A Simple Way to Make the World a Little Better Every Day

Giving

“As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.” ~Paul Shane Spear

When I was 17 years old, I decided to make a change.

Instead of keeping my opinions to myself, I was going to start sharing them.

Every time I had a kind thought about someone, I was going to tell them. And anytime I heard a compliment about someone who wasn’t in the room, I would let them know.

If I loved someone’s outfit in the grocery store, I was going to say so. When my sister did something brave, I would tell her. When I felt a rush of affection for my best friend, I’d voice it. And when someone called a colleague brilliant, I would shoot them a note.

This was something new for me. For whatever reason, I usually kept my nice thoughts to myself. I wasn’t in the habit of doling out compliments.

And, yet, when I got a random compliment, it changed the shape of my entire day, sometimes my entire week.

And so, at 17, I decided to change.

It sounds like a pretty simple change to make in your day-to-day life, but even simple changes can be hard. Because so much of what we do is habit. If we’ve been keeping our thoughts to ourselves for 20 or 30 or even just 17 years, it can be tough to start speaking up.

But when you do make a commitment to make a small change like that, it can have a massive ripple effect. It can change your relationships. It can change your perspective. It can change the course of a life.

And boy did it.

The first time I complimented a stranger, he fell in love with me. Other times, I earned smiles, thoughtful pauses, and quiet, sincere thank-yous.

But the most powerful change I saw was in the ripple effect that my decision had on those around me. In particular: on two girls that I met on my trip to Costa Rica later that year.

It was a volunteer trip for teenagers and I was what they called a MAG Leader—a sort of camp counselor who roomed with and took responsibility for the wellbeing of five girls.

Two of my five girls did not get along. They barely spoke, and when they did it was to antagonize the other. One girl made physical threats. Both did a lot of talking behind each other’s backs—until I introduced my compliment commitment to the group.

I sat the girls in a circle and handed out index cards. Each index card had one of our names written on the front. And I told the girls that we were going to take a few minutes to pass around these cards.

On each card, they should write one thing they really admired about the person whose name was on the card. One sincere compliment.

Afterward, each girl got the card with her name on it.

At the end of the few minutes we spent with these index cards, the two teenaged enemies were shocked to discover that the other person had something really insightful to put on their card. One girl commented on the strength and confidence of the other. The second girl admired the poise of the first.

Suddenly and without meaning to, these girls respected each other. Suddenly, they each had something positive to say about the other.

They never became best friends. But the bad-mouthing and the threats and the antagonism just melted away. A grudging respect and even courtesy took their place.

This is when I really understood the power of compliments. The power of saying the kind things we think.

It doesn’t take that much effort. You don’t have to manufacture a compliment for every person that passes by. But by simply voicing the nice thoughts that go through all our heads on a daily basis—“I love your sweater,” “what a beautiful smile,” “you’re so brave,” “I’m so glad we’re friends”—we can make the world just a little bit better every day.

Photo by Kate Ter Haar

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About Gigi Griffis

Gigi Griffis is a world-traveling entrepreneur and writer with a special love for inspiring stories, new places, and living in the moment. In May 2012, she sold her stuff and took to the road with a growing business and a pint-sized pooch. You can follow her adventures and life lessons at gigigriffis.com.

Happiness Doesn’t Make Us Grateful; Gratitude Makes Us Happy

Thankful

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” ~Brother David Steindl-Rast

A few years ago, my life was chaotic. I drank too much, slept too little, and always went with the flow. I didn’t look out for myself emotionally and physically. I burned the candle at both ends and eventually wore myself out.

I often felt depressed. After my parents’ divorce when I was 18, I lost the closeness I used to feel with my family. My entire focus was on what I didn’t have anymore.

I was in a never ending loop of feeling depressed, turning to alcohol, disappointing the people closest to me, then feeling more depressed. I had envisioned that I would grow up and my parents would still be a part of my life, but instead I felt like everyone was going their separate ways.

My dreams of my parents being there for my future wedding were dashed. Celebratory events in my life would never include both of my parents. I was frustrated. It was draining and costly to my soul.

I wasn’t aware of it then, but I also carried around so many regrets and resentment from childhood. When I was 7 years old, a stranger abused me during a field trip with my ballet troupe.

The shame and confusion I felt from this experience followed me like a dark cloud. I regretted being too scared to tell anyone. I think in some ways I resented the fact that no one was able to help me.

When my parents divorced I felt abandoned and it brought back a lot of those terrible feelings. It was like I was slowly imploding. I thought about the past and talked about the past while completely missing the present.

After years of letting this build up inside me, it finally hit a breaking point. The hurt I was causing myself and family had boiled over. Something had to change.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. The world as I knew it came crashing down.  When you’re told you have a life-threatening illness it’s interesting how quickly everything else falls to the side. Time stands still and the past disappears. All you have is now.

Being thrust into the present I no longer had time for resentments or any negativity at all. I needed all of my energy to fight for my life. Everything I carried with me for so long seemed insignificant to the battle I was about to face.

Treatment for cancer can have a way of de-humanizing you, at least at first. It strips you down to your basic core self. I felt like a child most of the time. I was completely dependent on my doctors.

It was like I was scrambling around in the dark, reaching for a hand to pull me out. I was vulnerable and had zero control over the outcome.

I think sometimes in life we walk around with the illusion we’re in control. To some degree we are, but when faced with an illness you can very quickly be brought to your knees.

We have a tendency to take life for granted. We just assume we’ll wake up everyday and be healthy. I got so comfortable with the day to day of my life that I forgot what a gift it actually is. It took almost losing that gift for me to finally open my eyes.

Toward the end of treatment I felt reborn. All of the negative feelings I had about my parents’ divorce faded away. I was finally able to just let it go. My spirit felt calm. I felt optimistic about life again. My spirituality was soaring at heights I had never experienced before.

