Previous month:
May 2009
Next month:
July 2009

you CAN have it all: 8 tips for balancing work and life

 

positive work 

"Live a balanced life.
Learn some and think some
and draw and paint
and sing and dance and
play and work every day some."

Robert Fulghum



 


One of the most important things in life is having balance. One of the hardest areas to find balance is between work and the rest of your life. If you have a nine-to-five (or eight-to-five!) job like I do, you know all too well how much time work eats up. I spend most of my time at work or sleeping, yet I somehow manage to have a life outside of this little cubicle. How do I do it? How do YOU do it? I'm not unique in being able to find ways to balance my career, my social life, and my family. Most of us do this all the time without even thinking about it. However, considering it's a huge aspects of our lives -- this desire and attempt to balance it all -- I think it's a pretty important topic to give some thought to. After all, if we want to live happy, productive lives we're probably going to have to balance things in our lives and, for many of us, the biggest balance is between work and everything else.

It's not easy to find this balance. We want to be productive, hard working employees, but we also want to be good friends, siblings, parents, and significant others. And sometimes it's very hard to be all of those things at once. Before I discuss my thoughts on keeping it all balanced, I first want to note that it's pretty much impossible to keep everything together all the time. There are going to be times when we can't be at work because we have to care for a loved one or deal with a personal issue. There are going to be times when we miss out on a fun event because we have to stay late at work or be in early the next day. Balancing work and the rest of your life is no easy task so cut yourself some slack. We all make mistakes and we all are forced to make unpleasant choices from time to time, but the key is to do the best you can. And, to help you do that, I've provided some tips below. Check 'em out!


8 Tips For Balancing Work And Life


  1. Decide what's most important to you each day. Each morning (or, better yet, the night before) think about what you really want to accomplish that day. Is the most important thing completing a big project at work? Attending your child's piano recital? Setting aside some time for yourself? Try to narrow your day down to a few important tasks. After those tasks have been completed you can then move on to less pressing things. Remember to think about the day in terms of your whole life -- family, friends, you, work, etc. I'd advise keeping one planner or organizer for everything so you're sure not to miss anything important. Deciding what's most important every day helps you to gain focus and to tackle the most important tasks. There are plenty of things I put on my "To Do" lists that really don't need to done immediately. Of course these shouldn't be ignored, but make sure you do the most important things first. And, in order to do them first, you have to know what they are so take some time -- just a few minutes out of your hectic schedule -- to identify what really matters today.

  2. Try to keep everything very, very organized. Now, this is advice coming from someone who loves being organized. To me, organization is effortless because I've been doing it all my life. In fact, when I'm not organized I feel panicked and unsettled (yup, that's the perfectionist in me coming out!). As much as I adore organization, I understand that it doesn't come easily to everyone (or almost anyone that I know). For some people it seems like it's the absolute hardest thing in the world, but, believe me, it's worth the effort. Think about how much time you'll save if you know exactly where everything is. As a basic principle, everything in your home and at your office should have a place and you should do your best to always keep something in its place (yes, I imagine this must be much more difficult when you are living with other people and/or have children, but do the best you can). When you know where things are, when you can actually see your desk or your bedroom floor, you'll feel a lot better about everything. Trust me. Organization cuts way down on stress because you know where to find things and you don't have that frazzled, where-are-my-keys??? feeling. There are tons of great resources online for organization and I highly suggest you check 'em out if you're having trouble in this department (or just contact me!).

  3. Delegate as many tasks as possible to others. I am a terrible delegator. If I have to get something done -- whether it be for work, for a party, for a friend or family member, etc. -- I want to do it. I just know if I give someone else a task that I need to do that it won't be done the way I want it to be done (yeah, I have issues) so I have a hard time delegating. But delegating can be an absolute lifesaver when you're dealing with an overwhelming, action-packed life. Think about all of the tasks you do every day (write 'em down if you have to) and then consider who would be able to do these for you. Could your kids pick up some of  your slack when it comes to cleaning the house? Could you afford to hire a housekeeper if it'll keep you more sane? Can you ask your spouse to take care of something that you usually handle? Is there a coworker who's always asking to help but who you always turn down? Whatever you do, don't turn down help unless you really, really need to do a task yourself. Don't feel guilty if you can't do it all yourself either. Almost everyone who's working (and that includes working full time as parent!) has a million things going on and can't do everything all the time. Look around because I bet you there are a lot of people who would be willing to help you out if you just let go of control a bit and realized that delegating doesn't mean you're not doing a job well.

  4. Give yourself mini-breaks whenever you can. No matter what your job is or what's going on in your life, you deserve a break. We all deserve to have a break every once and awhile. Ideally I would suggest taking a vacation from everything -- work, family, friends, etc. -- and spending a nice long time relaxing solo. However, this is probably isn't possible for most people (and for those who are very social this probably sounds like a very un-fun vacation), but there are alternatives, "mini-breaks" if you will. What is a mini-break, you ask? Well, a mini-break can be anything you want it to be! That's the beauty of it! A mini-break can be a walk around the block at lunch, a day off of work (kid-free), a night out on the town, or an afternoon spent outdoors. A mini-break can be a spa day, a weekend getaway, a stop on the way home for a much-deserved snack. A mini-break can be a quiet night alone, a small party with friends, or a morning sleeping in. A mini-break can be whatever you want it to be, but whatever it is it must be a break. You need to take a step out of your routine and relax for a bit. It may seem like, with a million things going on, you really can't afford to spend time being unproductive, but, believe me, when you take time to relax and refresh yourself you'll be a much better friend, family member, significant other, coworker, and employee.

