26 Years… What I Know for Sure- 10 THINGS

So, today marks my 26th birthday, and in honor of that occasion, I thought it would be fun to reflect on some of the lessons I have learned over my 26 years of life thus far. We all evolve so much throughout the years that it is strange thinking back to different beliefs, habits, attitudes you may have held in adolescence or even just a year ago, which might differ completely now.

With inspiration from Oprah Winfrey’s book, What I Know for Sure. Here are the top 10 things that I know for sure (thus far). Hope someone else is able to get something out of it. Enjoy!

1.       It’s not what happens to you in life, it is how you CHOOSE to react to it.

We have a lot more control over our experiences in life than we give ourselves credit for. It is easy to blame “bad luck” or pity ourselves over a certain circumstance we most likely cannot control. So, instead of succumbing to the series of unfortunate events, perhaps, CHOOSE to be positive, own your circumstances, and move forward!

2.       You are always exactly where you are supposed to be.

This is a big lesson I have especially learned over the past year or so. Being in a career I am not super passionate about can make one feel anxious and stuck. But, having adopted this new mentality about where I am vs. where I want to be. I know I am taking small actions towards where I see myself, and in that we much ACCEPT where we are right now because NOW is all we truly have. We must let go of angst and let life guide us patiently through our course.

3.      Want only what you already have.

Many of us live our lives wanting more, more money, more status, more power, more things, and lose sight of all we already have. Being grateful for what we already have and wanting only that and nothing more is extremely humbling. We being to recognize that we have much more than most, and that is enough.

4.       The power of gratitude

I have been journaling what I am grateful for every day for a couple of years now, and I will tell you that it truly does put things in perspective. Having a gratitude journal forces you to reflect on all we have and all of the blessings in our life every day. It can be the smallest little things such as just waking up, having a moment to yourself, having the sun come out today, etc. Many of these small things we can take for granted, and writing them down every day prevents us from overlooking them.

5.       Acceptance is Love

For years I always wondered why I did not feel comfortable around most people, whether it was family, friends or random social settings. I always felt like there was something wrong with me because I was not the type to “click” with many people or make instant friends. I am a self-proclaimed introvert and for years I tried to force myself into a position as an extrovert and fit it. As I grew up I started to understand why the only people I felt genuinely comfortable around was my immediate family, and it was because I trusted that they accepted me. Since I was not yet in a position of fully accepting myself, there was no way I could feel like someone else could be so accepting of me even if they were. On the flip side of this realization, I began to truly be accepting of others in my life, whether they had strange quirks or annoyances, I would still without judgment to my best ability because all they truly want is what I want, acceptance. Then, I began to understand this acceptance as love. It is the most powerful thing we yearn for in life, to be loved, but put even more simply, to be accepted.

6.       The story we tell ourselves RUNS our life, so monitor that story and change the plot if it does not serve you.

Understanding our truth is not an overnight processes. We must recognize the various beliefs and identities we have held throughout the years and assess whether they are moving us forward or holding us back. These beliefs and identities run our lives, so it is important to check in to see what is serving us and what is not. Perhaps you have always identified as being “someone who doesn’t take risks,” so you move through life without ever taking a risk because “that’s not who you are.” Can we maybe question this identity to see if this is good enough reason to never take risks in life? Perhaps we miss out on a good opportunity because we hold this identity so dearly, and holds us back from making a positive change.

7.       Develop the habit of reading even if you don’t love it. Stay curious!

Growing up I was never a big reader, and even today, I don’t love reading books more than 300 pages. But, developing reading into a daily practice is beneficial for the present and future you. Reading allows us to open our minds up into new information and even brings to life a new mindset. As we grow older, we must continue to expand and grow our minds through activities such as reading in order to prevent the deterioration of the brain. In a world where mindless television and internet scrolling in the norm (I am guilty of it to) we need to implement a practice to at least somewhat offset these mindless moment through mindful practices.

