You Must be Dreaming

When is the last time you dared yourself to dream?

Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, we lose sight of our deepest dreams and all of the things we want for ourselves and our lives. We tell ourselves what’s the point, I won’t ever have that, or I can’t do that because of [insert excuse here], but really, we stop dreaming because we sneakily avoid holding ourselves accountable for taking action towards our dreams. Instead of spending the time dreaming up what we want in all areas of our lives, and admitting to ourselves what they are, we cowardly avoid it all together because we can’t face the fact that even though we are responsible for our own dreams becoming a reality, we continue to day in and day out, not take any action towards them. We would rather not admit to them at all. How sad, right?

I am currently reading a book called Maybe It’s You by Lauren Handel Zander and she is a wizard in helping people from all over the world get out of their own way and not only realize their own dreams, but finally do something about them all. I won’t share my opinions on the book quite yet, but there is an exercise in the beginning where you are to write out your dreams in all 12 areas of life that I think is particularly interesting and exciting.

If you want to start living your dreams, first you need to identify what those dreams are in the following areas:

  • Self
  • Body
  • Love
  • Spirituality
  • Career
  • Money
  • Time
  • Home
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Fun & Adventure
  • Community & Contribution

Do you remember how to dream?

The key to writing out your dreams is to remove any negative feeling and any negating words. The point is to write these out as if they are already happening and as if you are already living them. Describe them in detail, describe how they make you feel, and be very specific. This is the part where you have to be honest with yourself and remove anything that might hold you back from writing out your own truth. Nothing else matters – not whether or not they can happen, not whether or not someone else reads these – write from a place of inspiration. Dig deep and find what sparks your soul and what you know would make you happy.

This can be a very exciting exercise and one of significant self-discovery. It could unfold some new dreams you never realized you had because you never allowed yourself to spend time dreaming of them, or affirm some existing dreams you’ve long since tried to make a reality.

To sum it up, here are high-level steps to keep in mind when writing these out:

  • Be specific; capture what your dream looks and feels like so you can fully visualize it.
  • Write in the present tense; it keeps you accountable and allows you to accept that this is your dream.
  • Be kind; focus on what you want, not what you don’t want.
  • Be honest; admit to everything you want, otherwise how can you fix what isn’t working now so you can get to what you truly want?

Here’s an example taken from the book itself of how a well-written dream may sound:

The area is SELF:

When I walk into a room, people want to know me. I’m that guy Bold, happy, and unstoppable. I am always looking for the next adventure. I am proud of the contribution I am making to the world. I am decisive, transparent and, did I mention, confident. I am exceeding my every dream and then some. I am a leader everywhere in my life: professionally, socially, and with my family. Yes, even mine! I am a masterful ring-master, proud of the difference I have made and how open, honest, forthright, and fun I am with everyone. I am deeply happy.

How motivating and inspiring is that?

Don’t be discouraged if you’re finding this to be a little bit more difficult than you originally thought. We have spent so much time not dreaming that of course it is going to be hard or feel a little awkward at first, but if you keep working on them, you’ll eventually get them right. I am currently on draft #2 of most of mine and am still finding it hard to allow myself to dream. The hardest part is the actual dreaming – what do I really want, what would this look like if it could be the exact way I want it? Those are hard questions, but I just start writing. Then I edit. Then I get more specific. Then I describe.

You’ll know it’s right and complete when you are able to read it back to yourself and it makes you smile and feel motivated, inspired, and excited, just as reading that above example made you feel. When you can’t help but feel completely overcome by happiness in reading it that you can’t wait to get started on making that dream become a reality, then you know it’s done.

So, get to work – start dreaming!
Photo from Pixaby on Pexels

How to Make Difficult Decisions Less Difficult

A major life decision is never a choice, but rather a realization that the decision has already been made. – Doug Cooper

We’re all faced with difficult decisions that we must make. Most of the time, we struggle over large, life-changing choices like ending a relationship, moving someplace new, leaving a job, starting your own business, getting married, and so on. It’s no surprise that these come with the stress and pressure of choosing the “right thing” – and even figuring out what that “right thing” is.

But even the seemingly smaller decisions can hold such a weight in our minds that makes it difficult to choose for even those. Sometimes it’s hard enough to decide where to go eat for dinner, what clothes to wear today, whether or not you want to cut your hair, or if you should press snooze one last time.

