Practical Tips for Productive Living, self improvement, tips for life and personal development. A popular personal development blog featuring original weekly articles on productivity, lifehacks, inspiration, positive living, social skills, tech tricks, wealth, health and happiness.
Full disclosure: I set myself a challenge recently, and I’ve been failing at it.
To help motivate a group of course students Angel and I have been working with, I set a goal to exercise for one hour every day for 90 days straight. I chose this lofty goal because several of these students openly admitted that they struggle with getting to the gym. And they were inspired by my willingness to stretch my limits.
But I’ve struggled far more than I had anticipated. With a business to run, students to serve, a young child in the house, family occasions, and travel, I’ve missed three days in the first month.
It’s such a minor setback, but it’s made me feel a little depressed at times.
Now, as you may know from previous posts, Angel and I have coped with much bigger setbacks in the past: losing siblings and best friends to illness and suicide, breadwinning employment layoffs, failed business ventures, financial turmoil, having our possessions wiped out by a hurricane, health issues, and (more…)
Happiness does not start with a relationship, a degree, a job, or money. It starts with your thinking and what you tell yourself today.
“I had a date scheduled for last night with this guy I started talking to on a dating app. I waited outside the diner where we agreed to meet for 30 minutes past the time we were supposed to meet. He never showed up. All sorts of negative thoughts were running through my head. I thought maybe he saw me from a distance, didn’t like what he saw, and then bailed.
Just as I was about to leave, one of my old college friends, Jared, who I haven’t seen in nearly a decade, walked up to me with a huge smile on his face and said, ‘Carly! It’s great to see you! You look fantastic!’ I almost blew him off because of how I felt inside at the moment. But luckily I pulled myself together to engage in a conversation.
After we talked in that same spot for awhile, he said, ‘What are you doing for dinner?’ We ended up going into the diner I was supposed to eat at with the no-show date and having an amazing conversation filled with laughter. After dinner he walked me to my car, we exchanged numbers, and he (more…)
“Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.”
― Dorothy Allison
I loved him like a brother, and he treated me as such. He told me I was a genius and that the world needed to hear my music. He was a ball of passion, and when he spoke it always felt like a battle cry to fight for a better life. I was working as a teacher, spending my summers with struggling artists who gave me that energy and community I craved. When I met him in Toronto, I felt like I found new family in my own hometown.
His family wasn’t so abundant—his parents struggled with addiction and were trying to take the earnings he made producing music. It was killing his spirit, and I could sense it. So without consulting my parents, I invited him to live with me. He was the brother I never had.
We got matching tattoos and promised each other that there would always be two of everything. We (more…)
“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”
― Maya Angelou
It is what it is. Accept it, learn from it, and grow from it. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done; what truly matters is what you do from here.
And what you need to remember right now is that you can’t heal yourself in the same exact environment where you got sick. You need to surround yourself with situations and people that push you to heal and grow. Less drama, less mess.
Because the truth is, you won’t always be a priority to others—or to the world’s agenda at large—and that’s why you need to be a priority to yourself. Learn to respect yourself, take care of yourself, and become your own support system. Your needs matter. Start meeting them.
Don’t wait on others to choose you.
Choose yourself, today!
Choose to live your life today not as a bystander—not as a prisoner to the old environments and beliefs that sometimes keep you stuck. But to instead live as an active participant, engaged in the new possibilities in front of you.
That’s your choice! YOUR choice!
You are choosing right now…
1. Choose an attitude that moves you forward.
The Greek philosopher Epictetus said it perfectly more than 2,000 years ago: “People are disturbed, not by things (that happen to them), but by the principles and opinions which they form concerning (those) things. When we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never attribute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own principles and opinions.”
In other words, a peaceful and mentally strong person is not a someone who’s always in a good situation, but rather someone who always has a good attitude in every situation.
Regardless of what you’re going though, it’s about choosing: Will I allow this to upset me? Will I choose to make this bad or good? Will I choose to stay or walk away? Will I choose to yell or whisper? Will I choose to react or take the time to mindfully respond?
When our course students come to us feeling down about a life situation they can’t control, we typically start by reinforcing the hard truth: sometimes changing your situation isn’t possible, or simply not possible soon enough. You can’t get to a new job in an instant. You can’t make someone else change against his or her will. And you certainly can’t erase the past. But…
No matter what’s happening, you can resourcefully fight the battles of just one day. It’s only when you add the battles of those two mind-bending eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that life gets overwhelmingly intense and complicated.
