How to Let Go of the Stress and Pressure That Weigh You Down

“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens, and response is something we can choose.” ~Maureen Killoran

 

I don’t know about you, but I often find advice to release stress and pressure to be great on paper but incredibly difficult to apply.

Just say no more often! Sounds good, but my twenty-month-old son still needs constant care and I need to earn money, so there’s a lot I can’t just not do.

Get out in nature! I do try, but it’s been cold and grey, and often I don’t get time to myself until night—when it’s even more frigid.

Exercise more! I have the best of intentions, but I’m pregnant, frequently exhausted, and there’s that whole time thing again. I just can’t seem to create more of it, try as I may.

I suppose this is true of most good advice: It’s far easier to make a list of great ideas than it is to actually apply them. And it’s hard not to resist all those well-intentioned suggestions as overly simplified and maybe even unrealistic.

That, I’ve realized, is my biggest problem—one that you can perhaps relate to as well: While my circumstances can be challenging and limiting, most of the stress and pressure I feel originates with some form of internal resistance. Resistance to what was, what is, what might be, what I’m doing, what I could be doing, who I am… the list goes on.

And it might look like this:

  • Rehashing the past (and pressuring myself to somehow fix my mistakes)
  • Dwelling on worst-case scenarios (and pressuring myself to find ways to avoid them)
  • Fighting my current reality (and pressuring myself to change it)
  • Worrying about what I have to do (and pressuring myself to do it perfectly)
  • Obsessing about what I should be doing (and pressuring myself to figure it out)
  • Fixating on what I can’t do right now (and pressuring myself to get around my limitations)
  • Wishing I had more time for myself (and pressuring myself to somehow create it)
  • Judging myself in comparison to others (and pressuring myself to be better than I am)
  • Agonizing about what people think of me (and pressuring myself to meet their expectations)

If you’ve done any of these things yourself, I’m sure you know they’re exhausting.

That’s not say we are the sole cause of our stress. Sometimes life demands that we do more and deal with external challenges beyond our control—job loss, health issues, financial troubles, divorce…

And it’s true that there are lots of little things we can do to relieve some of the tension. But the first thing we need to do is relieve the pressure where it’s generally the most intense: within our own minds.

How to Relieve the Mental Pressure

There are two things I’ve found to be highly effective in quieting my inner voice of resistance.

1. Allow yourself to feel the feelings under your thoughts so that you can calm and release them.

All too often we get caught in a thought loop as a way to avoid feeling our feelings, because stressful as it may be, thinking about our circumstances allows us to avoid facing our deepest wounds. But we have to face them to heal them. As they say, the only way out is through.

I’ve found that underneath my varying forms of internal resistance, there’s usually:

Shame/guilt:

About things I think I’ve done wrong, about who I am (when I mistakenly assume my poor choices define me), about expectations I failed to meet or might fail to meet (my own and other people’s). And this triggers my core childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m fundamentally bad.

When I feel it:

When I’m rehashing the past, judging myself in comparison to others, and agonizing about what people think of me.

Fear:

Of the unknown, failing, succeeding then somehow ruining it, losing control, not doing enough with my life/making the most of my time, not living up to my potential, hurting or disappointing other people. Once again, this triggers my childhood wounds that led me to believe I’m not good enough, and never will be.

When I feel it:

When I’m dwelling on worst-case scenarios, worrying about what I have to do, and obsessing about what I should be doing.

Anger:

Toward myself for what I think I did wrong, toward other people for how I think they did me wrong, toward for myself for maybe causing them to do me wrong (because I often find a way to blame myself), toward life for being unfair. This triggers my core belief that life should be fair, formed, you guessed it, in childhood, when life felt very unfair.

When I feel it:

When I’m rehashing the past and fighting my current reality.

Emptiness:

Because I’m not connecting with myself, others, my passions, the world at large, or anything that would fulfill me.

When I feel it:

When I’m fixating on what I can’t do right now and wishing I had more time for myself.

When I can get below the thoughts and identify one of these feelings, I can sit with it. I can cry it out—the ultimate release!

I can empathize with myself and tell myself what I need to hear—that I’m a good person who’s always done her best, that I will do my best in the future and can handle what’s coming, that everyone else is doing their best, and we all deserve understanding and forgiveness.

And I can also do what I really need to do to feel better:

Maybe take a warm bath if I’m feeling ashamed to remind myself that I deserve comfort even when I think I’ve messed up.

Maybe do something fun and childlike if I’m feeling afraid of the future to help me find joy in the present moment.

Maybe write a forgiveness letter if I’m feeling angry to help me empathize, accept, and let go.

Maybe call someone I love, journal, or do something creative if I’m feeling empty, to meet my need for connection.

The point is, after we feel our feelings, we can do something to address the specific root cause of our stress in a moment instead of arbitrarily choosing an activity from a one-size-fits-all list of stress-relievers.

So ask yourself: What am I thinking that’s stressing me out? What’s the feeling underneath it? What does that feeling have to teach me? What does it need to hear? And what can I do to help ease that pain?

2. Get out of your head (and perhaps into your body or a state of flow).

It’s ironic but true that two pieces of seemingly contradictory advice can be equally helpful and powerful, and such is the case when it comes to relieving stress. Or at least it has been for me.

On the one hand, it can benefit us to look closely at what’s going in our minds so we can understand it, challenge it if necessary, and calm the feelings underneath our thoughts.

On the other hand, sometimes we simply need to disengage from our mind’s stories—about our unfulfilling work, our mounting bills, our insensitive relatives, and so on. To recognize we’re getting caught up in a mental maze from which we may never escape unless we consciously choose to get out—and then make that choice.