I recently made yet another life-changing decision (because I somehow cannot get enough of these), and have decided to leave my job. I don’t need to share my ‘now what’ plan or explain why I chose this in order to get the point across that this was no easy decision to make. But, it was without a doubt, the right decision for me to make for myself, which is exactly why I did it.

The good news is that these decisions, no matter how big or small, don’t have to zap you of all your physical or mental energy. They don’t need to be so difficult that you can’t seem to think straight, or you make yourself ill over them.

Sometimes the hard thing to do and the right thing to do are the same.

So how do you know what the right choice is? From my very personal and very recent (2 days ago) decision to put in my notice, I want to share some advice. I would like to say that I flowed very effortlessly through these helpful tips for making difficult decisions less difficult, but it was not until after my decision was made that I then reflected upon the process. I thought about what it was like for me to go through the journey ultimately arriving at my decision, the extremes and messiness in between that I had experienced and felt, and how I could have made it a little easier on myself.

“Doing what is right means doing what benefits your body, mind and soul. It has to light you up. If it doesn’t, it isn’t right for you.” – Tara Jean

Here are my steps into making difficult decisions a little less difficult:

  • Leave your emotions out of it
  • Don’t ask for anyone else’s opinion
  • Pretend you’re alone in the world and are in charge of the outcome
  • Don’t ask Google and don’t read any articles telling you what you should do
  • Don’t add in any additional decisions; no matter how small. For now, it’s just A or B.

The biggest favor I could have done for myself would have been to disengage from everything and everyone for just 10-15 minutes with no interruptions to just hear my own internal voice. What was it telling me I wanted or needed – not what did so-and-so think of it, not what will so-and-so think of it, not what did I fear about it, not what was the right way to decide this, not how will people think of me if I do this, and certainly not what would I do after this decision (that doesn’t matter quite yet). No. Had I been able to just think for a minute about what I wanted and why I wanted it, the decision would have been clearer a lot sooner and wouldn’t have caused me so much internal distress. It’s only when we allow our emotions to get in the way or allow ourselves to listen to others, that decisions become difficult for us to make.

And here is what not do after your decision has been made:

  • Apologize
  • Explain yourself or find a reason to justify it
  • Put anymore thought into it
  • Wonder if it was the right thing

The hard part is over. There is absolutely no need to be so hard on yourself or make it more difficult than it needs to be. Never be sorry for something that is right for you. Just like you are fully capable and entitled to make decisions for your own life, so is everyone else (and they do), so never apologize for yours. Also, instead of spending time thinking more about it, lay it to rest. I am only 2 days after making such a large decision, but I spent most of yesterday thinking about it, the conversation I had with my boss, what everyone else will think when I tell them, and if I did the right thing. I wish I hadn’t wasted my mental energy on those thoughts yesterday, because really, it doesn’t matter. I know it was a decision I needed to make and am happy I made because I feel a sense of relief and excitement, a sense of pride and bravery for doing it, and an entirely new sense of calmness as I stare into the face of the unknown.

So for anyone else out there facing a difficult decision, I hope this reaches you and helps you be more confident in what you already know to be the right decision for you. Stay true to yourself and your needs and believe that you are strong enough to get through anything. You’ve got this.

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The Power of Thought on Self

A Man is but a product of his thoughts – what he thinks, he becomes. – Mahatma Ghandi

The Link Between Thoughts, Feelings, & Your Behaviors

What we think and continue to nurture with repetition and emotion, will become our reality. When your thoughts are in control of Self, it’s important to understand the link and recognize harmful patterns so you can work to correct them. What you think directly affects how you feel. How you feel directly affects how you behave. And then how you behave is a reinforcement on the initial thought. So, if you think you’re not good enough, you’ll feel like you’re not good enough, and then you will behave like you’re not good enough (missing out on potentially amazing opportunities and experiences). What that cycle does is reinforce that you must then, not be good enough.

