Play the Hand You're Dealt : Life Lessons from Solitaire


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Whenever I'm super stressed and anxious (particularly when I have upcoming doctor's visits or surgeries scheduled), I've noticed that I tend to turn to games like Solitaire, Scrabble, and Boggle. Unlike zoning out with a show or YouTube video, games keep my mind engaged and I have to be paying attention to them (instead of my nagging anxiety-ridden thoughts). I'm actually in a bit of a Scrabble phase right now, but for a good chunk of 2017, I was all about Solitaire. 


And, of course, being me (creator of this fine site that you're reading today, haha), I started noticing some good life lessons as I was playing — and there ended up being a lot more than I would've imagined! 


You can be dealt a bad hand, and still end up winning. You can be dealt a great hand, and still end up losing. 


There's strategy involved, but also a heck of a lot of luck in what cards you're dealt.


You can't focus only on the card you need now; you have to look at the whole game.

Playing a card the first time you see it isn't always the right move. 


You — and only you — are in charge of what you do with the cards you've been dealt.


Sometimes you take winning for granted. More often than not, it's pretty anticlimactic.


A high score is nice, but it's better when you play for the joy of it.

You've got to play the cards you're dealt, whether you like them or not. (Though you can start a new game at any time.)

When you don't rush while playing, you make a lot fewer mistakes. 


Sometimes you know you're going lose, but you just keep playing. (You usually shouldn't.)


If you look, you'll find patterns, but if you're not paying attention, it'll seem like random chaos.


You often lose when you have too many of the same color or number; sameness doesn't win. 


Pay attention how you feel when you win or lose. Your reactions aren't always what you'd expect.


One card can change everything. You can be on the verge of losing, and draw a game-changing card.


I thought about writing more details for each point, but I'm guessing you can figure out how these lessons might apply in real life. (And if you can't, dig deeper — you're just as wise as I am!) And if you haven't played Solitaire (or any other game) in awhile, I highly recommend giving it a try. It can give you mind a break from the incessant thinking (or is that just me?!), while not allowing it to completely zone out, the way it might do with endless Netflix episodes or some other candy-like brain food. If you already are a fellow Solitaire-lover, did I miss any lessons? Anything you've noticed while playing? 

 

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4 Ways to Embrace the Freedom of Letting Go

 

Positively-Present-Let-Go

 

This week, I made this illustration for the "Freedom" prompt of the 2017 Gratitude Challenge, and it really got me thinking about how freeing the act of letting go really is. But it's also really difficult to do — at least for me it is. I'm pretty picky so when I let a person / thing / experience / idea / behavior into my life, I find it challenging to let it go (even when I know for sure it's no good for me). But, as I say often, it's often the most challenging things that are the ones worth doing. 

Hanging onto the things you no longer need might feel comforting, but consider what would happen if trees clung to all of their dead leaves? Come spring, the brand new (alive!) leaves would have a pretty tough time finding room on the branches. Same goes for us. When we cling to what's no longer enhancing our lives, we block off possibilities for new things to flourish. 

Releasing our own dead leaves isn't always a smooth and effortless process, the way it seems to be for the trees, but that doesn't mean we can't do it. If we want the freedom that comes with letting go, it's up to us to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of letting go. Here are some of the best ways to get started: 
 

  • Determine what you value most. When you take a step back and think about you truly value in your life, you'll realize that much of you're holding on to isn't as essential as you might've thought. What's essential is being healthy, positive, mindful, and living your life to the fullest (or maybe some other things that matter most to you!). If you are clinging to things or people, you're not experiencing true freedom. You're restricted by beliefs that aren't allowing you to thrive the way the trees do in the spring. Stepping back and assessing what really matters to you will make letting go a lot easier.

  • Reflect on what you're really receiving. We often hang on to things or people because we believe they're add value to our lives, that we're receiving some benefit from them (or providing it to them). But is that actually a fact? Are you actually benefiting from the clutter (emotional or physical) in your life, or do you just tell yourself you are because it's easier than choosing change? Reflecting on whether or not a person / experience / etc. is making your life richer can provide you with a boost of motivation to let someone or something go. Of course, not everything in life is about what you get from it, but if something is taking more than it's giving, it might not be worth clinging to.  

  • Take note of what you're overvaluing. Are you placing high value on a person or thing you're holding on to unnecessarily? Are you giving something way more value than it truly has? More often than not, we idealize people or things and tell ourselves that, for whatever reason, we need it/him/her. Needing something is kind of prison; it keeps you trapped in situations that aren't necessarily beneficial for you. If there's a voice inside you saying "let go," it's a pretty good sign that you should let go. What you truly need in your life is never going to be accompanied by a voice that urges you to let go. Listen to that voice — not the one that overvalues what's no good for you as a way to keep you feeling the false comfort of not experiencing freedom. 

