One Very Simple Thing You Can Do to Feel Better About Yourself Starting Today

“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

Today I’d just like to quickly share something that has helped me to feel a whole lot better about myself. And it does not only benefit me.

It is a very simple habit.

It is the habit of being kind to the people in your life.

How can you use it?

Here is a list of simple suggestions and ideas:

  • Give someone a genuine compliment. Find something you can genuinely appreciate about a person in your life and express it in a sincere way.
  • Hold up the door for the next person. Such a simple thing can add a bit of extra positivity to your and other person’s day.
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. It is quite easy to resort to unkindness when you see things just from your perspective. So ask yourself: How would I think and feel it if I were in his or her shoes?
  • Hide a surprising and kind note. Leave a small note with a loving or encouraging sentence in your partner’s or child’s lunchbox, hat or book that he or she is reading at the moment.
  • Let someone into your lane while driving. It is easy and people appreciate it. Especially during the morning or evening commute.
  • Give someone an uplifting gift. Give someone a flower.  Send an inspirational book or movie. Or simply share a link to something inspiring that you have found like a blog or an article.
  • Encourage a friend or family member when they are uncertain or unmotivated. There is so much discouragement in the world so be an exception that lifts his or her spirits again.
  • Just listen and let someone in your life vent for a little while. Don’t think about your own ideas or problems, just be fully there for a while with you attention directed to 100% at the other person. Let him or her process and sort things out as you listen.
  • Be proactive and get something started. Send out a Facebook invite for an evening of fun down at the pub or the coffee shop. Plan and organize a small party or a picnic for your friends (if the weather allows for it). Don’t wait for someone else to suggest something fun or exciting in your daily life, do it yourself.
  • Take a few minutes help someone out in a practical way. Ask someone you know for advice that your friend could use. Use Google to find directions, a product that would be useful or a tip that could help out. Take over and do the rest of the laundry or the dishes if someone is too tired.

When you have done one of these things, take a moment to pat yourself on the back and appreciate what you did. If he or she smiles and lights up thanks to you then you’ll probably notice how you feel better too.

And here’s an interesting added benefit: the way you treat other people is the way you tend to treat yourself.

More kindness towards the people in your life leads to a kinder and more loving and self-esteem boosting attitude towards yourself. Just like a more judgmental attitude towards others usually is accompanied with pretty harsh and judgmental thoughts towards yourself.

So pick one or more ideas from this list, take action on it and spread the kindness in small or bigger doses today (and beyond).

You’ll make both the people in your world and yourself feel better.

Note: The comments section for this article is closed because I am traveling this week and won’t have time to moderate the comments.

Image by Helga Weber (license).

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How to Reduce Stress and Focus More on What Truly Matters

Relaxing in the Sun

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” ~Socrates

Did you ever wish you could just take off from work and get away from it all?

This past summer I had the opportunity to do just that.

I was wrapping up a twenty-four-year career in the Air Force and had saved up two months of vacation time. So my wife and I decided to visit Rio de Janeiro and live by the beach.

The tropical weather was everything you would expect it to be: sunny, warm, and gorgeous.

But surprisingly, the time off gave me so much more.

Being away from the daily grind of work prompted deep reflection on my part. As a result, I came to some unexpected insights about my career and my life. The lessons I learned are:

Ambition can make you miserable.

When you’re on the fast track, you’ve always got this nagging, stomach-knotting anxiety that you’ve got to go and make it happen or else you’ll be left behind, unable to take your place at the table of materialistic plenty. Worse yet, you start to worry that others will elbow you out and grab your share.

For sure, our competitive society is full of this kind of attitude. And it’s easy to get pulled into it yourself.

I’m not saying that ambition is bad—especially when pursued for good reasons, like taking care of yourself and improving your state in life.

But the dark side of ambition is that it can pile on the stress. Remember that knot in the stomach I talked about?

I learned that only when you take a break from the grind can you realize the impact of your ambition on your spirit.

Only then can you discover what’s driving you and sort out whether it’s truly important or not.

For my part, I discovered that “climbing the ladder” in an organization was no longer important to me.

What emerged as most important was using my strengths and experience to coach leaders, help them solve their problems, and make their own marks.

You may be more stressed than you realize.

After about two weeks of sleeping in and waking up to the sound of waves and tropical birds, I realized the knot in my stomach was gone. What’s more, I didn’t realize how big of a knot it was.

A good chunk of the stress knot was present because of my own doing.

For many of us, this knot of stress is the price we pay for trying to make a living and get ahead. The price includes responsibilities that bear down on you. Maybe over time your health and wellness starts to slip away.

The next thing you know you’re in the grind.

But what’s being ground up is you.

At this point, I learned I had a choice: I could go back to the grind or I could use the strengths I developed over my career to serve others in a more balanced way.

I’ll give you one guess what I chose.

You really don’t need a lot to live well.

While we were in Rio, my wife and I rented a tiny one-bedroom studio apartment. All of our household goods had been packed up and stored, so the sum total of our possessions amounted to a couple of suitcases of clothes.

And that was plenty. In fact, it was more than enough.

Living this stripped-down lifestyle removed the hidden burden of having material things to worry about. I’m talking about things like a house, two cars, furnishings, bikes, golf clubs, lawn mowers, washers and dryers, and all the other things we buy to simplify our lives.

The radical downsizing opened me up to experience the rhythm of a simpler life.

And it wasn’t boring at all.

On the contrary—with the hustle, bustle, noise, and possessions gone, I had time to notice the little things that make life rich and enjoyable.