The Implications of Bad Thought Patterns on the Self

If we then don’t feel good enough, we continue down the dark path of self-limitation. Our brains will likely continue to look for ways to reinforce this thought or we will not listen to anything (thought or verbal) that is contradictory to this original thought. Think of times when you’ve gone through these patterns. You might have a day where you tell yourself you’re a failure. Immediately, that follows with a strong negative emotion. You then look for other instances in your collective memory in which you’ve “failed”, or at least deemed yourself a failure. That spirals into I must be a failure. I failed today, I’ve failed at these other 5 things, I will continue to fail. This on repeat becomes toxic to our Self and will ultimately lead to our defined reality.

If in those times you’ve had a friend, family member, or even boss reassure you “Hey, don’t worry about it, we all make mistakes, you are not a failure“, how many of those times have you listened? How many times has what they said changed your reality of your Self? Likely none. This is because our thoughts have more control over our realities than anything anyone else can say. If you think it, you believe it, you become it.

How to Gain Control and Change Thought Behavior

Although this can be disheartening to many at times, especially when those thoughts feel uncontrollable, the negative patterns of bad thought – bad emotion – repetition – reality, are completely within our power to change. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to change the thoughts were having, or at least control how we view those thoughts.

Dissociating Feelings of Thought with Self

When you have a thought such as I am a failure, one of the first steps we can take is to remove our Self from the thought, lessening the opportunity for us to define ourselves with these thoughts. Instead, replace it with a feeling thought. So I am a failure becomes I feel as though that project was a failure. It helps shift the perspective unto something else and away from the Self. Only then can we truly analyze the why something felt that way. I was in charge of the project and I didn’t do a good enough job leading my team to complete it on time, so the project was scrapped. This isn’t a good thought either you’re still associating the feeling of failure as a direct result of something YOU did, which puts the Self at risk of being defined as a failure, keep digging. The project was not a top priority for our department so another path was followed. That really is what is at the root isn’t it? The project simply was a no-go not because you are a failure. It just simply didn’t happen.  Why does everything have to have a reason behind it? Why do we have to analyze everything and tie it back to ourselves? We don’t and you can control whether or not you do so.

Feelings are just visitors, let them come and go.

Replacing the Bad with the Good

It’s also very important that we practice telling ourselves good stories. Ultimately, if we are going to define our own realities, why would we ever want to choose something so terrible for ourselves? Surely, that is not what we’d prefer. So we must work at having good thoughts with good feelings and repeating that process until that becomes what we believe and ultimately our realities.

Not all Thoughts are Created Equal

It’s important to remember that the power of these thoughts on Self is determined by not only how often you have the thoughts, but also the strength of the emotion tied to those thoughts. It does no good to you if you have one-off good passing thoughts throughout the day, but then continue to have habitual negative thoughts for the rest of the day. Essentially thoughts cancel themselves out and your reality is a sum of all of your thoughts plus the strength of each. If your emotions and frequencies are higher for negative thoughts, those good thoughts will be of little help.

The key is to start with simple awareness. Just entering a state of awareness of all of the thoughts passing through on a daily basis will give you insights into which types of thoughts you’re experiencing more of (negative vs positive), the frequency in which you have them (daily or often each day), and the emotional strength of those thoughts (scale of 1-10 on how they make you feel). 

Then build to replacing those unwanted thoughts. If the disassociation process is a little too difficult right now (it will get easier), start with replacing a bad thought with it’s positive equivalent. For every I am a failure and will always be a failure, replace it with I am successful and will continue to work hard at my success. Then, think of specific instances in which you did work hard, accomplished something you were proud of, and allow yourself to feel those strong positive emotions in thinking about it. If this process is repeated, you’ll begin to notice a change in how you shape your own reality and what that reality looks like.

Your mind is a powerful thing. When you fill it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.

 

 

What is Happiness?

Happiness is a state of being and it’s also a choice. And everyone has the same desire to be happy.

Stay with me, here.

Happiness means different things to different people. Happiness feels different to different people. Happiness looks different to different people. This difference is everyone’s personal state of happiness. It’s completely open to interpretation. But it’s not difficult to understand what your own personal state of happiness is.

How do I find my “state of happiness”?

Most people will give you a list of questions to help to define your own happiness such as “what makes you genuinely happy?” Yeah, that’s no help. I believe that if you are given a specific set of questions such as the one above, or the famous “what would you do if you could not fail”, your brain won’t explore any other questions or possibilities that might help you shape your own happiness. Not to mention, who cares what you would do if you could not fail. That ruins the point of doing it in the first place. No one truly wants to be perfect because then what’s left after that?

