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5 steps to a butterflies-in-your-stomach love


 "I can't tell you what it is, but it's the best thing I've found
The butterflies in my stomach and my feet off the ground..."

Dave Barnes

Last October I found myself in a place of vague contentment. I was living a much happier life, making much more positive choices, and adjusting to the notion that I could, in fact, live in the present moment. I was on the road to getting better, living better, and it was then that I learned a lesson many who have come before me have experienced and written about time and time again: when you're not looking, when you're least expecting it, love will strike like a lightening bolt into your life, illuminating everything you value and casting darkness on all things you need not worry about.

For some, love comes in quietly, like a gentle summer rain, arriving slowly drop-by-drop. For others -- for me -- it came in with a booming presence, announcing itself loudly, violently. Like a crash of thunder in the middle of a deep sleep, it woke me and I was suddenly sitting upright in my bed, looking wide-eyed all around me, and thinking, "What was that?!"

I'd experienced love before, but never had it pounded so loudly, never had it shaken my life up the way it did a year ago. Since that fateful day when he walked into the airport and into my life, I've learned so much about myself, about my life, about what it means to truly, honestly, openly love. (For more on some of the lessons I've learned, check out the two-part series 30 Lessons I Learned From Love.) And, after a year of this love, I can honestly say that the excitement of the beginning, the thrill of those early days with him, is still there. 

A year later, I can still feel the butterflies.

Like any great love, there have been some challenges over the past year, but none of the difficulties we've faced have challenged the way we feel for each other. I still feel a jolt of happiness when I look at him. I still wake up with a smile on my face knowing that he's lying next to me. Cliche as it might sound, I love him more today than I did yesterday and I know, without a doubt, that I will love him even more tomorrow.

As we approach our one year anniversary, it's hard for me to imagine what life was like before I met him. He makes everything in my life more positive; he makes me want to stay in the present. With just a smile, just a look, he keeps those butterflies floating around inside me, fluttering their wings against my ribcage. 

Now, I've been in enough relationships to know those butterflies aren't easy to come by. After the initial honeymoon phase wears off, it's unusual to look at the person you're with and feel that flitting, fluttering feeling of excitement. So I have to wonder: how is it that I'm lucky enough to have that feeling? How it is that, after twelve months of seeing him nearly every day, the sight of him walking through the door at night can still get my heart pounding with happiness? 

Looking back, I realize there are a lot of really positive things we've done to make sure that our relationship with one another remains positive and I feel incredibly lucky to have someone who is willing to put in just as much effort as I am to make our relationship one of love and happiness. Here are some of the things we've done over the past year that I really think have helped to make our life more positive (and have kept those butterflies floating around!): 


5 Ways To Cultivate A Butterflies-In-Your-Stomach Love

1. Talk and listen. In any relationship, communication is key, but it's especially important when in comes to your significant other. I'm not a big fan of talking about the hard things, but I know that my ability to open up (albeit hesitantly) to him has made a HUGE difference in our relationship. We spend a lot of time talking -- both about the big things and the little things. The more we share with one another, the more we get to know each other better and, as a result, we be come better at interacting with one another. As much I'd sometimes like to avoid talking about certain things, we always deal with any issues we have head on. We don't wait or drag things out. We communicate openly and honestly with each other and I really believe that the talking (and listening!) we do has helped to make us much, much stronger. 

2. Make time for each other. Life is busy. With full-time jobs, family commitments, and social lives, it can be hard to balance it all. But we do. We've found ways to do whatever we can to spend time together whenever possible. This sometimes means skipping out on other things or finding ways to compromise so that we both get to do what we want to do and still spend time together. For example, he trains for his marathons while I write. This way, when he's done running and I'm done writing, we can spend quality time together. Finding a way to spend a lot of time together isn't always easy, but it's one of the best ways to keep the love alive in any relationship. 

3. Do the little things. Though I've received countless emails, cards, and notes from him over the past month, I still feel a shock of excitement when I see his email address in my in-box or a handwritten note on the kitchen counter. Too often after the initial phase of love, people forget how important the little things are. A quick email to say, "I love you" can make all the difference in the world. It doesn't take long to write an email or send a text message, but it's these little things that can put a big smile on a loved one's face. No matter how long a couple is together, they shouldn't forget about the little things because, really, it's all the little things that add up to the big thing -- love. 

4. Be supportive. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have someone in my life who not only loves me, but supports what I do. Before I even started dating him he was reading Positively Present. Whether he knew it or not, before he met me he was supporting what I love to do most -- write. And since I've been with him he's continued to do that day in and day out. He's one of the biggest supporters of my love for writing and that's one of the most butterfly-inducing feelings in the world. Knowing that someone loves not only you, but what you spend your time doing, is key. If you can, talk to your significant other about what s/he does and really get to know what s/he is passionate about. 