  5. Make every moment of the day count. When we're dealing with a day, we're dealing with a mere twenty-four hours. And, if you're anything like me, you like to spend a lot of those hours sleeping which leaves us with not all that much to work with. Which is why it's so, so important to make every moment count. For example, let's say you have to work late a lot and you don't get home until just before your kids go to bed. You only have time to read them a story and tuck them in before you crawl into bed yourself. Sure, that's not ideal, but you can make the best of it. If you only have an hour with them, make that the best hour. Do your best to put your other responsibilities and tasks aside for that period of time and focus on spending time with them. Same goes for work. When you're at work, focus on the task at hand. Give yourself a specific amount of time to work on a project and devote all of your attention to it, pushing from your mind whatever personal issues you might currently be dealing with. We can't be everywhere at once, so focus on being where you are right now.

  6. Negotiate your work load with your boss. This one depends a lot on where you work and what you do, but a lot of places seem to becoming more and more flexible with the way work is conducted. Because of this wonderful invention we call the internet, people can work from home or on the road or in a different country. There are lots of ways we can be involved at work without being at work. In addition, there are a lot of books written about how we can work smarter and not harder. A lot of emphasis is being placed on working from home, working fewer hours, or working fewer days a week. If you have a boss you can talk to, try to set aside some time to discuss ideas about alternative work scenarios. You never know unless you ask! In addition, you can try negotiating household chores, tasks, and duties with the members of your household. Can your roommates or significant other take on a bit more of the work? Can you figure out something that you could offer in return for more of the chores being done by someone else (for example, a raise in allowance for a kid who makes sure the house is tidy when you arrive home)? If you give it some thought, you might find that you can negotiate with others. A word of advice: be prepared. If you go to your boss with the idea that you want to work only four days a week, make sure you have reasons why and explanations for how all of your work will still get done.

  7. Don't put off things you can get done today. If you can do something right now, do it. Usually things we put off are things we can get done right now. Don't put something off until tomorrow because you "don't feel like doing it." Not feeling like it is not an excuse. Some things can't be done today (such as those that require input from another person or appointments that can only be scheduled on a specific date), but a lot of the tasks we face on a daily basis can be done today and should be done today. Whenever it's possible, I try to leave my desk at work with nothing hanging over my head for the next day. If I can do it today, I do my best to get it done so that I can start new tasks the next day. The same goes for personal situations and relationships. If you want to have connections with others, you have to put in the work. Don't put off sending an email or calling a friend. Don't cancel plans if you can help it. If you aren't terribly ill or completely worn out, make sure you use the time you have after work to be productive with life activities. Spend time with friends. Snuggle with a family member. Call up your parents just to chat. Unless it's literally impossible to do it today, don't say, "Oh, yeah, I'll get to that tomorrow..."

  8. Allow yourself the freedom to say "no." While I personally need to work on saying "yes" more often, I think a lot of people have trouble with saying "no." When a friend or family member asks you for a favor it can be really hard to say "no." When your boss asks if you can take on another project it can be even harder to say "no." But it's okay. It's okay to tell others that you can't take on anything else. It's okay to admit that adding one more thing to your workload is going to send the quality of your work (and your sanity) down the drain. Personally I'd much rather someone say "no" to a request of mine than have my request bring added stress and unhappiness to his/her life and I'm sure you feel the same (remember this one when someone says "no" to you and you don't understand why). It's not easy to admit that we can't do something (especially when we want to), but if you become the "yes" guy or girl people will always come to you with requests and then you will completely overwhelmed and, eventually, you won't be able to handle the pressure. It's much better to say "no" every once and a while and keep yourself balanced than it is to say "yes" to everything and feel like you never have time to relax. When you receive a request, seriously consider if you can do it. If you can't, be nice, be honest, and just say "no!"

As I mentioned above, it's not always possible to have a perfect balance. Sometimes work is going to be a priority. Sometimes family and friends will come first. It's not easy to balance it all. I feel like I struggle with balancing everything and I don't have a husband/boyfriend, kids, or anyone (other than my pup!) that depends on me so I give everyone out there who works full time and has a spouse and kids a LOT of credit. Even those who don't work and have to balance kids with social and personal responsibilities have a lot more on their plates than I do and I say "Bravo!" to you for being able to keep it together day after day. As for me, well, I'm still working on learning how to balance it all and I'm hoping that writing about these tips and following my own advice will help to make the daily balance of life that much easier.