Through sickness I found myself. I discovered who I really am and what I’m really about.  I was flooded with forgiveness toward my parents and I was ready to ask for forgiveness for all my crazy behavior.

During the course of cancer treatment I was able to mend and rebuild my relationship with my parents. I now have happiness that I only dreamed of before. I realize now how much time I wasted being unhappy and I’ll never do it again.

I wake up every morning grateful to have another day, to have another chance at this wonderful experience called life.

I make it a priority to eat well and exercise. I rarely drink. I have a disciplined sleep schedule. I go to great lengths to take care of myself on an emotional level, everyday. My body really held up for me during treatment and now I’m paying it forward!

Recovery from cancer has not always been an easy road. I won’t pretend there aren’t any bumps. My new outlook on life doesn’t allow me to wallow in it; instead, I count all my blessings and keep pushing forward.

I feel like I turned the most negative experience of my life into a positive experience by taking the lessons I learned while sick and really making the necessary changes in my life. I’m thankful to be given a second chance.

And, the life I had envisioned for myself? This is what I figured out. I don’t have to hang on so tight for something that isn’t working.

By letting go of the one that wasn’t working, I naturally created a new vision. This is one of the most freeing things I have ever done for myself. My new vision is attainable, my new vision is already happening. I’m living it now.

Instead of focusing on what isn’t working in your life, give some love and attention to the things that are. Take a mental inventory each morning of all the things to be grateful for.

You will soon notice the negative way of thinking will begin to shift and you’ll be able to experience the happiness that is waiting for you.

Photo by Zaiq Ali

Avatar of Miya Goodrich

About Miya Goodrich

Miya Goodrich is a writer, housewife, animal lover, and Cancer Survivor.  She’s working on becoming a first time mother in her late 30’s, and writes about this journey on her blog,  http://www.babyaftercancer.com/.

Love What’s Right Before You Instead of Hating What’s Missing

Friends Jumping

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” ~Walt Whitman

I take stuff for granted. I suspect you take stuff for granted.

It’s almost as if it can’t be helped. When things—family, friends, health, amenities, or money—occupy a place in our lives for years, we naturally begin to view them as commonplace; we assume they’ll forever be, just as they’ve always been.

Yet this mindset—this “Oh, of course that’s there; that’s always been there” perspective—often seems to prevent us from realizing how much it would mean to us if that something wasn’t there anymore.

Hello, Asia

In August of 2013, I moved to Busan, South Korea to teach English for a year to a bunch of elementary school kids (lovable rascals, these kids). Three months later, I can tell you that this experience has been everything I imagined and about 10,000 things I didn’t.

For a while it was similar to what I’d envisioned—like freefalling through some sort of mythical dreamscape. Everything new and interesting, bright and foreign, so much happening, so much to learn, so much to take in. It was experiential overload, at once intimidating and blissful.

After a few weeks, though, the feelings of novelty and adventure began to wane slightly; a discord had been created.

My romanticized visions of my new home were coming into conflict with a feeling I’m sure most of you know very well—the slog of routine, the all-too-familiar, the grind. 

What happens is this: you begin to get used to the new country; it loses a certain sparkle. You start to notice its flaws, its funny odors, its unsexy idiosyncrasies. You realize that a full-time job in a foreign land is still a full-time job, except 95% of the people around you don’t speak your language.

You realize, “Wow, I’m going to be gone for a while—a whole year! And I’m going to see exactly zero people I know. Nada. None. For 12 months. Oh.” In terms of culture shock, you’re experiencing the end of what’s known as “The Honeymoon Phase.”

I had read about these things. I thought I understood that they were going to happen. I thought I knew how long a year was. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into.

I didn’t. Not really, at least. Turns out it was near-impossible to know what an enormous decision it was to move to a foreign country until I was two months in and questioning what in God’s name I was doing here.

Lonely? Me?

As someone who usually enjoys solitude, I’ve been surprised at how lonely I’ve felt at times. You discover a special kind of alienation when you’re in a city of five million people and can’t communicate with anyone. It’s easy to dissociate yourself from your surroundings.

You start talking to yourself. You feel like you don’t exist. You end up shouting to the music in your headphones (“People will know that I’m here!!”) while walking down the sidewalk as you’re drenched head-to-toe and getting wetter by the second because, as you just found out, there are typhoons here. (Okay, maybe that was just me).

It’s during those periods that you realize you’d trade your big toe for a few days at home with the people you’ve known for years. To do nothing but laugh a few hours away with those irreplaceable personalities whom you know about as well as your own reflection.

“Man, that’d be heaven,” you think.

Sure, you can “connect” with loved ones via Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Gmail, and a trillion other online mediums. You can even indulge in a pretty convincing illusion of face-to-face conversation with Skype or a Google Hangout.

But as you do, it becomes clear that these substitutes can never duplicate a sizable bear-hug, or an eye-contact-followed-by-uproarious-laughter moment, or the glorious interplay of energies when you’re actually in the same room with people.

While living in Korea, I’ve realized what an invaluable gift I sacrificed to come abroad—namely, being a car ride away from most all of my favorite people in the world.

Before coming here, I’d known that I loved my family and friends endlessly—that they meant everything to me—but I don’t think I quite realized the extent to which being near them and being able to see them were vital to my well-being (and sanity).

I feel I’ve gained a renewed appreciation for those precious people who’ve been there for years and will continue to be.

When I do return home, I’ll love them just the same as before, but I’ll truly cherish the time I get to spend with them. I’ll try to remember what it was like without them.

Gratitude is Slippery

Simply imagine for a few moments what it would be like if all of the people you loved were just gone, so far away that you couldn’t see them. It’s likely difficult to put yourself in my situation, but my hope is that you can sense it—how you would miss the familiar comfort of just being with them, of just sharing a space or a smile.

