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August 2013
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October 2013

what do you wish to be free from?




When I'm listening to music, my iPod is usually set to play the latest songs (see all of my current obsessions on my YouTube channel), but for some reason, this week it started spinning some songs I hadn't heard in quite some time. When Jewel's "Life Uncommon" came beating through the speakers, I was drawn into the words I hadn't heard in years. She sang: 


No longer lend your strength to
that which you wish to be free from.
Fill your lives with love and bravery
and you shall lead a live uncommon.


I'd always loved those lyrics, particularly the notion that we all too often lend our strength to what we wish to be free from. Some of us stay in jobs we hate, working late hours to appease someone else. Some of us force ourselves to make relationships work, limping along for for years with half-hearted hope. Some of us tolerate behavior that rattles us, convincing ourselves it's easier not to put up a fight. Some of us make choices based on what society deems "the right path," trudging along to keep pace with the norm.

We are often so busy lending our strength to the things we wish to be free from that we don't even realize we could choose a different path. We could live a life uncommon. 

The trouble often lies in actually taking action—setting down the chains, speaking up for what you want, risking what you know for the uncertainty that comes with freedom. As uncomfortable as chains can be, they often seem better than freedom because they are familiar. But when we stay in a negative place, chained by someone or something else, we never give ourselves a chance to live life to the fullest, to lead an uncommon life.

If you find yourself in a place where freedom seems more like a dream than a reality, it's time to free yourself. It's time to live a life uncommon. To do so, you must...



Believe you can free yourself, difficult as it might seem. The unknown can be terrifying, but more terrifying is the possibility of staying chained in one (unhappy) place forever. It's tempting to listen to the nagging doubts, the I can'ts filling your heart with worry, convincing you to stay put. Shake off the doubt and believe you can be free from that which holds you back. Whether it's a person, a situation, or even a state of mind, you have to believe you have the strength to step away from that which strives to chain you down.  



Take action and set down those chains. Don't carry them around, weighing yourself down and lending all your strength to that which you long to be free from. Have the courage to put them down and walk away. Consider all of the energy and effort you've put into dragging that weight around and imagine what you could do with all of that energy and effort. Your strength is there; you've been using it to carry around those chains. It's now time to redirect it to securing your freedom. 



Often the reason you don't seek freedom is because you don't know what you will do with it. What work will you do if you leave your job? Who will you love if you leave your relationship? Who will you be if you're not following all of the rules? Identify what frees you—what you love to do, what leaves you feeling breathless with excitement, what never makes feel chained down—and focus on it with all your heart. Pay attention to what fills you with positive, happy feelings. That is your freedom. 



Freeing yourself takes great courage (particularly if you've found yourself chained down for quite some time). Bravery is required to set down those chains and set yourself free. Changing (even when it's for the better) can be painful. You have to be willing to face some discomfort when it comes to breaking free. It might be a struggle, at first, to find exactly where your freedom lies. But don't back down in the face of uncertainty or difficulty. You deserve freedom and to find it you must be brave. 


Setting yourself free is never easy, but it's always worth it. Some of us are held down by people or situations. Some of us are held down by expectations or attitudes. But none of us deserve to be held back or chained down. All of us deserve to be free to live the lives we long to be living. 

thought attacks: what they are + how to defend yourself

In the book Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work, Dr. Richard Carlson writes, "Most of us use our thinking as ammunition against ourselves many times a day, without even knowing it...We engage in 'thought attacks' and mentally rehearse problems, concerns, and outcomes that may or may not manifest themselves. We engage in negative speculation and attach motives to the behavior of others. We live not in the moment, but in the anticipation of future moments." 

When I read those words, they really rang true to me. I spend countless hours thinking about what could happen in the future—preparing for the worst, I tell myself, just so I'm not disappointed or surprised. When I think back on all the scenarios I've imagined, it's shocking how many of those have never happened. Though I stressed and worried and thought about them (just as if they were really happening!), they never occurred. These "thought attacks" were happening in real life, while these imagined scenarios were only occurring in my mind. 

When I think about it now, it seems so silly to worry and fret about things that have never happened (and probably won't), but I know it's so much easier to say, "Oh, I won't worry about that next time!" than it is to actually not worry when a potentially worrisome situation presents itself. Even thought these are my thoughts, sometimes it feels as if they are coming from somewhere else. Sometimes it really does feel like an attack once I get on a roll of imagining what could go wrong. But, as much as it feels like there is an attack going on in my mind, I know these are my thoughts and I have the power to take control of them, to defend myself against their attacks. 

If you've ever faced a thought attack—worrying about what could happen in the future before it had even happened!—you know how difficult it can be to dominate those attacking thoughts and focus on the present moment, but I've discovered a few tricks that help me defend myself against those thought attacks...



First and foremost, it's important to realize that it's just a thought. As real as our thoughts sometimes feel, they are not reality—especially those thoughts about what's going to happen in the future. We might feel strongly about what could happen, but we don't know for sure. There's no way of knowing what the future holds. This means that what we're thinking isn't knowledge—we can't predict the future!—but merely ideas. And these ideas are driven mostly by our feelings, which can often get carried away (especially when facing a stressful situation). As a result, the first and most important step of defending yourself against a thought attack is to recognize those thoughts for what they are: just thoughts, not reality. 



