Self-awareness, Self-improvement

This may sound silly, but I had never heard of the term “moonshot” before. Given all of the reading I have done for degrees in English, you would think I would know that one, but I didn’t. At first guess I would’ve said, “something having to do with the moon and space, and maybe an unlikely event,” and I would’ve been partly right. As it turns out, there are three definitions of the word according to Oxford Languages (via a Google search), and they involve launching a spacecraft to the moon, an astronautambitious and innovative project, as well as a home run that is characterized by its height (really never heard that one).

I mention this because I recently listened to an interview with Mike Massamino whose latest book is entitled, Moonshot: A NASA Astronaut’s Guide to Achieving the Impossible. After listening to the interview, I got the gist on what a moonshot is, but what was more interesting was some of the lessons he learned while in NASA and throughout life. Here are a few:

Keep trying even if you keep failing. Massamino had to apply to the space program four times, and he almost didn’t make it, but becoming an astronaut was his dream and he was determined to see it happen. The first two times, he was not accepted into the program; then, on the third try, he failed the eye exam, which meant he was basically out of the running. He didn’t need glasses (which weren’t allowed for astronauts and would have disqualified him anyway), but discovered that he had to undergo vision therapy to fix his vision issues, which was unknown at the time (and still fairly is). He didn’t give up though. He completed vision therapy over a year’s time and passed the eye exam so he applied again. Finally, on the fourth attempt, he was accepted into the space program. Most people would’ve given up after the first or second try, and the rest fail arrowwould certainly have by the third with a failed eye exam and no way to fix it, but he didn’t. He says that even you are rejected multiple times and your dream seems like it will never happen, do not give up. To Massamino, not trying is the real failure.

Allow yourself 30-seconds of remorse and no more. Massimino learned a new method among his fellow astronauts for dealing with mistakes and to help him not dwell on the negative. If you mess up, make a mistake, or do something wrong, give yourself 30-seconds to berate yourself, call yourself names, and confirm all the fears and judgments about yourself; then, after those 30-seconds, let it go, and don’t revisit it again. Done and done. He says that we all make these mistakes (and in space they can be life-threatening), but we need to move on from them, and not constantly replay them in our heads. We grow from our mistakes by learning from them in an objective way, not by putting ourselves down and continually making ourselves feel worse.

Appreciate where we live. On Massimino’s second spacewalk, while on the moon and waiting for another astronaut to complete a task, he had the opportunity to stop and look around more. As he did, he saw our planet from a completely different perspective than from the window of the space shuttle. The delicate blue ring of our atmosphere and its fragility, the beauty of it and the Earth itself made him realize that, in his opinion, this place, our planet, is our own private heavearth-spaceen. Looking in one direction, he saw complete darkness, and in the other, the ball of fire that is the sun. From that experience, he said that he’s “checked out the neighborhood, and there is nothing around, it is only our planet.”

Seeing it firsthand and knowing what we have here on Earth makes him appreciate it each day, from the awesome aspects of nature to the incredible inventions of man. He thinks that the appreciation of living on this planet can help sustain us each day. “The planet itself is a precious place. It is a paradise for us to live on. There are opportunities for happiness, and love, and friendship, and for us to just enjoy it.” He would know; he went beyond Earth!  Not many of us can have such a perspective.

He ends the interview by encouraging the audience to continue to pursue their moonshot, whatever it may be. He is living proof that it’s possible, and he wants us all to have the courage to do the same. (Knowing the definition of that word now, I’ll keep trying!)

Health & Diet, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Sleep, thatinsomnia darn elusive thing that only gets more challenging as we age; how do we get enough of it, especially when it evades us at 3AM? This is a question I’ve been pondering between two and five in the morning for the last few years. The frustration, exhaustion, and anger I’ve felt from time to time during my bouts of insomnia have almost sent me over the edge.