One thing that really hurts the balance between work and the rest of your life is if you hate your job. I've gone through ups and downs at my job. Sometimes I hate it and would give anything to have the freedom to quit. Other times I'm really glad to be here and really excited about the progress I'm making. I've been given a lot of really great opportunities at my company and I'm always grateful for that (even on the days when I don't feel like being here). In general, if you hate your job and you're unhappy there (and you have no other way to get a different job), you'll be facing a lot of stress and frustration in your life. It's really important to handle this situation before you work on balancing. How should you cope with a job that makes me unhappy? My advice would be to check out a wonderful website called Work Happy Now! This site is filled with great inspiration on how to make the best of your job situation. In particular, I would advise that you check out a recent article on the site called "What Do I Do If I'm Unhappy at Work?" I would strongly suggest reading this article before diving into the tips listed above. Once you come to terms with your current career situation, you can then find ways to balance your working life with the rest of your life.  

[Note: Yesterday I was fortunate not only to be featured as a guest blogger on Shades of Crimson, but also to have a post up on another great site, The Skool of Life. In my guest post, "The Wright Way to Succeed," I tackle what I believe the deeper meaning is behind this Frank Lloyd Wright quote: "I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the thing you want to see happen." Click on the link above to access the post and hear all about the Wright way to success.]


5 ways to leave your fingerprints on the world

 

Fingerprints 

Voted most likely to end up
On the back of a milk box drink
Looks like I'm letting 'em down
'Cause seven seventy-five isn't worth
An hour of my hard work and time
When you can't afford half the shit they advertise

Oh, I'm worth more then that
More than the toe-tag generation full of regret
Oh, I won't settle, no, oh, I can't settle

I wanna break the mold
I wanna break the stereotype
Fist in the air
I'm not going down without a fight
It's my life and I'm not sitting
On the sidelines watching it pass me by
I'm leaving you my legacy
I gotta make my mark
I gotta run it hard
I want you to remember me
I'm leaving my fingerprints
I'm leaving my fingerprints
I'm leaving my fingerprints on you

Representing you and me
Don't you wanna go down in history?
Rather then end up begging on the streets
Trading under table favors for a place to sleep

'Cause I'm worth more than this
So stop writing prescriptions
For more Ritalin
I can focus my attention

Don't give up, don't give in
Build your house on the rock
Oh, not in the sand, in the sand
In the sand, in the sand

It's my life and I'm not sitting
On the sidelines watching it pass me by
I'm leaving you my legacy
I, I gotta make my mark, I gotta run it hard
I want you to remember me.



If you're like most of us you want to leave your mark on the world. One of my favorite songs these days is Katy Perry's "Fingerprints." Not only is it an incredibly upbeat, fun-to-listen-to song, but the lyrics inspire me and encourage me to think about the impression I want to leave on this world. Most of you are probably well aware of the fact that we have one life to live and we better do the best we can with it. When I was a kid I wanted to be famous. I really believed that being famous was the best way to have people remember you, to leave a mark on a world that would outlast the years I was alive. However, the older I get, the more I realize that (1) this probably isn't going to happen, (2) just because your famous doesn't mean you'll really be remembered, and (3) being famous doesn't mean being a good person and doing good things with your life. As most adults have come to realize (or, at least, I hope they have), fame and fortune isn't everything. It might be nice, but only if you choose to do nice things with it. As much as I think I would enjoy being famous -- sitting on Oprah's couch chatting about my latest and greatest novel that's helping people to live better lives -- I know I would still be me, a small speck in the great universe. No matter how famous you are, no matter what you do, you are still a person. We are all, in essence, the same. To quote Dr. Seuss in Horton Hears a Who: "a person's a person no matter how small."  And, famous or not, we all have the power to make a difference in the world, to leave a mark (no matter how small).

So, this weekend I got to thinking about how I can make a mark on this world. Sure, I'm still going to work towards writing a book that makes a difference in the lives of others. Sure, I'm still going to dream that someday I'll be a household name. But, for now, I'm me. Just Dani. And even though I'm small (in both the fame and the literal sense), I believe I can make a difference in the world. I can -- we all can -- leave our fingerprints on the world. You're sitting there, reading this, and thinking to yourself, "How can I make a difference? What can I really do that will change the world?" Well, I'm about to give you five ways to leave your mark on the world. They might seem small, but they are important. And, of course, these aren't the only five ways you can make a difference. They are just jumping off points, ways to get the wheels in your mind turning so that you can think more about how you want to live. What kinds of fingerprints do you want to leave behind?

 

5 Ways To Leave Your Mark


  1. Do What You Love. In my opinion, when we're doing what we love, we're doing something well. No matter what you think your skills are in a certain area, if you are doing it because you love to do it, it's going to show in your work. People can tell that you love something and it is reflected in what you are doing. If we are only given one life, we should be living it to the best of our abilities and I really believe that your best abilities come out when you're doing something that makes you happy, that leaves you feeling fulfilled. Whether you receive international recognition or not, the joy you're experiencing when you do what you love will rub off on those around you. You will bring a great deal to the world by embracing the truth of who you are and doing what it is that makes you most happy. It might seem selfish, but doing what you love really can impact the world in a positive way.  


