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what's your road to freedom?

Tell me which road are you travelling,
which road are you travelling on?
Tell me who will you turn to
when the light has gone?
I hear somebody calling
I hear somebody calling to me
With so many roads to travel,
there's just one can set you free

There's just one road
one road to freedom
There's just one road
one road to freedom
Just one

In my life I have been blessed
In my life I have been cursed
I have lived the best of times
I have suffered the worst
Do you know which road you're travelling?
Do you know where you want to be?
With so many roads to travel,
there's just one can set you free

Ben Harper
"One Road to Freedom" 

 

When I first heard Ben Harper's "One Road to Freedom," it got me thinking about what my road to freedom is. What is it that sets me free? What makes me feel as if I can cope with all the ups and downs of life? The more I contemplated the lyrics, the more I realized that what sets me free is what I'm passionate about. What sets me free is putting the pen to the paper or the words to the screen and writing. What sets each of us free is the one thing that motivates you to keep going, that thing you've been passionate about forever and don't ever see yourself getting tired of. 

You can be passionate about things, actions, people. You can be passionate about feelings and abstract concepts. You can be passionate about just about anything. And when those passions are pursued, freedom is achieved. Pursuing what you love sets you free—free from worry, free from regret, free from feeling as if life is without purpose. 

Passions aren't always easy. We may feel strongly about something, love it with all of our might, but that doesn't mean it's going to come easily to us. Some of the very best things in life take a lot of hard work and dedication. Some of the very best things in life requiring being brave and pushing ourselves beyond boundaries. For me, my passion is writing. It's the one thing I've always loved and the one thing I probably will always continue to do throughout my life. But as much as I love it, it's not always easy to do and it's definitely not always easy to share it with others.

Even when it's difficult to get in touch with your passion (or make it part of your daily life), it's worth the effort to identify and cultivate that passion. In doing so, I truly believe you set yourself down a path to freedom, a path we all deserve to be walking down. For each of us, that passion is unique, but for all of us, there are ways to access that passion and get closer to a feeling of liberation. Here are my suggestions for connecting with your passion and putting yourself on your own person road to freedom:

 

  1. Narrow your vision. If you're anything like me, you can get excited about something and want to take every little bit of it in. I want to write a book, want to write poems, want to write blogs and articles and journal entries. I want to do it all. It's a great feeling to be to really want to dive into something, but one of the best ways to cultivate your passion is to narrow your focus. It's tempting to try to do it all, but if you spread yourself too thin, you'll find yourself overwhelmed and probably not doing much of anything. Start small. Figure out what you're most interested in and zero in on that. In the future, you can always expand your vision, but start off narrow. If you feel completely overwhelmed and don't know where to start, make a list of the things you love about whatever you're passionate about and rank the items. You'll quickly discover what matters most to you and that's where you can direct your narrow focus. 

  2. Integrate it into your life. Passionate about something? Don't hide it from the world. I used to say I was a writer because I was sitting at home in my apartment typing away on my computer. Yes, I was a writer, but I was a writer in hiding. I used to write only for myself and never share it with anyone (other than the occasional English teacher), but back when I started Positively Present, I realized that I was missing out by not sharing my passion with others. I soon learned that there were like-minded people out there in the world with whom I could converse about what I was writing, and I also found that there were many people who benefited from what I had written. It can be hard work (and, at times, pretty intimidating) to share what you're passionate about with others, but the more you share and put yourself out there, the more opportunities you'll have to make your passion a major part of your life. 

  3. Work as hard as you can. Just as nothing great was ever accomplished without passion, nothing great was ever accomplished without hard work. If you love something, you have to work at it. You have to do it as frequently as you can. For example, I make it a point to write every day (even if I don't post it here) because it's what I love to do. Hard work can be daunting, but if you really feel passionate about something, the work you put in will be worth it. Often we don't think of freedom when it comes to working hard, but I've found that the more work I put into my passion, the more freeing my life feels. When you are true to your own path—your personal road to freedom—the hard work becomes a form of liberation. 

  4. Make it tons of fun. Sometimes when people are passionate about something, they become so focused that they lose sight of the fun. To make sure you don't miss out on the fun, take a step back from engaging in your passion and figure out how you can make it enjoyable. If you become too focused, you may forget what it was that really inspired you in the first place. No matter what you feel passionate about, there is a way to make it fun. You may have to be a little creative in some cases, but don't let yourself miss out on the fun just because it's tricky to identify. One way to make it fun is to include others in your passion. Whatever you love, there are probably others out there who love it too. Find them and start a group or club. If you don't have people around you who love what you love, find a way to share it with others in a way they can enjoy. 