And the tips I’ve read over and over don’t help because I do them all with no great change. Have a dark room – check, no screens in your bedroom – check, make sure the temperature isn’t too hot or cold – done that, use earplugs if sounds bother you – inserted and mostly deaf. By the looks of it, in my “cave” (as my husband calls it), you would think my pillow-over-my-head, eye mask, ear plugs, fan going, womb-like conditions would be perfect to sleep an entire night through, but no, that’s not often the case.

Recently, while waiting for my daughter to peruse every book in a used bookstore, I came across Say Goodnight to Insomnia by Gregg Jacobs, Ph.D. He claimed that his six-week program is “proven more effective than sleeping pills.” I’ve read books on sleep and insomnia before and didn’t find them that useful, but decided to give this one a try anyway. Surprisingly, I found some interesting and helpful tips and information. Here are a few you may not know:

Body Temperature and Sleep – our body temperature rises and falls throughout the day. It is lowest in the morning, then increases as the day progresses, with the highest reached at 6pm for most people. A few hours later, it drops until we fall asleep. This circadian rhythm of body temperature is linked to our activity levels during the day as well. We can help our bodies maintain this rhythm by exercising or engaging in activities that raise our body temperatures so they will decrease later in the evening. Typically, when exercise is suggested to help with sleep, many of us assume that it’s to release pent-up energy, which it probably is on some level, but it is more to do with one’s body temperature, and the necessary rise and fall of it in order to promote sleep (along with light and dark exposure).

According to Jacobs, people who get little to no real physical activity on a regular basis can have more trouble sleeping because their body temperature does not fluctuate very much. And even that nightly bath or shower can help because, not only is it often relaxing, the hot water will warm the body. Then, as the body quickly cools down, it drops to sleeping temperature faster (that’s no excuse to avoid exercise though).

Core Sleep – five and a half hours is the magic number of Z’s in order to have daytime performance not “suffer significantly.” Jacobs says that we might not feel the greatest with that amount of sleep, but we can still function. He also adds that we cat yawnoften need less than we think: “Sleep is similar to food in that our body also needs a core amount of food to function. Most individuals, however, eat more than their core requirements to feel good.” I can honestly say that I do not feel good with only five and a half hours of sleep, but at least I know now that I can get through the day (although with probable “mood impairment,” he notes).

He also says that most insomniacs are getting more sleep than they think. If you feel like you’re tossing and turning all night, you might be awake for periods of time, but during others, you’re actually sleeping. And if you don’t get the core sleep you need one night, Jacobs claims that your brain will do everything possible to get it the next. He says, “the brain compensates by producing an increased percentage of deep sleep and dream sleep, which also explains why we don’t have to recover all the sleep we lose.”

Mind over Matter – in essence, Jacobs thinks that insomnia for short periods of time, during stress, grief, or major life changes (like having a baby) is normal. However, when those periods stretch out into a chronic problem, it’s our thoughts and behaviors driving it. I know that once I started waking up at 4am and not getting back to sleep after, I then feared it happening again, which led to me worrying about it at 4am, and inevitably, I couldn’t get back to sleep because I was obsessing about it. He says the solution is to recognize these thoughts (Negative Sleep Thoughts) and change them.

Like anything, that’s easier said than done. It’s hard to break out of ingrained thoughts when you can do nothing but hope and pray that sleep will come. The lack of control of it is what kills me and is exactly what Jacobs says we need to let go of. But when I’m tired and excessively cranky day after day, it’s exceptionally hard to change that. I often need a reset by going to bed early in the evening (which he advises against because it will interrupt our body’s rhythm).

I certainbear sleep treely have not solved my insomnia problem entirely, but his book taught me a few things I did not know about sleep and how I can help myself when I can’t get it. It is certainly a work in progress for me, but I do feel better off than I did a few months ago. If only I could sleep like my son who literally closes his eyes and stays asleep all night, almost nothing wakes him, and he comes downstairs in the mornings refreshed and energized.

