Chasing Slow (Online) + a GIVEAWAY!

Thinking Living

 

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Erin Loechner's Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path. I receive a lot of books in the mail, but I only write about them here in special cases -- and this is definitely one of those cases. I'd seen the book around online for weeks, popping up in various Instagram feeds and mentioned in articles and podcasts, but I wasn't sure if it was a book for me. I've loved Erin's work on Design for Mankind for years, but I was nervous that the religious elements of the book wouldn't resonate with me, a childless, agnostic atheist. But as I kept noticing it more and more places -- and kept getting drawn to the title and the book's beautiful, simple aesthetic -- I decided I needed to give it a try. And I'm so glad I did. 

Not only is the book beautifully designed, including beautiful photos and little journal prompts throughout, but it's also incredibly inspiring, especially for anyone who spends a lot of time online (like bloggers) or on your phone (like most of us). The book covers a variety of topics -- blogging, success, motherhood, mindfulness, work/life balance, and more -- but one of the topics that resonated most with me is the topic of social media. You might have read my post, Inspired Unfollowing: A Week of Conscious Content Choice, earlier this year, and so you know I'm thinking a lot social media and how it can impact the amount of positivity in your life. 

In the book, Erin writes about how she learned that "thinking about living is not the same as living." Those words -- particularly in relation to social media -- really hit home with me. When we're online -- whether it's reading blog posts, checking email, scrolling through social media, reading news, etc. -- we're, for the most part, thinking and consuming, rather than living and doing. Through the book, Erin brings up the question What am I looking for? and when I read those words, I was stopped in my tracks because one thing I love about my online life is the looking. I love that I can find almost anything I'm looking for at almost any time. I love that, in that looking, I've found newness: new friends, new items, new ideas, etc. I love the hunt. But, as Erin so wisely writes:  

The same hunger that seeks community, togetherness, discovery, and expression also roars with pride — with self-doubt, comparison, envy, loneliness. Online, we fed ourselves both.

For every force, there is an opposing force. Though the online world is amazing and inspiring at times, it's also uncharted and overwhelming at times. It's both wonderful and terrible. We spend so much time looking, and, as Erin writes, "Sometimes, when we're looking for what we want, we find what we need." In reading Erin's book, that's what happened to me. When I picked up the book, I was looking for information on how to take some of the stress out of my life, but I found something else: and important reminder and incredibly insightful wisdom on how I'm using technology in my life. 

Her words on Pinterest -- my most popular social media platform -- were particularly eye-opening for me. (If you're not a Pinterest fan, imagine that this is about a different platform, or whatever aspect of life you turn to to see what "perfect" looks like.)

Pinterest has, in a few short years, become an addicting escape, and impossible standard, an invaluable resource. A synonym for perfect... Who could've seen the downside as we pressed our noses to the screen, eyes widening with wonder, watching as our dreams scrolled by, pin after pin after pin? Who could've known that more isn't what we truly need? You could've known that more would make us feel like less?

Seeking more -- more information, more followers, more inspiration, more perfection -- almost always makes us feel like less because, after all, when you're seeking more, you're essentially saying, Right now is not enough. And, on a more personal level, I am not enough. 

This feeling becomes amplified when you work online. You begin, as Erin writes, "to see yourself as one dimensional, a girl on the screen." For many bloggers and online creators, there's a huge gap between the images on the screen and the real person behind those images (as anyone who knows me in real life knows well!). To keep up with what we do, bloggers need to be online and on social media. But finding balance (particularly for those like me, who have strongly addictive personalities) online and on social media is incredibly challenging. 

When your personal identity is so intricately linked with your online presence, this becomes even more complex. Erin writes, "Identity is a powerful force. We rarely see ourselves as others do, and we often view the world — our own, someone else's — through a distorted lens." We want to believe that who we are is not what we do online, but the more time you spend online, the more the line between our identity and our technology becomes blurred. At one point in the book, Erin is writing about Adam and Eve and she says, "In the pursuit of knowledge, they lost wisdom. In the pursuit of themselves, they lost themselves." To me, this says a lot about who we are now, at this point in society. So many of us are seeking some validation or understanding of ourselves online, and, frustratingly, we still feel misunderstood. Erin writes: 

I do feel misunderstood, but the one doing the misunderstanding is me. The one doing the misunderstanding is the one who wrongly assumed my social media profile and smiling square image must perfectly capture who I am. That my presence online must perfectly match my present off-line. That who I am is what I do, that my outsides match my insides...

...But what do we know of comparing our self to ourselves? What do we know of comparing our richest reality to the one-dimensional screen? What do we know a flattening our identities so they can be cropped, manipulated, forced into one-liners and profile explanations?

