loving your self : a brand new self-love workbook



There’s only one relationship you’ll have every single day of your life for the rest of your life — the relationship you have with yourself. It’s one of the most important relationships you possess, but many of us don’t take the time and effort to make it a loving, empowering experience. Most of us fail to prioritize self-love because we don't know we should or we struggle so much with it that it feels easier to avoid the hard work. But loving yourself is essential for living a positive, present life, a life in which you can experience true happiness, acceptance, and peace.

Loving yourself means accepting mind, body, and heart. As important as the concept of self-love is, it’s not always something we strive for because, unfortunately, many things stand in the way of self-love. One major roadblock that blocks the path to loving ourselves is how we think about self-love. Many of us don’t love ourselves fully because we’ve been led to believe that self-love is selfish, greedy, or indulgent. Or we’ve been raised in an environment (or a society) that doesn’t promote self-love and, instead, encourages judgment, comparisons, and self-criticism. Or, in some cases, we’re afraid to love ourselves because achieving a deep sense of love for the self would lead to a greater sense of peace and happiness — two things that sound wonderful in theory, but that could potentially change the way we view ourselves and the world. Even the most positive of mindset shifts can be intimidating. 

But if you want to make the most of your life — if you want to have a deep and unconditional understanding and respect for who you are, who you've been, and who you will be in the future — you have to learn to love who you are, inside and out. Having struggled with self-love myself, I know how difficult it can be to achieve it. It's an on-going process and it requires dedication and determination, but, wow, is it worth it. 

Once you cultivate a strong love for yourself, anything is possible. I know how much learning to love myself has changed my life, and I wanted to share all of this self-love goodness with others so I created this absolutely comprehensive guide to loving yourself. The Loving Your Self workbook will take you on a journey of self-love filled with encouragement, inspiration, and exercises to spark true and lasting love for yourself. If you’re hesitant at all about embarking on this journey, keep in mind some of the most important reasons to love yourself:

  • Loving yourself improves your relationship with others
  • Loving yourself creates an overall more positive outlook
  • Loving yourself increases your self-respect (and respect for others)
  • Loving yourself opens you up to pursuing passions and meaningful work
  • Loving yourself makes it easier to find the goodness in others 

As you can see, there are many reasons self-love is essential for creating a more positive, more present life. In the workbook, you'll be challenged to uncover truths about yourself and about your life. You will be asked to look deeply at what matters most to you (and you can do more of that with the Finding Your Self workbook). If you take the time for self-love, you open yourself up to improving every single aspect of your life. 



Loving Your Self is a empowering workbook designed to teach, inspire, and increase self-love. The instant-downloadable PDF is a go-to resource for learning about self-love, engaging in exercises that increase self-love, and discovering more about the various ways you can (and should!) love who you are. The workbook features innovative, inspiring, and empowering activities to help you uncover a deep, lasting love of yourself. The workbook is broken down into four sections: 

  • Loving Your Mind: insights on how to break negative thought patterns, how to master the art of positive self-talk, and how to understand the power of "I am";
  • Loving Your Body: insights on how to love your body, how to embrace your flaws, and how to put an end to comparisons;
  • Loving Your Heart: insights on how to reclaim your muchness, how to let go of the past, and how to forgive yourself and others; 
  • Loving Your Life: insights on how to focus on the positive aspects of your life, how to cut out complaining, and how to establish boundaries with others. 

In addition to these four sections — each of which is loaded with information, activities, and worksheets — the Conclusion features:

  • A set of self-love reminders to print + post up wherever you need self-love boost
  • self-love cheat sheet to fill out with your top self-love reminders
  • A list of self-love resources featuring my favorite self-love websites + books 

If you've been struggling with self-love (or just want to reinforce your current self-love practices), this workbook is exactly what you need. As I was creating the workbook, I went through some difficult situations. I found myself answering the questions and doing the exercises as I was creating them, and it was amazing what it did for my self-esteem, self-respect, and self-love. The very act of creating (and working through) this workbook had such a positive impact on my life, and I'm so excited to share that experience with you. 