Ah, “to sleep, perchance to dream…”

Grief, Self-awareness

It’s been a year since my mom’s disease finally took her: a year without her nearby, a year not thinking about her medical issues, a year not sitting to watch her sleep through her days and nights, and also a year of not having to worry about these things anymore.

The initial shock of her death, which was still shocking even though I watched its slow progression, wore off over time. Suddenly, it was a few weeks after she was gone, then a month, then six months. And the first few were hard. The acceptance and recognition of never seeing someone again, never hearing their voice, and knowing that all that’s left is memories shared among a small group of people is heartbreaking in the beginning. That’s all there is. Besides the fact that my mom left almost no real possessions; even if she did, that’s all they would be – possessions, material objects that a person once owned. They might white rosebring a smile or a tear in remembrance, but they can’t stand in for anything more than that. (It was more comforting to have a favorite picture of her around than a beloved China set anyway.)

Once I accepted her finally being gone, the real grief set in, although most days I felt fine. Logically, I understood the process and sometimes found relief in knowing that she no longer had the shell of a life she had before she passed.  Still, I knew it would hurt, even if she and I were not the closest or best friends like some mothers and daughters were, I knew it was a loss. And, as it turns out, a big one. In the pamphlets that the hospice sent, this fact was pointed out again and again – the loss of parent can be harder than most.

These hard times would hit me seemingly out of the blue – suddenly I would be crying all day for no apparent reason, floundering in a bottomless well of sadness, and feeling like it would never end. I tried not to stop any of this. I tried to let it out as it needed to come, and that wasn’t easy. I can see why people push it down, drink away the pain, or distract themselves to not feel it.

At about the six month point I decided to take up the offer from the hospice and speak to a grief counselor. As my best friend put it, “that’s free therapy, you should take that.” So, I did. After a few weeks of phone tag and figuring out Covid protocols (because they were still in effect), I finally met Kathy in person in a small, windowless office with a cluttered desk, an extra chair, and a bookcase that I stared at during the silent spaces.

She spoke to me about the change that a death creates, not just in the physical absence of the person, but also the routines that the living had while caring for that person. She asked me about what was different now, what I remembered most about my mom, and how my kids were affected. But she also left a lot of silence for me to fill and that was difficult. It just hurt – I had no real words to express that in detail.

After that meeting, I thought about Kathy said, and while writing about it, I realized that my mom’s death was more than her being gone permanently from our lives, it was also the end of times in my life in which she was an anchor. Not just childhood, which has faded into memories here and there, but my late teen years and into my early twenties, when I was constantly working and going to school, and we lived in San Jose.

Back then, it was mostly my mom, my brother, and me (and my other brother occasionally), along with whoever my mom let live there at the time – it could be one of our friends, or a cousin, or my boyfriend (now husband). Anyone who needed a place, she would let them have it at our house on Sager Way. Her presence was constant, but more comforting than overbearing. She worked a lot, but I remember her in her room, watching TV on her bed, giving me the latest weather report in the morning (way back when we relied on the news meteorologist).

I realized that my mom’s passing meant a goodbye to that place and that time as well. It was home, it was safe, and she was always there. Now, that was over. And even though I knew that had ended a very long time ago, my mom signified that time. It was not only the loss of her I was grieving, but also a period of our lives together that wasn’t always easy but it was familiar, less complicated, and pivotal in some ways – the time before permanently leaving the nest.

I knew I needed to do something to say goodbye to her and to that time. I wrote a letter of sorts, more of a list of things I remembered, both the good and the bad because I knew having only nostalgia was not true or helpful. I acknowledged that space in time, my mom’s presence in it, and the sadness I felt because it was gone and she with it.