One wouldn’t think that the good things in our lives need to disappear in order for us to understand their worth, yet so often this is the case.

It seems a bit of a paradox, that what is nearest our hearts can be hardest to see. I humbly submit to you that we ought to be attentive to what lies just below our oblivious noses, lest we recognize the value of things only after they’ve left us. 

I’d be a fool (more so than I already am) if I didn’t understand that this don’t-take-things-for-granted spiel applies to me right this moment.

In a few years, I’ll look back on my time in Korea and know what an incredible opportunity I was given and how much was here to love.

If I overlook the wonders that surround me in this place and constantly pine for my home, I’ll set myself up to feel only a sort of wistful gratitude later on, when all that remains of my time abroad are patchwork memories.

So while I now grasp more fully what I left behind to come to this country, I’m focusing on remembering that I came here for what I couldn’t find at home—a different environment, new friends, fresh perspectives. And those things are all around, plain to be seen, so long as I’m not looking through them, at what isn’t here.

I’m reminded of a sentence Vonnegut once wrote: “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” I like the whoever especially, but I’d also add whatever, wherever, whichever. 

In the end, it seems, loving what’s right before us does far more good than hating what’s missing.

I’m not always keen at seeing what’s near to be loved (so it goes), but here’s to looking a bit closer. Here’s to noticing the important things, before they’re no longer there to be noticed.

Photo by Antoine Gady

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About Jordan Bates

Jordan Bates is a tenacious fellow who loves novels and freestyle rapping. He’s a writer and activist who’d like the world to think more and fight less. You should check out Refine The Mind, his online treehouse.

How to Fill the Emptiness in Your Life

Helping

“Find your Calcutta.” ~Mother Teresa

Something is missing in your life, isn’t it?

You’re working hard, trying to get ahead, doing everything you possibly can to make life just a little bit better. You’re trying to keep it all balanced, though. You won’t be one of those people who commits every waking second to work and the pursuit of career.

Not you. You’ve got it figured out. You even make time to exercise, eat right, meditate, or maybe spend time with friends and family.

You’ve got it all figured out—except for that one stupid thing that keeps tugging at your heart. You don’t really know what it is, but it is there, and it is driving you a little crazy.

Yeah, I know. I get that feeling sometimes too.

It is often mistaken as unhappiness, fatigue, depression, or being stuck in a rut. Many people will go off and do wild vacations or try things they would never try in a million years just to see if those activities settle the strange, inexplicable emptiness they feel inside.

When they return to the real world, though, the problem is still there, still nagging at them.

Maybe they think they didn’t go “extreme” enough, and will push themselves harder. Or maybe they take it in a totally different direction and put more time into meditation, or even trying to manifest happiness in their lives.

Sound familiar?

Or do you have it under control? I’m guessing since you’re still reading, you don’t. It’s okay. Neither do I.

In fact, neither do most people.

So, what is this mysterious thing that is pulling at you, leaving you feeling empty and unfulfilled in a life that would, from the outside, seem all but amazing? It’s the pursuit of happiness.

Before you click away from the page, thinking that this is another article about how when you stop pursuing things, that is when they come to you, don’t.

It’s not about that at all.

We are constantly presented with things that we believe will make us happy. New cars, flashier televisions, prettier women or men, houses, furniture, more money, exotic vacations, and a myriad of things that go along with that stuff.

We are pounded by books, blogs, and billboards about how we can get everything we want in life, and live happier, better, and wealthier.

The simple truth is, we are so focused on getting what we want that we forget about everyone else in the world around us. And therein lies the key to that empty feeling inside.

Right now, there are people who are hungry. And not just in Africa or India. They might be within a square mile of you. There are kids who don’t have a decent place to sleep.

Let me tell you a quick story.

Recently, a friend of mine (a former high school teacher) passed away. He had been fighting leukemia and eventually cancer for a long time. He was 74 years old.

When I met him, I thought he was one of the most energetic people I’d ever come across. Of course, I was only 16 at the time. His Italian ancestry only added to the natural charisma he displayed on a daily basis.

This teacher started a program at my high school called Project 5000. It was an initiative aimed at collecting five thousand canned goods to distribute to needy families in our area. I can still remember seeing the boxes of food under the auditorium stage. 

Not only did our little school of 300 kids collect five thousand cans, we collected far more. And every single year, the number grew, surpassing multiple tens of thousands every year.

Because of his efforts, many needy families got to have a few good meals around Thanksgiving, even if it was just a few.

My friend also helped out at a place called the Chambliss home, a transitional facility for kids similar to an orphanage. He organized a Christmas program there every year so that, at least for a night, those kids could actually be kids.

Why am I telling you about this?

Because this teacher always had a smile on his face. He always had tons of energy. And because of one very important thing he told me in relation to the problem I discussed earlier. 

He said that if you live your life providing a service to others, you will have the most fulfilling life possible.

And there it is. We’ve been so focused on getting what we want in this world that we forget that there are people who have desperate needs. You don’t have to look far to find them either.

They could be right up the street, in a local school, a homeless shelter, a nursing home, or any number of places.

At the moment, I work in a school that has a student body that is 100 percent on free and reduced lunch. Basically, that means it is a school of kids from low-income homes. I work there as a school counselor and as the boys’ soccer coach.

My commute sucks, nearly an hour each way. The hours suck (since my best energy times are not waking up at 5:30 and working until 5:00 in the afternoon).

When my friends ask me why I don’t quit or find a job closer to home at a better school, I explain to them that it is my Calcutta. While, sometimes the work is not stimulating, and the kids can be a little rough around the edges, it is a place where there is a great need.

