24 hours without complaining : 5 lessons I learned

Less-Complaining

 

Last week I stumbled across this post (via SwissMiss) in which the author challenges her readers to stop complaining for just one day. I don't consider myself a huge complainer, but I know I do my fair share of whining on a daily basis so I decided to challenge myself not to complain for 24 hours. It seemed easy enough. After all, for a good chunk of that time, I'd be asleep. 

 

It was not nearly as easy as I thought it would be. At all

 

It turns out that I do a lot more complaining than I realized. It wasn't until I started really paying attention to what I was saying, thinking, and typing did I start to see how much negativity I was actually putting out into the world. For the most part, these are tiny things — phrases like, "I'm freezing!" or "Ugh, why isn't it Friday yet?" — but all of those little complaints start to add up. 

Every time you complain, you're putting negative energy into the world — and into your life. And that's something you definitely don't want to be doing if you're striving to live more positively in the present. The more you complain about your life (even if it's simply in your mind), the less space you leave for positive thoughts that celebrate what you should be grateful for. 

As I made it through the 24 hours of attempting to be complaint-free, it became very clear to me that I needed to change some of my thought patterns and habits in order to create a more positive environment for myself. While struggling to avoid my whiny thoughts (I really started to annoy myself!), I thought about how I could tackle the complaints that surfaced in my mind. Here are the five tactics I used when I found myself veering toward a complaint...

 

PAY ATTENTION TO HOW YOU REALLY FEEL

The first complain I noticed myself uttering during this 24-hour challenge was when I walked outside into the cold January morning and immediately thought to myself, "Ugh. I'm freezing!" Yes, it was cold outside, but was I really freezing. Of course not. I was outside for less than five minutes in a warm jacket and boots. When I actually paid attention to how my body felt, I realized I wasn't even that cold. I'm so used to complaining about the cold (I'm not a fan) that I just complain for the sake of complaining. Not cool. As the day went on, I realize that I do a lot of that default complaining. I'm used to thinking I don't like something or I feel a certain way in a situation, but when I really allowed myself to experience it, I realized that more often than not, my complaints weren't based in any reality. They were simply a default setting. Which brings me to my next point... 

 

FOCUS ONLY ON THE PRESENT MOMENT

Another thing I was quickly made aware of when I started giving more attention to my thoughts was the amount of times I complained about something that hadn't happened yet. In my mind, I was dreading the mound of laundry I had to tackle or whining to myself about how I didn't want to deal with that conference call. These things weren't even happening and I was already complaining about them! I soon discovered when I pulled my mind back to the present moment, I had a lot less to complain about. Complaining about something that hasn't happened yet is a ridiculous waste of time and all it does it make whatever that unpleasant thing is take up more of your thoughts (and your life!).  

 

DIRECT YOUR THOUGHTS TO GRATITUDE

One of the easiest ways to counter complaints, I found, was to focus on things you have to be grateful for. Whenever I found myself complaining about something, I tried to think about what I was thankful for that related to that situation. For example, going back to the laundry I didn't want to do: when I thought about how annoying it would be to have to wash and fold my clothes, I countered that complaint with gratitude about how lucky I was to have clothes and a washing machine and an able body that could put the clothes in, take them out, and fold them. Once I started focusing on all of the positives, a simple task like laundry started to seem much more like a blessing than a curse and it became much more difficult to whine about it.

 

REFRAIN FROM USING COMPLAINTS TO BOND

It hadn't really occurred to me before, but over the 24-hour complain-free day, I realized how often I use complaining to bond with others. When I friend text me, "How's your day?" I automatically responded with, "Ugh. So busy!" First of all, I should be grateful to have work that keeps me busy (and thankful for the opportunity to do what I love for a living!) and, secondly, there are a million positive responses I could have had that didn't involve a complaint. However, it's become a default for me to complain to friends about how busy / stressed / etc. I am because we always vent to one another in this way. This isn't to say we shouldn't vent when having a tough day, but complaining shouldn't be a way to bond with others. Bonds should be formed over positive things, not negative. 

 

LEARN TO CHANGE IT OR ACCEPT IT

The most important lesson I learned about complaining is that a lot of the time the things I complain about are things I can change. Too cold while watching TV on the couch? Grab a blanket! Annoyed by an always-negative friend? Stop hanging out with her! A lot of complaints are within my control and I've realized that, if something's bothering me, whining about it is not the answer. If I want less to complain about, I have to take action. And, for those things I can't control, I learned that it's a lot less stressful if I just learn to accept them as they are. Complaining about something you can't change is a huge waste of time and all it does it create unnecessary negativity. So I've realized this: If I can change something, I should. I can change it but don't want to, I should be quiet. And if I can't change it, I should let it go. 

