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


5 Ways to Connect with Your Creativity

 

Creativity
  

Do you ever feel like you're not really connecting with life the way you should? Do you ever feel a bit unfulfilled? If so, you're not alone. A lack of fulfillment can be caused by many things, but one cause that impacts many people without them realizing it is a lack of creativity in their lives. Creativity might not seem like an essential aspect of life (especially if you don't have a creative career), but creativity helps us avoid stagnation and boredom. It helps us see the world from a fresh perspective, and exploring creative outlets can positively impact mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. 

Creativity is not just about artistic expression, of course. There are so many things you can create: good ideas, stimulating conversation, delicious meals, strong relationships, etc. While these things are worthwhile, there's something to be said for the art of making something in the traditional artistic sense. There's something uniquely satisfying about paintbrushes swiping across canvas, clay being molded by hands, a sketchbook teeming with doodles, or fingers flying over a keyboard in pursuit of that perfectly written sentence. Though it might seem unessential, connecting with your inner artist is incredibly effective for mindfulness, positivity, and overall fulfillment. In fact, it's vital for your happiness. 

You might be thinking: But I'm not creative! I have no artistic ability! How can I connect with my inner artist if I'm not a creative person? And I'm here to tell you: you are a creative person. And, in case you couldn't hear me: YOU ARE A CREATIVE PERSON.

How do I know? I know because we are all creative. As Picasso famously said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up." You might not always feel creative (even if you're stereotypically "creative" or work in an artistic field), but there is still a childlike artist inside of you. And connecting with that creative aspect of yourself can have some major benefits. Don't believe me? Give some of these ideas a try and see how you feel! 

 

1 / GIVE IT A TRY (NO JUDGMENT!)

First and foremost, you have to give it a try. This is the hardest part of creativity -- allowing yourself to just try and see what happens. Choose any medium you like -- writing, drawing, painting, photography, etc. -- but pick one and go for it. You don't have to invest in any fancy materials or equipment. Just grab a pen, paper, or your computer and start making something. Block off 30 minutes on your calendar at some point this week to just get creative. And, while doing this, try your absolute hardest to refrain from judging yourself. It's hard, I know. Our adult brains are equipped to critique and assess and put things into "good" or "bad" categories, but try your absolute best not to do this. The point of creativity isn't to make something that other people will appreciate; the point is to experience the joy of making something. 

 

2 / SIGN UP FOR AN ONLINE OR IRL CLASS

Last week, I took a children's book illustration class at Strathmore Music Hall. It really pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and I had a chance to work with materials that I never work with and come up with a story I never would have considered on my own. Getting out of your comfort zone is key when it comes to creativity (especially if you already work in a creative field), and taking classes can really help you see and do things in new way. While IRL classes are great, I've also had wonderful creative experiences with self-paced online classes, like those from Nicole's Classes, Skillshare, or Atly. Signing up (and paying!) for a class makes it more likely that you'll actually create something, and that accountability can be crucial when you're struggling to connect with your inner artist. 

 

3 / DO SOMETHING ENTIRELY DIFFERENTLY

As I mentioned, getting out of your comfort zone is so important for stimulating creativity. A great way to do this is by doing something you do all the time -- taking notes in a meeting, snapping pics for Instagram, writing in a journal -- in a completely different way. For example, instead of taking bullet point notes, try drawing what you see and hear. Or, instead of simply snapping photos with your phone, get out your camera (or borrow one) and try taking photos that way. Or, rather than putting pen to paper at the end of the day, try using magazine scraps to make a collage of how you felt that day. It doesn't matter what you do, only that you do it in a different way to spark your creativity. 

 

4 / START A CREATIVE JOURNAL 

Speaking of journals, starting a creative journal is an excellent way to corral all of that creativity in one place. You can create a very specific type of journal (like a hand-written gratitude journal) or you can have a broad creative journal, in which you can write, draw, paint, collage, paste photos, etc. The journal doesn't have to be fancy -- in fact, the less fancy, the better. Whatever medium(s) you choose for your journal, it should be a place where you can get creatively messy. The fewer limitations, the better. Your creative journal should be a place to express yourself in whatever way you feel like it, without judgment or hesitation. 

