How to Get in Touch with Your Emotions

We’re not always encouraged to get in touch with our emotions. We strive to turn a happy face to the world, keeping up the facade displayed on our social media pages. We often feel pressure to put on a front for “likes” so we show people the fun vacations and the pretty food, not the crying baby or the embarrassing work meeting. It’s seems important to show our best selves to others and to appear strong, independent, and upbeat.

We then fall into the trap of comparing our real lives with “highlight reels” of others on social media all while feeling pressure to keep up our own “everything is great” exterior. Sometimes though, these images we portray to others don’t show the whole picture. We might be depressed or have a bad day or lose a job. This all leads to us to potentially feel isolated from other people. So what is the importance of both understanding and sharing our emotions?

How To Get In Touch With Your Feelings
You may be thinking, “OK that’s great, emotional awareness matters, but how do I become more aware?” The following are some suggestions for learning more about your feelings and how to talk about them in helpful ways.

Name The Emotions You Experience.
Often we think of the easy ones, such as anger, happiness, sadness, fear, but as we become adults, our emotions become more nuanced. Learn to identify less commonly named ones, including shock, shame, anxiety, disgust, boredom, amusement, desperation, doubt, etc. Use a thesaurus or search for a mood chart online to give you new ideas.

Learn To Identify Your Feelings Correctly.
We may automatically assume that we are angry if we yell, but it’s possible to cover up feelings of sadness or embarrassment with things that look like anger to make us feel less vulnerable. Take the time to look below the surface symptoms and see what’s really going on underneath.

Track A Particular Emotion Throughout The Day.
Pick a feeling and follow it. Let’s say “joyfulness.” Jot down how many times you feel joyful throughout the day. Write notes about who you’re with, what time it is, where you are, what you’re doing, and how intense the emotion is. This can be a helpful exercise in learning what to embrace or avoid in your daily life to help manage your feelings better.

Push Through And Seek Support When It Seems Difficult.
If we’ve buried our emotions for a long time, it can be very painful to face them. Often it can seem like things are getting worse before we learn to deal with how we feel. Don’t give up before you receive the healing benefits of getting more in tune with yourself! Seek help from trusted friends, counselors, religious organizations, and support groups if it seems too difficult to do alone.

Express Emotions In Healthy Ways.
Once we’ve learned to name and track emotions, we need to learn what to do with them. Understanding our emotions may lead us to have healthy conversations with loved ones. We can share what we’ve learned about ourselves to others, receiving support and providing empathy for one another. Other ways that people deal with emotions include exercising, meditating, prayer, creating or listening to music, writing poetry, painting, or journaling. Find out what helps you to process your emotions, and be as creative as you want!

Pay Attention To Your Body.
Take a moment to pause right now. Take a deep breathe. What does your body feel like right this moment? Often we experience physical sensations that are associated with emotions, and we can learn to recognize our feelings based on our physical symptoms. For example, anger is often felt between the chest and head, while fear is usually felt between the stomach and chest. These sensations can include tightness, numbness, agitation, and nausea. Different people will have different physical sensations so learn what your body is telling you about your emotions.

Is Emotional Awareness Important?
Emotional awareness is an often neglected skill. Some studies show that only 1 in 3 of us has the ability to correctly assess our feelings. This is significant because our emotions usually point towards important truths about ourselves. Our feelings come from our deepest desires, hopes, needs, and goals. If we don’t know what we’re feeling and why, we risk leaving crucial needs and longings unmet, potentially perpetuating a cycle of anger or unhappiness. Keeping feelings hidden can also lead to emotional breakdowns. Imagine a pipe that is blocked, emotions building up like water, trying to get through to the other side. Eventually the pipe will burst, causing chaos. Lack of emotional awareness can also lead to unhealthy ways of coping, such as addiction, overeating, negative relationships, and angry outbursts.

