Why You Deserve to Applaud Yourself

People Jumping

“I have done my best. That is all the philosophy of living one needs” ~Lin-yutang

Take a break and take a look in the mirror. Look at yourself and smile while you congratulate yourself for everything you have been through, good or bad, ups and downs.

It doesn’t matter whether you climbed the Mount Everest, learned French in Paris, completed medical school, worked at the local grocery store, or “simply” lay on the sofa for far longer than you had planned in order to figure out your life’s purpose and goals.

The main point is that everything that you have been through has made you the person you are today. And that calls for a celebration now and then. 

Whatever your age, you have everything right in front of your feet, or even better. You have now.

Right now you can acknowledge the life you have been living up to this point and you can do whatever you want with the rest of your time here on earth.  It is never too late to grow, change, and evolve.

When I was 19 years old and fresh out of high school, the travel bug took a great bite of me. I really felt the world was mine to explore and I wanted to experience everything and everyone for as long as I could.

I lived in a suitcase for a great deal of my early to mid-twenties, only to have settled down somewhat close to my hometown at age 28.

My friends that stayed home, more or less, grew up and matured in a different way than me, building a life with everything that involves the standard safe adulthood—IKEA-family card, condos, education, retirement plans, insurances, the best baby strollers, etc.

Within the last year almost all of my best friends became pregnant.

I cried when I found out, not because I wasn’t happy for them but because I found myself belittling myself for where I was in life—no fancy degree, a small studio and with a part-time job that wasn’t going to cover a year-long awesome Swedish maternity leave. (Not that it really made a difference, considering I wasn’t even dating anyone.)

Being in my late twenties, going into my thirties soon, I had to really sit down in stillness to find some kind of reassurance that it’s okay to follow your heart and your own dreams, big or small.

Growing up in one of the biggest socialist countries on our planet, society may have built up a guide for us on how to co-exist and live our adult life with a husband/wife, dog, car, duplex, and, of course, the best baby stroller for your newborn.

Writing this, I’m sitting on my bed/sofa (there simply isn’t enough space for both in my small studio) pondering the Tiny Buddha quoted by a very wise unknown person:

“Excellence can be obtained if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, expect more than others think is possible.”

It’s no news that life comes without guarantees or warranties. My traveling years may have cost me a bigger savings account and my days spent on philosophizing may have cost me time to become a responsible adult faster.

Although society may have built a guideline for us, life hasn’t. It just has to be lived and experienced each and every day.

So while you’re at living the life you choose, don’t forget to applaud your accomplishments. Be proud, even though they may seem insignificant to others.

You don’t have to go swimming with great white sharks in South Africa to be a brave person. All kinds of challenges in life make us stronger, braver, and wiser.

Remember that your struggles are just as beautiful as your success.

Photo by nono fara

Avatar of Julia Humphrey

About Julia Humphrey

Julia Humphrey is a Sweden-based lifestyle and travel writer for the UK online IDEAL magazine. She is also a recurrent guest blogger on her sister’s photograph and lifestyle blog. When she is not writing, she enjoys meditating, yoga, learning foreign languages, traveling, and connecting with new people. Connect with her @JuliaLHumphrey on twitter and at renehumphrey.blogspot.com.

Give Back to Others by Giving to Yourself First

Arms Open

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” ~Dalai Lama

I looked out my window and saw only sand. I was on a Beechcraft 1900 turboprop flying into Baghdad in the fall of 2003.

The U.S. had invaded six months prior and was occupying the country. From day one, I loathed the idea of invading a sovereign country, so as my plane spiral landed to avoid surface-to-air missiles, I said to myself, “Why am I here?”

From the youngest age, I wanted to give back—stop war, end poverty, ease suffering.

Upon graduating from college, I joined the Peace Corps and embarked on a career working in post-conflict humanitarian assistance. In my mind, giving back meant flying to a war-torn country to help the suffering victims.

So even though I considered the invasion of Iraq to be a gross violation of international law, I went. And after Iraq, I went to Pakistan, and after Pakistan, I went to Sudan, and after Sudan, I went to Afghanistan.

I went from one hotspot to another, always wanting to give back, but never feeling able to. I lived inside walled compounds, isolated from the reality that occurred on the other side of the concrete barriers, and not fully welcomed by the people I was there to serve.

And in time, I became addicted to my Indiana Jones lifestyle. I thrived on the adrenaline rush and thrill of working in a conflict zone, zipping around in Black Hawks, meeting people from all over the world, and living only day-by-day.

As the years passed, an awareness crept in that I was not giving back at all.

First, my focus had shifted from helping those in need to living the most exciting life possible. And second, I realized that the so-called war victims knew their circumstances better than I ever could.

The local populations didn’t need someone living inside a walled compound in their country capital. They needed someone with a few resources, living among them, speaking their language, and helping them to discover their own solutions to rebuild their lives and country.

Then, the travel caught up to me. My insides began to feel hollow, as if all I had was my next adventure and only my next adventure would relieve my growing discontent.

So, I decided to do one of the hardest things I’ve ever done: stay put. I settled in a quiet town in the Netherlands and began working as a humanitarian analyst, only viewing conflicts from afar.

Hardship hit my personal life and I yearned to board the next thing smoking and fly to any warzone where I could focus on the pain of others and escape my own. But I resisted the urge and stayed put.