 

Though this challenge was only 24 hours long, it was an eye-opening experience for me. It made me much more mindful of how I think (and what I spend my time thinking about) and it shone a light on the ways I could choose to be more positive. I'd highly recommend giving it a try. The more you're aware of complaining, the more you'll be able to change it (and hopefully eliminate it). The more time you spend complaining, I've learned, the less time you have for other things, like celebrating your awesome life and all the things for which you should be thankful! 

  

 

Finding-Self-Cover

It's a lot harder to complain when you're celebrating who you are. Now is a great time to discover more about yourself and what you want most by downloading a copy of the e-book Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your very own soul-searching copy here.


what stories are you telling yourself?

What-Stories

 

I've been thinking a lot lately about the stories we tell ourselves and how these stories manifest into realities. You might not consider yourself a storyteller in the conventional sense, but every day you tell yourself stories. A lot of these stories start off as facts and we add to them, creating fictional tales that we then take as truth and experience as reality. This sounds a little abstract so let's look at an example...

Let's say you have a difficult interaction with a colleague. This is a fact. You had an unpleasant interaction — let's say it was a disagreement about how to present material in a meeting. That happened and it wasn't fun. But the storytelling part comes in when you start imagining what it would be like to confront that colleague about the situation. In your mind, you imagine telling her off in detail. You imagine what you will say and how she will respond defensively. You envision your retort to her imaginary arguments. Though this interaction is happening only in your mind, you start to physically feel as if you are in that moment: your palms sweat, your heart races, your muscles tense. The story you're telling isn't real, but the way you feel is. You have turned ideas into your reality. You are mentally and physically living in a moment that doesn't exist in reality. 

We do this not only for future situations, but also past ones as well. Right now take a moment and think about the last time you were in an awkward situation. Imagine how it felt to feel socially awkward or to have just said the absolute wrong thing to the wrong person. You're probably cringing right now just recalling it, and you're probably feeling some physical reactions too — maybe tense muscles or sweaty palms. Even though that moment is in the past, if you tell the story to yourself in your mind, it starts to feel as if it's happening now. 

Pretty crazy, huh? When written out like this, it sounds like something that might make for a good mental patient case: made up stories that feel like they're really happening. But we all do this to ourselves all the time. We rehash what's happened or we create scenes that have yet to happen and they feel incredibly real. If we did this in a positive way — spent time dwelling on that amazing memory of a great day or envisioned how perfectly the nerve-wracking speech is going to go — this wouldn't be such a problem, but when was the last time you spent a lot of time thinking about how wonderful something was or how great it's going to be? 

It makes sense to reflect (a little bit) on what went wrong — after all, that's how you learn not to do it again — and it's not the worst idea to consider what might go wrong so you might prepare and avoid disastrous situations, but I think it's important that we be aware of the stories we're telling ourselves, both about the past and about the future. These stories can very often feel real and they're not. The past recollections are tainted by our memories (what now seems like the worst might not have been that bad in the situation) and the future is completely imagined. 

The thing is: these stories have power over us. When we tell them enough, we start to believe them. Regardless of what actually happened, if we've created a memory of it and we keep telling that story, we believe that's the truth. Likewise, if you imagine something enough and think it's going to happen, it might actually become a reality. (Then you'll confirm your own storytelling abilities by saying to yourself, "I was right! I knew I was going to feel so awkward on that first date and it would go terribly and it did!") We also start to tell these stories to others (particularly stories about the past), which makes them feel even more real. 

But, in truth, the only thing that's real, that's actually happening right now, is the present moment. Whatever is in your head is a story. It would be ideal if we could stop telling ourselves stories, but that's a whole lot easier said than done. What I think we need to do is start being aware of these stories. Once you're aware that what you're telling yourself is a story — and not necessarily reality — you have the option to keep telling it, change it, or let it go.

We need to start asking: What stories am I telling myself? We need to start asking: Are these stories completely based on actual reality? (Hint: almost never; our minds can't help but put a spin on things.) We need to start asking: Are these stories adding value to my life? (Hint: they're usually not.) And, perhaps most importantly, we need to start asking: If I'm the storyteller, why not tell positive stories? 

