The Magic + Mindfulness of October

 

October

 

There's something magical about October, the month when everything begins to change. I've experienced the month many times before, but the magic of this pause between the liveliness summer and the harshness of winter never seems to stop fascinating me. Every year I fall in love with this month, this pause between the extremes, all over again.

 

Lately I've been thinking that maybe it's because it's a pause in extremes that I love it so much. Generally I tend to be a pretty extreme person (either obsessed or completely disinterested), which is possibly why October -- a month symbolic of in-betweens, of pausing and savoring what's left of warmth between winter sneaks in -- is so appealing to me. 

 

A few years ago I came across Robert Frost's "October," written in 1913, for the first time. Not surprisingly, fell in love with his words (how wonderful it is that they can be so relevant and wise 100+ years later!), and this year I've come back to them again. 

 

O hushed October morning mild, 

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; 

Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all. 

The crows above the forest call; 

Tomorrow they may form and go. 

O hushed October morning mild, 

Begin the hours of this day slow. 

Make the day seem to us less brief. 

Hearts not averse to being beguiled,

Beguile us in the way you know. 

Release one leaf at break of day; 

At noon release another leaf; 

One from our trees, one far away.

Retard the sun with gentle mist; 

Enchant the land with amethyst. 

Slow, slow! 

For the grapes' sake, if they were all, 

Whose leaves already are burnt with frost, 

Whose clustered fruit must else be lost -- 

For the grapes' sake along the wall.

 

The poem is, on an obvious level, a metaphor for life and death. October (and autumn in general) is symbolic of the waning years of life, when you come to realize how little time might be left and you long for time to slow. But we need not be in the final months of life's year to take these words of wisdom to heart. At any age, we can read Frost's words and notice how autumn, and October in particular, is a reminder to take each day slowly, rather than rushing quickly to the next.

 

Just as the leaves do in October, the leaves on our trees will surely change from green to yellow to orange and brown; they will someday let go and fall to the ground. Our winters will one day arrive. But this isn't meant to be disheartening. Rather, the awareness of death, of the time when our leaves will rest on the ground beneath the bare skeletons of our branches, should inspire us to live more slowly, with more meaning. 

 

October serves not only as a reminder of our own morality, that uncomfortable truth that the brightness of our lives will someday fade, but it also brings to mind the ever-present concept of change. Like the world outside our windows in October, we, too, are changing, aging, shifting from one color to the next. We are, like it or not, fading, our outer colors dulling a bit with each passing year. This annual reminder of mortality shouldn't be depressing, but instead should inspire each of us to live with more purpose. 

 

Frost's poetic musings remind us that, yes, death is inevitable, but his positive twist on this timeless sentiment prompts a life-affirming belief that we have the power to make the most of every day. Though our branches will ultimately be left bare, right now we can strive to enjoy the leaves still remaining, to take in the brilliance of their colors (many of which are more beautiful than they were in spring or summer!) and enjoy them.

 

October's changes also remind us that, though we cannot control everything -- our trees may face damaging gusts of wind, leaf-soaking rain, and white-hot, sun-soaked days, and we were unable to choose the location in which our tree initially grew -- we can control how we view the leaves still clinging to our limbs. Whether you're a still-full tree, leaves tinged with yellow, or almost completely bare, that last leaf clinging bravely to a branch, we can appreciate what beauty (and time) still remains. 

 

We cannot change the length of our days (imagine, though, if we could slow some of them down or speed them up!), we often have the chance to choose what we do with the hours we're given. If we fill our days with purpose and meaning, each day will feel longer and more full. Frost notes that humans are not opposed to the idea of being fooled and, perhaps, should allow themselves to be fooled into living days that seem longer than they really are. Of course, the best way to fool yourself into living longer days is to live them slowly, with purpose, filling them with activities, people, and experiences that allow you to rest your head on the pillow at night knowing that you did, in fact, make the most of the day. 

 

If we want to live more slowly, with more purpose, we must become find mist that Frost writes of, the mist that will slow the sunset, beautify the sky and, if even for a short time, slow the coming of the night's frost. This mist is all of the things that make life worth living: the laughs shared, the hugs given, the work joyfully completed, the stimulating conversations, the kind acts, and loving moments. These things won't slow time, of course, but, just like the mist, they will make it seem as if time is moving more slowly. They will take away some of the harshness of knowing that, inevitability, winter is coming. 

