3 Simple Ways to Make It a Happy New Year

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” ~Audrey Hepburn

Happiness and its pursuit fascinate me.

Like most people, I’m curious why on some mornings I wake up and the world is a wonderful place—the sun is shining, happiness oozes out of my heart like warm honey, and the sound of bird song brings a smile to my face. I can only describe this as bliss.

On other mornings, it feels as if all color and wonder in world has drained away. My heart feels heavy in my chest. I’m indifferent to the sound of birds singing outside my window; if anything, it irritates me.

Why? How? What is the difference that makes the difference with happiness? I’d love to have the answers.

All I can do I share my truth. Share how I intend to make 2018 a happy new year.

1. Focus on what makes me feel good

As Tony Robbins says, “Focus creates feeling.”

It’s my choice whether I focus on the good, the bad, or the ugly. The mind, with its negativity bias, will steer me toward the ugly. The worst-case scenario for the future. The memories I wish I could forget.

Identifying with these thoughts, focusing on them, I’ll feel a certain way (crappy).

The great news is, if I steer my thoughts toward the best-case scenario for the future and the memories I hope I’ll never forget, I’ll feel the way I wish to feel.

Matthieu Ricard, the French writer and Buddhist monk, suggests a great practice: for ten minutes each day, connect with thoughts and memories that make us feel good. When I practice this, I take myself to my “happy place” (I think we all have a happy place). Mine is a secluded beach in New Zealand called Ocean Beach.

In my happy place, I imagine it’s 2012 again and I’m back standing on the hot sand, surrounded by my friends as we jump joyfully into the towering waves. I recall the taste of the salty water, the heat of the sun on my back, the sounds of laughter and the great roar of the ocean. Within seconds of reconnecting with my happy place, these warm feelings, much like the waves themselves, begin to flow.

The feelings that were there, all along, inside of me.

I sometimes forget this truth, so to remind myself I’ve written on my wall:

“Will, you are only one thought away from what you wish to feel.”

2. Make the relationship I have with myself my most important relationship

I’ve had conversations with friends before, good people who are real givers; they genuinely care for other people. Yet they neglect themselves. They tell me they feel guilty for making time for themselves; they feel bad for putting themselves first before other people. That it’s somehow selfishto do so.

The way I see it, putting ourselves first is the least selfish thing we can do.

Why?

When I take care of my own needs, I’m able to give more to others because I’m in a good mental place.

When I treat myself with kindness and compassion, this is naturally how I treat other people.

When I honor and look after myself, I’m giving others permission to do the same.

When I look after myself, everyone is better off, myself and others.

A ritual I created this year that I’ll be carrying on into 2018 and beyond is to take myself on dates.

Yep, that’s right, once per week I’ll take myself out on a date.

We deem our loved ones worthy and deserving of dates, why not ourselves?

Sometimes, a self-date means treating myself to a long walk in the forest with a piece of cake in one hand and a coffee in the other. Sometimes, I’ll go for lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurant.

The rules for my self-date are simple: I give myself an experience I enjoy, guilt-free.

Most of us are great at meeting the needs of others, loving others, and responding with understanding, compassion, and kindness.

My question is, what will it take for us to show up like this for ourselves?

I know in 2018 there are going to be days where happiness eludes me. I’m going to experience failure, disappointments, loss, stress, anger, and frustration.

All of which will be difficult, but I know this: I can rely on myself to guide myself through them, as I’m committed to prioritizing the relationship I have with myself.

3. Find glimpses of happiness even during tough times

Happiness for me is an inside of job, as my feelings come from inside of me; they’re internal.

When I believe my happiness is determined by the external world, I’m at its mercy.

I may or may not achieve my goals. I maybe will or maybe won’t have health, wealth, and success in 2018.

There are lots of maybes, which are not necessarily in my control.

So, while I may not feel happy all the time, I’ve decided that my overall happiness will not be a maybe.

I’m a firm believer that even in life’s darkest moments, there are, what I call “glimpses of happiness” to be found.

Sadly, this year, my family and I lost a very special lady, my Nana Joyce.

On the day of my Nana’s funeral, I was due to read a poem, but when it came to standing up and reading, however, my emotions and body had other another plan: to break down.

I’d barely read the name of the poem before tears of grief erupted. Uncontrollably.

I stuttered in an attempt to get the words out, but it wasn’t happening.

The realization that my Nana was gone had hit me.

Then something beautiful happened. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see someone walking toward me.

It was my Uncle Barry.

”Would you like me to read this for you, Wills?”

I groaned something that sounded something like “yes.”

My Uncle Barry proceeded to read the poem, slowly, with a tone of sadness in his voice.

Rather than disappearing to my seat, I stood with him, my hand on his shoulder as I took some deep breaths to calm down.

Despite the strong and shattering grief I experienced, standing there with my uncle, there was a small glimpse of peace, as I knew I wasn’t alone.

Throughout the rest of the day, I noticed more glimpses.

Glimpses of love as my family comforted one another.

Glimpses of laughter as we recalled funny stories from my Nana’s life.

Glimpses of happiness as I acknowledged my family were here on this day as one, supporting each other on this most difficult day.

These glimpses of happiness are always shining, and they work by reflecting back the happiness that already exists inside of us.

They are in the room with me now. They are surrounding you as you read these words.

Acknowledge these glimpses as they appear and you’ll feel happy a lot more often.

Happy New Year.

Article by: Will Aylward of Tiny Buddha

How to Live an Extraordinary Life, Starting Right Where You Are

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” ~Rumi

“Isn’t this a miracle?” I asked myself in the milk aisle at Whole Foods.

It was a Wednesday night after work, and I was buying a few staples to get us through the week. It was a completely ordinary moment in a completely ordinary day, and it was miraculous.

Rewind a few years, same Whole Foods, same shopping list, and you’d find me absentmindedly wandering the aisles, lost in a head full of worries. I couldn’t tell you now what I was worried about then—the house, the kids, money, probably.

My body would be tense, with a hint of tears right behind my eyes.

“Isn’t this supposed to be a miracle?” I might have asked if I had the words to describe that feeling.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be one of those interesting people who did interesting things like paint murals or write books. I wanted to see every continent and learn as many languages as my brain could hold. I wanted to feel excited by my life.