I've created a lot of things since I started Positively Present — Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively PresentThe Positively Present Guide to LifeFinding Your Self, The ABC's of Self-Love, and many other e-books — and this has been one of my favorite projects to work on. Self-love is so, so important. It provides the foundation for your relationships, your work, and your life. It's something every single person should be able to do and I hope this workbook will help anyone who is struggling to love him or herself. If you're looking for more love, peace, acceptance, and meaning in your life, this workbook is for you. Click the box below to grab your copy and begin the amazing experience of loving who you are!



how to make every day matter + a 2016 planner!


As you might recall from last year, I worked with Watkins Publishing to create a 2015 planner/diary, and this year I had the honor of creating another planner, filled with inspiration, ideas, and illustrations to help you make the most of 2016 — the Every Day Matters 2016 Diary: A Year of Inspiration for the Mind, Body, & Spirit. Like last year's planner, it's been designed to inspire you all year long (and it comes in desk and pocket sizes!)

I know it's a bit early to start thinking about a 2016 planner, but I like to get ahead and the pre-orders ship on August 18 so you'll have it ready to go if you order it now. Yay! The great thing about this planner is that it not only keeps you organized, but it also keeps you inspired to make the most of every day. I'm going to tell you a bit about the planner so you know what it's all about, but after that, I'm going to spend a little time exploring how to make the most of every day — tips you can use right now (and when you use your planner in 2016!).



Not only does Every Day Matters have plenty of space for daily planning, but it also offers inspiring advice on how to make every day matter. Designed as a resource for enriching daily life, it will guide you on a year-long journey of awareness and fulfillment as you go about your everyday activities. It’s all too easy to become overwhelmed with multiple thoughts each day as our to-do lists grow, so I've focused on one life-enhancing theme per month, making inspiration manageable.

Each monthly theme zeros in on a single word — like "happiness," "beauty," or "simplicity" — and is the basis for a weekly quote and activity chosen to inspire reflection and positive transformation. The monthly themes for this year are: Happiness, Creativity, Truth, Beauty, Simplicity, Kindness, Mindfulness, Curiosity, Wisdom, Courage, Gratitude, and Growth. By focusing on just one theme each month while looking at the theme in a different way each week allows for each inspirational concept to be considered from unique perspectives and encourages positive action to become an integral part of day-to-day life. Check out a sample of the diary in the quick video below. (If you can't see the sample, click here.)  

Video created by Watkins Publishing.

The way you plan your day is probably pretty unique to you, but whatever your current method, I can assure you: having a planner/diary in your life that both keeps you organized and inspires you can be a life-changing experience. I've had the experience of using the Every Day Matters diary for most of 2015 and it's been awesome to reflect on various themes and encounter inspiring activities that I wrote a year ago. Even though I created it, I still find it amazingly inspiring and the layout of the planner keeps every week so organized!


One of the great benefits of this diary over others is that it really helps to reinforce the notion that every matters. Every day won't be great, but there's something great to be found in every day. By focusing on various monthly themes and narrowing in on one inspirational word each month, I've found that using the Every Day Matters planner really does help me stay more in the moment and make the most of my day-to-day life. Here are some of the best ways to make every day matter... today and in the year ahead!



1. Keep yourself organized.

Have you every tried just jotting down things whenever and wherever they come to mind? If you have, you probably know that it doesn't usually work out so well. You forget where you wrote something down or you lose the scrap of paper where you wrote it, causing you to waste time on searching for something instead of enjoying the moment. The more organized things are, the easier it is to stay present and focused on what's happening in the moment.  


2. Frees your mind to focus on gratitude. 

We talk about gratitude a lot in the self-improvement world, but that's because it's so absolutely vital to making the most of every moment. Whenever you focus on gratitude, you turn your attention to what you have (not what you lack) and that is one of the ultimate ways to make the most of the moment. If you want to make the most of your day, start it off by jotting down a list of things for which you're thankful.