 

Of course, finding this mist and choosing to live more slowly is no easy task. It requires effort and attention. It also requires practice. That's what I plan to do this month: practice more mindfulness. You might think I'm always "positively present," but even after all of these years of working on it and writing about it, I still struggle a great deal with staying present. I'm almost always in a rush, scrambling to cross things off my list as quickly as possible, and maybe you, too, feel as if you're not living as mindfully as you should.

 

Living more slowly won't be easy for someone like me, but I'm determined to let every October-related change I see around me -- the changing leaves, the bright blue skies, the chilly nights, the delicious scent of freshly fallen leaves -- serve as a reminder to me that life is not endless and, while I have no way of knowing when exactly my tree will shed its leaves, I can take comfort in knowing that, in each moment, I have the choice to be present, to notice and appreciate the colors still surrounding me. 

 

 

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The Ultimate Book Gift Guide

 

Books-Are-Magic

 

If there's one thing I love, it's books (as you might have seen my recent YouTube video: 10 Books That Changed My Life!) I believe books are, as Stephen King put it, "uniquely portable magic." I meant to simply post a list of books I would recommend, but as I was scanning my bookshelves and my GoodReads page, I couldn't help but think about all of the book beliefs I hold. Here are just a few of them...

 

I believe books can transform the way you think about the world -- and yourself. They shape your values. They provide guidance and inspiration and a safe, healthy form of escape. 

I believe a little part of every book I've ever read stays with me forever, even if I don't always remember the exact words I've read. The meanings we find in words stay etched on our souls. 

I believe a space without books is lacking not only in knowledge, but in beauty as well. Some of my favorite sights are the straight, colorful spines of books. 

I believe the best books can (and should!) be read over and over again. Every time you read a book you love, you can learn something new about who you are.

I believe the best books for you won't always be the ones topping the best-seller list. I believe there're little bits of word magic found on garage sale tables and in the nooks of used book stores.

I believe we are all book-lovers at heart, even those of us who claim not to adore them. Each of us is a story-teller, and each of us loves a story well told. 

I believe you can fall in love with characters and authors and fictional places you've never been; I believe this kind of love is just as real as the heart-pounding, palm-sweating kind. 

I believe every book we read is unique to us; the reader, as much as the writer, crafts the story or explores the knowledge with her imagination and insight.

I believe there can be nuggets of goodness even in a bad book, but I don't believe in continuing to turn the pages just to reach an end. If you hate it, put it down. 

I believe a great book can make you feel less alone;  in the words on a page, you can find compassion, love, and forgiveness. A great book can be a mirror both for who you are and who you want to be. 

I believe you shouldn't believe every word you read; just because it's in print doesn't mean it's true. Books can lead to truth, but not all of them are filled with it.

I believe reading can help you to remember, and it can also help you to forget. It's up to you to choose which mindset you happen to be in the mood for. 

I believe books are a pathway to freedom. With one in your hand, you can become and learn and see absolutely anything; there are no rules inside of a book. 

I believe the best books never actually come to an end. The words continue to be read and re-read in all the words you think and speak and feel. 

I believe there will never be an end to the list of books I want to read, but I will keep doggedly plowing through my to-read list for the rest of my life. 

(Like these words? Download I Believe Books!)

 

And, most importantly, I believe everyone -- even the "I don't really get into reading" types -- can benefit from reading a great book. So here's a list of some of my favorites, along with some thoughts on who these books might be perfect for (they might speak to you or they might make perfect gifts for that holiday season that's just around the corner!)  

I've tried to sort them in to some sort of order, but truly I recommend looking through the whole list because you never know what might spark your interest (or sound perfect for someone you know!)

  

FOR ADULT FAMILY MEMBERS

For literally anyone related to you or who has a family... 
It Didn't Start with You / Mark Wolynn

For your uber-opinionated and vocal grandfather...
The Joy of Argument / Albert Navarra

For your too tough-and-cool for self-help uncle...
10% Happier / Dan Harris

For your memory-hoarding mother... 
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up / Marie Kondo

For your self-involved (but secretly sweet) teenager... 
Tiny Buddha's 365 Love Challenges / Lori Deschene

For your not-quite-on-the-same-page spouse...
The Five Love Languages / Gary Chapman

For your romance-novel-reading mother-in-law...
Other People's Love Letters / Bill Shapiro

For your hilarious (and a bit odd) aunt...
Furiously Happy / Jenny Lawson

For your sibling with a kid who's struggling in school...
Thinking Organized / Rhonna Gordon