8.       Meditation works.

The meditation and mindfulness movement has been growing tremendously over the years, and its benefits have been proven effective for hundreds of years, yet there is some doubt my many (including myself at one time) of its benefits. Over the past year I have been more religious in the adoption of a meditation practice in my own life, and please take it from me, it makes a difference. Overtime, you begin to notice that your mind does not wonder, overthink, dwell or worry about things as it had prior to this practice. Meditation allows for us to train our minds to focus on the present moment and manage distractions during and after the practice.

9.      We experience life through the lens of the mindset we carry.

Perhaps this is similar to the story we tell ourselves, but here I think I am going more for a thought about attitude. If we maintain a positive attitude throughout our days, we had a great day! If we wonder through life thinking the world is against us and everyone is evil, our world will be unpleasant. We can see this sort of idea play out in a circumstance, at work, for example. We might be performing the same job, same task in the same company as another person and they hate their job while you might love it! It’s the same circumstance experienced two completely different ways. Luckily! We have control over our own mindset and can choose to have a good day or not based on that attitude alone.

10.   WE define success, not time, not others, not accolades.

For years I talked about being “successful” “one day,” not fully understanding what success even meant to me. I knew what success meant to other people, having money, cars and status, perhaps, so like many of us, I owned this as my own definition. But was it? How did I define success? What did I want? Is it possible I am already successful? Can’t be! Well, to my surprise, I came to find out that success to me is exactly where I am right now. I might not be in the profession I want to be in, being as financially well-off as I want to be, etc, but in this moment I am success because of the way I define success. I define success as being able to support myself, my friends and my family whether financially (enough) or emotionally. I define success as making progress on personal development, my goals and my skills. I define success as doing the very best I can ALWAYS. Reminding ourselves that everyone is always doing the best they can, may really evoke empathy for one another. Perhaps they do not define success in the same way, but according to your definition, they are successful all the same, whether they know it or not.

Long post and very raw but I hope even one person was able to relate and maybe gain a new perspective from this. What I Know for Sure?… There is more to come. Enjoy!

The Danger of Letting the Past Dictate Present Decision-Making

Piggybacking on my previous post in only finding clarity in the present, focusing more on the idea that we must make decisions in the now rather than focusing on future outcomes, it is also important not to let the past dictate our current decisions either.

Here, we are talking about specific experiences that might be influencing your current decision-making, whether it is career or relationships. I have recently noticed my own thinking being influenced by events of the past when it came to career. Some people might feel they are owed certain things because of their tenure at a company, or conversely, feel they should give up on a certain career because much time has passed and have still seen no reward.

When you realize that time does not have anything to do with expertise or give merit to stop something just because you have been working on it for a long time with no real progress, it is a light bulb-moment. The only moment that matters is right now. What is your expertise right now, regardless of how much time you have spent in your profession? Does that expertise warrant a promotion? What is your ambition to succeed in your currently unsuccessful venture? Do you still have a drive to work on it NOW?

We must ask ourselves these sort of questions without reasoning back to the past, how much time we have invested in something or how much time has passed with no success. The same is true with relationships. There are many couples that have stayed together primarily because of how much time had been invested in the relationship and the thought of starting over would be proof that they have just wasted all of this time. This very consideration of past events and investment is what they have based their decision to stay in the relationship on. Now, what if they had instead asked themselves how they felt in this present moment without consideration of the past? Perhaps there would have been more reason to go and move on because in that present moment you are unhappy and here is where a decision must be made, without influence from the past.

There is no such thing as the past. All of the good times we have had in the past are no longer, all we have is now. All of the bad times we have had in the past are no longer, all we have is now. We cannot accumulative evidence based on the past if it no longer exists in the present. I encourage us all to think about how you are feeling now, what you are contemplating doing right now, and decide in this very moment without looking back on who you were, how things went in the past and giving it more influence than it ever deserves.