Our brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is designed to protect us, tends toward negativity, often focused on the past, the future, and the intentions behind others’ behavior. Research has shown a link between a disproportionately active DMN and depression and anxiety—and has also shown that meditation can help influence the default network.

That’s why it’s so important that we learn to get out of our heads, either through traditional meditation or by getting into our bodies or a state of flow (when you’re so consumed in a task that you forget about everything else and lose track of time).

It’s not just about temporarily quieting our thoughts. Mindfulness can actually change patterns of brain activity over time, enabling us to more frequently get out of the default mode network—where we inevitably feel stressed!

How do we get out of our heads and into our bodies or a state of flow?

Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness through movement:

Yoga

As you sync your breathing with your movements and focus your attention on the subtle muscle shifts required to get into and hold each pose, you’ll find your mind naturally quieting. There are lots of different styles of yoga. My favorites are vinyasa and Bikram, since I find the heat particularly soothing.

You can find all kinds of yoga videos on YouTube, and odds are, when life gets closer to normal again, you can find a free or donation-based class near you. I personally find it easier to practice in a class than on my own, since the presence of other people holds me accountable, and there are fewer cookies and TVs nearby to distract me!

Tai Chi

I have less experience with Tai Chi, but I did practice for a while in college, as part of an acting class. Acting requires you to get out of your judging mind, and Tai Chi is a perfect practice to facilitate that, since it’s all about integrating mind and body through slow, low-impact, controlled movements and breathing.

Tai chi is less physically taxing than most yoga practices (aside from restorative yoga, which is incredibly relaxing), which makes it perfect for anyone who’s more physically limited. It’s particularly popular among the senior crowd, since it’s easy on the joints, but it’s a powerful and effective mindfulness practice for anyone, of any age!

Mindful hiking or walking

Any form of movement can be meditative if you focus your attention on the sensations in your body, and hiking and walking outside bring the added benefit of immersing you in nature—a natural stress-reliever!

Studies have shown that just twenty minutes in nature can significantly lower your stress hormones. And it can also stimulate all the body’s senses, as we tune in to the sound of running water trickling nearby, the scent of pine (known to lower depression and anxiety), the colors in a picturesque sunrise, the feeling of leaves crunching beneath our feet, and the taste of a freshly picked piece of fruit.

Here are a few ways to get into a mindful state of flow (suggested by flow researcher Steven Kolter):

Through social triggers

We often think of flow as something we achieve individually, but group activities bring the added benefit of facilitating deep connection as we move in sync or work toward team goals. This might mean getting into a collective state of flow as part of a sports team, dance troupe, or through synchronized swimming.

I remember one particular piece of choreography from a community theater show I did as a kid. There were at least twenty of us, seated, doing clapping motions with each other’s hands, tapping our own and each other’s legs. We all needed to move perfectly in sync to get it just right, which required intense focus, and I have to say it was deeply gratifying to move as part of a whole—to lose myself in the group and become immersed in something bigger than myself.

Through creative triggers

Any creative activity can get us into a state of flow if we enjoy it and lose ourselves in the task. Painting, playing an instrument, dancing, jewelry making, even doodling—pick whatever calls to you so deeply you can’t help but concentrate on the present, losing your sense of self-consciousness because the act itself is so fun and rewarding.

Through environmental triggers

Rock climbing is a perfect example, since you need to be fully absorbed in the moment to safely navigate the rock formation. As you push yourself to your physical limit, balancing and adapting to the changing terrain, you’ll find yourself going deeper and deeper into a state of flow.

Though I’ve never done outdoor rock climbing—which I imagine is all the more thrilling, since it’s riskier and you’re totally immersed in nature—I participated in a climbing course as an experiential therapy treatment for bulimia in my early twenties. I remember all my worries falling away as I focused on not falling off the beam, and I recall appreciating my body for what it could do instead of judging myself for everything I thought I was doing wrong.

The beauty of most of these practices is that we can adapt them to our needs and available time. You can take an hour class or just practice for ten minutes. You can work on a painting for two hours or sketch for a brief window before bed.

Easier said than done? Of course! It’s far easier to watch Netflix in our one free hour of time or mindlessly scroll in that brief window before bed. (Guilty as charged.) When I do that, all my heavy unfelt feelings fester, settling deep into my brain and my bones and suffocating me like an invisible straitjacket.

But I know when I do something that’s good for me, I feel it—and I want more of it. And my resistance to doing it naturally fades away, along with my stress.

So really, we just need to show up once—really show up. Be so present that we allow ourselves to fully live that moment so we can love that moment, and that love will bring us back. Back to the practice, back to our bodies, back to ourselves. Our deepest selves, underneath the stress and pressure. The true self who knows we don’t need to be more, we don’t have to do more, we just have to let ourselves enjoy more. Because within that enjoyment there’s peace and healing. And no matter what our negatively biased brains tell us, we absolutely deserve it.

 

11 Gratitude Books To Remind You To Be Thankful Daily

In my continuous pursuit of happiness, one thing that people emphasize time and again is a feeling of gratitude. These days, the science behind gratitude and the general public are starting to get the idea that gratitude for things in life is actually a good thing. With life going by so fast, taking some time to slow down and express some gratitude is always nice.

In light of all this, I’ve gone out to look for some of the best books revolving around gratitude. These books do more than show us the benefits of gratitude. In fact, these books are able to help us bring a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and wellbeing to ourselves too.