I urge you to ask yourself these questions this week and see if maybe you can counteract (or let go of) the negative stories you've been telling yourself. Become aware of your stories and decide whether or not you want to keep telling them. 

 

PPG-Preorder

 
Learn how you can positively transform your story in my new book, The Positively Present Guide to Life. The book is all about how to stay positive and present in various areas of life including: at home, at work, in love, in relationships, and during change. I've turned back to it often this year as I've gone through major changes and it's been tremendously helpful. As a bonus, the book is filled with inspiring images that make it even easier to stay positive and present. You can learn more about the book here. (You can also get a sneak peek at the book, access a free download, and watch the book trailer!)


how to be single during the holidays

Christmas-Aloneimage source : girl / snow 

 

I love this time of year — the lights, the giving, the celebrations, the sparkles! — but for the first time in a long time, I'm single for the holidays. When you're coupled up, you hardly take notice of how many aspects of the holidays are tied to having someone to share them with romantically, but when you're single, it seems like the whole world is a big, neon, green-and-red sign blinking: YOU'RE ALONE. YOU'RE ALONE. 

I'm not technically alone for the holidays. I'll still spend Christmas with my family. I'll be with friends on New Year's Eve. But there's something about this time of year that makes you feel as though, if you're not in a romantic relationship, you're completely on your own. After my break-up earlier this year, I had hope for the holidays; I was certain I wouldn't be single when Christmas rolled around. I had grand (romantic...) plans for what would happen, but things haven't worked out quite as I'd hoped. (Though there is still time till Christmas... who knows what could happen!)

I was tempted to blow off the holidays this year. I contemplated leaving the decorations in their boxes, cancelling the DVR recordings of the holiday movies I love so much, sleeping through New Year's Eve — just skipping the whole season. But then I realized: that was pretty much the opposite of what I'd recommend to a Positively Present reader. Though it might sound counter-intuitive, facing the negative emotions like sadness and loneliness (and trying to make the best of things) is the best way to stay positive and present. Avoiding the season would only make things worse. 

Facing the holiday season single for the first time in a long time hasn't been easy, and I'm well aware that being alone on the actual holidays won't be easy (I'm sure there will be moments when I look quite similar to the image above...), but I've taken steps to make the most of where I am right now. It might not be the most wonderful time of year this time around, but it needn't be the most miserable either. Here's my advice for making the most of the holiday season when you're single (and, to honest, most of these tips work for those coupled up too!).

 

MAINTAIN OLD TRADITIONS

When you have a change in relationship status, some of the holiday traditions you had previously won't necessarily continue. This can be tough (especially if you love traditions, like I do!). When I found myself feeling down about terminated traditions this year, I decided to do two things: (1) keep up some of the traditions on my own (like downloading a fun advent calendar app instead of feeling sad about not receiving a candy-filled advent calendar from my boyfriend) and (2) focus on traditions I had before I was in a relationship (like decorating my tree with ornaments I've had since childhood). Keeping up with traditions, particularly those I had long before I was living with someone else, reminds me that I've had many wonderful Christmases in the past and the holiday joy I experience isn't tied to being part of a couple. 

 

START A NEW TRADITION

It's hard when you have to give up some old traditions, but one great thing about being single is you can do whatever you want — including starting your own, new traditions. There are so many great ideas for festive holiday traditions (just check out Pinterest!) and starting one on your own can be kind of exciting. I've added a couple new traditions to my holiday season this year, and even though I still miss some of the old ones, it's been refreshing to do things a little bit differently this year. Another tradition-creating idea: recruite friends or family to be involved in a new tradition. Just because you're single doesn't mean you have to do things all alone, and it can be fun to initiate traditions with those you love. 

 

CONNECT WITH LOVED ONES

And speaking of loved ones... Connecting with those who love and care about you is essential for single people during the holidays. (If you're not single, but know someone who is, reach out to him or her!) There are so many things pushing the romantic elements of the season — couples cozying up in commercials, sentimental holiday tunes — and sometimes it's hard to remember you don't have to have a partner to experience love during the holidays. This year I've been doing my best to connect with friends and family, to enjoy the holiday experiences I have with them. When you're feeling lonely, it can be hard to reach out to other people and connect, but it's so helpful to spend time with others and celebrate the season with those who bring positivity into your life. 