As a child, I had no doubt that this is what growing up would be like.

But, for just as long as I can remember, I also lived under the assumption that I had something to prove. My intelligence, my worth, my place in this world.

Somehow, these two ideas became intertwined.

That part of me that felt so certain that her life would be extraordinary started to have doubts.

Could I really pull it off?

Had I really earned it?

Was I being completely delusional?

Over time, that vision of an extraordinary life felt like a silly childhood dream, and I stopped myself from following it. I worked hard and earned a good reputation, but that excitement, that fulfillmentwas always just out of my reach.

I would let it go saying, it’ll come later, but as I checked off the boxes of life’s to-do list—degree, job, marriage, kids—I wasn’t feeling anything like I thought I would.

The feeling that something was off fueled a restlessness that I mistook for motivation. I poured myself into school and then work, but not necessarily out of excitement. I think a part of me still believed that if you weren’t happy, you just weren’t working hard enough at it.

What confused me about it all was that my life was good. I had a beautiful, growing family, a stable job, and a safe, comfortable house. I mean, I was buying organic milk to pour on my cereal. That’s a privilege.

So, if nothing was “wrong,” why didn’t it feel right?

I’d scold myself for not being more grateful, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t feel the way I wanted.

Then, one ordinary day, while squeezing in another email during my lunch hour, a little thought snapped me out of it.

“You’re missing the point, Leslie.”

Time stopped just long enough for me to notice my racing heart.

Maybe you’ve had these epiphanies, where you’re amazed by your own wisdom and you feel so incredibly clear and awake. Maybe it was during a life-changing event, or maybe, like me, it was during an everyday moment, like buying toothpaste or feeding the cats.

The immediate effect wasn’t anything extreme. There was no out of body experience, no inexplicable knowledge of the universe. Just an ordinary little thought that led to another ordinary little thought.

What if living an extraordinary life isn’t about the details?

Every now and then, I’d pull out a list I made that day and add a thought or two to it.

The point is…

Overflowing.

Seeing more magic.

Doing what you love.

Being happy.

Being present.

Feeling bright, brave, and brilliant.

Waking up and appreciating the mountains.

My children knowing how much they are loved.

Gratefully receiving everything I have.

Letting myself unfold.

Alignment, not approval.

Trusting the wisdom of my own heart.

A hundred percent up to me.

And in a gradual, ordinary kind of way, I figured it out. That feeling I wanted wasn’t an outcome. It wasn’t something that would happen “when.” It wasn’t in the details at all. It’s your feelings, moment to moment, that make your life extraordinary.

There is no committee keeping score and waiting to grant permission to begin. There’s just us, the people we care about, our corner of the world, and those little moments. And we have a choice in what we do with them.

That feeling that something was wrong wasn’t about my reputation or my checklist. It was about my awareness of the miracles right in front of me and my willingness to take conscious, meaningful steps that felt extraordinary to take.

Since that day, my life has changed dramatically.

We live in the same house, we shop at the same store, I have the same job, but now, I’m also one of those people who is curious about everything. Who loses themselves in creative projects just because. Who creates art, writes poetry, and self-publishes books. I’ve become one of those people who sees even the most ordinary moment at Whole Foods on a Wednesday afternoon as extraordinary.

How did I do it? I simply let myself begin right where I was.

You may have a completely different version of extraordinary, and that’s what’s so perfect. How to live an extraordinary life entirely up to you—it’s your life, after all. The action itself isn’t as important as the intent behind it.

As long as your intent is to make something in your world just a little better, to learn something just a little deeper, to try something you’re just a little curious about, it’s foolproof. You could institute pizza Saturdays or travel the world, saving endangered species. Both are extraordinary.

If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few things to try. They changed the world for me.

1. Be tenacious in your appreciation and optimism.

First, slow down and look around. Then, appreciate anything and everything you possibly can. Thank the sun, thank the water, thank the air you breathe. Look out for the funny thing that happened on your way to work, beautiful sunsets, and acts of human kindness. Even when everyone around you wants to complain about the boss, be the one who notices that it’s such a nice day.

When I talked about my day, I used to begin with something that went wrong. Then, I gave myself one tiny challenge: lead with gratitude. I made a point of starting conversations with something positive as often as I could, which meant I had to start looking for those positive things and remembering to bring them up. I discovered so much beauty around me with this one simple switch.

2. Define your extraordinary.

What do you want to see in this lifetime? What do you want to learn? How do you want to feel while you’re living your life?

I’d thought about these things before, of course, but they would quickly get taken over by something more serious. I didn’t want to waste time. My attitude changed when I decided that feeling curious, engaged, and alive was more important than being productive.

I began setting intentions for the week. I’d write down an idea that excited me, a feeling I wanted to nurture, and something I wanted to learn or create. Then, I gave myself small, meaningful challenges that fit with those intentions. Carrying a composition book with me quickly led to filling that composition book, and then another and another.

3. Make friends with your body.

Your body was made for living, so live in it. Use it in a life-affirming way. Don’t just feed it, nourish it. Let it move, let it sweat, let it pump its blood, laugh, cry, and feel. Stretch into it and savor its senses. Rest it when it’s tired, heal it when it’s hurting, love it even when you want to change it, and thank it. And when it has something to tell you, lean in and really listen.

I used to treat my body like it had no purpose. I didn’t nourish it, I overworked its muscles, and I constantly tried to remodel it.

It wasn’t until I started paying attention to how I feel now that I asked myself, is this how you would treat a child or an animal in your care?

My answer was an emphatic, NO.

4. Lose yourself in curiosity and creativity.

Follow the fun and let yourself overflow. Take on a ridiculous project just because it lights you up, even if it’s silly, you’re “too old,” or it’s “wasting time.” Let it be messy. Let it change directions. And let it fail spectacularly. The outcome isn’t as important as the process of it.

I practice this by painting with my children. They are experts at following curiosity and creativity. While I’m painstakingly sketching a dog or a flower, they’re creating imaginary animals in underwater kingdoms and then covering the entire thing in handprints when the inspiration strikes.

Every time, I shake my head with a smile—this is supposed to be fun, remember?

