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

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

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

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

A New Way to Make Hard Decisions

Do you consider yourself a decisive person? Or, do you struggle to make choices for yourself—whether they’re big or small?

Many of us (myself included!) fall into that second category, and there’s no doubt that it can be somewhat paralyzing.

Fortunately, science is here to help. According to research published by Psychological Science, there’s one super easy trick that can help you make decisions for yourself: Pretend that you’re actually making them for a friend.

It’s called self-distancing, and it totally removes you from the equation—helping you to make more sound judgments about certain situations.

As part of the research, Igor Grossman at the University of Waterloo and his team conducted a study of 100 different participants who were all in long-term relationships. One group of the subjects was asked to imagine that they had been cheated on, while another group was told to imagine that a friend had been cheated on.

At that point, all of the participants filled out a questionnaire designed to measure their “wise reasoning” skills—things like their ability to consider multiple perspectives or pursue a compromise.

The results? The study subjects who were thinking about a friend demonstrated far better judgement and sounder reasoning than those who were imagining themselves in that scenario.

While the study looked at relationships specifically, this advice holds some water in other areas of your life as well—including your career. And, it’s a tactic that I’ve already been putting to work to combat my own chronic indecisiveness.

So, the next time you feel torn over whether to quit your job, go after that career change, or toss your hat into the ring for that promotion, step outside of yourself and think about what you would tell a friend in your exact same situation. You might just be surprised with your own reasoning and wisdom.

Article by: Kat Boogaard of The Muse

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