For the dad who thinks feminism is for women only...
Feminism Is for Everybody / bell hooks

For your aunt and uncle who're constantly bickering...
Blamestorming / Rob Kendall

For your health-conscious, foodie brother-in-law...
In Defense of Food / Michael Pollan 

For the mother who puts everyone else first... 
Too Nice for Your Own Good / Duke Robinson

For your brother who needs a bit of inspiration...
This is How / Augusten Burroughs

For your father-in-law who loves a good mystery...
Knights in White Satin / Philip DiPirro

For your sister who's against ever marrying...
Spinster / Kate Bolick

For your aunt who's self-identifies as a dog mom...
Inside of a Dog / Alexandra Horowitz

For the cousin still working on that novel...
On Writing / Stephen King

For the niece struggling through her 20s...
It's a Wonderful Lie / Emily Franklin

For the aunt who loves daily bits of insight... 
Stay Positive / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For your spouse (read it together!)...
Love 2.0 / Barbara L. Frederickson

For the sibling you've not-so-subtly resented for years... 
Forgiveness / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For your parent who's curious about self-improvement...
The Positively Present Guide to Life / Dani DiPirro (me!)

 

FOR KIDS AND TEENAGERS

For your slightly neurotic niece or nephew...
Owl at Home / Arnold Lobel

For a teenager at odds with her mother...
The Runaway Bunny / Margaret Wise Brown

For the child who's not like his/her siblings...
The Trumpet of the Swan / E.B. White

For the teen who doesn't like standing out... 
The Perks of Being a Wallflower / Stephen Chbosky

For the little toddler who's always a bit grumpy...
Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? / Carol McCloud

For the little one who's always daydreaming...
Once Upon a Cloud / Claire Keane

For the middle-schooler adjusting to a new place... 
I Capture the Castle / Dodie Smith

For the teen with a potentially self-destructive friend...
Looking for Alaska / John Green

For the teenage girl who love the broody boys...
The Wind Blows Backward / Mary Downing Hahn

For the girl who needs some modern advice...
Girl Talk / Christie Young

For the little girl who wants a place of her own...
Mandy / Julie Andrews Edwards

For the creative teenager who needs a pick-me-up...
Pick Me Up / Adam J. Kurtz 

For the deep-thinking, graphic-book-loving teen...
Persepolis / Marjane Satrapi

For the teenager always snapping Insta pics...
A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book / Elsie Larson

For the super creative (and a little spooky) kid...
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick / Chris Van Allsburg

For the kid who loves animals more than people...
Guardians of Being / Eckhart Tolle

 

FOR YOUR FRIENDS

For the friend who's a (not so) secret badass...
Bad Girls Throughout History / Ann Shen

For the friend going through a really tough time...
Loving What Is / Byron Katie

For the always-judging-others friend...
Compassion / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the friend sighing, "I should try meditating..."
You Can Master Meditation / David Fontana

For the friend who needs to dump him/her ASAP...
The No-Contact Rule / Natalie Lue

For the friend who cancels plans to read instead...
Quiet: The Power of Introverts / Susan Cain

For the friend struggling to get pregnant...
The Fairy Rebel / Lynn Reid Banks

For the friend who's scared of (but needs to) change...
Start Where You Are / Meera Lee Patel

For your super creative, artistic, cool friend...
In Progress / Jessica Hische

For the friend who constantly seeks external approval...
I Need Your Love: Is That True? / Byron Katie

For the friend who recently said goodbye to a pup...
Dog Heaven / Cynthia Rylant

For the buddy who's constantly worrying...
The Power of Now / Eckhart Tolle 

For the friend with a rocky mother/daughter relationship... 
Boundaries / Anne Katherine

For your sassy friend who needs a happiness boost...
How to Be Happy, Dammit! / Karen Salmansohn

For your whimsical friend who loves a bit of magic...
The Night Circus / Erin Morgenstern

For a friend who seems like she's really lost...
Wild / Cheryl Strayed

For the friend that still keeps a diary...
The Folded Clock / Heidi Julavits

For the pal that needs to figure out what she wants...
The Desire Map / Danielle LaPorte

For the guy who's always crying over his ex...
The Great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald

For your feminist friend who feels all the feels...
I Am an Emotional Creature / Eve Ensler

For your buddy who's always searching the next rush...
Hector and the Search for Happiness / François Lelord

 

FOR YOUR COLLEAGUES

For the creative-but-frazzled coworker...
Calm / Michael Acton Smith

For the coworker who needs to follow her passion...
The Crossroads of Should and Must / Elle Luna

For the too-creative-for-this place coworker...
Big Magic / Elizabeth Gilbert

For the coworker who's always super stressed...
Living in the Moment / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the colleague always around adults...
The Little Prince / Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

For someone who needs a bit of motivation...
It's Not How Good You Are... / Paul Arden

For the coworker who's always complaining...
Gratitude / Dani DiPirro (me!)

