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.

10 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me When I was 18

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~Maya Angelou

Can you remember what it was like?

Becoming an adult. Having to take responsibility for your life. Having the world opening up to you. Having to suddenly start making decisions and setting a clear direction for your life.

Exciting, yet terrifying and confusing all at the same time.

Looking back, there are things you wish you’d known, right? Here are some things I’ve learned that I wish someone would have told me when I was eighteen.

1. You don’t find meaning; you create meaning.

For a long time, I was constantly looking for what I was “meant to do” in life. Doing so can feel overwhelming, confusing, and shame-indulging. But here’s what I discovered: Finding is passive; it means that something or someone has to show up in order to get what we want. It’s outside our control.

So, instead of finding meaning, it’s better to create meaning. To indulge ourselves in projects and activities that feel meaningful to us. When we do this, we go from passive to active. From lacking control to gaining control.

2. You’re not fixed; you’re always growing.

I used to think that I was given a set of talents, skills, and behaviors. That was until I realized that I wasn’t wired fixed, but changeable.

If I want to be happier, I just have to shift my focus. Maybe that means writing a gratitude journal expressing my appreciation toward others, and practicing seeing things from a positive perspective.

Since you’re always in growth, you don’t need to be scared of failing, as everything is a stepping stone to a new talent, skill, or behavior.

The same applies for what we’re good at. If you want to be a writer, then start writing. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, then start reading, acting, and thinking like one. That’s the beauty of it all—you’re the creator of you.

3. Carefully choose who you take advice from.

People love giving advice. But here’s the thing: People don’t give advice based on who you are, but on who they are. If someone had a great experience starting a business, they’re likely to encourage you to do the same. However, if someone had a horrible experience with the same thing, they’re likely to, perhaps not discourage you, but at least point out things that can go wrong.

Here’s what I’ve found to be useful: Take advice only from those who have made the same journey (or a similar one) that you want to undertake.

4. You don’t need to know your passion.

“Follow your passion.” How many times have you heard this message and thought to yourself, “Argh, but I don’t know what my passion is!” Or, “I have too many passions and I don’t know which one to choose.” In general, I think this is rather crappy advice. For me, it caused more harm than good, because frankly, it stressed me out.

If you know your passion, that’s great. If not, don’t worry. Instead of focusing your attention on finding your passion, start following your curiosity. Just like a scavenger hunt, what pokes your curiosity is the next clue. And like Elizabeth Gilbert perfectly laid it out: “If you can let go of ‘passion’ and follow your curiosity, your curiosity just might lead you to your passion.”

5. Buy experiences, not things.

I used to spend a lot of time thinking about what type of designer bag I’d purchase. Don’t get me wrong, I love beautiful things and have no problem buying them. But I’ve learned not to put my happiness in them.

When I think back on my life, what I remember are the beach parties in the Dominican Republic, the soirées I spent with friends in Paris, and the walks with my sister in Central Park.

Experiences are what change us. They help us open up doors to new people, cultures, perspectives, and potentially a whole new world. So, invest your money well.

6. Life is always now, not tomorrow or next week.

Oh gosh, if I had a nickel for every minute I’ve spent either worrying about the future or contemplating my past. It would probably make up more time than what I’ve spent in the present. Pretty bizarre, no? And I know I’m not alone when I say that.

Our mind, which I sometimes like to call our monkey mind, loves pulling our attention from the present moment. But this is where life is taking place.

We can’t have a full experience when our body is in one place and our mind is somewhere else (like sitting in a meeting thinking about what to eat for dinner). And that’s why we’re here, right? To experience life fully. So be present, allow those thoughts about the past and future pass by, just like clouds in the sky.

7. Don’t confuse means goals with end goals.

Vishen Lakhiani did an amazing video where he explained what I didn’t get for so long: end goals and means goals.

End goals define an outcome that describes exactly what you want. This can be seeing your children grow up, being truly happy, and traveling around the world. Means goals can be about getting into a specific university or company or making a certain amount of money. They are there simply to support your end goals.

When I became uncomfortable in my “dream job” in Paris I couldn’t understand why. It included everything I’d ever dreamed of: a good paycheck, travel, and fun colleagues. But I had confused a means goal with an end goal. What I truly wanted was to start a business where I could create, contribute, and connect with other people.

8. Connections, not grades, are the key to success.

Growing up, I was really focused on getting good grades. I thought that good grades would be the key to a successful life. They’ve helped me to open up doors, but the game-changer hasn’t been my grades, it’s been my connections.

Knowing the right people and connecting on a deeper lever is much more powerful than anything written on a piece of paper. Mind you, this, of course, depends on what kind of opportunity you’re after. But, for me, looking back, what served me during my years at university wasn’t the grades I got; it was the connections I made.

That’s how I’ve landed jobs, speaking opportunities, and have been featured on podcasts–things I otherwise never would have heard of or been considered for.

9. Everyone is doing the best they can.

I truly believe this. Everyone, no matter how annoying, self-destructive, or provoking they might seem, is always doing the best they can based on their mood, experience, and level of consciousness. I used to get angry or upset if someone was rude, pessimistic, or didn’t deliver projects on time.