I re-read it, said thank you to the past, and burned it. Some think that fire can purify and heal; I was willing to give it a try. And it did help. Maybe it was the act of writing, the acknowledgement of times gone by, or facing the pain; whatever it was, the entire process helped. My days of extreme sadness dulled into ones of less persistent pain. The loss of my mom still hurts. I see a picture of her or think of a random memory from childhood and the sting is still there, but less so.

mom_meThese days, I try to think of and point out the funny little quirks my mom had (and she had quite a few). It makes me feel like she still lives on in some way. My kids know her silly sayings and sometimes goofy mannerisms. My brother, husband, and I will bring them up when we notice something that reminds us of her. It helps. We know she won’t be coming back, and I honestly would not want her to be back in the same situation, but each day I can remember the things about her that make me smile. And on the days when it feels too hard, I know that they will eventually pass. She is gone but not forgotten. Miss you, Ma.

Gratitude, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

My favorite Yogi tea (Vanilla Spice – Perfect Energy) had this message for me recently: “Happiness is an accomplishment.” This led me to question the elusive state called happiness that we continuously seek in one way or another. I’ve been trying to just “be happy” for most of my adult life. happy teaWhat job would make me happy? What material item could do it? How much more money do I need to reach that place and stay there?

Here are a few things that I have picked up over time about happiness.

Happiness is a temporary state. We can never reach the final destination of happiness and live there permanently (unless, I guess, we cease to exist). It’s transitory. I always thought that if I did the right things, then I would be happy. And my husband has often said, “I just want you to be happy,” as though it were something I could turn on and keep on. Happiness doesn’t work that way. It isn’t constant; each moment can be a happy one or not. The good old Dalai Lama says, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions,” and I believe this is true. We cannot depend on others for it, nor can we expect it to last forever. It’s up to us to create it, regardless of what is happening around us.

Happiness is also a practice. It’s work – all the time, every day. And that’s okay. By adding up all those little things that make us happy (for me some are: a hot shower, sleeping in, a delicious piece of dark chocolate, watching or reading a good story, or when my family is enjoying an experience together), we’re able to identify these little times of joy. And if we multiply them, then we might just find that we are, well, happy, for now anyway. The Dalai Lama’s buddy, the Buddha, says “There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.” That might be a little tougher to swallow, or understand, but my interpretation is that we’re in charge of creating that path and we must forge it with each step.

We do this by accepting that happiness is an illusory destination. There is nosmiley-and not promised land to arrive at after fighting through the long journey, instead we create or experience the happy moments day in and day out, and be grateful for each of them. (In the words of the Mandalorian, “This is the way.”)

We won’t ever reach that point where, finally, we’re happy (though part of me still wants to believe that). We will have some good moments where we feel it, then some that are really far from it too. So, if my Yogi tea bag is correct, then happiness truly is an accomplishment, but one that we can’t hold onto forever. As summer is upon us with our fantasies of the perfect sunny season, maybe we try enjoying the little things instead: warm weather, time with kids on break (the good parts), a vacation from the grind, or savoring a glass of something yummy.

And we can remember the words of Ellen DeGeneres: “Do things that you make you happy, within the confines of the legal system.” Smart, and practical too.

Parenting, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Procrastinate – who doesn’t do it? (Well, there are a few absolute “self-starters” out in the world and they’re annoying.) Almost all of us procrastinate in one way or another; some of us do it for nearly everything, some do it for a few things. The impetus of this blog post actually came from my procrastination to write one! (As well as the lack of ideas) And for those now-later signwho are parents, how many times do you ask your kid to pick up his shoes that cover the floor only for the disinterested child to grunt, “I’ll do it later.”

Any human at almost any age will procrastinate and it’s hard to break out of the mindset, especially when it’s ingrained (because who voluntarily jumps up to do weekly chores), but for those who have an extremely difficult time completing a task or a project, there are theories and ideas out there to help.

After a discussion between moms expressing their discontent about kids not doing homework, my friend sent out a video from her educational resources regarding procrastination (thank you, Julie P).