3. Take time to make a plan. 

While I'm not a big fan of worrying too much about the future, but planning ahead is actually a great way to make the most of the moment. When you write things down that need to be done in the future or schedule dates with yourself to revisit specific tasks, you free your mind of having to remember those details and allow your attention to be directed back to right now. Writing down what needs to be done later frees your mind to enjoy right now. 


4. Do something you really enjoy doing. 

Ever have those moments when you're like, What in the world should I do now? Even if you have a million things to do, sometimes it's hard to know where to begin. When you have one of those moments, pause and determine what you'd really like to be doing. Even if you only engage in that activity for a short period of time, allowing yourself to do something you love is a fantastic way to make the most of any day. 


5. Cross something off your to-do list.

Few feelings trump the satisfaction that comes with crossing something off a to-do list (especially something you've been putting off for awhile!). It might sound like a small act — drawing a line through a list item — but the feeling of accomplishment that comes with knowing you've done what needed to be done is actually pretty wonderful, and it's a great way to make the day feel like it matters.


6. Reflect on what you've accomplished.

I'm not an advocate of reflecting too much on the past, but sometimes you can benefit from reflecting on what you've accomplished in a day. I've recently started keeping a "Done" list alongside my "To Do" list, and it's really made me see how much I get done in a day. (It's also useful if I'm trying to remember when I did something.) Even if you don't make a list, reflecting on what you've undertaken in a day is a great way to cultivate positive feelings.


7. Locate a source of inspiration.

One of the best ways to make a day matter is to end it feeling inspired and motivated. Sometimes this can be a challenge, but it's important to seek inspiration every day. It'll keep you feeling positive and make it easier to stay in the present. Whether you get your inspiration from a place like the Every Day Matters, from a favorite website, or from spending time with inspiring people, make it a priority to feel inspired in some small way every single day. 


With busy schedules and tons of to-do's, the days can pass by quickly. It's important to take some time to appreciate them as you're experiencing them (even when you're super busy!). The Every Day Matters planner is a great way to do that, and I'm so excited that I've had the opportunity to create this 2016 version, filled with all the inspiration you'll need to make it through the year! If you're ready to get your copy, pre-order by clicking the image below and you'll have your planner ready to go for 2016!


7 reasons to buy the positively present guide to life


Note: If you're reading this in your email or in a reader, be sure to click over to the site today and check out the new look and feel of PositivelyPresent.com. I did some design updates over the weekend and I'm pretty excited about the updated look!


It's been about two months since my book, The Positively Present Guide to Life, debuted, and the launch has been a whirlwind of excitement and hard work. It's been such an amazing feeling to see the book on shelves and to sign books for Positively Present readers in person. (Two more signings coming up: Arlington 6/14 and Towson 7/19!) Honestly, cliche as it might sound, it really is a dream come true. My whole life I've dreamed of seeing my book in the bookstore, of being an author, and now it's real!

I'm obviously thrilled to have a dream come true (who wouldn't be?!) and I'm so overjoyed about the book's success so far, but I do have one little problem when it comes to this book launch stuff: I'm not all that great at promoting. Whenever I talk about my book, I feel like I'm bragging or rehashing some lame sales pitch, and I tend to downplay the excitement I feel and the desire I have for people to check out the book. Inside I'm so proud of what I've created, but I hesitate to vocalize it because I don't want to come off as boastful. 

However, too do well in the ever-shrinking book industry, you have to sell, sell, sell. These days, authors aren't just writers; they're marketers and PR agents and designers and social media experts. They write, but they also sell. I see some authors' websites — filled with sales-y jargon and buzzwords meant to get you to make a purchase — and I cringe. I don't want to be like that. I want people to want to buy my book not because I tricked them into it with some proven sales tactic but because they actually want to buy my book

Of course, I want you to buy my book (after all, it's how I make my living!), but I want you to buy it because you're drawn to it and you think it will help you make your life a more positive, present place. As the author, of course I think the book is awesome. I spent years working on it, and I'm still kind of in awe when it hold in my hands. But sometimes I take for granted the fact that I know why it's a worthwhile read, and I forget to actually tell people about why they might think it's worth buying. 

