KNOW WHO YOU ARE
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
KNOW WHO YOU ARE
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 Far, Letters to My Future Self, Finding Your Self, Loving Your Self.
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.
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.)
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.
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!)
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!
A 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.
This week my favorite season, autumn, officially arrives! I know how basic it sounds, but I seriously love everything about the season. In particular, I love the changing of the leaves. Not only are the vibrant yellows, reds, and oranges my favorite, but I find something comforting in the fact that the trees are at their most beautiful when they are in the midst of letting go.
For most of us, letting go is hard. It's a struggle to release people, things, or emotions we've grown accustomed to having in our lives. Some people are better at letting go than others. I, for example, have a terrifically terrible time letting go of people, but when it comes to letting go of material things, I have absolutely no trouble saying goodbye. Others don't seem to cling to people the way I do, but ask them to get rid of a dress they wore once in high school and they act like you're asking them to sell their soul. We're all different when it comes to letting go, but I bet that no matter who you are, you have a hard time letting go of something.
But you know what? That's okay. It's okay to have a hard time releasing what matters to you. Whether it's things, people, or thoughts, it's difficult to give up something you once thought of (or still think of) as yours. But just because it's hard doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. When you keep things you don't need (and, yes, this includes people), you create emotional (and sometimes physical) mess. Extra things create clutter in your home, and extra people create clutter in your heart. Personally, I'd rather not have any clutter in my life -- and the only way to do that is to learn how to let things go.
It's not always easy to release things, the way the trees always seem to graciously let go of their leaves each autumn, but it's up to you to choose to stop clinging to the things that you no longer need in your life. No one is going to do it for you, but I've got some tips for how to make it happen. Ready? Okay, let's go let go!
Decide what's really important. When you take a step back and think about what's truly important to you, you'll realize that many of the things you're holding on to aren't as essential as you once thought. What's essential is being healthy, positive, mindful, and living your life to the fullest. If you are clinging to things or people, you're not really at peace with yourself or your life. Step back and assess what really matters to you, and letting go will become a lot easier.
Assess what benefits you're getting. One of the reasons we hang on to things or people is because we believe they add value to our lives. But is that actually true? Think about it -- and I mean really think about it. Are you benefiting from the clutter (emotional or physical) in your life? Is your life richer because you are surrounded by negative people? Probably not. Take a moment to list the benefits you think you're getting and you'll probably have a short list. Use this to motivate yourself to release what no longer serves you.
Recognize that you're overvaluing it. You're the one placing high value on a person or thing you're holding on to unnecessarily. More often than not, you're idealizing that person or thing and telling yourself that, for whatever reason, you need it/him/her. However, that's not true. If there's any part of you saying "let go," that means let go. What you need in your life is you. You also need things that are bringing you up, not down. If something isn't bringing you up, it's bringing you down. Stop overvaluing it and let it go.
Be brave enough to release your grip. It really does come down to the old Nike slogan, "Just do it." No matter how hard it is, no matter what obstacles stand in your way, sometimes you have to just suck it up, be brave, and release your grip. I know this is much easier said than done, but, honestly, it really is the only way. You owe it to yourself to be brave; to release the things that you no longer need. A remember: the hardest part is the release; once you're brave enough to take that first step, you'll soon see that you're just fine without it.
As much as you might think you need something or someone, keep in mind that "need" is a very strong word. What you really "need" in your life is very different from what you "want." Keep in mind that, deep down, you know what's best for you. If there's something telling you to let go, listen to that instinct. Your gut feelings will let you know what's right and what's wrong. You just need to open your mind and listen to them. And then, when you hear that voice telling you that you need to let something go, have the courage to really listen and to take action.
Letting go isn't often easy, but you can make your life so much more positive if you take inspiration from the beautiful trees in autumn and just let the dead leaves drop. And, yes, you might go through a tough time -- a winter, if you will -- but that will pass, and you'll grow stronger and healthier in the process, just like bright green leaves and flowers do each spring.
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.
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Yours is the light by which my spirit's born:
you are my sun, my moon, and all my stars.
Last week wasn't the first time I read those words, but it was the first time I thought about them in a different way. After reading them, I thought to myself, What if we talked about ourselves the way we talk about someone we're in love with? What if we wrote poems — and had thoughts — filled with that same admiration and adoration?
It seems like a far-fetched notion (and perhaps a narcissistic one?), but I couldn't get the concept out of my head, particularly in relation to the e.e. cummings quote. What if, instead of seeking to revolve our lives around someone else (a partner, children, even a job that sometimes stands in for a love affair), we found all of that magic within ourselves? This isn't to say we couldn't — and wouldn't — find magic in other people or experiences, but imagine if that wasn't the focus, but instead the focus was to find that magic — the light we're drawn to in other people — in ourselves...
These ideas inspired me to create the illustration above, and also inspired me to think about what it would be like to reconnect with the magic that is within us. By "magic," I mean not the stuff of wizards and witches (though that's cool too), but the parts of you that are special, wonderful, and unique. By "magic," I mean the true essence of who you were before the world told you who you "should" be. By "magic," I mean the parts of yourself that fill you with such wonder that you feel you could spend ages exploring them. By "magic," I mean the parts of yourself that scare you a little bit because maybe they are "weird" or uncommon or mysterious.
I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this concept, and it's inspired me in a lot of ways (more to come on that soon!). I thought it might inspire you too so I've come up with a handful of questions you might want to ponder to get in touch with your magic.