Before diving into the list, here is the sort of criteria I looked for in books about gratitude. Considering how sizable the self-improvement industry is, you can use these criteria to determine other books beyond this list:

  • Easy to apply lifestyle – Expressing gratitude is not a difficult process, however, the benefits and day to day transformations can be hard to spot for those looking to get into it. The books we are suggesting today go to great lengths to outline the benefits and what you may experience when practicing gratitude on a regular basis.
  • Science-based – With the extensive amount of research done around gratitude at this point, many authors should be taking the time to do research.
  • Insightful – Gratitude is more than a feeling. It’s also a mindset shift. Not only will this make you a more thankful individual, but it should also give you more insight on yourself as you make changes to yourself every day.

 

1. Words of Gratitude

Written by Robert Emmons, he is one of the most influential professionals in gratitude research with several books and articles published on this topic. This book is written in sweet spots of many people, between academic areas and intimate ones as well.

If you’re looking for a book that has ample research but also explains itself in simple language, give this book a read.

Written by Robert Emmons, he is one of the most influential professionals in gratitude research with several books and articles published on this topic. This book is written in sweet spots of many people, between academic areas and intimate ones as well.

If you’re looking for a book that has ample research but also explains itself in simple language, give this book a read.

 

2. The Psychology of Gratitude

Another book that Robert Emmons worked on is The Psychology of Gratitude. He and Michael McCullough assembled this book for those looking to delve further into the theories, philosophies, and evidence surrounding gratitude overall.

This book pulls various perspectives and fields. It provides such an in-depth look into gratitude that many describe this as a necessary book if you’re ever planning to get into positive psychology. That said, you don’t need to have a background in it to understand this book.

Another book that Robert Emmons worked on is The Psychology of Gratitude. He and Michael McCullough assembled this book for those looking to delve further into the theories, philosophies, and evidence surrounding gratitude overall.

This book pulls various perspectives and fields. It provides such an in-depth look into gratitude that many describe this as a necessary book if you’re ever planning to get into positive psychology. That said, you don’t need to have a background in it to understand this book.

3. Thanks!

The last Emmons book I’ll talk about in this post is Thanks!. This calls back to the Words of Gratitude book he wrote where there is a bit of gratitude research while also giving different perspectives.

This book pulls from psychology, religion and anthropology before offering a call to action to cultivate gratitude in your life. The angle this book is taking is more along the lines of understanding how gratitude can create a life-changing addition to your life as well as tactics to use it in your life.

4. A Simple Act of Gratitude

 

Written by John Kralik, this memoir provides a personal look into gratitude and how it can change someone’s life. In this memoir, John Kralik talks about an all-time low point in his life to make it into a happy and flourishing life.

How he went about it was through the simple act of writing down thank-you notes to himself. After doing enough of those he had an epiphany:

“My life would become more manageable if I spent all my energy and focus on what I do have in my life rather than what I don’t have.”

That epiphany sent him on a journey where he devoted an entire year to writing 365 thank-you notes, once per day. Every time he did that he noticed profound changes in himself and wrote all about them in this book.

If you’re looking for a simple book to see gratitude in action, this is a great pick.

 

5. The Gratitude Diaries

A New York Times bestselling book has a mixture of the books discussed so far. The core focus of this book is revolving around one woman’s efforts to stick to her New Year’s resolution of being more grateful and optimistic – similar to John Kralik.

At the same time, the book delves into plenty of academic research and backs up findings with evidence-based findings like the Robert Emmons books.

This approach Janice Kaplan takes is nice as you’re getting the best of both worlds. All wrapped up in a book that you can casually read thanks to the informal and accessible tonne.

6. One Thousand Gifts

Many great gratitude books stem from personal exploration as these help us to better understand gratitude. Ann Voskamp’s book – One Thousand Gifts – is no different as she shares her personal transformation around her new habit of writing down specifics of what she is thankful for. In the book, she refers to these as “gifts”.

She argues that jotting these down on a regular basis will allow us to notice the smaller details in our lives. Based on her own transformation, it’s hard to argue with that logic.

7. Living Life As A Thank You

Written by authors Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons, this book drives home that whatever you’re given in life, even if it’s bad, saying thank you for these can change your life. This book provides a gratitude plan for those looking to delve into gratitude and also to help them understand how gratitude can improve the daily feelings of compassion, hope, and love.

8. The Little Book of Hygge

Pronounced as Hoo-ga, the idea of Hygge has Danish origins. It loosely translates to a feeling of community, well-being and coziness. The author – Meik Wiking – writes about Hygge as a way to introduce this concept and how people can incorporate this into your life.

And it’s not like these are very difficult to achieve. According to Hygge, things like taking breaks, and being present are easy to do. They also aren’t that much of a stretch to the ideas and benefits that we get when expressing gratitude.

9. The Gifts of Imperfection

Brené Brown has written all kinds of books over the years on a variety of topics. One in her wheelhouse focuses on gratitude. To Brown, she outlines ten guideposts that are designed to inspire people to live a wholehearted and authentic life. She argues that by living your life in this way, it’s easier to accept, show compassion, and cultivate gratitude in your life.

10. Everyday Gratitude

For those looking for quick bursts of information or something very easy to read, picking up a copy of Everyday Gratitude could be an option. The focus of this book is revolving around quotes from influential figures plus reflections and practices for viewing life as a gift. This is great for those who aren’t too keen on knowing the inner workings and want to experience gratitude first hand in a faster way.

11. Gratitude

The final book we’ll share is one written by Oliver Sacks titled Gratitude. Even though he didn’t do any research in the gratitude field, his essays and the multiple books he’s published since the early 1980s made their marks on many people.

Based on his essays and books it’s clear that Sacks was a man filled with gratitude. Even when he announced to people that he had terminal cancer in January 2015, he had this to say:

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.”

This book consists of four essays that were published in The New York Times – one of them being the essay where he announced his illness. This is complemented by his partner’s words and photographs of the last few years of his life.