For the a stylish guy/gal who loves soul-searching...
Style Statement / Danielle LaPorte

For the coworker getting his kids a puppy...
The Puppy Primer / Patricia B. McConnell

For the guy always yelling in his office...
Emotional Agility / Susan David, PhD

For that colleague always looking for gossip...
PostSecret / Frank Warren

For that guy always looking for a project...
The Happiness of Pursuit / Chris Guillebeau

For the colleague always finding the bad stuff...
You Can Be an Optimist / Lucy MacDonald

For the coworker who should run her own business...
#GirlBoss / Sophia Amoruso

For the HR guy who loves analyzing people... 
The Social Animal / David Brooks 

For your colleague who can't choose a lunch spot...
The Paradox of Choice / Barry Schwartz

For the boss who's perpetually stressed out...
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work / Richard Carlson

For the trivia-loving data dude in IT...
The Visual Miscellaneum / David McCandless

For the admin who needs to pursue her dreams...
Now Is The Time To Do What You Love / Nancy Whitney-Reiter

 

Phew! That's quite a list, huh? I'd love to keep adding to it -- it is the Ultimate Book Gift Guide, after all -- so feel free to leave me a comment below or send me a message on social media about the books you'd include on this list. I'm always looking to add to that never-ending pile of to-read books! :)

If you liked the words above and would like a FREE PDF to download and print, click here or click the image below to download a PNG file, perfect for saving to Pinterest or keeping on your computer! :)

I-Believe-Books


How to Make Your Life Uncommonly Good

 
Good Life
 
 
We all want to live good lives, but what does a "good life" actually mean?
 
It's a hard concept to nail down, since we all have different values and goals. What one person might consider a great existence -- a high-powered job living in bustling city, or a cozy life spent raising a handful of children, or a solitary existence spent writing in the mountains -- others might think of as very unpleasant. What "good" means is relative, especially when it comes to creating a well-lived life. 
 
Still, I believe there are certain things we all need to have a good life. I've been thinking about this topic a lot recently, and I happened to stumble upon a Forbes piece featuring ten golden rules for living a good life from the book The Ten Golden Rules: Ancient Wisdom from the Greek Philosophers on How to Life a Good Life.
 
These ten golden rules really resonated with me so I thought I'd share my versions, along with my thoughts on them, here. For the most part, these are the same as the ones referenced in the article above, only I've tweaked them a bit and the thoughts below are my own. 
 
 
 
RULE 1: 
EXAMINE + ENGAGE IN LIFE
 
The first rule of living a good life is knowing how important it is to explore the world and be curious about your environment. We instinctively do this as children, but it should be a lifelong practice. You can't live if a good life if you're not really living. To me, this means both examining and engaging in life outside yourself (by playing games, making art, trying new foods, etc.), and also examining and engaging in your inner world too. 
 
 
RULE 2: 
(TRY TO) WORRY LESS
 
Worry is, unfortunately, a part of life, but how much you worry -- and what you worry about -- can impact how good your life is. It's important to try your best to worry only about the things you can control. Learning how to quickly identify what you can control vs. what's out of your hands is one of the best ways to minimize worries. Someone living a good life knows she can't control everything; she can control her reactions to everything. 
 
 
RULE 3: 
CHERISH FRIENDSHIPS
 
As humans, we crave connection and affection. Whether you're the type of person that has countless friends or you prefer a few close pals, friendship -- and the connections and life lessons that come along with those relationships -- are invaluable. No amount of wealth, power, success, fame or any other measure of success can beat the positive benefits of a good friendship. Someone living a good life knows to treasure and care for his friendships
 
 
RULE 4: 
FOCUS ON TRUE JOY
 
In life there are plenty of things that make us feel good, but not all of those things should be the focus. Living a good life means avoiding shallow, meaningless, or fleeting pleasures and instead focusing on meaningful, deep joys that have lasting effects. For instance, consider the feeling of eating a giant slice of cake vs. the feeling of having an inspiring conversation. Both feel good in the moment, but the long-term impacts are very different.
 