Like the cooling ocean breeze or the small monkeys that jumped from branch to branch in the trees outside our apartment window.

Like connecting more with family, friends, and the transcendent.

Living with less clears away the clutter of our go-go modern lives and allows us to get reacquainted with our authentic human selves.

The Big Lesson: Taking Time Away to Reflect Can Change Your Life

Extended time away from work can improve your life. It certainly did mine.

However, my circumstances were unique. For the vast majority of people, getting away from work for an extended stretch is a challenge.

So what can you do to incorporate reflection in your life?

If you can’t take extended time off, you can take small breaks. These breaks can come in all shapes and sizes such as:

  • Meditation
  • Turning off the TV
  • Setting aside your smartphone
  • Journaling
  • Going on a hike
  • Taking a run
  • Getting away for a weekend

Use these small breaks to progressively gain perspective on what truly matters.

Even these little breaks away from the routine will bring insight and understanding. Over time, they will grow into tools that you can use to transform your life.

Plan your small breaks (or a big one) now.

And move toward a life that is simpler, less stressful, and more fulfilling.

Photo by Björn Söderqvist

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About Joe Scherrer

Joe Scherrer helps leaders solve their toughest problems, move their organizations forward, and make their mark. He is the founder and president of The Leadership Crucible, an executive coaching and leadership development firm. When he’s not coaching leaders and their teams, you can find him on the driving range trying to hit a golf ball as long as he can.

5 Questions to Discover Who You Are and What Will Make You Happy

Who I Am

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E. Cummings

At twenty-five I was happily married and had a great career, many friends, and lots of money. During that time, I also became deeply depressed, was put on medication for anxiety, and entered what would be a very long relationship with psychotherapy.

It was a real struggle for me to understand why I wasn’t happy when I had everything that I thought was important in life. Was I selfish? Were my expectations too high? I honestly couldn’t understand what was missing and how to fill this huge void that gnawed at me every day.

When I look back at my life, twenty years later, I realize that I really had no idea who I truly was or what made me happy. I kept expecting something or someone to answer this question for me.

The journey to find out who I was and what really mattered to me eventually involved divorce, the loss of my career and most of my possessions, and overcoming a serious illness.

It pretty much took the loss of everything I thought defined me and made me happy to admit to myself that I honestly didn’t know myself very well at all.

Who am I? What do I believe in? What is my purpose? What fills me with joy and wonder? These are questions that I am just beginning to understand after forty-five years of living my life, and I have to admit that getting there has been extremely difficult.

The hardest part for me was just knowing where to begin. After much therapy, meditation, self-reflection, and reading, I asked myself five big questions that served as a launch pad to begin my journey of self-discovery.

If you are ready to begin the process of truly understanding who you are meant to be, start here:

1. What or who would you be if you knew you couldn’t fail?

The risk of failure terrifies most people. How many times have you wanted to change jobs or careers, move to a new city, promote a cause that is important you, or become an expert in a certain area? Think about it. No risk of failure.

If you were 100% certain that you could be or do anything you wanted and not fail, do you know the answer?

2. What is your Ninety-Second Personal Elevator Speech?

Probably the most important and poorly answered question in most job interviews, this is similar in nature. You can certainly include your career or career accomplishments in your personal speech, but think of this from the perspective of how you might answer this if you were making a new friend or going on a first date with someone.

How would you describe yourself so that the person asking the question would truly understand who you are and what is important to you?

3. What are your core personal values?

Personal values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live. They give you a reference for what is good, beneficial, important, useful, desirable, and constructive. Once you are able to determine exactly what values are most important to you, you can better determine your priorities.

In fact, having this information about yourself is the key to making sure your daily life is aligned with those values. If you need help defining your personal values, there is a great five-minute assessment tool here.

4. What makes you genuinely happy?

This one is closely related to your core personal values. However, ask yourself this question once you’ve really nailed down what those values are.

For example, if family is one of your core personal values, will taking a job that involves tons of travel make you happy? Take it a step further and really consider dreams you had when you were younger or currently have about what will make you truly happy.

5. If money were no object, how would you live your life differently?

Many people equate happiness and success directly to the amount of money they have. How many times have you heard someone say, “If I hit the lottery, I’d…”

But remember, this question isn’t really about money at all. It’s more about thinking outside the limits we tend to put on our aspirations and actions because things seem out of our reach financially.

You may not be able to do those exact things, but once you know what those true desires are, you expand your thinking and begin to develop a plan to work towards goals you may have never imagined


These are tough questions and the answers may not come easily or quickly. In fact, I found myself having to think and re-think my answers several times. This work is hard but necessary in order to really understanding yourself on a deeper level.

While I can’t say that I now know everything about myself, answering these questions completely changed the negative internal dialogue that was limiting my ability to see myself as I exist today and the me that I can become in the future.

But the biggest change came from revisiting dreams and aspirations that I had long ago put on the back burner while I was stuck in the process of “getting things done.”

My dreams of writing about things that are truly meaningful to me, finding a fulfilling and passionate relationship, being more present with my children, and discovering a higher power are all coming true now that I am focusing my energy in the right direction—and that direction was to look within.

So, find a quiet place and allow yourself plenty of time to go through and really think about each question and then just go for it. Go ahead. Begin your journey. Change direction. Create new dreams or rediscover dreams you left behind. Now that I have started, I haven’t looked back since.