If you’re looking for a thought-provoking and heart-wrenching book that looks at the entire cycle of life, this is your best option.

Final Thoughts

In our fast-paced lives, it’s easy to lose ourselves or forget about feeling grateful in our lives. These books teach us and remind us to slow down and take notice of the small things in life.

Many of these books also stress why that is so important to do in the first place. For those looking to hope into the world of gratitude, you can’t go wrong with picking up any of these books.

 

6 ways to promote professional growth during the pandemic

In times like these, it can be easy to feel as though you’ve run out of options for furthering your career. The economic fallout from COVID-19 has forced many young entrepreneurs to feel as though they need to slam the breaks on their journeys, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Today, many business people are simply looking for ways to make ends meet, but those that have managed to gain their footing should be looking one step further. Developing the right professional skills now can help you fend off against potential downturns later on — an invaluable opportunity for many.

Kickstarting professional growth, however, is always easier said than done. If you’re looking for a way to take your career to the next level, try starting with these tips:

1. Find a mentor or a group

Even in the calmest of times, it takes a village to raise an executive — nowadays, you’ll want as much support as you can get. Your drive and skills play a major role in determining whether you succeed, but so does the support of the people around you. Cultivate relationships with mentors and join professional groups to find like-minded people who can help you get through the bad times and celebrate the good. Deliberately growing your network puts you in contact with a variety of smart people who can provide you with advice and recommendations at different stages of your career.

“Support from a network is one of the most critical aspects of professional success,” says Ritch Wood, CEO of Nu Skin. “You might make it on your own, but your chances of success increase dramatically with a network of support at your back.” People are more active online than ever, so simply reaching out on LinkedIn or shooting someone an email is a great place to start.

2. Read stories of successful people

“When I was in my early 20s, leadership development was not a blip on my radar,” says Marcel Schwantes, founder of Leadership from the Core. “It wasn’t until much later that I realized how much transformation could come from reading.”

People are always saying they’d read more if they had the time, and now more people have the time than ever. Get yourself in the right mindset by reading books written by people who have achieved the same goals you have set for yourself. Don’t be fooled into thinking business books only feature enterprise CEOs — you can find books written by and for all kinds of people, from retail frontline workers to executives and everyone in between. Set a reading goal for yourself, grab a few works by people who inspire you, and start with chapter one.

3. Talk to your boss about your vision

“Your boss may know you do a great job, but her plate is probably completely full with her own obligations,” says Job Success Lab founder Lea McLeod. “If you’re interested in a new promotion or assignment, ask!”

As many businesses find their very foundations in flux, consider this an opportunity to carve out a new opportunity for yourself. Take some time to prepare materials that back up your case for a promotion, then schedule a conversation with your boss to make it happen. If you haven’t quite earned a shot at the next level, have a talk with your boss about what you need to do in the upcoming months to make your case. Check-in regularly to ensure your progress does not go unnoticed.

4. Start an active hobby

Endless commuting from the couch may sound good on paper, but your brain needs more activity in order to function properly. Give it the fuel it requires by staying active, outdoors if possible. If you aren’t naturally inclined toward athletics, try something less competitive, such as hiking or yoga. Whether you want to join a digital fitness group or go at it solo, it’s the activity that matters. Remember, your goal is to become a more well-rounded person.

Brian Wong, CEO of Kiip, found scuba diving to be the perfect escape from his everyday grind. “Learning something entirely new, without the pressure of it being directly correlated to my career, refreshed my mind and helped me think of things differently,” says Wong.

5. Learn when to unplug

As the lines between home and office become more blurred than ever before, unplugging has become an absolute must. “Time spent away from work should be time to unwind and recharge,” says psychologist Kurt Smith. “But if you’re constantly checking work emails on your cell phone, you never let your brain turn off and you risk getting burned out.”

To achieve your professional goals, you must be ready to give 100% when you’re on stage. That means you can’t maintain a slow burn of semi-work status when you’re off the clock. Be fully present when you’re on the job, but unplug completely when it’s time to punch out. Your performance will improve thanks to your more effective, more sustainable schedule.

6. Attend a digital conference

“Networking is only awkward and difficult when you approach it entirely cold without any shared context, values, or ways of entering a conversation,” says Zak Slayback, networking advisor and author. “Choose an event with a shared, value-driven context and you’ll find that networking and connecting with new people becomes considerably less awkward.”

As conferences the world over are canceled or postponed, some organizations are filling the gaps with exciting digital events. Those who take the time to attend these conferences will be those most dedicated to their paths in life, so they pose a great opportunity to connect with people who can help you along your journey.

Just because the world seems to have stopped turning doesn’t mean that your career has to as well. By honing in on the aspects of your life that could use the most attention, you’ll emerge from the pandemic a more well-rounded professional than ever before.

If you use these 5 phrases, you aren’t as empathetic as you think

Are you accidentally a dismissive listener?

Dismissive listening is the opposite of empathetic listening. It says “I want to fix you” or “I want to fix your problem” instead of “I hear you, what do you need?” While empathetic listeners are able to determine what a conversation partner wants or needs, dismissive listeners tend to be less charismatic in conversation and can be seriously holding back their relationships by leaning on inefficient (and generally less empathetic!) listening skills. As a result, they tend to be less effective leaders, mentors, parents and friends.

The good news: Dismissive listening isn’t a personality, it’s a practice. It can be corrected. The first step is diagnosing the situation. If you use any of these phrases, you may be engaging in dismissive listening. Keep reading to determine how you’re leading conversations down the wrong road — and what to say instead.

It’s worth noting that these critiques don’t apply to conversations that open with someone asking for advice or feedback. Instead, they apply to more subtle, open-ended conversations where empathetic listening is required.