  • Be strong enough to release your grasp. It really does come down to two little words: let go. No matter how hard it feels, no matter what obstacles appear to stand in your way, if you want to experience true freedom, you have to be brave and release your grip. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but, honestly, taking action really is the only way to access freedom and make room for new growth. You owe it to yourself to be brave and release what you no longer need. And keep this in mind: the hardest part is the release; once you're brave enough to take that first step, you'll soon see that you're fine without those dead leaves clinging to your branches. 
     

As you're learning to let go, also keep in mind that, deep down, you know what's best for you. If there's a voice telling you to let go, listen to that instinct. You won't hear that voice when you're doing what's right for you, when you're with people who bring you up, when you're connecting with the very best parts of yourself. It's hard to listen to the voice telling you to do the hard thing, but not listening often makes it harder — you'll either remained imprisoned by what you're clinging to, or you'll drag out the letting go process, making it even more challenging when you finally release that grip. 

Let the trees inspire you, and look to them way they let the dead leaves drop motivate you to release what you no longer need. When you let go, you might go through a tough time — a bare-branched winter, like the trees — but that pain will pass, and you'll have made room for the bright, lively leaves of spring when they arrive (and they will!). 

 

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Hooray! It's Gratitude Challenge Season!


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It's the SEVENTH year of this Gratitude Challenge, and I couldn't be more excited to tune my attention to what I'm thankful for throughout the month of November. It's been a bit of a rough year for me, but one thing that has helped me stay positive and present all year long is keeping a gratitude journal (I used my Every Day Matters diary as a way to track gratitude this year, and it worked so well!). Whether things are good or bad, focusing on what you're thankful for makes them even better, and I'll hope you'll join me in the Gratitude Challenge this year and get some of that gratitude goodness in your life. 

This year is going to be a little different for me. As you might have noticed if you follow me on Instagram, I've been doing a lot more illustrating since I got my iPad for Christmas last year. It's been a game-changer for me, and I haven't posted photos on Instagram since the spring. So, while I encourage you to share whatever you want in your personal Gratitude Challenge, I'll be focusing on sharing my gratitude through illustrations. 

 

THE CHALLENGE DETAILS

  • “Challenge” is just a word.

    The goal of the Challenge is to take and/or share something (a photo, illustration, quote, etc.) every day using the prompts to help you feel more appreciative. Feel free to get creative, make up your own prompts, etc. And don’t feel pressured to attain perfection, either. Thankfulness is what it’s all about; no need to be a professional photographer or artist!
  • Join in at any time.

    The point of the Challenge is to focus on staying thankful for thirty days. You can start the challenge on November 1 and do it for the whole month (as I am doing), or you can start the challenge any day that works for you and follow along at your own pace. I see people discovering and partaking in the Challenge all year 'round so don't feel limited to November!

  • Use the hashtag #Gratitude30.

    Sharing your pics on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.? If you tag them with #Gratitude30, others can see them and you’ll be able to see all of the other cool things that other people are sharing. It's one of my favorite things ever to look through all of the posts and see the various ways people interpret the prompts. 

  • Save or print out a reminder.

    Keep up with the prompts by downloading the photo above (save it to your phone, perhaps!) or, if you’re more of a IRL type, print out a version to post wherever you'd find a reminder helpful so you can stay on top of the prompts. Of course, you don't have to do them all in a row, but there is something special about spending 30 days focusing on what you're thankful for. 

 

THE 2017 PROMPTS


Day 1: Beauty

If you pay close attention, you can find beauty almost anywhere. Today, make seeking beauty your goal. Strive to find something beautiful in every situation, and share as much beauty as you can with others.

Day 2: Happiness

What brings you happiness in your day-to-day life? We all find happiness in unique places! Consider, today, what brings you joy and why you find it so enjoyable. 

Day 3: Nature

Nature is one of life’s great gifts. Pay attention to the nature around you today and how it makes you feel. Is there an aspect of nature you feel particularly grateful to experience?

Day 4: Inspiration

Tune into the world around you, and you'll have a pretty hard time not being inspired by someone or something. What inspires you the most right now?

Day 5: Amusement

Laughter is the best medicine, they say, and it's often true. Today, focus on what you find entertaining, amusing, or comical and, if possible, share some of that with someone else!