The Myth Of Negative Emotions
A lot of people believe that it’s only healthy to have positive emotions, such as happiness, joy, and contentment, but that negative emotions like fear, anxiety, or sadness are inappropriate. We need to dispel this myth if we are going to get in touch with our feelings. Anger, for example, is not inherently negative. It can show us when we have an unfulfilled need or a frustration with crossed boundaries. A person that feels angry should examine where the anger is coming from so he or she can resolve the issue. Anger becomes a problem only when it is exhibited un-checked, hurting us and those around us. If you’ve watched the Pixar movie Inside Out, you’ll have learned that sadness isn’t always negative either. It can help us be more empathetic, more sensitive to the needs of others. It’s not the emotions that cause problems for us, but the way they fester and burst if we ignore them.

How Can Teenagers Deal With Emotions?
When we’re children, we experience very basic emotions, without many words to express ourselves. The older we get, the more complicated our emotions become. We are eventually able to have multiple feelings at the same time and have a wider spectrum of emotion words to use. When we are teenagers, we are learning how to deal with these new moods. It’s important to remember that our peers are experiencing these same changes. We’re not crazy because we don’t always immediately know why we’re crying or becoming angry. It can help to use some of the above tips, to journal our thoughts, and to talk to a trusted adult who has gone through this before.

How Can Being In Tune With My Feelings Help My Relationships?
Talking to your partner about how each of you expresses different emotions can help you learn to recognize feelings in each other. A person could assume that his partner is happy when she talks a lot because this is how he behaves, but she may actually talk more when she is nervous and uncomfortable. Conversations about emotions can teach people to care better for each other.

We all have emotions every day, even when we do not realize it. They are powerful indicators of our needs, goals, longings, and desires. When we are in tune with them, they can point us in directions of growth so we can reach our full potentials and receive the support we need. Ignoring these feelings may be easy in the moment but can have serious repercussions for our relationships and our mental health. Learning about our emotions can help us be more empathetic people, know our strengths and weaknesses, make better choices, and ask for what we need.

Article by: Jeremy Bergen

Hillary Counseling is Hiring!

Have you ever dreamed of working independently and having your own private practice? Have you felt overwhelmed thinking about how to accomplish this? At Hillary Counseling we take the guess work out of running your own practice. Our services cover everything from providing a comfortable, therapeutic office space to providing you with client referrals.

Hillary Counseling is a Milwaukee-based private practice that offers psychotherapy to individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, low self-esteem, life transitions, personal growth, and relationship challenges. Our clients are students and young professionals that are high- functioning and motivated to improve their lives.

We are seeking an independently-licensed clinician (LCSW, LCPC, LMFT, Psy.D., Ph.D) who is interested in working 12 to 20+ hours per week, including two evenings and one Saturday.

Psychotherapists with niche specialities are highly desired and encouraged to apply.

Job Details:
Position Title: Part-time Psychotherapist, Independent Contractor

Primary Job Description: To provide counseling to individuals and/or couple’s with a broad range of mental health issues, including: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, life transitions, personal growth, and relationship improvement.

Starting Date: November 2018

Location: Downtown Milwaukee Office

Compensation: $60 – $90 per client session, dependent on qualifications and experience. Higher rate will be paid for couple’s therapy sessions.

Responsibilities:
• Meeting with clients for initial consultation sessions to formulate a psychosocial assessment and determine eligibility for services.
• Creating and implementing treatment plans for every client.
• Submitting progress notes and charting documentation within one business day of sessions.
• Collaborating with other providers, including previous treatment team, psychiatrists, family, school staff, and community providers to coordinate care and advocate for clients’ needs.
• Making referrals to agencies and community resources.
• Attending weekly supervision and monthly case consultation meetings.
• Assisting with creative and administrative tasks such as social media and
marketing.