1. “Aww! Don’t be upset!”

If someone comes to you when they’re upset about something — from missing out on promotion to experiencing a difficult life event — countering by telling them not to experience their feelings is reductive and dismissive. While you’re a kind person and want to see them happy again as soon as possible, asking them to simply not be upset may make them feel guilty for bringing it up or feel like their emotional experience isn’t valid.

What to say instead: I’m listening. That sounds hard.

This phrase reconfirms that you were a safe person to have this conversation with and validates their feelings. It also allows them the space to lead how the conversation progresses.

2. “What if you try this?”

Most of the time, people are approaching you with a conversation — especially a conversation about a problem at work or at home — to vent and have their experience validated. You’re a nice person and you want to help, but leading with unsolicited advice focuses the conversation on fixing the problem from your perspective instead of on how the problem is affecting your conversation partner. That’s dismissive of their experience and can lead them to feel frustrated and not heard.

What to say instead: I want to help. How can I show up for you moving forward?

Saying this allows you to take action and offer help without inserting your own solutions or opinions into space where someone hasn’t asked for them. If they want help, they’ll tell you how you can engage. Or, they’ll tell you they just needed you to listen.

3. “Oh! You should read/listen to this…”

Similar to the above, this well-intentioned phrase offers unsolicited advice — and shallow advice, at that. If someone is approaching you with a difficult experience — from a layoff to getting into a serious fight with a friend — they likely know where they can go to get advice. We all have Google on hand. Unless they ask, don’t offer those options up. It’s a bit deflective and insinuates their experience can be reduced to a problem that can be solved via educational podcast or inspirational memoir.

What to say instead: I want to help. How can I show up for you moving forward?

Instead, focus on their experiences and how they see you fitting into the larger conversation, if at all. Chances are, they just wanted to vent or wanted you to offer a real piece of wisdom. They’ll let you know!

4. “I totally get it. One time…”

While sometimes you really will get what your conversation partner is experiencing, most of the time, you won’t. We all live individual lives, complicated by our personal experiences, identity dimensions and personalities. While this phrase feels empathetic when you’re saying it, it may feel reductive or just plain wrong to the person on the other side. It also centers your experience over theirs. It’s best to proceed with this route only if you’re asked for similar situations or what you learned from them.

What to say instead: It sounds like you’re saying… Is that accurate?

Instead of assuming you understand what they’re experiencing, repeat back to them your impression of the situation. It centers them, reinforces that you’re listening and helps them progress the conversation in the direction they’d like it to go.

5. “You’ll be fine!”

If someone comes to you with a problem or difficult situation, telling them that it will all work out isn’t just invalidating, it’s not very helpful, either. You’re a nice person and you want to be encouraging and optimistic, but these words reduce the complicated experience someone might have and also deflects the conversation instead of allowing them space to talk through those emotions. This kills your credibility as a listener.

For example, telling a direct report that’s anxious for a presentation that they’ll be “totally fine!” is likely to kill their confidence coming to you for encouragement in the future. Similarly, telling a friend who just got laid off that they’ll be “totally fine because they’re so talented!” makes them unlikely to come to you with complicated, hard situations in the future.

What to say instead: It sounds like you’re saying… Is that accurate? How do you think it will impact you moving forward? How can I show up for you?

To avoid being reductive, reconfirm with someone how you think they’re feeling and how the experience is impacting them. Then, ask how you can help. This centers their experience without reducing it, shows interest in how they foresee the experience continuing to impact them and allows you to expertly diagnose what they’re expecting from the conversation.

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Settle For Someone Who Doesn’t Make An Effort

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Settle For Someone Who Doesn’t Make An Effort

Isn’t it the best feeling to hear “It wasn’t the same without you” or “I missed you so much”?

We all want to feel desired, wanted, and needed. We all want to feel loved and cared for. We all want to be missed. When it comes to significant others, we need to feel desired. That desire drives the passion, intimacy, and love that we feel between each other.

Sometimes we feel the passion but not the desire. We receive the response to our text a day or two later without any acknowledgement that it was late. Sure, people can be busy. Of course, we’re always busy. But how busy do you have to be to not respond with a “So sorry, busy day, will respond later”? It’s the respectful thing to do.

In our society, texting is many times our primary form of communication. We get to know each other by what emojis we send, whether or not we use periods or commas, and of course, our response time. We’re never asking for much, but we do expect a response within a respectable amount of time.

It might be that you’re trying to plan a date with the person from your English class that you’ve been crushing on for the entire year. It might be an old fling that you’re trying to reconnect with. It might be someone you’ve gone on a few dates with and you’re really feeling the potential.

Whether you’re in a potential, new, current, or nonexistent relationship, there’s never a reason to settle for someone who doesn’t make it known they want you. Here are seven reasons why.

1. You deserve better.
First comes first: You deserve better. If your best friend was complaining that the guy she likes was only texting her back every three or four days, what advice would you give her? You deserve better. It doesn’t matter whether this person is the sweetest person ever when you’re together. Making plans is a crucial step to continue getting to know each other. If they’re wishy-washy, it’s not worth it to you.

2. Your time is valuable.
When this person is off “being too busy,” you’re waiting around for their text and either coming up with excuses for them or feeling sorry for yourself. Stop that! Your time is valuable and you could be doing much better things than thinking about the “what ifs.” Stop “what if-ing” and spend your time investing in someone who will also invest time in you.

3. The Golden Rule.
Treat others how you want to be treated. You know that you wouldn’t be this flaky with someone, so why let yourself be treated this way? Indirectly, it’s insulting to you. You don’t need to be insulted or played with.

