We are only ever as great or small as we allow ourselves to be.

I think, deep inside, we all know that this is true but, for some reason, we allow others so much input into who we become, even though we are the only ones who are actually there for the whole show. So, if we are like actors in this play called “life”, who is your director? Who is writing your story line… the next scene… the ending?

Who is in the audience? Are they friends- family- colleagues or strangers?  Are you trying to impress them or are they there to support and encourage you no matter what? Will they stay for the next scene or will it depend on your performance? Which of them do you expect to be there when the curtains are closing and who is there helping you “backstage”?

What role are you playing?  Was it your first choice or the one you thought you were most capable of? Was it handed to you, or did you have to work hard for it? And now….? What do you think about this role? Will/Does it allow you to live up to your full potential?  Do you feel like you are BEING ALL YOU CAN BE or is there something more?

How do you feel about it?  Are you happy or satisfied?  Enough to spend the rest of your life playing it?  What have you learned? Is this role what you thought it would be? Does the “costume” still fit or have you outgrown it? Has it become even more comfortable, tight and restricting, or way too big?  Is there a new and/or different role you’d like to try before it’s too late?

If you’re stuck in a role or a story line that doesn’t provide you with happiness or life satisfaction, why are you still there? What value are you getting from, or trading for, continuing? Is that value worth your sense of fulfillment from life? Does it make you grateful to be alive? Are you, generally speaking, excited to get up each morning? If so, great, you’re probably right where you belong, but if not… don’t let a few bad scenes determine the entire play. Be bold enough to stand up for yourself and make a change… We will never make everyone happy, but imagine if we all took responsibility for making ourselves happy? I believe the people in our lives that truly love us would rather have us happy in a new role than simply getting through each day in the wrong role. After all, if they spend any significant time around us, my guess is that they too will reap the benefits.

One day your role in this “play” will end; is there anything you can do now to help ensure that you can answer all those questions the way you want to when that time comes?

Remember when you were young and you imagined what/who you would be when you “grew up”? How you would feel?  Are you there? On your way? If not, what’s stopping you?  What’s the worst that could happen if you tried?  Are you sure?  Is that fact or something your mind is making up to keep you in the “comfort zone”? How much time have you spent exploring the edges?  Either way, is it worth it?  Can you deal with, even overcome, whatever that “worst” may be? Is it any harder than getting to the end of  the show and realizing you did nothing?  What are you hoping for and how do you foresee that happening? 

What if it’s as simple as changing the way you look at your life rather than actually changing anything in your life? Maybe all you need to do is shift your focus and realize that you are not just an actor in this play, you get to write it… What if you are living the life of your dreams and just haven’t taken the time to realize/appreciate it? Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily grind we lose sight of what’s right in front of us. We get so easily impressed by someone else’s “role” or “costume” that we forget how great our own is too.  What if you were to intentionally look for all that’s good/right in your life, avoiding comparisons, at least a couple of times a day….every day?

How do you want the next scene to go? Can you visualize your perfect “ending”? What do you need to do to get yourself one tiny step closer to “really happy”, to “I love my life” and/or “I’m so glad I didn’t wait another minute to try that”?

Go for it… the show will go on either way….what have you got to lose?  Be the Director of your own life, make your childhood dreams come true, you CAN do it…

It may not be quick or easy but…so what?  You’re worth it! (and you have to stick around for the whole show anyway…)

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This is YOUR TIME to shine, but you have to TAKE IT… 

 

Mindfulness seems to be somewhat of a Buzz Word lately, even in circles it’s rarely been mentioned in before. Why is this? Is it because of “the grass is always greener…” phenomena? Have we, as a society, gotten so far away from being mindful that it has become the coveted “thing we don’t have”? I don’t know, but I think there’s a connection. I think things” have gotten so fast, even somewhat automatic, that taking a moment to be mindful of our life feels like coming up for a breath of air after swimming across the entire length of the pool under water. No one will deny that huge sense of accomplishment when you finally make it across the whole pool without surfacing; but how good does that breathe of air feel the moment you finish? That’s what mindfulness feels like to me, filling your life with more of those quality “moments”.

Mindfulness is practiced by many different people in many different ways and for just as many reasons, very much like meditation. Some people confuse mindfulness with meditation, and although they are often combined in mindfulness meditation (ex. being mindful of your breath while meditating), mindfulness is merely one of many types of meditation.  Generally speaking, the goal of meditation is to reach a heightened level of overall consciousness as a human being, whereas mindfulness is about living in the now; being aware of what is happening as it is happening without judgment, without even necessarily thinking about it, just experiencing it as it actually is. In short, the goal of mindfulness is to focus on being in the present, one moment at a time. Both are great practices alone and/or together. Knowing what you want to achieve and finding the method that works for you is what’s important. Personally, I have a daily practice of mindfulness, and I try to incorporate mediation into my life as often as I can. So, even though I don’t always make time for meditation, I’m always working on mindfulness.

Lately, I’ve been asked “Why do people practice mindfulness and “What’s so great about it”? I imagine answers vary greatly depending on who you ask. For me, having a mindfulness practice helps me stay grounded in my most authentic self, thereby helping me to get the most out of my life (becoming my Best Self to live my Best Life). By regularly touching base with what is real and how I feel about it, as opposed to what I think about it (or even what others think about it), I become more consciously aware of what is truly important to me, what matters to me; as opposed to allowing myself to get too caught up in or carried away with the everyday fast paced auto pilot of social comparisons and competitions; all of the external “shoulds”, which is so easy to do. This may sound strange but, by purposefully staying in touch my core values, I end up taking a more active role in living my life intentionally (instead of waking up and realizing that years have passed and wondering where the time has gone).