Today, I know that I’m not in the position to judge. I don’t know what they battle. I don’t know what’s really going on in their life. All I can trust is that if I was in their shoes, I might do the same thing. This perspective has saved me a lot of energy, that I previously used to waste.

10. Know your “why.”

Often, we place a lot of focus on what we do or how we do it. Seldom we ask why we do it. If I would have dug deeper in my “why’s” when I was eighteen, I would have connected more to my desires. Like this:

Question: Why do I want to get this education?
Reply: Because I want to get a good job.

Question: Why do I want to get a good job?
Reply: So that I can earn good money, work on something I enjoy, and get a nice title.

Question: Why do I want that?
Reply: Because I want to feel secure and free, to explore the world, to create things, to feel respected, and to connect with myself and others.”

When I got clear about my “why” it became obvious to me that I wanted to work with people, have my own business, and to be able to work from anywhere in the world.

Digging into the “why” really narrows down what’s important. Not having a clear “why” proves that what we’re aiming at isn’t worth pursuing.

Eventually, Everything Will Make Sense

Sometimes we stumble and fall. Sometimes the road is rocky. Sometimes we question if everything will make sense in the end.

Looking back at your eighteen-year-old self, what would you have told him or her?

To be easier on yourself?

To stop worrying and have more fun?

To trust that everything happens for a reason and that things will work out?

From this perspective, what do you think an older version of yourself would have told you today?

To be easier on yourself?

To stop worrying and have more fun?

To trust that everything happens for a reason and that things will work out?

You get the point.

As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Article by: Maria Stenvinkel

4-Step Formula to Pursuing Your Dreams

When I was 26, I was fumbling through life in different jobs that were only partially fulfilling, unsure of my future but certain of only one thing:

I don’t know what my IT is, but I know IT is going to be big.

I knew very little about what I wanted out of life, but I hungered for authority and to be taken seriously. Then a good friend, Krista, introduced me to a book: “The Dream Manager,” by Matthew Kelly. The book itself generally discussed how a middle manager reduced turnover by investing himself in his employees’ personal goals, which has since become very important to me in my career. But at the time, I was more impressed with the concept of creating a “Dream List.”

Essentially, The Dream Manager explained a simple concept. Fewer than 1 percent of the world ever writes down their hopes, dreams or ambitions, and fewer ever share this list with a third party, creating accountability for their goals. But of those who do, they are much more likely to live their version of a fulfilled life.

I created my Dream List and compiled 100 dreams I hoped to accomplish before I die. Now, exactly 10 years later, I’ve accomplished more than 80 of them and have a new 100 in their place.

If you are feeling a bit lost in life or confused about how to accomplish your life goals, I encourage you to follow these four important steps:

1. Write it down.

First, open an Excel spreadsheet. Create some time categories across the top of your sheet, such as “6 months,” “5 years,” and “Lifetime.” Next, along the left side of your sheet, create as many categories of life that you can think of, including (but not limited to): Spiritual, Family, Professional, Financial, Intellectual, Community, Character and Travel.

Now, take the time to fill in at least one goal for each of the intersecting buckets you’ve created between time and category. If you can get to more than one dream per section, all the better. Write until you can write no more.

2. Notice your themes.

If you are lost in your current career, feeling strapped for cash or frustrated with dead-end relationships, it can be hard to pull yourself out of your current predicament to dream big. So start small.

If you can’t see your future in the Lifetime category, think about where you want to be in one month, and if you are feeling stuck in your professional category, focus on travel or community. Dreams can overlap categories; in fact, I encourage it.

Every once in awhile, pull back from your list to see if you can find themes, or you can build them in right from the start. For instance, if you want to complete a marathon at some point in your life, then perhaps you may want to add a half marathon to your five-year goal and a 5K to your six-month. Do you notice a theme between travel and spiritual that you are longing to spend meaningful time in India at an ashram? Perhaps that can influence your financial goals as you consider how much something like that would cost. You might even consider what professional aspirations you have: could you work at one of these places?

When you remove yourself from your everyday monotony, you can find some gems that may guide you toward a more fulfilling future.

3. Share with others.

Once you feel your list is complete, write down a person’s name next to each dream. This person should be the person in your life that is most likely to help you accomplish this particular dream. Then, share those dreams with your identified person. Ask them for help in holding you accountable to accomplishing your goals, and give yourself deadlines for reaching back out to them to report out on your progress.

By sharing your dreams and asking others for help, you allow people who care about you to invest themselves in your life, and you make it far more likely that you’ll achieve your goals.

4. Check in regularly.

This final step is the most important. You don’t serve yourself by committing to goals and then putting them on a shelf. Plus, when you accomplish a goal, it feels great to mark it off your list and replace it with a new one. You can always move your dreams to a new timeframe if they no longer meet your original parameters, but by checking back in (say, every six months), you remind yourself of what is important to you.

I am now at a point in life where I can be proud of my years of hard work, but I know that I would be only half as far had I not crafted a dream list. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to start dreaming!