  2. Spread Happiness. This is something we can do every single day. You have the ability to be happy and to make others happy. Of course this isn't always easy, but it's a very real option and something that doesn't require money or fame. Smile at someone. Offer a word of hope. Give someone a hug. Any little small thing you can do can make a difference. Right now I am reading The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach To Getting the Life You Want and I just read about how the author offered $1.15 to someone who didn't have enough at the line in the grocery store. She then saw this young man helping a woman in a wheelchair with her groceries. Happiness and kindness are contagious. Perform kind acts whenever you can and they will have a ripple effect. Every smile has the power to change the world.


  3. Encourage Others. While I'm all about believing in yourself and doing anything you can to make your own dreams come true, one way to really make a mark is to encourage someone else's dreams. By being supportive and encouraging of others, you are making a difference not only in their world but potentially in the world of others. For example, I've been fortunate enough to have many, many supportive people in my life. My parents, teachers, friends have always supported me and encouraged me. Because of this, I want to support and encourage others and I hope that when I encourage other people that they then want to encourage people as well. Like acts of kindness, encouragement can have a ripple effect. And who knows? You could be encouraging the next great inventor or novelist or president...


  4. Love The World. I'll save the lecture about saving the environment for another time, but I do want to mention that treating the world with kindness and love is a great way to make an impact on future generations. You may not be written about in a history book or watched on old re-runs, but if you do your best to protect the environment, you are making a difference in the lives of those who will walk this earth long after you're gone. We're not all going to be environmentalists, but take some time to think about your earthly fingerprints. What can you do to make the world a cleaner, happier place? Small things (like picking up a piece of trash) can be just as important as big things. If you can afford to get a hybrid car or a solar-powered house, think about the little things you can do. As I'm sure you know,  a lot of little things add up to a BIG difference.


  5. Share Your Words. Okay, so you might not be the world's best storyteller, but that doesn't mean you can't share yourself with the world. You don't have to write a novel or publish a biography to divulge your years of wisdom. You can share what you know with those around you. Share your experiences with those around you. Tell stories. If you have kids or interact with kids, tell them what you know. They may not seem to care (or appear like they're listening), but your words will have an impact. I remember so many words of wisdom my parents or friends have shared with me. I remember their words and I try to learn from their stories. I also share what I know with others, and, for the most part, people seem to appreciate this. People like to learn and they can learn from you. Yes, you!


These are only five ways that you can leave your fingerprints on the world. What's important to realize is that so much of what we do -- from a smile to a word to an elaborate gesture -- has an impact on the world around us. Without knowing it, we are influencing people who are influencing people who are influencing people. And, with all of the latest technology, we have even more ways to impact people. It's truly amazing what we have the ability to do. We don't have to be rock stars or billionaires or actors to leave a mark on the world. We can leave our fingerprints everywhere, on everything. The question then becomes: where are you leaving your fingerprints?

[Note: If you're not sick of reading the words of Dani, check out Shades of Crimson, a totally awesome and inspiring website where I'm honored to have a guest post today. In my post, "Three Shades of Happiness", I write about what it means to have a pleasant life, an engaged life, and a meaningful life. Check it out over at Shades of Crimson to learn more!]


what to do when you want to click "undo"


Regretfulgirl 

"Never regret.
If it's good,
it's wonderful.
If it's bad,
it's experience."

Victoria Holt


We've all been to that sad and angry place known as regret. We don't like it there but, at some point everyone has been forced to take a trip there after s/he did or said something and then thought, "OMG, why did I do that??? What was I thinking???" We fret. We panic. We frantically try to think of a way to undo what's been done. If only there were a "delete" button or a "rewind" button, we think desperately. But, alas, there is not. You can never undo what's been done, no matter how badly you might want to. Recently I faced a situation like this. I did something and I instantly regretted it, but there was no going back. Like for me, the next day an email from Oprah popped up in my inbox with the title: "Six Steps To Regret-Proof Your Life". Perfect! I might not be able to go back and undo this mistake, but I could work on preventing it from happening again, which was certainly better than then frantic what-do-I-do-now? thoughts that were racing around in my head. I dove head first into the article with the cheerful hope that it would somehow help me move from regret to acceptance. In this post I'm going to fill you in on Martha Beck's article "Who's Sorry Now?: Six Steps to Regret-Proof Your Life" as well as add my own little insights on the topic (considering I've had some personal experience relating to the not-so-pleasant subject of regret!).


Martha Beck's Six Steps To Regret-Proof Your Life


  1. Get beyond denial. In this step, Beck argues that we need to get away from the "shouldn't haves," which are statements like "That shouldn't have happened" or "I shouldn't have done that." When using these statements, Beck claims that we are "in a struggle against reality," which I completely agree with. Things happen. "Shouldn't haves" don't change the facts. According to Beck, "if only" statements are just as bad (if not worse!). When we say things like, "If only I hadn't gotten married so young..." or "If only I could have gotten that job..." we're also avoiding reality. Sure, things might have been better "if only..." but they might have been worse. Either way, they aren't that way and we have to live in the moment, in our now. Beck says this (which I love!): "If you're prone to unproductive regret, please hear this: Everyone agrees with you. That thing you regret? It really, really, really shouldn't have happened. But. It. Did. If you enjoy being miserable, by all means, continue to rail against this fact. If you'd rather be happy, prune the "shouldn't haves" from your mental story, and move on."