Some still wonder why that’s important to me. After having a mindfulness practice for a while, I have definitely noticed that I am far more grounded, stable and comfortable in my beliefs surrounding who I really am (my most authentic/best self), who I want to be (the role I want to have in my life story), and how I want to live and/or show up so that I feel good when I go to bed each night. I believe this is because now, as a result of this practice, when I am faced with certain situations, I am better able to instinctively stop for a second…and  consciously choose how to respond; versus before I would have merely reacted and, much of the time, fought with myself later about that reaction; How could I have said or done such a stupid thing, what was I thinking, etc.… thereby continuing to waste more of my life feeling badly about myself and, thus, creating a negative chain reaction; setting a mood/tone for whatever came next based on something that was already done. Now, because I work on making a habit out of stopping (if only for a split second) and getting in touch with what actually is, as opposed to my thoughts around it (i.e. how it should/shouldn’t be or even how others might perceive it), I am more aware of the difference between consciously choosing a response that is true to me versus reacting from a place of fear, anger, excitement, etc.… a place triggered by my thoughts and/or emotions about the situation instead of the actual situation. The more subtle, yet constantly increasing, benefit I feel is an overall sense of more depth in more moments of my life; I actually notice more incredible things than I use to on an ordinary day. I have become increasingly aware of how amazing our universe is and it helps fill me with a sense of gratitude even when I may be having a bad day.  In the long run, the ability to appreciate the richness of these moments more fully, adds up to more days, weeks, months, etc. and eventually more of my life.

Ultimately, by making a practice of mindfulness I am basically just training my brain to periodically stop and be more aware of things that are happening, as they are happening, and process them without judgement or even too much thought. Very much the same way I have trained my brain to drive a large suburban down crowded streets and end up at Target without much recollection of how I got there; it’s all about creating a habit through repetition, and it’s amazing how quickly your brain can adapt. Your brain is an incredible piece of a physiological miracle. When I’m driving to Target, for example, I am generally not triggered by emotions or thoughts about the trip, so my mind is free to wander. It wanders over to thoughts about the past, the future, songs on the radio…and before I know it, I’m parking the car. Now, because of my practice, when I, and/or my body, am triggered by emotions or thoughts, I am better able to notice the sensation of my mind running away (or sometimes just spinning) and stop it. Sort of like training a loyal pet who, because of past experiences, trusts you unconditionally so that when you ask it not to run off, it instinctively listens. Eventually, some pets will actually wait and look to you for a command before even considering running off; you have earned that trust. In much the same way, mindfulness has allowed me to become better at controlling my thoughts as opposed to allowing my thoughts to be in control of me.

As far as what my mindfulness practice is, I try to be mindful most of the time; whether I’m doing menial tasks around the house or having serious conversations with loved ones. I make an effort to stay mindful when I’m with my kids and even when I’m at the gym. However, almost every day I make a point to consciously dedicate some time to my practice, much the same way I dedicate time to the other muscles in my body that I want to maintain or strengthen.  To do this, I generally walk outside, in nature, with my dog. I watch the trees, sometimes a butterfly or a bird, or just my dog as he appreciates everything around him, with no obvious thoughts or judgments about anything beyond the moment. I do, and have done, many other types of mindfulness meditations and practices, but as for a consistent practice, which I feel is the most important ingredient for success at anything, for me, it’s always involved walking, nature, and the conscious decision to release all thoughts and judgments about whatever is happening from my mind and just be aware of WHAT IS. I notice thoughts and judgments when they occur (because they definitely still occur) I just don’t give them any time or attention. I notice it’s happening and I practice moving on, letting them go by like a cloud in the sky and I refocus on what is happening around me.

Do you have a mindfulness practice? What is it? Don’t have one yet? What will it be? You can google “mindfulness” and get more ideas and/or possibilities than you have time to try; check it out and see if any of them speak to you. What have you got to lose?

The way I look at it is this: The human body is between 50 and 75% water, with the average human body consisting of around 55%. That is at least half of our body weight! Knowing that, try to imagine yourself as a large container of water. When that container is calm, the surface area of the water is like a mirror, accurately reflecting all of its surroundings. However, if you rattle that container, throw a pebble into it, etc.… the water begins to ripple and the reflection of its surroundings becomes distorted. I think of having a mindfulness practice as a tool to help “keep my waters calm” so that when “life happens”, I can process a clear reflection of what is actually happening and choose how to respond. As opposed to reacting to a distorted perception of that reality.

Have fun finding a practice that works best for you, no matter what it ends up being. Maybe you’ll come up with something brand new and unique to you. Maybe you’ll have a few different practices for various times/situations and/or circumstances in your life. There are no rules, the important thing is that it works for you and that you do it, that’s really all that matters!

Be an active participant in your life, one moment at a time. You won’t be sorry!

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I read a post on Facebook that said:

“When you have a good heart: You help too much. You trust too much. You give too much. You love too much. And it always seems you hurt the most”.

My first reaction was, Ouch! But for some reason I couldn’t stop looking at it. What was it about those words that was causing me such a strange reaction and why? Finally it hit me, the post made me sad. I wasn’t sad because I agreed with it, I was sad to think that it could encourage people to try not to feel “too much”; that’s how I would have read it some years ago. I used to believe that the more I helped, trusted, gave and/or loved, the more I was setting myself up to be hurt later on. As a result, I started to restrict the amount that I allowed myself to do those things and I began living a very safe, content, protected and inauthentic life. I’m not saying I didn’t have any highs or lows, but neither were very extreme. I became pretty good at “not getting hurt”. I stopped trusting/listening to my heart and I relied on my “logical brain”. Unfortunately, all of the tools/armor etc.… I used to keep the pain out was keeping all of the wonderfulness of life out as well. I began to stop feeling much at all, and what’s the point of that?  As I began to delve into “self-awareness”, my whole world began to change, or at least the way I felt about it.

None of this happened over night but, the biggest “life changer” began when I started thinking about my motivation behind my helping, trusting, giving, loving…etc… Why was I doing those things? Was I doing it for me, because I truly wanted to? Because of how it made me feel? For my own personal fulfillment? Or was I hoping for something in return? Was the “hurt “really about the giving? Or was it more about my perception/thoughts about what was/wasn’t being returned and how? Was the hurt because of a “good heart” or a wounded ego?

If I was truly doing these things for my own intrinsic pleasure…for example, if I wanted to love, merely for the pleasure of feeling intense love, would it make sense for me to deny myself that happiness purely out of fear that the recipient may not be able to feel the way I do? Don’t get me wrong, if it isn’t returned, it will probably effect my feelings into the future, I will LEARN from it, but it won’t take away from the pleasure of having been able to feel the most love I could at that moment. Attempting to not love “too much” doesn’t make it hurt less later, it just takes some of the joy away from the process, and the pain of the loss is the same in the end. In either case, you mourn the loss of love, love you didn’t give or receive. But…if you allow yourself to GIVE love, to feel it internally, you get that experience AND you can move forward without any “what if’s”.

