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Why You Need Lower Expectations




Now that I've started making my own YouTube videos, I've been spending even more time than normal watching online videos, and last week I stumbled across Jenna Marbles' "Why Low Expectations Are Good." At first I thought it sounded a tad negative -- after all, shouldn't we set high expectations? But as I watched, I realized she made some pretty amazing and thought-provoking points about expectations.

"Having no or low expectations is one of the most powerful things you can do -- if you can use it to your advantage," Jenna says, and, as I watched the video and listened to her talk about goals, expectations, and relationships, I realized just how right she is. Having low expectations might sound like a bad thing, as if you're settling for less than you deserve or willing to put up with others' (or your own) bad behavior, but it's actually one of the very best ways to stay positively present. 



In the video, Jenna says, "There's a difference between goals, standards, and expectations. You can set any amount of goals you want, as high as you want, and you can work hard to achieve those goals. Your expectation of that outcome of that work and whatever you're working towards needs to be low or none whatsoever. Working hard toward your goals while having no expectation of what the outcome of that might be allows you to live your life completely without fear of failure." 

When you set a goal or start a project, it's actually a good idea to have low expectations. This doesn't mean that you don't want it to work out or you won't work hard toward your goal. It simply means you won't be focusing excessively on the outcome. Not focusing so much on the future will give you the freedom to be completely in the present moment. When you're in the present, you're less fearful and you're willing to take the (calculated) risks that often lead to great success. 

"As long as you're working hard and applying yourself the best you can," Jenna says, "you have no control over what happens in the end. The only thing you have control over is what you have control over." When it comes to work, you have to just do the best you can and let go of what you think the outcome should be, and the only way you can do it that is by releasing all expectations. 



It might seem like low expectations are exactly what you don't want when it comes to relationships, but, as Jenna notes (and I've also personally found to be true and wrote about in this article), expectations often get in the way of our relationships. We should, of course, have standards. We should know what we'd like in a partner or friend, and we should never tolerate mistreatment or abuse. But standards -- the required levels of quality we want in our relationships -- are different from expectations -- the beliefs that something will (or should) happen in the future. 

Again, this goes back to staying present. When we don't focus on expectations, we are in the moment. We can focus on what's happening now and determine if our current relationship is what we want. On the flip side, if we're spending tons of time expecting things from others (or feeling let down when they don't meet our expectations), we're not living in the moment. We're focused on the future or the past, and that can really hold us back from enjoying, and mindfully interacting with, others.

This can be especially important when it comes to meeting new people. I really love Jenna's magpie analogy for new relationships:    

Meeting new people and starting new relationships is a lot like being a magpie, the bird that likes shiny things. You're flying around, looking for some shiny things. Ooh, shiny thing! So you go down there. Oh. It's a bottle cap. Okay, that's cool. I'm gonna just keep flying around, looking for shiny things. Oh! What did I find? Kim Kardashian's engagement ring. It's beautiful. It's a diamond. I really like it. Sometimes I find I find crap... but does that mean I can't find a diamond? No! I'm a magpie! I'm gonna look for more shiny things.

The people that you meet in your life are shiny things. Treat them all like shiny things. Then use your little bird claws and bird beak and bird brain to figure out if they're a diamond or a bottle cap. Then you can decide which ones you want to take into your nest.

You don't need to be disappointed by people if you have no expectations of them. When you meet someone, you don't even know them. They could be a bottle cap. They could be the foil that wrapped up a hotdog. Or, they could be a really cool diamond. You don't know until you use your little bird mouth and figure out what it is. 

Of course it's difficult not to have expectations of people when you first meet them. You've got a lifetime of experiences with other people tucked in your mind and, as humans, we try to figure people out quickly using whatever knowledge we have so we can assess whether they're friend or foe. But going into every new relationship you have with no expectations is one of the best ways to create new, positive relationships -- and to not be disappointed by the ones that don't work out. 



When when it comes to big events -- weddings, birthdays, holidays, etc. -- expectations often take the wheel and drive us directly to Disappointmentville. Have you ever reflected back on a special day (your birthday or a holiday, maybe) and felt let down when the day was over, even if it was a perfectly great day? There's a difference between feeling sad that the big day is over and feeling disappointed because, even if all went according to plan, it didn't quite live up to your expectations. 

Guess what? No day, no matter how wonderful, will ever live up to the picture-perfect moments in your mind. Reality is never as wonderful as imagination. (Yes, that sounds negative, but it's true!). When you experience disappointment after a perfect-on-paper day, those feelings are a side effect of expectations literally stealing your joy. 

