Personal Growth- Review and Concepts

One of the articles I’ve recently read pertaining to personal growth is “The ABC’s of Personal Growth: How to Live a Meaningful, Fulfilling Life,” by Andi Saitowitz, posted to tinybuddah.com. I’ve included the link below, as well as Andi’s website, and it’s worth a full read with your full attention, but I wanted to share a few points that are really speaking to me today.

“Blessings:

Blessings are all around us. If we choose to look for them, we will certainly find them. What are you grateful for? What makes you smile? What positives do you notice in your life right now? Each day, look for three things to be grateful for. These blessings multiply!”

Blessings. Gratitude. Abundance. Wealth. For many of us it’s hard to see all the good in our lives when we feel stressed, anxious, angry, burdened, or just not where or how we want to be. I struggle with this. But I’m finding again and again that practicing gratitude- yes, it’s actually a skill/attitude to be practiced- is a total game changer. In my life, I’m finding rituals that support this, namely an early morning routine that includes time to thank the universe for all the good in my life, for whatever comes to my mind that I’m happy about in that moment, be it as little as the fact that my pen works, or as real and heartfelt as having healthy kids and a roof over our heads. I think practicing gratitude is often considered light and fluffy and warm, but much like meditation, it’s a practice that alters you from the inside-out and changes the way you do everything.

“The way we do anything is the way we do everything.” Martha Beck

“Control:

There are so many things in life that we have very little or no control over—what happens to us, what other people say or do. We are not the general managers of the universe. However, we have incredible control over how we choose to respond to every experience we encounter. Our control lies in our attitude and our behavior—our choices. Choose wisely.”

Oh man, anyone else out there trying to control every detail of their world? I can not control other people. Their opinions of me are none of my business. I can control my behaviors, my habits, my attitudes and thoughts. And that’s it.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

“Mindfulness Meditation:

Slow down. Take time to breathe. Mindfulness offers incomparable value to the human spirit, psyche, and body. Dedicate a set time each day to pausing, being truly present, and listening to your soul and inner wisdom.

The research available on the huge benefits of meditation is mind-blowing. Treat yourself and everyone you love to the gift of meditation. Even a few minutes a day has the power to awaken, elevate, transform, and enhance your life in ways you can’t begin to imagine.

Neuroscience has evidence today that meditation literally rewires your brain and can change your thinking, habits, and negative beliefs. It’s miraculous and it’s accessible to every one of us. Try it for yourself. Start to live a mindful life of greater peace.”

Take the time. No matter how many things are on your to-do list, no matter how anxious and jumpy you are, no matter how exhausted, take the time to meditate. Commit to this time you give yourself.

“Release:

What are you carrying right now that is too heavy? Every day, practice letting go of the things that weigh you down.

It’s not easy to let go of regret, mistakes, anger, resentment, ego, jealousy, and compassion, but each day offers us abundant opportunity to practice. Try to catch yourself when you’re getting caught up in a story in your head so you can take a few deep breaths, center yourself, and free up your energy for the people and things that bring you peace and purpose.”

This is so great to read. I need the reminder that often the places my brain goes are to memories and moments steeped in fear, regret, anger…it does not serve my present or my future. Stop what you’re doing. Take a few breaths. Let it go.

Follow the link below. Read it for yourself. What letters/concepts are speaking to you today?

The ABC’s of Personal Growth: How to Live a Meaningful, Fulfilling Life

https://www.andisaitowitz.com

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Steps to Self Love

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While I find the calls to love thy self, posted across the feeds of my social media, uplifting, I find that much of the information on how to actually do that to be terribly misleading. Often it’s scattered with simple, one-step solutions, images of zen yogis, and people in decadent bath tubs. Long baths and yoga are great. But I’m finding that one-step solutions (and bathtubs and yoga) are not the answer (at least not for me). Self-love is a life style; and for many of us, it’s one needing to be built. For you list-loving, step-needing folks who are finding the path from self-loathing to self-loving to be vague and daunting, I feel ya. This one’s for you. 💜

I’ve compiled a short list of steps that I’m currently experimenting with on my own quest toward self-love. Check it out…

Step #1 FORGIVE.