Requirements:
• MUST BE A LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH CLINICIAN (LCSW, LCPC, LMFT, Psy.D., Ph.D) in the state of Wisconsin.
• Minimum of 2-3 years clinical experience.
• Must be available to build up to 20 clients per week and meet with a
minimum of 12 clients per week within set time frames.
• Must carry current professional malpractice liability insurance of at least $1,000,000/$3,000,000.
• Must be accurate and timely in submitting billing at the end of every session.
• Must be timely in submitting case notes within one business day.
• Must be able to respond to all client referrals and needs via email and phone
within 24 hours.
• Must have strong organizational and time management skills.

What We Provide:
• Full integration into www.hillarycounseling.com
• Profile on Psychology Today (plus additional sites)
• Business Cards
• Business email address
• Client Referrals
• Networking opportunities
• Credit card processing and accounting services for your clients
• Comfortable and tastefully decorated office space
• Office supplies needed for completion of paperwork
• Materials for therapy interventions
• Wi-Fi access
• Coffee/Tea/Water service for clients
• Supervision and case consultation
• Competitive compensation

To Apply:
1. Provide in written format (1) Describe your interest in this position and how your clinical experience would match with the focus of this practice. (2) Specify your availability to see clients in the time frames listed in this post.

2. Send your resume in addition to any previous work/ accomplishments pertinent to this position.

3. Please note the selected candidate will be required to submit proof of degree, license, professional malpractice insurance and will be required to maintain these qualifications.

Email the above to lisa@hillarycounseling.com. For more information on our practice, please go to www.hillarycounseling.com.

Dating from a Place of Self-Love: How Being Yourself Changes Everything

“You must learn to love yourself before you can love someone else.” ~Sonja Mylin

It’s tough being out there.

I remember myself some years ago embracing the world of online dating. Everyone kept telling me “be yourself” (and I kept telling myself that), but when I was actually on a date, “myself” would fly out the window.

I’d go hard on the impressing, second-guess myself, drink too much, look for every little thing we had in common (even if the person did not feel right), feel devastated if I was rejected, and utterly lose sight of what I was on the date for in the first place. Perhaps I didn’t really know who I was or how to be her in what I saw as a confronting environment.

Dating brings out all our fears and vulnerabilities. You’re basically putting yourself on a platter, asking folks to judge you: “Pick me! Pick me!” like someone on a reality TV competition. You forget that it’s a two-way street. That you are looking for a suitable love (or a lover) to be with you, and that is all.

We get the little brain buzz from being swiped right, from the initial contact message, from a nod of approval when we arrive. All of these microsigns can feel so great that they interrupt our reasonable thinking around who we’re looking for.

Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, we’re bombarded with messages from people we’re just not into (and straight up jerks), we go on dates that end up in an awful mess, we get rejected or we reject, which crushes someone, and it all feels terrible.

It’s easy to lose heart.

Dating doesn’t have to be like that. There are ways to bring it all back to what you are actually dating for in the first place. I know for myself that love came my way when I dug down a little deeper, stopped adjusting what I wanted from a relationship, gave it some time, had fun, and was really myself—warts, opinions, and all.

Here are five ways to be out there from a place of self-love and have a much better chance of finding the real love you’re looking for.

1. You are dating to find someone for you, not just to impress.

This isn’t a job interview: dating is an opportunity for two people to find out if they like each other enough to keep finding out. No one is in a position of power over the other.

Try not to spend the whole date putting all your energy into impressing the other person. Remember that you are checking them out as much as they are checking you out, and that you are making a decision too.

2. Identify your values and then look for a match based on those instead of just shared interests.

Sure, you want to be able to enjoy spending time with your partner, but contrary to popular opinion, your partner doesn’t need to be your best friend. You don’t need to do every single thing together. It’s far more important that you have similar core values. Interests can change, but values at their very core generally hold.

What traits and ways of behaving are most important to you? What do you believe in? What world issues really pull your heartstrings? What would you fight for? How will you be able to tell if someone shares your values?

Spend some time with yourself to drill down into the deeper stuff and then look for matching connections. Shared values will make for rich conversation and bring you back together when times are tough, not the fact that you both like white water rafting or watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.