 
RULE 5:
KNOW WHO YOU ARE
 
Personally, I think this should be number 1! To live a good life, it's essential to know yourself, to be self-reliant, to cultivate self-love. Equally as important is focusing on what's true, not what's convenient. Self-deception is all too common for many of us, but it does us no good to convince ourselves of things that are untrue. If you struggle this this rule, here are some good resources to check out: My Life Story So FarLetters to My Future Self, Finding Your Self, Loving Your Self.
 
 
RULE 6:
FIND BALANCE + HARMONY
 
As you might already know, too much of anything (even the good stuff!) can be a bad thing, which is why, to live a good life, it's important to avoid excess. In all areas of life -- home, relationships, love, work, etc. -- it's a good idea to strive for balance. Overindulging in the good stuff can lead to what I think of as a "happiness hangover," but depriving yourself of fun (and a little bit of bad behavior!) it's great either. Find what balance means for you and strive for that. 
 
 
RULE 7: 
ADHERE TO POSITIVE VALUES
 
This rule really comes down to one basic concept: be a decent human being. When you've done wrong, accept responsibility. Whenever possible, be honest with yourself and with others. It's vital to be accountable for your choices and actions. What you value is up to you, but figuring out those values and sticking to them throughout your life is one of the best ways to ensure you're living a good life. (Also: be open-minded and, if need be, change your values as you grow and learn.)
 
 
RULE 8: 
PROSPER WITH CAUTION
 
With any luck, you'll have an wonderful opportunity to prosper in this life, to flourish financially and achieve great success. If this happens (and I hope it does!), be cautious and thoughtful in your choices. I imagine it's difficult not to get carried away, but one of the keys to living a good life is being rational with your resources (whatever those might be!). Many prosperous people become foolish and delusional. Personally, I think this is a great place to focus on gratitude over gains. 
 
 
RULE 9: 
DO HARM TO NO ONE
 
This might sound like an obvious rule for a good life, but it's an important one. To live well, strive to harm no one -- including yourself. Hurting others hurts you too (even if, for whatever reason, you feel as if they deserve to be hurt). Speak with kindness, focus on forgiveness, have compassion, embrace empathy, and, above all, try to cultivate as much love as you can for your fellow humans. (I also recommend extending this rule to animals and nature, too!)
 
 
RULE 10: 
BE ENDLESSLY KIND
 
The last rule goes hand-in-hand with the previous rule. Kindness is mandatory for living a good life. Not only does kindness make the world a better place, but every time you're kind, you feel good. Also, regardless of whether or not you believe in karma, if you pay attention to how kindness plays out in your own life, you'll find that your kind deeds are often rewarded or returned in some way. Whether it's something small -- like sharing your water with your dog on a long walk or sending a friend a bag of cheer -- or something huge, being endlessly kind will always lead to a better, happier life. 
 
 
 
These words of wisdom are nothing new (after all, they were inspired by ancient philosophers!), but there's a reason we're still writing about these concepts today. They are vital for making the most of your life, regardless of who you are, what you have, where you live, or what you do. Follow these rules and an uncommonly good life can be yours! 
 
 
 
UncommonGoodsA big thanks to UncommonGoods for sponsoring this post! If you're looking for unique gifts, jewelry, home decor, and more, UncommonGoods should be your go-to spot. Not only do they sell meaningful products that create a positive impact on the world, but they also have amazing personalized gifts (see here), which I think are the best kinds of gifts! Plus, awesome filters on their site allow you to search by categories like birthdays (here), anniversaries (here), bridal showers (here), etc. Honestly, I feel like I could shop there for every occasion for years and years and never run out of creative gift ideas! Learn more about the cool story behind UncommonGoods here.

33 Lessons from Living 33 Years

 

Birthday-Turning-33
 

Tomorrow I turn 33!

So many people moan about getting older (and I've been known to do so on occasion...), but the other day I had this thought: There's no greater gift than another birthday. It's a tad cheesy, yes, but it's so true. What could be better than being given an opportunity to be here, to keep living, to experience the highs and lows of life, the unexpected twists and the comforting consistencies?