So here we go — my attempt at an honest look at why The Positively Present Guide to Life deserves a spot on your bookshelf — based on both my personal feelings about the book and on some of the wonderful feedback I've received from readers who've already purchased the book. 




Okay, so I'll be honest: there are a lot of self-improvement books on the market and a lot of them are really great. In my line a work, I read tons of them and think most of them have something of value. However, the trouble with some of them is that they don't always show you how to take their ideas and make them work in the real world. The Positively Present Guide to Life does things a bit differently. In the book, I write about thought-provoking topics, but I do my best to bring them to the reader in a practical way. Staying positive and present is lovely in theory, but in practice it's hard. That's why I offer tactics, tricks, and tips that provide accessible advice for you to use in your real life: at home, at work, in relationships, in love, and during times of change.



One of my favorite features of the book is that it's very organized, featuring 30 clearly defined chapters spread across five sections (Home, Work, Relationships, Love, and Change). Though the book flows nicely if you decide to read it in order, the awesome thing about it is that you can read it any way you want. If you feel like you need some inspiration for coping at work, start with the Work section. If you're having trouble staying positive at home, begin with Home. If your relationship could use a little boost, check out the Love section first. Whatever area of your life needs a bit of a pick-me-up, you can just flip to that section and discover insights and inspiration for your current situation. 




In addition to the advice and tips mentioned in #1, the book features 30 unique, inspiring (but easy-to-do) activities that you can do to put the advice into practice. Of course, you don't need to do these to get the full impact of the book, but I'm so glad these were included because they give readers an idea of how to take concepts from the book and actually put them into practice. And the extra-cool thing about these activities is that many of them have accompanying worksheets you can download for free! You can even download the worksheets right now and have a look (though they do work much better when you have the book as a guide). I love these worksheets, and I have a feel you will too! 



So, you're obviously reading PositivelyPresent.com and hopefully you think the site is filled with inspiring, interesting, and motivating insights and information. The Positively Present Guide to Life is like a tangible, curated version of the website. If you're looking for information on a specific topic, it's much easier to grab a copy of the book and flip to the Table of Contents then it is to search the PositivelyPresent.com archives to find what you're looking for. Let's say you need a little help staying positive at work. You could search the archives for posts that relate to your current situation, or you could purchase the book and have everything you need to know about staying positive at work right at your fingertips, including easy-to-do exercises and illustrated inspiration! 




And speaking of illustrations... one of the absolute best features of the book is that it has pictures! Creating the illustrations was one of the highlights of making this book, and I think the added dose of inspiration really helps to spread the messages from the book. Even if you're not all that into illustrations, you can't deny that there's something useful (and more memorable) about seeing an inspirational image. It's likely to stick with you longer than word-laden paragraphs of text, which hopefully means you'll keep the wisdom tucked somewhere in your mind for a time when you need to access it. The illustrations add another element to the book that you don't see in many self-improvement books these days, and I really think they help make the content more memorable (and prettier too!). 




I can't tell you how many times I get asked, "How did you get into this?" or "How did Positively Present start?" In various interviews, I've talked briefly about how the site began (back in 2009!) and what inspired me to create it, but in The Positively Present Guide to Life you get the full story of why I started thinking about living a more positive, present life, why I decided to create a website, and how it lead to a full-time job (and a book deal!). Even if you're not all that interested in my personal journey, it's always kind of fun to read about the backstory of someone else. It was really interesting for me to reflect on the beginning of Positively Present and share the full tale of how it began, and that part of the book ended up being one of my favorites. 




Yes, you can access inspiration online on your smartphone at anytime, but there's something really great about having a book you can carry around and reference at any given moment. And I absolutely love the size of The Positively Present Guide to Life (5.8 x 7.8 inches). The size wasn't up to me (the publisher decided on that), but as soon as I saw it, I was in love. (Book nerd alert!) It's small enough to tote around with you (as I so often do!), but it's not so small that it's tough to read or lacking in substantial content. Even though real, in-your-hands books are rarer these days, there's something quite wonderful about having a book you can easily keep with you for instant inspiration and motivation — and that's just what this guide is!