The quote made me sad because I recognized it as the very belief that robbed me of so much potential richness in my younger life. Believing it stopped me from feeling all that I could feel; from helping more, trusting more, giving more and loving more. It was this myth that prevented me from letting go of my thoughts about how things “should” be and just experiencing life on a deeper, truer and more meaningful level; living in the moment and dealing with whatever came of it. It lead me to believe that not feeling pain was better than feeling anything at all. It gave me a false sense of “control”. We can never control how others will react to anything we do/say or feel.

I think there is a reason that people have been quoting these lines from Tennyson’s poem since 1850;

“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”

The pain of the regrets, “what if’s”, and “if onlys, hurts much more than any pain caused by having too good of a heart, and the wounds take much longer to heal. If I only knew how much more I would learn from the “hurt” than the regrets... On the positive side, I now take every opportunity to help, trust, give and love as much as I can. I do it for me, I do it selfishly so that I get the most out of my life. I do it because I can, because of how it makes ME feel about being ME. I do it so that, when my time comes, I don’t wonder what would have happened if I had. I’m not saying I let myself be used as a doormat, that I have become incredibly naïve or allow myself be a fool, I’m just saying I no longer let the fear of being “hurt” stop me from getting the most out of my life. I now interpret FEAR as “proceed with caution”, not STOP. I don’t let my fear of others reactions dictate who I am or how I feel. Of course I hope my acts are appreciated, but that’s not in my control.

The Facebook quote reminded me of a story, about a young girl on a beach, being shot at by little arrows. After being hit by a few she knew she didn’t like how it felt. Hastily she began building a stone silo around her for protection. As time passed and she got taller, she continued to build the walls higher. One day, as she noticed a beautiful bird flying overhead, she realized that she had forgotten why she started building…it had become a habit. Eventually, she created a small hole in the silo wall. Outside she saw incredible beauty but had no way of getting to it. The arrow slingers had long gone but she had gotten so used to building those walls, she forgot to stop. Suddenly she became aware that those walls that she had built out of fear, to protect herself from the pain of the arrows getting to her, were now keeping her from the beauty of the life that had continued to go on around her. Unfortunately, she had done such a good job of building, the silo was not easy to tear down. It was a long, laborious, process. Sometimes the sun shining in would sting her eyes and she would need to stop, look away, and take time to let them adjust before continuing. She knew there was no point in stopping, she had nothing left to lose. Eventually, when enough of the walls were down, she was able to step outside the rubble, stretch her body, take a deep breath, and walk on the sand she had only allowed herself to stand or sit on all this time. She never imagined how soft it would feel under her feet, how refreshing the water she had only been able to hear, felt in her hair, and the ocean breeze actually blowing on her face… All this time, in attempt to keep a few arrows from getting to her, she had sheltered herself from the joys and beauty of the world. As she walked away from the silo she cut her foot on a shell. She stopped, instinctively looked back at the stone remains of her “safe-place”, and then watched as her foot bled slightly. Suddenly a wave of emotion washed over her and, in some strange way, she enjoyed the pain, she felt alive. It was the first time she could remember feeling anything in a long time. Within a few moments she had forgotten about the pain and was running along the sea shore, excited about all that she would experience and feel from that day forward. (She also learned to avoid stepping on sharp shells). Never again would she sacrifice feeling something wonderful out of fear of a little pain. From that moment on she vowed to listen to her heart, to trust, and risk “being hurt”. She learned that, without that risk, nothing matters, and feeling empty and alone is painful anyway. She now knew that she would rather feel the pain that may come from feeling “too much”, than the pain that comes from losing the chance to feel anything at all.

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She vowed do her best to live a true, authentic, full life, led by dreams and purpose, not limited by fear. She would never again “protect” herself from living her BEST LIFE.

Don’t change who you are, or stop becoming all that you can be, out of fear that others won’t be able to receive it properly. Many of them wont’, but some of them will and, at the end of the day, it’s not your problem unless you let it be. Unfortunately not everyone is going to appreciate you the way you want or even deserve to be, but, I believe, that has very little to do with you and everything to do with them. Imagine if everyone with a “good heart” decided to help less, trust less, give less and love less in an effort to prevent themselves from hurting more?  What sort of world would be left? We learn from our “hurt”, it’s just another feeling, fearing it doesn’t have to get the leading role in the stories of our lives.

Ultimately, withholding all of that goodness, tapering what your heart is allowed to feel, is so much more painful than any external person/force could cause. How can we “train” our hearts to feel less pain without merely asking it to FEEL LESS? You’re human, you have a big heart and a big brain, use them both, TOGETHER. Help others because it’s the right thing to do, not because of how much they’ll appreciate it. Trust your instincts, they know you better than your ego thinks it does. Give when you can because we all need each other. Love until your heart feels as though it will burst, do it for YOU, for the pleasure of feeling, because you CAN.  Make mistakes, learn, live, feel. It’s your life, it’s happening now, and there are no redoes. Don’t let the fear of possible future pain rob you of THIS MOMENT. It’s your time! 🙂

 

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How will you ride the next wave?

Life is like the ocean waves, a constant repetitive cycle

Big ones, small ones, some we don’t even notice until they have passed

Rising up, crashing down, deep into the sea, hard onto the sand, or perhaps lightly washing over the shore

Smooth or harsh or in between

Continuous…always never ending

Ride the wave, surf, swim against it, or maybe just float?

Take a deep breath for the down part to help you survive until you rise again

You will rise again, but you will have to go under first

The more you struggle the more difficult it will be to hold your breath,

Relax, let go, don’t fight the current, it will take you back up, just don’t resist

Take the down time to think about what you will do the next time you are on top

You will be on top again…

And it too will pass, again

Soon you will be going down again, but how can it be different this time?

How can you make the down time as useful as the rise?

How can the awareness that this down time is only momentary help you?

What strengths can you acquire here to help you achieve what you want when you return to the top?

The entire ride is the journey we call life, it’s the lows that create the highs, and the highs that create the lows,

Cherish them all as if they may not last forever, get the most out of EVERY MOMENT

Life is an ocean and the waves are just moments, no two identical, once gone, never to return exactly the same…

This is your life, your ocean, and the choices are YOURS

When the waves are no longer coming and going, rising and falling, the ride…the journey…is over

Ride the wave, surf, swim against it, or float?