Accept that it’s not the experience of today that holds you back and drives you mad, but the regret and resentment about something that happened yesterday or the fear and dread of what tomorrow might bring, but probably won’t. It’s necessary, then, to let yourself live just one day at a time – just today – just right here, right now.
And this same strategy applies to your goals too—they don’t need to be so darn grandiose and convoluted that they frighten you. If your goals excite you, and are broken down into manageable chunks, you’ll be compelled to move forward with them. If they are based on what brings meaning into your life, not just what you think you “should” do, working on them will flow easier into each new day. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals & Success” chapter of our brand NEW edition of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. Choose to take the next step.
It really only takes a small shift everyday that over time amounts to enormous change.
People don’t suddenly heal and start living their ideal life overnight—their daily rituals (tiny steps) play a massive role in making it possible for them to create the life they sincerely want to live.
You can choose to develop daily rituals that point you in the direction of creating your ideal life—or rituals that keep you firmly anchored to your present situation. Make the decision. Make the commitment. Then take the next tiniest step forward in the direction you choose to go.
Honestly, that’s all life is—tiny, positive steps that you take moment by moment, and then one day when you look back it all adds up to something worthwhile – something that’s often far better, and different, than what you had imagined when you began your journey. (Angel and I build tiny, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
4. Choose to take things less personally.
After a couple decades of intentional soul searching, I finally figured out that there’s absolutely no benefit to holding on to anger, resentment or any of their close cousins. Truthfully, I would not be the human being I am today if it weren’t for each and every life experience I’ve had. And the same is true for you.
Screwing up, making mistakes, and letting people down occasionally isn’t wrong—it’s being human.
When I realized this truth, and accepted it, I opened my awareness to the fact that not everything, or perhaps even anything, that anyone else ever does is about me.
Think about the last time you were unkind to someone. Was it because of them, or because of you? Perhaps you were just having a bad day at the time, right?
Truth be told, if someone hurts you, chances are they have been hurt themselves. So do your very best to never take anything too personally. Don’t let vain insults get to your heart. Most human beings can only give others what they have received themselves. All of your actions and intentions should come from a place of love, but not everyone will be loving in return, and that’s perfectly OK.
As Miguel Ruiz explained in his book The Four Agreements, when you do not take anything personally, you liberate yourself. You can open yourself to the world, freely, and not have to worry about the judgments of others.
5. Choose to create healthy space for yourself (away from sources of negativity).
It doesn’t matter if it’s your dad, sister, cousin, friend or coworker that’s spewing negativity at you, if they are bringing you down on a daily basis, you need to spend less time with them. No, this doesn’t mean you have to exile them from your life – it simply means you can choose to carve out time away from them, to reclaim some positivity and sanity.
There’s a big difference between accepting that someone’s negative actions or behavior is born from a place of anxiety or insecurity versus excusing their behavior and therefore enabling it to continue relentlessly in your life.
At some point we all have to be accountable for our own well-being. And quite honestly, if someone decides to lash out at you again and again, you’re not obligated to be a punching bag.
Also, keep in mind that differing opinions are a part of life and relationships. But when we come across people who are intent on delivering harsh criticism from the sidelines, sometimes we just have to tell ourselves that we may not be doing it perfectly in their eyes, but hey, at least we’re stepping up and doing it. At least we’re getting up, showing up, walking into that darn arena every day and turning to face the crowd, shouting: “Here I am, trying my best! I’m a work in progress and I’m OK with it!”
6. Choose to seek support only from the right sources.
Think for a moment… If you were craving pizza, would you go to a Japanese sushi bar? No! Because you know they don’t serve pizza at a Japanese sushi bar. In fact, they wouldn’t even have the right ingredients to make a pizza even if they were willing to customize a special order for you. If you really wanted pizza, you would simply go to an Italian restaurant that serves it, right?
Now think about the people you go to when you’re craving support, reassurance, guidance, healthy feedback, or simply a loving, listening ear. Do you go to people who are consistently able to dish out what you are hungry for? Or do you go to people who don’t have what you need on their menu, and thus find yourself endlessly discouraged and disappointed?
Even though it’s true that life’s challenges make us stronger, and that it will be OK eventually… it’s not always OK right now, and sometimes that’s all we can feel when we’re in the midst of terribly tough times. Sometimes NOT being OK is all we can register inside our tired brains and aching hearts. This feeling is normal. This emotion is human. And accepting this can feel like a small weight lifted.