By staying put, I was able for the first time to give back to the most important person in my life: myself.

By staying put, I became more self-aware and present. I filled myself up with love and approval, knowing that I didn’t need to travel to the ends of the Earth to play my part. And when I gave back to myself—not in a selfish way, but in a nourishing way—I was better able to give back to others.

And now, giving back has a new definition.

It means stopping in the morning when I’m late for work to chat with my elderly Belgian neighbor who served in World War II and always thanks me for saving his country.

It means being fully present when a loved one is talking to me. And it means blogging about peace and uniting with others who have a shared vision.

If you yearn to give back, but never feel like you’re making an impact, try the following:

1. Work on yourself.

It seems counter-intuitive to focus on yourself, but if you’re suffering or neglecting your inner needs, you must first give back to yourself.

2. Give back in small ways.

Learn the woman’s name who makes your morning chai latte and tell her that she brightens your date. Put money in the meter of the car parked next to yours. Compliment a friend or coworker (especially the one who tests your patience) in a way that makes them feel special.

3. Once you feel good about points one and two, start giving back in bigger ways.

Donate money to a cause you truly believe in. If you’re short on cash, donate your time. If you’re feeling inspired, join a movement or start your own.

Giving back is a process that begins and ends with you. And nothing brings more abundance into your life than when you are giving back from a true place of love.

I still thirst for adventure, but I channel my inner Indy into my writing and storytelling. I’m considering a trip later in the year to Burundi, Cambodia, or maybe Namibia—but only to experience another culture and expand my understanding of humanity, not to fill an empty void.

That void is being filled with self-love from the comfort of my living room.

Photo by Justin De La Ornellas

Avatar of Allyson K. Stroschein

About Allyson K. Stroschein

Allyson Stroschein is a recovering adrenaline junkie and the storyteller behind Shanti Pax, a blog dedicated to telling inspirational stories of peace. Shanti Pax uses the art of storytelling adventurism to view current-day events through a spiritual lens. Learn more at shantipax.com or connect on Twitter.

Win a Free Copy of Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself

Tiny Buddhas Guide Cover 3D

This post contains a giveaway. If you’re reading this in your inbox, you may want to click through to participate on the site!

This may seem like Déjà vu, because I published an almost identical post last Friday. It’s now a new week (soon to be weekend) and a new chance to win a copy of Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself!

For those of you who already bought a copy, I hope you’re enjoying it!

And I have a special request for you: Since it’s brand new, there are currently only four reviews on Amazon. (Thank you so much to those of you who responded to my request last week and wrote one!)

Those reviews go a long way in influencing people who may benefit from the book.

If you’ve found the site and the book helpful, I would be so grateful if you would take five or ten minutes out of your day to support me and the site by reviewing Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself

Whether you write two words, two sentences, or more, it will make a tremendous difference.

Now on to today’s giveaway!

This one’s a little different, in that you won’t be entering to win a copy for yourself; instead, its an opportunity to have a copy mailed to someone you love, directly from my publisher, with a special note from you. 

About Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself

Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself is a collaborative book featuring a collection of stories from Tiny Buddha contributors, along with tips to help you feel good about yourself and your life.

The book shares 40 unique perspectives and insights on topics related to loving yourself. It will help you:

  • Release shame about your past and the limiting beliefs that keep you stuck
  • See yourself as beautiful and valuable, with all your flaws and weaknesses
  • Accept yourself more and judge yourself less
  • Forgive yourself for your mistakes and stop being hard on yourself
  • Minimize the need for approval to feel more confident
  • Let go of the comparisons that keep you feeling inferior
  • Feel complete so that you no longer look to others to fill a void within yourself
  • Find the courage to share your authentic self for deeper connections with others
  • Learn to take care of yourself instead of putting everyone else’s needs first
  • Believe that you’re valuable so you can start creating a life you love

I started Tiny Buddha and created this book because I believe there is a healing power in recognizing that we are never alone with our challenges.

And there’s nothing wrong with us for what we’ve been through or what we’re going through.

No matter how we’ve struggled, no matter what our flaws or weaknesses, we are worthy of being fully seen—and we can make a difference in the world by doing it.

I hope this books helps you remember, in times of doubt, that you are beautiful, imperfections and all, and you can thrive not in spite of them, but because of them.

The Giveaway

To enter to win one of two free copies of Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself, to be mailed to someone you love with a special note from you:

  • Leave a comment on the post sharing one thing you think other people appreciate about you
  • Tweet: RT @tinybuddha Enter to win a free copy of Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself! http://bit.ly/16yY2ru

If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still enter by completing the first step.

You can enter until midnight PST on Monday, October 28th. Have a great weekend everyone!

15 Reasons to Start Following Your Dream Today

Follow Your Dream

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” ~Unknown

Do you have a dream? A wish? A desire?

Do you ever wake up and wonder: What would it be like to love life?

People can tell you “follow your dream,” but is anyone really doing it?

Not someone in a TV show or movie—a real, living, breathing, human, just like you?

Is it possible?

The Depression

Three years ago I couldn’t sleep. Night after night, I’d lie awake at 2am. My heart would pound in my chest.

The anxiety overtook me. I welcomed it. If I fell back asleep, the next time I woke I would head back to that place. The place I despised.