This whole online world -- and how it relates to who we are and who we'll become as a society -- is still so new, relative to the whole of humanity. But, with the ever-growing online world, something honest, something true is being lost. When I read these words in the book -- "On a good day, I tell the truth on Instagram.… But on most days, I don't write what I think in that moment. I write what I think others expect me to think in that moment." -- I found myself sighing deeply in recognition. As Erin puts it, "Our culture is prone to concealing what is.… Under-the-rug sweeping is the default." Social media only exaggerates this tendency of ours to push away the imperfect. Social media is often criticized for being an addictive, mindless, time-suck, but, as Erin puts it, that's not the true danger: 

The dangers of social media or far subtler than the distraction, than the addiction, than the habits we form by scrolling through screens multiple times a day... social media has encouraged us to crop out the contradictions in ourselves. It has caused us to airbrush the parts of our lives we don't love about ourselves. It has caused us to sweep our personalities — whether too big or too small — under a Moroccan Pinterest rug in the name of a consistent social media presence. In the name of online optimism.

The most worrisome aspect of social media isn't the time we spend on it or even the sometimes soul-crushing comparisons we make between the screens and our real lives. The most problematic aspect of social media is what it does to our personal identities when it encourages us to crop and summarize and condense who we are into a limited amount of space. Social media can feel spacious -- a variety of platforms from which we can see the world and connect globally -- but it's actually incredibly restrictive. We are not flat, square images. We are not black text on a white screen. We are endless shapes and colors and moods and feelings. We are complex and intricate and mysterious. We are gloriously imperfect shades of gray. Erin writes: 

Excepting that we are gray, that we are flawed, that we are a great many things, is one of the most difficult parts of today's information society. We are taught that knowledge is power, that what we do not yet know can be explained and placed in a box on the shelf, lid sealed until further notice. We spend our time on social networks attempting to condense our personalities into tiny profile boxes, trying to verbalize intricacies within flattened screens.

The intricacies of who we are as people cannot be accurately conveyed through a screen, no matter how many images, words, or videos we share. Our truest selves will always be present only in real life, and only in the ever-shifting day-to-day interactions and thoughts and emotions we have. We can do our best to tick of boxes and define who we are, but no definition will ever be enough to encapsulate the whole of who you truly are. As Erin so wisely puts it: "We are not either/ors. We are both/ands."

All of this online / social media stuff is just one aspect of this amazing book. In reading it, you'll not only gain insights into Erin's story (which, I feel, many people will relate to in some way -- whether it's as a blogger, a parent, a friend, a spouse, or just a person trying to make the most of what she's been given in this life), but you'll also gain tons of unexpected inspiration. I really enjoyed reading it, and I'm so glad I picked it up. (A reminder that, just because something doesn't necessarily tick off all of the boxes you identify with, it doesn't mean it won't teach you amazing things.) I'd highly recommend you read it, and I'm so thankful that Erin's publisher has agreed to give away a copy! 

  Chasing Slow


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
  • Winner will be chosen + notified on February 27, 2017
  • Giveaway open to US residents only

 


Inspired Unfollowing : A Week of Conscious Content Choice

 

Inspired Unfollowing

 

Most of us spend a great deal of time online, in our in-boxes, and on apps. While I'm a huge fan of technology and the connectivity that comes with it (after all, I wouldn't be able to do what I do for a living if it weren't for the amazing power of blogging and social media!), sometimes it takes away from being positive and present. And, quite frequently, it takes away from the concept of self-love, my primary for focus for 2017 (and probably the rest of my life as well!).  

I've read countless articles about taking a social media break or limiting it to a certain amount of hours each day, but I believe those ideas are just putting a bandaid on the problem. If you need constant breaks from something or have to limit it because it's unhealthy for you, it's important to look at why you need to break/limit yourself. What is it that you feel when you're online or on apps? Are those feelings positive or negative? Do you want to keep feeling them? 

As I move through this year of self-love, I'm striving to get more in touch with how things make me feel. I tend to be very logic-oriented, and sometimes I forget that feelings are just as important as logic (even if they're not always as easy to identify!). When you have awareness of the feelings that come with certain experiences, people, things, etc., you can then make choices that help you to create a more positive, mindful, and self-loving life. Awareness is the first step toward change. 

This year, I'm striving to create more of that kind of awareness in my life (and make changes accordingly), and this week I'm turning my attention to social media, apps, and the places I spend time online. Specifically, I'm turning my attention to getting rid of those that don't create feelings of love, positivity, and inspiration.

 

WHAT IS INSPIRED UNFOLLOWING? 

