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unlock 10 ways to be more open

unlock happiness


How open are you? I'll be honest: I'm not a very open person. If I were a door, I would be locked most of the time. For a various reasons (I won't get into them here because I'm pretty sure you don't have all day to read this post), I'm suspicious and distrusting of others. Because of my lack of trust, I password-protect everything. I'm obsessed with guarding my writing, to the point that I hesistate to let others check their email on my computer, narrowing my eyes and quickly replying, "Why? What for?" when asked if I can lend my computer for a moment. This, I know, is a problem.

Being the type of person who is pretty closed emotionally and physically (you should see my body language!) is not healthy. In fact, it's very limiting for me. It hinders the relationships I have now and it typically prevents me from starting new relationships. The fact that I rarely open my door, even a crack, for other people, is a problem and it definitely stands in the way of my happiness. For that reason, I've taken some time to think about how I can be more open with others. Just like being positive, this will not come easy for me. It's something I'm going to have to work at every day, but I think that outlining some tips to help me do this will really help me.

Whether your door is generally wide open or typically shut tight, we all have situations in our lives where we are more or less open. While you probably shouldn't tell every single person you meet every little detail of your life, it's not necessary to keep the door completely closed. Here are some ideas I've come with on how to be more open:

 

  1. Learn new things.

    For me this one is key. The more I learn, the more I read about, the more I know. The more I know, the more likely it is that I will be able to relate to someone on some level. Because I am always interested in learning new things and I love to read, this one is pretty easy for me to want to do. However, if you're not into learning like I am, you can try watching the news and keeping up on current events. If you know about things, you can make more connections.

  2. Monitor non-verbal cues.

    This one is also really important. Generally I have very closed body language. Folded arms. Crossed legs. Body angled away from the person I am speaking to. I tend to look around a lot when I am talking to others, mostly because I am uncomfortable or distracted by my own thoughts. I don't smile nearly as often as I should. Smiling and using open body language makes you appear much more open so I plan to work on this a lot.

  3. Listen carefully to others.

    As I mentioned above, I tend to be distracted when it comes to interacting with others. I'm either thinking about what I want to say next or I'm thinking about something else entirely. Either way, this does not help me to be open to others. This keeps me focused on me, inside myself, and stops me from connecting with other people. If I work on listening better, I will be able to connect with others on a deeper level. I may also be surprised by what I hear when I open myself up to the words of others instead of staying trapped in my own little head.

  4. Ask real questions.

    When you're interacting with someone, it's easy to ask questions like "How was your day?" but it's a lot harder to ask the big questions like "What are your thoughts on religion?" Being open and connecting with others means understanding them on a deeper level. Not only does asking the "real" questions help you to connect with others, but thinking about and sharing your answers helps you to connect with yourself as well. When asked a question in return, be open. Be honest.

  5. Ignore your fear.

    The truth is, I'm pretty terrified of connecting with other people. I'm scared that if I share the real me, they will judge it or dislike it. I'm sure on some level we all feel this way and this fear can really hold us back from being open. If you don't share some of yourself with the world, you won't be truly open. So push that fear aside and don't worry about what others might think or say or do. Be you and you'll be surprised how much people will accept you.

  6. Find ways to connect.

    Finding ways to connect with others ties in with #1. If you take the time to learn about the world, and about others' views of the world, you'll have more opportunities to connect with others. Don't be afraid to share what you know or bring up unusual topics. You'd be surprised how much you might have in common with someone else.

  7. Stay in the moment.

    Tying in with listening, staying in the moment means really making an effort, right in that moment, to connect with someone else. Don't think about the things you have to do later. Don't worry about what you didn't get done that day. Be present. It's very difficult to be open when you are thinking about something else. Your mind is closed to a new connection when you are thinking about the past or the future. Be there, in the moment, and you will be much more successful in establishing an open, interesting connection with others.

  8. Refrain from judging.

    Just as I am frightened by the possibility that others will judge me, so is pretty much everyone else. We are all, on some level, worried about others' opinions. I'm a big believer in the idea of "you get what you give." If you judge others, you will be judged. If you judge others, you are labeling them, putting them in boxes, and, while this is convenient, it often takes away a lot of opportunities. Judging others is not a way to embrace openness so don't do it. Period.