Ever since I started looking at it that way, I have been a lot happier in the rest of my life. I am more fulfilled because I know that I am providing a service to people in need, and not just living for myself.

When I get home I have more energy, a happier demeanor, and I feel like I have done something good.

The bottom line is, helping others energizes you and fills you with good feelings.

Where can you find your Calcutta? It could be as simple as donating a piece of furniture to a needy family. Or you could give a few hours a month at the local soup kitchen. Are you an expert at something that could help solve a problem for people? Find a way to do that on a semi-regular basis. It can literally be almost anything.

The point is that you serve someone. And by serving others, you will begin to notice that strange, empty feeling begin to dissipate until one day, you find yourself smiling all the time.

Photo by Shisheido USA

Avatar of Ernest Dempsey

About Ernest Dempsey

Ernest Dempsey is a Counselor and fiction author from Chattanooga, Tennessee. You can check out his books or his powerful blog posts at ernestdempsey.net or follow him on Twitter @ErnDempsey.

Activating the Life Purpose That’s Right Under Your Nose

Purpose

“Our obligation is to give meaning to life, and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.” ~Elie Wiesel

After surveying 3,000 people, psychologist Cynthia Kersey discovered that 94% had no clue as to their purpose in life—94%!

As painful as this statistic is, it is even more painful in light of how relatively simple it is to discover a worthy and fulfilling life purpose.

For most of us, a meaningful purpose lurks just beneath the surface of conscious awareness and can be discovered in a few minutes.

This is the easy part. What happens after you discover your life purpose is the plague of humanity.

I discovered my life purpose in high school psychology class at age 17. A local therapist visited our class and asked us to sit on the floor in a large circle. We cleared out the desks and sat. Then he said the following:

“You’re trapped in a cave with the rest of this class. Only a few of you will make it out alive before the cave collapses. A few at the front of the line will make it. Those in the rear will be crushed. Now, as we go around the circle, I want each of you to explain to the class why you need to get out alive. Tell us why you should be at the front of the line.”

One of my classmates raised her hand. “What if we don’t want to be at the front of the line?” she asked.

“Then say so, if you really feel that way,” the therapist conceded. (Therapists can be such pushovers).

I was on the opposite side of the room and listened, one by one, as more than 20 kids declined the opportunity to state what they wanted to live for and merely said, “I’ll just be at the back of the line.”

On my turn, I took the risk and said, “I wouldn’t want to be responsible for someone else not getting to live, but since you asked why I need to get out alive, I’ll answer your question.

I want to live and make something of my life. I am being raised by a single mother who has made sacrifices to see that I get an education and stay out of trouble. I don’t want to let my mother down. I feel I owe it to her to make the most of myself. If I can do something really great in life, it will make her sacrifice worthwhile.”

I caught the nod of respect from the therapist and noticed a few of the girls in the class looking misty-eyed and—right there—I knew my purpose. I knew that if I could help people discover something great within themselves, like I had just discovered, I’d live a meaningful life!

That was easy compared to what came next.

I fought it. I failed out of college the first time around. I passed on great opportunities to advance my education and career by telling myself, “You can’t do it. You are not worthy. You’re a fake.”

I looked for shortcuts. I refused to cooperate with my supervisors because, even though I was plagued with self-doubt, I still thought they were stupid.

If you looked at my life, you’d wonder just how I was manifesting any purpose that had to do with helping myself and others grow.

One step forward, two steps back! That was me.

Later, when I did find opportunities to advance my career by teaching workshops, I made it horrendously difficult. I demanded perfection of myself at every performance, which created unbearable anxiety.

I often walked to the front of a lecture room just knowing I would have a full-blown panic attack and be carted out on a stretcher and never be invited to speak anywhere again.

I just couldn’t give myself a break. My purpose in life not only lacked fulfillment, but also became a source of personal torment.

I know what it is like to fight your purpose in life. I’ve been there. In fact, I now believe that most people who are not living a life of purpose are sabotaging their efforts as I was.

Many people give up on their purpose because of all the perceived trouble that comes with making it real.

My parents won’t approve.
It is too difficult.
I can’t do it.

It’s not realistic.
I won’t fit in with my friends anymore.
Where I come from people don’t do that.
I’ll never be able to pay the bills.
I am sure I will fail in the end and be right back where I started.
It’s just not worth it.
It’s too late.
I am comfortable where I am.

And so the story goes. We resist a more meaningful life because we get in our own way. This is the saddest story ever told!

Worse, so many have written off their purpose to such a degree that they don’t know where to begin to find it.

It is right under your nose.

If you’ll take a few minutes to do the following experiment, you are very likely to discover something wonderful that might serve as a purpose for your life.

Take a few minutes alone to simply breathe and think. When you are relaxed, ask yourself some simple insight questions per the following examples.

When you’ve gotten greater insight as a result of the questions, ask yourself how the insights apply to a potential life purpose. This is the application question mentioned below.

Insight Questions

What do I love?
Why do I love this?

What talents has the universe given me?
Why are these talents important?

What are my dreams?
Why are these dreams important?

When and where have I found joy in my life?
Why did I find joy in that?

What have I always found meaningful?
Why is this so meaningful to me?

Write down the answers to the insight questions that appeal to you. Remember, this is just you. Imagine for a moment that nobody else in the world matters. No one has any say here but you.

As you are writing, notice how you are feeling. Which particular words cause you to surge with positive energy? These words are a major clue as to your purpose in life. 

Application Question

While in that positive state, ask yourself the application question.

How might the answers to any of the above be part of your life purpose?

For example, imagine you are writing about a particularly meaningful experience that came to mind as a result of an insight question. Let’s say you remembered when you were meditating and felt a deep connection to the universe.

You asked yourself, “Why was this so meaningful to me?”

The answer came, “Because that is what life is all about—connection.”