What we surround ourselves with -- both in real life and online -- has a great impact on how we feel and live every single day. It's all too easy to fall into patterns, to do something you've always done simply because you've always done it, but I think it's a big mistake to be passive when it come to online consumption. There are a great many things we cannot control in this life, but one that we can is what we look at on our computers or phones. 

To create more self-love and positivity in our lives, we have to consume consciously (I know, that sounds like something Gwyneth Paltrow would say, but hear me out!), especially what we consume visually and electronically. Because I've come to realize how important this is, I came up with the idea of Inspired Unfollowing, a week of reflecting on what I've been consuming online so I can actively choose whether I want to continue doing so. I hope you'll join me this week in taking control of what you consume. 

As you do this, it's important to think critically. There are some things that fall obviously in the "unfollow" category -- the websites that drive you crazy with too many emails; the acquaintance on Facebook constantly ranting; the brand who posts negative memes on Instagram -- but there are many other, less obvious, reasons you might want to unfollow. Here are just a few example of less obvious aspects you might want to look out for: 

  • Unfollow unrealistic representations of beauty making you feel bad about your body
  • Unfollow memes or jokes that might be amusing but focus mostly on putting others down
  • Unfollow images of a "perfect" lives that cause you to feel overly envious or jealous
  • Unfollow brands promoting items you cannot afford that make you feel unsuccessful
  • Unfollow companies that don't support your personal beliefs (do your research!)
  • Unfollow people / brands that no longer interest or inspire you (we change and that's ok!)
  • Unfollow celebrities that don't inspire, uplift, or empower you in some way
  • Unfollow accounts you started following years and years ago but no longer enjoy

It all comes down to how something or someone makes you feel. The more you surround yourself with sites, apps, people, and accounts that uplift and inspire and inform, the more uplifted and inspired and informed you'll feel. And we only have so many hours in a day to look at social media, and there's soooo much out there, so it's up to you to choose consciously what you want to see. 

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Surrounding yourself with positive, inspiring social media does not mean avoiding things that might evoke negative emotions (i.e., upsetting but important news stories) or people whose beliefs differ from yours. One of the worst things any of us could do at a time like this would be to avoid people who are different from us. In fact, I encourage you to find some accounts and websites that don't hold your views and visit them periodically to open your mind to a new perspective.  The world isn't all sunshine and rainbows, nor is it filled with people who believe exactly what you do, and avoiding all negativity is not good practice. There's a big difference between things that add value -- such as news, even if it's not positive news, or people who share opposing views, but who do so in a kind, thoughtful way -- and things that make you feel terrible without providing useful information.

Okay, now that that disclaimer is out of the way, let's jump into the plan for the week!  

 

THE WEEKLY PLAN

The plan is basically to go through the various accounts, sites, apps, etc. and decide which ones you benefit from and which ones you could do without. As you're working through each one, ask yourself: Does this account -- directly or indirectly -- make me feel worthy of love? That might sound a bit cheesy, but, really our lives come down to two very basic feelings: love and hate. Everything you encounter directly or indirectly promotes one of those two states of being. (If something feels neutral to you, dig deeper. One of those feelings is there!)

 

Monday / Email Subscriptions

First up, our in-boxes! How many emails do you get each day? How many of those are email subscriptions you signed up for but no longer want? (Or were signed up for but never wanted in the first place?) Even if you don't end up reading these emails, you have to spend time and energy deleting them each day. Set aside time today to go through your email and unsubscribe from those emails you no longer want to receive. If you don't want to do it manually, there's an awesome site call Unroll.Me that'll do it for you! 

 

Tuesday / Facebook

Facebook can be a tricky one because, for a lot of us, we're follow (aka, "friend") people we know. We might worry that it would be offensive to unfriend someone on Facebook (even if that person is just an acquaintance). The great thing about Facebook is that you can unfollow someone without unfriending him/her. (Read this article for specifics.) You can (and should!) choose what you see on Facebook without causing offense to friends, family, or acquaintances. 

 

Wednesday / Instagram

Instagram is often more of a mix of family/friends and brands/celebrities. Unlike Facebook, you can't unfollow someone politely without unfriending him/her, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't curate an Instagram feed that brings more positivity and self-love into your life. While sorting through your "following" list, ask yourself, "Does this person / brand make me feel less worthy, unhappy, or negative when I see their posts?" If the answer is yes, click that "Following" button so you no longer see those posts. 

 

Thursday / Twitter

Twitter is my go-to spot for staying up on the latest news. If you want to know what's happening right now, Twitter is the place to go. But, over the past few months, I've realized that it drains me and drags my emotional state down -- and that has a lot to do with the people I follow. I love comedy and follow a lot of comedians, but, unfortunately, a lot of comedy can be negative. This week I'm clearing out the negativity! 