4. You won’t know what other opportunities are out there.
When you’re distracted by what this person could be doing instead of texting you back, you’re wasting your own time. You could be missing out on bumping into that cute person at the coffee shop who is completely willing to spend the 30-seconds it takes to reply to a text and make plans. Who knows what else you’re missing? You don’t! Not until you start looking.

5. You’ll become dependent on someone who isn’t dependable.
Let’s say you end up waiting 3 days for the reply. Even though you’re frustrated that this person made you wait, you make plans for Saturday and you’re looking forward to it. Saturday is a blast and your optimism is restored that this person is the one for you. They end up taking another 3 days to reply when you try to make plans again. This becomes a cycle of feeling so down when you’re waiting for the reply, but so happy when you finally make plans. You don’t need this madness! There are already so many stressors in life; waiting the whole week to confirm your weekend plans shouldn’t be another one.

6. There are better things to do than wait around.
Cook a new recipe. Bake cookies. Sing. Dance. Go to the beach, for a drive, for a run. There are endless possibilities for you to do that will stimulate your mind, body, and spirit much more than waiting around for a text back.

7. You are strong!
You might be feeling like it actually is worth it to you to wait around or that there actually aren’t better opportunities for you out there. But trust me, there are. Be a little more patient—the best has yet to come.

The bottom line is that if someone wants you in their life, they’ll make an effort to keep you in it. You’ve done nothing wrong. Don’t wait for someone to “come around” and show you they want you. If they do, you’ll know.

How to Reap the Benefits of Meditation Without Meditating

 

The benefits of meditation are far reaching and have been well known for centuries. However, the idea of formal meditation doesn’t sit well with some of us.

The idea of sitting cross-legged for extended periods and delving inward puts many of us off before we’ve even got started. Even the word “meditation” can be a very real barrier to entry for some. What a shame, as the many benefits of meditation can be good for us all.

Those benefits can include:

  • reduction in the stress we feel
  • A deeper sense of calm and relaxation in our lives
  • Reduced feelings of anxiety
  • A better understanding of what we truly think/feel/want
  • Less feelings of anger, hurt, or disquiet
  • Being more present
  • Being more content
  • A better understanding of who we really are

This little list is just starting to scratch the surface. Meditating can be that powerful.

If meditating in a more traditional way for extended periods feels right for you, all power to you— please continue with your journey. If that isn’t you, don’t worry, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.

If you recoil a little when meditation is mentioned but still want to reap some of the rewards, I hope to offer several ideas that might work for you. But first, a bit of personal reflection.

I Confess I Do Not Have a Formal Meditation Practice

As someone that writes books and a blog all under the broad umbrella of simplicity and that can often be found leafing through books and words by Thich Nhat Hanh, Bruce Lee, Sun Tzu, and Lao Tzu, it may surprise you to know I do not consider myself to have a formal meditation practice.

Perhaps somewhat out of step with the trend of our time, my morning routine (if I even have one) does not have time carved out for sitting cross-legged in a quiet room, reflecting on the universe at large.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire that others do this, but it never really felt like a fit for me. I’ve tried to make it a habit, at a few points in my life, but it just hasn’t stuck.

If I’m honest, I think the word “meditation” itself intimidates many of us. We perceive it to mean we need some special point of entry, or skillset, to reap the rewards.

All this said, perhaps paradoxically, I am also totally sold on the benefits of meditation and I want them to be a part of my life. I just happen to believe you can get those benefits in other ways. Your formal practice doesn’t have to be formal, and you don’t even have to call it a “practice.”

This is where the art of meditating without meditation comes in.

Meditation without Meditating in Action: My Top 6

Here are some of my favorite ways to achieve some of meditation’s powerful benefits without actually feeling like I am meditating.

1. Walking

Walking is my ultimate reset. It blows away the mental cobwebs that can accumulate. It provides new stimulus and re-energises a tired mind. Complex problems I’ve been struggling with can suddenly feel like they fall into place on a good, long walk. A fresh perspective can somewhat magically drift into view.

I like to walk early, before the rush and before the noise of human traffic drowns out the birds singing. Depending on where I am, I like to walk as close to nature as possible (a nice park, a beach, a hike over rolling hills). This is as close as I consider I get to a formal meditative practice.

2. Being at one with the outdoors and nature

The natural world is a passion for me. Something that breathes life and color into any day, if I just make time to stop and notice what is going on around me. I find it grounding and uplifting all at once.

Nature presents us with a constant wonderland. It’s easy to take this for granted. We can fix this by spending some time just being at one with nature and reconnecting with the great outdoors, and we’ll feel so much better for it.

Be amazed by that spider’s web glistening with the morning’s dew.

Take in the sun rising and setting.

Make time to watch the clouds moving overhead, soak up the inspiration that comes from the view.

Be endlessly in awe at nature’s ability to evolve, adapt, and deal with challenges.

Enjoy the offerings of new life and renewal each and every spring, by making deliberate time to stop and notice.

3. Losing myself in music (art)

Some would say this is cheating, as you are using outside stimulus to get a response; I say call it what you will. The benefits that people claim to get from meditation, I have and feel from losing myself in music.

Music is transformative. It can lift our mood on our darkest days, it can ease anxiety when we feel on edge about something, it can shift our mindset.

We can leverage different music at different times to support our state of well-being. Music is one of life’s true pleasures for me, one of the very last things I would want to give up.

However, if music isn’t quite as powerful a force in your own life, perhaps there is something else that is. Literature can, and does, serve the same end. Or a beautiful painting or sculpture that really moves us, or even a really great movie. All of the above can be transformative, life-affirming, and even life-changing ways we can apply ourselves.