Hopefully you can see now why I love the book so much and am so proud of all the hard work that went into creating it. If you want to learn more about the book, watch the book trailer video, or download the free worksheets, check out DaniDiPirro.com/Books/Guide. And if you're feeling inspired to pick up a copy of the book, you can find it at your local bookseller or at these online retailers:  




Already have a copy of the book? I'd love you forever if you left a review on GoodReads or Amazon! And if you want to spread the word about the book, here are some sample messages you could share via Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform: 


Check out @positivepresent's inspiring new book, The Positively Present Guide to Life! http://amzn.to/1QMrXEY


I loved reading @positivepresent's inspiring new book, The Positively Present Guide to Life! Get your copy here: http://amzn.to/1QMrXEY
Need some inspiration in your life? Check out @positivepresent's new book, The Positively Present Guide to Life: http://amzn.to/1QMrXEY


Also . . . THANK YOU to anyone who has bought a copy of the book or spread the word about it! If you're unable to make it to one of my DC-area book signings, I have some FREE bookplates I can personalize, sign, and mail to you. (Check them out here.) Just email me your mailing address and who you want me to make it out to and I'll send you one! 

wonderland wisdom: 8 life lessons from alice

Make-Sense-AliceAll images / GIFs © Disney


For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I fell in love with the animated Disney film as a girl and have since fallen in love with the book and the live action film. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the book's publication, and there's been lots of buzz about the big anniversary. (For example, in some super exciting news for the design nerd in me, one of my favorite designers, Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co. is illustrating a version of the book later this year. Seriously a book-dream-come-true!)

The 150th anniversary seems like a perfect time to revisit one of my favorite stories and see what lessons I can uncover. The older I get, and the more times I read the book or watch the film, the more I learn from it. Maybe it's just where I am in my life at the time, but I always seem to find new lessons each time I return to Alice and her adventures. 

Back in 2010, I wrote about Alice in Wonderland's Wisdom: 5 Life Lessons from Alice's Adventure. It's one of my most popular posts, and it indirectly led me to sign a book deal for my book, The Positively Present Guide to Life. I'll save that story for another time, but, if Alice didn't already hold a special place in my heart, her story certainly does now!

It's pretty fitting that, five years after I first wrote about Wonderland's wisdom, I revisit it during the book's 150th anniversary and uncover even more wonderful (and somewhat wacky!) lessons from Alice. The first article I wrote focused on the actual book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but this time around, I'm going to look at my favorite version, the one created by the one and only Walt Disney. 

Join me for a little journey down the wisdom-filled rabbit hole as I explore eight new lessons from Alice and her adventures in Wonderland... *Note: this is the first time I've used GIFs in a post. If you scroll over them, you'll see them move! Yay, Internet!*



 Alice: "After this I should think nothing of falling down stairs!"

When Alice goes tumbling down the rabbit hole, one of the first things she says is, "After this I should think nothing of falling down stairs!" It's kind of a crazy thing to say (after all, who wouldn't be panicking while falling down an incredibly long hole in the earth!), but I kind of love it for it's positivity. Rather than complain about how long or unsettling the fall was, Alice thinks about how she can use this unpleasant experience to put smaller troubles in perspective. (Though, to be honest, it's a little odd that "falling down stairs" is something she relates to. How often has she fallen down the stairs?!) Either way, I think we can all learn a thing about taking difficult situations and using them to shed a more positive light on smaller troubles. Having perspective is important, and one way to do this is to recognize, when things are tough, just how great it is when things aren't so bad (like, you know, when you're falling down stairs instead of rabbit holes). 



 Alice: "For if one drinks much from a bottle marked 'poison,'
it's almost certain to disagree with you sooner or later."