The gist of the video is that procrastinators are not lazy, instead they are avoiding a task because of the negative feelings that come up (I know, this could be debated, some certainly appear lazy). Here are some reasons why people procrastinate:

– They are disorganized and don’t schedule their tasks well (including their possessions), so it is hard to even think about getting

– They are overwhelmed by the enormity of a task or project. They see the big picture as too intimidating. Instead of breaking it down into small parts to accomplish one by one, they give up before they begin. (I’ve certainly reached a halfway point in an organization project only to feel hopeless and surrounded by too much stuff.)

– They are perfectionistic. The fear of failure looms large and they would rather not complete the task because they might do it imperfectly or receive criticism. (Been there many times.)

– They are distracted. They find other things to do or are intentionally distracted by other tasks because they don’t like the one they have to complete (aka most kids regarding homework, chores, calling grandma, anything that keeps them from what they want to be doing).

So, what’s the magic solution? Inserting a few microchips into the person’s brain and controlling them remotely, of course! (That really was a joke.) But since that will probably be frowned upon, the next suggestion if you’re procrastinating is to take “One Small Action.”

To do this, first, stop calling yourself lazy or unproductive. Acknowledge whatever feelings you have (boredom, frustration, fear) and accept that they are there. Apparently, we tend to procrastinate on the same things over and over. Notice what comes up when you think about doing a task, even if it’s, “I don’t feel like it.” And then…

Take one small action, not matter what it is, to begin the task or project. People who completed one small action were 66% successful in completing a task, versus those who attempted to simply change their feelings about it (33% successful). The idea is that completing one little thing leads to action which begets more action.

Most have heard the suggestion that to motivate yourself into exercising, simply put on your workout clothes or sneakers. Or get out the yoga mat and put it on the floor. Once it’s there, you might as well go ahead and do it. For kids, it might be getting out the homework and laying it out on the table, opening the laptop, or bringing up the assignment. The idea is not to plan anything out, just do one small step involved in the task.

This tactic typically works for me. If I start something, even in a tiny way, it might take some time, but I will complete it (like this blog post!), but kids can be tough. Needing “breaks” and never getting back to the task is common in my house. My suggestion would be setting timers and having some kind of reward for the completion of said task (that works for my own lack of desire to begin again).

Here is the full video (short and to the point) if you want to see it for yourself: Procrastination Video

oscar-wilde-smallGood luck to all of us procrastinators out there.  As Oscar Wilde said, “I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do – the day after.”

Self-awareness, Self-improvement

“Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure,” that’s according to Tony Robbins (I went down an internet rabbit hole and ended up watching Tony Robbins videos). He gave examples of people who earn lots of money, achieve big goals, or overcome obstacles only to think, “now what?” Many of us have done the same. We were faced with a problem or a abundancechallenge, set the goal, succeeded, then felt a little empty after, or possibly disappointed,  because “now what?”

Here are five things that “Tony says” leads to a fulfilling life. They are tasks, some performed daily, that would ultimately begin a practice which would fulfill you on a regular basis. Here they are in no particular order:

1) Feed your mind (20 minutes/day). I assume this means reading, watching, or listening to something that involves new learning, instead of the regular habit of scrolling through social media or filtering through email. I have the intention to read on a daily basis; and that often doesn’t happen. Twenty minutes a day seems possible, even if it’s broken up into two ten-minute intervals. That can be done while eating lunch, waiting in line, or during an extended bathroom break!

2)  Strengthen your body (20 minutes/day). This is another one that we have to set aside the time for and be intentional about, or else we’ll never do it consistently. I do a 25-minute cardio workout first thing in the morning (even when I really don’t want to), and the benefits are obvious. I feel accomplished, there is a nice endorphin rush, and I burned some calories. The incentive here is not just keeping weight off, though. Using your body and making it work not only makes you feel good; it also contributes to its longevity. I see countless older people who can’t do many of the basic things they used to because they simply don’t do them anymore. It’s worth it just to keep our bags of bones strong and moving!