  2. Separate regret's ingredients. According to Beck, regret is a mixture of being sad and being mad (two awful emotions if you ask me!) and there can be difficult levels of each depending on the situation. (Sometimes a lot of mad and little sad; sometimes just the opposite.) What Beck advises is to understand that both emotions are there in whatever quantity they've manifested themselves in. Beck argues that many people get stuck in either anger or sadness and deny the presence of the other emotion. Beck believes that it's best to consider both emotions and to deal with them separately. She suggests listing all of the things you're sad or angry about by using the following statements: "I'm sad that..." and "I'm angry at..." When you regret a situation, list all of the reasons you're sad and angry and then move on to the next step.


  3. Grieve what is lost. It's natural to be upset when you've lost something, whether it be a loved one, a job opportunity, or your dignity (yeah, I added that last one...). Beck advises taking time to grieve what it is that you've lost. It's okay to be sad and upset. Do whatever you must to deal with your sadness and your loss. Beck makes a great point about getting over regret and dealing with your sadness and I just have to share it with you here: "You're finished grieving when you see someone gaining what you regret losing and feel only joy for them—maybe even secret gratitude that circumstances forced you to enlarge your own capacity for joy." I don't know about you, but I have a hard time dealing when I see someone else getting what I thought I wanted. (Guess this means I have some work to do!). Beck realizes that sometimes parts of the sadness just won't go away and, according to her, this is regret's way of telling you to find part of whatever you lost (see the next step).


  4. Reclaim your dreams. While you probably can't get back whatever it is that you've lost, you can reclaim the essence of that thing. Beck offers some examples. If you're unhappy with your weight, love your healthy body. If you lost a winning lottery ticket, find ways to enjoy abundance. If you've spent too many years being celibate, enjoy passion. Basically, no matter what it is that you regret, you have the ability to claim some part of it -- the essence of whatever it is that you lost -- right now. Think about what you would have gotten from that thing that you lost and cultivate those experiences in your life through what you already have. Think you would've been happier if you hadn't made that mistake? Celebrate the happiness in your life. Think you would be more sane if you hadn't had five kids? Spend some time alone and think about all of the things you love about your family. Beck says that she can "brazenly promise that if you decide to reclaim the essence of anything you regret losing, you'll find it—often sooner than you think, in ways you would never have expected."


  5. Analyze your anger. While sadness may sometimes jump to the forefront when we're dealing with regret and loss, anger is just as important Beck says. According to her (and I agree!), anger is something that can steer us. It can guide us in the directions we need to go, but we have to listen to what our anger is telling us. About anger, Beck says: "Don't fear it, run from it, tranquilize it, try to kill it." Instead, deal with it. I don't know about you, but I am definitely an avoider when it comes to this department. Rather than deal with anger (both at myself and at others), I avoid it. I push it away and do my best to pretend it's not there. But, no surprise, it always comes back. Emotions don't disappear unless they are dealt with. If you don't deal with them (one of my main problems!), you just move them around and they will manifest them in a variety of different (and sometimes very inappropriate) ways. Beck suggests meeting with a friend or writing in a journal about your anger. She says, "There will be a lot of meaningless sound and fury, but there will also be information about exactly what needs to change in your present and future so that you'll stop suffering from old regrets and create new ones." This is so true and I will absolutely be embracing this advice (as hard as it might be for an emotion-avoider like myself!).


  6. Learn to lean loveward. This is my favorite step (and that's mostly because I love the word "loveward"). Beck writes: "When I saw A Chorus Line, I wondered if it's literally true that "I can't regret what I did for love." So I did a little thought experiment. I recalled all my significant regrets, and sure enough, I found that none of them followed a choice based purely on love. All were the consequence of fear-based decisions. In the cases where my motivations were a mix of love and fear, it was always the fear-based component that left me fretful and regretful." Reading that really made me think. What decisions have I made based on love? When I make a decision based on fear (which I do all too often), it is usually not the right decision. Next time I'm wondering if I will regret what I'm doing/saying, I plan to ask myself: "Am I making this decision based on love (for myself or others) or is this decision coming from a place of fear?" I suggest you ask yourself the same question and we will both have a lot fewer regrets! 
     

 

In the email sent by Oprah, this quote was posted at the top. For whatever reason my eyes jumped right over it and into the heart of the email. This morning when I went to re-open the email, the quote was promiently staring at me in my in-box, in the small section where a sample of the email is displayed and I was completely obsessed with the truth in it. The quote, by John Burnside, author of The Glister, reads:

"Mistakes don't happen in a single moment..."


