"Positivity is the sunlight in your garden. You can't grow without it." -Shaun T.
Let that sink in for a moment. If there is no sunlight, a garden won't grow. Without positivity, you don't grow.
I've always thought of myself as a pretty positive person. I would say I'm 90% positive with 10% snarky. Maybe it's not quite that high, but I feel it's pretty close. A few years ago, I asked for feedback from a few trusted friends and colleagues. I wanted them to tell me three things I did well and three areas of improvement.
While not all of them responded, the ones who did both reinforced how I perceived myself but also gave me some insight to help me on my path to growth and enlightenment.
Doing something like that definitely got me out of my comfort zone but it was so worthwhile to me. You never know what someone is going to say, and I tried to get a cross-section of different people in my field to understand how I came across to them.
And the overwhelming aspect of me they pointed out as a strength was my ability to always be positive, even in stressful situations. They said I was calm and was the one who maintained a sense of balance when there was chaos. That was so insightful to me, because sometimes I am calm on the outside when I'm literally freaking out on the inside.
Much of that outside picture of calm I directly attribute to daily meditation practice. While I continue to strive to be calm on both the outside and inside, I know it's a continual process.
I'm currently being tested right now as I begin a new and different job opportunity. While there are similarities between education and the retail world, I know that my training will be completely different. I'm embarking on an adventure in unknown territory. There is a lot to learn, almost like taking the plunge into a foreign language in a new land.
However, it gets my brain thinking in different ways. When we continue to do something we've always done, we begin to get a complacent. Trying something out of our comfort zone is a great way to test what we know about ourselves, and I like that feeling of being challenged.
In the long run, I know it will help me grow in ways I never imagined possible. Bring on the sun!
We have doubts about ourselves and our abilities sometimes. They can come from a number of sources either internally or externally.
I’ve been working on independently publishing my first book for close to two years. It isn’t that the book is mammoth and has gone through several edits and revisions. It’s a book of roughly 100 pages, and I could have easily been done with it a year ago.
But something was holding me back.
Or rather, someone.
I have been holding myself back from finishing this book for a little over a year. My editor did her job offering feedback and editing TWO rounds. My artist did her job of bringing to life the vision I had for the cover.
They both did their jobs, and yet…
I have asked myself over and over, “Why haven’t you just finished this book and published it already?”
And my answers always come in a steady flow of excuses. We have to get the house ready to sell, we have to pack to move, we have to unpack and settle into our new apartment, I have to get comfortable in my new job, I need to interview for different jobs since this one wasn’t what I had hoped, I now need to focus on my new job starting, I have to get back into shape, I need to have at least three hours so that I can concentrate on what I want to accomplish with the book today, and the list goes on.
Exhausted from my mountain of excuses?
Yeah, me too.
That is exactly when the scale tipped. I finally got fed up with myself and my excuses and got down to work.
One thing that clicked was to zone in on what I wanted to do during my writing blocks. Previously I simply blocked off an hour or so and just wrote “writing block.” Since I wasn’t specific, I could easily skip the time since I didn’t have a plan anyway. Today my writing block looked like this:
*Revise last essay
*Write acknowledgement section
*Write ‘about the author’ section (rough draft)
*Work on the start of a blog post on my challenges
When I finish this post, I will have all four checked off.
I got serious and zoned in on precisely what I wanted to accomplish and that has made the difference for me.
Am I still nervous and excited about independently publishing my first book? Do I still have some doubts?
Sure, but as long as I continue to knock chunks off a little at a time and am specific with how I’m spending my time it is becoming so much more manageable.
1. Look at the big picture. — What is it you want to accomplish?
For me, it is to independently publish my first book. Think about what it is that you really want to do and then write it down. Make a contract with yourself.
2. Give yourself a timeline. — When do you want to complete the project?
While I am way over my deadline, I finally got serious by putting together a spreadsheet of what I had left to do and then I assigned myself tasks each day until the book launches.
3. Make an appointment and then keep it. — When can you commit to working on the project each day?
It doesn’t have to be a two or three hour blocks of time. Many of us don’t have that luxury. It might be 15–20 minute chunks but make them intentional. When the time is up, write yourself a note so you know exactly where to pick up from where you left off on the project.
4. Celebrate along the way. — What can you do for yourself to stay motivated?
Treat yourself along the way. When you reach a milestone, take a bubble bath, go out for a cup of coffee, read for 30 minutes, go out for appetizers with a friend or significant other, etc. You don’t have to spend money but you can if that’s how you keep yourself going.
