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4 tips for embracing positive change


For my upcoming book, The Positively Present Guide to Life: How to Make the Most of Every Moment, I've been writing a lot about how to cope with unexpected change. As I've been crafting and editing my thoughts on how to make the most of what craziness life throws at you, I've been contemplating unexpected change from a negative point of view because often it's the negative unexpected changes that make it difficult to stay positive and present. 

When I think of the phrase "unexpected change," I almost always think of it in negative terms, with circumstances like illness, job loss, or death coming to mind. I almost always identify "unexpected" it with something bad (perhaps because I'm such a creature of habit and unexpected things often impact me negatively). But recently something unexpectedly good happened to me—and exciting career opportunity I'll share more about later—and I was surprised by how positive unexpected change impacted me. 

If you imagine something good happening to you completely out of the blue, you probably envision it being a completely positive, worry-free experience, right? That's what I would have thought too. But unexpected changes—even the really great ones—can still shake up your world, causing you to question (in a good way) and making you reassess some aspects of your life. 

As much as I shy away from change, I really do enjoy when positive change sneaks up on me, reminding me that life is filled with surprises, and just when you think things are going to stay the same for a good long while, something amazing and new can happen. Even when change is a good thing, sometimes it's hard to stay positive and present in the face of it. Here are some ways to cope with positive change: 



Even when change is awesome, it can throw you for a loop. Don't resist that fearfulness. Instead, embrace it, allowing yourself to feel a bit out of sorts and shaken up. That's one of the best things about positive change—it changes things. Even when change is good, it's tempting to resist it, but try to go with it, let it shake you up, and see how it feels to push out of your comfort zone. It's okay to be afraid of change— most people are—and sometimes that fear is actually a sign that you're moving in the right direction. 



One of the reasons change—no matter how positive—is challenging is because it often causes us to remove ourselves from the present moment. Instead of going about our day-to-day lives, not giving too much thought to what's next because we've grown comfortable with our routines, big changes urge us to think (perhaps too much) about the future, filling the mind with worries and concerns, like Should I take this opportunity? What will come next? What if it doesn't go as planned? Don't allow these questions to override the joy of the opportunity appearing before you right now. 



If you must think to the future (and, we all must, from time to time), try not to focus on what could go wrong, but instead what could go right. Push yourself in a positive direction by envisioning how this positive change can be a good thing. Spend time daydreaming about all of the ways things could work out well—and don't be afraid to dream big. You never know what one big change can do, and if you allow yourself to explore the future from a positive perspective, the possibilities are endless. 



When something good happens to you, it's sometimes tempting to hedge the good news with phrases like, "But I'm not sure if it will work out..." or "I still don't know how it's going to work, but..." or "I'm not sure I deserve this, but..." Chuck those phrases out the window and speak confidently about the positive opportunity you've been given. It might be true that you're uncertain or feel undeserving (even if you shouldn't!), but everything we do is uncertain. You don't know what's going to happen (none of us do with 100% certainty!) so you might as well focus on the potential of a positive change.  


defining your own kind of success


Last week, I stumbled across the article "No I Won't Lean In, Thanks" by Zosia Mamet in Glamour Magazine and was kind of thrilled by it. In the article, Zosia discusses what it means to be successful on your own terms—not basing success on what others think it should be, but on what you think it should be. As Zosia so astutely notes, "We are so obsessed with 'making it' these days we've lost sight of what it means to be successful on our own terms."


I couldn't agree more. 


These days, so much attention is placed on being successful, with books like Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead and #GIRLBOSS getting lots and lots of attention. (Full disclosure: I still want to read both of those books, despite the critical slant I'm putting on them here.) Particularly when it comes to women, the notion of achieving greatness in the form of power, wealth, and leadership is being pushed more and more. An increased interest in and adoration of uber-successful women (see this mug, this notepad, and this print) may make you feel as if you're not doing all you can because you don't have a high-powered job, you aren't internet famous, and even though, yes, you do have as many hours in the day as Beyoncé, you can't manage to (or don't want to) be a business-owning, multitasking, super mom. 

As Zosia writes in the Glamour article, "The Merriam-Webster dictionary says success is 'the correct or desired result of an attempt.' But you get to decide what you attempt. If you get off running a global hair care empire, more power to you, but if working as a hairdresser somewhere within that empire brings you joy, then that should be just as admirable."

Success should be whatever you think it is. Just as some people see dandelions as weeds and others view them as flowers or wish-makers, what one person views as a sign of success might be entirely different from what someone else sees as an accomplishment. Success is one of those words that shouldn't be used so generally; it should be a word that has a definition that's unique to each and every person that uses it. What you desire, what you attempt to create successfully in your life, should be entirely up to you. 

The trouble with this is that, even if you tell yourself over and over again that doing what you love—even if doesn't lead to an overflowing bank account and well-known status—is what you want, it's hard not to hear the ever-present media whispering in your ear, Lean in. Be a boss. Lead the team. Be like Beyoncé. (Full disclosure: I love Beyoncé and think she's amazing, which is probably one of the reasons I struggle so much with this topic. Even though I know that success should be on my own terms, I can't help but admire the go-getter traits of super successful women.)