What could be truer than that? While I admit that there are times when a word or two slips out of your mouth that you want to take back, isn't it usually more complex than that. The big mistakes -- those that are usually most detrimental to our happiness -- typically are the reselt of many, many moments adding up (some of which are just moments of thought). Many  mistakes, though we'd hate to admit it to ourselves, are premeditated. We know we're about to do the wrong thing, make the wrong choice, say something hurtful -- but we do it anyway. The important thing to remember is that we all make mistakes. Tiny ones. Small ones. Average ones. Big ones. Life-altering ones. We all make them -- it's part of life! -- and that's okay. All we can do is the best we can. We can read the ideas above and hope that, more often than not, we choose the better path, the path of least regret.

 

How do YOU deal with regret? 
Have any good tips for dealing with those OMG moments?
What do you think of Beck's steps? Will they work for you?


are you a g.o.o.d. person?

 

Begood 
  "It's not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong;
not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich;
not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned;
and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity."

Francis Bacon


 

During my weekly therapy session this week, the topic of integrity came up. "What is integrity?" my therapist asked me. I stared blankly at her. I knew what it was. At least I thought I did...Immediately after our session, I rushed back to work and Googled "integrity." Of course I came across some of the most interesting things...The first thing I stumbled upon was the definition of the word. According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, integrity is: (1) adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; (2) an unimpaired condition; (3) the quality or state of being complete or undivided. Hmmm...not quite what came to mind when I thought about integrity. I decided to give WikiAnswers a shot. Here are some of the ideas others posted when asked the question "What is integrity?":

"Integrity  is a very nice balance of self respect and confidence. Integrity comes from the Greek words 'integritas' and 'integra' meaning whole. It enters into any aspect of one's life. It's belief system without faltering no matter how dangerous, how unpopular the person makes themselves to others. Integrity includes: sincerity, keeping one's word and agreements, honesty, truthfulness, ethics, fairness and justice, punctuality and never faltering in what one believes in. Integrity is keeping your good name/character (assuming that it is good). Integrity is having values, being consistent with one's values or belief system, not wavering due to outside influences, standing strong in how one should live and believe. Integrity is always doing the right thing even when no one else is looking. Integrity refers to wholeness as a human being. It means that you have developed into a person whose thoughts, words, and actions are congruent, and therefore do not conflict with each other."

After reading those points I now have a better understanding of what integrity means, both in a literal sense and a general sense. I feel like I have a handle on understanding it now, but does that mean I have it? I'll be honest: I think I possess integrity in certain situations. In others, I seem to take my integrity and chuck it out the window. Every day I'm learning more who I am and who I want to be and I can say for certain that I want to be a person with a lot of integrity. To me, being a person with integrity means being a good person. But what is a "good" person? The word is so subjective. The world is so subjective as well. It's hard to know what "good" really means in relation to a person's integrity. So instead of trying to be a good person, I'm going to work on being a G.O.O.D. person. What is a G.O.O.D. person, exactly? Well, if you want to know more it looks like you'll just have to keep on reading!

 

A G.O.O.D. Person Is...

Genuinely interested in giving to others. Most people would probably say they are giving, but are they really? Do they put the needs of others before their own desires (or, at least, in line with their own needs)? Having a genuine interest in the lives of others is one of the surest signs of good character that I've ever seen. It says a lot about a person when s/he listens, gives, cares, and needs other people. Giving is not always about money or even time. Giving is also about putting in mental effort to one's own beliefs and core values so that one can make a better, bigger difference in the lives of others. Being content with oneself and having a clear understanding of what one believes in is actually a form of giving to others. When you work to become right with who you are, to know who you are and believe in that person, you are giving back to the world. For example, the happier I become as a person (yes, it's happening...slowly but surely...), the more positive energy I give off to the world. I smile more. I laugh more. I hug more. I interact more with other people. These are small gifts to the world, but they can, when added up, have a huge impact on the lives of others. These little things are things we can all do to make the world a better place, to live lives as G.O.O.D. people. 
  

Open-minded to opportunity. While a person with integrity should define and stay true to his or her beliefs, a person with integrity is not limited by these beliefs. They should be the foundations of that person but they are foundations that can be built upon. When I think of the word "integrity," what immediately pops into my mind is a boring, rigid, reliable person. Who wants to be that? Not me (well, except for the reliable part). I want to be interesting, exciting, and flexible. I want to be able to build upon the structure of beliefs that I believe are my foundation, and I want to be able to do this while still keeping my integrity. Is that possible? Yes, I believe it is. It's possible to have standards and values and to keep those in mind in everything you do while still being open to new opportunities and ideas. It's so important to stay true to yourself while also being open to others' ideas. If we aren't living open-minded lives, we're forced into tiny boxes of our own beliefs, which may not always be the best ones. I really believe that a G.O.O.D. person is an open-minded person.