 

5 / TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RESOURCES

We touched on this point a bit in #2, but it's important that you remember two things: (1) you don't need fancy things or a lot of money to be creative, and (2) there are so, so many good resources (many of them free!) to help you connect with your creativity. For example, you can look up drawing tutorials (or almost any kind of tutorial!) on YouTube. You can also find great inspirational talks on there, if you're struggling with creative motivation. Or, for more in-person inspiration, check out books from the library on art or creativity (this is one of my favorites!). There are so many resources available for connecting with your creative side, but it's up to you to put them to good use! 

 

Remember: even if you don't always feel like a creative person, YOU ARE. And you'll miss out on a lot of inspiration, exploration, and fulfillment if you choose to ignore the creative aspect of your life. Give yourself the incredible feeling of making something just to make it -- with no agenda, no judgment. It's incredibly gratifying, and it will show you things about yourself that you never knew you never knew (Pocahontas reference!). Now get out there and create something amazing! 

 

StickerApp
Today's post was sponsored by StickerApp, an amazing resource for channeling your creativity in the form of stickers, labels, and decals. With StickerApp, it's incredibly easy to print custom stickers -- and you can get a 20% discount until August 31, 2016 by using the code DIPIRRO20! [Update: the stickers turned out amazing! Here's a pic I snapped of them for Instagram!]

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.13.49 AM




should you stay or go? : 5 questions to help you choose

  Stay

Should you stay or should you go? Whether it's leaving a job, a romantic relationship, or a friendship -- the decision to stay where you are or make a change can be incredibly daunting, particularly if there's no urgent reason to leave (i.e., if you're not being treated badly and you don't absolutely have to get out of the situation). Just because there's no dire need to escape a situation doesn't mean you should necessarily stay put if you're unhappy. After all, the time we have here is limited, and spending in situations (or with people) that are just okay, fine, or average isn't any way to live a positive, fulfilled, and happy life. 

The stay-or-go question is something most of us will face at some point in our lives (if we haven't already!). Unless there is some clear indicator that something must change (i.e., abuse, profound misery, etc.), actually making such a choice can be incredibly difficult. So difficult, in fact, that many of us will default to staying where we are, even if we're unhappy, simply because it's easier than making a decision. 

 

But... do you really want to stay just because it might be difficult to go?

 

No, you don't. You should want to stay because it's worth it, because, even if there are difficult times, you get something meaningful and important out of your job / relationship / etc. You don't want to stay where you are simply because it's the default answer. And, honestly, no one else -- not your boss, your spouse, your friend -- really wants to you stay simply because it's challenging to leave (and, if they do, they don't truly have your best interest at heart and who wants to work with / date / love someone like that?). When you're staying just because it's easy or because you fear what will happen if you leave, you're not fully invested in the situation. You'll always have one eye on the door, hoping something or someone will propel you to make a change. When "stay" is the default, you're not there because you want to be, but because you feel you have no other good option. And that lack-of-choice feeling can turn quickly into disinterest, distain, and even resentment -- all of which will negatively taint the situation and likely other aspects of your life, since rarely is one area of life (love, work, etc.) not influenced (for better or worse...) by another. 

So what do you do if you find yourself in a place where you're wondering whether or not to stay? What do you do if your situation is fine, but still causing you to be unhappy? What if your relationship has changed to the point where you no longer recognize yourself (or your partner)? What if you've grown so uncomfortable at your place of work that you dread going there every day? What if you just feel like there's something off about your situation and you don't know if it will somehow right itself or if, in order for you to be truly fulfilled, you need to leave? 