If you have a drive to be successful in business but have not sold anything in the three years you’ve been invested? Please do not consider those three years when deciding whether or not to give up or continue. What do you believe in right now? Those three years do not exist. What do you want for yourself in this very moment?

Others will also expect you to give up and reason with you that if nothing has happened in three years, it will never happen. People might influence you to believe that the past has credibility, but you know that it does not.

We Can Only Find Clarity In The Present

Take a moment to reflect on the things that give you major and minor anxieties in the everyday. Such examples might be as simple as waiting on a text message from a friend, waiting in line at the Starbucks or thinking about what you are going to eat for dinner tonight. Some might be a bit deeper, thinking about if you are in the right marriage, if you and your friends will still be friends 20 years from now, if you are going to be broke your whole life or well-off.

If I asked you what all of these worries had in common, what would you say?

These anxieties are all attributed to the uncertainty about the FUTURE.

Many of us spend more time worrying about the future throughout the day than the very moment in the day itself. Ever drive to work and not even know how you got there because of all of the things you were thinking about on the drive? Ever leave the house and not remembering if you brushed your teeth because of all of the things running through your head during your brush?

Our minds are so flooded with these future worries that we do not focus on what we are doing in the moment we have. We are not even guaranteed to have those moments we focus too much energy on in the future. What if you have been imagining cooking a steak for dinner the whole day, what you are going to serve it with, who will be there, what drink you will wash the meal down with, and then when you get to your house, you find out the steak had expired 2 weeks ago. The reality of the situation is that you have been ignoring many of the days moments that you had with this daydream about a rotten piece of meat that you can no longer eat and satisfy your fantasy with. Sadly, we waste away moment in the day for trivial thoughts like this all of the time without even noticing.

The most disappointing part of all of this is the fact that we worry about things that are never guaranteed to us. We live life with a need to know, trying to solve life’s equations that are unsolvable because we will never know the future or have complete certainty. All we know is the truth in the moment we are experiencing right now.

This brings me to the next point about decision making. Sometimes when we feel this angst about the uncertainty in our lives, whether is it questioning if we are in the right career, relationship, friend-group or even workout class. In our heads, we can run through an extensive pros and cons list until it drives us crazy, and oddly enough, it will still not even bring us CLARITY we are looking for in making the right decision.

Why is this? Because we cannot make clear decisions when trying to predicting the future. It is okay to consider the future but we cannot try to predict it because these anxieties then fog our heads with fear, worry, and doubt in the present moment. Thinking is oftentimes not the answer to decision-making at all. In fact, NOT thinking and just being in the moment is where we will find more clarity. In these moments, you will feel engaged and free from emotion, anxieties, and stress about the future.

Rather, you are putting one foot in front of the other and navigating the bumps and cracks to step over along the path. Here we are clear on where to walk, whereas THINKING about where our next step should be might cause us to fall in a ditch we would have never seen coming.

All of this is to say that when you are considering a life change, minor or major, remain engaged in the present moment where you are free from anxiety and see your next step clearly. Thinking about the next step will only cause a cloud in your judgment filled with fear and worry which may misdirect your journey altogether. Let us not confused fear with intuition, for intuition can only exist in the present.

Allow the present to be our guiding light as we put one foot in front of the other and navigate down our path.

 

Luck or Attraction?

Many of us have a tendency to credit “luck” for things both good and bad. When something positive happens to us, we may say we just “got lucky”, and when something negative happens we say we just had “bad luck”. I have never been a proponent of the idea that things happen for no reason at all and we also had nothing to do with it.

For a simple example, I think about why a particularly negative co-worker of mine constantly has problems with his computer, outlook, traffic, and the list goes on, while I find myself to never have any of these issues or at least not to the extent he experiences.

Our energies have much more to do with the way our life is going more than just sheer luck. I will paraphrase the Alchemist saying, when you want something, the universe conspires to help you achieve it. The same is true with negative thoughts. If we are constantly complaining and being negative, that is the energy that is sent out into the universe and the universe will return this energy in a negative form because you have asked for it.