5. Be of service in a way that’s meaningful to you.

Share something. Create something. Teach something. Go where you are masterful and add value to the world in any way that’s accessible to you. Feed the hummingbirds, pick up litter, volunteer in your community. Big or small, it doesn’t matter; it’s the meaning behind it that makes all the difference.

I started by cultivating the kind of presence I wanted to have in my own life. I wanted to feel presentat home, for one, so I reduced the expectations I put on myself. The house may be messier, but our weekend adventures at the park are nothing short of extraordinary.

If you’ve ever wanted to feel differently in your life, take one little, ordinary step. And then another. Let your feelings guide you. Your extraordinary life is waiting for you on the other side.

Article by:  Leslie Ralph of Tiny Buddha

How To Stop Binge Eating…What Actually Worked For Me

Can’t stop binge eating? I’ve been there. Once, I ate an entire 1/2 gallon of cookies and cream ice cream in one sitting. For real.

There was a time in my life when episodes like this (though maybe not quite so bad) were not uncommon. And by “not uncommon” I mean weekly – sometimes twice a week.

It’s not something I ever talked about much. After all, what girl in her right mind would brag about downing almost 2,000 calories of ice cream all by herself… all in one sitting?

There’s a ton of shame surrounding binge eating. It’s shameful because deep down we all feel like we should be able to willpower our way through it. And shameful because society says being a “good” woman means eating light salads and being happy about it.

And boy was I ashamed. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s much easier to talk about this because I was able to stop binge eating. It’s much harder when you’re right in the thick of it. At the time, there was nothing more I wanted to learn than how to stop binge eating. But I was too ashamed to talk about it.

But I’m here to say, if you’re still stuck between restriction and binging – you’re not alone. You’re just human, and it’s okay. The shame we feel about binge eating actually just keeps us trapped in the vicious cycle, so one of the most important things you can do is give yourself a little slack.

Not because binging is a healthy behavior – it honestly isn’t – but because shaming yourself isn’t healthy either. And two wrongs don’t make a right.

So, yes, for a long time I hid my binge eating from the outside world. For all the general public knew, I was a salad-loving, tofu-eating health nut.

I wouldn’t dare let on that every day I non-stop thought about all the food I shouldn’t be eating. It was a constant obsession. And at the end of the week, I would helplessly succumb to four slices of bacon pizza with extra cheese, followed by a generous slice (…or two) of cheesecake with raspberry sauce.

For a long time, I thought something was seriously wrong with me. After all, normal people didn’t do this.

Funny enough, it’s when I stopped obsessing about my eating habits that I stumbled across a real (though perhaps boring) solution for how to stop binge eating.

HOW I STOPPED BINGE EATING FOREVER

As far as I was concerned, I had no power to prevent binge eating. In those moments when my stomach felt like a bottomless pit (even when I technically felt full), willpower wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary. And I didn’t learn to stop binge eating by getting more willpower, believe me.

I also didn’t do it by distracting myself (Hungry? Go paint your fingernails! Then you can’t eat the cookies because your nails will be wet. Yeah, well, tell that to the cookie crumbs lacquered into my hot pink nails…).

Nor did I learn to stop binge eating by instead eating a piece of fruit or cheese or a raw carrot or whatever. If I wanted to binge on brownies, a carrot wasn’t going to stop me. Best case scenario? I end up eating the carrot and then the brownies. There was never once an occurrence when I ate the carrot instead of the brownies.

To be truthful, binge eating was the least of my problems a few years ago. I had acne worse than I did as a teenager. I had crazy (i.e. scary) mood swings, I couldn’t handle stress worth a hoot, and I had insomnia that left me crippled with zombie-like fatigue during the day.

There came a point when I decided enough was enough. I needed some serious health intervention and I needed it yesterday.

That’s when I changed my approach to getting healthy. I bucked against mainstream advice (because all that salad and tofu didn’t seem to be helping much). And in exploring alternative ideas to what constitutes “healthy” I also flushed out the source of my binges.

HOW TO STOP BINGE EATING… THE BORING WAY

So if you can’t stop binge eating, what is my crazy solution? Eat!

Yes, eat. Mostly real food and enough to sustain your body and your activities. And don’t exercise more than you can support with good food and good sleep.

That’s just way too simple, right?

Since back in my binge eating days, I’ve learned that the biggest key to health is… balance. I know, it’s not as exciting as an ancient berry from South America, but it’s the real thing.

I also learned that when I jumped to extremes, my health (mental and physical) suffered for it. And I learned to listen to my body, because not everything they say is “healthy” was the right choice for me.

Did you know… girls who diet are 12x more likely to binge eat? This is not a coincidence!

So I quit dieting and overexercising. I quit restricting food groups and going on restrictive diets. I quit labeling food (and by extension myself) as good or bad. And I quit working out to “work off” last night’s fettuccine alfredo.

All this did not happen overnight. It was a slow (sometimes painful) dance of two steps forward and one step back. But eventually, I was able to strike a pretty comfortable balance of eating well, enjoying a wide variety of foods in moderation, and being active in a way I really enjoy (and not overdoing it).

I knew I was on the right track because I experienced a lot of health benefits in the process.

And something else happened during this time. Without even trying – without even thinking about it – I stopped binge eating.

It didn’t happen all at once. At first, my binge eating episodes just occurred less frequently (like maybe 3-4 times per month instead of twice a week). Then a few weeks would go by without a real binge. Then a couple of months. Pretty soon my all-out binges were few and far between.

Now? I can’t even remember the last time I really binged on something. It’s been that long.

Why? Because I was finally listening to my body and giving it what it needed: plenty of quality food, good rest, and the right amount of exercise. I found my balance.

I really like the motto of Amber Rogers from Go Kaleo: “Eat the food.” I find it funny that the more I tried to control and restrict my eating, the more often I would end up binge eating and feeling out of control.

And the more I paid attention and ate what my body needed to thrive (when it comes to both nutrients and energy), the more binge eating became a thing of the past for me.

BINGE VS. SPLURGE

When someone says to me, “I can’t stop binge eating!” I always want to clarify what a binge really is. Eating a bowl of ice cream (even a big one) is not a binge. Neither is eating a couple pieces of pizza. These are splurges, not binges.