If you find yourself wondering any of the things above or whether you should stay where you are or go somewhere else, before you take action, you need to do a bit of soul-searching. Every choice you make -- particularly the big ones involving your career and your relationships -- can change the course of your life forever. I don't say this to scare you (the worst thing you can do is become so scared that your fear is paralyzing and you make no choice at all!). I say this because, when it comes to big stay-or-go decisions, it's important to take time to really think about what's going on, what you want, and how you feel you can get from where you are to where you'd ideally like to be. 

No choice will ever be without flaws. For every choice you make, even if both options are great, there will be pros and cons. Just think about choosing between two ice cream flavors that you love. Yes, both might be delicious, but if you choose strawberry over chocolate, you're missing out on that cocoa flavor. Likewise, if you opt for chocolate, you won't get to taste the tangy sweetness of strawberry. Neither option is bad, but when you choose one, you're going to miss out on the other. Which is why, when it comes to stay-or-go scenarios, it's essential to take time to carefully think through your options, weigh the pros and cons, and also be willing to think outside the box a bit. Here are five questions to kickstart that kind of thinking if you find yourself wondering, Should I stay or should I go...?

 

Stay or Go

Download the Stay or Go Worksheet!

 

QUESTION 1:

How much of your unhappiness is caused by a specific person / job / situation / etc.?


It's all too easy to say "I'm miserable because my job sucks" or "I'm so unhappy because my spouse drives me crazy," but it's important not to make assumptions about the reasons behind your mental state. When you find yourself complaining about your situation, dig deeper and ask yourself if it's really that person, job, or situation that's bringing you down. For example, if you're unhappy with your spouse, are you absolutely certain that your spouse specifically is the reason you're unhappy? Or could it be the situation you and your spouse are currently in (maybe you just had a baby or s/he is going through a tough time at work)?

Or, looking even deeper, is it possible that your sense of unhappiness comes not from another person but from something deeper, something harder to pinpoint so you point fingers instead of looking at the big? It's essential to figure out if your unhappiness is more general. Take, for example, me and my career. Whenever I worked in an office environment, with a typical 9-5 workday, I was miserable. I would complain about the job itself and spend evenings crying at the thought of returning to work the next day. I was clearly unhappy, but that unhappiness wasn't a result of the particular position. It was the general workplace environment that caused my emotional strife. 

If you're struggling with a particular person or situation, consider how much of your unhappiness is tied to that person / place and consider whether that type of environment is even something you want in the future. If you're unhappy at work, do you need an entirely new career path? If you're unhappy with your partner, is it because of him/her, or are the confines of a relationship in general the thing that's truly troubling you? 

 

QUESTION 2:

Are you contributing negatively to the situation? Would changing yourself change things?  


After contemplating whether the situation or person is, in fact, the true cause of your unhappiness, it's time to turn your attention to yourself. Are you, in any way, contributing to your own unhappiness in the situation? Answering this question might take some careful consideration. It's very tempting to say, "Of course I'm not! She's the one who is always so negative in our relationship!" or "Definitely not. My boss is the absolute worst; I'm not doing anything to make the situation unpleasant. It's all him!" But take a moment to really consider all aspects of the situation, including your contribution to it. 

If, for example, you're struggling to live pleasantly with your spouse, ask yourself if perhaps you might be difficult to live with. Or, if it's your work environment that's troubling, consider how you might, in some ways, be challenging to work around. We all have our flaws and, when it comes to answering the stay-or-go question, it's important to take these into account. This isn't to say that you should stay in a bad situation simply because you're not perfect, but it's important to consider all aspects of yourself before making any major decisions. 

In conjunction with considering your own contributions to the situation, it's useful to ponder what might happen if you were to change certain behaviors. If, for example, you're always fighting with your spouse because he expects you to keep things neat and tidy and you tend to be more of a set-it-anywhere type, consider what might happen if you tweaked your own behavior and started making an organization a priority. This isn't to say you should change who you are to fix a situation (this can lead to resentment if it's not something you truly want to change), but when it comes to workplace, relationships, and love (or really any situation involving other people!) sometimes compromises must be made. The key to compromising effectively is making sure the pros and cons balance out. Yes, keeping your home tidy might be a bit of a pain for you, but the effort might be balanced out by having a more harmonious relationship with your spouse. Sometimes changing your behavior or attitude won't change the situation at all, but it's definitely something to consider. 