When Alice discovers a bottle labeled "Drink me," she pauses before putting it to her lips, thinking aloud: "For if one drinks much from a bottle marked 'poison,' it's almost certain to disagree with you sooner or later." Wise words, Alice, but, unfortunately not all poisons are marked "Poison." We have to be careful about what we consume and know what we put in our bodies. This lesson speaks to me a great personally since I've been sober for almost five years, and, for me, alcohol is a poison that only brings negativity into my life. Of course, that might not be the case for you, but most of us know what things we should or shouldn't put in our bodies to make ourselves feel good. Even if something feels good at the moment, it's important to consider how it will feel later. As Alice says, consuming what's poisonous to us is "almost certain to disagree with you sooner or later."    



Alice: You can learn a lot of things from the flowers.

To be honest, the flowers Alice encounters in Wonderland's garden are actually pretty bitchy. They're kind of like a mean little clique and, when they discover that Alice isn't one of them, they treat her pretty badly. That is definitely not the lesson you can learn from the flowers. What you can take away from these floral-focused scene is that, if you really pay attention to nature -- to the world around you -- you can learn a lot of things not only about the world, but about yourself as well. Where I live right now, it's springtime and everything is blooming and beautiful. When life's busy (and when isn't it?), it's easy to rush by everything and forget to pay attention to the beauty of nature. There's so much we can gain by observing the beauty around us and making a little bit of time to pay attention to nature.  



Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people!  

Throughout her adventures in Wonderland, Alice encounters a lot of crazy characters from the disappearing Cheshire Cat to the bitchy flowers to the March Hare and Mad Hatter to the angry Red Queen. In a world where she's unfamiliar with the customs, Alice tries to go with the flow and, for the most part, she's pretty patient with all the wackiness she encounters, but there are quite a few moments in the film when she puts her foot down, and decides she's not taking any nonsense. Though she's just a little girl, she has some wonderful moments where she stands up for herself and makes it clear that she's not interested in putting up with others' craziness. This is one of the great lessons we can take away from this film: set up your boundaries and don't let other people push past them. You know what you will and won't tolerate and it's important to make the dividing line clear to others. 



March Hare: "If you don't think, then you shouldn't talk!" 

The next bit of Wonderland wisdom comes not from Alice, but from the crazy March Hare. When Alice is accused of starting trouble, she begins to apologize with, "But really, I didn't think...," and the March Hare quickly (and pretty irrationally) interrupts, "If you don't think, you shouldn't talk!" In the context of the film, it's a ridiculous statement, but in the real world, it's a pretty great point. It's so tempting to just say whatever you want whenever it comes to your mind (particularly if you're in a situation where you're competing to be heard, like an argument or an animated discussion), but it really does pay to take a moment to think about what you're going to say before you actually say it. Words are incredibly powerful and, once said, can't be unsaid (even if you retract them or apologize). Thinking before speaking is very good advice. 



Alice: Oh, dear. Everything is so confusing! 

The GIF above pretty much sums up how I'm feeling personally about my life right now. There are a lot of areas in my life that are unclear and the future is quite uncertain so I know just how Alice is feeling when she bemoans, "Oh dear. Everything is so confusing!" Feeling uncertain can be tough sometimes, but it's a part of life. No matter how much you plan or prepare, you're never going to know exactly what the future holds. This can be a challenge to wrap your head around, especially if you're a bit of a Type A, control freak like myself, but it's a very important life lesson. Like it or not, a lot of things in life are out of your control and, unfortunately, not everything that happens makes perfect sense. Hard as it is to do sometimes, it's essential to be okay with not always knowing what's going to happen next. Embrace the mystery! 



Alice: I just wanted to ask which way I ought to go.
Cheshire Cat: Well that depends on where you ought to get to.
Alice: Oh, it really doesn't matter, as long as I...
Cheshire Cat: Then it really doesn't matter which way you go.