Photo by varun suresh

Avatar of Dona Middleton

About Dona Middleton

Dona is a writer, reformed marketing workaholic, and single mother of two teenage boys. She is exploring who she is and what she loves one day at a time. Learn more at her personal blog, Becoming Dona,(, which is focused on her journey of self discovery, practicing mindfulness, and navigating life, love and relationships.

A Simple, Tiny Exercise to Help You Make a Big Change

Happy Man

“Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional.” ~Glenda Cloud

Growing up, I never had that many friends. The concept of best friends is still foreign to me. For the first seventeen years of my life, I found myself happier alone than in the presence of other people.

I wanted to join them; I just didn’t know how.

In order to protect myself from people I’d rather not mention, I decided to join a karate class. For the first time I belonged to a group that was slowly starting to accept me.

In the months that followed, I began to go out with them. It was awkward at first (and didn’t seem to get any easier). I had several short nervous breakdowns out of pure frustration. I would often get home feeling like a truck had run over me.

What annoyed me the most was that even though I would hang out with friends, I couldn’t express myself. I couldn’t think of anything to say and even when something came up, I just said it to myself.

I knew that wasn’t me.

I was the loudest guy on the block in my neighborhood. I never ran out of things to say. I didn’t feel any pressure whatsoever. However, in this new group (or any new groups for that matter), I simply shut down.

One night we were out at a bar. It was karaoke night but nobody volunteered to sing, so we sat at a table to chitchat.

I found myself sweating and shivering for no reason. I couldn’t keep eye contact with anyone. Opening my mouth was out of the question. I got home feeling like my head was collapsing in on itself.

That night, I literally interviewed everybody I could find online trying to figure out “how normal people think.”

I picked a bunch of random friends on messenger and asked them something along the lines of, “What do you think of when you are alone and there’s nothing else to do? Do you think of practical matters or just imagine random stuff?”

I forgot most of the answers I received—all but one.

My Kyokushin instructor, someone I looked up to and still do, answered, “I think of how to grow the club, of how I can spread Kyokushin karate.” A couple years later, this man became the chief of the Romanian branch of the World All Kyokushin Karate Union.

The next day, my friends were whispering behind my back.

I heard my instructor saying to a colleague something along the lines of, “Take it easy on him. I think he had a mental breakdown.”

He was right. I tried to pretend like I didn’t notice, but he was right.

The only bright side to these breakdowns was that after each one, I became a little bit stronger. I gained more self-control. I became accustomed to the situations that caused them.

After a while, they stopped happening. It was still a pain to talk sometimes, but nothing serious. After too much socializing I felt the need to be alone, but even that started to fade away.

The awkward feeling in my gut and the excessive self-consciousness popped up less and less often.

I still couldn’t find anything to say, but it wasn’t because of feeling awkward. It was simply due to my lack of experience in the art of chitchatting.

These days the negative feelings related to socializing are pretty much gone, and whenever they resurface I just brush them aside.

I can’t say I’m an expert conversationalist. I’m a long way from that but I can say whatever I want, whenever I want.

I can laugh out loud for the whole world to hear. I can speak my mind in the middle of a bus full of people and watch them stare at me. I can look someone straight in the eyes. I can instruct a class of kids in the art of Kyokushin Karate.

And these days, even though I need my alone time, I also need my social time. If a couple days go by without talking to people, I lose focus and energy. I feel the need for connection.

I changed because:

  1. I wanted to change.
  2. I changed my environment. (I joined a group which encouraged me to be outgoing.)
  3. I took the time.

I used to be so shy that my head would literally shake like a leaf when trying to speak to strangers. I had to take a thinking pose so I could support my head with one of my hands and make it less obvious.

It’s been months since I last had to take a thinking pose (though these days I just do it out of habit).

The personalities we form in our childhoods have a lot to do with the environment we grow up in.

We end up shy or outgoing, strong or weak, a leader or a follower. This is not who we are. This is what our environment shaped us into.

But that can be changed.

You can choose who you want to be and then grow into that person.

Decide right now who you want to be in five years. Then grab a piece of paper and write it down in as much detail as possible.

What traits do you want “future you” to have? Write it down.

How will future you make a living? Write it down.

What contribution will you bring to the world? Write it down.

Once finished, grab one more piece of paper and write your future self’s first trait on top of it.

Bellow, write down twenty ideas on how to get there. Do the same thing with all the other traits.

After a while, you might notice you’ve written the same idea for multiple traits. These are the ideas you want to act on. Choose the easiest (or hardest) and do it now.

Socrates once said, “In order to reach mount Olympus make sure that every step you make is leading you in that direction.”

Each idea you come up with and act upon will bring you one step closer to your goal, and eventually, you will reach it.

Take a few minutes to do the exercise above and make your first step, for it is up to you to choose your path.

It is up to you to move your feet—so get moving!

Photo by Danny Fowler

Avatar of Colisnicencu Daniel

About Colisnicencu Daniel

Colisnicencu Daniel is a teacher, karate-ka, aspiring writer and entrepreneur. Four years ago, he discovered personal development and vowed to change his life. How many adults have actually grown up and how many of us are overgrown babies? Learn how “big” you actually are at his website:

How to Maintain Healthy Habits and Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Parent and child

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

About two years go, I felt horrible about myself and where I was in my life: single, struggling to lose weight, miserable in my job (and no clue what to do about it), and unfulfilled in general.

I kept trying to bully myself in order to be the person I wanted to be and have the things I wanted to have.

I kept saying to myself, “I can’t believe you said/ate/did that. There’s something wrong with you” and giving myself strict rules to follow, only to break them with the same self-sabotaging behavior sometimes minutes later.