Next, you asked the question, “How might connection be part of my life purpose?”

So many ideas might flow from there:

Your purpose may be to simply stay connected! Whatever you do in life, you remain open to the possible connections to others and beyond.

It may be that you feel a desire to help others connect to the universe—a great life purpose.

Perhaps your purpose is to help children experience greater connection.

The possibilities are limitless! If you center your life around staying connected and helping others to do so, you will surely experience the fulfillment that comes with a clear life purpose.

How can you make your purpose real? There are a million ways. The better question is how are you likely to get in your own way? How do you subconsciously protest having a purpose? How might you attempt to devalue your purpose?

Learn your purpose. Learn the ways in which you sabotage it. Get out of your own way and follow your heart.

Life can be complicated. Sometimes we convince ourselves that what we want is impossible. This is where education and a compassionate, intelligent outsider’s perspective can be a life purpose saver.

To the life purpose under your nose….

Avatar of Mike Bundrant

About Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is co-author of The AHA Solution: An End to Self-Sabotage. To watch a free, 20-minute webinar on psychological attachments and how to end self-sabotage in your life, click here.

When Life Feels Crazy: 6 Questions for Cracking Up & Breaking Through

Plant in dried cracked mud

“Every really new idea looks crazy at first.” ~Abraham H. Maslow

Once, when I was in a painting workshop, I hit a wall of resistance, totally stumped by what to paint next.

My painting teacher came over to explore some questions that could help unblock me. But my “wall” was concrete, or industrial metal, or super-duper spy-movie-like with some computer-code contraption locking all security systems down.

“What if a crazy woman came into the room?” she asked me. “What if the crazy woman painted for you? What would she do?”

“She would explode everything up!” I answered.

“What would she do on the painting?”

“She would rip it up!”

“If with respect for what you’ve already painted you allowed her to go crazy on the paper without covering what you already painted or ripping it up, what would she paint?”

I looked at the painting. It was an image of me. “She would crack me into a hundred pieces…”

“Great!” She said. “Paint that!”

I took out a small brush and started drawing black cracks, as many cracks as I could, cracking the body into thousands of pieces. I felt high as I painted. Free. Without interpretation or need to understand what I was doing, I energetically painted cracks all through my body. I finished the painting with glee.

A dear friend, who is a Jungian therapist, told me recently about the “Crazy Woman” archetype. The Mad Woman who likes to step in sometimes to shake our world, wake our reality. I told her I knew this woman. I had met her in my creativity.

But secretly, I was coming to understand her beyond that. In my own life, things felt uncertain, chaotic, ungrounded. I was feeling somewhat like the crazy woman myself.

I was living alone, a year after divorce in the house I lived in with my ex-husband in Venice Beach, CA. I never felt unsafe or in danger in my home or neighborhood. In fact, I felt the opposite; my home post-divorce had become my respite when everything else in my life seemed turned upside down.

One random Saturday morning, I awoke to find a young woman, around 25 years old, coming off of some meth or heroin high in my back studio that I usually kept unlocked because the perimeter of my house was well gated.

She was going through my cupboard filled with old wedding pictures.

She wasn’t an archetype, but a real person. I had to double check twice to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. I was in shock, yet typically, when in shock I knew I tended to act unusually calm and reasonable.

I approached her. “Why are you here?” I asked.

“I thought I lived here.” She said, seeming vulnerable and confused.

“I have to call the police,” I said.

“But I don’t want to go jail!”

“I’m sorry I have to call…” I said to her.

She picked up her backpack, and while I told 911 that I had an intruder, she lit a cigarette as she casually walked out the side yard gate and continued down the street away from my home.

This wasn’t a dream. It really was happening. There was a stranger in my home when I awoke one random morning.

She left her tennis shoes and socks behind, which I showed the two policemen when they arrived.

“This happens all the time,” one of the cops said. “Just last weekend we had a squatter make dinner and take a shower in someone’s home around the corner from you. Welcome to Venice!”

Well, no. Actually I had been living in Venice for ten years. This wasn’t a welcome but a warning sign to make sure my side gates were better protected. Though the young woman seemed fine when she walked away, I still felt shaken.

After talking to my friends on the phone, telling them about my intruder, I was able to find my ground. 

I saw the intruder as a reflection of what I had been feeling lately and told myself, “Sometimes it’s okay to see the Mad Woman and to accept her.”

I knew I was physically safe. She didn’t steal anything either. That night, I put her shoes out on the street corner so she would have them to wear, and in the morning they were gone. Her intrusion woke me up and made me curious to explore deeper. 

These were the questions upon her departure I contemplated: 

1. What if I allowed myself to feel as “crazy” as I felt and let myself live the life I always wanted to live?

How would I live it? (i.e. what would I paint?) Could I let myself crack?

2. Would I let my controlled, safe little world open up to something new or daring?

Was I ready to uproot the life I knew and create something totally different?

3. What if nothing had to make sense?

If the dots didn’t have to connect? If I didn’t have to know how my decisions would dictate my future? What would I do then?

4. What if I didn’t have to live according to the rules and expectations I had put on myself and the conditionings put on me that I bought into?

The ones that were based on how I was raised, my family’s expectations, or the beliefs I was taught to believe about myself?

5. What if my life was about being fully me, filled up with me, and no one else?

Not by a relationship or for my parents or my roles in society regardless if they thought my choices were “crazy”—what would I do differently?

6. What would happen if I accepted feeling out of balance, in unknown territory, and stopped trying to be something other than me presently?

What life choices might I make then?

After asking these questions of myself, something told me it was time to take off into a new adventure.

I thought about things I’d been afraid to do before or resisted: I feared skiing because of my weak ankles, but what if I tried again?

New York was a place I had thought about living in—what if I went to explore a new city? Or what if I started a new career path? What would I want to create in my life then?