4. Seeking stillness

Seeking stillness may sound like a total contrast to the earlier suggestion to listen to music; maybe it is or isn’t, but this time is necessary for me. This is time to let my mind just drift without expecting too much of anything from it. Letting it wander where it wanders. In a results-orientated culture, we can spend too little time here.

Cut to the core, this is actually what meditation is all about. For me, all it really means is taking the time to get in touch with our own thoughts and finding a point of reflection. It’s cutting out the external world for a while and tuning into frequency us. It’s about reconnecting with the signal, amongst the noise.

This is time to turn off the phone, unplug from the internet, and make space for some calm in our day.

Disconnecting a little from the busy world around us, to reconnect with ourselves.

No special cushion necessary, unless you want one, no special seating position necessary unless it helps trigger the state. Just make a commitment to be mindful and find some stillness in your own way.

5. Creating

For me this means writing and playing guitar.

Writing, in particular, is something I spend much time on. I feel better on days and weeks that I have made time to write creatively. Ideas flow freely and come out on the page. I make sense of thoughts and words and try to communicate as effectively as I can, then I refine (edit). When I am truly in a writing flow, this creative process can definitely feel meditative.

6. Exercise (calisthenics, yoga, and breathwork)

I am a fan and practitioner of calisthenics (working with one’s bodyweight as the weight). I find this form of training both physically demanding and endlessly interesting. I enjoy the raw simplicity.

Learning new moves or practicing well-worn moves, trying to perfect them, also has a meditative effect. I’m totally in the practice, and often have to be if the move in question is getting hard or has a balancing element. Trying to create whole body tension for some moves also means I need to be aware of where my breath is (am I holding it somewhere or letting it flow?).

Yoga is relatively new to me and I have been slow to embrace it, perhaps somewhat surprisingly as my wife is a yoga practitioner and teacher and has encouraged me to give it a proper go for years.  Knucklehead that I am, I finally took note and I’ve come to really enjoy this time. I now make time for working on the mat through my week, amongst other exercise I do.

As I am new to the yoga poses themselves, and how different teachers teach, I find I have to be totally present for yoga. No time to think about what comes after or what has just happened; to keep up with the class I have to listen. This has a calming effect on body and soul on the best days.

The breathwork, and constant queues to focus on breath, have also made me aware of where I tend to keep tension (physically and mentally).

Reframing Meditation

What’s great about this list is that you can use these practices interchangeably, and they can happily co-exist at the same time.

I think the “meditation” label puts as many off as it attracts. In busy and distracted times, this is a missed opportunity for us all to feel the benefits.

When we forget the labels, all we’re doing with the practices above is resetting a little. The art of meditating without meditating if you like.

Give it a go. String these resets together on a regular basis and feel the benefits for yourself. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be open to further experiments in formal meditative practice after doing so. If not, just find your own way. Keep what works for you, discard what doesn’t, and call it what you want, or call it nothing at all.

GOODBYE 2019 AND WELCOME 2020 THE NEW DECADE!

It’s now time to say goodbye to another decade.  We enter the new decade with great anticipation of things becoming better. This New Year and new decade creates an atmosphere of renewal for all of us. Regardless of what mistakes have been made in the past year or what projects might remain unfinished; the New Year provides an opportunity to make things better. As with all beginnings, however, getting started can be the most challenging step.  Strive to have a better understanding of yourself this year.  The most important person in your life is you!  The only person that can change you is you!  So work on yourself this year spiritually and at the end of the year look back and see all the changes you have made.

Now, you will enter the unseen, and you can enter a New Year equipped with an arsenal of heavenly energies.  It requires your taking time to be quiet and feel the energies of the angels all around you.  Look for their guidance throughout this coming year and decade.

The Angels are bringing bright blessings to you and your family this coming year. They ask that you reflect on all the blessings that you have had, as well as the lessons you have learned during this past year. They ask that you reflect on the struggles you have endured throughout the year and question why these times were so hard.

By looking back, you may be able to change your perception of the way you view your life and the world around you. When you look at things differently, the things you look at change. Consciously choose to see things in a positive light in the New Year.

Soon you will see that everything around you is filled with loving energy. You create your reality. Why not choose to have a positive, loving experience this year, and in turn, your energy will add to the collective consciousness and make the earth a better place to live! Life is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.

Many of the events that have happened in 2019 have made people realize how fragile life is and how quickly things can change. Now is not a good time to be clinging to past issues and past hurts. Letting go is a good option because it frees you from heartache caused by going over and over the past.

Bob Marley once said, “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you’re riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts; put your vision to reality. Wake up and live!”

Now is the time to let down the walls that have kept you trapped. If you choose the spiritual path these walls will soon start to fade away and you will get a taste of real freedom. You can become more aware of your connection to everything as you let down your guard and remove the walls. Focus on what has changed for you and what you desire to change in the future. For some of you this will be easy to do. For others who are resistant to change pulling down those walls will be more challenging.

Allow yourself to connect with that spark within that has been glowing inside of you from the beginning of your existence. Sometimes we only get a glimpse of the eternal, but those moments are given to us so that we have the fortitude to carry on.

Happy New Year. May the New Year bring to you warmth of love, and a light to guide your path towards a positive destination.

 

30 Super Inspiring Quotes About Finding Success as an Entrepreneur

1 .”In business, the only thing that is more important than the number is the person.”

2. “The reality is there’s an element of risk and luck in anything that you do. But I find that with disciplined risk, you’re either winning and succeeding or you’re learning. And that’s really the foundation to evolving and growing as a business.”

3. “Being an entrepreneur means one word: freedom. I have the ability to chart my own course and pursue what I’m passionate about.”