Take a deep breath for the down part to help you survive until you rise again

You will rise again, will you be ready?

 

I believe that our destiny is to be our best selves. To realize our innate strengths, gifts, passions and values and then use them to make a difference in the world, to help out or contribute in some way, big or small.  I believe that our destiny is in us when we are born and that free will helps determine how the journey will go.  One mistake so many of us make is to turn that free will over to others, often those with the best of intentions, but they can only make the best decisions for their selves, not yours. Many times, when we dutifully follow the “shoulds” of others, despite the feelings in our gut, or voice in our head, telling us otherwise, we live with the loss later, often in the form of regret and resentment.

For some reason we repeatedly listen to other people’s inner voices yet we tend to silence or discredit our own. Why would someone else’s inner voice know more about what’s right for you than your own?  Who else has lived your entire life, experienced everything you have experienced and perceived it the very same way?  Who else has heard all of your thoughts? Who else do you know that has always, and will always, be with you every night when you go to sleep and every morning when you wake up, for your entire life?  And yet, that is who’s voice we tend to ignore or discredit.  Why? There is no good reason, I think it’s just habit. Habits are comfortable, after all, we are neurologically wired for survival and our brains know “doing ‘this” has kept me alive this long so….continuing to do it is safe”, and safe is comfortable (but there is no growth in the comfort zone…)

When we were younger we needed to rely on the voices of others for survival.  Somewhere along the way this was no longer necessary yet it’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. I’m not suggesting that seeking and/or receiving guidance is in any way shape or form bad, I’m a huge fan of learning from others experiences. I just believe that, once you’ve gathered whatever information you think you need, your own inner voice should be the ultimate decision maker for what’s right for you. Use the voices of others as guidance, not orders.

We spend years learning, or being conditioned in some way, to listen to others; our parents, teachers, mentors, authority figures, bosses etc… When are we taught how to be in touch with, listen to, or even hear, our own “voice”? Why does that concept even sound strange? Is it the idea that we need to be told or taught to hear our own inner voice? But we are told/taught to listen to others….

It seems logical to treat a 2 year old differently from a 12 or 42 year old. They are in different stages of life and, therefore, should live by different standards. So why, when it’s us, do we allow ourselves to be ruled by our same old standards? Why do we continue to listen to the “rules” that were put into our heads when we were children? We aren’t 12 anymore yet so many of us still do things because “that’s the way I was taught”, or brought up.  Did you ever stop to think about how old you were when you learned a particular rule or standard that you have continued to live by? Is it possible it was applicable to your life then but really isn’t any more? Do you continue because you believe it’s right for you, or is it just a habit?

If it’s habit, is it a good one? Is it still beneficial or even applicable to the new realities of your life? If not, than how do you break it? For me, the first step was stopping long enough to question my thoughts and my actions; to just become aware of the fact that they really don’t make sense for me any more. Once I started doing that, the rest just sort of happened, and continues to happen… What about you? What “shoulds” do you still follow for no other reason than because you always have? Do they still work for you? Did they ever? Why do you continue? If you could do something different, what would you do? What’s stopping you? Who’s “job” is it to make up the rules for you these days? Who lives with the consequences? If you could rewrite the rules for your life today, knowing all that you know about your current self, what would they be? Think about that, that’s your first step…enjoy the journey, after all…it’s YOUR LIFE, what is YOUR inner voice telling you? 

p.s. If you’ve decided to stick with the “status quo” for whatever reason(s), before throwing in the towel completely, ask yourself: “How will I feel 5 years from now if I don’t make any changes today?” What are you putting off or not doing? Imagine your dream life two years from now? Are you on your way there? If not, what’s one thing you can do to get closer? Maybe it’s just making a plan? Remember…small steps forward vs. big steps nowhere wins every time.

 

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This “blue carrot” flower was always one of my mom’s favorites, and I never really understood why. I mean, it’s pretty, but… Every time I see one, I think of her. This summer, as I was walking, I spotted one and decided to stop take a picture of it. As I was thinking of my mom today, on the anniversary of her passing, I was compelled to look at that picture. It was as if she was here with me…I get it now. Although all of the little white flowers within the flower are equally beautiful, there is the one tiny blue/purple flower in the middle that dares to stand out and be different from all the rest, and that’s the one we see first. It doesn’t try to be like the others and “blend in”, and by being individual, displaying its own color proudly, it makes the entire flower more beautiful. My mom was like that.

As I sat looking at the picture, I recalled an “event” that occurred when I was in elementary school. I was in a play and the audience was filled with the parents and family members of my classmates. Moments before the show was ending, I noticed my mom running in one of the side doors. When she saw me notice her she seemed to stand taller, smile, and wave with excitement; as if she didn’t realize that she was still in her surgical scrubs, looking disheveled and arriving late…again.

After the show, as I was approaching my mom, I remember noticing another mom talking to her. This mom was tall, thin, looked picture perfect as always, and had been sitting in the front row when the curtains opened. I remember seeing her with her arm on my mom’s shoulder as if consoling her, it made me slow down and listen with trepidation. I heard her say something to the effect of, “oh poor Betty, you must feel so badly about arriving so late and missing the whole show.  It must be so hard on you and your kids with you working so much and missing out…they’re growing so fast…etc…”  I remember not knowing whether to jump on her band wagon or kick her in the shins. Before I could do either, my mom was already responding; again with one of her whole face smiles and twinkling eyes shining up from her petite 5’2” frame.  She looked the other mom directly in the eyes, took her hand from her shoulder, held it in her own and said something that I remember as, “Yes, it is hard not being able to be everywhere for everyone all the time, but I continue to do the best I can every day and then try again tomorrow.”  She went on to add something like, “I am so fortunate that my husband was able to video the program tonight so that we can all go home and watch it together, and the baby I was operating on, she is recovering with her parents now too, but thank you for your concern, I do appreciate it.”  (She definitely had a little spice with her sugar.)

Without another breath my mom turned, saw me, and came in for the hug. Wow! I distinctly remember that feeling of not knowing what to think or say. Now, when I think back, I realize that my mom was the perfect example of someone who got her self-worth from within.  She knew her purpose was to discover her own unique gifts and do her best to share them with as many as possible to the best of her ability every day, and that’s what she did.  Of course she wished she could do more, but she didn’t get down on herself for not being able to, she simply used it as her motivation to get up and try again the next day.