When you go into something with super high expectations, it will never live up to what you imagined, no matter how great it is. That's why it's a great idea to take this advice from Jenna:

Every birthday that you have, assume that you're going to lay on your couch and watch Netflix. Everything that you do that's better than that is really exciting and great. And you're grateful and you're happy and everything's wonderful. 

If you want to have an amazing experience, set your expectation level to zero. That way, whatever happens will be absolutely amazing and wonderful. And anything that doesn't go perfectly according to plan will be no big deal because you had no expectation that it would go any other way than the way it's going. Low expectations = absolute acceptance = more opportunities for joy. 



Having low expectations for yourself  is actually an important act of self-love. It opens you up to new experiences, new ways of thinking, and the opportunity to truly and honestly love who you are -- no matter what. Jenna explains the limits of expectations perfectly when she says,

When you have certain expectations for yourself, you limit your choices. And you limit what you can do in your life by what you've already set as what you want. People get stuck in their thinking and they refuse to see all of the options beside them because they're stuck in their expectations of their life. If I do X, I'll get Y, when, in reality, if you do X, you could get any other letter in the alphabet -- including X again!

Life is crazy. It's filled with ups and downs, and tons of surprises. When it comes to how you think about yourself and the expectations you have, you need to have high standards, aim for positive goals, but let the expectations go. Expectations are limitations. When you're open to being someone other than what you think you're supposed to be (either because you believe it or because someone else / society told you to believe it), your the possibilities for your life -- and who you are -- become endless. As Jenna says, "Be open and don't have this concrete path in your life because you'll miss all the opportunities to be a different, better you."


If you want to watch the full video, you'll find it below. Or you can click here to watch it on YouTube. 






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The New + Improved Positively Present!


As some of you may have noticed, Positively Present got a little an makeover this weekend!

One of my work goals this year was to make the brand more personal with hand-lettering, a meaningful logo, and some tweaks to the colors. It's taken me seven months, but it's finally ready and I couldn't be more excited about how it turned out! :)

I know it can be unsettling when a brand you've been following changes its look (just think back to how people reacted when Instagram changed its logo!), so I wanted to dedicate a post to explaining the new look. Plus, I spent a ton of time thinking about and working on this update (and I know some of you love the behind-the-scenes bits!) so I thought it would be fun to share the process. 


Positively Present's Brand Board

A lot of what you're used to will be the same -- this isn't a crazy overall of the site -- but there are some new things die-hard Positively Present fans will pick up on. Most of the website tweaks are a result of suggestions you made in the recent Positively Present Reader Survey (thank you so much for your feedback!) so I have a feeling you're going to like them! The ultimate goal is to have an inspiring, easy-to-use site that allows you to have quick access to inspiration. 



While talking to a friend a few weeks ago about my work-in-progress refresh, he asked, "Why do you need to change the branding? Don't you like what you have?" It was a great question because it really made me stop and think -- and explain to him -- exactly why I'm making changes to the brand. 

Because I work on other people's brands over at Twenty3, it's hard for me not to constantly think about changing Positively Present. I'm always researching and coming up with creative ideas for client logos, and it's a constant internal struggle for me not to change Positively Present regularly. But I know how important consistency is so, over the past few years, I've tried to make minimal changes. Even as I've brightened the colors or tweaked the icon, I've tried to keep the brand relatively the same for consistency's sake. 

Continuing to work as a graphic designer has expanded my knowledge and skill set and, while looking at the logo over the past year or so,  I realized it  just didn't feel like something I designed. The icon, while I've grown to love it, doesn't have clear meaning for my audience and, as someone who does a lot of hand-lettering for a living, it somehow feels wrong not to have a personally hand-lettered logo. So, from a design perspective, I felt like it was time to step up my game and bring more personal touches to the branding. 

Also, from an emotional point of view, it felt like I achieved some sort of milestone when Positively Present turned seven in February. I've always been fascinated by the concept of the seven year cycle. Apparently every cell in our bodies is changed over a period of seven years, and research has also shown that we change mentally and emotionally every seven years as well. With February 2016 marking the seven year anniversary of the site's launch, it seemed like a fitting time to revamp the brand. Over the past seven years, a lot has changed for me -- and for Positively Present -- and it feels right to update the brand to reflect that. 