Now, with all of that being said, being more of a believer in attraction than in dumb luck, I am beginning to understand that luck does exist in some form. It is luck to be born into a family with wealth, connections and experience, for example. Perhaps you aspire to be a doctor and your father happens to be a successful doctor, alumni to a prestigious university and well connected at the school. Even if your grades upon application to medical school are average, do you think you might have a better chance at gaining admission than someone who is slightly above average with no connections at all? Of course you do, and you were simply born with that advantage. There is no way you would have been able to manifest this fate in the womb of your mother.

However, we are all dealt a different deck of cards when we are born. Some of us are luck in other ways, more simply, even just being born in a safe neighborhood in the United States of America has been your luck.

Still, luck can be the starting point for some people but attraction remains to be the more determining factor when it comes to the trajectory of the rest of your life. Dealt a good or bad hand, as we grow up, it is up to us to determine what we will attract in our lives. We have full responsibility.

Perhaps the student who grew up with a well-connected doctor father who is an alumni of a prestigious university DOES have a better chance at getting in than you do, BUT you have the ability to ATTRACT a similar advantage.

Even without luck, we can manifest this same chance luck with attraction. Perhaps you are able to network and connect with another well-connected doctor and university alumni through your research and effort to reach out to befriend this person. You may not have been born into this connection but you were able to create this connection and the same advantage as the student born into connection.

It is easy to make an excuse for other’s success and say things like “oh, well they have a shore house because the grandmother left them money, we can’t do that” or “oh yeah, she got that job because her father knew the principal of the school, lucky her.” Yes, maybe these people did have a built-in advantage but it does not mean that just because you did not have one that you cannot achieve the same.

I encourage us all to define what we want to do in our lives, and begin to live each day manifesting positive thoughts for the accomplishment of what we want to do and recognizing opportunities for action that will help you get there even if you were not luck enough to have it given to you. Attract it.

“What is This Here To Teach Me?”

In life we expect to encounter our share of failures, whether it is as trivial as not being selected for the softball team or having a business deal fall through. No matter the magnitude of failure, they all exist to teach us something as long as we are open enough to listen to the message. The most successful people in the world have all risen from failures of the past, and have adopted them as contributors to their story, not a tarnish.

It is easy to give up after failures, not wanting to face family at holiday parties and admit to the lack of tangible accomplishments. It is easier for us to give the whole thing up and just stop feeling the pressure of others expecting something from us, right? Well, that feeling of embarrassment exists to do just that, to have you give up in order to protect us. Our minds, which were once wired for protection from predator threat in the wild, are still wired for protection but protection from negative emotions. Now that we no longer have to fear the attack of a wild animal, our minds have evolved to protect us from mostly social fears. It is the protective mind that will tell you that you should stop if you don’t want to feel that embarrassment or rejection again. It will stop you if you let it.

Knowing that each failure exists to teach us something is the most powerful thing to get us through the debilitating fears the mind as produced, and have us continue our journey to be great (whatever that may look like for you). Next time you are faced with a failure, ask yourself,

“What is this here to teach me?”

In my own life, I have found that the lesson to cultivate the persistence to continue pursuit after failure, alone has been enough to continue my journey. There are times when I do get discouraged and think things would be easier if I just gave up and throw up the white flag to all of the people who have never understood what I have been moving towards.

Who you are meant to be evolves from where you are right now. So, learning to appreciate your lessons, mistakes and setbacks as stepping stones to the future are clear signs you are moving in the right direction.

~ Oprah Winfrey, What I Know For Sure (2012)

Oftentimes these failures can feel like taking steps backwards, but the fact is that simply taking that action was progress enough because those who never took action could have never failed and learned, or won anyway.

Perhaps the answers are just you need to better equip you for the step in your journey. Keep going!

Chemistry Bonds and Valentine’s Day?