3)  Find a mission bigger than yourself. This one can be tough. As a culture we’re not often taught to think bigger than ourselves. Instead it’s: work hard, earn as much as you can, and keep it for yourself. But that mindset usually leads to selfishness, jealousy, and a sense of lack (because you always need more). Many people focus on their families and raising their kids to be good humans (I try to anyway), but we can think even bigger. Are there any national or global problems that bother you? Are there any small ways you can help, even locally? How can you do something about it in a way that works for you?

4)  Have a role model. This one is also difficult, especially for adults, but it’s possible. I can’t think of any prominent role models I’ve had, but maybe there is something to it. We can aspire to be like someone we admire, or motivated by their life’s accomplishments, which creates a positive influence. That person doesn’t need to be someone you know, or would ever even meet, only a figure who demonstrates specific qualities or has achieved things that you would want too. It’s worth thinking about.

5)  Always know that there is someone worse off than you, and that person has overcome their hip-hop-1209499_640own obstacles. Sometimes thinking about other people and their bigger problems makes me feel petty and small about my own (i.e. my “first world” problems). But, good or bad, we all have issues; that is the nature of life. And maybe if we focus on the perspective that other people have faced problems, similar or even worse, and they got through them, we can too. It might just be the little lift we need to feel better or keep going.

So there you have it, five things to help us feel fulfilled.  I’m going to put them on a post-it note on my fridge, then try to do at least a few. I welcome you to try them too. Best of luck!

Kids, Parenting, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Recently, I listened to the audiobook, Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki. He is a proclaimed minimalist from Japan. Even though he is a single, childless, guy in his early-thirties, he found himself in the trap of having entirely too much stuff. The apartments and living spaces over there are often much smaller too, so he was overwhelmed by how many things he had and what to do about it. That is when he found the ways of minimalism. He realized that many of his possessions were either sentimental, things he planned to something with “eventually,” the latest-technology and electronics that didn’t properly fit in his tiny space, or collections of things he kept mainly to impress people (like books or art).

aaron stuff
This kid had too much stuff.

He purged, over time, the majority of his possessions so that now, according to him, he could pack up all of his things and move out of his apartment entirely in about thirty minutes. Thirty minutes! As someone who is currently experiencing an evacuation warning (due to the raging Mosquito Fire in N. Cal) and having to determine what I would take or leave if we get a mandatory evacuation order, I think about Sasaki’s simplicity of taking a mere half hour to pack up his things and go.

Obviously, he does not have children, animals, and an entire household to think about, but his advice and questions for choosing what to keep in your life and what to give away or toss are very helpful. I will be purging over the winter (I hope and plan to anyway).

Here are some of Sasaki’s tips and questions to help you too:

  • If you lost it (or in my case, if it burned up), would you buy it again?
  • Start with things that are clearly junk.
  • Minimize anything you have in multiples.
  • Get rid of it if you haven’t used it in a year. Let go of the idea of “some day.”
  • Don’t get creative when you’re trying to discard things (meaning turning that broken lamp into a vase).
  • Let go of the idea of getting “your money’s worth.”
  • Don’t get hung up on the price that you initially paid for something
  • Don’t buy it because it’s cheap, don’t take it because it’s free.
  • Discard it if you have it for the sake of appearance.
  • Take photos of the items that are tough to part with. It’s easier to revisit your memories once you go digital (i.e. your child’s artwork, trophies, medals, your own childhood things you don’t want to carry around anymore).
  • Leave your unused space empty.
  • If you are dealing with a deceased loved one’s things, try to imagine what the person who passed away would have wanted.
  • Discard anything that creates visual noise.
  • When deciding to keep something, if the answer is not a “hell yes!” then it’s a no.
  • Ask yourself why you can’t part with your things.
  • Remember, the things we really need will always find their way back to us.

Good luck, everyone. I don’t think I can pare down to moving in thirty minutes, but thirty hours would be a nice start!