That being said, I didn't want to make drastic changes to Positively Present. I love what I've created and I know how much people get attached to brands (I always have a mini-freak out when a brand I love changes its look!). I knew I wanted to make changes -- make it more personal and more me -- without isolating loyal fans or taking away from the essence of the brand. 



  • LOGO : One of the first things you probably noticed is that the logo is different. It's a bit darker and bolder and, rather than using traditional fonts, it features hand-lettering done by yours truly. ;) I spend a lot of time working on hand-lettering and illustration in my design studio, Twenty3, so I knew I wanted to include those two elements in the updated look. I ultimately ended up with something similar in feel to the old logo, just a bit more personal.

  • ICON : The icon might look like a mashup of simple shapes, but this aspect of the rebrand is extremely important to me. When I was a kid, I created a logo (see below) and I told myself, "Someday when I have my own business, this is going to be my logo." I actually still love that little sun/moon logo, but it wasn't quite the right fit for Positively Present. I did, however, use it as inspiration to create the new icon.

    Explanation of the new icon! Click to enlarge.

  • TAGLINE : You might have noticed that Positively Present has a new tagline! The old tagline -- "Inspiration, advice, & tips for making the most out of life" -- was created mostly as a way to convey the site's content to new readers. I thought long and hard about what I wanted the new tagline to be, and I ended up with three words that sum up the essence of Positively Present -- "Positivity. Awareness. Self-love." Self-love is such a huge part of the brand and I really wanted to incorporate it somehow. The tagline was the perfect place to do that! 

  • COLORS : Though I was initially contemplating the incorporation of black into the new look, I ended up going with a much darker gray and more saturated hues of orange, yellow, and teal. To me, everything looks more vibrant and colorful, but still stays true to the brand colors that I've been using for years. 



  • BANNER : The updated banner, now centered, features the new logo and icon and gives it a lot more breathing room with lots of clean white space. You'll also notice that there's a beautiful teal-colored bar above the banner with easy-access to links you might need to find more info or do a little shopping! 

  • FONT : After many years of requests, I've finally made the font larger so hopefully it'll be much easier to read. I've also changed it to match the new Positively Present tagline's font so there's consistency throughout the brand and the actual website. 

  • SIDEBAR : The sidebar got a bit of a makeover, which includes lots more white space and new images. Hopefully the less-cluttered look will make it super easy to find what you're looking for. And, speaking of finding what you're looking for, I moved the Search bar up, as many of you suggested in the survey. Now it's extra-easy to find blog posts on any topic. I've also added Categories and Archive sections in the sidebar so you can check out all of the articles related to a specific topic or time period. 

  • SHOP : I'm still in the process of updating the shop so that'll be easier to find and purchase Positively Present products. Stay tuned for a refreshed shopping experience soon, but in the meantime you can still check out books, ebooks, and products here

  • HOMEPAGE : I'm also in the process of considering a static homepage for Positively Present, making it look more like a traditional website and less like a blog, but that's still a work-in-progress (and I'm still not certain I want to do that...), but it's possible that might be coming in the future. 


I really hope you guys like the new look! I've been working hard on it and, though it might not be drastically different, I'm really proud of the changes I've made and the time I took to carefully identify why I was making changes. If you have any questions about the branding process or want to know more about my design work, feel free to leave comments, email me, or check out my design studio, Twenty3.




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6 lessons I learned from 6 years sober


Today I have been sober for six years! I should be used this word -- sober -- by now, but sometimes it still shocks me that I'm the one saying it. That I've been saying it for six years. Over the past six years, I've taken away some pretty big life lessons from living sober. Here are the top six lessons I've learned. Even if you're not sober or trying to get sober, I hope they'll inspire you!  



It took me a long time to get and stay sober because there wasn't anything I wanted more than the rush of going out and drinking. It wasn't until I started Positively Present and started seeing a wonderful therapist that I realized that my alcohol-fueled behavior wasn't at all in line with the kind of life I wanted to be living: a positive, present one.

Once I had something that mattered more to me than drinking and the exciting possibility of having a wild night, I realized I had to change. I wanted to be more at peace with who I was and I wanted to make positive choices. With that at the forefront of my mind, I was able to begin making changes and, ultimately, was able to quit drinking. 



Cliche? Yep! But it's a oft-repeated phrase for a reason: it's true. What scared me most about the thought of sobriety was that I'd never, ever drink again. Telling me I can't do something is one of the quickest ways to get me to want to do it. So instead of focusing on the never, ever, ever part of sobriety, I choose to focus on a single day.