I thought the only way to get myself where I wanted to go was to strong-arm myself there. But that only made me rebel against myself more. I waffled between overindulging and being stingy with myself emotionally, physically, and financially.

One day I came across a picture of myself at five years old. I looked at that sweet little girl and realized no parent would allow someone to treat her the way I was treating myself—or allow her to do the things I was letting myself get away with.

I looked at how I was living and saw how broken my relationship was with myself.

I was permitting myself to do things no sane parent would allow their child to do while simultaneously yelling at myself for “being bad,” which any parent or child knows is the most ineffective form of motivation or cause for behavior change.

This caused me to wonder: why do we allow ourselves to have the unhealthy habits we don’t allow in children? Why do we find it easier to make rules for ourselves than it is to follow them?

I finally learned how to heal this relationship with myself and begin “parenting” myself in a healthy way.

By honing your self-parenting skills and doing this out of love and affection, you’ll be able to overcome these self-sabotaging behaviors and stop the self-bashing, creating a loving relationship with yourself that supports you to achieve your desires.

1. Identify your behaviors and habits.

Take a moment. Listen to the ways you speak to yourself, the way you feed yourself, your hygiene and sleep habits. Which of your habits and behaviors would you not allow your (inner) child to do?

Here were a few of mine:

  • Speaking meanly to myself
  • Thinking mean thoughts about others
  • Eating candy before healthy food
  • Staying up late when I’m tired
  • Having bad table manners—eating while standing up, out of the package, staring at a computer screen or watching TV

Often, the mean thoughts and the behavior are tied together. We identify these habits and behaviors as “self-sabotage” and then mentally beat ourselves up for it.

If you catch yourself in the vicious cycle of doing something that deep down you know you shouldn’t and then mentally berating yourself for it, it’s indicator that something big is going on below the surface.

2. Identify the repercussions of the behavior.

You’ll probably notice that these behaviors and habits take you away from attaining the things you deeply desire, like having a body you love, a job that fulfills you, and a great relationship.

In every moment, we are taking action that either moves us toward or away from the person we want to be and the life we want to have. The very behaviors you keep permitting yourself to do are the ones that are keeping you from what you want most.

Get clear on how the actions you’re taking and the thoughts you’re thinking are in direct conflict with your happiness.

3. Understand why you developed these habits.

Look closely and see if the behavior or thought pattern originated as a way to take care of you in some way. It might be counter-intuitive or irrational, but that doesn’t matter.

For example, one of my self-sabotaging habits was eating chocolate at ten in the morning. I thought it was just about the sugar rush, but the overwhelming need to eat it every day pointed to something deeper.

When I really looked at it, I saw that by mid-morning, the realization that I had a full day ahead of me, doing work I didn’t want to do in a place I didn’t want to be in, made my heart sink with sadness.

I reached for the chocolate for a jolt of pleasure, a way to escape the reality.

The intention was positive; I was trying to take care of myself by giving myself comfort and some joy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the healthiest way to give myself those things, and it came with the undesired effects of weight gain and sugar crashes and deepened a cycle of self-bashing.

As adults, we know the consequences of engaging in a particular thought or pattern but often do it anyway. The motivation is always moving away from pain or increasing pleasure.

It can be hedonistic—many unhealthy behaviors feel good in the short-term (the sugar rush, the comfort, the satisfaction) but have long-term detrimental effects. It can also be rebellious—there’s a thrill to “breaking the rules.”

Identifying where you get pleasure in engaging in self-sabotage can be immensely helpful in overcoming it.

Realize that there is no self-sabotage, only self-preservation. Acknowledge that this action was a way to keep you safe, happy, and loved in some way, even if it was misguided or currently no longer serves you.

This was an unconscious way of parenting yourself, and now that you recognize it, you can begin to consciously parent yourself in a way that supports the person you want to be now.

4. Create “house rules.”

Parents make rules because they can see the consequences that the child doesn’t have the perspective for yet.

Looking back at my childhood, there were a lot of things that were non-negotiable that ultimately created healthy habits.

One example is that we sat down as a family for dinner, every night. I never thought there was another way, and subsequently the habit of sitting down to dinner was ingrained.

Think back at your childhood and the “house rules” that guided your behavior. Would it be helpful to reintroduce some of them into your life? Should you adopt some of the “house rules” you have for your children?

If you have a particularly hard habit to break that you know is detrimental to your well-being, consider making it a “house rule.” When something is non-negotiable it removes the inner dialogue where we bargain with ourselves and makes it a lot easier to stick with it.

Be sure to create your “rules” out of loving affection, not meanness or to punish yourself. Add a “because.” Even as kids, “because I told you to” was not a valid excuse.

So look back at what you identified as the repercussions of your behavior to inform why the rule is in place and the desires you want to move toward.

For example, one of my “house rules” became not eating candy before lunch. Whenever a chocolate craving hit, I told myself “You don’t eat chocolate before lunch because it will make you feel icky and makes you feel bad about your body. Have chamomile tea instead.”

5. Hone your self-parenting skills.

Look back at your relationship with your parents and your children and identify the parenting techniques that worked the best for you. I’ll bet it was a mix of being strong and consistent in enforcing the “rules” while also being kind, patient, and understanding.

Use the good  techniques you identified to make sure you stick to your rules. In addition to making them non-negotiable and adding a “because,” be sure to reward yourself when you’ve resisted temptation and followed your own rules.