5. Live in the now. One of the best ways to keep the butterflies in any relationship is to focus on what's happening right now. Dwelling on the past or stressing about the future won't do anything positive for your relationship. Instead, focus on what's happening right now. I can't say I always do this, but I really try my hardest to focus on him, on us, when we're together. Staying present and really being with the person you love is so important. It's easy to get distracted and to lose sight of the now, but when I find myself really partaking in the moment, I realize just how much he means to me and I'm able to really enjoy the excitement of being around him. 


There are, of course, many other ways to keep those butterflies floating around, but these top five have really made the past year of my life amazing. I feel so incredibly grateful to have spent the past year experiencing such a great love, and I cannot wait for the years to come so to him I must say: Thank you for giving me butterflies the first time I awkwardly shook your hand last year, and thank you for keeping them alive and fluttering for the past year. I loved you a year ago and I love you even more today. Happy anniversary! 

How do you keep the butterflies alive in your relationships?
What little things can you do for a loved one to inspire
that falling-in-love feeling?


the pollyanna principle


pollyanna principle




Note: This post was originally featured on the site A Journey. To read the original two-part post, Being Pollyanna vs. Being Positive, click here

Whether or not you've seen the films or read the book, you're probably familiar with the concept behind the well-known little girl named Pollyanna. The character of Pollyanna possesses a life philosophy based on "The Glad Game," a perpetual game played by young Pollyanna in which she searches for the good in every situation she encounters. Pollyanna's optimistic look at life has been both acclaimed and criticized, but the film illustrates that her positive outlook had not only the power to transform her world, but also the power to transform the people around her and the entire town in which she lived.

Throughout the film, Pollyanna did her best to see not only the good in herself, but the good in others as well. To quote her, "Instead of always harping on a man's faults, tell him of his virtues. Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits. Hold up to him his better self, his real self that can dare and do and win out!" Most people reading that quote are either nodding in agreement or trying to avoid being sick from the excess of positivity. Interestingly, most people have a very positive or very negative reaction to the concept of optimism that is filtered through everything Pollyanna does or says -- so much so that there's even been a term created for the idea that is Pollyanna, known as the "Pollyanna Principle." 


On Wikipedia, I found that the "Pollyanna principle (also called Pollyannaism or positive bias) describes the tendency for people to agree with positive statements describing themselves. Research indicates that, at the unconscious level, our minds have a tendency to focus on the optimistic while, at the conscious level, we have a tendency to focus on the negative. This unconscious bias towards the positive is often described as the Pollyanna principle." Not surprisingly, some view this principle as a negative thing, an overuse of positivity that doesn't allow for reality to be truly examined. Others view this principle as foolproof words to live by, a foundation on which all words and actions can be built.


Personally, I believe there is a difference between what people perceive as Pollyannaism and what it really means to be positive. By definition, Pollyannaism implies that you ignore or avoid dealing with negative events, looking only for the good and denying the bad. However, this is not the foundation of positive thinking (despite what many might believe). Positive thinking, unlike Pollyannaism, acknowledges both negative and positive events and chooses to focus on the positive aspects rather than the negative ones. Positive thinking means dealing with a negative event, allowing the appropriate amount of time for negative emotions to surface, and then moving on from the negativity by focusing on the positive.


Though it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the film, I believe that Pollyanna was a positive thinker. She didn’t ignore the negative, but instead chose not to dwell on it. Considering her situation, I’m sure she was combating a great deal of negativity within herself, but she make the conscious choice to focus on what was good in her life. However, media and culture has taken Pollyanna’s positive thinking and turned it into a negative. It’s convinced us that Pollyanna naively saw the good in the world around her without acknowledging the bad.


Whether or not this is the case is mostly irrelevant considering Pollyanna is a fictional character. What is relevant is what people in real life do. Those who choose to take part in Pollyannaism, as it’s been named, will choose to ignore the negative and only focus on the positive. This can be extremely delusional and, in my opinion, is not at all the same as positive thinking. To live a truly positive life, one must consider both the negative and positive aspects of life and then choose to focus on the good.


In addition, in order to live a positive life, one must begin by looking for the good in things. While negative elements of life should not be ignored, it’s not helpful to seek them out either. In the film version of Pollyanna, Pollyanna wears on a chain a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "When you look for the bad in men, expecting to find it, you surely will." I believe these words to be true. When you search for the negative things in people (and in life), you will find them. Conversely, when you search for the positive, what you find will be positive.


In my opinion, Pollyanna’s gotten a bad reputation for being overly optimistic and sickeningly positive, but I’m not entirely sure that’s accurate. The character of Pollyanna did not strive to ignore reality or avoid the truth of what was happening in her life. Instead, she chose to face the negative situations head-on and look for the good in them, as any positive thinking person would. She chooses the path in life that so few people walk down—a path on which positive thinking blooms and inspiration can be found in even the darkest of places.


When looking for inspiration, we should not look to the formulaic version of Pollyanna that has been perpetuated by the media. We should not aspire to think that everything is happy and perfect and positive. Instead, we should look to the true heart of Pollyanna’s tale and aspire to be like the little girl who, while coping with the negative in her life, continued to strive diligently to see the good in all that was around her.