 

AVOID (OR LISTEN TO) SAD SONGS

Do you know how many Christmas songs are about romantic love? A lot. Maybe I'm just more aware of them this year, but there are a lot of love-based holiday tunes out there, and a lot of them are quite sad. I have mixed feelings about these songs. Sometimes I want to avoid them, listening instead to cheery, non-romantic holiday tunes. But sometimes I want to crank them up and belt them out, reminding myself that I'm the only one who feels lonely at Christmastime. The great thing about holiday tunes is that there are options. If you're feeling really down, upbeat tunes might help you feel more festive. If you're feeling like you want to embrace the loneliness, you'll want to put this Single at Christmas playlist on repeat. Either way, use the seasonal songs to your (emotional) advantage! 

 

KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE

The most important lesson I've learned this holiday season is to keep the loneliness in perspective. Yes, I had to decorate the tree by myself. Yes, I will have to attend parties without a partner. And, yes, I will feel lonely sometimes. But, even though I'm single this holiday season, I still have so much to be thankful for. And that's something I keep reminding myself every day. It's not easy being single during the holidays (especially if it's the first time in a long time), but it's important to focus on what you do have, not on what you don't. The more I focus on how lucky I am — to have friends who make me laugh, to have family to share traditions with, to have the basic necessities in life that so many are without — the less important being single becomes, and the more I'm able to realize that, even without romance, my life (and my holiday season!) is still filled with love. 

 

 

PPG-Preorder

 

One way I'm trying to stay positive this holiday season is by taking my own advice, advice you can find in my new book, The Positively Present Guide to Life. The book is all about how to stay positive and present in various areas of life including: at home, at work, in love, in relationships, and during change. I've turned back to it often this year as I've gone through major changes and it's been tremendously helpful. As a bonus, the book is filled with inspiring images that make it even easier to stay positive and present. You can learn more about the book here. (You can also get a sneak peek at the book, access a free download, and watch the book trailer!)


13 inspiring life lessons from taylor swift

TaylorSwiftPhoto Source

 

I have a confession to make: I love Taylor Swift. Yes, I realize it's a bit ridiculous to be in adoration of a popstar as a woman in my thirties. But, for me, Taylor is more than a popstar. She's a fellow writer. She's a fellow woman, all too familiar with heartbreak and haters and the endless pursuit of happiness. She's a fellow human being, just trying to do what she loves and share what she's passionate about with the world. Like hundreds of thousands of people around the world, I connect with her and the words she puts out into the universe on a level that's still somewhat of a mystery to me. 

While I've always been extremely moved by music, I've never been obsessive over one particular singer or band. As a kid, I had stacks of CDs in my room, but most of them were there only to provide a song or two for one of my many mixes (of which I'm still making!). Until Taylor, I never really got into entire albums. But for whatever reason, when she puts out an album every other October, the words she's written always seem absolutely perfect for whatever I'm going through. 

A week ago, she released her latest album, 1989, and I've had it on repeat pretty much every moment I've been awake since then. The lyrics mirror so much of what's going on in my life right now: "Blank Space" playfully explores how I feel being single again; "Bad Blood" reflects the pain I've been experiencing over the loss of a friend; "Shake It Off" reminds me to let go of those who judge my choices; "This Love" reflects how reconnecting with my past can be both so good and so bad; "Out of the Woods" is straight-up how I feel about every uncertain aspect of my life right now; and "Clean" is the perfect post-breakup song about letting go. If I wrote songs, these are the words I would have written for where I am in my life right now. 

That's the beauty of Taylor's music, I guess. It can apply to so many different people all over the world and yet still feel as if it were written just for you. And when you really listen to what she has to say, both in songs and in interviews, it turns out Taylor has tons of great insights about love and about life. In honor of 1989, I've compiled some of the life lessons we can learn from Taylor Swift... 

 

  Taylor-1Photo Source

 

LESSON 1: SHAKE OFF THE HATERS

Being a super celebrity, Taylor's bound to have some haters, but she knows better than to let them get her down. In her song "Shake It Off," she reminds us to let go of those who hate, those who put us down instead of bringing us up. I've personally been having a tough time shaking some things off lately, but I heard Taylor speaking in a recent interview and she helped me put haters in perspective when she said, "It's human instinct to try and defend yourself when people have the wrong impression of you, but you have to let go of that and just get rid of it because it's not yours anymore." 