As I asked these questions, I started to become interested, uncovering layers into exciting new territory.

So I ask you, what if metaphorically you met your Inner-Mad Man or Woman? What message would he/she have for you? 

Creating a life change isn’t actually “crazy.” It’s the most fulfilling and exhilarating thing we can do.

What if you were to take a risk, jump into the unknown, shake up your world, leave your cautious mind and all that it says about you or about how you live your life and ask yourself, “If I were totally free, what would I do?”

Even if you don’t plan to actually do it, I’d love to hear. Be crazy and just for the fun of it. You never know what can happen.

Photo by Olearys

The Invincible Summer Course Opens on Wednesday the 4:th of December

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
Albert Camus

One of the best things I have ever done for myself was to go from being a pessimist to becoming an optimist.

In my experience changing your attitude and mindset in this way is one of those things that will make a huge difference for you in any part of life.

As you make such an inner shift you can:

  • Find so much more freedom in life. This is absolutely wonderful. With optimism and positivity on your side the world opens up in ways you might not be able to see right now. Instead of feeling stuck in the same old rut or with obstacles always standing in the way of you living the life you deep down want to live you will find opportunities and possibilities and create ways to get what you want.
  • Keep your enthusiasm up and keep going despite stumbles, mistakes or failures. That is much better than taking the too-common path in life of letting one or two such negative situations push you into quitting and going back to your old ways.
  • Increase your happiness and self-confidence. As your optimism and the opportunities around you grow and you take persistent action – something I share how to do in the course – on your optimistic thoughts to move closer to your dreams your happiness in daily life will increase.
    And as you are able to handle uncertainty better and able to keep moving through both good days and tough days step by step your confidence in yourself and in what you can achieve in any part of your life will grow a whole lot.
  • Become more socially attractive. Optimism will make your more socially attractive in any kind of relationship. No matter if it is in your career, at school or in your closest relationships. And the growth of your happiness and self-confidence as a result of the optimism will further boost that attraction effect.

Those are a few of the very best things I have gotten out improving my own mindset and becoming more and more of an optimist. And they are also a few of the most important reasons why I spent most of my summer and fall on creating my brand new course called The Invincible Summer – A Course in Optimism.

And I am feeling really enthusiastic about it right now.

Because I know how much the material in this course has helped me. Without the optimism you wouldn’t for example be reading this blog right now. I would have given up on it a long time ago during one of the many times when things where tough or uncertain. Or I would even more likely not even have gotten started with it.

The course is also very important to me because I know that there are so many that are in a place similar to the one where I used to be where pessimism is a normal outlook on life. I see it in my inbox pretty much every day and in the newspapers every week.

The Invincible Summer will be an 8-week course where I share what has worked for me. Just the very best things I have found. And you get practical action-steps to follow each week.

The course will open up for registration in just 8 days, on Wednesday the 4:th of December at 1 pm EST (that’s 18.00 GMT).

And the first 100 people to join it will get the membership at a 30% discount.

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Your Reality Is a Reflection of What You Believe You Deserve

Reflection

“You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are.” ~Yogi Bhajan

Over the last ten years I have learned time and time again that our reality is a reflection of what we believe we deserve, often on an unconscious level.

I discovered this about a decade ago while living in Belize—a diving vacation hotspot on one end and gang-infested, poverty-ridden land on the other.

Back then I was avoiding the 9-5 life. You may say I was running from something, such as routine and following the status quo, but I was also looking to find my worth by escaping my everyday life.

I now see that my self-worth was pretty close to zero, and the concept of self-love hadn’t had a chance to make its way on my radar.

Despite the fact that I had the financial savings, my fear and inner lack of deservingness led me to a cockroach-infested wooden four by four. I can’t call it a cabin since there was neither a kitchen nor a bathroom, but luckily there was an outhouse outside.

Essentially, I had manifested my own jail cell, which represented what I thought I deserved.

I had seen other gorgeous living spaces that, in reality, were cheap, but when I saw them I thought, “I don’t deserve to be in a place like this.”

So I settled for a cockroach-infested box that scared the heck out of me. Ultimately, it was too much to bear, and I went off to the next country, once again in a living space that smelled horrendous. I stuck it out as long as I could until I was so low that I had no choice but to leave once again.

At the time I wasn’t able to see that what I had chosen was a reflection of my low self-worth. I felt like dirt and lived in it.

For years to come, that fear and lack of deservingness followed me in less than ideal living situations.

As I started to look at self-love, and practice affirmations, yoga, and meditations in nature, it was like a light went on, mostly unconsciously, until the day came when I consciously realized: I deserve better.

That was all it took. The moment I made that connection, I released my fear of my small paycheck and took action to improve my reality. I knew I had to take the first step and then the universe would follow and take care of me.

That belief and faith helped me look for better opportunities, which I finally believed I deserved, and put myself out there to pursue them.

I discovered that I had to do my part, and then I had to surrender and trust that whatever was in the highest good would manifest.

As my inner self-worth grew and I took conscious action to improve my circumstance, I finally got my own apartment and a better job.

The magic in this was that I had quit the old job where I was undervalued even before I heard back from any of the other places I had reached out to.

I took the risk and made the first step to let go of the old job that was wearing me down, and trusted that all my hard work would manifest a new opportunity.

That was exactly what happened.

What amazes me is that our practice of deeper self-love is continually evolving and growing.

It’s not like one day you wake up and everything is perfect. In reality, it’s common to wake up some days questioning your value, feeling down, and finding yourself in less than ideal situations.

This is why awareness is the magic key.

Once you are aware of this, you can change it. Once you can see that you are self-sabotaging yourself, you can choose to deepen your spiritual practices. This will energize you and increase your faith, helping you take action, which always leads to a more fulfilling reality.