Be infinitely patient with yourself, as you would be with a child. If you slip up once, instead of throwing everything out the window, have a conversation with yourself.

Understand why you did what you did. What did you need in that moment? Figure out how to give it to yourself and reinforce why it is so important to follow the “rules.”

What are your new “house rules”? How can you parent yourself in a way that is supportive and nurturing?

Photo by skyseeker

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About Martine Holston

Martine Holston left what was once her dream job to “retire” at 30 and build her dream life, and now teaches people how to do the same—whether that means leaving their job or learning to love the one they’ve got (Take this quiz to find out what you should do). Follow her on Facebook and Twitter to see what “retired” life looks like.

Why We Don’t Do What We Want to Do and How to Start

Jump for Joy

“If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” ~Unknown

“The truth is,” she said, “if you can’t put fifteen minutes a day into your art, then you’re making an excuse.”

I squirmed in my seat.

It was February 1, 2011, and I was on the phone, interviewing Michele, a professional artist and artist’s mentor, for an online course I created.

Michele was sharing what she tells the artists in her mentorship program who complain of not having enough time to do their art. Her words were intended for her mentees, but it felt like they were aimed directly at me.

As an artist myself, I knew making art made me happy—made my whole day go better, in fact—and yet I never was always too busy to do it. Was I just making an excuse?

I didn’t want to admit this truth to myself, but when confronted with the starkness of Michele’s statement, I had nowhere to hide.

I’d spent years believing I needed big chunks of time to make my art, but if fifteen minutes a day worked for Michele and the serious artists she mentored, maybe I was clinging to a false story, operating under a “self-installed glass ceiling” that was limiting my beliefs about what was possible.

That day changed my life. Once I accepted that my mindset was the only thing really getting in the way of my “impossible dream” of a consistent, prolific art practice, I committed to trying this fifteen minutes a day idea, as an experiment, for one month.

I admit I was skeptical that fifteen minutes would be enough to accomplish much, and I couldn’t imagine that such a short amount of time would even begin to satisfy my hungry inner artist. But waiting until I had big chunks of time to work in my studio had gotten me nowhere.

For over a decade I’d lamented that I never had enough time to do my art. Surely, even fifteen minutes would be better than nothing.

In fact, my fifteen minutes a day experiment resulted in my most prolific year ever. It stretched well beyond that original first month, and in 2011 I created more art than I had in the previous decade—over 150 finished pieces.

But it didn’t just make a difference for my art life. This experiment had effects that rippled out into the rest of my life, too.

When I finally made space in my day—even just a handful of minutes—to do something I loved but had somehow been resisting for years, I realized that my previous “inability” to find a way to make time for my art was, as Michele had said, just an excuse.

However, I had clung to this excuse not because making art wasn’t important to me. To the contrary: it was precisely because it was so very important to me that I couldn’t seem to get myself to do it.

Sometimes we make excuses to avoid unpleasant things, it’s true. But human psychology is complex. Perhaps just as often we make excuses because we want something so much it hurts.

On the surface, this doesn’t make logical sense. Dig a little deeper, though, and things start to become clear.

“If I do this thing that I really want,” we might think, “I might prove once and for all that I’ll never be any good at it.”

Or, “If I try, I might fail.”

Or, “If I step into this bigger identity for myself, I’ll have to let go of my comfy, old identity. People might expect more of me, or they may be threatened or disappointed.”

And, ultimately, “If I do this, everything might change, and change is hard!”

No wonder we resist! It feels so much safer not to try at all.

There are infinite reasons why we make excuses not to do what’s important to us, and the more important something is to us, the more likely we’ll resist it.

How to break the cycle? By looking resistance square in the face and taking responsibility for finding a way instead of finding another excuse. By acknowledging what is really important, and committing to making it a priority.

When I finally took the big, scary step to put just a tiny bit of time toward my art every day, something shifted. I started to notice other ways I’d been avoiding things that were important to me.

Suddenly, the “sensible” reasons I’d given myself for not going after other important goals shone forth as the excuses they really were, like ping pong balls under black light.

As for my story that I didn’t have time to get to the gym or to go walking every day—I accepted that this was simply an excuse, changed the paradigm, and brought the gym to me: I set up a cheap treadmill in my studio, so I can walk while I work at my computer. It’s now a rare day that I don’t walk at least five miles, and ten or more is not unusual!

And about my story that I am, and will always be, something of a slob—I accepted that this was just an excuse, too, and I’ve been clearing out clutter, getting rid of stuff little by little, slowly getting closer to the spacious, organized home and studio I really want.

It won’t happen overnight, but my fifteen minutes a day commitment to my art showed me that baby steps, over time, will take you further than you ever imagined. 

If something is important to you and you haven’t found a way, don’t give up! Don’t just accept that it’s not important to you if your gut tells you that it is, but do look at where you might be spinning stories, creating excuses for yourself.

If you take responsibility that your excuses may be the only thing between you and your dreams, you may be surprised at what you can change in your life.

Photo by Karen Corby

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About Melissa Dinwiddie

Melissa Dinwiddie is an artist and creativity instigator, on a mission to empower people to feed their creative hungers. Find out more, and sign up for her free course, Creative Sandbox 101, at Living A Creative Life.

5 Ways to Seize the Moment and Live Without Regrets

The Jubilant Man

“Accept your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, and face your future without fear.” ~Unknown

Samara is my colleague at work. She is one of the most pleasant ladies I know. She always has a smile and an encouraging word to give.