Encompassed by the walls of Hallmark cards, I embarked on a journey to select the perfect card for the loving people in my life on Valentine’s Day. I rummaged through endless lines of punny, corny and endearing messages found between the flaps of cardboard for at least a half hour before I settled. I grew impatient in my search for the perfect cards. Then, on my way out of the store I noticed one card I had left unchecked. Its top left corner peeked from behind the pink envelopes before it and seemed to give me a wink. (Weird, right?) I slid my sneakers across the carpet floor to give just one more card a chance.

It had an image of the periodic table on the cover and inside read, “You are the Sodium to my Chloride.” The former chemistry nerd in me jested at the pun. Though I found much enjoyment in reading this card, I did not select it as my chosen one, but it did get me thinking.

I began to think about the relationships between element bonds and human bonds. Was this card an accurate personification of what goes into forming real HUMAN relationship bonds? Now, I do not remember much from chemistry class 10 years ago, but what I do remember is that the entire premise of the subject is studying the composition of elements and their reactions with other substances.

If I were to translate this into the study of human chemistry, I would say it is a subject which studies the composition of personalities and their reactions to other interactions. When we say someone has “chemistry” with another person, what we typically mean is that Sally’s personality and Harry’s personality react positively with one another. The interactions between the two of them have made them feel a sort of closeness. Perhaps I would argue this is where the creation of a “bond” would come in. A bond comes out of furthering interactions between people in sharing similar experiences, having intimate conversations and going through challenging circumstances. Similar to the chemical interactions which create a bond, human bonds are then created.

I guess there is some reason to why we use terms like “bond” and “chemistry” to describe human relationships after all.

Still, chemical and human bonds can be broken if such interactions are no longer present. Maybe you and your partner do not share much anymore, you don’t trust one another, or you have given up on creating experiences together. The good news is, I believe bonds can be strengthened overtime even more simply than they can be broken. 🙂

This Valentine’s Day, I hope you took the time to look at the chemistry that you found between you and your partner and all of the interactions you both have created to manifest your unique bond. I wish for all couples, friends and relatives to keep up these interactions with the people you love dearly, and keep that bond everlasting.  ❤

 

Creating Peace in a Chaotic World

In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl speaks of his experience in the Holocaust as a Jewish prisoner. Instead of focusing on the hardships and details of the event, which many of us are aware of, he speaks of the inner experiences of the prisoners who he shared a story with. Frankl speaks of the prisoner’s ability to find peace and joy inside themselves despite the horror and inhumane conditions surrounding them. He describes each prisoners appreciation for the small joys such as a sunset, being delegated one laborious task over another, finding humor in the direst of situations, and, for Frankl especially, the simple thought of a loved one’s presence, which gave him enough reason to survive.

Today, I think it is safe to say that the majority of us have never, and hopefully will never, experience a comparable experience to Frankl’s but we can relate to this idea of being dealt a difficult hand, so to speak, and finding ways to manage our emotions in those times of hardship. Frankl presents a useful lesson on how to cultivate joy in a situation where joy may not be found externally. He speaks of finding this within our inner selves, as he did with the thought of his wife and her love during his time in the camps.

Frankl’s point throughout the book is to prove the power of finding meaning for our lives and how it can give us the physical strength to rise above seemingly helpless situations. By giving our lives meaning and focusing our minds on that purpose, we cultivate our own reality and will to continue on our journey, no matter the circumstance. Frankl does not fully credit his salvation to his own luck, but rather, to his mentality and his ability to create peace within himself throughout his time in the camps.

This story proves the power of the mind, and its ability to give us the strength in times we may feel hopeless or physically powerless, as Frankl was living off of watery soup and a rationed piece of bread every day in freezing, inhumane living conditions. So, in our own lives, we can carry Frankl’s lesson with us in times we feel without hope, envision the things that bring you joy and that give meaning to your life, and know that you are capable of rising above it all.