  9. Be as specific as you can.

    When you're communicating with others, be specific. When someone says to you, "How was your day?" don't respond with, "Fine. Yours?" Be more open than that. Give details. Provide examples. Share stories. People will feel more connected to you (and will probably share some of their own stories) if you open up to them. Don't be afraid of details. They will not be used against you. (Okay, there goes my mind telling my paranoia to back off!)

  10. Take your time.  

    Being open with others takes time. When you first begin opening up to people, there will probably be a lot of fumbling and bumbling and trying to figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it. It's not easy for everyone to be open and it may take an entire conversation (or many conversations) to really begin connecting with someone on an open level. Be patient with yourself. Every time you're open with someone, the door opens a little bit more. Every little creak of the hinge is progress.

 


I'm sure some of you readers are open people. Some of you post a lot of personal details on your websites and, while I find the details nice and interesting, they make me nervous. They remind me that I am not as open as you are and, honestly, I'm not sure I will ever be. This really hit me yesterday when I was answering some questions sent to me by another blogger. One of the questions was, "What is your name?" I balked instantly, my eyes narrowing in on the question as if it was a threat. My name? My real name? I took a deep breath and began typing. They I backspaced quickly and wrote, "My name is Positively Present." Not my name. Not my name at all. (But can you imagine if it were?! What crazy parents I would have!)

I instantly felt bad about it because (1) it was a lie (even though it was an obvious one that wasn't hurting or fooling anyone) and (2) it was a stark reminder glaring at me from the screen that screamed at me, "You don't know how to be open!!" To be fair, I've given the link to my blog to a lot of people who know me. A lot of people know who Positively Present is. But why can't I be honest with strangers? Why do I hide behind the mask of PP? I know I'm scared to be open and honest. I've always been this way so it's pretty hard to open up in one big burst of honesty. Almost everyone who knows me is already in shock that I'm so open with my blog (even if I don't put my name on it). I'm really proud of myself for putting so much of me out there like I've been doing over the past few months. Still, I'm scared to put out more.

Writing this and realizing how ridiculous it sounds, I'm still scared. I'm afraid of putting myself out there. I'm afraid of people someday pointing a finger at me and saying, "I read what you wrote on your blog" (which, really, is an absurd thing to worry about since I'm pretty darn proud of this blog!). I'm afraid of (yes, this is ridiculous) people finding out more about me and stalking me. I know, I know. Completely insane. But, after writing this, I feel like I owe it to myself (and to you, reader) to take a step toward being a more open person so here is goes... (deep breaths, deep breaths)

My name is Dani.

Okay, not a huge revelation, but it's a big one for me. There you have it. Me, Positively Present, Dani, being open. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.


walk down a different street

 

change to be positive

 

Yesterday, at (another) great therapy session, my therapist reached in her brown, accordian file and pulled out a sheet of paper. After she handed it to me, I skimmed it quickly and instantly realized it was a great topic to discuss on my blog. The title stretched across the top of the page read: "Stages of Recovery." This certainly applies to me right now, but no matter who you are or where you are in your life, you've probably had to recover from something. Not all recovery is about addiction. Sometimes you have to recover from a breakup or a divorce. Sometimes you might have to recover from a bad habit or an unhealthy behavior. I'm pretty sure everyone can relate to, and gain hope from, the "Stages of Recovery." Check them out:

 

Stages of Recovery

Stage 1:
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.


Stage 2:
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in this same place. But it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out. 

 
Stage 3:
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I fall in...it's a habit...but my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.


Stage 4:
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.


Stage 5:
I walk down a different street.


Though I didn't realize it right away, my therapist helped me see that these stages are really about hope, about the idea that we can make mistakes, even continue to make the same mistakes, and there is still hope for us to someday walk down a different street. She made me sit there and feel what it was like to have that sense of hope. I was talking to her about my plans for my novel and the excitement in my voice was obvious; I had come a long way from where I was when I'd first come to see her and it was clear to me that I would not be on the same path if I weren't on my own road to recovery. "What is that feeling?" she asked. It took me a bit of fumbling before I realized, "It's hope." She referenced the piece of paper and I looked down to where it was resting beside me on the couch. And I felt it, just reading over it briefly, that hope. I felt like I really could keep walking around that hole and that someday (someday soon even!) I could walk down a completely different street.