The first step on any personal quest is forgiveness. This may sound warm and fuzzy, but the burdens and guilt you haul around with you keep you stuck. Locate these in your psyche. Let it go. Forgive yourself. This is a step that is not made once, but every time your regrets and failures creep back into you life. When the ghosts of your past pains begin whispering, be prepared. Make a plan. Write it down. Keep it with you. This plan could be as simple as noticing thoughts that elicit the burdensome feelings, choosing to stop what you’re doing, and giving yourself something different to do (to create a new neural path and pull yourself out of that pattern); maybe take a walk to the water cooler. Stand up and stretch. Breathe. Sing a song. Stand on your head. You choose. But choose to forgive and let go of memories, belief systems, fears, and burdensome emotions that keep you feeling stuck, heavy, incompetent, or unworthy.

Step #2 ACCEPT.

Accept who, how, and where you’ve been. Honor the dark parts of yourself and your life for what it is- not shameful, only human; And an integral part of who you are and who you’re becoming.

Accept where you are in life. Your abilities, things you know and do not know, the way you feel, the job you work, everything as it is in this moment- accept it. This does not mean to settle, to never change, or to never strive for something different. It’s simply a step toward bringing yourself into the present and experiencing all that’s available right now.

Step #3 GROW RESPECT.

You, like all humans, are intrinsically valuable and deserving of respect. But for many of us, this truth is not enough to yield self-respecting behavior; It needs to be planned and practiced. Self-respect is like a muscle. It needs to be cultivated. Grown.

How do you do that? Give yourself something to feel good about. Set a challenging, attainable goal. And when you commit to that goal, make it matter; do not break these promises to yourself.

Attainable goals will be different from person-to-person. Here are some ideas:

  • Sign up for that 5k/10k/marathon/ultra-marathon.
  • Read instead of watching tv for 3 nights this week.
  • Call a parents/siblings/family member this week.
  • Take a walk 1 night this week.
  • Turn off the phone for one hour.
  • Get up 15 minutes earlier every day this week.
  • Substitute decaf in place of regular coffee for one of your many daily doses.

Make it whatever you want. But choose a goal that moves you in the direction of who you desire to become in an attainable way. And remember, you do not break promises to you. Not ever. In time, the energy you’re creating surrounding your commitments to yourself will spread into the other facets of your life. Let it.

Step #4 NOURISH.

I do not claim to know the purpose of life. But I’d say that enjoying it plays some part of it. So follow your bliss and find pleasure in a nurturing way. See my post “Numbing VS Nourishing” from several weeks back if you don’t know what I’m talking about. We all need to recharge, to disconnect, to refocus and allow time to recalibrate our paths. Give yourself this.

Step #5 LEAN INTO CHANGE.

Those uncomfortable feelings you get when your old habits begin to fall away- pain, anger, boredom, tiredness, laziness, feeling out of place, distracted- The space of change is murky and uncomfortable. And until you begin to really feel your newly discovered badassery, it really sucks. You may feel suddenly out of place in social circles you once called home. You may find yourself perplexed when that pint of ice cream that used to comfort you isn’t doing the trick. Try not to fix it. Instead, stay with it. Let your world shift from the inside out. Trust the process and open yourself up to the new views available when you finally allow yourself to lose sight of the shore. Underneath all that bullshit that helps secure the habits and thought patterns of the person you don’t want to be is your true self. When you begin to practice self-forgiveness and acceptance, when you are practicing and growing your self-respect, when you are supporting the growth of your best self with nourishing replenishment to you mind, body, and soul, your true self who trusts their intuition, meets life head on, and lives with authenticity begins to rise. Lean into the process of change

Step #6 REPEAT.

Do it all again. Reading this post, following these steps, and going through it again and again? Thats self-love. Put in the work, commit to it before anything else, and in time you’ll find that from self-loathing, you can begin to find shreds or forgiveness. Then perhaps you’ll discover a place of self-acceptance. Self-Acceptance leads you to self-respect, and that helps you discover this person in you who you actually like. And having self-like is a sure stepping stone to self-love. 