Whenever I'm struggling, I tell myself, "I'm not going to drink today." Today seems much more manageable than thinking I'll never drink again. This present-focused trick works for any negative behavior. If you're struggling to stay on track, tell yourself, "I'm not going to drink today" or "I'm not going to text him today" or "I'm not going to eat a whole bag of junk food today." If you're still struggling (as I sometimes am), break it down further and promise yourself not to drink, etc. for an hour. 



Sobriety comes with a variety of level of loneliness. First, there will be people who don't get why you're getting sober. Because you're not waking up in a gutter or destroying your life, sometimes people will have trouble grasping just how negatively alcohol has impacted your life.

There will be people struggling with their own addiction issues. Admitting you have a problem means they might have to take a look at their own actions, and this might be difficult for them. Rather than do this, they'll simply shrug off your sobriety as something dramatic rather than necessary. 

Also, being the only one at the party not drinking can be lonely at times. No one seems to care that I'm sober (people I know well are used to it and new people are usually impressed or curious), but it's still isolating, particularly when drinking used to be my go-to resource for easing my social anxiety. But, for me, the little bit of loneliness is worth the positive benefits of being sober. 



By far the hardest lesson I've had to learn is getting to know who I truly am without alcohol. When I drank, I became a lot of things I'm normal not: brave, social, adventurous. Through sobriety I've had to learn which traits are truly me and which were fueled by alcohol. And, in some cases (like socializing), I've had to learn how to cope with my anxiety sans alcohol, which has been challenging at times. 

Also, without alcohol to numb emotions, sobriety requires that you really get in touch with your emotions. Sobriety is scarily real. There is no escape from who you are or how you feel. My flaws and my feelings are glaringly obvious (as are my mistakes, which now can no longer hide behind the words, "Sorry! I was so drunk!"). 

Feeling all the feelings and being who you truly are is hard, but it's made me stronger than I ever was before. I'm more self-aware and much more in control of my choices than I was six years ago and no amount of partying could ever feel better than that. 



Triggers sounds like a word that should be reserved for hard-core drug addicts, but was all have triggers -- situations, people, or things that prompt us to behave in ways we'd rather not. Sobriety has taught me how important it is to recognize those triggers and avoid them if possible. 

Some triggers -- like a wine tasting -- are avoidable for me. Others, like a stressful day or a beautiful summer afternoon, are not. I do my best to avoid situations that will be difficult for me. And, for those that I can't avoid, I do what I can to make it easier on myself. For example, I know Saturday nights are hard for me so I'll make plans to keep my mind off of drinking or, if I have to attend a triggering event, like a wedding, I might leave a bit early if I feel heightened temptation. 

I'm not sure why this is, but simply being aware of a trigger makes it easier to cope with. Maybe it's because you have an idea of why you're feeling the way you are and, with a solid explanation in hand, you can better choose how to react rather than impulsively responding. For example, let's say when you're really stressed at work, you're more likely to snap at your children when you get home. If you're aware of this, you can do a few things to make it better: try to lessen the stress at work, try to minimize stressful feelings by calming yourself on the ride home, or explain to your children that you've had a bad day and you might need a little less interaction that night.

Knowing your triggers is incredibly helpful, even if you can't always avoid them. And this goes for all kinds of situations -- what triggers you to feel angry at your partner, what triggers you to feel extra stressed out, what triggers you to eat an entire gallon of ice cream. So often we're impulsively reacting instead of thinking about why we're making the choices we are. 



Wallowing in the past does absolutely no good. You cannot go back and change it (no matter how much you might like to!). To be truly present, you have to accept what's past. But accepting isn't the same as forgetting. And, when it comes to sobriety, it's critical not to forget the bad things.

Yes, that sounds exactly opposite of saying positively present -- focusing on the negative aspect of past -- but romanticizing the past, especially if you're trying to get or stay sober, is dangerous. It's hard sometimes not to long for the days when I was laughing with friends, a cold beer in hand, or hitting the dance floor with my Red Bull-and-vodka-fueled confidence, but I have to remind myself that it wasn't all laughter and dancing. 

Drinking had serious consequences for me and, while I certainly don't want to dwell on the past, sometimes I have to recall some of the negative situations I encountered as a reminder to myself that I am better -- and safer -- when I'm sober. 


I also made a YouTube video (warning: it's a long one) about why I chose to get sober and I go into more detail about these six lessons. You can watch it below or click this link.