She really is the kind of woman you want to speak to on the days you feel like life has dealt you a bad hand, because she always has something comforting to say. As we got closer, I confided more and more in her about the challenges I was going through in my life.

I envisioned that her life must be perfect since she has such inner strength.

But I was wrong.

One day I noticed she had a sad countenance. That was strange because Samara was like sunshine itself. However, her sad countenance did not last, and before long she had her signature smile back on.

But I was not deceived. I knew that deep inside her, she was experiencing some pain, so I asked her what was wrong.

At first, she smiled and said that all was well. But I insisted that she confide in me. She looked me in the eyes, thanked me for caring, and then dropped the bombshell.

“My six-year-old daughter has been in a critical condition for the past six months because of my carelessness. I saw her yesterday and her situation seems to have worsened. I think she is going to die.”

For a second, I could not speak. I was in shock.

“I am so sorry,” I managed to stammer, trying not to let her see how shaken I was by the shocking statement I had just heard.

She explained to me that six months ago, she had stopped at a supermarket to get a few things. And because she was in a hurry, she had left her daughter in the car with the engine running. Her daughter had managed to engage the gear and the car had sped into the road, right into an oncoming trailer, and she had been seriously injured.

The tears rolled down my face as she narrated this horrific story to me.

She assured me that she had managed to forgive herself and had replaced regrets with gratitude for the six years she spent with her daughter.

I recalled with a sense of embarrassment all the fuss I sometimes make over little things that, in light of what I’d just heard from Samara, now seem really insignificant.

My marriage was not working out the way I wanted it to and everyday I lived with regret that I married my husband. I made a career change, which has turned out to be a very poor decision, and I have not been able to forgive myself.

I realized that I spend too much of my time dwelling on all the mistakes I have made in the past. I spend too much time regretting things that I have no power to change. I spend too much time wishing things were different. I spend too much time beating myself up over what I’ve done.

Over the years after that encounter, I determined to live a more positive life, free of regrets. Here are five ways I’ve learned to do that:

1. Live your life with purpose.

I realized that my career was doing badly because I did not have a career plan. I just drifted through my days without something to look forward to, so my life lacked momentum.

Determine to live a life of focus. Today, take a stand on one thing you want to achieve in your life and draw up a plan to accomplish it.

2. Stop making excuses.

I blamed everybody else for the way my life turned out. I blamed my husband for the failure of my marriage and I blamed my boss for not promoting me.

I am responsible for my life and not anybody else. Instead of making excuses, I need to take responsibility.

It doesn’t matter what the obstacles in your life are. You can achieve almost anything if you put your mind to it. Helen Keller and Jon Morrow are examples of people who achieved excellence despite physical disabilities.

Look within yourself. There is something waiting to be birthed. Find what that something is and do it, without excuses.

3. Choose not to be a victim.

At a point, I thought I had made such a mess of my life that there was no point trying to put things right. So I gave up trying. I mulled over my mistakes every day and went deeper into regrets.

None of this helped me. I only started making progress when I embraced my mistakes, determined not to make them again, and resumed chasing my dreams.

Life is not fair for any one of us. There will be storms and you will make mistakes. But be determined to get up as many times as life pushes you down. Forgive yourself, learn the lessons, and go on working toward your goals.

The more time you spend feeling sorry for yourself, the less time you have to pursue the life of your dreams.

4. Stop comparing yourself to others.

I could not stop comparing myself to others. Everybody seemed to be happier than me, their marriages seemed to be faring better, and I seemed to be the only person with a less than fulfilling career.

This made me feel even worse. I wondered what others were doing that I was not. Their progress in life seemed to dampen my spirit.

Over time, I realized that comparing yourself with others is one of the greatest mistakes anybody can make. No matter who you are or where you find yourself in life, always remember that you have your own unique path to walk.

Never compare yourself, your struggles, and your journey to anyone else, for that would only distract you from your own.

We are all different. Forget about others and focus on fulfilling your own life dreams. 

5. Take action now.

After I drew up a career plan for myself, I still lacked the courage to follow my plan. I wasted a lot of time because I was afraid that I would fail and I did not have to courage to start. So I continued to push things off.

It’s funny how so many people seem to think that tomorrow is better than today for getting things done. We put off those things that are important to us and we lie to ourselves by saying that we will do them later.

Whatever you need to do, do it now! Today is the tomorrow you planned for yesterday, so start today.

My chat with Samara that day was a wake up call. I promised myself that day that I would not waste any more precious moments of my life regretting. I have been able to do that and have discovered inner peace in the process.

So I urge you to do the same. Don’t waste any more time on regrets. Learn the lesson and move on. There’s still a lot of life in you. Go out there and live it!

Photo by Benson Kua

Think Before Reacting: How to Use Your Mental Pause Button

Friends Talking

“Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace.” ~Buddha

I used to be the queen of putting my foot in my mouth. I’d say the first thing that came into my head without thinking.

My intentions were always good and I’d never deliberately offend or hurt anyone, but it landed me in trouble more than once.

Being so reactionary also played havoc in my relationships. I was defensive and quick to answer back. I did a lot more talking than listening.

This spread into other areas of my life. I’d put food into my mouth faster than my brain could stop me; I’d impulse buy and make split second decisions before thinking them through.

After a difficult breakup I turned to yoga as a way of finding regular doses of positivity during an otherwise very bleak period.

The yoga studio was run by some very wise yogis who also offered workshops on positive thinking, mindfulness, and self-development.

