We’re all in this together

This comic conveys such a powerful message: 

It reminds me that everyone is not so different, that we all doubt our path in life, and we all wish that we could be ‘like someone else,’ assuming they have it easier and undermining our own strength and resourcefulness.

And most interesting thing about this phenomenon: We are embarrassed to share this self-doubt with the world and form the necessary support group we all want.

Why is there a social stigma against people who feel like they need some guidance in their life? We see the stigma reflected in societal embarrassment of self-help books, life coaches, psychics, and therapy. Maybe if we all confided in one another more often, like on a daily basis, to understand that what we are feeling is not abnormal then we could eradicate these stigmata.

People should be proud that their self-improvement and growth is so important to them that they feel the need to seek advice. The person who feels they know it all and wishes to ostracize themselves from other people may actually be ignoring a powerful truth: There is a sort of contagion in certainty, meaning that when others can reach a state of absolute certainty then we too can feel more certain that we have all the necessary resources, attributes, and skills to accomplish our life’s goals.

As social creatures, we naturally need each other for reassurance. So let’s start sharing our thoughts, concerns, and doubts without shame.

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What 2013 taught me…

Life Lessons of 2013!

So as my version of “2013 year in review,” I am going to begin an ongoing project I’ve always wanted to do: Write a list of all the things I’ve learned about life, happiness, and myself at the end of every year and pass them onto my future children to reassure and guide them as they experience similar periods of personal growth.

SO HERE WE GO! 10 things I learned this year:

1) Keeping promises to ourselves is hard but not impossible. If we treat our self-promises like those we make to family, friends, and co-workers then we will be pleasantly surprised at how much we accomplish. Your self-appreciation and self-esteem will soar when you know you can always trust yourself to follow through.

2) Sleep is sacred. We sleep 1/3 of our lives for a reason, to rejuvenate and revitalize our bodies so we can thrive and be ambitious in the other 2/3. Don’t miss out on this key ingredient for daily success.

3) Time is precious and unlimited. I’m not talking about clock time, I’m talking about perceived time. An hour can be the most productive unit of time you’ll ever experience if you become the master of it. Expect more from your time and watch it deliver.

4) Becoming overwhelmed by goals till the point of paralysis is worse than having no goals at all. Don’t let the anxiety about accomplishing ‘daunting’ goals control your daily emotional experience. Focus on the process and eliminate the feelings of overwhelm and uncertainty that come from over-occupation with the big picture. Instead, make sure that everyday you are systematically moving in the direction of your goal with small steps. I found a great article to sum this lesson up, here!

5) Throwing your hands up and exclaiming “What the heck!” is unbelievably therapeutic. Letting go and being able to live in the moment is a skill and a gift. Learning to let go of expectations, over planning, and over analysis and ‘just be’ will help you to experience and enjoy this journey called life, without the troubled spirit.

6) People change. You change. And that’s okay.

7) Meditation is a human need. I’ve discovered that meditation comes in many forms: lying quietly, dancing to your favorite song, getting in the zone in a workout, admiring your own reflection, listening to the quiet, and taking a shower are all examples of different ways to meditate. Meditation is a human need. It reconnects us with that part of ourself that is aware that our very existence in this life is magical and the ultimate blessing. Experience self-gratitude.

8) Don’t be afraid to chase a dream. You are not hurting yourself but, instead, exploring yourself. You get one life, never forget that.

9) Never assume you know someone’s story. When I meet new people, my pre-concieved assumptions about their character, life experience, and beliefs are usually blown to bits within the first interaction. The moment you believe you can read and understand every person is the moment you lose your ability to connect, learn, and grow. If you are not growing, you are dying.

10) You are not the same person you were yesterday. As hard as this is to wrap your head around, it is true. We like to think of ourselves as static, instead of dynamic, because the familiar is the safe. But every day, every moment, every action is an opportunity to remake yourself. Like clay, we can all change shape with the warm touch of drive and enthusiasm for our personal growth.

What did 2013 teach you? Comment and share your own yearly insights to document your own growth. 

Gratitude: the lens of extraordinary beauty

When someone says you have “no reason,” tell them you have every reason to feel grateful.

We all have these rare, fleeting moments. The ones where absolutely EVERYTHING around you looks beautiful and perfect the way it is. You send love to everything and everyone you pass. You stop in the mirror and, instead of critiquing your reflection, you simply look into your own eyes and profess gratitude that you are you. You are here. You valuable. And you are impossibly beautiful in every sense of the word.

Those moments feel like magic. When you are in them, it feels natural (“Why don’t I always feel this way? It’s so obvious my life is beautiful the way it is.”). Then later, when you allow your socialized pessimism to parasitically invade, you believe you were dumb to think that magic was real (“I was just delusional. It’s time to wake up”).

BUT, then something incredible happens: You experience another magic moment and you are convinced like before that perfection is all around you. The more you have those moments, the more centered in reality, not fantasy, they feel. The pessimism fades over time. A life of embracing these moments, I presume, is the kind of peace you find in many old people. The world is different for them because the lure of those magic moments have consumed them. Permanently.

This is what I like to call, Gravitational Gratitude. The moments have an intrinsically amble force that pulls you into the light and away from learned pessimism. They give you security. They remind you of your interconnectedness with the internal and external world because they ground you. You are your own planet and the Sun is the all that is around you. Its pull is magnetic and gives you life.

