Thursday, November 27, 2014

Being Greatful on Thanksgiving

I know that today is a day of family, friends, football, and stuffing yourself like a turkey. So I'll make this short.

On Thanksgiving, we talk about the obvious: giving thanks. Being grateful.

I have another idea.

Let's be greatful. Not just full of gratitude, but full of greatness.

Do something bold and risky today, and do it not just for yourself, but for those around you on this joyous holiday.

What are you going to do? How did it go? Tell us in the comments.

-Elena


Monday, November 24, 2014

The Magic of Progress

When I sit down on Sunday evenings to write these weekly posts, the first thing I usually do is have an argument with myself about what I'm going to write about. You see, throughout the week, I will have multiple ideas for what to write about floating around in my mind, but none of those ideas are ever super defined. Therefore, I will have to pick the most prominent thought and build my post around that.

Today's post is a little different. You see, I have known exactly what I wanted to talk about for the past four or five days. When the thought entered my mind, no others followed because I knew that this one was "the one" for November 24th.

Progress.

This is a little things that we all spend a lot of time thinking about, but often never actually experience the benefits of. If you're anything like me, you really enjoy thinking about progress instead of making progress. This comes with having an overactive imagination.

I can imagine a giant increase in the word count of my novel.

I can imagine holding the first completed manuscript of that novel in my hands.

I can imagine the feeling that I will have when someone buys the first copy of said novel.

But, none of that is ever going to happen if I'm spending all of my time imagining instead of writing. Imagination is a grand thing, but it often gets in the way of the even more important concept of making progress.

The cool thing about progress is that while it's often difficult to catch a glimpse of it, once you catch that glimpse...you're hooked. Progress is the first and last step to completion.

So, how do you catch that coveted first look at progress?

Well, like Elena said in her post last week...you just have to do it. You have to sit down, and get to work. You have to dive in and get started.

No one is going to meet your goals for you. No one is going to start that business for you. No one is going to write that book for you. No one is going to accomplish things for you.

It's all up to YOU.

What are you waiting for? Go get started. Not sure how? Do some research. Ask someone who can help. Do some critical thinking. Do whatever you have to do to figure it out.

Make some progress.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving holiday!

-Miranda

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Just Do It

On Monday, Miranda wrote about motivation, and how we often wait for it, rather than inviting it in. I know what that's like.

This morning I was frustrated. I was low on energy; I couldn't focus. I couldn't afford to feel that way, but I couldn't come up with a good reason why. It's hard to find a solution when you don't know the problem. I hit this wall more often than I should, so I googled "chronic low energy".

An article came up: Natural Remedies for Anxiety Low Energy. I had acknowledged that anxiety was a possible cause, but I have a hard time discerning if and when. As I read the article, one suggestion stood out to me.

"Immediately take action," it read. "When your alarm goes off in the morning, you get up. When you find the trash is full, you take it out."

What that means is you never give yourself the opportunity to delay or procrastinate; you keep up momentum.

There are days when I'm going and going all day, and I can maintain energy as long as I keep moving. Once I give my mind or body even a second to slow down, I shut down.

This principle is not just one that applies to chores or to the daily tasks of our lives. It also applies to our passions, which are often the easiest to ignore.

If you are trying to make a living off your passions and trying to, as we say, embrace the road less traveled, you can't afford to ignore them. You can't afford to give in to your mind's ability to rationalize its way out of anything difficult. Especially when it comes to your passions, because you are the only one requiring you to accomplish them.

There's no boss imposing a deadline. You may even have friends or family trying to talk you out of pursuing your dreams if they are particularly risky. And mustering up the motivation to pursue your dreams is a lot harder than finding the energy to take out the trash.

I got a job recently supervising aftercare at a school for students with learning disabilities. I have odd hours, working 3 to 6 p.m. Having a job smack in the middle of the day makes it difficult to start any big project in the morning knowing I'll have to stop, and when I get home I'm often exhausted from playing shepherd.

But these are all great excuses to feel sorry for myself. It's not until I plunge myself into a task that I realize how far I can go. I can't afford to wait for the energy or the inspiration. I have to show up and get the work done, just like I do for the school. The only difference is getting paid and the threat of getting fired if I don't show up. But guess which job is more important to being the person I am striving to become? Why does one get more of my time than the other?

Because chasing your dreams, with only yourself to hold you accountable, only yourself to determine whether you succeed or fail, is terrifying. But if you constantly delay until the next day or after this or once you have that, you will look back and wonder how you allowed yourself to build up a lifetime of "somedays".

Never give your mind the chance to talk itself out of doing something you know you need to do, for yourself or otherwise. Stop postponing because you're too tired or you're too busy. Start with the little things, like the article suggested. As soon as the alarm goes off, get up. As soon as the trash is full, take it out. That's forming a habit. And as soon as you can carve out time to work on your goals, do it.

Don't delay. Don't procrastinate. Just do it.

-Elena



Monday, November 17, 2014

Motivation...or the Lack Thereof

Today, I want to talk about motivation.