Please comment and share! Would you reorder these steps? Perhaps there’s something you think I’m missing? Tell me about it!

 

 

Kindness Rocks

Recently my kids and I made a crude, economic version of the behavioral “marble jar”- often seen in classrooms- good behavior, add a marble. Optional- bad behavior, remove a marble. We made ours with rocks and a milk jug.

In the process of gathering rocks, we plucked several from wherever we went. In the parking lot of my daughter’s karate studio I picked up a smooth, round rock. A good one for painting (we painted our rocks), I thought to myself. I added this one to a little bag in my trunk, filled with rocks and pebbles of all shapes and sizes. As I looked them over, I was suddenly bothered. This isn’t going to work- they need to be the same. Otherwise, the act of kindness won’t match the size of the rock added (meaning it won’t take up as much space in the jug as it should, given the magnitude of the kindness). And the same vice-versa; if the act is tiny, it hardly seems fair to add a giant rock that takes up tons of room– my thoughts went something like that. Aside from the obvious fact that I was way over-thinking this project- my kids just want to paint rocks and earn treats- it also occurred to me that the quality of this project that I’m citing as flawed is actually very life-like. It’s actually kind of perfect.

In life, it’s impossible to really measure how far the effects of any act of kindness will ripple. A “thank you” to an under-appreciated server could be the thing that changes his day. It could be the impetus that reminds him that he’s doing something real and valuable and worthy of “thank you,” and that he in general is a worthy, valuable human being (you never know!). While it may not contribute to a literal “Kindness Rocks” jug, all kindness, no matter how small, matters. It all counts. It all contributes to a greater good.

Can you imagine…

…if we all chose eye contact with people serving us, instead of our screens?

…if everyone gave the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst?

…if everyone always held the door? and respected right-of-ways? and drove safely because who knows who’s in the cars around them? and left the last bite for their partner? and loved on their kids despite their being little shits? and decided to get curious instead of judgmental when faced with people different than us? Or maybe if we didn’t even reach this far and we all simply decided to say “please” and “thank you”?

All. Kindness. Counts

My Dog the Manifesting Machine

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

The movie is set. The popcorn is popped. The kids are pj-ed. Bruno, my dog, is prepped in his usual spot, back to the tv, sitting before the couch, staring adamantly at me.

He’s poised. Focused. He’s certain of his coming treat. And as I sit there munching on the popcorn that Bruno is so eagerly awaiting bits of, it occurs to me…this dog is a manifesting machine.

I’ve been listening to life gurus and reading the self-help books for years. Manifest. Source energy. The secret. Your vibrations. I get it; I hear what they’re saying and on a very superficial level, I get it. But to live it? I’m still on that journey. And yet, here before me, day in and day out, is this manifesting master; my dog.

He knows exactly what he wants; Popcorn bits tossed up which he can nab out of the air and swallow whole. He’s certain of it’s coming; so certain in fact, that every move I make, he flinches, prepared to leap. He’s doing everything in his doggy-trick-arsenal to get his goal. He sits- and that’s all he can do, so he sits and sits and sits. When one path (Mommy throwing popcorn) seems to be becoming stale, he tries others! He sits and stares at Daddy, then kid 1, then kid 2, and then he starts all over again. And perhaps most animalistic, least human-like, and so very vital and powerful- he has no concept of worthiness. He doesn’t spend hours and days and years toiling over being worthy of treats. He has no concern of being “not enough”. He just shows up, knowing exactly what he wants, and does what he can do with certainty!

Can you imagine if we chased our own desires this way?

Can you… can I… Focus on our goal(s) the way my dog focuses on flying popcorn treats? Can you see them (your goals) with assurance of their fulfillment? Can you commit to doing anything and everything in your power to achieve it? Can you follow through on that? Can you change course when prompted to do so? Can you not judge what you want?

Can you believe it? Can you live it?