 

QUESTION 3: 

What about your situation don't you like? Would you find these things elsewhere? 


In Question 1, you determined that, yes, the great deal of discontent you're experiencing is directly a result of that person/job/situation. (If you didn't determine that, it might be a sign that you shouldn't leave the situation but, instead, should do some inner exploration to find out where the feelings of discontent are coming from.) You've determined the source of unhappiness -- the situation or person -- but now it's time to dig even deeper and pinpoint exactly what you don't like about this situation. 

A good way to go about this is to keep track on the worksheet (click the link above to download it) or keep a list of reasons why you feel unhappy in the situation. (Tip: keep this private!) You can note very specific instances, such as, "I want to leave this job because I can't stand the way my colleagues gossiped at the meeting yesterday," or more general experiences, such as,"I want to leave her because there is a lack of intimacy." Spend time on this, giving yourself a week or so to note specific and general experiences that make you feel like you might want to leave the situation. 

Once you have a list of the things you don't like about your situation, look closely at them. Are these things that would be present in another situation? For example, if a decrease in intimacy is your problem, is it possible that this would happen if you were in another relationship for a long time? Or, if you dislike working on projects with a group at work, is it likely you would have to also do this at another job? Remember: a new job, relationship, etc. will always be interesting and exciting at the beginning, but it, too, will lose some of its luster after time. This is why it's so important to look closely at the things you don't like about your situation and determine whether they are result of the particular circumstance or if they might also occur in another situation. No situation is perfect, and if you try to leave every situation as soon as it's lost excitement and newness, you'll spend your whole life searching for a reason to leave. 

 

QUESTION 4:

What do you like about your situation? Would you find these good things elsewhere? 


Now it's time for some positivity! When you're considering whether to stay or go, it can be challenging to focus on the good aspects of the situation. By the time you've gotten around to asking, "Should I leave...?" you're often focusing a great deal of your attention on the reasons why you're unhappy. These reasons might be perfectly valid -- and should not be ignored -- but what about the good aspects of the situation? It's just as important to take those into account when making your decision. 

Let's say you've come with tons of reasons why you want to leave your job. Now it's time to make another list -- a list of reasons why your job is actually not so terrible. On this list you might include things like health care benefits or a steady income or even something silly like occasional catered lunches. If you're considering whether to leave a relationship, now is the time to consider your partner's good traits. What do you like about him/her? What attracted you to the relationship in the first place? What do you two not fight about?

After you've considered the positive elements of your situation, it's time to contemplate how likely it is that you'll find these things in another person/job. Yes, another relationship might have more intimacy, but will it also have the meaningful conversations? A new job might have a kinder boss, but will the benefits be the same? Of course, you don't know what the future will hold -- or what pros/cons you'll find in another situation -- but you it's important to assess how much you value what you're currently getting out of your situation and weigh the positives against the negatives you identified in Question 3.  

 

QUESTION 5:

How can you communicate your feelings? What reaction do you receive when you do? 


This final question is the most important. People often leave situations because they feel unloved, unappreciated, or unheard. But there's a difference between feeling unheard after you've spoken up and expecting someone else to know what you want and need. Communication is key. Whether it's talking to your boss, friend, spouse, or partner, if you want things to be different, you have to talk about it. This can be very difficult (particularly if it's around sensitive subjects like sex or money), but communicating your feelings is the quickest ways to determine if there's a good reason to stay or to leave.