It's not yours anymore. Those words really hit home for me. And make me realize that what other people think isn't yours anymore, but it also never was yours in the first place. Whatever hate or misconception someone has, whatever untrue things they might think of you, that's their thing, not yours. What others say or think actually says a lot more about them than it does about you — a very important thing to remember!

 

Taylor-2Photo Source

 

LESSON 2: LOVE WHO YOU ARE

“If you go too far down the rabbit-hole of what people think about you, it can change everything about who you are," Taylor has said, and I really believe that to be true. It's hard not to care at all about what others think of you, but it's important to focus on your unique awesomeness — your muchness — instead of worrying about what others think about who you are. Plus, as Taylor puts it, "What I've learned is not to change who you are because eventually you're going to run out of new things to become.” If you don't stay true to yourself, who knows who you'll become? 

Taylor has also said: “You have to be happy with who you are and the choices you make. If you don't like yourself, you'll never be truly happy.” It's so incredibly true. We all make choices every single day and every single one of those choices impacts whether or not we're happy with who we are. It's important to make choices that will allow you to continue to love yourself day after day. As Taylor put it recently: "It's important to be self-aware about what people are saying about you, but even more so, be very aware of who you actually are, and to have that be the main priority."

 

Taylor-3Photo Source 

 

LESSON 3: SPEAK NOW

“I think most of us fear reaching the end of our life and looking back regretting the moments we didn't speak up. When we didn't say 'I love you.' When we should have said 'I'm sorry.' There's a time for silence, and there's a time for waiting your turn. But if you know how you feel, and you so clearly know what you need to say, I don't think you should wait. I think you should speak now.” Those words came from Taylor's Speak Now tour (which was amazing) and they're filled with truth. Unless words are cruel or untrue, there are rarely things that are better left unsaid. So speak up. Whatever it is you need to say, say it

But, there's a caveat when it comes to speaking your mind: make sure the words you use are positive ones. As Taylor has said, “Words can break someone into a million pieces, but they can also put them back together. I hope you use yours for good, because the only words you'll regret more than the ones left unsaid are the ones you use to intentionally hurt someone.” Words are an incredibly powerful weapon we all have access to; use that power positively. 

 

Taylor-4Photo Source  

 

LESSON 4: EMBRACE FEARLESSNESS

Taylor has a lot to say about being fearless and I support her words of wisdom wholeheartedly. She has said: "Fearless is not the absence of fear. It's not being completely unafraid. To me, fearless is having fears. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. Fearless is falling madly in love again, even though you’ve been hurt before...Fearless is getting back up and fighting for what you want over and over again, even though every time you’ve tried before, you’ve lost. It’s fearless to have faith that someday things will change. Fearless is having the courage to say goodbye to someone who only hurts you, even if you can’t breathe without them. I think it’s fearless to fall for your best friend, even though he’s in love with someone else. And when someone apologizes to you enough times for things they’ll never stop doing, I think it’s fearless to stop believing them. It’s fearless to say 'you’re not sorry,' and walk away. I think loving someone despite what people think is fearless. I think allowing yourself to cry on the bathroom floor is fearless. Letting go is fearless. Then, moving on and being alright. That’s fearless too."

As someone who is recently gone through a break-up and is striving to move on, I can so relate to Taylor's wisdom on how much bravery it requires to let go and move on, to embrace the things that scare you the most. Whatever scares you, go after it. Face that fear. (And be thankful you don't have to be brave in front of the whole world, like Taylor does!)

 

  Taylor-5Photo Source

 

LESSON 5: DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY

A lot of people can relate to Taylor, but that's not necessarily because she's just like every other (almost) 25-year-old. She's said, "I'd rather be at home and eat ice cream than go out and get wasted." She seems to prefer spending time with her cats and her favorite TV shows over going out and partying, which isn't all that common for someone her age. But that's what makes her happy so that's what she spends her time doing. 

Taylor clearly works incredibly hard so she probably knows how to zero in on doing what makes her happy whenever she has time to do it. As she's said, "Happiness isn't a constant. You get fleeting glimpses. You have to fight for those moments, but they make it all worth it." Happiness isn't part of every moment of every day (much as we'd like it to be!), but you've got to make it priority like Taylor does. You have to know the things that make you happy and spend as much time surrounding yourself with them as you possibly can. Also, don't feel you need romance to be happy. As Taylor said recently, "Life can be romantic without having a romance. I’m very attracted to how happy I am now."