"The solution, I think, is to ask ourselves what we actually want—each of us personally—and stop putting so much pressure on one another. Success isn't about winning everything; it's about achieving your dream, be that teaching middle school or flying jets," writes Zosia.

While I think this is an excellent point, I don't think it's as easy as just asking yourself what you want. Because even if you decide that what you want is to spend your days quietly at home, running a not-hugely-successful business, or to raise your children without an answer to the common, "Are you going to go back to work when they're in school?" question, it's really, really hard not to compare your current situation to the success of others and wonder if you should be doing more. 

Redefining what success means to you in the face of all the stereotypical ideas of success isn't as simple as just knowing what success means to you. It's about knowing what success means to you and why. When you know why—you want to dedicate your time to being creative and free so you live as an artist instead of accepting the corporate design job—you can combat the pressure of traditional success with the various reasons your unique version of success is ideal for you. 

Another important aspect of embracing your own idea of success is being flexible with your definition. What success means to you when you're 20 isn't necessarily what it will mean to you when you're 30 or 40 or 50. Your personal notion of success may change (and probably will!) and that's something you should embrace, rather than fear. While it's hard to imagine that what you define as success will change, it's likely to, and the more adaptable you are, the more likely you'll be able to make the most of success, whatever it may entail. 

Making your own kind of success isn't easy—that's why so many people struggle with it—but it's vital for living a positive, present life. When you live by the principles that matter to you (even if they might not make sense to others or in comparison with superstars like Bey), you create an environment in which you can enjoy your moments and have little difficulty staying present in them. Choosing what success means to you means looking closely at what you've always valued to see if (a) those are really your values and (b) if they're still your values. It also means knowing what, deep down, will make feel good on a day-to-day basis because success isn't just some big picture, someday scenario. Success is what you do on a daily basis to create a life you love living. 


say "i will" : 5 tips for initiating change



Whether or not you're a fan of it, change is a part of life. If you're not a big fan of change (I'm certainly not!), it can be a really hard thing to initiate yourself, but sometimes it's necessary to make a big change in order to create a more positive, more present life.

For example, let's say you really don't like your job but you make good money and like the people you work with. If you're in a situation like that, it can be really hard to make a change and leave your job. Or, consider another situation: you're in relationship that's not necessarily negative, but it's not exactly positive either. It's hard to break-up a relationship when things aren't obviously bad (or when the bad and good somehow seem to balance one another).

Sometimes it's a challenge to initiate change when the need for it isn't glaringly obvious. And, even when you know you absolutely, 100% need a change in your life, it's still hard to initiate it (especially if you're not a big fan of change in general). Though I'm not a lover of change, I've had to initiate some big changes in my life to get to where I am now. I've had to leave careers, relationships, and situations in which I found myself feeling more negativity than positivity. Every time I made a big change, it was hard. But every time I did it, it was worth it.

Making changes (particularly big ones!) isn't easy, but worthwhile things rarely are. If you're struggling to initiate a big change in your life, here are some tips to help you get that transformation started: 



Uncertainty is part of life, and it's actually one of the things that makes life so interesting. Not knowing what's going to happen next can be a very scary thing, but the more you fight against it, the more difficult it will be to initiate change. Instead of fearing what could happen, consider accepting the future for what it is: something beautifully unknown. Or, better yet, consider all of the amazing things that might happen. Accepting that the future is unknown (or filled with wonderful things!) makes it so much easier to take action. 



You’ve probably heard this before: "No risk, no reward." Cliched saying? Yep! But also pretty darn true. (Those cliches so often are!) The more you're willing to risks to enhance your life (positive risks, not dangerous ones!), the more rewards you'll receive. Befriending risk is no easy task (particularly if you're a risk-adverse kind of person), but if you spend your life playing it safe, you're likely to miss out on a heap of possibilities. Here's another surprisingly true cliche for you: sometimes the biggest risk you can take is taking no risk at all. 



If you know what you want to do (big picture), consider how you make that happen with actionable tasks (small steps). Let's say you want to leave your job. Start out by searching for other opportunities online or asking friends if they know of any positions that might work well for you. Write down a step-by-step plan for getting from where you are to where you want to be, with each step consisting of a small task you can easily master. If you break down the change into small steps and have a plan of action, it'll be much easier to actually make it a reality. 



If you're planning to initiate a big change, it's probably because you know, deep down, that something really needs to be transformed in order for you to live a more positive life. Allow what you want (your desire for freedom, happiness, etc.) to override your fear (those nagging little "what if..." thoughts holding you back). In the same way you can choose to focus on positive over negative, you can choose to focus on your attention on what you want instead of on what you're afraid of, making it a bit easier to actually take action and make a change. 



Instead of thinking, "I wish I could...", choose to think in terms of action, stating to yourself, "I will..." Even if you don't take action right away, shifting the way you think from passive wishing to future action can have a positive impact on initiating a big change. It will help you realize that what you want doesn't have to be an imaginary scenario. Instead, it's something you can (and will!) have. Yes, you'll have to work on making the change, but taking action becomes much more likely when you stop saying "I wish" and starting saying "I will."