There have been many times, for many reasons, that I wasn't certain I would celebrate another birthday and so, while I'm not always this obsessively grateful (though I'd like to be!), I do feel particularly thankful as my birthday rolls around each year. I am here and, while it's certainly not all sunshine and rainbows, I am so glad to be adding another candle to my birthday cake. 

In celebration of the big three-three I've rounded up a list of 33 things that I've learned over the past three+ decades. Below is a video in which I chat about these lessons (click here if you can't see it), and, if you'd rather read them, they're written below that! 

 

#1
You have control over your attitude.

External factors play a huge role in how you feel, but it's so important to remember that you -- and only you -- control your attitude. At every single moment, you are able to choose what you focus on. And what you focus on can have a huge impact on how you feel and act. 

 

#2
The "wrong" thing is sometimes right. 

I've learned from trial and error that "good" and "bad" or "wrong" and "right" isn't always as clear as we'd like it to be. Sometimes the "wrong" thing is actually the right thing to do. And sometimes... 

 

#3
The "right" thing is sometimes wrong. 

... what seems "right" is actually wrong. Just because someone (or society) tells you something is the right thing to do, that doesn't mean it is. I've learned to take the right / wrong dichotomy with a grain of salt. It's up to you to choose what's right and wrong. 

 

#4
Keep your mind (and heart) wide open. 

Open-mindedness is absolutely vital for making the most of life. You don't have to agree with everyone or everything, but I've found that listening to others (with an open mind!) makes everything easier (and more interesting!). 

 

#5
Figure out what you really love doing.

I'm fortunate enough to have figured out what I love -- writing and creating -- at a very young age, but I've seen way too many people just floating uncertainly through life. Figure out what you love doing (even if it's weird!) and do it as much as you possibly can. 

 

#6
Try as many new things as you can. 

Admittedly, I'm not the most adventurous soul, but every time I've ventured outside of my comfort zone and tried something new, I've learned something about myself or the world. I'm still working on this lesson, but I know it's so important!

 

#7
Have a goal other than "to be happy." 

I've talked about this before, but happiness shouldn't be your goal. You cannot and will not be happy all the time. Chasing happiness will not make you happy so find a goal or a purpose that's not your own personal happiness. 

 

#8
Finding the good in a situation pays off. 

Optimism has always been a challenge for me (which is why I started this site!), but every single time I've chosen to focus on the positive in a situation, it's made things better. Look for the good. Always. 

 

#9
It's okay not to like what others like. 

One of the most important lessons I've learned in life is that it's okay not to like what other people like. Likewise, it's okay to be into stuff that other people think is weird. Life is short; don't waste it following trends you don't care about. 

 

#10
Hate and resentment are never, ever useful. 

This probably isn't the most earth-shattering lesson, but it's one that too many people forget. When you hate, resent, or hold grudges against others, you only hurt yourself. I love T.Swift, but bad blood is just bad news.  

 

#11
Society's rules don't have to be yours.

You don't have to follow society's rules just because they're there. I don't want to get married or have kids or work a typical 9-to-5 job even though those are things you're "supposed" to do. It's your life; don't let your society dictate how you live it. 

 

#12
You can change any time you want to. 

Just because you were a certain way before doesn't mean you always have to be. You can change -- the way you feel, the people you're with, the job you have, the place you live -- any time you want to. It won't always be easy, but change is always possible. 

 

#13
Pay attention to how people make you feel. 

How does it feel after you've spent time with someone? Pay attention to that. If you feel drained, that person is no good for you. If you feel uplifted, pull that person closer. Choose to surround yourself with people who make you feel good. 

 

#14
You define what the word "success" means. 

Success is whatever the hell you want it to me. My new favorite quote (by Sarah Jones) is: What if joy was my only metric for success? Determine what you want your metric for success to be and measure you life by that. (Tip: It doesn't have to be money, a fancy title, or a perfect family.)

 

#15
Treat others how they want to be treated. 

The golden rule -- "treat others how you'd want to be treated" -- isn't so golden in my book. You've got to treat people not how you want to be treated, but how they want to be treated. Don't know what they want? Ask! 

 

#16
Never, ever stop being thankful. 

Gratitude is E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. It's taken me a long time to learn this (mostly because I thought it was just a cheesy cliche), but gratitude really is life-changing. The more you practice it, the better your life gets. Seriously. Dooooo it. 

 

#17
Self-love is the foundation for all love. 