  5. Be innovative and creative. As you're spending time on your passion, remember two things: innovation and creation. You already have the drive and desire to talk about, think about, and work on your passion. Now you need to take it to the next level. You need to be creative and innovative. You need to think about how you can push yourself out of you comfort zone and try new things. Find some way to do things differently—and that may mean differently for you. For example, I've always been interested in writing. I've done it every day for as long as I can remember. But one day I decided I was going to share it. It wasn't the most mind-blowing discovery and it probably didn't mean all that much to the few early readers of my blog, but to me it was huge. It was life-changing. It caused me to break out of my routines and to push myself way out of my comfort zone. It's made me better at what I love to do and, importantly, it's held me accountable for what I do. You too can find ways to break out of your own mold. It doesn't have to be some crazy never-done-before thing. All you need is a challenge that helps you explore your passion in a new way. 

  6. Share your ideas with others. It's really important to share what you love with others. It may be hard to do (plenty of people have quirky things they're passionate about or, like me, have trust issues that prevent them from wanting to share their work), but sharing one of the best ways you can cultivate your passion and start down a road to freedom. When I first started blogging, I was scared that no one would want to read my blog or, worse, people would read it and hate it. But, in so many ways, this blog has changed my life for the better. If I hadn't taken a leap of faith and put myself out there, I never would have experienced some of the great things I have over the past four and half years. It still scares me to death sometimes when I think about people reading my posts, but I do it anyway. I push myself to be better than I think I can be, even when I'm scared. And you know what? It feels good. It's freeing to break out of my comfort zone and to be rewarded with such inspiring feedback. You may not want to share your passion initially, but it's such a great way to make the most of what you love. 

  7. Give yourself a break. As much as I love to write, one of the best ways I've found to making the most of my passion is to take a break from it. When I first started blogging, I was writing a new post almost daily. I was super excited about it (and had so much to say!), but as the number of readers grew, so did the pressure. I felt like I had to post all of the time and I was overwhelmed. I realized that I needed a break so I created a new schedule so I was posting only 2-3 days a week, leaving me more relaxed and more able to really enjoy writing. Keep this in mind as your exploring your passion. You don't have to be doing it 24/7. You can (and should!) take a break. It's tempting to work nonstop on something you're excited about, but one of the best ways to make your passion a freeing (rather than restrictive) activity is to take a step back every once and awhile. 


Passion is something I believe everyone should strive for in their lives, though I don't think I realized quite why I thought this until I heard Ben Harper's song. The reason passion is so important is because it creates a sense of freedom. It leaves you at liberty to be who you are and to do what you love most. What you're passionate about isn't always obvious, but I believe everyone has something he or she is (or can become) passionate about it. It's just a matter of figuring out what that thing is (which you can do by trying new things and paying close attention to what makes you feel happy and alive). Once you've figured it out (and, yes, this might take some time), use the ideas above to help take your passion to the next level. One step at a time, you can make progress and use your passion to fuel your journey down your own road to freedom.


turning 30 + the word of the year

Birthday

 

TIME TO TURN 30!

On Friday, I'll be turning the big 3-0! Even though it's just another birthday, there's always something exciting about launching a new decade. It feels like a clean slate, a fresh start. Like turning to a new chapter in the book of your life. And, as anyone who has turned 30 probably already knows, there's something about this decade that feels different. It's the first "adult" decade (in my opinion); the first time you might grapple with not wanting to be the age that you are; the first time you realize that, wow, this is your adult life.

My twenties were tumultuous and terrific, filled with love and loss, listlessness and life lessons. In my twenties, I graduated college and grad school, moved across America and back again, fell in and out and in love, lost and found friends, got drunk and got (3+ years!) sober, put to rest two of my best friends (Pooky and Bella, whose pawprints still linger on my heart), wrote and read and wrote some more, cried and laughed and danced and tripped over my own two feet. I made a lot of mistakes, but I made a lot of progress too. While there are certainly some things I would undo if I could, I can look back on my twenties with a sense of gratitude. Many of those years were tough, but all of them added up to a pretty damn good decade. 

And the last year of that decade was not too shabby. If you've been reading Positively Present for awhile, you'll probably recall the list I put together last August: 29 Things To Do Before I Turn 30. For the past few years, I've been putting together these lists in hope of making the most of the year to come. And by posting them here, I found myself much more accountable for checking them off than I would have had I simply jotted them down in my notebook. To keep up that accountability, let's take a look at the recap for this year's list... 