One of the most iconic scenes in the Disney film is Alice's interaction with the Cheshire Cat. She wants his advice about which way to go, but she doesn't really know where she wants to go, which makes it pretty hard to ask for directions. A lot of us can probably relate to this. We often want directions before we even know our exact destination. What we can take from Alice's situation is that it's important to know where you want to go before you start making plans to get there. Sometimes figuring out a destination can be tricky, but it's good to at least have some idea of where you're headed. Life is full of surprises so the path you're on might change, but when you're starting out, it's always a good idea to know where you're going. It might sound obvious, but so many of us just head out with no direction in mind. But if you don't know where you want to go, you're probably not going to end up where you want to be. 



Alice: I give myself very good advice. But I very seldom follow it.

Since I was in high school, this scene has been my favorite. It's such a sad scene, featuring the song "Very Good Advice" (click to watch the video), but I don't think I'm the only one who can relate to giving good advice that I don't necessarily follow. Most of the time, we know what the right thing is to do in any given situation. Especially the older you get, the more knowledge you have about how situations typically play our and how certain interactions make you feel. That being said, sometimes it's hard to take your own advice, especially when you're living in the moment and trying not to think about the consequences. However, I find that it's really helpful to ask yourself, "What would I tell a friend in this situation?" and then try to follow that advice. It's hard, believe me, I know, but if you really listen to yourself, you'll find yourself in much more positive situations and feeling much happier about the choices you've made. 


Even if you're not an Alice in Wonderland fan (I know some people find it a bit scary or weird), I hope you enjoyed the lessons I took from the film. I spent a lot of time analyzing Disney films in graduate school so it's kind of a passion of mine, and I think there's a lot to be learned from the films. Though they were created for children, they are filled with lessons that we can apply to our adult lives. We might be all grown up, but we're always learning. We're always in search of wisdom, and, if we pay attention, we can find it even in the most unlikely of places. 




Want more wisdom in your life? You can start by discovering what already lies within you! Get to know yourself better, discover more about what you value, and uncover what you want most by downloading a copy of the e-book Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your very own soul-searching copy here.

word of the month : change (+ habits!)



This article is part of the 2015 Word of the Month series, based on the monthly theme featured in the Every Day Matters 2015 Diary I designed for Watkins Publishing. In the planner, each month has a theme highlighted in the weekly illustrations, quotes, and activities. This month's theme is CHANGE. 


I was thrilled when Gretchen Rubin sent me an advanced copy of her latest book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, not only because I've been a fan of hers for years, but because I find the topic of habits fascinating and it seemed like the perfect book to read along with this month's theme of change.

We all have habits — and most of us have trouble with them. Whether it's trying to make new (good) habits or quit old (bad) habits, we all have stories about our habits and how we've started, kept, or failed at them. In her book, Gretchen makes it clear that there's no one-size-fits-all solution to starting, keeping, or breaking habits. Her key insight is this: To change our habits, we must first figure out ourselves.

One of the aspects I liked most about the book is the Four Tendencies concept. (Want to know your Tendency? Take the quiz here.) I am right on the line of Rebel and Questioner and, with that in mind, I was able to see how some of the various habit strategies in the book would or wouldn't work for me. There are a lot of habit-related books out there, but most of them just focus on one strategy. The great thing about this book is that it shares insights from a variety of various sources, which gives the reader a range of options. The more options, the more likely you'll be to find a strategy that works for you! 

To delve into the strategies, you'll have to check out the book, but I'd like to share some of my favorite insights (and my thoughts about them and the topic of change) with you here. Whether you're working on starting / quitting a habit or you're coping with / initiating change in your life, these insights might help you handle the change in your life. 


"We should start the way we want to continue." 

This is so incredibly true. If you want to start a habit, you should begin the habit the same way you want to continue the habit. For example, if you say, "I want to read for an hour every night in bed," don't start off by reading for ten minutes on the couch, telling yourself that tomorrow you'll move to the bedroom and read more. Begin the way you want to continue. After thinking a bit about this, I realized it not only applies to habits, but also to relationships as well. Try to start your interactions with others on a positive note. 


"I just think, 'This is what I'm doing today.' Trust the habit. I take that first step, over and over and over." 