The key to communicating effectively is to be open, honest, and focus on sharing how you feel without making assumptions about another's feelings or assigning blame. Two tips for doing this: (1) write down what you want to discuss and bring your notes with you, and (2) focus on the word "I" more than "you," as in, "I feel hurt when you..." not "You're always doing..." Being completely honest with someone, whether it's a boss, friend, or partner, is much more difficult than it sounds, but if there's a doubt in your mind about whether or not you should leave a situation, you'll be much more certain about your decision if you share your feelings with 100% honesty (even if it feels a bit uncomfortable!). 

Open, honest communication will not only give you and others an opportunity to see if there's a way to fix the situation (maybe your boss had no idea you felt you weren't being valued!), but opening up and sharing your feelings is an excellent way to get more insight on others, possibly making your decision even easier. The way others react to you -- listening, helping to problem-solve, shutting you out, making unkept promises to change, etc. -- will tell you a great deal about them and about how they handle conflict. It might also shine a light on how they feel about the situation. If, for example, your boss or partner makes no effort to help improve the situation, that's a sure sign that they don't value you and you would be better off in a different situation. Pay close attention to how others respond and take those reactions into account as you make your decision. 

 

In most situations, the decision to stay or go is not an easy one -- which is why so many just stay where they are, rather than doing the hard work of determining if that's really where they're meant to be -- but if you truly want to live a positive, present life, it's important to be accountable for yourself and where you are. It's important to get (and stay) in situations because you want to be there, not because you feel like you have no other choice.

No matter how difficult it is (and sometimes it will be very difficult), you always have a choice to stay where you are or move on to something else. Don't take this ability to to choose for granted. Spend time assessing what choice is best for you, make use of the worksheet above, and then choose the path feels right. Whether you end up staying or going, if you do the work before you make a decision, you'll always know that you actively made a choice. Remember: this is your life, and you have the power to choose how you want to live it. 

 

 

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8 tips for creating a positive career

 Positively-Present-Career-Advice

Download the Career Advice PDF here!

 

This coming Friday I have the honor of being the keynote speaker at my high school's Career Day! To be honest, I've put off writing my speech for weeks because I'm quite nervous. I've spoken in front of plenty of adult-filled rooms before, but something about this feels different. After thinking about it for a bit, I realized the big difference between this speaking event and others is: I really want to positively impact these girls -- and think I have an opportunity to do so more than I would with adults. I remember how I was at that age and, even though I often came off as couldn't-care-less, too-cool-for-this, high school was a time of great learning and change, and the things I did, read, and experienced had a big impact on me. 

As most adults do, I wish I could tell my younger self all the things I know now (and have her actually listen to my advice!). This speaking opportunity is, in some small way, a chance to share what I've learned with young women who will be sitting just where I once was. I'm grateful that I'll have a chance to speak to these girls, to tell them what I know, especially about building a career that brings fulfillment to my life. I'm sure some of them will roll their eyes or zone out (I know I might have), but I'm hoping some of them will tune in and feel inspired by what I have to say. Though I still haven't figured out exactly what my speech will sound like, I've narrowed my focus to eight key ideas, which I thought I'd share with you in case you're (a) a teenage girl reading this and wondering what to do with her or life, or (b) a regular ol' adult who longs for a career that's inspiring and fulfilling. 

 

1. FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU LIKE

The first (and most important!) step to creating a career you'll actually enjoy is figuring out what you like. This sounds kind of obvious, but most of us aren't taught to pay close attention to what we enjoy doing. We're asked what our favorite subject is, but not necessarily encouraged to dig deeper. Let's say your favorite subject is English. Why? Because you like to write? Because it's one of the few courses where you can be creative? Because you enjoy reading? Understanding why you like something is so important to carving out a career path because it gives you guidelines but doesn't limit you to only one path. Imagine your ideal career. Why do you feel drawn to that? What about it is most appealing (i.e., freedom, ability to travel, creativity, income, etc.)? It's important to know what things interest you, but also why they interest you.