As a teenager, I recall times when this same quality of my mom’s drove me nuts. I couldn’t stand that she seemed to not care how mad or upset I or anyone else was at her.  How she would show up with cat hair all over her, in surgical scrubs, or smell of the horse barn, and not seem the least bit embarrassed. It wasn’t that she didn’t ever take the time to get dressed up and go out etc… it was just never about trying to impress anyone else (except maybe my dad from time to time). As I have gotten older and had the opportunity meet more individuals that seem to possess this same “something”, a quality that makes all shape and sizes so attractive that they seem to almost glow, it occurred to me that “it” is their self-confidence; the unshakeable appreciation of their own self-worth. The common denominator is their awareness, total acceptance and love of who they are and all that they can be/do.

My mom always told me that, for as long as she could remember, she knew she was going to be a surgeon, even though there were no women surgeons when she was growing up in the 1930’s. My mom never seemed to believe that anyone outside of her had the ability to know what she could or couldn’t do, only opinions that she could choose to take into consideration or not.  She was the only one who lived in her body with her mind and her soul, she seemed to know  that her job was to try her best at whatever she was doing and that, as long as she did, the rest was not in her control.  I would ask her how she wasn’t afraid of this or that and she would respond, “It’s not that I’m not afraid, I just don’t let that stop me.” It was as if the fear made it exciting for her. I would ask how she could not be bothered by things other people said or did, and she would respond with something like, “Honey, you can’t let what others say and do dictate how you feel or act.  You never know where they are coming from, what kind of day they are having, who they may be mad at, etc…”  She helped me understand: that people do and say different things for a million different reasons and our job is simply to listen to what we feel, inside, and do what is right for us.  And even though we can’t control others, and we have no idea what’s motivating their words or actions, we can control how we react, and that’s all we have to do. Such an amazing, and yet such a simple, concept.

My mom played hard, worked hard, loved hard, and had a smile that lit up a room. She was constantly squeezing all that she could out of life. I don’t remember ever hearing about anyone that ever met her that didn’t love her, or at least respect her. Days before her funeral I heard a story that still makes me smile and really sums up her essence. The gist of it was, when she was told that a patient was referred to her and told that she was “the best pediatric surgeon on the East coast”, her immediate response was, “I wonder who my competition is on the West Coast?” That’s pure confidence.

I miss my mom, but I feel as though I continue to learn from her every day. I like to think that a part of her lives on in me as I pursue my passion as a life coach. She is my role model as I strive to help others achieve a greater sense of self-worth and/or confidence; to realize their innate abilities to generate happiness by knowing who they are, doing their best to be their best, and not letting that fulfillment be dependent on or swayed by the opinions or judgement of others.  Each time I am able to do this I feel as though I have fulfilled my purpose and honored my mom at the same time. Through me, she can continue to help others live a fuller life.
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When did we become so consumed with doing so much, with being “productive”? What does it mean? What are we “producing” or accomplishing? If we realize it’s noon and we’ve made the beds, emptied and filled the dishwasher, washed-dried-folded and put away the laundry, and maybe even made a trip to the grocery store, have we been more productive than if we spent the morning having coffee and conversation with a friend? Or simply sleeping in and recovering from a wonderful night out? Is it more productive to complete a project at work than to take the day off, take your child out of school and spend the day at the zoo? I used to think so… but I don’t any more. I used to think that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, “waste” my time doing “frivolous” things when there were “things to get done”. Then one day, after my mom passed away, I wished I hadn’t been so “busy” doing all the things that constantly require redoing, and had just dropped everything more often to just be with and talk to her. The fact is, all of those things would have waited for me, and even if the house was a little messier or my work load a little larger, it really wouldn’t have taken much more time to complete, and it would have no impact on my life in just a few days. I wish I had just let all the things that, in hindsight, really don’t matter, sit there, while I spent time with my mom. Instead, I let my mom sit there while I “took care of things”.

LESS time with things, MORE time connecting.

Sometimes I think being “productive” is just another, more acceptable, way of pushing aside our real feelings about our lives.  As long as we keep our mind and bodies preoccupied, much the way some do with drugs or alcohol, we don’t feel (or at least can more easily ignore) that annoying gut wrenching sensation that we somehow wish things were a little different. But as long as we’re “productive” we have a great excuse why we just didn’t have the time to do anything about it…right? So how much of the stuff that you are so busy doing really matters to you? How much of it will matter five years from now? How long have you been wishing things were just a little different? How were you thinking those wishes were going to come true?

Think LESS, Feel MORE

Recently, I have decided to try to be a little less productive with the things that don’t get me any closer to my dreams/goals, or have no significant meaning to me, until I have done at least one thing, regardless of how small, that matters to me (which can simply mean… it makes me happy).  Just something to remind me to appreciate the fact that I’m alive. Sometimes it’s taking the dog for a walk, spending five minutes looking at horses, exercise, or another attempt at a yoga pose. Other times it means writing, reading a book, volunteering, being a mom/wife/friend/sibling/daughter… or taking a course in something that interests me. Honestly, most of the time I still feel that “guilty, listing all the things I “should” be doing, who I am going to disappoint”, feeling inside when I first set out to do these things, the difference is, now… I do them anyway (most of the time). I remind myself how I will feel after and that, 90% of the time, I will still get all of those other things done too. Maybe I’ll have to get up a little earlier, stay up a little later, work harder or faster, but they’ll get done, and I’ll feel so much better that I spent part of my day actually living my life. The five minutes I spend doing something that adds value to my life has such a significantly greater impact on me, and ultimately those around me, than some of the entire days I spend being “productive” with things that just don’t matter. The point is, all those “productive” things will still be there when you finally get to them, but time…appreciating being alive, once it passes, is gone forever.

LESS stuff, MORE value.

Some people say that, because of their jobs or responsibilities, they “can’t”. Is that really true? If your life depended on it, would you be able to find the time? Well guess what…it does! Every day is another day of your life that you won’t get back, there are no redo’s in your current set of circumstances.  If your work doesn’t provide you with a sense of purpose or fulfillment, than what are you doing to provide yourself with that? I totally understand that some people are lucky enough to have a job they love, it’s a passion vs. “work”; my mom was that way in her career. Others have jobs that provide them the means to pursue their passion.