 

Friday / Pinterest

Pinterest is one of my favorite online spots and, for the most part, I love the people I follow and feel inspired and uplifted when I spend time on Pinterest. But, I've been on Pinterest for a long time and there are some people I followed years ago that are no longer adding value to my life. They might not be especially negative, but they're not inspiring either. Because there's so much wonderful content out there, you've got to make room for the great by getting rid of the "eh." 

 

Weekend / Websites + Apps

What websites or apps do you open on a daily basis? And, more importantly, why do you open them? Sometimes we have great reasons for opening these, but often we do it just because we've always done it. It's habit; not choice. Over time, I've cut down on certain websites I visit (especially brands that made me long for items I hadn't even known existed before I'd opened the sites or YouTubers who made me feel I needed the latest lipstick shade), but I'm now also cutting down on the apps I keep on my phone as well.

Remember: just because you have a Twitter / Facebook / etc. account, doesn't mean you need instant access to it at all times. Taking an app off your phone can be a great way to be more conscious about your content consumption. It's often much more difficult to log-in to an account on your phone or to go to your computer than it is to click an app open, making it more likely that you'll think before doing it, rather than just absentmindedly clicking while bored! 

 

I've already started on Inspired Unfollowing, a little bit at a time, but I'm excited to see how I feel at the end of this week! If you're going to join in on this, but you're a bit unsure about unfollowing certain accounts, I recommend writing them down somewhere and then unfollowing. If you keep thinking about them or miss them, you can always go back to your list and re-follow. (But, believe me, I bet if there's any doubt in your mind whether or not you should be following an account, you probably don't really need it in your life.) As a bonus, you can take note of the accounts you're consciously choosing to follow and seek out more accounts like those! We have a certain amount of time for social media, and that time should be filled with consciously chosen content! 

  

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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.

A-Wear-Ness: Mindfulness + What You Wear

 

Awearness
 

When you think of mindfulness, your wardrobe probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind, but your fashion choices (even if you don't think your attire falls in the "fashion" category) impact your life more than you might realize. Like it or not, what you wear influences how others see you and how you feel about yourself. “Enclothed cognition” is the scientific definition for how your style and clothing choices reflect and affect your mood, health, and confidence. And, of course, those things — mood, health, confidence — greatly influence how you see the world and how you live your life. 

Fashion has always been of interest to me (I even contemplated on majoring in it in college before I transferred to a school that didn't have a fashion program!), but I've avoided talking too much about it because it seemed too materialistic or superficial for Positively Present. A few weeks ago I read an article on The Numinous, "Fashion as Self-Love," about KE7H3R designer Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat, and it made me realize that fashion and mindfulness are, in fact, very much related. 

Fashion — just like all aspects of our lives — can (and should!) be a mindful practice. I've been thinking about the correlation between fashion and mindfulness a lot lately and I've decided to call this mindful practice of buying and wearing clothing a-wear-ness. I even created a little acronym (W.E.A.R.) to help you understand and practice a-wear-ness in your own life. 

 

WEAR WHAT SPEAKS TO YOU

In this first aspect of a-wear-ness, it's important to consider your personal style and your lifestyle. (I wear sweatpants 90% of the time, but that certainly wouldn't work if I had a typical corporate job!). This step also involves carefully considering what (and how often!) you're purchasing new things. Yes, buying something new feels great, but that feeling is fleeting. Instead of seeking that brand-new-outfit rush, be thoughtful about what you buy and strive to purchase only the things that truly speak to you.  

"Fashion becomes a self-love practice when you can honestly answer the question: does wearing this make me feel like I can be myself?" said Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat, and I couldn't agree with those words more. What you wear impacts how you feel, which is why it's important to wear things that make you feel good (regardless of whether they're cool or on-trend). First and foremost, pay attention to what styles you like and what's comfortable for you, but also be open to new styles, too. (No one ever feels that great when they're stuck in a fashion rut!)

Personally, I'm all for following fashion trends (these days I almost always have a choker on, I've got a new bomber jacket on the way to me right now, and I'm definitely on board with the fanny pack!), but I don't believe in wearing something just because it's on-trend. If you like it and it happens to be a trend, go for it! But if you want to focus on a-wear-ness, it's essential to wear only the things you love — things that make you smile, feel comfortable, or give you confidence — regardless of how "fashionable" they are. 

 

EVALUATE AND EDIT

Vivienne Westwood once said, "Buy less, choose well, make it last." Those are some very wise words, and they go hand-in-hand with the concept of a-wear-ness. 