One with his/her self and the world. To me, good people are those who see the big picture, who know that life is about more than their own selfish needs. These types of people, sadly, are not all that easy to come by. For example, last night I was on the Metro (the subway system in Washington DC) on my way to see Beyonce perform and, as luck would have it there was also a Nationals (baseball) game going on at the same time. This means the Metro was very crowded. Everyone was squished together and it was not pleasant. When a man in a wheelchair entered the train I was on, everyone was forced to move even closer together (drawing some serious looks of annoyance from some people). At one stop many people were getting off to attend the concert or go to the game and were pushing the man in the wheelchair and exclaiming things that implied their desire for him to move. Personally, this was one of the most selfish things I've witnessed. No one stopped to think about what it might have been like to have been him, probably feeling bad for blocking the way. Everyone was concerned with his or her own plans and destinations. Someone with a sense of self and a good, honest understanding of how s/he fits in the world around him/her would never have acted the way these people acted. Being G.O.O.D. means being able to see that the world is about more than what's going on in your body and its immediate surroundings. It means seeing the world as a whole, as something you are part of (rather than something you're the center of), which isn't always easy.

Dedicated to making life meaningful. Life is meant to be lived with a purpose, with meaning. (At least, that's what I believe.) I also believe that everyone's purpose or meaning for life is unique. Your life's meaning could come from your profession, from your children, from your contributions to your community. Your life's meaning could come from your art, from your spouse, from your volunteer work. In fact, your meaning could come from all of these things at once. Your life is unique to you, and you have to be dedicated to that life in order to be truly G.O.O.D. Life is a gift and it is one we all too easily accept greedily, expecting it and demanding it. But a person with true integrity recognizes the value not only of his/her meaning, but the value of the lives of others. A person with integrity stays true to his/her purpose without devaluing the purpose of another's life. A person with integrity knows what his/her purpose is and works toward it without trampling on the lives of others. This is not always easy to do when presented with a situation that forces you to choose between meeting a goal and damaging someone's goal. A lot of people choose themselves. A lot of people avoid, hurt, cheat, lie, steal, and deceive to get what it is that they want. Not a person with integrity. No, a G.O.O.D. person works towards his/her purpose without causing intentional damage to the lives of others.



So, I bet you're all dying to know if I'm a G.O.O.D. person. Well, yes and no. I do what I can to treat people fairly and honestly. I do my best to be sincere and to stick unwaveringly to my moral values. Am I perfect? Hell no! I've made a lot of mistakes. I've hurt a lot of people (including myself). I've strayed so far from some of my core values that I couldn't even see them with a pair of binoculars in hand. But I'm learning. I'm learning more and more that I'd rather be a person of integrity than achieve whatever current desire I'm seeking. I'd rather be a G.O.O.D. person and see the big picture of my life and the world rather than satisfy my latest whim. It's not always easy. Sometimes I want to take the easy way out, as I'm sure we all probably want to do from time to time. I know I say this a lot, but every day I'm learning more about what it means to be happy with myself and the world I live in. The more confident I become with who I am, the more I truly love myself, the easier it becomes to be a G.O.O.D. person -- a person of integrity.

 

In general, do you think you're a G.O.O.D. person?
Do you think the concept of a G.O.O.D. person is limiting?
If so, what would you add?


3 simple steps for conquering unhappiness

 

conquer happiness 

"The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be."

Marcel Pagnol

 

The quote above really speaks to me today. Lately my mind has been wandering into forbidden territory. Little by little, I find my thoughts creeping back to the past. They do it when I'm not looking, when I'm busy or sleeping or not fully paying attention, and then before I know it, I'm thinking backward, stumbling and tripping over my ideas because I'm going in the wrong direction. The trouble lately has been not only that I'm thinking about the past and spending way too much time there, but I've also been romanticizing it, imagining it in ways that are completely unrealistic.

Thinking about the past this way makes me long for it. I want things that aren't -- weren't -- even real. Clearly this is a problem for many reasons, but one of the things that bugs me the most is that I cannot control what I think about.  I know this is normal. I know a lot of us have trouble controlling our thoughts, keeping them moving forward in a productive way. But, for me -- a slight control freak -- this drives me crazy. I want to be able to control what I think about, at least to some extent. I want to be able to turn off certain parts of my mind. No, actually, what I want is to be able to see things truly, honestly, as they really are/were. I have a way of seeing things through my own special set of Dani lenses. Ah the Dani lenses... not always a good thing. In fact, more often than not, they're a very tricky thing. Like magic, I can see things how I want to see them and it's hard for others to change my mind. I often see the world, situations, people the way I want to (and not necessarily the way they are) and, as you might expect, this causes a lot of problems for me (and the people around me). I'm not talking about completely misreading the world; I'm talking about tiny shifts in perception, little misinterpretations, that can add up to a big, big mess when put together into a single life.

Okay, let me be real with you here. What I've been thinking a lot about lately -- what's been driving me a bit crazy -- is my past relationships. With a pen and paper in hand, I can write down exactly why each of them ended. I can clearly identify what I did wrong (things I need to work on) and what I couldn't deal with in the other person (not my problem anymore). My brain knows that these relationships are over. My brain can clearly make sense of the situations. But my heart...my silly little heart...can't seem to stop posing those imaginary, magical scenarios of "what if..." What if we gave it another go? What if we started over in 5 years? What if I really worked on myself and came back to the situation with a fresh perspective? What if we're really meant to be? My mind -- the logical, sane part of me -- knows this is ridiculous. Things end for a reason and, with almost all of my relationships, I've given it a second chance too. It never works out any better the second time around  (no matter how desperately I want it to). I want my mind and my thoughts to stay where they should be -- in a logical, matter-of-fact place --but I somehow find myself here, wondering, curious, experimenting in my mind. Does this happen to you too? Do you find yourself looking back at the past wistfully, imagining it as better than it was?