3. Stop performing a version of you.

Many of us filter out the stuff we think might be seen as weird or boring or stupid when we’re dating. Or, it becomes normal to present a curated, cooler version of you. Of course you want to put your best foot forward, but sometimes it’s stripped back so much that who you are becomes completely invisible.

Dating is not a numbers game. You don’t need loads of matches to find someone. You need matches with fewer folks who are really going to get you. Who will think you’re cute and funny and smart and interesting (even when you’re driving them mad).

If you love binging Pretty Little Liars and cheap chocolate, painting old furniture, sleeping in until 4pm on Saturday afternoon, devouring true crime podcasts, attending the odd rally, and you wish you were an earth mother but are really more of a city gal who likes to shop, then that’s you.

And my bet is that you are pretty unique and special with all your faults and quirks. We fall in love with real people, not pretend ones. If someone doesn’t love the real you, why are you with them in the first place? Wouldn’t it be far more wonderful to be cherished even when you are not the curated version of yourself?

4. Don’t interpret “fun” as just the other person having fun.

Hands up: Who is fantastic at helping other people relax—so much so that you forget to actually notice if you are having fun too?

We all have roles we tend to play in life, and if yours is along these lines, then I’d encourage you to swallow that role somewhat and see what happens when you don’t leap into “Make them feel good” mode.

Live with an awkward silence. Notice if you’re being asked questions, listened to, or engaged in conversation on a similar level to what you’re putting in. Spout an opinion or two. Not going well? Then it maybe this one isn’t for you. And phew! You found out early on.

FYI: “Fun,” for those who have forgotten (because you’ve been out there way too long) is having a bit of a laugh and feeling relatively at ease.

5. Yep, it should be pretty easy.

Myth-busting time: Relationships don’t need to be hard and shouldn’t need to be “worked on” all the time. Are your friendships like that? My guess is that the good ones are not. Sure, they have ups and downs. There are misunderstandings and times of trouble. But ultimately, you really like each other’s company. You can rely on each other.

The best relationships are fairly easy. They need to be able to stand the test of time. If it’s hard when nothing hard is happening, how is it going to be when something really hard is happening?

Sure, there are situations that are supposed to be fun but instead can be fraught with issues (like moving in together). When we’re invested in someone and then mesh our lives together, that has some serious weight and it makes sense there will be teething.

But if you’re on date four and it’s uncomfortable, combative, awkward, and pressure-filled, and you feel bad about yourself, or the other person is trying to control you? This one is most likely not for you.

Ultimately, dating from a place of self-love is about believing that you are worthy just as you are, and that there is someone out there (maybe several someone’s) who you can and will connect with.

It’s not just about being loved—it’s about you loving someone else. And if you’re coming from a place of self-love, then you will ultimately run the dating gauntlet with kindness, self-respect, and vulnerability without heaping a load of meaning onto rejection. Rejection means this one wasn’t right for you, nothing more, and thank god they did you a favor! Because you are deserving of the real, luscious thing with someone truly amazing.

Article by: Nicole Hind

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

4 Things I Needed to Accept When I Was in Transition and Felt Insecure

“Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.”-  Robert Tew

I want you to picture this. You are standing on a mountain, and in front of you is a taller mountain with a prettier view. Between the mountains is 100,000 foot plunge to the bottom, filled with jagged rocks. You know that you need to make it to that other mountain and that the only way for you to do so is to jump—but for some reason, you cannot move.

This is what transition feels like, especially when you have to make huge leaps into new and unexplored territories.

Recently, I found myself in this very position, paralyzed with fear.  All I could think about was how I was going to go from being a graduate student to being a real adult, working and living in the real world.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t even thinking—I was worrying and putting mounds of pressure on myself to make a move, to act. What’s worse is that in times of transition it seems as though you are being truly tested. 

Personally, the comfort cocoon I created for myself over my college years unraveled. My friends graduated and left to start their lives. All of a sudden, what used to be continuous social outings changed into monthly check-ins.