Fifty hours a week to a job that was slowly, inch by inch, sucking the life out of me.

I was twenty-six years old, but I didn’t feel twenty-six. I felt old, tired, and overwhelmed.

As I write this post, I remember that night. Staring in the mirror. I could barely look at myself. The breathing in my chest pushing in and out rapidly. Tears rushing down my face. I was a grown man, or at least I was supposed to be.

Allowing Fear to Stop You

I was so scared. I’d put all my work experience, degrees, and life into my career. Yet, I hated it.

I had gone all in—and I was losing.

I couldn’t argue with the tears flowing down my cheeks. Something needed to change.

Follow The Dream

I know what it’s like to feel depressed, lost, and burned out. But I also know what it’s like to follow a dream.

I’m now thirty years old, and my life is a lot different than it was four years ago.

Soon after that experience, I made a commitment to discover and follow my dream.

What’s my dream? I want to become a ninja.

Not a ninja in the traditional sense. It’s a childhood dream.

Over the course of four years I quit my job in America, moved to Japan, and now I train extensively in martial arts.

I arrive at the dojo at 7:30am Monday through Friday. Over the next year of my life I will train over 1,000 hours in Aikido (a martial art).

I’m living, breathing proof that it’s possible to follow a dream.

I’m thrilled to wake up each morning. I love my life in a manner I never knew possible. But this post isn’t about me—it’s about all of us. More importantly, it’s about all of our dreams.

I hope with all my heart, today is the day that you begin the journey to turn your dream into a reality.

15 Reasons to Start Following Your Dream Today

1. You’ve always wanted to do this.

When I think about the question: If you had a million dollars what would you do with your life? I can now say, “Exactly what I’m doing.”

You’ve always wanted to follow your dream—so start today!

2. You’ll experience things you never could have imagined.

I’ve taken Japanese tea lessons with fifty-year-old woman. I’m learning a new language. I eat foods that I never knew existed.

The pursuit of a dream will give you experiences you never thought possible.

3. You will become courageous.

At some point your dream will mean so much to you that you will stop at nothing. When the dream overtakes you, no matter what your fears are you will not allow it to stop you.

You will stare your fears in the face. You will become a courageous person.

4. You will become an inspiration to those around you.

By doing what I want to do instead of what others want from me, I have been able to inspire others to follow their dreams.

Focus on your dreams, not what others want you to do, and you will do the same.

5. You will realize the incredible things you are capable of doing.

When you step forward to pursue your dream, you will face challenges you never could have anticipated. You will allow nothing to stop you. You will shock yourself at your ability to plow through any situation.

6. You will like yourself more.

You will feel excited and energized by the life you are choosing to live. You will feel proud of what you are doing. And you will like yourself more for it.

7. Life will become beautiful.

As you realize your own potential, you will realize the potential in others. You will start to recognize the beauty that life, you, and others have to offer.

8. Your joy and happiness will become contagious.

When people are around you, they will feel better about themselves and life because you are living proof it is possible to live a dream!

9. You will connect on a deeper level with the force of the universe.

The pursuit of a dream requires an act of faith. You step forward and take action. When you do this, you will face experiences that will bring you closer to the force of the universe.

10. You will smile more.

Life is better when you smile more. If you follow your dream, you will enjoy yourself and this will happen!

11. It will give meaning to everything you do.

Before I started following my dream I would often wonder, “What’s the point?”

Now, I know the answer to that question! Every action I take brings me closer to my dream.

12. The food will taste better.

Yup, you read that right! When you step forward with your dream you will feel more alive and you will better appreciate all the beauty life has to offer. So, yes! Even the food tastes better.

13. Every day you will learn new things.

Every day I learn more Japanese, more martial arts, and more about myself. I’m challenged and excited. The deeper I get in my dream, the more I learn.

14. Your happiness will show on your face.

It’s true! When you are optimistic, excited, and happy, guess what? You are drastically more attractive.

At twenty-six I looked stressed out and overwhelmed. At thirty I look happy and excited because I am happy and excited.

15. You will love being around you.

When we pursue a dream, we are connecting with our heart’s desires. It’s a way of telling our soul “I love you.”

It’s pretty great to hang out with people you love—especially when it’s yourself!

What has stopped you from following your dream?

Photo by Hartwig HKD

15 Reasons to Start Following Your Dreams Today

Follow Your Dream

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” ~Unknown

Do you have a dream? A wish? A desire?

Do you ever wake up and wonder: What would it be like to love life?

People can tell you “follow your dream,” but is anyone really doing it?

Not someone in a TV show or movie—a real, living, breathing, human, just like you?

Is it possible?

The Depression

Three years ago I couldn’t sleep. Night after night, I’d lie awake at 2am. My heart would pound in my chest.

The anxiety overtook me. I welcomed it. If I fell back asleep, the next time I woke I would head back to that place. The place I despised.

Fifty hours a week to a job that was slowly, inch by inch, sucking the life out of me.

I was twenty-six years old, but I didn’t feel twenty-six. I felt old, tired, and overwhelmed.

As I write this post, I remember that night. Staring in the mirror. I could barely look at myself. The breathing in my chest pushing in and out rapidly. Tears rushing down my face. I was a grown man, or at least I was supposed to be.