Through the years I have continued to let go of work opportunities that no longer helped me grow or that negated my value. It’s scary every time you let go of something that feels safe (even if it is draining) but without fail I have found that when you release something that no longer serves your highest potential, you open yourself up to something better.

And yet the shadow of self-worth still comes up. Sometimes I’ll catch myself looking at something and thinking, “That’s too nice for me.”

But the difference between now and way back in the past when I lived with cockroaches is my awareness.

The moment I recognize my old habit pattern of self-worth emerging, I am able to tame the beast and realize that I am worthy, and it is okay to want and enjoy nice things.

Awareness is the first step in releasing the old habitual patterns of lack so that you can start living and breathing the feelings of a full life.

This doesn’t mean “full” of physical things, since true abundance comes from within. It’s also having proper living conditions that feel safe and peaceful, having healthy food to eat, and the ability to enjoy some of life’s pleasures.

So if you find yourself in a less than healthy and ideal situation, take a moment and ask yourself:

  1. Does this relate at all to your feelings of self-worth and self-love?
  2. Is there any way that you are responsible for creating the reality that you are living?

Take some time reflecting on these two questions, and then sit in silence for about five minutes as you follow the rhythm of your breath and focus your attention on your heart center.

Be aware of what arises. Notice without judgment, and then for the next five minutes repeat “I am worthy” or “I love myself.”

This is like creating your own mantra that you breathe in and out. It is effective at changing your self-talk so that you feed your mind positive thoughts about yourself instead of negative ones.

What you feed your mind grows and becomes your reality.

Then ask yourself:

How do you want to be living? And, how can you inject your own self-love into this equation?

Once you know your worth, once you truly care about yourself on a deep soulful level, you will want to take care of yourself and give yourself the best. Through self-love and self-worth you will find the courage to take action to live a better life.

And if you are having difficulty with this process, please remember it is a process, and rarely does this change happen overnight. But it does happen.

You can create a better life. Start by being aware of how you treat yourself. You can pray, meditate, practice affirmations, and ask your inner guidance for help.

All of these actions will increase your faith and energy, which will lead to increased positive actions to enhance your life. Start being kinder in how you talk to yourself, how much time you give yourself, and how often you treat yourself to something lovely. (This can be as simple as a warm cup of cocoa.)

Love yourself first and the world will love you back.

Photo by Aevar

5 Ways You Attract Great People When You Like Yourself More

Friends

“By accepting yourself and being fully what you are, your presence can make others happy.” ~Jane Roberts

Several years ago, I was so unhappy with my harsh loneliness that I decided that I was going to try anything under the sun to build a social life and have friends that cared about me.

I read all the books I could find and tried all the techniques they shared, but I still had to make a lot of effort to build friendships and hold my social life together.

Then I started to learn and apply the principles of self-esteem.

I used to think that I needed to be as extroverted as possible. It was exhausting, and people could see that it wasn’t really how I wanted to present myself.

As a celebration of my uniqueness, I started behaving a little more like who I am—a little calmer and more interested in the depth of things.

While I became less gregarious-sounding, I actually started making more friends, and more genuine ones; and the relationships with them were more solid.

I was amazed at those results; I knew that self-esteem would contribute to my happiness, but never thought that being less of a gregarious person would improve my social life.

When I met new people, I no longer talked about the trendy subjects that everyone was raving about. I talked about what I wanted to talk about. I expressed my unique perspective.

People responded well; it gave them the chance to meet a human being who’s not afraid to express his genuine thoughts and opinions.

Self-esteem completely shifted the way I interacted with people and made my social much easier to hold and develop.

Here, I want to dig deeper and share with you 5 reasons why self-esteem can help you have a better, more fulfilling social life. When you have high self-esteem:

1. You have healthy boundaries.

When you like yourself, you no longer have to say “yes” when you mean “no,” and don’t have to make false promises, either. People love to be friends with those who aren’t afraid to say “no.” This strength of spirit inspires them.

This character makes people see you as trustworthy. Everyone wants friends they can trust.

When you preserve your self-respect and stand up for yourself, you keep more of your energy and value. If you have no boundaries, you and your energy get depleted.

2. You’re naturally a giver of value.

When you like yourself, you believe you have value to offer, so you naturally start to see abundance instead of scarcity. You realize that the world is generous, there is enough for everyone, and we can create even more that didn’t exist before.

People can tell that you’re not one of those people who think they have to take value from others to have more.

This instantly puts you out of the selfish category. People fear that they’ll end up with selfish friends, who are only there to take whatever they can and give as little as possible. That’s not who they want in their life; they want friends that like them for who they are.

Liking yourself indicates that you don’t have any neediness, and therefore, you only hang out with people because you genuinely appreciate them.

3. You know you’re not perfect, and you’re not for everyone; you appreciate your uniqueness.

When you like yourself, you appreciate your uniqueness and have no problem with some people seeing things differently than you. You therefore celebrate your unique talents and opinions.

When you appreciate your uniqueness, you tend to cultivate and grow it. That is exactly what makes you an interesting person to be around.

For example, if you like Southern Italian cuisine, even if no one you know else does, you start to get more and more interested in it, which means you’ll start to know more about Italian geography, history, and world views. You’ll maybe even go there on vacation.

People love being around others who are passionate about something; it inspires them to get passionate about their own interests.

4. You’re cheerful and you can see the good in people.

When you like yourself, you see the good in yourself, but you also see the good in others. This is an instant charmer! People are keen to know if you’ll appreciate who they are and what they have to offer to the world.

When you have that positive energy within your own life, you start to project it on to others. First, your cheerfulness catches their attention; second, they realize that you’re not only optimistic for yourself, but for them as well.

5. You’re not overly serious.

Liking yourself means that you’re realistic and can recognize your imperfections, quirks, and mistakes. You know you can improve what you want but will never be perfect, and you’re okay with that.