The truth is, it’s not OK when someone you care about is no longer living and breathing and giving their amazing gifts to the world. It’s not OK when everything falls apart and you’re buried deep in the wreckage of a life you had planned for. It’s not OK when the bank account is nearly at zero, with no clear sign of a promising income opportunity. It’s not OK when someone you trusted betrays you and breaks your heart. It’s not OK when you’re emotionally drained to the point you can’t get yourself out of bed in the morning. It’s not OK when you’re engulfed in failure or shame or a grief like you’ve never known before.
Whatever your tough times consist of, sometimes it’s just NOT OK right now. And that, again, is more than OK.
Yes, I’m suggesting to try your hardest to be perfectly OK with not being perfectly OK all the time. Because those with the strength to succeed in the long run are the ones who lay a firm foundation of growth with the bricks life has thrown at them. Don’t be afraid to fall apart for a little while, because when it happens, the situation will open an opportunity for you to grow and rebuild yourself into the brilliant human being you are capable of being, one brick at a time.
This is a new day. A new beginning. And things will change.
This morning I was jogging along a nature path near my home when a woman I had just passed began screaming for help. I turned around to see that her husband had fallen to the ground and appeared to be unconscious. I ran over and checked his pulse. He had one, but he was barely breathing. The woman called 911 on her mobile phone while I performed CPR on her husband. Somehow, miraculously, I got him in a more stabilized state before the paramedics arrived. And although I have no idea how this couple’s story will end, I’m optimistically hopeful.
Now I’m sitting here reflecting on the whole incident, and especially on the words the woman repeated over and over through heavy tears as I was attending to her husband: “It’s not his time. Oh please, it’s not his time!”
Her words keep echoing in my mind, reminding me that life is fragile and fleeting, and that I need to start allocating my time properly again. Life has been extremely busy lately, and certain things have fallen by the wayside. But enough is enough! It’s time to revive and resume the positive daily rituals that best serve my well-being and my relationships. And I hope YOU will join me.
When you stop doing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch up with you.
I met a friend at a local coffee shop this morning. She brought her work laptop along so she could show me some of her latest digital art designs. As we chatted and scrolled through her artwork, the laptop suddenly started making an unhealthy buzzing noise, then the screen flickered on and off and finally cut off completely. And as we both stared at one another in disbelief, the funky aroma of fried computer circuits filled our nostrils.
I quickly grabbed the laptop off the counter to inspect it and the problem instantly revealed itself. The bottom of the laptop was (more…)
You need to do hard things to be happy in life. Because the hard things ultimately build you up and change your life from the inside out.
Daily stress is one of the primary causes of major mental and physical health problems in our lives: it can cause heart disease, anxiety, sleep deprivation, auto-immune disorders, weight problems, unhappiness, and even deep depression.
But we’re busy – we all have places to be, things to do and people to see. So, how do we alleviate stress and still get our work done right, without neglecting our loved ones and ourselves? What can we realistically start doing today to nurture our mental health and overall wellness?
I’m going to be brief about this, because time is of the essence. There are eight simple (but not easy) things that need to be practiced. A few mindset shifts and a couple actions that take only a few minutes (more…)
“I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me.”
― S.E. Hinton
Most mornings I wake up drippy with gratitude and delight for this imperfect and beautiful life of mine. I can hardly believe how fortunate I am to connect with women around the world, have space to putter and read, a family to love, and opportunity to use my gifts to encourage and teach on a daily basis.
But not that long ago I lived stuck. Afraid to write, to try new things, to take a risk.
I was productive and busy, yet I wasn’t showing up fully to life nor doing my deepest work in the world. This was in large part because I (more…)
Last week, at my dear friend Alison’s celebration of life, her husband stood up to deliver a eulogy and said, “Life is the leading cause of death, and Alison truly lived her life, passionately. She died doing what she loved. If she never did what she loved, she may not have died, but she wouldn’t have truly lived either.”
“I have seen and touched and danced and sung and climbed and loved and meditated on a lifetime spent living honestly. Should it all end tomorrow, I can positively say there would be no regrets. I feel fortunate to have walked in my shoes. I am truly lucky. I really have lived 1,000 times over.”
What does it mean to truly live? What does it mean to live 1,000 times over?
Perhaps to follow in Alison’s footsteps, and rest in peace someday, with zero regrets of how you have lived.
Which means, according to the beautifully and truthfully spoken eulogy Alison’s husband delivered… (more…)