Grief, Relationships, Self-awareness

Instead of covering subjects and topics in-depth as I have in the past, I’m trying something different. These are my observations from each week in April:

So I have to pay attention?
Week 1: “Forgetfulness isn’t usually a memory problem so much as it is an attention problem.” Isn’t that comforting news? On her brain puzzlepodcast Brené Brown interviewed Dr. Amishi Jha, a neuroscientist who has studied memory and the brain. She says that when many of us get older and “can’t seem to remember where we put things,” it’s because we aren’t paying attention to where we put something, not that we’re getting dementia or that our old brains don’t work as well. My dear friend Vicki was infamous for losing her car keys since the day she got her driver’s license. It’s interesting to know that she wasn’t forgetful so much as not being mindful of where she set them down (and they could end up anywhere). However, the rest of us can still lose our glasses while they sit on top of our heads…

It’s hard to accept life sometimes.
Week 2: “You know, I’ve tried to accept this life. But it’s hard.” This was spoken by a woman being wheeled into morning activities at my mom’s skilled nursing facility. I couldn’t help but wonder, did she mean her whole life, or living in a place where most patients are at their last stages, or some other time that she regrets. And, let’s face it, there are some points in all of our lives that we’ve tried to accept, but it was hard. I’m hoping she has a better day tomorrow.

Should dead be forever?
Week 3: The concept of the show Upload on Prime offers interesting and perplexing questions. In it, the main character dies, but before doing so, his consciousness is uploaded to a server where he can continue to “live” at a resort style hotel and keep in contact with people on Earth. Of course, only those who can afford it can go (and everything there costs extra too so you must have alive, wealthy people paying for you). The idea presents some thoughtful questions, like should we stick around after death, even as consciousness, and still be in contact with the living? Would we want everyone we know who has died to be around forever? And when we die, would we rather leave this life forever or try interact with the living from afar? At different points in the show, the dead character realizes that living in a VR resort isn’t so great. He wants to be back in the land of the living, regardless of the many crappy parts. Personally, I’ll just go to the hereafter when it’s my time, wherever that is.

What’s good for some….
Week 4: “Good for her. Not for me. That is the motto that women should constantly repeat over and over again,” – Amy Poehler, Yes, Please. In her book, Amy (because we’re on a first name basis) was speaking about childbirth and the use of hospitals and painkillers during labor. A friend of hers used no drugs and birthed at home. Amy’s response was, “Good for her. Not for me,” then said that we should all be saying that to ourselves. So true. We should avoid comparing in any situation. Especially as women, where comparison and “not good enough” is bred into us as little girls. What if we just said, “Good for her. Not for me,” instead? The world would be a better place. (I’ll have to practice saying that about every Kardashian and the watchers of their show becredit-cardcause I can’t understand why people like these women and what makes them so popular, except for their ridiculous wealth…. “Good for them, not for me.”)

Thanks for reading!

Gratitude, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Here is a re-post from four years ago (with some tweaks and updates) that still applies today.

Much has been touted about the benefits of thinking with gratitude. If we can be truly grateful for what we have, we are supposed to feel happier, be less stressed, and experience life with more joy, overall. It’s true. If you stop and think about two things you are grateful for that happened at the end of the day, be it the guy who let you in on a crowded freeway or that you got your kids to school on-time with no complaint from anyone, a little gratitude can go a long way.

But sometimes it’s just too hard to be grateful, or to truly feel it in difficult situations. If you’re behind on bills and have nearly run out of money, thinking about how grateful you are that you’re not starving to death in a third world country, or that you don’t have some terminal disease, doesn’t really help matters. Granted, you might feel truly grateful for those things (I know I do), but it does not change your attitude or situation for the most part.

A shift in perspective when gratitude isn’t working is to think in terms of abundance. This means seeing what you have instead of what you lack: abundance instead of scarcity. Many of us see our lives in terms of scarcity only – what we don’t have, what we want but can’t get, what we think we will never have. Advertisers bombard us  with the latest things that we just have to have, be it a gadget or a lifestyle, and show us how much better they are with those things. Social media can show us (often falsely) of the perfect life we think we “should” have. We can’t help but think we are lacking, and when we try to be grateful for what we do have, we still don’t feel truly glad.