Perhaps the most important lesson I've learned is that, if you want to love and be loved, you have to love yourself first. Loving who you are vital to creating good relationships, discovering an ideal career path, and just generally loving life. 

 

#18
Worrying serves no practical purpose. 

This one is tough. I've learned the lesson countless times (how many times I've worried about something that never happened!), but I still struggle with anxiety and worrying. I'm working on it though! 

 

#19
Bad times pass. So do good times. 

When you're going through a tough time, it seems like it'll never pass, but guess what? It always does. And so do the good times. When things are bad, know they will pass and hang in there. When they're good, know they will pass and appreciate every joyful moment. 

 

#20
When it's time to let go, do it. 

Another lesson I've been taught over and over again by life, but still struggle to master. Letting go is hard for me, and I tend to cling waaay longer than I should to people and situations. I'm working on channeling my inner Elsa and learning to let that shit go.

 

#21
You can be scared and still be brave. 

It's taken me awhile, but I've finally realized that bravery isn't an absence of fear. Being brave is about being scared and facing a situation anyway. We're all scared of something; instead of running from the fear, face it. You'll be glad you did. 

 

#22

Notice what’s going right.

This goes hand-in-hand with gratitude. So often we’re focused on what’s going wrong in our lives – which is normal, don’t worry – that we forget to recognize what’s going right!

 

#23
Don't romanticize the past or future. 

The past and future aren't real, and, likewise, memories and visions are only ideas, not reality. Rather than wishing I was elsewhere, I've learned to focus on making the most of the present. If you're gonna glamorize something, let it be the now. 

 

#24
You cannot control other people. 

No matter what you do, say, or think, you do not have control over other people. Yes, there are times when you can probably manipulate someone, but that doesn't usually end well. When you realize you have no control over others, you'll find a profound sense of freedom within yourself. 

 

#25
Go into it with absolutely no expectations. 

Expectations only lead to disappointment. You can have standards, but don't have expectations. You'll only be let down by situations and people. And going into things with no expectations can lead to amazing experiences. 

 

#26
Take note of what excites your heart. 

What makes your heart start beating fast? What do you want to talk about for hours? What excites you? Pay attention to those things -- no matter how small -- that get you feeling inspired and enlivened. They will tell you things about yourself you never knew. 

 

#27
It's good that not every wish is granted.

For the past few years, I've been making the same wish on every star I could see. It hasn't come true and I'm starting now to see why. There's something better in the works. If your wish isn't coming true, it's for a reason. Trust. 

 

#28
You'll make time for what you really want. 

You all the things you don't have time for? It's because you don't want to do them. We all have the same amount of time in every day. What you want to do is what you'll do. I always have time for the things that really matter to me -- and you do too. 

 

#29
The less you need, the more you'll have. 

It's taken me a long time to learn this one, but I finally realize that the rush that comes from material things doesn't last very long. Yes, I still love stuff, but I realize now that it's extra, not essential. (Hint: what's essential isn't something you can purchase at a store.)

 

#30
Not all thoughts are worth believing.

Not everything you think is a fact, and it took me awhile to realize this, but once I did, it was life-changing. Always take a closer look at what you're thinking and ask yourself if it's absolutely, definitely true. Your mind is a wild place and so much of it is imagination. 

 

#31
Notice mistakes you make repetitively. 

I'm really great at making the same mistakes over and over again. What can I say, it's a skill. ;) But, seriously, I've learned to pay attention to mistakes I make repetitively and look closely at them. They teach me things. 

 

#32
Learn something new every day. 

Knowledge is power. The more you know, the bigger your world gets. And, if you're reading this, you're fortunate enough to access to the internet, holder of so much knowledge. Use it to up your power. Soak up that info like a dry sponge; learn as much as you can!

 

#33
Always choose love over fear.

The greatest lesson I've learned is that almost everything you do, say, think, feel can be traced back to love or fear. Those two things govern so many of our choices and beliefs. Pay attention to which one is guiding you and strive to give love the lead. You'll never, ever go wrong by letting love guide you.  

 

So, here I am, nearly 33, and those are some of the most important things I've learned so far. Not bad for only 33 years! I hope you've either recognized these as some of your own learned lessons or you've found some inspiration in them. Life is one great big classroom and the more you learn, the more progress you'll make and the better your life will be. I'd love to hear the lessons you've learned so far in life! Share them with me in the comments!

 

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7-day gratitude challenge + giveaway!