They had a great bookshop and soon, instead of watching mindless TV, I was engaging with inspiring people and reading life-changing books.

On the same day that I attended a workshop on happiness, I met my husband-to-be. Two girlfriends dragged me off to a nightclub that evening.

He says he was attracted to me immediately. I guess I was radiating some kind of positive aura, as I hadn’t dressed up or done my hair and makeup like my girlfriends had!

Thankfully, by then my personal growth had led me to a greater sense of self-awareness.

I’d discovered my internal pause button.

Living life more presently and becoming mindful resulted in a natural slowing down. It opened my mind up to the art of just being.

Learning to press pause means listening and assimilating before opening my mouth. I often hear a voice in my head saying what I would have normally voiced out loud, but in the few seconds I allow myself to pause, I realize it doesn’t need to be said at all.

I’ve become a mindful eater and spender and now realize that most decisions in my life don’t have to be immediate. I relish in the joy of pondering.

Here’s the manual for operating your internal pause button.

1. Recognize the trigger.

Notice when sensations are building inside of you. Maybe it’s a rising heat in your body, a pulse in your head, a knot in your stomach, or a tightening in your chest.

Recognize these triggers as signs to activate your internal pause button.

In an argument, notice your ego rising up to defend its position. A simple awareness of the ego is enough to tame it and send it crawling back into its hiding place.

2. Press pause.

Mentally say, “pause,” as if you’re reaching for that remote control.

3. Take a deep breath.

Getting a quick hit of extra oxygen to your brain helps you compose your thoughts and brings you into the present moment.

4. Observe.

For interactions with people, just hold off and listen. There’s no rule that you have to say anything immediately. Notice the thoughts that go through your mind and simply observe them without attachment.

To curb impulse eating or spending, rewind to a goal you’ve set yourself around this kind of situation or a mantra you’ve created. Fast forward to the best possible outcome. How do you want this to pan out?

Again, allow yourself to simply observe the thoughts that pass through your mind.

5. Press play.

Now you’re ready to act. Mindfully.

You may be thinking, “Sounds great in theory, but in the heat of the moment all of that is going to take too long!”

Yes, it may feel like that at first. If you’re hard-wired to react immediately, it’s a case of reminding yourself that it’s ok to wait.

Giving yourself even a few extra seconds before reacting can make a difference. Pressing the pause button gives you a chance to rewind, make a good choice, and then press play again to continue in a better way.

It puts the power into your own hands to make good decisions and take control of your life. You gain deeper relationships and learn so much more by talking less and listening more.

Just because you think it doesn’t mean you have to say it.

Photo by Chris Waits

How to Improve Your Relationships and Make a Kinder World


“If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.” ~Buddha

I once attended a lecture given by a world-renowned expert on post-traumatic stress disorder. The lecture made two points that I have never forgotten. I call them “brain tricks.”

1. Given a choice, our primitive brain will naturally select for the negative. It’s a survival thing.

2. When in crisis, the part of our brain that conceptualizes time and space goes off line. In other words, our brain increases the urgency of the problem by making us think the crisis will never end.

Fortunately, these tricks, while at times necessary to protect us, are the activity of our primitive mind and we do not have to be at the mercy of them.

Through awareness and a desire not be reactive, we can shift to our more evolved brain and get an accurate perspective, enabling us to respond in a more equitable manner.

I’m concerned that we may be unknowingly generating those “brain tricks.” There seems to be a strong movement toward trolling for what’s “wrong” on just about every level. It appears that popular culture’s collective brain is a giant reflection of a society in crisis.

We live in a reactive world that would choose to focus on what is wrong rather than what is right, even when there is so much that is right.

The term “snarky” has become an attribute to be admired. Being witty at someone else’s expense can leave us with a feeling of authority and control. Egos get a boost and identities get clarified when what we disagree with gets isolated.

However, problems arise when this penchant for sarcasm, cynicism, and criticism takes a leap into our relationships.

I believe this sanctioned attack on others is one of the primary reasons generalized anxiety is on the rise and long-term relationships are on the decline.

There is a better way to strengthen egos and that is by embodying the art of common courtesy. Wouldn’t it be sweet if being kind and thoughtful was the “new” witty—the new identity booster and clarifier?

Common courtesy begins with positive regard for all humanity. Though we may have differences, we have more similarities.

Because our brains naturally select for the negative, we have to train our minds to proactively look for the positive and for what we have in common.

Respecting others is an offshoot of positive regard. It’s not flattery, nor is it following orders.

It is honoring people’s right to be themselves, along with their beliefs, and the way they want to live their lives. It requires empathy, not necessarily agreement.

Treating a person as less valuable or worthy in any way shows disrespect and leads to conflict, both inward and outward. It is false pride to feel good when treating someone with disdain.

Common courtesy shows you can look beyond yourself. It demonstrates caring, generosity, good will, and the valuing of others.

I learned my lesson not long ago while out to dinner in a nice restaurant with my family. We were having a delightful evening, enjoying our food, and discussing plans for a possible European vacation.

My two sons expressed an interest in going, but were having trouble seeing how their university schedules could accommodate a three-week vacation. One son was particularly snarky in his communication.

I immediately got on the defensive, and returned his snarkiness with my own.

“You know,” I said, “you can be really difficult to get along with.” As soon as the words left my mouth, heaviness spread throughout the room. The night was ruined.

I felt both shame and anger. In my mind I determined we would not be spending any money on a European vacation, at least not one that included ungrateful sons. I went home and to bed, but not before my husband told me I had been too harsh.