I was confused as to how I got here. I would look around, hoping that someone would show up and be a source of entertainment. That never happened and I found myself alone.

At first, I didn’t take this as a gift but as a punishment. I wanted to be distracted because if I was, then I wouldn’t have to think about what was coming next. I wouldn’t have to face my greatest fear of being by myself. Luckily, the universe had other plans.

When I first started being alone, my insecurities and doubts came rushing in to keep me company. I was constantly telling myself that I was not worthy, that I was not enough, and that I was not strong enough to make this transition. I doubted my capabilities and everything I’d earned up until that point.

When I would interview for jobs, I’d be interviewing out of fear. I thought the people on the other side of the phone were better than me because they achieved what, at the time, I thought I could not.

I compared myself to others who seemed further along on their life path. I became jealous and angry that I wasn’t as far along as them. I resented myself because I believed I had no life experience. 

Transition scrambles your life up, both externally and internally. I thought I’d resolved my issue of being alone, yet here I was, mistaking aloneness for loneliness. I thought I was confident and sure about myself, yet here I was, questioning the very foundation I’d built. I slammed into my own mental brick wall and then became idle in moving toward the life I desired.

One day, as I was sitting by my space heater drinking hot chocolate, I thought about what was holding me back—what I didn’t want to admit myself. After doing some self-reflection, I realized there were several things I needed to accept. They are as follows:

1. I was scared.

I wasn’t sure and I am still not sure if what I am jumping to is safe or promising. It’s the unknown, but in admitting to myself that I was terrified, I immediately felt lighter because I was no longer wasting time convincing myself that I was not fearful.

2. I don’t have everything figured out, and that’s okay.

I had to tell myself that transitions don’t happen overnight; they happen over days, months, even years. I have plenty of time to discover, to explore, to create, and to decide what my transition will be and how I will get there.

3. I was in the in-between.

In the in-between, you are neither here nor there. You are just in the middle. Think of it as though you are hovering in the space between those two mountains. I used to hate this space, because I wasn’t in control. Yet, in all honestly, you are never really in control. In this space, you have to trust—trust yourself, trust the universe.

The beautiful part about the in-between is that it gives you time to make a plan and to execute it. Taking small steps every day proved to me that I was actively moving toward my desired mountain. I designed a plan that was manageable so I wouldn’t become immobilized again. It made the tasks ahead less daunting.

4. My thoughts could be my prison or my wings.

I struggle with this daily and I “fail” at it a lot. It’s hard to erase negative thinking habits and replace them with positive ones. Then, if you add the weight of your insecurities and doubts, it seems like an impossible feat.

What has helped me the most is taking each moment as it comes. In one moment, I can be completely fine. In the next moment, I can be upset about why I am not this or that, what I look like, what I feel like, why I am wrong or right, etc. In those difficult moments, I remind myself to breathe.

I breathe through my loud judgmental voice, and I acknowledge her presence in my head. I then tell myself that no matter what the circumstances, I am loved, I am protected, and I am safe. Sometimes this works and other times it doesn’t. The point is that I don’t have a clear-cut solution to this issue; I take it day by day.

When it comes to appreciating my aloneness, I have gotten into the habit of not inviting anyone over when I am feeling antsy or I feel like I need company to be okay with myself. I sit with that discomfort, and make myself do an activity I can absorb myself in, like coloring, playing Solitaire, or reading. In doing this, I actually spend time with myself, by myself, for myself.

Everyone’s transition isn’t going to look the same, and it isn’t going to bring about the same issues or ideas. Regardless of what yours looks like, remember that change is the only constant and that transition is a part of change. We must embrace our transition even if it is difficult.

In doing so we face ourselves and we acknowledge the areas we need to grow in, the areas where we are strong in, and the areas we didn’t even know existed. We help heal ourselves into wholeness so when we do finally decide to make that jump, we are not scared about whether we are going to reach the other side.

 Article by: Jada Wan 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