Numbing/Nourishing Tips & Ideas

After yesterday’s post, I kept thinking about all this numbing/nourishing stuff. For me, the discovery that so many of my “resting” activities were not at all nourishing and largely learned from my upbringing was hugely eye-opening. And for some time, when I’d find myself plastered to the couch with a chocolate mug cake because I’m tired and stressed, my mind would flicker to the truth that I wasn’t really fixing anything or helping myself, but then I’d ignore it and do my thing. The stress-inducing issues and fatigue were still present but now with the added guilt that I knew I was resisting growth. Pre-empting my nourishment needs has proven to be very helpful for me. Here are some ways I do that.

Tip #1- Make a list of what makes you feel good. These could be anything! Then when you’re feeling whatever it is that drives you to numb, you can refer to your list and choose what fits the moment instead of falling back on your numbing habits. Here are some items on my list:

  • a really great cup of coffee
  • the smell of lavender (I use essential oils or lavender scented candles)
  • a thought-provoking movie
  • short stories I can enjoy over a sitting
  • flipping through my favorite magazine
  • laughing (usually from old faithful movies that always crack me up)
  • face masks
  • oily bubble baths
  • using my face roller
  • walking in nature
  • long drives
  • cat memes
  • dumb jokes
  • good wine
  • icy, cold milk
  • puzzles
  • sudoku
  • candles
  • arts and crafts
  • pinning travel destinations on pinterest
  • baking
  • talking to a real friend

Most of these things are free and fairly quick. I keep my list in my phone notes so it’s always handy. Make a list of what feels good for you!

Tip #2- Plan your recharge time in advance. When you’re planning your week, give yourself a morning, maybe an evening, even just an hour if thats all you can swing. Devote that time to making yourself feel good and recharging. Don’t pencil it in. Its important- permanent marker that date with yourself into your week! Plan what you’ll do, prep what you need in advance, and take that time whether you feel you need it or not. For me, I give myself Friday movie night, all by my glorious lonesome, to watch whatever I want (almost, see next tip).

Tip #3- If TV or music is part of your recharging time, be considerate of what you watch/hear. For example, if watching Keeping up with the Kardashians makes you feel like a fat slob, choose something else. Basically don’t watch or listen to what makes you feel bad. What you feed your mind is part of who and how you are.

Tip #4- If booze, sweets, or other specific food is part of your relax time, don’t binge. And if you’re struggling not to eat the whole carton, take the time and think about why. Satisfying a sweet tooth craving and filling yourself up in response to stress, shame, fears or insecurity are not the same thing.

Tip #5- Embrace your preferences! So what if taking a 10 mile jog is not your preferred method of relaxation? No yoga in there? It’s ok. Don’t overthink this. And if jogging and yoga are a part of your relaxation methods, that’s great too! My point- honor your own preferences without judgement of how they differ from someone else’s or what you think your preferences “should” be.

 

Numbing VS Nourishing

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Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

When you’re tired, down, defeated, sad, alone, lost…do you nourish your mind, body, and spirit? Or do you numb it?

So often when we’re experiencing any of the above emotions (and many others) instead of feeding ourselves what we need, we fill up on junk that may give a moment of release, but ultimately robs you of the opportunity to truly find a sense of replenishment and energy. I’m not just talking about diet here- we are what we eat. But we are also what we watch, read, think, how we sleep, what we believe in, who we spend time with…we are a culmination of many habits, preferences, and circumstances.

To make matters of numbing vs nourishing all the more confusing, we’re bombarded with messages on social media, tv, movies, music, everywhere really, with false information about what will make us feel better.

But the reality is that chugging Fanta in the street will never be as exciting as it appears in the ad. Binge-watching Seinfeld for the millionth time (it’s a classic, I agree), because you just need to zone out for a bit, will not give your mind the peace it craves. Eating the entire cake will not make the stressful situation in your life any less stressful or any more dealt with. And that impromptu shopping spree? It’ll only disguise the inferiority and fears you feel for a hot second. But we all know this, right?