 

29 THINGS BEFORE 30 RECAP

1. Publish + sell my books. Yes! Stay Positive came out this year and I just signed my first book deal, a few short days before my 30th birthday! // 2. Go horseback riding. I was a little nervous to get back in the saddle, but I did it! // 3. Throw a bangin' baby shower. It turned out to be quite a success (see photos here on Pinterest). // 4. Travel solo with my BF. We'd never gone on a trip just the two of us, but we made it happen in Disneyland this spring// 5. Learn how to meditate. Totally failed on this one. Maybe in my 30s... // 6. Read at least 50 books. I read 85 books in 2012 and 75 in 2013 so I think I've exceeded my own expectations. Check them out on GoodReads// 7. Make 1 Pinterest craft per month. I didn't quite do 12 crafts, but I got pretty close with 9. // 8. Create a stellar media kit. Indirectly took care of this one as I was prepping for my book deal! // 9. Help my mom sell on eBay.   // 10. Make more moola. Done and done. Now I just need to keep bringing it in... // 11. Express gratitude more often. I've done my best to tell those I love how thankful I am for them. I'm a lucky girl! // 12. Volunteer + help animals.  // 13. Enjoy my time with Bella. It was heartbreaking to lose my beloved Bella this year, but I made the most of every single moment I had with her. And now I'm making the most of my time with this crazy pup// 14. Watch less reality TV. Yeah... I don't know what to say about this one. The shows are just too good// 15. Scan + file old photos. I snagged a ton of family photos from my parents' house and scanned them. So happy to have them safe in the computer! // 16. See a great concert (or many!). I made it to quite a few amazing shows this year, including: Tegan & Sara (twice!), fun., Taylor Swift, The Killers, and Dispatch! // 17. Quit my RedBull habit. I managed to stop drinking them for a few months, but I can't lie: I'm back at it. And I love it. Maybe some habits aren't meant to be broken... // 18. Rid my life of useless items. I've still got quite a few things I could get rid of, but I've donated tons of clothes, books, DVDs, and dog toys and it feels awesome. // 19. Go picking at an antique store. Did this and quite enjoyed it. How could I not when I uncovered two Sweet Valley High hardback books?! // 20. Visit the Smithsonian Museum. It was awesome to check this out. Look at these animals// 21. Create a Project Life album. I had so much fun working on this! Does the fact that I heart scrapbooking mean I'm officially old? // 22. Practice InDesign + Photoshop. With the help of the awesome Nicole's Classes (I took 12 of them!), I've worked on InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator—and I'm more than a little obsessed with all of these Adobe products. // 23. See David Sedaris speak. Funny man David Sedaris can crack me up like no one else and it was amazing to see him give a talk just across the street from where I live! // 24. Celebrate 3 years sober.   // 25. Do one adventurous thing. Adventure isn't really my strongest point, but I  // 26. Send more snail mail. Not only did I start sending more cards and letters, I also started making them myself which has been super fun. // 27. Start wearing my jewelry. I haven't really stepped up my jewelry-wearing game, but I do wear my Bella (and now matching Barkley!) necklace every single day. // 28. See A Christmas Carol. Saw it again for the first time since I was a kid and it was awesome. // 29. Organize my memory boxes. This is always a work-in-progress, but I did get a lot done this year.  

 

I didn't get everything on my list crossed off, but I'd say I did pretty well. And now it's time not only for a new year, but a new decade! Even though it's just another day on the calendar, August 23, 2013 will be a bit momentous in my life, as it signals the start of this new decade—a decade that's both a little scary and a little exciting. Of course, as the day has grown closer, I've been thinking more and more about what it means to be 30 (if, in fact, it means anything different at all!) and, even more so, I've been thinking about what I want my 30s to be like. 

This year, instead of going for a list of things I want to do, I'm going for a single word I want to embody. And the word is... FUN. 

 

WORD OF THE YEAR

 

Fun

Yes, my word of the year is fun. It might seem a little silly, even frivolous, but there's a method behind my madness. As silly as having fun sounds, it's actually pretty serious business. And it's essential to living a positively present life. Like most people, I don't really make having fun a priority. I want to be productive, get things done, move on to the next task. I want to work on my relationships and work on myself. But all of that working on things doesn't leave a lot of room for actually enjoying life—which is really what I'm getting at with all this talk of fun. 

Fun is that which provides enjoyment, and I don't think I'm getting enough enjoyment out of life. Sure, I have some fun moments and do some fun things, but I've realized that there's a lot more potential for funness. You know those people who seem to have fun no matter where they are, no matter what they're doing? Yeah, I'm never going to be one of those people—but I'm sure going to try. Here's why I think fun is so important and why I'm making it a priority for me this year. 

 

FUN PROMOTES POSITIVE THINKING. 

When you're having a good time, you're paying attention to the positive aspects of a situation. Likewise, when you're seeking fun, you do so by looking for the ways you can make the most of a moment. The more the focus is on fun, the more positive thoughts will be pushed to the forefront of your mind. 

 

FUN CREATES EUSTRESS. 