Sometimes the idea of starting a habit can be overwhelming if you think to yourself, Ugh, I'm going to have to do that every day/week/etc. The word "every" can be very discouraging. However, if you tell yourself that you're just going to do it today and then say that the next day and the next day it becomes so much easier to do (or not do, if you're trying to break a habit). I do this all the time with drinking. Instead of thinking, I'm not going to drink ever again, I think, I'm not going to drink tonight. I say that night after night and this summer I'll be five years sober!


"By giving something up, I gain." 

When it comes to giving up a bad habit, I think this is one of the best ways of thinking about it. Instead of thinking about what you're going to lose — all the cigarettes you'll miss smoking out on the porch with your friends or all those donuts you'll miss devouring on your way to work — it helps to think about what you'll gain when you give something up. In both of those examples, you'll gain better health and, particularly in the case of cigarettes, more money in your pocket. Reframing the loss of a bad habit in a more positive way makes it easier to get started and keep at it. 


"A stumble may be helpful, because it shows me where I need to concentrate my efforts in order to do better next time." 

If you're quitting or forming a new habit, it can be tough when you slip up. I remember when, after eight months of sobriety, I drank. It felt awful and as if all my hard work was for nothing. But the next day, I realized that this was a lesson and my stumble helped me realize that I needed to be aware of situations that were tempting for me. I used what I learned to avoid certain situations or handle them in such a way that I would be able to stay sober. Stumbling doesn't feel great, but it's a great opportunity to learn. 


"Make sure the things we do to make ourselves feel better [like rewards, treats, etc.] don't make us feel worse." 

This was one of my favorite lines from the book. If you're trying to quit a bad habit, it can be tempting to replace it with something that makes you feel good, particularly if the habit is really hard to quit. For example, if you're giving up cigarettes, you might start rewarding yourself with hefty portions of dessert each night. Those treats might make you feel good in the moment, but over time, they might prove to be more negative than positive (if, for example, they cause you to gain more weight than you'd like or you feel unhealthy after eating them). Rewards can be useful, but only if they truly make you feel better. 


"The very words we choose to characterize our habits can make them seem more or less appealing." 

Words are immensely powerful, especially when it comes to something we're trying to convince ourselves to do or not do. About a year ago, I wrote a post about the power of speaking positively about yourself but until I read this book, I'd never thought much about how much words can impact the habits we have or don't have. If you're trying to start a new habit, positive language might not be as difficult because, at the beginning a new habit can be exciting. But when trying to quit an old habit, it's important to be mindful of the words you use and try to frame the change in a positive way. 


"We can build our own habits only on the foundation of our own nature."

This sentence really is the crux of the book, which builds on the notion that we have the best chance of creating and breaking habits when we use tools and tactics that appeal to our personal nature. One of the great things about the book is that it helps you think about your natural tendencies with the Four Tendencies and then it provides insights on how each tendency might do with specific tactics. The better you know yourself, the more likely you'll be to discover the best ways for you to create (and keep!) good habits. 


"We must guard against anything that might weaken a valuable habit."

Once we have a good habit in place, sometimes we take it for granted and that's when it can be at risk of being interrupted. For example, I've been doing yoga almost every day for the past six months or so, and I've gotten so confident in the fact that I'll do it frequently that I've let myself take more days off recently when my workload has felt heavier. This could be weakening my habit, and I need to guard against rationalizations of why I could skip my daily dose of yoga. 



As with her other books, Better Than Before focuses on Gretchen's personal experiences while offering an array of strategies for the reader to choose from, some she's created and others she's come across in her research. The book provides outlets for new self-knowledge in the realm of habits and provides a variety of options (with examples) that might inspire you to make positive, life-changing habits in your own life. Even if you're not really thinking about changing your habits in particular, this book is great for coping with change and getting a better understanding of yourself. 




Want to learn more about yourself so you can have a better understanding of how you might want to incorporate change in your own life? Now is a great time to discover more about yourself and what you want most by downloading a copy of the e-book Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your very own soul-searching copy here.