This means you’ll have enough confidence to poke fun at yourself. Other people recognize this, and know that they can have lots of fun around you, as you don’t take yourself too seriously.

This also shows a side of you that is vulnerable and completely human. People get fixated on this on the spot because they recognize the same human vulnerability in themselves.

Great people reserve a special spot in their life for people who can interact and relate without masks or barriers to hide behind—and that comes from liking yourself.

Photo by Christos Loufopoulos

The Greatest Act of Love Is Letting Go

Let Go

“Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.” ~Sonia Ricotti

I was brought up in a family and culture that was riddled with fear.

My elders were terrified of the world and always on the defensive for something bad to happen. They believed that love meant closely protecting others from the dangers of the world and the pain of life.

This smothering behavior kept me small, and left me totally ill-equipped and ill-educated for living in the real world.

With this as the root of my upbringing, breaking free and learning to let go has been one of the hardest, but most important lessons of my life.

In my early teens I was sent to boarding school, and in the freedom of it I discovered I was naturally far more open, trusting, and relaxed. I liked it!

However, after a very difficult period of my life—my mum was ill with cancer and then I went through a series of painful losses, including the sudden death of some of my closest loved ones—I got very afraid.

Bad things had happened and I felt blindsided. Lacking the appropriate resources to cope with it, I began to live as I had been shown: I began to hold on to everything, especially my grief.

I would cling to relationships, jobs, and situations, even if they were outdated, no longer useful or right for me. I couldn’t let myself grow, or outgrow things.

Somewhere along the way I began to believe that I was bad for wanting to be free, and that bad things happen to bad people.

Turning Into Golem

Desperately, I held onto the love, light, and energy that I had inside of me, unwilling to share it with anyone, in case I lost that too.

I changed from a bouncy, smiley, fun-loving young woman to someone who hid in the corners seething.

It was as though I was curling up in a ball so that I could protect myself from the world and anything bad happening.

Although I saved myself from getting hurt by other people, ironically I was still hurting and afraid, but now nothing happened at all—not even the good stuff!

Eventually I had enough. I wasn’t living…

Time To Set Myself Free

For years I reflected, analyzed, and most of all grieved for the losses I had been holding onto, until finally the crying began to subside and I felt lighter, softer, and more relaxed.

I’d changed, but every time I began to try to live as the open me, I felt like I was running into a brick wall. The people in my life weren’t willing to see, hear, and accept the new, stronger, trusting me.

It was a huge revelation to realize it wasn’t about me anymore; it was about them.

But I was back in my childhood situation, smothered by other people’s fear of being free and strong.

For a while I fell into the old game of fighting against other people, trying to change them, and waiting for them to let go, stop being so scared, and be happy so I could have permission to be free.

I soon began to feel the familiar feeling of exhaustion from this futile exercise.

Finally Growing Up

At age 37 I realized that I could do something different. Just as I’d let go of my bottled grief and fear, I gave myself permission to let me go and take what I needed the most—the space to be free.

I turned my internal growth into external action—an act of love for myself.

It was time to give myself room to grow and discover strength, confidence, resilience, and trust—so I packed my bags, rented out my house, and set off on a road trip, with just my dog for company, and headed off toward Italy.

I gave myself six months, but it turned out I only needed three. I didn’t know what would happen to me, but I desperately hoped something would!

Like reaching the next level on computer game, new growth gives way to new challenges. We just have to be willing to accept these opportunities.

Letting go is not a one-stop shop, with a final destination, but a constant state of being.

As I began my 7000-mile quest into the big wide world to find freedom and return home again, I felt full of fear. But my anticipation and desire outweighed it, so I simply surrendered with one prayer in mind: Please give me what I need.

Am I Good Enough?

I had to let go of my deep-rooted fear that I wasn’t capable of coping with life and taking care of myself, even when the worst happened.

That meant facing situations that would make me quake in my boots, like getting completely lost on foot, with no phone, no map, and no water in the middle of rural central France.

I simultaneously faced my ingrained fear of leaving, and trusted that that everyone and everything would be okay without me. Nothing bad would happen, and if it did, it wasn’t my fault. Everyone would be all right and so would I.

Both fears were interlinked, and by releasing one, I could also release the other.

Only then did I begin to accept that other people have the capability to take care of themselves too, and that loving them means trusting that they can work it out.

If you truly love someone, you want them to be the strongest, bravest, most happy, confident version of themselves so they don’t need you to protect them, because they are then free to live.

Sometimes we need to teach others the skills to be able to cope with situations, people, and life, but demonstrating it by the way we live is a far more effective method.

Ultimately, though, we must let go, trust, and believe in them and ourselves in order to become stronger, more resilient, and more capable.

The Greatest Act Of Love Is Letting Go

For me, that had to start with letting go of controlling myself, my feelings, and my past pain, and then allowing myself to let go of how other people’s fear controlled me.

Throughout my journey I began to relax more and more into life and simply be me. This opened me up to connecting with amazing people from all over the world.

I began to hear their words of love and see myself through their eyes as a bubbly, passionate, fun, loving, open, brave woman.

By the time I returned home three months later, I was living lovingly toward me, so confident in who I had become that I was no longer afraid of losing those closest to me.

I didn’t need to control or be controlled anymore, under the disguise of loving protection. I was now strong enough to trust myself no matter what.

That’s why letting go is the greatest act of love. It’s letting others be free.

Photo by Katia Romanova

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About Joanna Warwick

Jo Warwick is a writer, therapist and the creator of www.rediscoverthemagic.com. She is passionate about empowering women to love themselves and be free. Go grab your free copy of Don’t Screw It Up ~ Top Ten Ways To Create A Relationship That’s Just Right For You.