Eustress is that good stress feeling you get when you finish a project or ride a roller coaster. It's that kind of stress that makes you feel alive and excited—and the more fun you have, the more eustress you have. I'm going for a lot of eustressful situations this year!

 

FUN BUILDS BETTER RELATIONSHIPS. 

Sure, you can build relationships by communicating and such, but having fun is another great way to build better relationships with friends and loved ones. No matter what you're doing, if you're with someone you enjoy, you can make the activity fun. All you need is a little imagination and an open mind. 

 

FUN KEEPS YOU HEALTHY. 

Fun can increase your eustress, but it can also decrease your regular, bad stress. Just think about the last time you had fun. You weren't thinking about your worries or your to-do list. You were in the moment, enjoying your time, and, as a result, you were less stressed. And less stress equals better health!

 

FUN KEEPS YOU IN THE NOW. 

When you're having fun, you're in the moment. You're focused not on what's next, but on what's now. The more fun you're having, the more present you'll be because you're not longing to move on to the next task or event. Making things fun isn't always easy, but having fun makes it easy to stay in the moment. 

 

Fun has its fair share of benefits (in addition to just being plain awesome), and I'm looking forward to making it a priority this year. Now, this doesn't mean I'm just going to be goofing around, doing only the things I enjoy. It means I'm going to make the most of the moments I have and try my hardest to make them fun. If I focus on finding the fun, I have a feeling that everything (even the things I dread doing!) will be more enjoyable. I might be a little apprehensive about this new decade, but I'm going to do my best to make the most of it and make it fun

If you're on the verge of 30 (or in your 30s), you might enjoy some of these resources I've come across in the past few months... 

 

RESOURCES FOR 30-SOMETHINGS

You Know You're 30 When...

30 Quotes on Being in Your 30s

Feeling 32 (Feeling 22 Parody)

30 Signs You're Almost 30

Huffington Post's "Turning 30"

Olivia Wilde's Advice for Turning 30

30 Lessons Learned in 30 Years

30 Things Turning 30 This Year

Turning 30 (Glamour)


23 of the best happiness + positivity books

Books

 

Those of you who've been reading Positively Present for awhile know that I adore books. I can't get enough of them; all of the shelves in my apartment are being taken over by them and I still can't seem to stop myself from popping into a bookstore whenever I get the chance. I've challenged myself to read 100 books before the end of 2013 and I'm well on my way. (You can check out my progress and what I've read here on GoodReads.)

When people find out you like to read, they often ask, "What's your favorite book?" This question always leaves me speechless. My favorite book? How in the world could I pick just one? Maybe I could pick one in each category (fiction, nonfiction, young adult, etc...), but never just one book. When I was recently asked this question, it got me thinking about the books I love and I decided to put together a list of the books I love that I thought might interest you as well. Here's a list of my favorite books that directly or indirectly have helped me to live a happier, more positive life: 

 

  1. The Happiness Project // Gretchen Rubin
  2. Loving What Is // Byron Katie
  3. Positivity // Barbara Frederickson
  4. The Power of Now // Eckhart Tolle
  5. The Happiness Hypothesis // Jonathan Haidt
  6. The Myths of Happiness // Sonja Lyubomirsky
  7. The Optimism Bias // Tali Sharot
  8. The Positive Dog // Jon Gordon
  9. Hector & the Search for Happiness // Francois Lelord
  10. The Fire Starter Sessions // Danielle LaPorte
  11. Losing Control Finding Serenity // Daniel Miller
  12. Kiss That Frog! // Brian Tracy
  13. Tiny Buddha // Lori Deschene
  14. Enjoy Every Sandwich // Lee Lipsenthal
  15. Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway // Susan Jeffers
  16. Being Happy! // Andrew Matthews
  17. How to Be Happy, Dammit! // Karen Salmansohn
  18. The 5 Love Languages // Gary Chapman
  19. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff // Richard Carlson
  20. Life After College // Jenny Blake
  21. Eating, Drinking, Overthinking // Susan Nolen-Hoeksema
  22. You Had Me at Woof // Julie Klam
  23. The Four Agreements // Don Miguel Ruiz

 

While looking for those 23 books, I inevitably found myself searching my bookshelves and falling in love all over again with some of my favorite volumes. I couldn't go without mentioning some of them, so here some books that make me happy, not necessarily because they are about happiness (or are even very happy books), but because of the way they made me think or feel when I read them. Each of these books did something to me—made me laugh, made me cry, made me happy, or made me see the world in a different way...

 

 

Though I've got an entire shelf of "to-read" books, I'm always looking for new things to read. If you have any favorite books (happiness-focused or otherwise), I'd love to hear about them in the comments section below! What are your all-time favorite books? What are you reading now?