In these moments you are the impartial observer (you don’t see imperfections as connoting negativity because everything is neutral) and thank the world for being the way it is, in this moment, RIGHT NOW.

By changing the meaning of what’s around you, you realize that nothing is inherently flawed and all animate and inanimate life is intrinsically perfect. Your utopia exists in this moment. You are certain you could die happy.

A lesson I’m learning to be true, the secret to eternal happiness: It is impossible to be afraid, upset, or unsatisfied when you feel GRATITUDE for all that is, isn’t, and will be. 

Try it yourself: Imagine a nuclear bomb is dropping to end your world and destroy all the people in your life. Now, in your minds eye, turn to those people and gaze at them in a lens of love. Feel how lucky you are to have spent your life with them, learned from their presence. Feel how safe they make you feel when you see them in this loving light. Thank them and everything around you that you value and feel the gratitude for having been given the chance to live even a moment of your life with these people, these things, and these experiences. Do you still feel afraid of your impending death? Most likely not.

Gratitude is love. Love is strength. Strength is certainty. And certainty invincibility. 

Nothing can bring you down when you embody a state of gratitude. Truly nothing.

When you feel those next moments of utter gratitude for all the is, isn’t, and will be, let them consume you. Embody it so they are no longer rare, fleeting moments you let fade with time but a state of being in which you live your life.

Recent re-evaluation of this life stage

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I am feeling very lost right now (in a sincere, non-melodraumatic way). This feeling is new and unnerving. 

The drive that use to consume me to succeed in school is lost. The thought of not being my best, not working as hard as I know I can, doesn’t even bother me anymore. The stress I feel when work piles up is acute, but not chronic the way I’m use to feeling it when wrapping myself up in my school successes as my identity.

I don’t want this, this school thing. But I don’t know what I want. I do know what I think I want. I see myself branching out and making something of myself independent of the socialized institution of higher education as a means to financial, social, and personal success. Something in me doesn’t believe this is actually how things are yet I wonder if that belief about the increasing uselessness of my time in college is because I am feeling lazy or unmotivated to do the mundane, but still highly challenging, course work. Is devaluing education a justification system for me not wanting to do my day-to-day assignments. Last year I would have likely concluded that a large portion of this belief system was an excuse but I am feeling now that only 10% of it is and 90% is actually authentic.

I really have lost interst and understanding with my time here in college. I frecuently ask myself when I’m unmotivated to work (spending 10 hours a day doing absolutely nothing but poking around at homework assignments and not actually getting anything done) why exactly I’m here. I can usually rattle off a list of reasons that I’ve been told to consider (better job prospects, increased social status and respect with an ivy education degree, so-called ‘higher learning’ is good for the mind, etc.) but none of them I’ve really internalized as real for me. I don’t feel these reasons and thus have a hard time using them as moment-to-moment motivational factors. 

This loss of my core self, self-concept if you will, is really disturbing lately. I am feeling meaningless daily and have seemed to cope by taking excessive naps and justifying to the public with excuses of working too hard. I am not working hard enough and lately not at all. I am at that turning point where I can go out this semester with a bang and do really well or fail some of my classes and feel forced into making a decision about an alternative route to college. 

Nothing here really excites me. On a whim I decided I would be a sociology major but the more and more I say that aloud to people the more I realize that my passion is not in that statement. I think I’m holding onto this major prospect because it gives me a sense of identity right now when I’m feeling really lost on this path of academia. 

This is not a matter of ability, I am well prepared to do school. This is a struggle with deciding what meaning I want my life to take and having enough security in myself to make steps towards achieving it.

But then there is that demonic voice in my head that tells me I am just a child, ridiculously responding to the tiny stresses of college life with rash plans for my future of extreme success in entrepreneurship. But then there is a part of me, one that I feel is the most stable, that says my objection to continuing down this path in this way is an acceptable thought/belief to have. 

I have never felt this sort of identity struggle about my life path. Dropping the idea of medical school after realizing that lab work nor basic practitioner interested me enough (I had just said for years that I wanted to be a doctor because it was socially acceptable and made the people around me feel like I had high prospects for my future) to dedicate my career to this sort of work was very hard to admit to myself. With that path I saw myself working years on end, pushing myself to the point of giving up or the cracking of my spirit, only to get to a place with a nice title but no real feeling of meaningfulness. I wouldn’t say I lied to myself about my passion but more that I was willing to accept and take all the way anything that sparked minor interest in me. I am raising my standards now, I only want to pursue what really excites me and makes me feel like I matter in this society.

I feel like I am getting closer to an answer, to discovering a ‘passion.’ I use that word lightly now because I can’t really justify something being a passion if I haven’t fully immersed myself in it to see if I love it (I have never really dived into entrepreneurship, hair product formulation, or product design) so it is not reasonable to declare it a passion. What I know for sure is that it has quietly held my interest for almost a year now and I spend a lot of time thinking about what success could mean for me in that path. I feel good when I imagine my entrepreneurial outcome in a way I didn’t feel with being a doctor and don’t feel with finishing college to have a boring job related to my major. 

I want to understand what I truly want to spend my life doing and feel ambitious enough to take an unorthodox path if necessary. 

“They gon’ love me for my ambition” -Wale