Splurges are totally normal and can be part of eating healthy. I still splurge on a hefty slice of cake or a couple slices of bacon pizza sometimes. (I just don’t eat the whole pizza or cake anymore.)

So remember not to sweat the small stuff and just enjoy your food!

Article By: Elizabeth Walling

What My Dog Taught Me About Self-Acceptance

“Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” ~Lao Tzu

We all have recorded messages playing in our heads, from long ago.

Listen to parents talking to young children. Often the message is less than approving.

“Don’t put that in your mouth!”

“Go wash your face right now.”

“If you keep acting like that nobody will like you.”

“Look at Cindy, how well she’s doing. If you worked harder you could do as well as her.”

Those examples are kind compared to what many people will have heard growing up.

Many of these messages enter our brains before our conscious memories are fully formed. They may be buried somewhere in our minds, but they are real.

Of course, parents have to train young children. That’s part of their job. But not all parents balance their criticism with approval.

So, we often grow up anxious for approval, uncertain of our own worth, always feeling that there’s something fundamentally wrong with us, perhaps feeling more or less unlovable.

This self-critical stance interferes with the warm, loving, mutually accepting, and deeply satisfying relationships we crave all through life.

Are relationships really that important? The Harvard Study of Adult Development followed people for as long as seventy years. Some thrived, some sank.

What was the common factor among those who flourished for decades, in every way? Warm, supportive relationships.

I sucked at relationships as a child. I don’t mean romantic relationships, just friendships. I was the awkward kid who got left out of playground games.

Yet, there was a part of my life that was quite different. It was full of love and joy.

Let me tell you about Jolly.

Jolly was about two feet tall, hairy, with patches of brown, black, and white. For me, it was love at first sight. He was bouncing around frantically, his tail wagging so furiously that it might have fallen off.

I pestered my parents until they agreed to get him for me.

In no time at all, I was experiencing why dogs are called our best friends. Jolly was completely in love with me, judging by his behavior.

If the day had been particularly frustrating for me, Jolly didn’t care. He’d jump on me as soon as I came in the door, tail wagging at dangerous speeds, squealing with delight, trying to lick my face, running up and down the room before repeating the performance, barking with joy, inviting me to play with him.

Sometimes a teacher would tell me off in school.

Jolly didn’t care. To him, I was still the most wonderful person in the world. He would still burst with joy when I got home, bury me in licks, desperate for me to play with him.

Sometimes I would return feeling really low because other kids had been particularly nasty to me.

Jolly would still jump on me when I opened the door. He would still wag that tail dangerously fast. If he could talk, I believe he would be spewing out love poetry to rival Shakespeare.

I didn’t even have to go out of the house for him to find me fascinating and totally lovable. It was enough if I went to the next room and came back. He would still be almost bursting out of his skin with joy at seeing me again.

It was as if he could see something in me that I could not see for myself.

However, it took me decades to digest and fully accept the lesson that Jolly was teaching me.

Medical school taught me the neurological pathways and brain areas that are active during criticism, but I didn’t fully embrace Jolly’s message until some decades later.

For many parents, and for the world, success in life is something that happens in the future of a child. The child grinds out one day after another, chasing that distant glimmer of success.

The child becomes a young adult, and still they’re chasing that distant success. Work hours are long, relationships suffer, tempers are short, nerves are frayed, emotions run high. Still, success remains like a finishing line that’s continually moving away.

The young adult grows toward middle age, perhaps with children by now, and still they’re chasing success. For themselves and now for their children too.

No matter how much they’ve accumulated, there’s always the possibility of accumulating more. Keeping up with the Joneses is an endless game. At the root of it all is the little child’s longing for approval.

“They’ll discover I’m a fraud.”

“If they really knew me they wouldn’t like me.”

“If only I could get that next promotion or close that big sale, people would start respecting me more.”

“If only I did better, I would become truly lovable.”

Scratch under the surface, and there might well be a self-critical little child longing for acceptance.

We experience the stresses and strains of life as burdens that drag us down.

We get annoyed at ourselves for not doing better.

We beat ourselves up for experiencing difficult or unpleasant emotions.

We’re hooked on self-help books and programs because we’re anxious about our flaws.

We long to be rid of our flaws and imperfections, because we believe that will make us more lovable.

What would Jolly say?

“I don’t care. Yes, you need to lose thirty pounds, but right now I love you and want you to know that you are completely worthy of my love.”

“Yes, you could do with twice as much money and a much bigger house, but right now you are already totally lovable.”

“Yes, you could do with fewer of those low moods, less anxiety and less anger, but right now you are already worthy of honor and respect.”

“Yes, you’ve had some messy relationships and screwed up in many ways but right now you are totally worthy of love.”

The more I learned to accept myself with all my flaws and imperfections, the more relaxed I became about difficult emotions and setbacks in life.

The more accepting I became of my own imperfections, the more accepting and loving I became toward others.

The more accepting and loving I became toward others, the more they responded with warmth.

The child that was left out on the playground is now a much more self-accepting person despite his flaws, often a source of love, comfort, laughter, and joy to others. That is fertile soil for warm, supportive relationships.

Supportive relationships, as research has found, are the key to wellbeing now and for decades to come. They help keep your body and brain working well for longer.

At our core, we’re a mess and we’re always falling short of our aspirations. That’s part of being human. It’s okay.

Jolly would want you to know that you are totally lovable, regardless.

Article by: Joe Almeida of Tiny Buddha

How Forgiving Yourself and Others Changes Your Brain

“Be quick to forgive, because we’re all walking wounded.” ~Anonymous

People often behave in ways that we find irritating, annoying, or worse. This can happen especially with people close to us.

They can speak with little consideration for the impact of their words. They can criticize us and pounce on our mistakes. Sometimes they do unfair things that seriously disadvantage or damage us. Or they let us down when we’re counting on them.

All these behaviors can lead to us feeling wounded. The scars can persist for years or even decades. The closer the offenders are to us, the greater the impact tends to be.

Most of us would like others to understand us, to act reliably, and to be approachable when things go wrong. We’d like them to be kind in dealing with our mistakes or offences. We’d like them to understand that we aren’t set in stone, that we aren’t just the sum total of our mistakes.