How many times have you done something not good for you (drank too much, eaten too much dessert, slept with someone you should've have) and, after, told yourself you wouldn't do it again? How many times have you done it again? And again? I'd like to say that isn't me, that I'm the kind of person who can make a mistake once, learn from it, and make better choices next time, but that is, unfortunately, not the case.

In my life, I have made bad choices and then I've made them over and over and over again. I've walked down the street, seen the hole, and fallen in over and over and over again. It's happened on purpose. It's happened by accident. It's happened by habit. But, for whatever reason, it's happened. And I bet it's happened to you too. I bet you there's something you do that is unhealthy, but you do it anyway. It could be a small thing or a big thing, but I bet you there is something that you wish you didn't do but you can't seem to stop doing. These steps give me (and, hopefully you too) hope.

Hope. What a beautiful, wonderful, inspiring word. It's something that I once would have thought of as cheesy or cliche. "Hope," I would have scoffed, "Who believes in that shit?" But now I see things differently. I see that I really do have the ability to change things in my life; I can change the things that lead me down that street and towards that hole. I'm learning that I have the strength to say no, to walk around the hole. I don't know if I've quite found my way down a different street, but I am working on it. I am, like so many things in this world, a work in progress.

No matter what your "deep hole" is in life, there is hope. There is hope that you can get out of the hole once you've fallen in and there is hope that, even if you've made the same mistake over and over again, you can find a new way to live that doesn't involve ever falling into (or walking past) that hole again.

I'd like to share with you some really inspiring and hopeful lyrics from A Fine Frenzy's song "Hope for the Hopeless." These words really give me a sense of hope and I hope they do the same for you. No matter what has happened or what situation you find yourself in there is always, always hope.

 

Stitch in your knitted brow
And you don't know how
You're gonna get it out
Crushed under heavy chest
Trying to catch your breath
But it always beats you by a step
Alright now

Making the best of it
You're not alone in this
There's hope for the hopeless
There's hope for the hopeless
There's hope

Cold in a summer breeze
Yeah, you're shivering on your bended knee
Still, when your heart is sore
And the heavens pour
Like a willow bending with the storm
You'll make it

Running against the wind
Playing the cards you get
Something is bound to give

There's hope for the hopeless
There's hope for the hopeless
There's hope

  

No matter how much you feel like you will always keep making the same mistakes or doing the same bad behaviors over and over again (trust me, I felt that way for years), there is hope. You can, if you choose to, find a way out. But don't forget that hope and the ability to change old patterns lies within you. You have to make the change. You have to walk around the hole and you have to eventually choose to go down a different street. While you may have some wonderful guidance that tugs on your hand and says, "Hey, let's go this way," it's ultimately up to you to make the choice, to make a change, to walk down a different street.


let's go! 5 steps for getting on the road to your goal

positive path

 

So now that you know where you want to go (see yesterday's post), you need a map to get there. You need a road map for your goal. Not only do you need a map, but you need to be prepared for the journey. Let's say you were about to go on a road trip. You wouldn't just hop in the car and say, "Let's go!" (Okay, some people might, but me, the over-planner, would definitely not do this.) Most likely, you would have a map or a GPS. You'd have some snacks and maybe some great CDs or songs uploaded on your iPod for the ride. You would plan. You would be prepared.

The same goes for achieving whatever goal you have in mind. Once you've decided where you want to go, you lay out your path and then you head down the road. I've laid out five steps for you to help you  (and me!) lay down that path and get that much closer to achieving your goal. After each step, as added encouragement for myself, I'm going to discuss what I'm going to do to work toward my goal. Maybe my examples will help you too.

 

5 Steps for Getting There

  1. Draw your map. First and foremost, you have to figure out the path. You have to figure out what the steps are that you need to take and you need be proactive. There is no way you will get anywhere if you don't do anything (unless you are incredibly lucky and opportunity just up and knocks on your door one day). So make a list of things you can do right now that will move you closer to your goal. Map out your plan.