But what if you don’t put yourself in either of those categories? What if you just get up and go through the motions each and every day on auto pilot? What is one small thing you can do to change that? Is it a special cup of coffee? A snuggle with your child? What are you waiting for? What are the excuses you’re telling yourself as to why you can’t?  Are they really true? Or is it a case of “if I can’t do it BIG or PERFECT I might as well not do it at all”?

LESS perfect ideas, MORE real action.

How much time do you spend surfing social media? What if you told yourself that you were going to spend half of that time every day for a week doing one small thing that really mattered to you or just made you feel good? Just to see how it feels? What not try? Do you remember what those things are?

Don’t wait until you reach your goal; to lose 5 lbs., get in shape, have X dollars in the bank, get that promotion, etc.… Are any of those things really what you’re striving for? Or is it how you imagine you will feel when you have them? If it’s the latter, the secret is, you can choose to feel that way now! It’s true, you can start feeling and living that way now while continuing to work towards your goals. For many of us, as soon as we reach our goal we find a new one anyway, so why wait to feel great and love your life? What’s the point? How much longer are you willing to put your life and your happiness (and those around you) on hold? The world needs you NOW, today, goals will always be there; they may be your destination but what about the journey? That journey is your life, and you get to, no…actually…you have to, CHOOSE how you feel as you live it.

Wait LESS, Appreciate the current moment MORE.

If you disagree, I’m willing to bet that you have felt that way for a while, long enough for that way of thinking to have become a habit. There are numerous studies out there that prove that habits can be changed. “Old habits die hard”, but just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it isn’t possible or worthwhile. Some of the most rewarding things in life are the most challenging to achieve. What could be more rewarding than living a life you love, a life that matters to you? What could be worth more?

LESS “productive”, MORE true to your heart.

Try to imagine yourself in the future… all of these days that you are letting slip by, or just “getting through”, being “productive”… that’s your life, this is not a dress rehearsal, you can’t get that time back. What do you really want to have accomplished 3, 5 or 10 years from now? How do you want to feel along the way? Make a list of all the things you do on a daily basis, and then ask yourself if any of them are getting you at least a little closer to your dreams (saving money doesn’t count). Do they make you appreciate being alive?  If not, how are those dreams or that happiness going to happen? What are you waiting for? You just have to start, don’t strive for perfect, just take the first step. One small imperfect step forward will get you so much further than 10 big perfectly planned steps never taken. If you take one small action each day, 5 minutes or 5 hours, I promise you will be getting closer to your dreams, and LIVING your life at the same time. 🙂

DO less, BE more!

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Why do we waste any one stage of our life wishing, hoping, or trying, to make it like another; each stage has its time and its purpose, but we only get one shot. Live for the moment, enjoy the things that are only available, possible or even acceptable, in that moment…and then move on. Get everything you can out of the stage that you are in, it will only help you in the next, but you have to be in the moment you are in if you don’t want to miss it. Before you know it, those moments were your life. Remember, it’s not about how much time you lived; it’s about how much you lived during your time.

Recently I sat through an assembly in my son’s middle school where we were given a folder full of papers with names and descriptions of, not only classes students could take in High School, but suggested clusters of classes for various career paths. The catch was…you pretty much needed to have it all figured out by Tuesday.  Suddenly I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me. I automatically started looking through the papers and wondering; what should he take? What if he takes this and then decides he should have taken that? Can he take them all just in case? Etc… Just then I turned around to look at my son, sitting several rows behind me with his buddies, and I noticed that they weren’t even listening. My first reaction was to be annoyed, but almost simultaneously, I had to laugh. He was just acting his age, living in the moment with his friends, not stressed out about what he was going to be when he grew up, but simply trying to get a little balled up piece of paper into another boys sweatshirt hood a few rows ahead.

Instantaneously I felt concerned by the assembly. How is this helping our society? Why are we encouraging children to focus so narrowly on their future instead of what might benefit them right now? I mean….I get it, it’s the “way things are” and I commend our school for preparing our children for that harsh reality, but could there be another way? Who is benefiting from the current “way things are”? Do kids seem happier? Are addiction rates or drug abuse down? How about school shootings or the suicide rates of college/university students or young adults? Do the “way things are” seem to be working very well to you?

Sitting there, I felt like I was witnessing an example of the out of control social pressures on our kids that have now become “normal”. We are picking a “career path” in 8th grade… If in 11th grade a child realizes he made the wrong choice, or changes his mind about what he wants to be when he grows up, does he risk making his transcripts look bad and take the opportunity to try something new? Does he value the learning he received, even if it was simply discovering what he didn’t want to do, and start in a new direction? Does he push those feelings away and march forward to achieve the goal he set simply because he has already come this far? In 11th grade is anyone encouraging him to think about how much happier he’ll be in 5, 10 or even 15 years by changing course now? To think about what his gut is telling him? Or is he being informed about how much better completing the courses will look on his resume etc.…? What if he has been doing well in these classes? Who will advise him that it’s ok not to continue even though he’s good at it? Will human nature deter him from wanting to “throw away or waste” all the time and energy he has spent getting to this point?

What does it mean to “waste time” anyway? Especially time that has already past. If it’s already past, and you gained something from it, is it possible for it become “wasted” at some point in the future, or is that just a matter of perspective? And if its perspective, can’t we change it? I think so. To me, when we stop listening to our own inner voice and let ourselves be controlled by the voices of “others”, that’s wasting time; that time is your life.

What if life is just a bunch of experiences and all we are supposed to get is what we learn from each one of them? (Versus a big job or paycheck etc.…) What if we looked at each moment as precious in itself and merely tried to get the most out of it rather than just using it as a stepping stone to a “better” future moment (which may never come).

As I sat in the assembly, I couldn’t help but wonder, when did we become more concerned with teaching our kids what to think then how to think? When did it all change? No wonder kids seem so stressed out today; not only do they have to deal with the out of control peer competition on social media, but they also have to compete for their position in life as an adult as well. When are they supposed to just be that awkward, in between, not a child or an adult, hormones taking over my body, teenagers? I can’t imagine feeling all that pressure and not yet having enough life experience to have the tools to deal with it. I have to admit, I suddenly couldn’t even hear the speakers, all I could imagine was a huge factory; with our unique, individual, creative children on a conveyer belt going in one side, full of life and laughter, and coming out the other side as robots. There were are few different makes and models, but basically just little adult robots with all the childhood sucked out of them, never to be seen again. An entire stage of life…gone. It was heart wrenching.