Actually, scratch that. Today, I want to talk about lack of motivation.

This is something that we all struggle with from time to time, is it not? There are days that we feel like we have all of the energy in the world to face our goals and responsibilities head on. These are the days that we end feeling fulfilled and productive. Then, there are the days that we would rather jump off of the nearest bridge than do anything remotely worthwhile. Well, maybe not jump off a bridge...but definitely lie in bed with some takeout and a good Netflix marathon.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that there seem to be two types of lack of motivation:

1. The type that is easily cured.
2. The type that seems nearly impossible to cure.

I would say that the "easily cured" type is the most common. This is the type that we feel when we walk in the door at the end of a long day, feeling like we are too exhausted to possibly accomplish anything else. It seems like it will be difficult to overcome this feeling at first. This is the kind of lack of motivation that will lead you to sit down in front of the TV or go to bed early.

However, it is not strong enough to drown out the voice in the back of your mind that is telling you to "do something." Write, craft, create, paint...do whatever it is that you know in your heart you should be working on. Therefore, it is "easily cured" by making yourself work on whatever it is you know you want to be working on. After a few minutes of absorbing yourself in your work, it's hard to even remember how unmotivated you were just a little while before.

The type that is "impossible to cure" though...can be brutal. In circumstances where this comes into play, no amount of positivity or even force can help. During the times that this happens, a person's brain just seems...blank. You try to work and you just can't. You try to think, and you can't. It's like there is a brick wall between you and the things that you want to take care of, and you can't climb over it no matter how hard you try.

How do you overcome the impossible? How do you kick this lack of motivation to the curb?

I hate to say it, but I don't think there is an answer for that. There is no magic solution to altering your attitude sometimes. Maybe there is no cure for this type of lack of motivation because it really isn't about motivation, but more about making sure that you're taking necessary breaks from your hard work. We all need off days to rejuvenate and regroup. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn't become an everyday thing.

Learn to listen to your creative conscious. Your mind is your greatest tool, so don't underestimate it when it sometimes resists a little motivation. You have to know when to push yourself, but you also have to learn when NOT to push yourself.

Do you struggle with lack of motivation? What type hinders you the most? Let us know in the comments.

Happy Monday!

-Miranda

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Habits of Self-Sabotage and Why to Break Them

I've been trying to write this post for the last thirty minutes. Blank white space has been dutifully waiting for me to fill it, but I've been unable to conjure my words. Instead, I've been wasting time browsing nonsense articles on the internet. Procrastinating. For no good reason.

We do this to ourselves constantly, this endless self-sabotage. We know there is work to be done, whether it's creative or career or otherwise, but we are excellent at finding loopholes to justify inaction.

What keeps us from doing? Why do I write a few sentences of this post and feel I've earned a brief distraction? Why is it so hard to focus?

An article I read recently took a look at all the justifications we love to make.

1. False choice: "I can't do this because I'm too busy doing that."

Chances are, "this" and "that" are not mutually exclusive. Doing one does not bar you from doing the other. You just don't want to make the time.

I used to tell myself the only thing keeping me from writing consistently was lack of time. Once I graduated from college, I'd have time. Once I moved back home, I'd have time. But you'll never have time if time isn't really the issue. If something is truly important to you, you'll make time. You'll adjust your schedule accordingly. But for me, the obstacle was not time but fear.

2. Moral licensing: "I've been so good so it's okay for me to do this." 

Also known as, "I ate a piece of kale for lunch so I can eat fried oreos for dinner." Not quite. If your destination is a healthy lifestyle, extremes are not the path.

3. Tomorrow: "I can skip this today because I'll do it tomorrow." 

"Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today." Sound familiar?

4. Lack-of-control: "I can't help myself."

This is never an excuse unless you're possessed by demon spawn or four months old.

5. Planning-to-fail: "I should remove my ex from Facebook because seeing all his pictures and statuses makes me uncomfortable, but while I'm on his profile I'll just spend some time reading everything he posted lately. Just curious."

No.

6. This-doesn't-count: "I'm on vacation."

"I'll get back to eating healthy when I get home in five days, after I've already wreaked havoc on my digestive system which had adjusted to my new healthy diet."

7. Concern-for-others: "If I do this, others will be uncomfortable." 

"If I start going to the gym every day after work, my coworkers will notice and think I'm snobby or something."

Excuses like this have nothing to do with making others uncomfortable. They have to do with you being uncomfortable venturing outside the status quo, and being worried what others will think of you for that. They may not like it. They may be jealous. Good. Be a role model.

8. Fake self-actualization: "YOLO!"

"I need to try all the things to help me find myself."

If you are expecting experiences to help you find yourself, good luck. The only place you will find yourself is inside yourself. It's like looking for your glasses while they're already on your face. Look within, not without.

9. One-time: "What will one time hurt?" 

All it takes is one time to get the snowball rolling.

Do any of these sound familiar? They all sound familiar to me. And even as I read them, and even as I wrote this, I accepted that I will use them again. But to make a change, the first step is awareness. The next step, practice. Make a habit of self-empowerment.