 

  Taylor-6Photo Source  

 

LESSON 6: CELEBRATE FRIENDSHIP

"I look for people who really have their own passion in life," Taylor said last week when she was on The View. "My friends, they all are chasing their own dreams, and they all have their own ambitions." It's pretty awesome that Taylor chooses to surround herself with people who are passionate and successful. It would be so easy for her to choose friends that idolize her or simply exist to cater to her whims (because I bet a good majority of women would be more than happy to be her friend!), but Taylor seems fearlessly drawn to strong, smart, interesting women instead of being threatened by them like some women might be. 

Unfortunately women are often pitted against one another, especially in celebrity culture, but Taylor makes her girlfriends a priority and doesn't let their brilliance (or her own) get in the way of forming bonds with other women. Of her friend Ella (also known as Lorde), she has said, "[Lorde is] like this blazing bonfire. You can either be afraid of it because it's so powerful and strong, or you can go stand near it, because it's fun and it makes you brighter." Like Taylor, we could all benefit from allowing others' brightness to help us shine. 

  

  Taylor-7Photo Source

  

LESSON 7: KEEP ON BELIEVIN' (IN LOVE)

If you know anything about Taylor, you know she's a big believer in love. Even though she's had lots of heartbreak (and has yet to have a long-lasting, true love), she is wise when it comes to opening her heart up: "Just because something is over doesn’t mean it wasn’t incredibly beautiful. Not all stories have a happy ending and you have to learn how to deal with that." I can so relate to that bit of wisdom right now. Going through a break-up has been extremely tough, but I try to stay positive by recalling that, just because it's over, doesn't mean it wasn't worth every wonderful moment it lasted. Living in fear of love can really hinder the possibilities of what could be and it's important to learn how to embrace love even when it's possible it might not work out. 

Taylor's words also carry over into launching new relationships. Instead of focusing on how new relationships might end, I'm reminded by Taylor's wisdom to appreciate the now, to celebrate the interactions I currently have for what they are, for however long they last. Taylor's got a lot to say (and sing) about love, but another insight I particularly love is this: "Don’t worry. You may think you’ll never get over it. But you also thought it would last forever." Just as love sometimes doesn't last forever, neither does heartache.

 

  Taylor-8Photo Source

  

LESSON 8: LEARN FROM THE PAST

"I've found time can heal most anything / And you just might find who you're supposed to be," sings Taylor in her song "Fifteen," and in "Innocent" (one of my favs!), she sings, "Who you are is not what you've been / You're still an innocent." These lyrics are just some of those she's written to remind us (and herself) that you can recover and learn from the past. Just because something has happened in the past doesn't mean it has to keep happening in the present. She's said, "At some point, you grow out of being attracted to that flame that burns you over and over and over again." You might have to make a mistake multiple times (I know I sure I have!) to learn your lesson, but at some point you will learn and you can take that knowledge with you as you move forward into the future. 

In particular, you can learn a lot from past loves. "There are two different categories of love," Taylor has said, "The first category is called a fairytale. The second category of love is called just another lesson." I completely agree that every heartbreak is a lesson. Regardless of why your heart has been broken, you can learn from the pain, and those lessons will only make you smarter the next time around. 

 

Taylor-9Photo Source
 

LESSON 9: KNOW WHEN TO LET GO

It can be heart-wrenching to let go of what you want to hang on to (I know this all too well myself...), but Taylor's on to something when she recognizes that letting go of something when you know you need to let it go is always the best choiceno matter how painful it is to do so. Letting go will hurt like hell, but it hurts so much more to cling to what wants to be set free. In one of her new songs from 1989, "New Romantics," she sings, "The best people in life are free." I love the double meaning of this: the best people don't have price you have to pay to be with them and the best people are free to live as they please, unburdened by adherence to expectations or rules. 

There's so much truth in how wonderful it is to be with someone who is free, someone who is with you for no other reason than because he or she wants to be. If you don't feel free or you don't feel like the other person is free, it's time to let go and move on to a more liberating situation.