See that image above? I feel like that's me (and, no, it's not literally me). I'm looking through these lenses at the past and seeing these blue skies, these sunny days, when -- let's be serious here -- that wasn't always the case. Sure, me and my past had some great times. But there were very definite, clear reasons why things ended. It's not as if we were pulled apart by a war or separated by our feuding families. No, these relationships ended because they needed to end. However, I still find myself looking back on them with a fondness that does not seem normal. The other day I was just having a lovely little online chat with my cousin and she uncovered something that I'd written in an email to her last summer. On August 20, 2008, I wrote these words:

 

"I gotta get right with myself before I get into another relationship.
All of this jumping around has gotten me nowhere.
If you keep doing the same thing,
you're going to get the same results, you know?"

  

Yep, I said those words. I said them and, back then, I really believed them. But did I take my own advice? Of course not! I might not have taken my own advice last August, but now here those words are, coming back at me from the past, and I'm a bit in shock. Now, at this moment in time, my cousin is online (this is rare) and she happens to stumble across that particular conversation...If that isn't a sign, I don't know what is! I have an opportunity to hear my own good advice again and I need to seize this opportunity as a chance to let go of the past.

I believe that, for many people, the statement at the very top of this post is so true, and I especially see it in me lately. I believe that letting go -- even when it feels like the hardest thing in the world to do -- is critical to living a happy life. In order to let go, I believe it's essential not to do the things in the quote above. So, today, I will resolve to do three things: (1) see the past as it was; (2) look for the good in the present; and (3) realize the future will work itself out. And how will I do those three things? Of course I'm about to tell you right now!

 

Conquering Unhappiness in 3 Simple Steps

Step 1: See the past as it was.

This, I know, will be the hardest for me. I cannot help but see the past through these happy, sunny, Dani lenses. I remember all of the good (at least, when I want to) and none of the bad. I find myself wondering, "Well, if it was that great, why aren't we together?" It's always more complicated than that. There's always more in my mind than I'm letting myself see. I'm going to do what I must to make sure that I see the past as it was. There is an honesty and a truth in seeing things for what they are. It's hard not to distort your thoughts with emotions and outside influences, but it's important to give it your best shot. Here are some tactics I'm going to try:

  • Write down the good and the bad.
  • Remember all of the ways you could distort your thoughts.
  • Ask others for feedback.
  • Focus on your logic, not your emotions.


Step 2: Look for the good in today.

Of course, I'm always trying to do this one, but sometimes when my mind wanders back to the past and I think about how "good" it was then (was it really?) I find that I'm not focusing as much on today. I must remind myself to stay in the present. The past is gone and it's gone for a reason. Today is the only day I have and if I absolutely must focus my attention elsewhere it should be on the future -- on moving forward -- instead of the past. If I spend my time focusing on the present I won't have as much time to revisit (and rewrite) the past. It's clearly not easy for me to be in the moment all the time, but it's something I'm getting better at everyday. Here are some ideas how I can become even better at this:

  • Be mindful of every day actions.
  • Keep a Happy List or a gratitude journal.
  • Apprecaite the people in your life now.
  • Focus on the great things about YOU.


Step 3: Realize the future will work out.

This one ties in nicely with my last post about perfection. I have to learn to let go, to realize that the future will work out the way it's meant to. No matter what I do or how desperately I try to control the future, there are a lot of things that are out of my control in life and I have to let go. Accepting that the future will work out the way it's meant to is one of those things I really, really need to remind myself constantly. I'm not the kind of person who can easily let go of control, but I have to teach myself to do this, to accept that life will unfold the way it's meant to. If I do this, I know I will be a lot happier. Here's what I'm going to do to relax about the future:

  • Learn to relax and let things be.
  • Trust that things will work out.
  • Believe that you have some control.
  • Accept the things you cannot control.



Obviously there are many, many ways to conquer unhappiness, but I truly believe that these three steps lay a foundation for a happier life. If I were able to do all three of these things every day I can pretty much guarantee that I'd be living a happier life than I am right now. I certainly wouldn't be sitting around wondering why I'm not in a relationship that wasn't working out for me. There is a reason things are over. I know this. But it's not always easy for me to accept it. There is certainly a huge gap in my mind between what I know is true and what I accept. I need to jump the gap and realize that the facts are where it's at. I can't discredit my emotions -- after all, we all have them and they are useful for some things -- but I have to realize that I can be in control of the way I think. I might not be able to control situations or people or even the way I feel, but I can control how I think about a situation. I know that putting the three steps above into action will help me gain a more realistic perspective on the past, a better appreciation for the present, and a superior ability to accept what will come in the future.

What tactics do you use for letting go of the past? 
What other ways can you think of to conquer unhappiness?