TV is not inherently evil. Fanta and sodas probably are not either. Shopping can be pretty fun. And I, for one, really love chocolate cake. But when we use decadence, laziness, sugar, caffeine, booze, among tons of other stimulants and numbing-agents, to keep us from feeling what we’re going through, we’re losing out. Instead, is it possible to set these indulgences in our lives aside as just that? To enjoy them in a way that honors our growth? Is it possible to look into the behaviors that we’ve called “resting” and call them out for what they really are? Hiding. Procrastinating. Numbing. 

How do you respond to your body’s call for rest? For nourishment? What are some ways we can replenish ourselves without the boozing, the bingeing, and the self-loathing?

 

Night-Owl Blues.

…life is not about perfection or great leaps, but about practicing being a better version of ourselves at every opportunity we can.

Last night I made the responsible decision to get to sleep early. So about 9:30 I curled up in bed with my book. At 10 I put the book aside and switched off my reading light. The moon shone in my window. This is a rare occasion; I live in an urban place so these nights when the moon is positioned just so, so I can watch as it creeps across my window, I can’t help but track it’s voyage. As I did so, I thought about how amazing I was going to feel the next morning, all rested and ready for the week….HA, who am I kidding? As usual, my “night-time brain,” as I’ve come to think of it, kicks in. And suddenly, I’m awake. 

Whether by nature or by nurture, I am most definitely a “night person.” I love the feel that all the world is sleeping but me (I know this is not the case). I love the dark. I LOVE the quiet. As my clock flicked on past 10:33…11:11 (lucky, so I made a wish), 12:09…I thought about my ongoing battle with the nighttime…the clock…the dreaded morning. 

This is not a new experience for me. High school? Not a stellar attendance record. College? Nope. And while in the beginning of both of my girls’ lives, my husband and I managed through those bleary-eyed, caffeine and exhaustion buzzed months, as our lives eventually settled into something resembling a schedule, I again would find myself  back to pushing into the late hours of the night time and thoroughly pissed when my girls came bouncing in the morning.

I think part of my problem is that I am in awe of the 5am folks. I want to be one. Up! Exercised! Glowing and dressed! Pets? They’re already fed! Lunches? Packed! I WANT TO BE ONE! I have set out to accomplish this goal many times. BUT here’s the kicker, an important realization and ongoing struggle for me: I want to be a lot of things. There are an endless number of bits of myself and my life that I wish were better. I wish I ate more healthfully. I want to exercise more regularly. I’d love to shed about 20lb. I’d like to dress in the clothes I wore in college. I’d like to find more time for my hobbies. I think it’d be good to keep in better contact with friends and family. I should spend more time practicing Russian as it’s the only language my in-law speaks. Meditating would most definitely make me nicer. I have a pile of books by wise folks that I’m itching to read. I also need to groom more often (sorry, TMI).

When we’re choosing how to better ourselves, as I believe we all should, we must be decisive. Our willpower reserves and time are limited. Over the past several months, for example, I’ve quit Diet Coke. This has been quite a will-power challenge for me. Once a “venti red-eye several times a day” kinda gal, now my Starbucks order is generally decaffeinated and often not coffee at all. While I don’t know if I’d call it “regular,” I do drag myself to yoga class. I haven’t managed to squeeze into clothes from my school days, but I have managed to ditch the scale and buy some clothes that actually fit and I feel good in. I am not advancing in all areas of my life, but I am growing in some. And as I’m making small, manageable changes, I’m reminded repeatedly that life is not about perfection or great leaps, but about practicing being a better version of ourselves at every opportunity we can.

The last time I looked at the clock was 12:11. This morning, I did not feel happy when my 3.5 y.o. came prodding me with the remotes to turn on Scooby Doo. Eventually I would peel myself out of bed and get myself and my girls ready. Our day was largely the same as all of our Mondays, with the exception of my locking the keys in the car and my daughter’s newest obsession of applying lotion (really her own spit) in the car.

I see visions of myself, peaceful and meditated and up before the sun….in the future. For now, I will continue to drag myself to yoga class, practice putting good things in my body, love how I look now, and joyfully seek to grow into the best version of myself again tomorrow. Here’s to a new week!