 

  Taylor-10Photo Source

  

LESSON 10: WORK HARD (ER)

"My attitude has always been if you get better and you see success, that should motivate you to even work harder, so that's kinda how I approach everything," Taylor has said. That's a pretty great attitude to have, isn't it? Perhaps her hard-working nature comes from what she said here: "My parents raised me to never feel like I was entitled to success. That you have to work for it. You have to work so hard for it. And sometimes then you don't even get where you need to go." Taylor's certainly gotten where she needed to go, but that's not for a lack of a lot of effort. She's been working practically her whole life, going after her dreams with a persistence that I find pretty darn inspiring. 

Taylor has also said: "The world doesn’t owe you anything. You have to work for everything you get and you have to appreciate every bit of success the world gives you." Pretty humble words for a global superstar, right? That's one great thing we can learn from Taylor: if you want something, go after it. And go hard. Don't give up when people say no. Don't rely on other people to get you where you want to go. Don't let go of your dreams — work for them. 

 

 

Taylor-11Photo Source

 

LESSON 11: FEEL THOSE FEELINGS

Taylor feels things. I mean, really. She doesn't push the heartache or pain away. She doesn't deny that things hurt or that life is far from perfect. She gets in there with those emotions and she allows herself to experience them fully and deeply. And, not only does she experience them, but she shares them. She has said, "Your feelings so are important to write down, to capture, and to remember because today you're heartbroken, but tomorrow you'll be in love again." That's such a great way of looking at it, isn't it? Remember you're feelings because, good or bad, they are fleeting. 

While it's not a great idea to dwell in negative emotions, it's never a great idea to ignore emotions. Instead, the best way to heal is to embrace how you feel — no matter what that feeling is. The more you allow yourself to experience and explore your emotions, the better you'll become at managing them. So next time you feel something not-so-great, imagine you're Taylor and embrace those emotions. Feel them. Share them if you want. Use them to access a creative part of yourself. But whatever you do, don't ignore them. 

 

 

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LESSON 12: RESPECT YOURSELF

"When I was in high school," Taylor said, "I remember seeing girls crying in the bathroom every Monday about what they did that weekend. I never wanted to be that girl crying in the bathroom." As far as I've seen, Taylor's never been that girl. Sure, she's had a string of (alleged) boyfriends, but she's maintained an air of self-respect throughout her career and in her personal life. 

In her lyrics, you can tell that she knows how important it is to respect yourself. In "White Horse," for example, she sings, "I'm not your princess, this ain't a fairytale / I'm gonna find someone someday who might actually treat me well / This is a big world, that was a small town / There in my rear view mirror disappearing now / And it's too late for you and your white horse / Now it's too late for you and your white horse to catch me now." Taylor might love the idea of a fairytale ending, but she knows better than to settle. And you should too. Never settle for less than you deserve and never let anyone stand between you and what you want.  

 

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LESSON 13: HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR

In a recent interview, Taylor said: "In the last few years I've gotten better at just kind of laughing off things that absolutely have no bearing on my real life." One of the greatest life lessons we can all learn from Taylor is to have a sense of humor. Life isn't perfect; it's quite messy, in fact. If you can't laugh at yourself and some of the crazy situations you find yourself in, you're only making it harder for yourself. The more you can shake things off and laugh about them, the easier everything becomes. 

Taylor's known for making fun of her single relationship status, for chuckling about her exes, for mocking her own unique dancing (if you haven't seen it, the whole video for "Shake It Off" is her making fun of herself). And every time she does, she shows us how easy it can be to make the best of a bad or awkward situation. Instead of feeling sorry for herself when people mock her dancing or joke about her exes, she joins in on the fun and pokes fun at herself. 'Cause laughing it off really is the best way to shake it off!

 

 

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One way to discover even more great life lessons (or put Taylor's to use!) is to uncover the unique aspects of you. You can discover (and appreciate!) more about yourself and what matters to you by downloading a copy of Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your very own soul-searching copy here.


12 ways to respect yourself

Respect

Self love is an essential element for living a positively present life, and self respect is a vital aspect of self love. The more you respect yourself, the more you are able to love yourself. However, self respect isn't always as easy to come by as you might think. There are a lot of aspects of life that can lure you away from respect. As much as you might want to treat yourself with respect, there are often outside influences that can get in the way of treating yourself honorably.

For example, here are a few situations that might tempt you away from respecting yourself: loving someone who doesn't love you (or who treats you badly); having a "successful" career that makes you unhappy; wishing you could go back to a past time in your life; thinking you need to have X, Y, or Z to be happy; having people around you who doubt your abilities; wanting things simply because you think you "should" want them; thinking the lives others lead is better than your own; or living or working with people who treat you (or themselves) negatively.  