When we got home I asked my son what he thought about the assembly. He told me that he “wanted to take cooking and art”. When I asked him why, he said that he loves to cook and he loves to eat, so it seemed “awesome to be able to do both during the school day”. Regarding art, he said he’s always loved art but has noticed that if he doesn’t take it in school, he just doesn’t do it anymore. He said he really likes learning new drawing techniques and drawing is something he has always loved. WOW, proud mom moment!  My son wants to make sure that he continues to do and enjoy something that has made him happy for as long as he can remember…talk about “out of the mouths of babes”.  Ok, so he definitely didn’t listen to the assembly, and he may not be able to complete the engineering or business track with these electives, but he will be reinforcing a habit of “making the time to do what makes you happy. I believe a happy, self-confident individual is at least as capable of accomplishing whatever they set their minds to as someone who is just really good at following a curriculum. Besides, isn’t the whole point of “achieving our dreams” to be happy? What good is a great job and a large bank account if you’re miserable? If you don’t learn how to be happy NOW, in THIS moment or stage of your life, how can you expect to be happy later? Will you even remember what it feels like?

I’m not suggesting that I have all (or any) of the answers, but, I do know that my child will only be as young as he is now. There will come a time when he has no choice but to act like an adult, and it will no longer be appropriate for him to act like a teenager, so why not let him be one now? A toddler can poop his pants and its ok, by letting them, eventually they learn not to so that when they are in school they use the bathroom. When we are in elementary school we might throw sand at other kids. This is normal, but we quickly learn that we don’t like it when they throw it back, so we learn not to do it before reaching the upper grades when that behavior is no longer acceptable. As teenagers we may stay up too late and not be able to fully function in school the next day. This is typical and usually we just get a few extra hours sleep when we get home, but we have learned the consequences of our actions first hand so that, a few years later, we are less likely to repeat our mistakes when our jobs are on the line, and so on…

When did we stop appreciating the stage we are in and become “OK” with letting it pass us by while we work towards a “better” one? Why do some of us wait until we’re old to want to be young and others spend so much of our youth trying to be grown up? I’m sure it varies but, I feel as though we first step onto that treadmill somewhere in the mid to later years of elementary school; wishing to be just a little “older”, more “grown up” and given more independence. I’ve noticed that somewhere around 50 many people start to step off that treadmill and realize where they are, wonder how they got there (and sometimes why). The more I spend time with older people, 75 plus, I hear mixed reviews: some wish to be young again, to be physically able to enjoy the simple things in life like running, playing and rolling down a grassy hill. Others, unfortunately, have told me how grateful they are to have been young when they were because they couldn’t imagine living with the pressures of being young today. That always saddens me, probably because I have young children. But then I think, maybe, just maybe, the pendulum has swung so far in this direction of fast times, that it will soon start to head back the other way.

Maybe there is a whole generation of us that have spent some of the last 30 or so years with blinders on; striving for certain goals, filled with determination and absolute disregard for alternate possibilities. Now, having achieved our goals, we realize they don’t make us happy. Some of us may have recognized that we were heading down the wrong path along the way, but we kept going because other people told us we should, it was relatively easy, or maybe because we’d already invested so much time/money that we couldn’t imagine “throwing it all away”. Somehow we convinced ourselves that it’s better to waste our future time than to waste the time already spent, but does that make any sense? That time is gone…, the only time we have is now and our future. Do we have to be anything “less than happy” in our future because of our past? Maybe we can use that past, not for what we “accomplished”, but for what we learned from the experiences (thereby making all that time invaluable). Perhaps we can help teach the next generation the importance of living in the moment you are in, listening to and trusting your heart, and living your life. Can we lead by example?

“Society” is just a bunch of people; WE are those people. If things in society are not working, it’s up to us to fix them, one person at a time. A lot has changed over the last 30 years with the advancements in technology etc. The speed at which we do everything has increased dramatically; it’s normal to expect some growing pains, but now it’s time to adjust. One thing that has not changed is the amount of time we have at each stage in our life. My mom always told me that every season has a reason, and I believe that’s true for each “season” of our lives. Each has its own unique set of possibilities for a reason and no one is more/less essential than another. What can you do now that you weren’t able to do in a previous “season” of your life? What have the seasons past left you with to help you grow? This is your moment to make the most of NOW, and share what you know with those younger than you. You are “society”, so if you agree that some changes are needed, it’s up to you to start today! “Be the change you want to see“. No pressure 😉

p.s. You’ve probably heard the saying, “If I only knew then what I know now.” How do you respond to that? What would you have done differently? Why? What do you wish you knew? This is your moment to pass that on to the next generation, to make the difference you wish someone had made for you. Perhaps that is the reason you had to learn the “hard way”, to be the one who makes that difference for someone else. Someone has to start the change…why not you?

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As the rush of the holiday season begins to subside, I find myself thinking about the people I got to see, the ones I didn’t, those I spoke with, the gifts that were exchanged, and the memories made as a result of it all. It made me wonder why we cram it all into one small season, why not spread it out over the whole year? If I could give people a gift simply to let them know that they are important to me, that I appreciate having them in my life, that I value them as a friend/family member and a person, and that they are worth more to me than something money could buy, what would I give them? What would mean the most to me from any of these people? It was obvious; the only gift I could possibly give them was the most precious thing I have, the one thing I can never get back, exchange or replace…my time; my undivided attention. I could let my presence be my gift.

Now that may sound boastful or conceited to some, but I don’t mean it that way. My intention is to make another person(s) realize how significant they are to me. To let them know, for at least that period of time, that there is nothing more important. No cell phones, TVs, computers or other electronics; no laundry, work responsibilities, kids to chase, dishwasher to unload etc., just two (or more) people…talking, listening, and/or being, for the sole purpose of connecting, emotionally and/or spiritually, without distractions. Whether it’s on the phone or in person, in a coffee shop, movie theater or at the kitchen counter; for an hour, a day or 15 minutes, the quality of that time is what matters. Experiencing the time as it passes, instead of trying to “capture” it with a selfie.