 

2. TAKE YOUR TIME

And this is where step number two comes in: taking your time. Whether you're a high schooler or a middle-aged adult, it's important to take your time when reflecting on what you want in a career. (And, yes, adults can change careers! It's never too late!) It's okay to take time to figure out exactly what you want to do (and why you want to do it). In fact, it's a good idea not to rush into one thing, assuming it's going to be perfect for you. Until you really get into something (a career, a relationship, etc.), you don't know exactly what it will be like. So go slow. And pay attention. Pay attention to how you feel when you're doing something (for work and for fun). Are you truly enjoying yourself? Are you unaware of how much time has passed? Are you bored or wishing you we somewhere else? Taking your time allows you to take note of how certain activities make you feel. Very few people have the "perfect" career right off the bat; most successful people take time to explore what will really work for them.

 

TRY NEW THINGS

Hand-in-hand with taking your time is the next step: trying new things. People of any age can (and should!) try new things, but this is especially true when you're in high school and college. Those are some of the best times to get out of your comfort zone and experiment with different activities, groups of people, and interests. Schools are such great resources for information and opportunities, and it's a great idea to take advantage of all they have to offer while you can. Sign up for random clubs, try out for a play, volunteer with classmates, sit with a different crowd at lunch -- do whatever you can to have new experiences as often as possible. You probably won't love all of them, but you'll learn something about yourself. And the better you know yourself, the better equipped you are to choose a path that's best for you.

 

MAKE MISTAKES

While I won't advise you actively go looking for mistakes to make, I will recommend being open enough to new experiences and situations to risk making a mistake or two. After all, I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't taken the big risk of leaving my regular job to do what I love! The worst thing you can do when trying to create an inspiring career is avoid taking any risks. When you get out of your comfort zone and try different things, you're bound to make mistakes. But making mistakes is how you learn, and from the errors you make come endless insights into what does and doesn't work for you. For example, you might take a job in an industry you're not sure you'll love. After awhile, you might grow to dislike the job. Rather than think to yourself, What a mistake. I never should have accepted this job! consider what you've learned and take those lessons with you when you move on to a new job.

 

NEVER STOP LEARNING

Continual learning is absolutely vital for creating an amazing, positive career. Even if you've found your dream job and you love what you do, keep learning -- about your industry, about other industries, about life in general. The more you know, the more you'll be able to create a more ideal career situation for yourself. And, you might discover that there are other things you might enjoy doing as well. When I left my full-time job to pursue Positively Present, I had absolutely no idea I would end up launching my own graphic design business! And the only reason this happened was because I signed up for a few classes to see if I could improve some of the design on my site. As soon as I mastered the basics, I realized how much I loved graphic design and illustrating and now it's a huge part of what I do. You never know what will happen when you open yourself up to learning new things, and there are so many great online resources to keep learning even if you're no longer in school. 

 

LOVE WHO YOU ARE

Cultivating self-love is more general life advice than it is career advice, but self-love actually plays a big role in creating a great career. For one, the more you love and respect yourself, the less likely you are to settle for a career path that's only ho-hum. Self-love tunes you in to your unique talents and abilities and makes you confident enough to want to share these with others through your work. Additionally, a strong love for yourself will prevent you from ever settling for poor treatment at the workplace (or anywhere!). You teach others how to treat you, and if you treat yourself with love and respect, you'll form more positive relationships at work, and those will always help you (even if you don't love your current job). Self-love also discourages you from comparing where you are to where others are, which can sometimes be a problem in the workplace. With a loving attitude toward yourself, you'll focus on your own work and you won't waste time comparing yourself to others.  

 

WRITE YOUR OWN STORY

When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I always envisioned myself working for Vogue or writing novels. I never, in a million years, imagined I'd write on my own site (blogs were barely a thing back then!), publish a book filled with my own (positive!) advice, or have the opportunity to be creative through graphic design. No one ever said to me, "You can be a writer and a graphic designer," but, here I am, doing both. We all have the power to write our own stories -- in our careers and in life in general -- and you don't have to do what everyone else is doing or do it the same way others do it. Look to those who have careers you admire and use them as inspiration, but don't feel you have to do just what they do. Remember: you're the author of your own career, and you can write your own unique story, even if it's a tale that's never been written before. 