Over the past few years, I've been hearing more about the capsule wardrobe, which consists of a owning fixed amount of well-made pieces that can be worn interchangeably rather than a closet filled with items you might only wear once. While I've yet to personally adopt this fashion model, I do edit my closet each season, getting rid of the items I no longer love or wear and donating them to someone who might make use of them.

Choosing a minimalist approach to your style and consciously curating your wardrobe means you're attention is on what you have instead of constantly seeking out new items to buy. This is not only good for your wallet and peace of mind (fewer options = less time stressing about what to wear), but it's also a great way to practice gratitude too because you learn to deeply appreciate the items you already possess rather than seeking new ones. 

If you're not sure how to do this, start by making a list of the clothing you actually wear often and take note of why you wear it. Does it feel comfortable? Does it make you happy? Did it come from a meaningful place or person? Take note of the styles, colors, fabrics, etc. you're drawn to (and the ones you're not, so you know what not to purchase in the future!). 

A great way to put this into practice is to create fashion vision board, like my Closet Cravings board on Pinterest. Doing this serves two important purposes: (1) it gives you great insight into your personal style, and (2) it provides a place for you to save items you like without immediately purchasing them. Pin them to your board and then come back later to see if you do, in fact, feel they are items that will add to your a-wear-ness

 

ASSESS THE SOURCE

Where your clothing comes from is important, and contemplating the creation and manufacturing of the items you purchase is a big part of a-wear-ness. The energy that goes into the clothing you wear can have an impact on you, whether you realize it or not. As Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat put it:

Think about the energy that is put behind creating what you are placing on your body as your expression and reflection of yourself. Everything, even fashion, is a transference of energy. When you choose products that are made ethically, you are showing loving concern for the world, which in turn is an act of self-love — because in saying that the rest of the humans on this planet deserve better you are also saying you deserve better.

While I won't deny that I love a good fast-fashion find, I also realize how important it is to consider where your items come from and do your best to make conscious choices. Cultivate a-wear-ness by researching wear your clothing is made and how it is done. And, if possible, try to buy from local or small businesses.   

Also, it's very important not to buy items that feature designs stolen from small businesses. There's been a huge, unfortunate trend of big brands stealing from smaller designers (see Shop Art Theft), and I'm pretty sure stolen designs aren't going to have the best karma. Putting things on your body that are made ethically (and not stolen from others!) is a great way to cultivate a-wear-ness. 

 

REVAMP WHAT YOU OWN

This last point ties in with the second one. If you choose to have a wardrobe filled with a thoughtfully curated selection of items you love (and actually wear!), you might, at times, get a bit bored with your wardrobe. But a-wear-ness doesn't have to be boring! The trick is to learn how to revamp your wardrobe in little ways so it feels fresh even when you don't go out and buy every new trendy item on the rack. 

First, it's important to make sure you care for the items you own and repair them when you can. It can be really useful to know how to sew and mend so you can revamp your items if they wear down. (If you're not the mending type, identify where you can take items that need to be fixed so you can keep them looking nice instead of purchasing new ones). 

In addition to keeping your items it tiptop shape, you can also revamp your wardrobe in a big way with small accessories. Accessories allow you to change-up your look without buying a brand new set of clothes each season, and they give you a bit of customization that allow you to share a little bit of  personality with the world. Not sure how to customize? First, check to see what you already own and consider how you might wear it with different outfits. If you're in the mood to add a little something to your closet, consider adding a pin (like my Less Hate, More Love one!) to your collar or investing in jewelry that has interchangeable elements (i.e., different watch bands or charms on a necklace).   

Revamping your wardrobe with little things is not only a great way to cut down on clothing costs, but it's a great way to practice a-wear-ness by tapping into your creativity and identifying items that refresh your look. 

 

Whether or not you give much thought to what you wear, I hope you enjoyed learning about the concept of a-wear-ness. Fashion might sound frivolous, but what you wear does matter, both in the greater ethical, environmental sense, and in the personal, self-love sense. Appearances aren't everything (it's what's inside that really matters!), but fashion is a great way to express your personality, play with your creativity, and increase your confidence. The more a-wear-ness you practice, the more mindful and self-aware you'll become. 

 

 

A big THANK YOU to the sponsor of this post, Fanny Factory! Fanny Factory is a fashion company on a mission to bring back the fanny pack! They have taken the classic 90s-era fanny packs and made them cool again with a huge variety of fun patterns – from tropical pineapples, to flamingos, to retro paint splatters and pink florals – there’s something for everyone! Perfect for music festivals, exercising and traveling: the fanny pack is back! Get your new favorite accessory at FannyFactory.com. 

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