Thinking with abundaabundancence in mind means looking at situation and seeing the possibilities in it instead of the lack. Back to the example of being behind on bills and money, we can see the piles of bills and the small stack of money with which to pay them, or we can see the possibilities we have in creating more wealth and paying those bills (which could be anything from a second job to a yard sale to selling unwanted collectibles on E-bay), and we can be grateful to have the opportunity to do those things. We can see how to make that money stack grow instead of continue to shrink. Will that solve all of your money problems? Not yet, but it is a start, a way towards seeing the world in terms of offering you opportunities instead of stripping you of everything and just being glad you don’t have to worry about eating cat food for dinner or contracting Ebola.

Steven Covey states it well, “The Abundance Mentality… flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.” This can be difficult to do when you had a bad day at work, you find dog crap  on your shoe (again!), or all of your dieting has equaled to weighing more instead of less, but instead of going to extremes and trying to be grateful for things that you can’t really connect with, try to stop and see the abundance in your life. That may mean just accepting that things aren’t perfect right now, but trusting that they will get better, reasoning that you usually have more good days than bad at work (the dog as well), and that you do actually feel better and your pants are looser even if the scale doesn’t say so.

thanksgiving-table-1888643_640One current example in my life is my choice to take a break from alcohol (more on that in a future post). As I have now noticed, alcohol is everywhere and people are drinking it everywhere too. Instead of seeing all of the beverages I cannot (choose not) to drink, I will focus on the abundance of non-alcoholic drinks that are available (even if it means providing my own). So, as the holiday comes and we sit at the table with our families and friends, try not to focus only on the one person who antagonizes you or triggers you. Instead, notice the many people you enjoy being with, the table covered in food, and the one day out of the year when we overeating is encouraged!  Abundance abounds (when we choose to see it).

Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Have you ever heard of the RAS part of your brain? Me neither, not until recently anyway. It stands for the Reticulating Activating brainSystem and, put simply, it’s said to be the link and filter between your conscious and subconscious mind. It’s located in your brain stem and takes instructions from your conscious and passes them onto your subconscious.

The example often given is if you decide you want to buy a specific kind of car, you’re set on it, then that’s all you see when you go out into the world. Or if you’re thinking about getting pregnant, or trying to, you’ll see mothers-to-be everywhere. Your subconscious is now picking up on that specific thing and trying to find it.

Supposedly, using our RAS, we can guide ourselves towards accomplishing our goals more quickly by changing the way we word what we’re trying to accomplish. It lies with the word, “intend.” If we say we “intend” to do something, our subconscious brain will do its work to make that happen. One example I found is by comparing the use of the words: hope, want, and intend.

If you “hope” to buy a boat, you have some inclination and desire to get one someday. Maybe it will work out, maybe not. Hoping doesn’t guarantee anything.

If you “want” to buy a boat, you’ve made the desire a little stronger. This “want” could become a reality, or not depending on how things work out. As Mick tells us, “You can’t always get what you want…” boat

However, if you “intend” to buy a boat, you have a clear goal of purchasing one. You might start brainstorming ways of getting the money to buy one, look up different models and styles more readily, and drop it into conversations so that people know and might pass on any leads.

The intent to accomplish something becomes the goal and you subconsciously start doing more to achieve it. I’ve heard lots of talk over the years about “setting your intention” whenever you begin something. Set your intention for a good day, a better meeting, a successful outcome. You can then manifest it into happening. I can’t say that I completely believed that to be true, but I can see how the wording matters. I can hope all day for specific things, but that feels like whisps of smoke disappearing into the air. Intending seems different, more concrete and sure.

Will it work? I can’t say, but I can definitely hope so, or oops, intend it to. I’m going it give it a try.

Let me know if it works for you.