Allowing Fear to Stop You

I was so scared. I’d put all my work experience, degrees, and life into my career. Yet, I hated it.

I had gone all in—and I was losing.

I couldn’t argue with the tears flowing down my cheeks. Something needed to change.

Follow The Dream

I know what it’s like to feel depressed, lost, and burned out. But I also know what it’s like to follow a dream.

I’m now thirty years old, and my life is a lot different than it was four years ago.

Soon after that experience, I made a commitment to discover and follow my dream.

What’s my dream? I want to become a ninja.

Not a ninja in the traditional sense. It’s a childhood dream.

Over the course of four years I quit my job in America, moved to Japan, and now I train extensively in martial arts.

I arrive at the dojo at 7:30am Monday through Friday. Over the next year of my life I will train over 1,000 hours in Aikido (a martial art).

I’m living, breathing proof that it’s possible to follow a dream.

I’m thrilled to wake up each morning. I love my life in a manner I never knew possible. But this post isn’t about me—it’s about all of us. More importantly, it’s about all of our dreams.

I hope with all my heart, today is the day that you begin the journey to turn your dream into a reality.

15 Reasons to Start Following Your Dream Today

1. You’ve always wanted to do this.

When I think about the question: If you had a million dollars what would you do with your life? I can now say, “Exactly what I’m doing.”

You’ve always wanted to follow your dream—so start today!

2. You’ll experience things you never could have imagined.

I’ve taken Japanese tea lessons with fifty-year-old woman. I’m learning a new language. I eat foods that I never knew existed.

The pursuit of a dream will give you experiences you never thought possible.

3. You will become courageous.

At some point your dream will mean so much to you that you will stop at nothing. When the dream overtakes you, no matter what your fears are you will not allow it to stop you.

You will stare your fears in the face. You will become a courageous person.

4. You will become an inspiration to those around you.

By doing what I want to do instead of what others want from me, I have been able to inspire others to follow their dreams.

Focus on your dreams, not what others want you to do, and you will do the same.

5. You will realize the incredible things you are capable of doing.

When you step forward to pursue your dream, you will face challenges you never could have anticipated. You will allow nothing to stop you. You will shock yourself at your ability to plow through any situation.

6. You will like yourself more.

You will feel excited and energized by the life you are choosing to live. You will feel proud of what you are doing. And you will like yourself more for it.

7. Life will become beautiful.

As you realize your own potential, you will realize the potential in others. You will start to recognize the beauty that life, you, and others have to offer.

8. Your joy and happiness will become contagious.

When people are around you, they will feel better about themselves and life because you are living proof it is possible to live a dream!

9. You will connect on a deeper level with the force of the universe.

The pursuit of a dream requires an act of faith. You step forward and take action. When you do this, you will face experiences that will bring you closer to the force of the universe.

10. You will smile more.

Life is better when you smile more. If you follow your dream, you will enjoy yourself and this will happen!

11. It will give meaning to everything you do.

Before I started following my dream I would often wonder, “What’s the point?”

Now, I know the answer to that question! Every action I take brings me closer to my dream.

12. The food will taste better.

Yup, you read that right! When you step forward with your dream you will feel more alive and you will better appreciate all the beauty life has to offer. So, yes! Even the food tastes better.

13. Every day you will learn new things.

Every day I learn more Japanese, more martial arts, and more about myself. I’m challenged and excited. The deeper I get in my dream, the more I learn.

14. Your happiness will show on your face.

It’s true! When you are optimistic, excited, and happy, guess what? You are drastically more attractive.

At twenty-six I looked stressed out and overwhelmed. At thirty I look happy and excited because I am happy and excited.

15. You will love being around you.

When we pursue a dream, we are connecting with our heart’s desires. It’s a way of telling our soul “I love you.”

It’s pretty great to hang out with people you love—especially when it’s yourself!

What has stopped you from following your dream?

Photo by Hartwig HKD

Overcome 4 Massive Motivation Killers

What Moves You

“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” ~Robert H. Schuller

For the entirety of my life I have had an external source of structure.

I’ve very much thrived when both guided and held accountable by others. You could say that I’m a “systems” friendly person and have always felt safe and secure when I can simply follow the guidelines or instructions and then arrive at the intended destination.

The only problem is that I didn’t always create the “intended” destination. In fact, it usually wasn’t even where I wanted to be. It was where I thought I should be. So I decided to change all that.

Since starting my own business I have both felt the power of freedom, control, and expression as well as experienced the terrorizing fear of … freedom, control, and expression!

Nobody is telling me what my schedule should look like anymore. No one is checking in on me to make sure I’m staying proactive in marketing myself.

After being a corporate “yes” man for years I have finally obtained the independence that I have always wanted, and yet I swear that many times I would just prefer my old boss tell me what to do and crack the whip when I am slacking.

Parents, school, sports, work—the structure has always been built in for me and now I struggle daily to find the motivation from within. In response, I have worked hard to identify four of the biggest motivation killers out there.

1. Fear of Failure

For all the perfectionists struggling with procrastination, it’s actually pretty straightforward what the underlying road block here is: the crushing weight of expectations, the proverbial gun to the head mentality.

How many times have you been defeated before even taking on a task or challenge because of the overwhelming unknown of whether or not it’s going to be executed to your (or someone else’s) high level of expectations?