I think it’s important to reflect on specific moments when you felt satisfied or fulfilled. That simple. From there, go through the basic 5 questions of who, what, where, when, and why to truly understand and start mapping out your personal state of happiness. That may look something like this:

  • What were you doing? Be as specific as possible. Really think back onto what is was that you were doing that made the activity so satisfying or so fulfilling.
  • Who were you doing this with? Were you alone, with a specific person, or perhaps even a group of people?
  • Where were you? What was around you? Sometimes we may have felt joy curled on the couch reading a book, but the reason on why is was so satisying is because there was a storm outside and the rainfall and thunder made us feel more joy than had it been sunny and warm. Or maybe you were in the grocery store and decided to break out into singing when your favorite song came on the radio. Happiness can be felt anywhere.
  • When did this take place? Was it first thing in the morning, during a work break, or even at 11:00 PM during your only free time? Recognizing the things that make us feel happiness is important, but the when we do them, can make all the difference.
  • Why were you doing what you were doing? I think this piece is extremely important. Most people fail to spend time thinking of why (“oh, I don’t know”, they’ll say, or “because that’s what I normally do”, but this is fundamentally important to understand if we are choosing to do things because we ourselves truly want to, or if there is some type of external influence to our decisions (which happens more often than not).

Through my own findings from this exercise, I found that I was not filling my days with enough of my own moments of happiness, but also when I was, the timing was completely misaligned. The two biggest issues were my lack of physical activity (and when I was it was at at the wrong time, doing the wrong type of activity). And I worked much longer than I was willing to work which meant that I was choosing every day to sacrifice time with loved ones, my own creative time, and time I loved to spend cooking fresh meals.

Two immediate changes I made were to switch the time of my workouts and to change the structure of my work days. I can’t always change the fact that I have to work more than 8 hours sometimes, but I can choose everything that happens in those 8 hours and sometimes that makes a huge difference to the amount that gets done (lessening the need to work so long all of the time). These alone have opened up more opportunities to fill in time with happy moments.

Ok, but you said it’s also a choice. Where does that fit in?

Would you get mad if I said “all of the time!”? Really though, you get to choose every day, every hour and every second whether or not you want to be happy or feel happy. I can just see the eyes rolling right now and hear the protests – right, so I’m getting divorced, so let me just be soooo happy about thatYeah, and I hate my job and don’t get paid enough to deal with what I have to deal with every day.

Ok, ok. So let me just say this.

To you, who is in the middle of a terrible and difficult divorce – why can you not choose to be happy each day? Even though the divorce process may be difficult beyond imagination, are you choosing to continue to fill your days with those moments that you found bring you satisfaction and fulfillment as found in the exercise above? Or perhaps you are viewing this one part of your life as your whole life and are letting it define you, even though it is something you are going through, not something that you ARE. You can still take control of so much else in your life and choose to fill it with satisfying moments and fulfillment. Maybe even more so now than you could before.

And to you, the job hater –  I get it. I may find myself in the same boat sometimes. Think of your work day in moments. Do you typically have more happy moments than not happy moments? Reflect on the tasks you do each day and write them out if it helps. Which ones bring you joy (do not think of external factors, meaning no “oh I would be happier doing this if so-and-so would get their act together and just do this”).

No, just think whether or not the specific job tasks make you feel personally satisfied or fulfilled. If they do, then your job isn’t what is bothering you, it must be something about the job that is misaligned with your personal values. If that is the case, you have to make the choice to either continue to live misaligned to personal values, or to find happiness and peace in your workdays knowing that you truly love what you do and by filling the days with more of your state of happy moments.

Think of it this way – If you ask someone “Are you happy” and they respond “yes”, that means that they understand their own state of happiness and also have chosen to feel happy in moments more often than not choosing to be happy in moments. If their answer is “no”, they may not have figured out their own personal state of happy and need to, or they are not making the choices each day to live their personal state of happiness.

Have you ever had a friend tell you that they aren’t happy for one reason or another, but they never seem to do anything about it? That’s the choice we’re talking about here. You have a daily choice to choose happiness and continue living in your own happiness. You just need to start mapping out what happiness means for you.

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Photos by Andre Furtado from Pexels