Once you've addressed the fact that your thoughts are just thoughts, it's time to challenge them. Look at them from an objective perspective (hard, I know, but try!) and question them. Ask yourself, "Is this definitely going to happen? How do I know that for sure?" and "Even if it does happen, am I 100% certain this is going to play out the way I imagine it will?" Once you ask yourself these questions, you'll probably realize that things are guaranteed. And even if you convince yourself that it's definitely going to happen—which you really can't know for sure!—you'll realize that you don't know exactly how things will go. Even the worst-case scenario can sometimes lead to something unexpectedly wonderful. 



Still struggling to come to terms with the fact that your imagined future isn't a reality? It's time to break out some pen and paper (or pull up a fresh doc on your computer) and write it out. When you start putting these thoughts of yours on the stark white of a blank page, you begin to see the faults in them. The cracks in the "truth" you've been holding onto start to show when you take the thoughts from your mind and actually read them on a page. And if putting them in writing still doesn't change your thinking pattern and push you in a more positive direction, pass that piece of paper to a friend or loved one. Sometimes an outside party can be more objective and can help you see where your thoughts are running away from reality. 



One of the best ways to defend yourself is thought attacks is to stop them before they get started because it's much easier to nip them in the bud early than it is to fight them off once they're already on a roll. A great way to defend against them is to have a mantra you can use when you find yourself heading down a thought attack path. It can be something simple like "Stop!" or, my personal favorite, "Nope!" Or you can use something like, "I will not allow my thoughts to attack me." or "My thoughts are not my reality." When you have a mantra at the ready, you can use it to counterattack your thoughts when they start imagining and worrying about what might never happen. 


5 ways to fall in love with yourself



When it comes to living a positive and present life, loving yourself is one of the most important things you can do. When you love who you are—even the not-so-great parts of you—you lay the foundation for building a life filled with acceptance, love, and understanding. The more you love yourself, the less you project judgment and criticism on others. The more you love yourself, the less likely you are to be content with an unhappy relationship or an unfulfilling career. The more you love yourself, the more you gravitate toward the things and people that bring positivity into your life. 

It's no surprise that there are tons of benefits from loving who you are, but what might surprise you is the fact that it's easier to love yourself than you might have thought. I know, at times, it can seem nearly impossible. We all get stuck in ruts when self-love seems like something out of a fairy tale—so unattainable and imaginary that it's barely even worth striving for. But self-love, like all great things, takes work. And if you put in the work—even when it's hard!—you're certain to reap the rewards. Here are some of the best ways I've found to fall in love with yourself. 



Often what stands in the way of loving who you are is that little voice in your head that holds you back. It criticizes and questions you, making you feel as if you might be inadequate or lacking in some way. That voice of self-doubt is so subtle that sometimes we don't even realize it's there. Sometimes it becomes such a part of your thinking that you're almost scared to quiet it for fear of who you will become without it there to hold you back. Pay attention to how you think about yourself. Really listen to the thoughts forming in your mind and ask yourself, "Is this how I would think about someone else?" Our thoughts about ourselves are often much more critical than those we have about others. Pay attention to your thoughts—and be willing to question those that are negative. 



Let's face it. We all make good choices and we all make bad choices. Some are big and important; others are minor and almost insignificant. Regardless of what the choice is—or whether it's good or bad—accept your choices. You don't have to love them, but you have to live with them. The less you accept what you've already done, the less likely you'll be to love who you are now. Remind yourself that you can't go back and undo what's been done. All you can do is move forward and vow to make good choices in the future. To love yourself, you must accept what you've done—the good and the bad.  



You might not always make the right choices, say the right things, or do exactly what you should. But that's okay. Making mistakes gives you a chance to learn and grow, to do things right the next time. The more you live, the more you learn (and that's often because the more you live, the more mistakes you make!). Know that it's okay to make mistakes—it's part of life!—and remember to learn from them whenever you can. Sometimes finding those life lessons amid the rubble of a bad decision can be tough, but those nuggets of truth and wisdom are always there if you keep digging. Learn what you can and then move on. 



We're all flawed. Most of us will find something good in another person's flaws—or, at the very least, learn to accept those flaws. But when it comes to ourselves, we're sticklers for perfection and tend to dwell on our negative qualities. Recognizing that you'll never be perfect (no one will!) is one of the best ways to open yourself up to loving yourself fully. Your imperfections—both physical and otherwise—are what make you you. They create your unique self, a self that deserves your love and appreciation. It will be a struggle at times to love your flaws, but the more you practice, the more easily it will come to you. 



How often do you do something nice for yourself, for no other reason that to show yourself a little love? Most of us don't do nice things for ourselves all that often, but we should! It's such a great way to show someone else you love him or her, and it's just as rewarding to do something nice for yourself. Treat yourself as you would a dear friend. Celebrate your accomplishments. Treat yourself with kindness when you've had a hard day. Pick up a little treat for yourself just because. The more you do this, the more you'll look for reasons to do something nice for yourself—and, as a result, you'll focus more on being kind to yourself. 


Self-love can be a tricky business. We're constantly bombarded with notions of what we should be, expectations we're supposed to live up to. It can sometimes feel as if fully loving ourselves is an impossible goal, but, believe me, it's something every single person can attain with a little practice, forgiveness, and dedication. With all the pressures of life, self-love can sometimes fall through the cracks. If you make it a priority in your life—if you put yourself first—you'll find a way to fall in love with who you are.