We deserve a chance to recover and show our better side. We’d like them to be more understanding and put a more favorable interpretation on what we did or failed to do.

However, it can be different when others behave badly. Often, we spend a lot of time and energy going over the way we were wronged, mistreated, disappointed, disrespected, or disregarded.

Dwelling on the perceived wrong kindles the fire of a grudge. The more we dwell on it, the bigger this fire grows.

Can this fire burn us?

When I was in high school, some of the coolest kids formed a band. Everyone wanted to be in that band. I played the piano, so I too wanted to be in it.

One of my closest friends also played the piano, but not as well. It became a bit of a tussle between us. I was chosen, to my delight.

When we started playing gigs, a piano was not always available. So I took to the melodica, a little instrument into which you blow. It has a keyboard.

We started playing gigs, with quite a good response from audiences. Everything was going well, until we were invited to play a gig in a venue right near my home.

The melodica was at the band leader’s house, because we rehearsed there. I asked for it to be brought to the gig.

On the evening of the gig, my bandmates turned up. Unfortunately, the melodica could not be found. Apparently, it had been brought to the venue by the band leader but had disappeared.

This was a bitter blow. I had so looked forward to strutting my stuff before a home crowd. I rushed around to various people who might have a melodica, but could not find one.

The gig happened without me. I was downcast.

Eventually, the real story came out.

The melodica had been brought to the venue. The close friend I mentioned, who also played the piano, had simply taken it away and hidden it.

I was outraged. I felt betrayed, violated, and angry. I felt ready to run my friend over with a large truck.

We didn’t speak for a couple of years. Then I got an apology of sorts. Somehow, things were never the same between us.

I went off to medical school and our paths have never crossed since.

What happens to your brain when you cling to a grudge?

The parts of your brain that specialize in criticism grow more active. They feed on your thoughts about the grudge. The neurons involved lay down more connections, strengthening this response.

The next time someone behaves in a way that you disapprove of, your brain more readily jumps to criticism and judgment.

All that is understandable, you’re not alone in practicing criticism. But there’s a price to pay for this practice.

The same parts of your brain that criticize others also criticize you. You tend to become more unforgiving about your own mistakes. Self-acceptance recedes. It becomes harder for you to like yourself.

Further, this can lead to a cycle of mutual criticism between you and people who matter to you. It tends to weaken the supportive relationships we all need.

A recent study among 5,475 men and 4,580 women aged over 50 showed that a single point increase in negative social support score resulted in a 31 percent rise in the risk of eventual dementia. Negative social support is where you experience a lot of critical, unreliable and annoying behaviors from others, especially people close to you.

What can you do to start breaking this downward spiral of mutual criticism and self-criticism?

First, ask what stresses or problems may have led to the undesirable behavior. Try to find explanations that weaken the impact of the “bad” behavior on your mind. This is as true for self-criticism as for criticizing others.

Perhaps there were circumstances that led to you acting in regrettable ways. If you regret it, don’t wallow in the regret. Find explanations to understand why you did what you did.

Give yourself the gift of forgiveness, strengthen your resolve to do what is good and important going forward, then move on. This same gift of forgiveness may be given to others, recognizing that all human beings are vulnerable to errors or even terrible behavior.

Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation with the offender. Reconciliation is the re-establishment of mutual trust. That requires a further step as part of negotiation.

But forgiveness can proceed regardless of reconciliation and mutual trust.

The more you practice understanding and forgiveness, starting with yourself, the more you strengthen the self-reassuring parts of your brain. These are the same parts that show empathy and compassion to others. They make you more accepting of yourself, with all your flaws and stumbles.

We all have flaws and stumbles. That’s okay. It’s part of being human.

If I could go back to my youth and replay my friend’s apology, I hope I would respond with more understanding. After all, if our positions had been reversed and I’d been blinded by envy, who knows what I might have done.

For a better quality of life right now, with more self-acceptance, and for a lower risk of cognitive decline, try loosening your grip on grudges. And be gentle with yourself when you slip up in this effort. The steering wheel of your life often requires a little time, patience and practice before you can turn it reliably.

I’m still practicing. That’s okay.

Article by: Joel Almeida

The Power of Waiting

“Waiting is not mere empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching the goal.” ~I Ching

Waiting has a bad rap in modern Western society. It’s not surprising that I had to look to an ancient Chinese text (the I Ching) in order to find a suitable quote to begin this article. We don’t like to wait! It’s far easier to find quotes on the Internet about “seizing the day” and making something happen.

I’ve been an impatient person for much of my life. I wanted things to happen to me! I had a definite agenda in my twenties: finish college, start my career, get married, and have a family. So I declared a major and started knocking off my goals. When it was “time” to get married, I picked the most suitable person available and got on with it.

I really didn’t know much about waiting. I thought it was something you did if you didn’t have courage or conviction. It was just an excuse not to take action. I know better now.

What I’ve learned since then is that waiting is one of the most powerful tools we have for creating the life we want.

The ego, or mind, is very uncomfortable with waiting. This is the part of you that fairly screams, “Do something! Anything is better than nothing!” And, because we are a very ego-driven society, you’ll find plenty of external voices that back up that message.

The mind hates uncertainty, and would rather make a mistake than simply live in a state of “not knowing” while the right course unfolds.

There’s a term I love that describes this place of uncertainty: liminal. A liminal space is at the border or threshold between possibilities. It’s a place of pure potential: we could go any direction from here. There are no bright lights and obvious signs saying “Walk this way.”

Liminal spaces can be deeply uncomfortable, and most of us tend to rush through them as quickly as possible.

If we can slow down instead, the landscape gradually becomes clearer, the way it does when your eyes adjust to a darkened room. We start to use all of our senses. The ego wants a brightly lit super-highway to the future, but real life is more like a maze. We take one or two steps in a certain direction, and then face another turning point. Making our way forward requires an entirely different set of skills, and waiting is one of the most important!

There’s a proper timing to all things, and it’s often not the timing we want (now—or maybe even yesterday). There are things that happen on a subconscious level, in ourselves and in others, that prepare us for the next step. Oddly, when the time to act does come, there’s often a sense of inevitability about it, as if it was always meant to be this way.