 

LOOK FOR THE GOOD

Looking for the good is another piece of advice that applies to life as well as work. No matter what situation you find yourself in career-wise, strive to make the best of it while you're there. Unless you're extremely lucky, you'll probably have some jobs you don't love. And that's okay. Try to enjoy them the best you can while you're there and use them as opportunities to learn what you do and don't like. Even if you're fortunate enough to do what you love (and I hope you are!), you'll have to do things you don't enjoy, and there will be days you feel drained of all energy and inspiration. These are the times you'll need to look hard for the good, but an optimistic outlook is always worth the effort. Whether it's at work or in life, the only thing you have 100% control over at all times is your attitude. It sounds cliche, but choosing a positive attitude can be transform the way you see your career -- and the way you see the world.  

 

Whether you're thinking about a future career or you're looking to make a career change, I hope these tips inspire you to do some soul-searching and figure out what you really want. It's hard not to get caught up in what you "should" be doing (or what everyone else is doing), but never forget that your career is yours and you have the power to spend your days working in an environment that makes you feel inspired, fulfilled, and happy.  

 

 

  

Finding-Self-Cover

Knowing who you are and what you want is key to creating a positive career. If you're looking for some more soul-searching inspiration, check out the Finding Yourself workbook. Discover more about yourself, and uncover 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 own copy here.


work + rest: how to find a perfect balance

Work Rest
 

Work and rest. Two things we must all do, and two things we often struggle with. For some, working comes easily -- we're always on the go, always doing something that makes us feel productive. For others, it's the rest that comes without struggle -- we're content to lie on the couch all day, ignoring the ever-lengthening to-do list.

Those who fall on the work end of the spectrum often long for rest, but even when they're offered a day off or try to have a lazy Sunday, they always find themselves restless and work-focused. Those on the other end of the spectrum also struggle; though they might have the benefit of lots of rest and relaxation, they find it challenging to get things done and often feel anxious about the lack of work they've accomplished. Many are lucky to fall somewhere in the middle of the work/rest spectrum, but for those who aren't, every day can be a test of willpower and motivation.  

Regardless of whether you're generally better at working or better at resting (or somewhere in between), you've probably found yourself with different strengths at different times in your life. For example, if you're doing work you love, you might find yourself always wanting to work (and doing very little resting). Or, if you've recently suffered emotional or physical pain, you might find it hard to find motivation to work and may be spending more time than you'd like on the couch or in bed. Life is filled with ups and downs, of course, and there is a time for resting and a time for working, but if you find yourself doing one much more than you'd like, here are some tips for creating more work/rest balance... 

 

IF YOU FEEL YOU WORK TOO MUCH... 


Ask for help. 

One of the best things you can do if yourself overwhelmed with working more than you should is ask for help. If you're a do-it-yourself kind of person (I can relate!) sometimes it might not even occur to you that someone else could help you out with part of your job. Outsourcing, asking a coworker for assistance, or saying no to new projects when you already have a ton on your plate are just some ways you can ask for help. And pay attention to all the jobs you have, too. Being a parent, a friend, a mentor, etc. -- those are also jobs. If you're struggling to balance them all and aren't getting enough rest, speak up and ask those around you to lend a hand.  

 

Take a day off. 

For hardcore worker bees, the idea of a day off might sound like a disaster -- the perfect opportunity for things to pile up on your desk and for emails to overwhelm your inbox. But remember this: the more rested and relaxed you are, the better you'll be at your job. And often the best way to rest is to take a day off work -- and I'm talking about a real day off. No emails. No "just checking in." And honest-to-god, no-work-whatsoever day off. This also shouldn't be an actual vacation because those often come with different kinds of travel-related stress. Take a day of just to stay at home and do nothing but relax. 