What did you enjoy when you were a kid? Consider what you liked to spend your time doing when you were a kid and you may be surprised that you still enjoy similar things. Often the activities we enjoy during childhood are experiences we continue to take joy from throughout our whole lives. Give some thought to this question, and you may uncover a lot about the essence of who you are.
What beliefs did you have in childhood? This might be a trickier one to figure out since it can be tougher to recall beliefs than actual activities, but here are some things to consider when trying to recall your beliefs. What made you angry as a child? What made you feel joyful? What's one of your best memories? Your worst? These questions will give you insight into what your values were.
What is your most favorite thing to do now? Getting in touch with your childhood self is important for reclaiming magic, but so too is connecting with who you are now. If you could spend a day doing only one thing, what would it be? Why? Does that activity make you feel a certain way? Try to pinpoint how it makes you feel and you'll find clues to your magic.
What would your ideal day consist of? Looking more big picture, contemplate how you'd like to spend an ideal day. Consider the following: what you would do, who would be there, where you would be, what would you feel, etc. Even take note of little details like weather and what you'd wear. Exploring the idea of an ideal day can provide insight into what you value and love most.
What would do you feel really good about? Connecting with your magic is all about reclaiming the best parts of yourself. Take a moment to think about what you're really good at, what qualities you consider to be your best traits, and any other positive aspects of yourself. Focusing your attention on your good points can help you see where you thrive (and where secret magic might be hidden!).
Reclaiming your magic won't happen overnight, but if you start with these questions, you'll inspire yourself to do a little soul-searching, which will hopefully allow you to reconnect with the parts of yourself that are the most important to you. The more connected you feel to yourself and the more you focus on your magical qualities, the better your life becomes. Your relationship with yourself grows stronger and, as a result, your relationships with others will too.
Want more inspiration for connecting with your most magical self? Check out the links below for books, workbooks, and products that'll inspire you to reclaim that magic!
Last week, I posted the image below on my Instagram feed, and people seemed to really love the concept. It's one of my most popular posts -- and, though the concept is positive, the lyrics I wrote about aren't typical of what I usually share on Instagram (aka, not the most inspirational!).
The attention this photo received definitely piqued my interest so I thought I'd write about the process of what I like to call Song Lyric Therapy (or SLT, for short). Even though it's fairly obvious how it works -- find lyrics, write it down, reflect -- sometimes it's helpful to have all the steps in front of you to motivate you to actually do it.
Music is an incredibly powerful force in my life, and lyrics in particular have always had a profound impact on me. For 20+ years I've been practicing SLT and it's pretty amazing. And it works no matter what emotional situation you're in. I've done it when I'm falling in love, when I'm going through a break-up, when I'm trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I've also combined with Quote Therapy, which follows the same general process, but instead of lyrics, you use quotes. Sometimes I even get crazy and combine the two, haha!
If you're a lyric lover like I am, here's how you can use SLT to get in touch with how you're feeling:
COMPILE A PLAYLIST
You might already have some songs that you're listening to on repeat, or you might want to create a special playlist just for your specific situation. I originally to made playlists in iTunes, focusing on specific situations, like: The Positive Breakup, Staying Sober, Single at Christmas, etc. I then started making my weekly playlists on YouTube so you guys could listen too, and now I've finally gotten Spotify and I'm making lots of themed playlists over there (some recent ones include: Autumn Woods, Be Here Now, Hang in There, Love Yourself, Positive Vibes, etc.). Where you create your playlist is up to you -- just make sure it's somewhere you can listen often and easily add songs if needed.
GET INTO THE GROOVE
This step is all about listening closely to the words. Listen to your playlist over and over again. Some people (like me!) are super lyric-focused and can't help but listen to the lyrics and try to apply it in some way to their own lives. But some people aren't as into lyrics and in this step they've gotta step up their listening game. There are no right or wrong lyrics to look for; the key is to pay attention to the words that speak to you, that give you a feeling of, Wow! that sounds just like what I'm experiencing right now! If you pay attention to songs you're drawn to, you'll realize that you love them so much because you relate to them in some way.
WRITE THE WORDS
After listening to your playlist frequently, it's time to document those words. I prefer to handwrite the lyrics and add color, doodles, etc. to make the process a bit more fun, but you can write yours in an form you like: in a notebook, on your computer, in a note-taking app on your phone. Whatever method is easiest and most inspiring for you, do that. As you're listening to the songs, aim to pinpoint one or two lines from that song that really speak to you. While you can write down huge chunks of a song (or the whole thing!), I've found it most useful to really narrow my focus to one or two lines so that I can go deeper on those in Step 4.
MAKE TIME TO REFLECT
After writing down your lyrics, set them aside for a bit before coming back and re-reading them. You can highlight words that really speak to you (as I did above). As I'm reviewing the lyrics, I ask myself, Why did this line resonate with me? What about these words makes me feel something? What does this particular phrase say about how I'm feeling? Sometimes I just answer these internally and reflect on them, and sometimes I write down my replies. Either way, reflecting on the lyrics provides not only better understanding of the situation, but also of how you feel about the situation. And knowing your feelings is key to choosing how you think, act, and react.
I've been using SLT for as long as I can remember, and I find it incredibly useful. If you're looking to do some soul-searching, if you're feeling uncertain about some aspect of your life, or if you're just curious about connecting with your feelings, I highly recommend giving this a try!
Want me to make a playlist for your situation?
Leave me a comment below or send me an email,
and I'll create a Spotify playlist for you!