4. “I know that I’ve got to do my job better and harder than anyone in that building so that everyone there can take care of their families. And that’s one of the coolest feelings for me.”

5. “The word to me is synonymous with ‘hustler.’ As an entrepreneur, you cannot be afraid to put yourself and your ideas out there and figure out how to give them life.”

6. “I do not have a staff of hundreds. I have a very tiny staff trained as artists and architects, and I only take on one building at any given time. I’m very protective of staying small.”

7. “Most successful people reflect daily. It gives our brain a chance to pause the chaos with conscious thought of our previous actions and to hopefully derive meaning/learning from those moments! But only if you’re honest with yourself!

8. “‘Fear of failure’ is something that shouldn’t be in your vocabulary in the military, or entrepreneurship. You need to take calculated risks and not be afraid of setbacks. And in both cases, you need the mindset that I will do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission.”

9. “Entrepreneurs cross the fine line between crazy and genius.”

10. “I want to improve the world and spend my life doing something meaningful.”

11. “Being an entrepreneur is following your passion and finding a profit in it. You spend 70% of your life at work, you better love what you do.”

12. “An entrepreneur is someone who sees a need in the market and does something about it, rather than just sitting on the sidelines.”

13. It is about having a vision and mission that is bigger than me.”

14.”Being in the military taught me to risk it all early and to risk it all often.

15. “We have to slow down, particularly women who have been taught to overachieve in every single endeavor. They believe they have to be outstanding every single day at being a parent, spouse, and contributor at work. If you are trying to do that, you are going to crash and burn, and very likely not be outstanding at any of it.”

16. “You need to get to a place where you can prosper at your passion. Like I have a couple of artist friends that have a real job and do their art on the side. If their art gets big, they’ll do that full-time, but there’s no reason to go broke in the meantime.”

17. “An entrepreneur is someone who gets shit done.”

18. “Being an entrepreneur means to be an artist of life. To be willing to take big risks, because of the deep belief in creating things that matter.”

19. “Unwavering belief in yourself and enthusiasm for what you’re doing. Those traits naturally create a sense of ownership that you can’t buy anywhere — not even Jeff Bezos can sell it!”

20. “Bringing your entrepreneurial vision to fruition takes a team of smart and experienced people. Find them, trust them and empower them to help you make decisions.”

21. “You gotta succeed. If you’re not succeeding, you’re not recruiting anybody.”

22. “An entrepreneur is someone who has the passion and courage to try something that’s never been done before.”

23. “Entrepreneurship is about solving problems, not getting fixated on them.”

24. “Being an entrepreneur is different than starting and quickly exiting a startup. I think entrepreneurs create long-term companies and jobs.”

24. “When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to understand that no one is going to swoop in and save the day. You have to enjoy solving problems for your customers and for your business.”

26. “To me, an entrepreneur is someone who has a goal of impacting other people by helping them solve a problem, and through that help, aims to grow and scale to help even more people.”

27. “As an entrepreneurs, you have a fire burning inside your belly, a vision and a dream that you will do anything and everything in your power to bring to life.

28. “Entrepreneurship is about the fight — the process of getting your product and service in the hands of consumers and building a company along the way.”

29. “You have to do more than just your role. You have put on a lot of different hats and do a lot of different jobs that are outside of your daily tasks.”

30. “I think the best entrepreneurs are able to create win-wins that lead to sustainable business growth and economics.”

 

 

The story behind Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ shows us how to make projects our own

Aretha Franklin, the great American singer who became a defining voice of the 20th century and the acclaimed Queen of Soul, died at her home in Detroit on Thursday from pancreatic cancer, her publicist said. She was 76.

“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on,” Franklin’s family said in a statement.

A preacher’s daughter, Franklin began her career as a teenager in the 1950s, and her inimitable voice allowed her to hop between gospel, R&B, classical and jazz genres with grace. She went on to win 18 Grammy Awards, sell more than 75 million records in her life, and become one of the best-selling selling artists of all time. But out of all the songs she recorded, “Respect,” her demand for dignity, became her signature song that is still played in living rooms and at political protests today. The story of how Franklin took a song originally written and released by Otis Redding and made it her own can be career inspiration for us all.

How Franklin made “Respect” her own

In Redding’s version, “Respect” is about a man pleading with a woman to give him respect in exchange for what he can provide for her. Redding sang: “Hey little girl, you’re sweeter than honey / And I’m about to give you all of my money / But all I want you to do / Is just give it, give it / Respect when I come home … ”

When Franklin recorded “Respect” on Valentine’s Day in 1967, she kept most of the original lyrics but transformed the meaning of the song with the addition of a bridge and the call-and-response of her sisters. Under Franklin’s version, “Respect” became more than a domestic dispute. It became an empowering feminist anthem for women to be treated equally at home and at work.

“Oooh, your kisses,” Franklin sang, “Sweeter than honey / And guess what? / So is my money.” In her most memorable addition, Franklin spelled out her demand for parity for emphasis in the bridge: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T/ Find out what it means to me /R-E-S-P-E-C-T / Take care, TCB [take of business].”

 

 

When Franklin’s version hit the airwaves, it became a massive hit, spending two weeks as the No. 1 song in America in 1967. It became a rallying cry for women’s rights and the civil rights movement. Today, it has been referenced and sampled in dozens of feature films. We all want R-E-S-P-E-C-T. “I think that hook line is something we all relate to,” Franklin told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s something we all appreciate and expect.”

It ranks No. 4 on “Songs of the Century,” a 1999 project by the National Endowment for the Arts. “Respect” is now remembered for being Franklin’s more than Redding’s. Even Redding acknowledges this. When he played it himself at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, he said, “This next song is a song that a girl took away from me!”