I can justify putting off just about any chore or task by telling myself that I don’t have the time or resources to get it done right.

This mindset leaves me feeling paralyzed. I have found that it’s better (more often than not) to take the jump, regardless of whether or not circumstances are optimal. Regardless of whether or not rejection is a possible outcome. Regardless of whether or not other people will appreciate or understand your actions.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t put your best foot forward, but you do have to realize that at some point you’ll need to start taking steps forward.

Even though missing the mark is uncomfortable at times, most happy and successful people that I’ve interviewed or read about have all gotten okay with taking shot after shot until they finally hit their target.

2. Lack of Clear Goals

We can mitigate the overwhelming fear of failure by focusing on rewarding, enjoyable, and achievable goals.

Now, ultimately, living out a productive, inspired, and motivated life requires us to make choices. We simply can’t have it all. But sometimes we get so caught up comparing our own situation to that of others (what others have and where others are in life) that we sabotage any chance we have of making the choices we really need to make to get to where we really want to be.

And worse, whenever we feel that our hand is forced in our journey, our intrinsic motivation is killed. Dreaming about what you want and then actually believing that you can achieve it (even during times of adversity) is the only way to really find motivation from within.

While big picture goals are important in order to understand where it is that you ultimately want to go, overcoming inertia (remember that heavy weight of expectation?) and making movement by knocking out a smaller plan of attack is a perfectly viable option when you are moving at zero miles per hour.

Whether it is by creating your to-do list and schedule the night before or creating a flow chart of how to get from point A to B, it’s remarkably more fun, effective, and rewarding to create and implement daily strategies to get what you want out of life.

Without more tangible realizations of your dreams, wants, and goals (no matter how big or small) you are going to struggle knowing where to start.

3. Ignoring Your Health

As a personal trainer, this is more my area of expertise and yet I still struggle to follow my own advice at times. And much like depression, physical neglect will rob you of feeling pleasure for any activity.

One of the biggest battles I have on a regular basis is getting enough sleep. If I consume caffeine too late in the day, or decide to reflect on life at 10pm, there is a good chance I’m going to toss and turn till 2am, leaving me with little time to mentally rest and physically heal by the time my 5:30am training rolls around.

The entire next two days I will be tired, so I choose to consume even more caffeine to stay peppy for clients, thus creating a vicious cycle and yet all the while wondering why I’m so lethargic!

Poor hydration, lack of exercise, and large amounts of insulin in the body (primarily from overconsumption of carbohydrates) will also leave you riding the motivation roller coaster (with mostly drops) thus killing self-esteem, leading to depression, and in turn creating a whole new vicious cycle of negative thoughts and negative energy levels.

You need to stop the cycle at some point. Recognize this and get off this ride immediately!

4. Loss of Core Identity

How can you possibly handle any of the above three challenges effectively, let alone find the intrinsic motivation to even try, if you do not know in your heart who you are? Or more importantly, who do you want to be?

I’ll never forget my first private therapy session as an “adult” and how shocking it was to fail to articulate an answer to the above questions. At the conclusion of our first meeting all I could dejectedly muster was “I don’t know even know who I am.”

It took (and still takes) a lot of work to uncover and stay true to my answers to these questions.

If there has been one best practice I would advise anyone to perform it would be journaling. There’s rarely a moment after being truly honest and fair with myself that I haven’t been able to dial up some immediate intrinsic motivation and be okay with “doing me.”

Because for me, having a stronger sense of self, combined with re-committing to loving, humble, and honorable principles has kept my world from collapsing when something doesn’t go my way.

This is such an empowering feeling and makes risk taking so much more exciting, goal planning more identity congruent, and proactive health care a worthy and top priority.

All four of these productivity and happiness assassins seem to work together in an effort to kill my momentum. Sometimes they still win. But more and more these days I realize that I’m in control over them. It’s been the battle of my life, and it may be yours. But our lives are worth fighting for.

Photo by Hatwig HKD

Avatar of Scott Smith

About Scott Smith

Scott Smith still has dreams of being a rock star someday, but for now his calling has been revealed as a personal trainer and fitness expert for Kansas City. He holds a B.S. in Exercise Science from Truman State University and his upstart business BodySmith is the culmination of six years fitness management and personal training experience.

15 Reasons to Follow Your Dreams Today

Follow Your Dream

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” ~Unknown

Do you have a dream? A wish? A desire?

Do you ever wake up and wonder: What would it be like to love life?

People can tell you “follow your dream,” but is anyone really doing it?

Not someone in a TV show or movie—a real, living, breathing, human, just like you?

Is it possible?

The Depression

Three years ago I couldn’t sleep. Night after night, I’d lie awake at 2am. My heart would pound in my chest.

The anxiety overtook me. I welcomed it. If I fell back asleep, the next time I woke I would head back to that place. The place I despised.

Fifty hours a week to a job that was slowly, inch by inch, sucking the life out of me.

I was twenty-six years old, but I didn’t feel twenty-six. I felt old, tired, and overwhelmed.

As I write this post, I remember that night. Staring in the mirror. I could barely look at myself. The breathing in my chest pushing in and out rapidly. Tears rushing down my face. I was a grown man, or at least I was supposed to be.