These are just a few of the reasons you might find respecting yourself difficult, and, unfortunately, they can happen to almost anyone. Not all of these things are within your control (you cannot always control how others act or react), but what is within your control is how you treat yourself. Here are some of reminders of how to make self-respect a priority in your life. 

 

DON'T SETTLE FOR LESS THAN YOU DESERVE. 

One of the best ways to respect yourself is never to settle for less than what you deserve. And you — we all — deserve the very best in life. You have this one life to live and you deserve to have the best things for you: the best people, the best career, the best feelings. Don't settle. 

 

GET IN TOUCH WITH WHO YOU REALLY ARE. 

In order to not settle, you have to know what it is you really want. You have to get in touch with yourself and what matters to you. (One way I do this is by using my Finding Yourself workbook and revisiting it often.) When you know who you are — and what you will and won't stand for — you'll be able to focus on the activities and people that encourage you to respect yourself. 

 

FORGIVE YOURSELF FOR YOUR MISTAKES. 

Letting go of the past can be difficult, but in order to respect who you are now, you must let go of who you were then. Do whatever you can to forgive yourself for mistakes you've made. We've all made them — it's part of life — but those who respect themselves know how to let those mistakes go. You can never go back; you can only take what's happened and move positively forward. 

 

FORGIVE THOSE WHO HAVE HURT YOU. 

Forgiveness can be tough sometimes, especially if you've been hurt badly. But caring around that hurt and anger only makes it more difficult to cultivate love within yourself. Let go of the pain others have caused and you'll open up space in your heart in mind for more positive emotions and experiences. No matter what wrong has been committed against you, forgiving is always better than clinging to the pain. 

 

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE. 

Respecting yourself means keeping company with those who respect you — and themselves. Negative people (even those who are not negative directly to you) are draining and they spark negative thought patterns within you. You've heard the old saying: you are a combination of the people you spend the most time with. Respect yourself enough to make sure those people are positive influences. 

 

WORK ON BUILDING UP CONFIDENCE. 

The more you believe in yourself, the easier it will be to treat yourself with love and respect. Confidence isn't always easy to come by, however, so you've gotta work for it. Do things that you're good at. Accept compliments and make note of when others are proud of you. The more you do things that build up your confidence (and avoid those that tear it down), the more confident you'll feel. And the more confident you are, the less likely you are to settle.

 

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF (AND OTHERS).  

Honesty is the ultimate sign of respect. When you're honest with yourself, you'll see what's good for you and what's not. You'll be less likely to compromise on what matters most to you. Being honest with yourself is actually pretty hard so really pay attention to how you feel and what you think. And practice the art of being honest with others. Even when it's hard, the truth is always the way to go. 

 

TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR BODY. 

Making yourself feel good physically is one of the ultimate ways to respect yourself. Treat your body as you would the body of someone you love dearly. Healthy food, exercise, low stress. Respecting your body is an essential aspect of self-respect. The more kindness you show yourself physically, the more internal love you'll feel. Your body is the vessel transporting you around this world and it's up to you to respect it. 

 

EXERCISE AND INSPIRE YOUR MIND. 

Just as you need to respect your body, you also need to respect your mind. Challenge yourself with new experiences and information. Step out of the thinking you're comfortable with and try to find new perspectives. Find resources for information and inspiration — books, websites, people — and soak up all you can. The more you know, the more you can grow. And all that growth will empower you, making it much easier to respect yourself. 

 

SPEAK POSITIVELY ABOUT YOURSELF. 

The way you speak about yourself says a lot about how much respect you have for who you are. Try always to speak about yourself positively and try never to put yourself down with negativity. If this is a struggle for you, check out Using Positive Words to Promote Self-Love, which will give you inspiration for speaking positively about yourself. (Plus there's a free download with lots and lots of words!)

 

DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS. 

Theodore Roosevelt rightly said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." The more you compare your life to someone else's, the more difficult it becomes to cultivate self-respect. It's hard not to compare, but remind yourself that, no matter how well you know someone, you don't ever know everything about his or her life. No life is perfect and an essential way to respect yourself is to focus on what you have, not on what you lack. 

 

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Knowing who you are is such an important aspect of respecting yourself. The more you know about who you are, the more you can respect your values and desires. You can discover more about yourself and what matters to you by downloading a copy of Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your very own soul-searching copy here.