Day 6: Kindness

When have you experienced (or shared!) kindness this year? In addition to sharing this experience with #Gratitude30, consider adding a kind act to today's to-do list.

Day 7: Comfort

Today, focus on your favorite form of comfort. Do you love the physical comfort of a hug or a blanket, or is emotional comfort (a good listener, wise advice) your go-to? 

Day 8: Self-Love

No matter what you're experiencing in any given moment, the one thing you can always count on is yourself. Spend the day reflecting on your positive traits and embracing the amazingness that is YOU.

Day 9: Feeling

Feelings can evoke positive or negative vibes, but try, today, to embrace all of the feelings you're experiencing, and celebrate both the good and the bad. What's your favorite feeling?  

Day 10: Nourishment

What nourishes your mind, body, or spirit? Today, tune into what provides you with energy, enjoyment, or excitement, and be grateful for the ways they add positive value to your life.

Day 11: Music

As Nietzsche said, "Without music, life would be a mistake." What music are you most thankful for right now? What sounds have shaped your life this year? 

Day 12: Freedom

What are some of the freedoms you're thankful to have in your life? Pay attention today to the activities in your life that make you feel the most free. 

Day 13: Optimism

Attitude is everything, and even if you're not always optimistic, you're likely to have experienced a positive perspective at some point. Today, be thankful for all the times you've found the good. 

Day 14: Challenges

Struggles always make us stronger. Be thankful today for the challenges you’ve encountered, and, if you’re in the midst of a difficult period, be thankful for the lessons you’re learning now.

Day 15: Health

This is one almost always makes gratitude lists, and for good reason! Reflect on (and be thankful for!) all of the ways in which your mind and/or body is working well today.

Day 16: Creativity

Regardless of whether you consider yourself a creative person, you've created your life up to this point so far! Today be grateful for your own abilities or those of someone you admire. 

Day 17: Memories

Staying present is usually ideal, but that doesn't mean you can't be grateful for good moments in your past. Focus on one of your favorite memories and be thankful for the opportunity to have experienced it.

Day 18: Home

What comes to mind when you see the word "home"? Home can be so many things — a place, a person, a feeling. Whatever the word means to you, take time to embrace the comforts of home today.

Day 19: Friendship

Friendship is priceless, and today’s the perfect day to be grateful for the loving, supportive relationships in your life. (And to say "thank you!" to your friends!)

Day 20: Innovation

The world is filled with amazing innovations (especially in the realm of technology!) that make our lives better. What innovation are you most thankful for in your life right now? 

Day 21: Love

Love comes in so many shapes and forms, but regardless of how it arrives, it brings with it a bit of magic. Today, be grateful for every bit of love you've given and received (and share more today if you can!)

Day 22: Awareness

Staying in the moment is tough a lot of time, but try carving out some time today to be fully engaged in something — your work, a conversation, a moment in nature — and appreciate how it feels to do so.

Day 23: Family

Regardless of whether, for you, "family" means blood relatives, a partner, your friends, or all of the above, it’s a wonderful thing to have. Be thankful for your family-filled moments today. 

Day 24: Solitude

Not everyone loves alone time, but it's often during time spent alone that we grow closer to understanding ourselves. If possible, spend some time alone today and be grateful for the solitude.

Day 25: Generosity

What was the last thing you gave or received? The generosity of others is something to be thankful for (and you can pay it forward by being generous to someone else today!).

Day 26: Wonder

Out of all possible scenarios, here you are, in this life, being you. Spend time today pondering the wonder-filled things in your life, and be thankful for all that's wonderful.

Day 27: Meaning

We choose what we give meaning to, but meaning itself is something we should all be grateful for. Without it, life would be pretty hard to get through! What means the most to you? 

Day 28: Peace

In today's crazy world, peace isn't always easily attained, but reflect, today, on the last time you felt truly at peace. What made you feel peaceful? Could you recreate that feeling today?

Day 29: Knowledge

If you're truly living, you're probably always learning. Use today to reflect on what you’ve learned (maybe focusing on the past year) and share some of knowledge with #Gratitude30.

Day 30: Growth

Consider all of the ways you've grown in the past year. What growth have you experienced recently? What growth was most important? Be thankful for your ability to keep flourishing!

 

I'm so thrilled to be doing this challenge for the seventh year, and I can't wait to see all of your photos and creations this year! As you might know from social media / previous posts, I'm currently recovering from surgery (ugh!) so I might not be as on top of it this year as I've been before, but I'll be doing my best — and I'll definitely be checking on the #Gratitude30 hashtag for inspiring and uplifting content as I recover! 

 

    

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