Let's do it together.

-Elena

Monday, November 3, 2014

Staying Positive in a Negative World

It's no secret that this world we inhabit is not always the friendliest place.

Every day, we live in a place where the negative aspects of life seem to be hyped up more than the positive ones. We live in a place where failure has become more of an expectation than a possibility. We live in a place where competition has become relentless, and people are more likely to push each other down to get ahead than encourage each other.

We live in a place where dreams are discouraged more than they are encouraged.

That's a pretty scary concept, right? Take a minute to think about it. What is your biggest dream...your biggest goal in life? Do you have that in your mind? Now...think about the times that you have told people about this dream. Now...think about all of the times that you have discussed this dream with people. How was the news handled?

If your conversations about your dreams are anything like mine, you probably get a good mixture of feedback. When I discuss my goals with people, I can usually always tell at the beginning of the discussion what the outcome will be in terms of encouragement. There are the people who tell me to keep working and success will follow. Then, there are the people that just don't seem to think that my dreams are realistic.

I'm sure many of you can think of the people in your life that fall into this category. These are the people that will tell you that the concept is nice, but it really just isn't practical or even possible. These are the people who believe that the odds just aren't in your favor. Not necessarily because they don't believe in you...but because they just don't have that much faith in the way that the world runs.

And, you know...maybe the world does run this way. Maybe it does have a way of stealing dreams...of making you settle for the mediocre because it's the "logical" thing to do. Maybe it really is easier to fall victim to the negative thinking of the world because it's the easier option. But...does it have to be like that?

How do you stay positive in a negative world?

That is a one million dollar question...to which there seems to be no definite answer to.

The more I think about it, the more I think it boils down to belief...belief in yourself. You have to believe that your dreams are worth not just something, but everything. You have to believe that it's not about having dreams just to say that you have them, but so that you can make them come true. You have to believe that you DESERVE to have your dreams come true.

You have a calling for a reason. You have passions for a reason. The world is going to tell you the complete opposite of this...and that's okay. A problem only arises when you begin to believe the negativity.

What are you doing to fight for your dreams in this negative world?

-Miranda

Friday, October 31, 2014

Hallowing Your Life By Getting Rid of Clutter

Happy Halloween, friends.

There's a creeping presence in our lives that many of us refuse to acknowledge. It comes in many forms: possessions, thoughts, toxic relationships.

This presence is clutter.

In my life, there has always been clutter. It mounts endlessly, brick by brick, and if you do nothing it will bury you alive.

A subdued anxiety has permeated my life for years. Tell me if this sounds familiar: a mind full of overcrowded thoughts that make falling asleep daunting, a quiet inner sense that you're living life just beneath the threshold of your potential.

If you live like this for long enough, you start to believe it's "normal". It's not until you break free of this habitual subtlety that you realize what you've been missing.

So how do you break free?

De-clutter.

De-clutter your home

Over the years, we accumulate a lot of "stuff". I'm on a mission to live more minimalistically, which means I have to ask myself some tough questions.

How much of what I own do I really need?

What am I holding onto that it's time to let go of?

What might someone else be able to appreciate more than I do?

Just by going through my closet, I've filled four bursting garbage bags full of clothes I never wear. And there's a satisfaction in that.

Some things you may sell; some things you may give away. Many things you might just toss in the trash, which is extremely gratifying. Use your own discretion, and if you get rid of enough stuff, you might even be able to finally find a place for everything you own.

De-clutter your mind

Besides de-cluttering your homespace, it's also important to de-clutter your headspace.

I began meditating a few years ago in order to quiet my mind at night. I focused on my breathing to ignore the thoughts racing through my mind. I didn't force it; I simply acknowledged the thoughts as they passed by, and let them continue on their way.

I do that often now, whenever I am feeling overwhelmed. You begin to develop a self-awareness set apart from your mind, a calm bystander who can say, "Hey, that was a negative thought", and move on.

Our society is saturated with information. It comes at us from all angles, making it easy for our minds to always be "on".

But are you ever truly present? How often is your mind one step ahead of you? In a conversation with someone, are you busy thinking about what you're going to make for dinner? While you're doing the laundry, are you busy thinking about what you have to get done tomorrow?

Focus on one task at a time. Be present and mindful. Slow down.

De-clutter your life

Letting go of a person is not as easy as letting go of possessions, but it is sometimes necessary.

We hope that the people we befriend or the lovers we welcome will stick around forever, but that's not always the case. Often people come into our lives to serve a short-term purpose, and after that purpose has been served, we have to let them go.

Holding onto a relationship that is no longer mutually empowering is dangerous. It leaves us wondering what we have done wrong, and chisels away at our self-respect.

Even family can sometimes be toxic. If that is the case, don't try to change them. You are responsible for the actions of only one person: yourself.

But in all things, love. Being scathing or bitter hurts you more than anyone else.

Live peacefully

If you're trying to find your direction in life, getting rid of distractions is one step along the way.

You need space to think, to process, to know yourself. So go create it. 

And don't be scared. ;)

-Elena