.

From the outside looking in, I was a success.

But the problem with success is that it doesn’t have an objective definition. We define our own success, not other people. Unless that is, we foolishly allow them to.

Which would you consider a successful life: living in alignment with your values and doing work you truly believe is meaningful, or earning loads of cash doing work that leaves you feeling conflicted?

If you truly value family, should you really accept that job that will take you away on business half the time?

If integrity is paramount to your sense of well-being, should you really make false claims on your taxes or exaggerate your work expense report?

And thinking beyond work, if peace is critical to you, is it wise to get involved in petty online squabbles and neglect your meditation practice?

Commit today to figuring out your own core vales by asking yourself:

“What is important to me?”

Then, when you have an answer, follow up with the question:

“What does that give me?”

Write that down and irrespective of the answer make the same inquiry again:

“What does that (new word) give me?”

Then write that down.

And keep going until you cannot think of anything else or you start to give the same answers and end up in a loop.

Then start the process again by asking, “What is important to me?”

The reason you need to keep drilling down is to make sure you hit a value.

For example, if the answer to the original question is money, then that’s not a value. Money can never be a value.

If I gave you a million dollars under the condition you could never spend it, invest it, or give it away—you could only look at it—would you want it?

Of course not.

We all want money because of what we think it can give us. Maybe that is security, freedom, or maybe even peace of mind. They are the values.

When you have figured out your top eight or more values, the easy part is over because now you need to start asking yourself some tough questions.

Does my job align with my values?

Do my friends (for the most part) align with my values?

Do my habits align with my values?

Do my thoughts align with my values?

If the answer to one or more of the above is no, then some work is called for because there is little point knowing your values if you don’t live them.

As an eleven-year-old I didn’t appreciate core values. I couldn’t have told you that the reason I was so distressed about Orangegate was because integrity was super important to me.

I also didn’t realize the situation was exacerbated by the fact that I highly value independence and following my own path.

But, I didn’t have the excuse of youth as a forty-year-old. And I knew it.

Even though in my mind I was done with sales on that day, it took me another year or so before I finally found a new career that aligned with my most important values.

And, it would take another decade of working for myself before my income would be back up to my previous level.

Nevertheless, I didn’t care, because, even though I didn’t have the disposable income I was used to, I had something much more important and much more valuable.

And that was a profound feeling that I was successful based not upon income, but on being true to my values.

We all need money and most people like status, but nothing gives us that innate sense of peace and contentedness like living in alignment with our core values.

About Tim Brownson

Tim Brownson has been a life coach since 2005. He specializes in core values work for most of that time and now teaches it to other coaches. If you’re interested in understanding your own values and how you can use them to make better decisions and lead a happier and more fulfilled life, check out his book, The Clarity Method.

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How I Found Happiness by Facing the Past I Worked So Hard to Escape

“Ten years from now, make sure you can say you chose your life, you didn’t settle for it.” ~Mandy Hale

I spent most of my youth trying to escape. From the mother who drank too much and the violent men …

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Why No One Else Can Make Me Feel Insignificant

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Significance.

A phenomenon most of us only notice once we lose it.

If you’re like me, you’ve had (and could still have) a love/hate relationship with significance. Simply …

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Why Introverts Feel Drained in Groups and How I Preserve My Energy

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” ~Deepak Chopra

When I was younger, I was always referred to as “the quiet one.” I didn’t mind it; I knew I was much quieter than most people …

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Loving Yourself When You’ve Become Addicted to Self-Improvement

“Whatever purifies you is the right path.” ~Rumi  

I’m tired of being good. It’s time to be deliciously free.

How I wish I could say that without rushing in to assure you that I promise I’ll still be good.

The …

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Maybe It’s Not All Good or All Bad

“You are the sky. Everything else—it’s just the weather.” ~Pema Chödrön

A farmer has a horse for many years; it helps him earn his livelihood and raise his son. One day, the horse runs away. His neighbor says sympathetically, “Such …

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Why I Won’t Let the Fear of Failure Hold Me Back

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston Churchill

I am scared of sharks. Often when I’m floating in the ocean on my surfboard, amazed at the vastness before me …

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What to Do If You Feel Trapped by Your Circumstances

“As long as we know we’re trapped, we still have a chance to escape.” ~Sara Grant

Talking to someone last week who had to ‘volunteer’ to return to their country of birth, a country defined by the United Nations as …

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