Look back over your life and you’ll see this pattern. First, look at the decisions that you forced: how did those turn out? Then look for times when you just “knew” what to do, without even thinking about it. What happened then?

The key to the second kind of decision is waiting for that deep sense of inner knowing.

That doesn’t mean you’re certain that everything will turn out exactly the way you want it. Or that you don’t feel fear. But there is a sense of “yes, now’s the time” in your body that I liken to the urge that migratory birds get when it’s time to leave town. They don’t stand around debating whether to go, consulting maps and calendars. They just go when the time is right.

We’re animals too—we have and can cultivate that inner sensitiveness that lets us simply know what to do when the time is right. But to do that we have to unhook from the mind. Thinking is useful up to a point, but we usually take it far beyond the point of usefulness!

We go over and over various options, trying to predict the future based solely on our hopes and fears.

We talk endlessly with others about what we should do, hoping that they have the answers for us (and, ideally, trying to get everyone to agree).

We think about what we “should” do, based on any number of external measures: common sense, morality, religion, family values, finances, and so on.

And then usually we add this all up and just take our best shot.

A better way is to take stock of what you know (and, even more importantly, what you don’t know) and then… wait.

If there’s some action that calls to you, even if it’s seemingly unrelated to the question at hand, do it! Then wait again for another urge to move. Wait actively rather than passively. That means: keep your inner senses tuned to urges or intuitions. Expect that an answer will come. As the I Ching says, wait with the “inner certainty of reaching the goal.”

This is not the same kind of dithering and procrastination that come when we want to try something new but are afraid to step out into the unknown. If your intuition is pulling you in a certain direction and your mind is screaming at you to “Stop!” by all means ignore your mind.

There’s a subtle but very real difference between the feeling of fear (which holds you back from doing something you long to do) and misgivings (which warn you that a decision that looks good on the surface is not right for you).

In both cases, look for and trust that deep sense of inner knowing, even if your thoughts are telling you different. A friend once told me that her father’s best piece of advice to her was: “Deciding to get married should be the easiest decision of your life.” How I wish I had known that when I made my own (highly ambivalent) decision!

My head was telling me that this was the sensible thing to do, and he was a good man. My gut, however, was far from on board. I still vividly recall the many inward debates I held about whether to marry him, and even the dreams I had that revealed my inner reluctance. Unfortunately, I went with my thoughts over my instincts.

Now I know this: If you have to talk yourself into something, try waiting instead. More will be revealed, if you give it some time.

Ignore that voice in your head that says you need to make a decision now. Don’t rush through life. Linger in the liminal spaces and see what becomes clear as you sit with uncertainty. Learn to trust your gut more than your head. Have faith that the right course will unfold at the perfect time. And then, when the time comes, just do it, as simply and naturally as the birds take flight.

Article by: Amaya Pryce of Tiny Buddha

Why We Resist Change

One reason that people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up rather than what they have to gain.

-Rick Godwin

It’s Okay to “Fail” on Your Way to Finding What You Want to Do

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~George Bernard Shaw

 I would say it’s a safe assumption that most people aren’t quite sure what they’re doing.

What do I mean? I mean that most individuals—whether they look polished and presentable or haphazardly have their life thrown together—are generally playing a game called “life.” And they’re trying the best they can.

In other words, we’re all capable and have all experienced the highs and lows of what life has to offer. Unfortunately, that’s just part of the human experience. To try to ride the highs while avoiding the lows is counterproductive and, quite frankly, impossible.

But it’s also easy to feel like you’re falling down a dark rabbit hole when times are tougher. And one of those feelings revolves around our desire to make an impact on this world, finding what really drives us.

Great! Now, where to start?

And that’s the problem. Most of us, including myself, have fallen victim to not knowing what to do with our lives, both professionally and even personally.

And I offer you this: that is perfectly okay. And it is perfectly okay to fail on your way to finding out what to do with your life.

Failing Whether You Want To or Not

Life isn’t about an end goal or a destination. Life is about enjoying the ride and trying different things. Things you will succeed at and things you won’t succeed at.

I personally have failed at many things in my life in its two most common forms: action and inaction.

One of my biggest “failures” of inaction was sticking with a career that I didn’t enjoy on any level for far too long. It got so bad, I would begin to dread Saturdays because I knew the next day was Sunday, which meant the day before the workweek began. And when that week started, I counted the days down until the weekend.

And the cycle would repeat. Yet I kept this uncomfortable routine for years, lying to myself and saying that it was okay because I had a stable job, a good income, and it could be worse.

I was too scared to take a step or make a move. And years flew by before I realized it was time to take one.

I also didn’t move when I had the opportunity to. I didn’t take a trip because it might have required a bit more financing than I thought. I didn’t volunteer because life got busy and I shelved the idea.

The lack of moving forward, or taking a step, results in a failed effort to grow as a person. We begin to regret that we didn’t do X, Y, or Z. And unfortunately, living with regret is the fastest way to bury yourself into a hole.

But failure can also occur as you go about sticking your neck out and trying different things.

And unfortunately, this is the one that scares most people. Why? Because there is nothing worse than actually taking a leap of faith, only to have it blow up in our face. We may learn valuable life lessons from it, yet it doesn’t exactly help our arch-nemesis, the ego.

But as Wayne Gretzky once said: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

So if the last relationship you got into didn’t work out, it’ll be okay. If the job you switched to didn’t turn out in your favor, not a problem. And if telling someone your true feelings got you on the wrong side of the equation, so be it.

Now you know. And you never would have known if you didn’t take that step. Rest easy knowing that you made the effort.

Life and Newton’s First Law of Motion

I remember at very specific points telling myself that sooner than later I’d figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but I needed to keep my job in the meantime.

Life doesn’t work like that.

I used to think that a lightning bolt from Zeus himself would come down and strike me, in the form of some epiphany wrapped in a layer of motivation. This “lightning bolt,” some kind of chance meeting with someone or witnessing something, would basically give me all the info I needed to pursue the things in life that were meant for me.

I was convinced it was that simple.

As you can imagine, that lightning bolt never hit, and I felt stuck. And it was equally hard to imagine a different life besides the one I was living: going to work, watching TV, and going out on the weekends with friends.