  2. Look for roadblocks. Think about the direction you are trying to go in and anticipate what could go wrong. Knowing what challenges you might face will help you prepare for them and/or avoid them. Most people deal with challenges when they face them, but there are quite a few roadblocks you can anticipate and prepare for, making your life and the achievement of your goal that much easier.
  3. Plan your route. What direction are you going to head in? The other day I read a great quote: "It doesn't matter how fast you go if you're going in the wrong direction." You know where you want to go, so make sure your route is going in that direction. See if you're taking the most direct way. Sometimes that's not the best way, but if you're going a round-about route, think about why. Ask yourself, "Is there a better way to get there?"

  4. Check your oil. A few years ago, I moved to California and I decided to drive out there rather than have my car shipped. This is a long drive from DC and I certainly didn't get on the road without having my oil and engine checked. Before you begin your journey, check yourself. Check your mental state. Check the tools you're using. Is everything in working order? If not, get it (or you) fixed before you start down the road.

  5. Gather your supplies. For a long road trip snacks, RedBull, and some great music are must-haves for me. Think about the journey you're about to begin. What will you need for your trip? Gather your supplies so you can be prepared. And, no, this does not mean going out and buying things you don't need. For example, if your goal is to workout more often, you do not need to go out and buy new and expensive workout clothes. Your old T-shirts and shorts are just fine. (I include this because I've often been overzealous about new "projects" and gone out and spent a lot of money on things I didn't need only to later never reach my goal. You only need YOU to reach the goal. Not things.)

 


Now that I've shared my wonderful words of wisdom of how to get started on the journey toward your goal, I'm going list how I plan to follow these five steps. Hopefully this will help you see how you can lay out a plan for your goal, no matter how different your goal may be from mine.

My goal is to write (another) novel. I have an idea in mind and I'm really excited about it and I think a lot of people would really like and relate to it. The problem is...this isn't the first time I've had a somewhat brilliant stroke of genius and I want this time to be different. I want to really follow through with this one. So here's how I'm going to follow the five steps I've listed above:

 

  1. First, I'm going to draw my map. I'm going to lay out a plan, which goes something like this: Outline. Write. Edit. Submit to publishers. Okay, good. I've got a plan!
  2. Okay, a lot of things could be potential roadblocks (like not getting it published, which would be a huge one), but I'm going to focus on the biggest roadblock of all: ME. It's up to me to get the darn thing written. Certainly no one can publish it if it doesn't exist. This means I have to make time for it. I have to make it a priority and I have to get to work on it. I can't just keep thinking of ideas but not doing anything. I realize that I am the biggest roadblock in my path to success and I have to change that.

  3. The best way to get where I want to be going is to get started. Today is going to be the day. My route begins with creating an outline and I am going to start that today. Unlike a lot of projects I take on, I'm going to take my time, creating a detailed outline (not just some scribbles on a page) before I get to work on the writing (aka, fun) part.

  4. Alright, time for a check up. Am I ready for this? Yes. Am I healthy enough and strong enough for it? I'm still struggling with some aspects, but I think I'm in a pretty good place now, a place where I can really begin and have hope that I will be able to complete this journey.

  5. What tools do I need? Mostly my brain (which seems to be functioning alright) and a computer (have three of those!) so I think I'm on the right path. I also make sure that I keep a pad and pen with me at all times in case inspiration strikes.


So, now that I've laid out my plan and created my road map for where I want to be going, it's your turn. Where do you want to go? How are you going to get there? Give it some thought. Thinking about things this way can be time-consuming and, at times, irritating. You may say to yourself, "Why I do need to write up a plan? I know what I want and I'm working toward getting there." Yes, it might seem like a waste of time, but it's not. Knowing where you want to go is one thing, but having a plan laid out can be really helpful when you get stuck or feel unmotivated. If you want to be happy, you have to know what you want and where you want to go. The journey is sometimes the greatest part, and it helps to have any idea of what direction you're headed in as well as how you can be prepared for your travels.