7-Day-Gratitude-Challenge

If you've been following Positively Present for awhile, you're probably familiar with the annual 30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge that takes place every November. It's obviously not November, but this week I'm hosting a mini Gratitude Photo Challenge to promote the launch of two of my four new books from the Effortless Inspiration series

Not familiar with the Gratitude Photo Challenge? Basically it's this: you take a photo of something you're grateful for (use the prompts below or post anything you like), post it on social media with the hashtag #PositivelyGrateful, and that's it! You don't have to have any special photography skills or tools -- only a desire to be grateful and to share that gratitude with others. 

There are two differences between the annual challenge and this one: (1) this one's only seven days, and (2) every time you share a photo, you're entered to win two books: Gratitude and Living in the Moment! Yay! See below for prompts and giveaway details. 

 

THE PROMPTS

Below are prompts for the 7-Day Gratitude Challenge, but you definitely don't have to stick to these. Feel free to post photos about anything you're grateful for. Just be sure to use the #PositivelyGrateful hashtag if you want a chance to win the new books! 

 

DAY 1: WISDOM

Wisdom is such a wonderful part of life. Consider, for a moment, how much you've learned since you were born. It's amazing how much knowledge and inspiration we carry inside ourselves and, too often, we forget to be thankful for all that we've learned from others and from our experiences. For Day 1 of the challenge, share some wisdom you've learned (or maybe even some that you're still trying to master!). 

 

DAY 2: HOME

Home is where the heart is, they say. I say, home is where you feel most at ease and most like yourself. Home isn't always a place. It might be a person or a feeling that you call "home." Today, think about what home means for you. Is it a physical location in which you feel empowered? Is it a place inside yourself that makes you feel peaceful? Use today to document, and feel thankful for, where you feel most at home. 

 

DAY 3: LOVE

Love is one of the greatest experiences in life and it comes in so many forms. Each and every moment of love is deserving of your recognition and appreciation. On this third day of the challenge, think about how you share love in your life? How do you feel when you act in loving ways? How does it feel when others share love with you? What things, people, places do you love most? Share an image today of what love means to you. 

 

DAY 4: NATURE

The world we live in is a magical place, but all too often we take our surroundings for granted. Connecting with the natural world brings about feelings of inner peace and can help us be more mindful. Be thankful for your experiences with nature by sharing them today. Look around you. What kinds of nature can you see? How has nature inspired or empowered you? Are there certain aspects of nature you connect with more than others? Photograph what moves you most. 

 

DAY 5: FOOD

To survive, we all need food. At its most basic level, it provides us with nutrition and vital resources to keep our bodies and minds functioning properly, but for most of us, food also comes with a certain level of mindful joy. Today, reflect on some of your favorite dining experiences and, if you can, try to really take time to enjoy whatever you're eating today. So many of us take the amazing experience of eating for granted; today, celebrate and be thankful for it. 

 

DAY 6: WORK

Being thankful for work can sometimes be a challenge in and of itself. Not everyone has an enjoyable job and even those who do face work-related hardships. Whatever your career (or student) status, take today to be thankful for your current job situation. What are the things you enjoy about it? Are there any people there that you're happy to see each day? Are you grateful for the money your job brings you? Even if it's tough, share what you love about your work today. 

 

DAY 7: SELF

How often do you pause and reflect on how amazing it is that you're you? Consider all of the many paths you could have taken, the various roads that would have led you to different experiences and people, things that might have shaped you in entirely different ways. Everything you've ever done, said, or felt has brought you to this day, has created the person you are right now. Today, focus on your best qualities and document what you appreciate most about yourself. 

 

Now that you've got the prompts, you're ready to begin the challenge -- and enter the giveaway! Two winners will be chosen on Monday, May 9, and each winner will receive a copy of my two new books: Gratitude and Living in the Moment. See below for entry rules and details. 

 

7-Day-Gratitude-Giveaway

  

HOW TO ENTER

Enter by doing one (or all!) of the following. Each counts as an entry!   


GIVEAWAY DETAILS

  • Every follow / share / tweet / like, etc. counts as one entry
  • Enter as many times as you'd like to increase your chances
  • Two (2) winners will be chosen + notified on May 9, 2016
  • Each winner receives Gratitude and Living in the Moment

 

I'm so looking forward to seeing your gratitude-themed photos, and I can't wait to share mine this week as well. And, of course, if you don't feel like participating, you can still check out the hashtag #PositivelyGrateful to be inspired by others' gratitude!