 

Change locations. 

When you find yourself working all of the time, it's usually because work is all around you. You're either at the office all the time or in front of your computer or phone. If you want to have a true break, it helps to get yourself out of your working routine and go somewhere different, even if it's just for a short period of time. Take a walk around your office building or grab a snack in the break room. Try your best to physically change where you are as often as you can during a day, preferably making sure some of those locations involve the outdoors. (It's much easier to relax when you're surrounded by nature!)

 

Put the phone down.

If you really want some quality rest, the most important thing you can do for yourself is put down your phone. It's one of the strongest ties to work (checking email is such a temptation!) so when you're really trying to relax, put your phone away. If this is hard for you (I know it is for me!), ask someone else to take it from you for an hour or so, or tuck it on a high shelf that's really annoying to access to make it harder for you to "just check one thing..." If you're dedicated to your work, putting the phone down will be challenging, but it's vital for true and meaningful rest. 

 

IF YOU FEEL YOU REST TOO MUCH... 


Get up (and dressed). 

Is your environment and lifestyle encouraging you to spend too much time resting? If you spend all day in your sweatpants, lying in bed with the TV on or your phone in your hand, it's going to be very difficult to get motivated. (As someone who works from home, this is one of my biggest struggles.) Your environment (and your attire) shape how you feel. If you're dressed for lounging, you're going to want to lounge. When you're feeling uninspired and struggling to get in a work mindset, start with your environment and your outfit. Put on something that makes you feel professional and put together and you'll be a lot less likely to spend all day vegging out. 

 

Break it down. 

One of the hardest things about getting to work when you're in an unmotivated mindset is thinking about how hard it will be get everything done. Instead of aiming to work all day, start out small. Tell yourself you'll tackle just one thing on your list, or you'll work on a big project for just 15-20 minutes. Breaking it down in this way makes it much easier to manage (making it more likely you'll actually attempt it). I've also found that once you start working on something (or complete one small task), you want to do more and before you know it, 15 minutes will have turned into an hour! 

 

Find a partner.  

We all have times in our lives when we feel less motivated and inspired. One way to perk yourself up (and get your buns in gear!) is by having a buddy that will help you stay on track. Find someone else who is struggling just like you and check in with each other daily (or more frequently) to see how much progress is being made. Or, find someone you really admire for their work ethic and ask him/her to hold you accountable for work tasks. Accountability is a huge element of an effective work environment and if you don't already have it built in (if you work for yourself or have a disinterested boss), create it for yourself by finding a partner. 

 

Put the phone down. 

Just as putting your phone down is vital for getting rest, it's also vital for getting work done. One of the greatest distractions in the world today is technology. Don't get me wrong -- I love it -- but it can be a huge time suck, draining you of attention and energy when you have a lot to accomplish. If you want to get work done, take your phone (or whatever other distraction you have) and put it away where you won't be tempted to look at it. I've found it to be 100% true that the less time I spend with my phone, the more work I get done. If this is a struggle for you, just put it away for 30 minutes at a time, or allow yourself set times of the day when you will check it. 

 

 

One final tip that works for both "workers" and "resters" is looking at the big picture. Pause for a moment and think about how you want to feel at the end of your life. What do you want to look back and see? There's no right or wrong answer to this -- we all have unique dreams and goals -- but, regardless of your individual desires, you probably don't want to look back on your life and see that you spent all of your time working or lazing about. You'll probably want to see that you did good work at times, that you relaxed at times, and that you had a nice work/rest balance. So, whenever you find yourself leaning to far toward one side of the spectrum, ask yourself: what will I think of myself when I look back at this moment years from now? That big-picture perspective can be just the reminder you need to take a break or break out of a work-too-much rut.  

  

Finding-Self-Cover

You know where else you can find balance? In yourself! If you're looking for some more soul-searching inspiration, check out the Finding Yourself workbook. Discover more about yourself, and uncover 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 own copy here.