This life I was living had done me fairly well up to this point, but I knew something was missing. What that piece (or pieces) were, I didn’t know. But all of us, at some point, feel that sort of “empty” void that we know something is absent.

After awhile, I began to take steps to try different things that struck my fancy. Things like writing, taking an art class, volunteering, reading, researching different industries and careers, and many more. If it stuck out to me, I was willing to give it a shot.

And here you have executed on Newton’s First Law of Motion: An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force.  

In simpler terms, an object in motion tends to stay in motion, and an object at rest tends to stay at rest.

Looking back, all of the small things I tried were baby steps, but very important ones. It was these tiny little movements, so to speak, that enabled me to start moving in a direction that gave me greater joy and led to more fulfillment.

I started writing for a local magazine, free of charge, in an effort to practice my writing. I made it a point to read at least one book every two weeks, and ended with over thirty-four by year-end. I went back to school and completely changed careers.

And, as you can imagine, life got much better. But it didn’t go completely smoothly. I had some wrong turns in there, including taking a bad job and entering a bad relationship.

I did all these things in an effort to find my true calling, the one or two things that completely light me up and I would do for free without hesitation. Have I found it yet? I can’t say I have.

And yet somehow, I’m a little more at ease knowing that while I may not know what I want to do with my life, I’m trying things that will help me eventually find it.

I can also tell you that I’ve failed multiple times through taking action and I’ve failed multiple times by doing nothing.

It’s through these failures, though, that I’ve learned to hone in on the things that worked. And through honing in on the things that worked, I’ve been able to focus my attention in areas that interest me and have given me the greatest return.

You Have An Amazing Ride If You Want It

If I were to tell you with 110 percent certainty and conviction that life has an amazing ride in store for you if you were to take baby steps toward finding yourself, would you do it? If I were to then tell you that no matter what steps you take, you will ultimately fail at some point, would you still do it?

It should give you comfort to know that the steps you take won’t be perfect by any means. And knowing they’re not perfect should take the pressure off on trying to create immaculate scenarios every single time.

I know one thing: I’m much closer to finding my life’s purpose than I was before. And it’s because I’ve taken steps to try different things and see what sticks and what doesn’t.

Ultimately, there are many steps in life ahead of you that will be the right choice, and a few that will be the wrong choice. But either way, you’re winning by taking action.

Article by: Adam Bergen of Tiny Buddha

15 Podcasts to Listen to on Your Work Commute

I never thought I’d ever become a podcast person. No images? No videos? Just a voice talking to you? It sounded pretty bland to me, and I didn’t think it could capture my attention.

That is, until I decided to give one a go. And then another. And I quickly fell in love with them—they were perfect for winding down after a long day, as an alternative to watching TV in bed (and a healthier one in my opinion), and while making my way to and from work, which is quite a long and boring trek for me.

I found myself laughing out loud on public transportation, tearing up at 7 AM in the morning, and telling everyone I knew they had to listen to so and so episode right this second. (In related news, have you heard This American Life’s “Captain’s Log?”) Basically, they’re the perfect mix of entertainment and education—and they’re completely free!

So, if you want to try one out, learn something new to tell your co-workers (hello conversation starters!), and even become better at your job (yes, there are podcasts for that), check out what The Muse team is listening to right now!

1. Fresh Air by NPR

Fresh Air always has great, in-depth interviews, and I love the wide range of people it features on the show. Terry Gross has been interviewing people for so long, so she’s awesome at researching her interviewer and asking them a wide range of questions. She also asks them direct questions (a.k.a., she doesn’t beat around the bush). And her voice is also really soothing to wind down after work. The episode I recommend is with John Krasinski—he talks about his start as an actor, and how he got his break on The Office.

2. Reply All by Gimlet Media

It’s a podcast about the history of the internet, and all the quirky things people have done with it since its invention. I recently listened to a fascinating episode about the inventor of the pop-up ad, and how he feels like he ruined the internet with it.

3. Bill’s Monday Morning Podcast by Bill Burr

If you love stand-up comedy, you’ll like this podcast. It actually makes me look forward to Mondays. It’s like going to the bar with your friend after work and hearing him rant about the stuff going on in the world, be it pop culture, politics, or sports—in a hilarious way. Once in a while his wife Nia will join in and add some good opinions and laughter. There are two episodes each week, Mondays and Thursdays.

4. Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert

I became kind of obsessed with Elizabeth Gilbert after reading her latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear—which is all about powering through the challenges of being creative to do great work—and so was thrilled to find out she was starting a spinoff podcast. In each episode, Gilbert is helping an individual figure out how to deal with his or her creative blocks, calling on the likes of Martha Beck and Neil Gaiman for extra inspiration. While the podcast is geared toward artists, I think the advice can be powerful for anyone looking for more creativity or confidence in his or her work!

5. How To Build The Future by Y Combinator

As someone who values building great products, it’s super valuable to hear from other people who have built super valuable products and their views of the world. And as someone who really believes that software is eating the world, it’s super helpful to hear how the people who have built amazing software think about the world around them, and how they were able to build great things. I highly suggest everyone listen to the Mark Zuckerberg episode.

6. Still Processing by The New York Times

This is hosted by two culture writers from the New York Times, Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, who talk about pop culture, entertainment, politics, and more. They’re only a few episodes in, but their thoughts about the movie When the Bough Breaks is hilarious and their interview with RuPaul during episode three is so refreshing.

7. Presidential by The Washington Post

This show covers the journeys former presidents took to get into The Oval Office, their personalities, and their decisions while in office. Best of all, the host always asks, ‘What would a blind date with this person be like?’ which is a great way to get insight into what these historic figures were like outside of the public sphere.

8. The Fantasy Footballers by Fantasy Football Podcast

I like this podcast because the guys who run it have a ton of passion for fantasy football and for entertainment. I listen to a ton of podcasts, but this one is different in that the hosts aren’t jaded by the need to put out a set number of shows a week—they’re completely dedicated to their community and to quality production, which goes a long way in a somewhat niche market.

9. Dhamma Talks by Amaravati

I listen to this a few times a week. I don’t consider myself a Buddhist, but Buddhist thought resonates with me a lot. It was initially surprising to me how correct and relevant the teachings of Buddhist monastics are for modern secular life. I suppose we all have the same human mind. Ajahn Amaro (in my opinion) is one of the best!