Allowing Fear to Stop You

I was so scared. I’d put all my work experience, degrees, and life into my career. Yet, I hated it.

I had gone all in—and I was losing.

I couldn’t argue with the tears flowing down my cheeks. Something needed to change.

Follow The Dream

I know what it’s like to feel depressed, lost, and burned out. But I also know what it’s like to follow a dream.

I’m now thirty years old, and my life is a lot different than it was four years ago.

Soon after that experience, I made a commitment to discover and follow my dream.

What’s my dream? I want to become a ninja.

Not a ninja in the traditional sense. It’s a childhood dream.

Over the course of four years I quit my job in America, moved to Japan, and now I train extensively in martial arts.

I arrive at the dojo at 7:30am Monday through Friday. Over the next year of my life I will train over 1,000 hours in Aikido (a martial art).

I’m living, breathing proof that it’s possible to follow a dream.

I’m thrilled to wake up each morning. I love my life in a manner I never knew possible. But this post isn’t about me—it’s about all of us. More importantly, it’s about all of our dreams.

I hope with all my heart, today is the day that you begin the journey to turn your dream into a reality.

15 Reasons to Start Following Your Dream Today

1. You’ve always wanted to do this.

When I think about the question: If you had a million dollars what would you do with your life? I can now say, “Exactly what I’m doing.”

You’ve always wanted to follow your dream—so start today!

2. You’ll experience things you never could have imagined.

I’ve taken Japanese tea lessons with fifty-year-old woman. I’m learning a new language. I eat foods that I never knew existed.

The pursuit of a dream will give you experiences you never thought possible.

3. You will become courageous.

At some point your dream will mean so much to you that you will stop at nothing. When the dream overtakes you, no matter what your fears are you will not allow it to stop you.

You will stare your fears in the face. You will become a courageous person.

4. You will become an inspiration to those around you.

By doing what I want to do instead of what others want from me, I have been able to inspire others to follow their dreams.

Focus on your dreams, not what others want you to do, and you will do the same.

5. You will realize the incredible things you are capable of doing.

When you step forward to pursue your dream, you will face challenges you never could have anticipated. You will allow nothing to stop you. You will shock yourself at your ability to plow through any situation.

6. You will like yourself more.

You will feel excited and energized by the life you are choosing to live. You will feel proud of what you are doing. And you will like yourself more for it.

7. Life will become beautiful.

As you realize your own potential, you will realize the potential in others. You will start to recognize the beauty that life, you, and others have to offer.

8. Your joy and happiness will become contagious.

When people are around you, they will feel better about themselves and life because you are living proof it is possible to live a dream!

9. You will connect on a deeper level with the force of the universe.

The pursuit of a dream requires an act of faith. You step forward and take action. When you do this, you will face experiences that will bring you closer to the force of the universe.

10. You will smile more.

Life is better when you smile more. If you follow your dream, you will enjoy yourself and this will happen!

11. It will give meaning to everything you do.

Before I started following my dream I would often wonder, “What’s the point?”

Now, I know the answer to that question! Every action I take brings me closer to my dream.

12. The food will taste better.

Yup, you read that right! When you step forward with your dream you will feel more alive and you will better appreciate all the beauty life has to offer. So, yes! Even the food tastes better.

13. Every day you will learn new things.

Every day I learn more Japanese, more martial arts, and more about myself. I’m challenged and excited. The deeper I get in my dream, the more I learn.

14. Your happiness will show on your face.

It’s true! When you are optimistic, excited, and happy, guess what? You are drastically more attractive.

At twenty-six I looked stressed out and overwhelmed. At thirty I look happy and excited because I am happy and excited.

15. You will love being around you.

When we pursue a dream, we are connecting with our heart’s desires. It’s a way of telling our soul “I love you.”

It’s pretty great to hang out with people you love—especially when it’s yourself!

What has stopped you from following your dream?

Photo by Hartwig HKD

3 Simple Steps for When Something that Someone Says Gets Under Your Skin

Today I’d like to explore a common issue readers email me about. An issue that have been quite painful for me too in the past.

This article is about how to handle criticism or verbal attacks.

Or more specifically, what to do when something someone says really gets under your skin and hurts you.

And how to replace destructive thought habits with more positive habits and through that make this a much smaller issue.

Step 1: Let it out.

The first thing I often do after I notice that something did actually get under my skin is to talk it over with someone close to me.

By just letting it out and venting you can release a lot of inner tension and the two of you can find a more helpful and healthier perspective on what has gotten under your skin.

Step 2: Ask yourself: is the person having a bad day or year?

When my self-esteem was lower than it is today then I used to think that pretty much all the negative things people said to me was in some way my fault.

However, that is often not the case. People can verbally attack you or nag or criticize harshly because they may have had an awful day or week. Or simply because they do not like their lives very much at all.

So don’t think this is all about you. There are two of you in this situation.

Step 3: Ask yourself: could there be something here that could help me?

This question is not always fun to ask yourself. And it doesn’t always lead anywhere at all. But after you have calmed down by using the steps above it can be helpful.

Especially if this is the fifth or tenth time you have heard the same thing from people. Then there might be something here you would like to work on.

So at least take a minute or two to think about it.

Bonus-step: Learn how to improve and keep your self-esteem steady.