The next morning I woke up with a guilt hangover. I thought deeply about the night before. The light went off in my head when I asked myself how I would’ve felt if someone had told me I was hard to get along with.

Ouch! That would’ve cut deep, and I said those words to someone I love very much. In fact, I love him so much I was planning an expensive vacation so that his mind could be expanded. Ironic, huh?

The truth is, I could’ve conveyed my frustration in a more courteous manner. For example, I could have said:

“I can see this is going to be complicated. Why don’t you give it some thought and we can talk more about it next week when we have more information.”

Immediately, I texted him, “Please forgive me for the harsh words I said to you last night at dinner. I realize they were hurtful and it hurts my heart to know I caused you pain.” I heard back from him in seconds: ”No worries Mom. I love you.”

Here’s what I’ve learned about building a kinder world through common courtesy:

Greet others.

When you make eye contact with anyone, say hello, smile, or wave. Everybody wants to be recognized, included, and acknowledged.

Say please and thank you.

Being polite sends a safety message. It shows positive regard and respect.

Be courteous in conversation.

Ask people questions about themselves to show a genuine interest in what’s important to them. Then fully listen. Show people you value and respect what they say, even if you disagree with them.


Admit when you are wrong and apologize.

Build people up instead of tearing them down.

Let people know what you admire about them. Give genuine compliments freely. Tell them you believe in them and share their good qualities with others.

Go the extra mile.

Show people you care by going out of your way to perform acts of kindness.

The bottom line is: Follow The Golden Rule. It is no surprise that some form of it is found in every culture; it is a universal law. Treat others as you would like to be treated. It’s that simple.

If we don’t like to be criticized, we shouldn’t criticize others.

If we don’t appreciate someone rolling their eyes at us, we shouldn’t roll our eyes at others.

If we don’t want people mocking us to others, we shouldn’t mock other people or gossip.

If we are tired of people not respecting our values and choices, we need to respect others’ values and choices.

If we don’t want to be the target of someone’s snarkiness, we need to stop being snarky ourselves.

In the immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Photo by Ed Yourdon

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About Barbara Scoville

Barbara Scoville is a licensed clinical social worker practicing psychotherapy in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is passionate about cultivating resilience and combines both Eastern and Western Philosophy into her practice. Check out her blog at for an eclectic boost of wisdom and encouragement.

Things Will Never Be Perfect: Making Peace with Everyday Challenges

Meditating in the Street

“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.” ~Unknown

A few weeks ago, I walked into my studio apartment and found it quite messy, which isn’t that hard to do with 325 square feet shared by a couple.

I’m talking clothes on the floor, dishes on the couch, and paper strewn everywhere. It had been one of those weeks where both my husband and I were ripping and running, having little to no time to manage household chores.

I looked around, took a deep breath, and sat down on the couch after moving some papers. I enjoyed some dinner with my husband and then went to bed. I got up the next morning feeling rested and cleaned the apartment joyfully and pretty quickly with him.

Why am I telling you this? You see, a few months prior I would have stressed out and felt totally guilty about the house being so junky. I would have gone into an entire inner dialogue about how I wasn’t organized enough and how I couldn’t keep things together.

This would have led me into a cleaning frenzy for the rest of the night and I would have went to bed feeling tired and depleted, waking up the next morning in an exhaustive funk.

In that moment of first opening the door, I learned to fully accept and be at peace with what was actually happening rather than beat myself up with lofty expectations of what I had wanted to happen.

It was a subtle yet important shift in my life. I walked in and rather than feeling bad about the mess, I simply acknowledged that the apartment was in disarray.

Yes, there were clothes strewn on the floor. Yes, I had been working many hours and didn’t have the time to do laundry. I also acknowledged that “messy” was a relative term, and I realized that I felt a bit of shame about having a messy place because of strict rules that I grew up with when I was younger.

I accepted the fact that the apartment was messy and that it was okay to not do anything at the very moment to tidy up. It was so simple, just a few moments, but I suddenly felt myself breathing easier as a result and sleeping a lot easier without the worry or the inner critics coming out to play.

Sometimes I think we have to learn how to accept what is so that we can find peace of mind no matter what kind of day we are having or what type of circumstance we encounter.

Peace is available to us all of the time, even when life seems to be out of our control. It may not feel like it, but beyond chaos is serenity, if we only accept it. Solutions to our problems are also clearer when we move into this place of peace.

When feeling a bit stressed out about high expectations, gently remind yourself to do the following:

Acknowledge what is here. Simply notice for a few seconds what you are feeling, experiencing, seeing, and hearing without any judgment. Also, notice if any judgment is coming from you or other people in your life.

Accept that situation fully as it is. No shame. No guilt. Just acceptance and lots of deep breaths.

Be open to the inner wisdom that you possess. There may not be an immediate solution and that is totally fine. Sometimes I think a good pause is just what we need before we take a next step.

You are enough just as you are. It is a beautiful thing to accept the fullness of your human experience rather than wishing it was anything different.

There will always be homes to clean, items on the to do list, obligations to fulfill, inboxes to clear, and schedules to make. In the midst of all that, there will always be peace and joy available to us if we simply notice.

May you find ultimate serenity as you let go of expectations and root into full acceptance of yourself and your life experiences.

Photo by Nickolai Kashirin

Avatar of Kandice Cole

About Kandice Cole

Kandice is a writer and storyteller who lives in Chicago with her husband Terron. She loves listening to music, drinking good wine, and taking road trips. You can find her writing over at and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.