Article by:  Candace Sjogren, Entrepreneur Magazine

15 Self-Care Ideas When Everything Seems Impossible

A lot of people think self-love is selfish or egotistical. I used to believe that I was unworthy of my desires and I didn’t matter. I spent a lot of time taking care of others and even more time trying to fit in and be seen, but the truth? I wasn’t seeing myself.

I was a victim of a lack of self-love and hated who I saw in the mirror. For almost three decades, I was at war with myself. I heard the term “self-love,” but it felt like a buzzword, a “wouldn’t it be nice,” but that clearly was not for me. The idea of loving myself was foreign because I was too consumed with self-hate.

I decided to go on my own personal journey to be more kind, compassionate, and loving toward myself. I called it the “Self-Love Experiment,” which turned into my new book by the same name.

What I discovered in my own experiment is that self-care is the foundation for self-love. At first, saying I love myself felt hard, so I replaced the word love with care. I would say, “I am practicing self-care,” and this led to a beautiful lifestyle where I was able to learn that I am worthy, beautiful, and enough as I am.

If you struggle with low self-esteem or lack confidence, you can turn your self-doubt into self-love by practicing more self-care. Here are fun, totally doable self-care ideas to help you ramp up your self-love quotient.

1. Celebrate the little victories.

Spend some time celebrating how far you’ve already come. The little moments along the way are special, and when you can appreciate them, you will feel more grateful.

2. Forgive yourself.

Are you holding on to anger? Maybe you feel like you should be further along or more on track. Place your hand on your heart, close your eyes, and say, “I am sorry I am so hard on you. I know you are doing the best you can. I forgive you and will be more kind and compassionate to you.”

3. Bring creativity to cooking.

Maybe you’ve been eyeballing that fancy wellness Instagram account or you have marked some pages in your favorite cookbook. Getting creative in the kitchen can help you feel more balanced. Being creative fills a need and deep desire to express yourself. When you do this in the kitchen, you also nourish your insides, and when you do this it is reflected on the outside. A more balanced, healthy, and happy you, coming right up!

4. Learn something new.

Is there a course or book you’ve been wanting to read? Keeping your mind fresh by educating yourself and learning more will help you feel more compassionate toward yourself and others.

5. Make a list of things you love about yourself.

When was the last time you said something nice about yourself to yourself? Most of us have a running dialogue of not being good enough and wanting to change things we dislike about ourselves. Instead of letting your insecurities get the best of you, start to be kind to yourself by listing things you love: whether it’s a body part, intellect, ability, or something else. Do this as often as you can, and soon enough you will feel more free and loved.

6. Do something you’ve always wanted to do.

Book that one-way ticket to Europe. Start penning that book or leave the job you hate. These are all things you might have in your heart but are afraid to act on. Following through on the dreams and desires are important for building self-trust and respect. Go for it; your future self will thank you.

7. Move the way you feel.

Don’t be afraid to have some pep in your step. Get in touch with your inner child—you know, the one who loved skipping down the street, jumping up and down, or twisting and shouting and didn’t care what people thought. Dance and sing like no one is watching!

8. Dance to an upbeat playlist.

Creating a playlist to align with your mood is a wonderful way to uplift yourself. Pick your favorite artist and dance it out for added fun.

9. Have a one-on-one with yourself.

Schedule special you time by asking yourself, “When do I feel like my best self? What am I doing and who am I with?” Schedule time each day to tap into that part of you that feels alive, joyful, and happy.

10. Write a love letter to the pain part of you.

Write a letter to the part of you that is struggling—the part you would like to change—and allow yourself to free write and address what is causing you pain. This will give you more self-compassion and understanding, which can help you heal.

11. Choose something different within your routine.

Get out of your comfort zone by doing something different today. Order something new on the menu, take a different route home, call a friend you haven’t talked to in five years, let yourself follow your heart and be amazed at what happens when you do.

12. Read a good self-love book.

There are some great fall reads and classic go-to’s from self-love authors. Pick a book you’ve always wanted to read and curl up with, even if it’s not self-help, as long as it’s uplifting and leaves you feeling better. Curl up with your favorite furry friend and tea, coffee, or green juice.

13. Create a vision board for your future.

Use Pinterest, vision board apps, or cutup images from magazines to create a vision board, a creative way to dream about the life you want. Vision boards are great for manifesting and attracting whatever you desire because they invite you to actually visualize your lifestyle, focus on what you want, and think about what it takes to get there.

14. Center yourself.

Do you ever get nervous or overwhelmed with self-doubt? Chances are your ego is acting up and in overdrive. To realign with your heart center, the balanced part of you that knows all is well, place your hand on your heart and repeat the mantra, “I am safe and loved. All is well,” or a version of this that resonates with you.

15. Kick-start your day with gratitude.

Start your day with things you appreciate. List them out or simply go through them in your mind. Being in gratitude will help you feel more focused and balanced.

These tips are inspired by Shannon Kaiser’s new book, The Self-Love Experiment: Fifteen Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate, and Accepting of Yourself.