I have improved my own self-esteem a lot and teaching people to do that for themselves is something that is very close to my heart.

Because I know how it is to have low self-esteem and how limited and unhappy life can become. And I know the difference that having a mental self-esteem toolbox and healthier thought habits makes.

Less stuff gets under your skin for example. It bounces off of you. It does not drag you down and ruin your day or week.

Improving your self-esteem takes time and energy but making the effort is one of the smartest and most happinessboosting things you can do.

Two simple things you can do to start improving your self-esteem this week are:

  • When you stumble, be your own best friend. Instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself: How would my friend/parent support me and help me in this situation? Then do things and talk to yourself like he or she would.
  • Be kind towards the people in your life. Help out. Listen. Give a genuine compliment. Encourage and motivate. The way you treat other people is how they will most often treat you too in the long run. And when you are kinder towards others then you tend to treat and think of yourself in a kinder way too.

Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões (license).

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Why Accepting Your Imperfections Is a Gift to the World

Holding the Earth

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~Anna Quindlen

Being yourself seems like it would be an easy thing, right? Just be! But when you’re someone who has lived their life seeking the approval of others constantly, it’s not such an easy thing.

You have to attempt to move past years of trying to appear this way, wondering if people will judge you if do that, or doing your best not to cause waves and avoid conflict.

When you don’t fully understand who your “self” is, it’s pretty much impossible to actually be that person. 

I didn’t realize just how deep my desire to please others went until very recently, after a couple of very deep soul searching years.

I saw how automatic it had become for me to try to be what everyone else wanted me to be. Even when I “liked” a page on Facebook, I thought twice about it and wondered if people would judge me for it.

I wanted to appear a certain way to people. I wanted to appear like I had it all together, that I was “perfect.” Most importantly, though, I didn’t want to appear disabled.

If I liked all of the “right” things, if I was cool, if I was funny, if I was pretty, and wore the most stylish clothes or had my makeup done just right, then maybe people would notice all of that instead of my muscular dystrophy and the limp that came with it.

Maybe they wouldn’t notice the difficulty I had going up stairs. If I fell, maybe they wouldn’t judge me because they would see I was awesome in so many other ways.

Trying to be everything to everyone is one of the most exhausting things. It feels like that toy that a lot of us used to play with when you try to fit the shaped blocks into the correct corresponding hole.

I was the triangle constantly trying to fit in the square hole. 

I honestly don’t know how I even functioned sometimes in my twenty-plus years on earth with the weight of that on my shoulders. Worrying so much about what people thought or hoping they liked me and having no real sense of my own self.

From friends to coworkers, to dates or boyfriends, I was always trying to please everyone else but never thought to try please myself first or embrace who I really was.

It never even occurred to me that it was okay if some people didn’t like me, or if I didn’t have all the right clothes or that I wasn’t physically able to do all the same things that my peers could.

I didn’t realize that it didn’t make me any less worthy or valuable of a person if someone didn’t like me or if I wasn’t “perfect.”

That if a guy wasn’t interested or someone didn’t want to be my friend, that it didn’t mean I was ugly or worthless or needed to fix something about myself.

I didn’t realize that trying to fit myself into everyone else’s perceptions and society’s perception of “normal” was denying everyone and the world of all my gifts and who I really was. That my disability made me special and gave me a platform to try and help others all over the world with disabilities too.

That it gave me such a deep capacity for love and empathy that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I couldn’t see that people don’t love each other because they’re perfect. They love each other for everything, including the flaws. 

In fact, I think we love each other in large part because of our flaws. Because we are all human. Because we make mistakes. 

Our imperfections and our differences are what set us apart and make us unique. When have you ever heard someone say, “I really like that Jackie. She’s just so perfect!”?

Not caring what other people think and just being is something we all struggle with in one way or another.

Something I’ve found to be very helpful for connecting with myself and just being is a kind of a brief meditation. Whether I’m driving, at work, on vacation, or just sitting at home, I try to take a few moments each day where I just sit, stop what I’m doing, take a deep breath in, and silence my mind.

I focus on the blood flowing through my veins or the way my breath feels when I exhale. I just let myself sit there in silence for a few minutes and just enjoy being in my skin, my body, and my spirit. As small as it may seem, it really helps to calm me and get me refocused on myself.

Learning to embrace yourself and shut out the need to people please or be what everyone else might want us to be is hard and it’s not something that can be an overnight change.

But learning to accept all of the parts of yourself, including the ones you may not like, is not only the greatest gift you can give to yourself, it’s the greatest gift you can give to the world around you too.

When you stop caring so much about what everyone else thinks of you and start becoming you, it’s then that you can truly offer the world the most.

You offer it you in all of your wonderful and unique glory!

Photo by Jason Rogers

Avatar of Jaclyn Witt

About Jaclyn Witt

Jaclyn Witt is a 20-something who was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. She currently lives in Southern California and works as an Editorial Assistant. Her website http://imaspiring.wordpress.com details the trials and tribulations of being single and having a physical disability.

When Following Your Passion Makes You Miserable

Leaping

“The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now.” ~Robert G. Ingersoll

It seems that in recent years people have really started waking up to the fact that they can do what they love, which is great. But what’s not so great is when it makes you miserable.