5. Reflect when it’s done. — What did you learn from the experience and what adjustments will you make in the future?
This is the critical piece. We often finish one project and move on to the next one without revisiting what made it a successful endeavor or perhaps how it could have been more successful. Take some time to enjoy the accomplishment as well. You did it!
The next time you wonder whether you have what it takes, the overwhelming answer is, “Of course you do!” Now go out and do it!
Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are. — Ani Pema Chodron
After reading Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning, I became interested in meditation. Hal goes through six parts of starting your morning through the acronym, SAVERS — Silence, Affirmation, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing.
For me, silence ment calming my mind, taking deep breaths, and just letting myself settle. In other words, I was working through the basics of meditation, but I kept asking myself, "What else should I be doing?"
I researched and settled on the Calm App. That was nearly three years ago. I generally do the 10-minute guided meditation in the morning and that sets me up for handling life’s challenges throughout the day.
But in answer to my question, there really isn’t a specific answer. There are so many ways to meditate, and this is what I love about the practice. There is no right or wrong answer.
While many practitioners sit in a cross-legged pose on a pillow on the floor, I prefer to lie prone on my bed first thing in the morning. Sometimes I will sit leisurely on the couch, but a non-negotiable aspect for me is to be comfortable. If I’m not comfortable, then I focus on that and I then feel as if I’m wasting my time.
I know there is a danger to lying down on my bed. Believe me, in the beginning I fell asleep a time or two but in time I settled in and started being able to concentrate on the breath and the topic of the meditation for that day.
Benefits.There are many benefits I have gained from meditation thus far:
1. It is a way for me to awaken to a new day with fresh possibilities.
2. I focus on my breathing.
3. I am doing a better job of letting thoughts flow in and out. I used to get stuck on a thought, but when I refocus my attention to the breath the thought leaves.
4. I can do meditation throughout my day. Sometimes I take a minute during the day simply to take deep breaths as a quick work break. I will take a walking meditation for a few minutes to clear my head. When I take a bath, I relax and let my thoughts go. That’s what is so great about it. Meditation can literally happen anywhere!
5. When I have been in stressful situations, I take a deep breath before responding. In many cases, I have chosen not to respond at all after the deep breath and that has been a life changer. No longer do I make snarky or regrettable comments off the cuff (for the most part) that I end up apologizing for later.
6. Because I take deep breaths rather than automatically talking, I have become much more reflective. I think through my feelings and let them settle rather than being emotional overall.
7. I am a better listener, because I’m not thinking about what I want to say next. I’m focused on the other person.
It’s a practice.But here’s the thing about meditation. It takes time and patience. In the beginning I often wondered if I was doing it “right.” There is no one correct path to the practice.
And that’s the other aspect to keep in mind. Meditation is a practice. It’s not a concept I will ever be perfect at as there will always be room for me to improve and grow. Right now I practice meditation in short bursts of 10 minutes or less for each session. I would like to eventually expand my practice to 30 minutes a day but I’m being patient with myself. I’ve been in this current flow for nearly three years, and I’m taking baby steps to incrementally add time.
I also need to remember to give myself grace. There are some days when I wonder if I have just wasted my time, but then I stop and remember that I won’t be in the zone every single day. There are days when I can’t stop the flow of thoughts no matter how many times I go back to the breath. There are other days when I doze off in the middle of a session.
And that’s perfectly okay.
The essence of meditation is that I’m getting to know myself better. I’m getting more in tune with who I am and how I’m evolving with each day. I’m becoming my own best friend.
“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” – Meister Eckhart (German Theologian)
I was on fire today!
I accomplished all six of my dailies:
1. Guided meditation.
2. 750 words journal.
3. Bible study on making goals.
4. Read for 30 minutes.
5. Worked out for 40 minutes.
6. Wrote in my gratitude journal.
In addition we spent part of the afternoon with extended family. When we got home, I started laundry, vacuumed the apartment, and enjoyed popcorn with my husband while we watched part of a football game. I got on Quora to answer a few questions, checked in at LinkedIn, and updated social media on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
How did all this happen?
I had the right mindset. The mindset that often happens to us on January 1. New beginnings. Fresh starts. The adventure of another trip around the sun.
My goal is to make each day as if it is January 1, because it's absolutely, 100% true. When we start each day with the mindset of a beginner, we can get so much more accomplished.
How about it? Will you join me in this new mindset for 2019?
I'm a lover of life, an eternal optimist, and I have an intense desire to add value through simple living and positive vibes.