It may seem strange to think of time as a gift, but what is more valuable? I remember when I was younger and a friend would call to talk. Out of necessity, I would stop everything I was doing and go to the room in the house where the phone was attached to the wall and be completely present. It’s true, I didn’t have a choice at the time, but I also didn’t know any different. If a friend came over we would actually spend our time communicating with each other. There was nothing to watch on TV, no video games to play, no cell phones or computers to stare at, and a fraction of the magazines to compare ourselves to or talk about…we had no choice but to interact. Today, I often find that when I’m on the phone with a friend, I’m also driving, picking up or dropping off children, running errands or, if I’m home, I’m working at my computer, folding laundry, cleaning rooms, etc… and, most of the time, the person on the other end is doing the same sort of things. If I stop and think about it, each of these things deserves my full attention (maybe not the laundry…) and yet it seems natural to do them all at once. What have we sacrificed in exchange for all of our modern “conveniences” or “technological advancements”? Is it worth it? I may be getting a lot more done in a shorter period of time but what am I getting out of any of those things? How are they contributing to my life and/or helping me grow as a person? How much quality am I loosing for the quantity I gain?

Because of “how far we have come”, million dollar industries that make their money making us feel insufficient or not enough, now have the ability to influence us 24/7 and, as a result, have become billion dollar industries. At the same time, in the age of communication, we have stopped communicating WITH each other and simply communicate TO each other. Instead of real people getting together (on the phone or in person) and being present with each other, we post glorified pictures on Facebook, watch reality TV shows that either make us feel bad about ourselves or make us feel better by making someone else look worse, compare ourselves to magazine photos, tweet this, pin that, etc. When did it all become such a contest? What happened to “we’re all in this together”? Aren’t we? What is the difference between “us” and “them”? When did we trade in connection for competition? And was it worth it? Who wins when one of us loses? I grew up hearing that “we are only as strong as our weakest link”…so why aren’t we trying to strengthen each other?

I believe, and there are several studies that agree, that we, as humans, have a strong innate need for connection, just as we do for food, water, etc…. Meaning, we are programed to desire it because we require it. It has actually been shown how this need is imperative, not only for survival but, for communities to thrive. Currently, I believe that we, as a society, are approaching epidemic levels of a deficit of the very connection that has been proven necessary for humans to thrive. Small doses of undivided personal attention from you to your friends/family could be just the antidote we need. I remember when I was younger, my mom worked a lot. She was a wonderful pediatric surgeon and saved many lives. However, she was away from home a lot. Because she was always thinking about me and my siblings, she was constantly picking up little trinkets here and there that she thought would make us happy. I remember, as a child, wishing that I could trade in all the trinkets, and the time it took her to gather them, for one hour of her time all to myself. Children are very sensitive to the primal need for deep, meaningful connection. We become numb, or use to, not having it after a while, but the cumulative negative effects on society continue to grow. It may not be obvious as it gradually occurs, but what about when you look back over time? Can you say that society has improved over the years since the internet was born? I suppose that depends on your perspective, but I’m only talking about it in a sense of people’s hope, faith, and good feelings about life in general; their happiness and feelings of self-worth vs. productivity levels.

What if your time in someone’s life could make just the difference that they needed? What if they then passed that on to someone else? Etc., etc.… Is there a down side? Worst case scenario, you make a memory. So what if this year, you consider giving someone(s) a handmade gift certificate good for one afternoon, a cup of coffee, a half hour phone call, a walk, etc…at some date within the coming year; during which you completely unplug and give the recipient your undivided attention. In your own words, let them know that they are worthy of the one thing you have that you can never get back, your time. Give them the gift that lasts forever, a quality memory. Time is the most precious thing any of us have, without it, we have nothing. Giving someone your time tells them that you value them; they are significant in your life, they matter. Maybe even consider thinking of a topic to discuss, some questions you’d love to hear their answers to, opinions on or perspective of. Maybe you just want to go for a walk and be in their company; tell them things you’d want them to know if you never saw them again (it’s never too soon). Make it a small group thing, a family thing… Just do it, schedule it, put it in your calendar and make it a priority in your life. I promise you will add more to your life with that time than you will lose by missing an exercise class, etc…

In these busy, fast-paced, auto-pilot, hectic, electronic, multitasking times, let your loved ones know what they mean to you by giving them your time and attention. Let your presence be a present. It will be appreciated; if not immediately, in time. Imagine how you would feel if someone special gave that to you…and then treat people the way you want to be treated 😉

Wishing you peace, health, love and deeper/meaningful connection in the New Year and beyond! 

 

 

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Ever feel like your “faking it” in life?  Like you’re playing a role, as opposed to just being yourself?  Making a conscious effort to “perform”, “behave” or even look a certain way, that maybe doesn’t come naturally to you but you believe it’s “correct” or the “right thing” to do? Do you believe it’s what you “should” be doing, or how you are “supposed” to act? Do you waste time and energy fretting about when others will catch on, or if they already have? Do you sometimes feel like an imposture in your own life?

Chances are, if you’re feeling even remotely similar to this, you’re not following your passion.  You probably got sucked into the “you should”, or “you’d be great at”, or “have you ever considered” cycle and, somewhere along the line, lost track of whose ideas/dreams you were following, or who really knew what was in YOUR best interest. I’m not suggesting that people giving you suggestions/advice did not intend for it to be in your best interest, but many people base what they think is in someones’ best interest on what they believe would be best for themselves. Only you can know what’s best for you…by how it makes you feel.

So how do you feel now?  What has all of your life experiences up until this point taught you?  Do you feel like you love what you are doing? Do you at least love what it allows you to do?  Are you thriving in life? Do you feel energized by your work or your play? If not, where are you stuck?

Are you following your passion/purpose? Do you remember what it is? What is that “thing” that you’ve always loved to do; the subject matter you can never read or learn enough about, or the thing that always makes you smile when you think about it? That’s it, that’s your passion, and it’s been in you since you were born. It’s the gift you were given to share with the world and, I believe, when you do, you will begin to feel a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose in your life (even while doing the laundry 😉 ).

Do you ever wonder what you would do with all that time and energy you spend “acting” like this person you’ve become if the choice was yours?  Well, it is…so what will you do with it? Who do you want to BE? What is one small step you can take today to get you closer to the life you were born to live? What support do you need? How can you get it?

Don’t stay stuck in a mistake just because you spent so much time and effort getting there. You still have the rest of your life to live, why not start today by putting who you ARE back into everything you DO.

It’s your one trip on this merry go round, go ahead and give yourself permission to enjoy the ride. You deserve it, we all do.

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