Finding your passion can become another goal to be achieved in the future.

Suddenly you find yourself believing that if you could just find that perfect passion, your life would be perfect and then you’d finally be happy. But life doesn’t work that way.

You already have passion, joy, and purpose in your life. Following your passion is about starting where you are and realizing that all you have to do is follow the passion already present.

Let’s Start with the Problem

The core problem is waiting for something to happen. It’s believing that you can’t be passionate and happy right now.

You didn’t come into this world understanding the concept of passion. When you were a child, you enjoyed life as it was, without concepts and without shoulds.

In my own life, I noticed the tendency to think that if I could only get something, or achieve my definition of success, I’d be happy.

For example, I used to think that money would make me happy. Then I earned more and nothing changed. I was still me.

After that, I thought that a relationship would make a difference, but I was still me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my partner, but it’s not up to her to make me happy.

I changed because I got sick of chasing happiness in the future and saw how this created suffering.

I was lucky to realize this at an early age. Right out of high school, I became a professional poker player because it allowed me to travel the world and make more money than I needed.

When I first started playing I enjoyed it, but as the years passed, I did it solely for the money, and it prevented me from doing what I truly loved.

I now know that what I’m truly looking for is what’s already inside of me. I still get caught up in my old patterns of waiting, and when I do, I become miserable and powerless. I start losing hope. I start questioning whether I’m on the right path. And I wonder why life has to be so hard.

But then I bring myself back. I take a deep breath, and I settle into the present moment. I realize that while following my heart is tough at times, it is the only way forward.

The Art of Being Happy

As I bring myself back to the present, I notice what brings true happiness into my life. And that is to simply follow the nudges of my heart.

I might notice that I need a rest, so I’ll listen to what I feel interested in. I might read a book, watch a movie, or play with my son, Vincent.

What makes your heart sing will be different from me. What matters is that you listen to and follow your interests, passions, and fascinations.

Living a passionate life doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in love with your life 100% of the time. It doesn’t mean that you never come up against challenges.

In fact, the opposite is often true. You face more challenges because you need to let go of a lot of limiting beliefs, fears, and doubts. You will often know where your heart is pulling you, but you may not believe it’s possible. If you can let this baggage go, you’ll be well on your way.

Following your passion means listening to those inner nudges. Because what living a passionate life comes down to is being happy in this moment. And to increase the happiness in your life, you have to do what makes your heart sing.

Sometimes these nudges will be a subtle whisper, an inspirational feeling, or simply a though that pops up out of nowhere while you’re washing the dishes.

If finding your passion is making you miserable, the solution is to stop waiting. Stop believing in the lie you tell yourself that if only you could have this or that, everything would be fine.

Stop waiting, and take an inspired step. Center your attention in your heart, and notice where you feel pulled. Let go of what may come out of it, and just enjoy the ride.

Use What You Have, Where You Are

Put down the heavy baggage of what you think passion should look like, and accept the way life is right now.

Notice what you’re interested in, and above all, notice where your heart is pulling you.

It’s not by listening to other people that you’ll uncover the life you want, but by listening to your heart.

You are the expert on what you need. You have to be willing to take responsibility and stop thinking that some event in the future will make things better.

A simple way to connect with your heart is to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and focus your attention on your feelings. There may be pain, but sit with it. Feel it fully. As you do this more and more, your connection with your heart will deepen, and you’ll activate your inner GPS.

A Question You Can Ask

Another way to connect with your inner wisdom is through writing. Ask yourself questions that help you uncover the gold inside you, and then write until you run out of words.

You don’t have to be a writer to do this. And you don’t need any particular tools. All you have to do is write down what goes on in your mind. Even if you don’t come up with anything coherent, you’ll get more clarity and feel better.

To get you started, here’s a question you can ask: “In the future, when you’re already living a passionate life, what advice would you give to the present you?”

I know we touched on focusing on the now, but asking a question like this is helpful because it helps you bring resources from the future into the present moment.

Always remember to live life from this moment. Do your best with what you have, and forget the rest.

“What If I Feel Lost?”

Life is always in transition. If you try to figure life out, you’ll feel lost and overwhelmed. If you try to control life you’ll feel powerless, because it’s not up to you to control life.

It’s not being lost that is causing you grief, but thinking that you shouldn’t be. If you drop the thought that you’re lost, you’re just living life right now, which is all you need to do. It’s all you can do.

When you let go of any need to get anywhere, or be someone, you immediately relax. The problem isn’t about feeling lost or stuck. Those are concepts you’ve learned.

When you center yourself in your heart and follow your inner joy, you’ll get to where you need to be.

The Bottom Line

Following your passion has the power to change your life, but it can also make you miserable if you make it into another thing you have to achieve before you can be happy.

You have to be willing to walk your own path. You have to be willing to listen to your heart and follow what feels true for you.

The reason there is so much conflicting advice out there is because different people need different paths. If you try to listen to everyone, you’ll end up confused.

That’s why it’s important to tap into your inner wisdom via meditation or writing. Center yourself in your heart and notice where it’s pulling you, then take the first step.

Let life take care of itself. Relax and enjoy the ride, because that’s all you can do. Set the intention to be happy first, and your passion will come to you. And if it doesn’t, so what? You keep on going.

Photo by birte rhdn