What do you think? Is there a difference between being Pollyanna and being positive? 
Do you think Pollyanna's positivity has been portrayed unfairly in the media? 

motivated or inspired?: 5 reasons to seek inspiration

A few weeks ago, I went to see a presentation given by Tony Hsieh, author of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. During the presentation, he discussed how executives often encourage employees to work hard by doing what they can to motivate them. Motivation might seem like a good thing, but Tony brought up the very interesting point that motivation is different from inspiration. Sure, people will work harder if they are motivated -- but they would work even harder if they were inspired. Tony's ideas about motivation and inspiration apply not only in the workplace but in life as well. If someone is motivated, s/he will work hard, but if s/he is inspired, s/he will work harder

Thinking about Tony Hsieh's message brought me to the point where I asked myself: "Am I motivated or am I inspired?" At work, I find that I am motivated. I work so that I will be praised. I work so that I will not get into any trouble. I am not inspired by what I find myself doing during the work day. I am, however, inspired by things I do in my own free time. I'm inspired when I write this blog. I'm inspired when I read or write anything, in fact. Without those shining bits of inspiration in my life, I'm not sure I would be who I am. After giving it some thought, I realize that I am both motivated and inspired -- in two totally different realms of my life. 

Though both the motivation and inspiration are effective in getting things done, I must admit that I much prefer to spend time doing the things I am inspired to do. Motivation gets the job done, but it gets it done in a much different way than inspiration does. The more I think about it, the more I realize how completely different they are and the more I realize that I want to spend time doing the things I'm inspired to do, not those I am motivated to do. Inspiration, I've found, is just so much better. Here's why... 


5 Reasons Inspiration Trumps Motivation

1. Inspiration can be a foundation for motivation. When you are inspired to do something, you will often find yourself motivated by that inspiration. An idea with inspire you and making that idea a reality will serve as the motivation to get things done. However, motivation does not often inspire people. It will allow them to achieve goals and check off to-do lists, but it will not leave people feeling uplifted or excited about what they are getting done. Inspiration, in my opinion, is the backbone for every great idea and every amazing adventure. 

2. Inspiration lasts longer than motivation. Motivation will get you through the work day, but it won't last a lifetime. It seems to me that inspiration is enduring. It can extend for a very long period of time, influencing all aspects of your life. Motivation, on the other hand, seems to have a definitive end. You are motivated to complete a task and, once completed, the motivation dissipates (or transfers to the next task). Inspiration, on the other hand, can transcend all tasks and can spread across various aspects of your life. 

3. Inspiration renews (and creates new) motivation. When you are inspired, you often find yourself motivation to make your inspiration come to life. No matter how much you love doing something, you will find yourself tired or beaten down or frustrated and your motivation will falter. Inspiration is the thing that picks your motivations back up and urges them to keep going. Inspiration is the force that makes you want to be motivated to achieve your goals and it's the cause of renewed motivation when things start to seem stale. 

4. Inspiration focuses on a bigger picture than motivation. Motivation, as I've pointed out, has a very specific goal in mind. You have something you want to achieve or avoid and once you've crossed the finish line, the motivation dies. Inspiration, however, focuses on a bigger picture. Inspiration is not a single goal, but an overall dream of an idea. When you are inspired, you are not looking at one small detail, but are filled with the belief that your ideas can have great influence. To be inspired means to see the whole picture, rather than focus on a single task or goal. 

5. Inspiration comes from passion; motivation does not. Typically, when you are motivated to do something, you want only to achieve that goal and then to move on. Inspiration is deeper than motivation. It stems from passion, from being influenced by something or someone in such a way that you want to change things, do things, be things. Motivation, in the moment, can seem powerful, but its power is faded compared to the brilliance that is inspiration. Inspiration and passion are closely linked to one another. You can be motivated without being passionate, but you rarely see inspiration without passion close by. 


To motivate means "to give incentive to," where as to inspire means "to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence." Motivate leads us to produce results, but not always in a positive way and not always with positive thoughts guiding us. In fact, most often we are motivated by fear or greed -- two very un-positive things. We can, of course, be motivated by positive things. We can, too, be inspired by negative things. However, more often than not, inspiration causes us to do great, meaningful things where as motivation causes us to get through the day, doing what we need to do to survive. 

While it's clear to see that there are benefits to being inspired, this doesn't mean that inspiration is easy to come by. Motivation, I've found, is much easier to obtain. You think of what you want, the cause and effect of getting it, and you move forward. Inspiration, however, must come to you or be brought to you by something or someone. You can obtain it for yourself, but it takes a lot more to be inspired by something than it does to be motivated by it. That's why I believe it's important that we all take a close look at our lives and ask ourselves the following questions... 

What motivates you? What inspires you? 
What can you do to spend more time doing what inspires you?