10. SPONTANEATION by Paul F. Thompkins by Earwolf

Thompkins is an incredibly funny interviewer. The basic format for this show is that he has really funny improvisers, as well as one special guest, to do a long-form improv together. It’s a very fun way to get my mind off the mundane tasks that I sometimes have to do at work. I recommend you check out episode #60 with Jon Hamm.

11. The Limit Does Not Exist by Forbes

This show’s about choosing your path, and why you shouldn’t limit yourself in your career. The two awesome hosts focus on interviewing people they call ‘human venn diagrams,’ who have a foot in more than one industry. Each episode is an inspiring take on expanding your creativity, your curiosity, your skill set, and your goals and ambitions—and they host some pretty amazing people in the career space.

12. Pistol Shrimps Radio by Earwolf

I’ve recently been enjoying this podcast with Matt Gourley and Mark McConville. They do commentary on women’s rec league basketball games in LA for a team called the Pistol Shrimps, and know absolutely nothing about sports—so hilarity ensues. In the last offseason, they called the shots for mini-golf games with the Pistol Shrimps players.

13. Note to Self With Manoush Zomorodi by WNYC

It’s a smart and insightful look at how we use technology and its effect on modern life. There are so many aspects of modern technologies (from phones and iPads to emails) that are only just now beginning to be researched and that so many people don’t understand fully. Things like what’s the deal with crazy privacy policies, or is your phone listening to you? Plus, there are several really great themed episodes about mothers in the workplace (‘Taking the Lead’) and how to stop information overload (‘Infomagical’). And they’re short—20 to 30 minutes long—so perfect for when you’re running an errand or working on a semi-mindless task.

14. Death, Sex, and Money by WNYC

To quote the NPR podcast’s official description, ‘It’s about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.’ It manages to be both incredibly interesting and educational all at once, and I always walk away with a better understanding of other people’s lives. Not to mention, it provides great filler when you’re stuck in a boring conversation.

15. Invisibilia by NPR

I enjoy this podcast because they talk about things that influence everyone’s day to day life but never really stop to think about. The hosts do a great job of looking at the topic from the perspective of science and society. Often, I finish each episode with a different understanding of a previously held assumption or belief. My favorite episode so far was ‘The Problem with the Solution.

And my suggestion? Millennial by Radiotopia—it’s perfect for 20-somethings who are trying to make their way in the world—without falling on their faces.

Article by:  Alyse Kalish of The Muse

31 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Setting Next Year’s Goals

You can find more purpose and happiness at work and in life by asking yourself better questions…

Have you ever done a copy-and-paste of your goals from the previous year because you didn’t accomplish any of them? I have. I’ve also fallen into the lazy trap of making my goals in line with everyone else’s — to weigh less, spend less, earn more.

The new year is an opportunity. Many of us use the turning of the year to think about where we are and where we want to go. We set goals and make resolutions for how the coming year will be different. Better.

When we set goals by just going through the motions, we have little chance of success. At best, we might luck into a little progress, but it’s never very satisfying. Instead, taking time in advance to reflect leads to knowing ourselves better. And when we know ourselves, setting the goals for what’s next becomes much easier.

If life is a journey, the questions we ask ourselves are the fuel that gets us from here to there.

Without this intentional reflection, we react impulsively and with limited information. We’re vulnerable to getting pushed around by the forces of those more proactive than us.

Here are 31 questions to reflect on in December–one for each day–before you set your New Year’s resolutions. They’re intended to get you thinking about what you have to be grateful for, what you want to change, and what effort is needed to propel you forward.

  1. What are the first thoughts that come to mind about the past year? Mostly positive, negative, or neutral?
  2. What was one of the most interesting things I learned this year?
  3. Who was one person I met that I’d like to get to know better? Why?
  4. What was one of my most challenging moments? Why?
  5. What was one of my favorite accomplishments?
  6. What was one personal strength I used this year? How did it benefit my work or life?
  7. What hurdle came up more than once? (time, money, attitude, location, knowledge, etc.)
  8. How well did I communicate with the people who matter most to me?
  9. What three events or accomplishments were made possible by the help of others?
  10. What advice would I offer someone else on the basis of a lesson I learned this year?
  11. What are three problems that came up at work? How did I approach solving those problems? Are there any trends in those problems or solutions?
  12. Who needed my encouragement this year? What did I say or do to help them along?
  13. If I were writing a memoir, what would I highlight in the chapter about this year?
  14. What was I doing when I forgot about time and was able to be “in the moment”?
  15. What frustration seemed to come up again and again?
  16. What did I start and not finish?
  17. What did I try and fail?
  18. What three things am I curious to know more about?
  19. If I could wave a magic wand and master one skill, what would it be? Why?
  20. Who is one person I could help right now? How? What would it “cost” me? What would I gain?
  21. When did I slow someone else’s progress? Why? What was I worried about?
  22. What’s one thing I made or created from scratch? How did that feel?
  23. What’s one thing I did that left me exhausted at the end? How did that feel?
  24. What’s one thing I was a part of this year that I’ll remember for the rest of my life? Why?
  25. What was the nicest thing someone did for me this year?
  26. What was the nicest thing I did for someone else this year?
  27. If I could change one thing that happened this year, what would it be?
  28. What felt difficult one year ago that now feels easy (or easier)?
  29. Of the books I read this year, which was my favorite?
  30. How did I capture my thoughts and feelings? (journaling, writing, social media sharing, talking one-on-one with friends or family, etc.) Was that method helpful?
  31. What are six adjectives that best describe this year? What would I like those adjectives to be next year?

Asking ourselves reflective questions can jump-start our learning. When we’re more aware of our interests and desires, we can create goals that align with what we want — not what we think we’re supposed to want. Some of these questions are bigger than others and will be more difficult to answer. They’re intended to be asked one at a time each day for a month. Taking these questions day by day allows your thinking to change over the course of the day. Keeping a journal of these questions and your answers helps you keep track of what you notice through this process. At the end of the month, use these answers to help you create goals aimed at making the coming year your best year yet.

Article by:  Robin Camarote of Inc.