Two Little Words That Make A Big Difference


Right_Now

 

As someone who spends a lot of time writing (and thinking about) words, it's not unusual for me to stumble upon new revelations about them, but recently I had a realization about two words that make a really big impact: right now

I frequently find myself making sweeping statements -- things like "I'm so stressed!" or "I'm obsessed with [insert current obsession]!" or "I can't live without [thing I didn't even know about a year ago]!" or "I'm so upset with [irritant-of-the-moment] -- and, while those are partially due to my flair for making dramatic proclamations, I don't think I'm the only one who makes broad statements like these. 

The thing is, sentences like the ones above (and, to be honest, most sentences) are only true right now. Sure, they might be true in the future, but that's not a given. And, yes, they might have been true in the past, but so was the statement "I can only drink from a bottle," and (hopefully...) that's no longer true. The only time we can be absolutely certain of is right now. The only statements that are 100% true are the ones that occurring in this moment, which is something most of us frequently forget. 

I spend a lot of time trying to stay present, but the truth is: the only thing we ever are is present, like it or not, and using these two magical little words -- "right now" -- can transform how we perceive the present. It might seem minor, but I actually feel differently when I say, "I'm so stressed," instead of, "I'm so stressed right now."

Tacking those two words on the end of a sentence might seem silly, but semantics matter. Adding the "right now" to most sentences can have one (or more!) of the following impacts...

 

  • Adding "right now" can reassure you that a bad situation you're in isn't forever
  • Adding "right now" can prompt you to appreciate a good situation you're enjoying
  • Adding "right now" can bring you back to the moment (countering anxious thoughts!)
  • Adding "right now" can inspire you to begin again or do things differently
  • Adding "right now" can remind you that just because it's not now doesn't mean it's never
  • Adding "right now" can inspire you to focus on the task that's right in front of you
  • Adding "right now" can make huge projects or tasks seem less daunting
  • Adding "right now" can boost your enjoyment of a moment that won't last forever
  • Adding "right now" can allow you to mentally step back from pointless worrying
  • Adding "right now" can give your full attention when engaging with others
  • Adding "right now" can help you relax when you're feeling very overwhelmed
  • Adding "right now" can invigorate self-compassion and cut down on guilt 
  • Adding "right now" can maintain self-control and more easily overcome cravings
  • Adding "right now" can mitigate feelings of physical pain by easing mental suffering

 

To be fair, most of these things are benefits of simply being fully present in the moment, but knowing we should be present and actually being present are two very different things. For some reason, adding "right now" seems to work really well for me when it comes to triggering me to be in the moment. Here are just a few ways I've used it this week (and how it's helped). These examples are all kind of frivolous, but it worked for much more intense thoughts as well! 

 

What I Initially Thought   How I Felt When I Added
"Right Now"
How I Felt
"I'm spending way too much time on Instagram." Annoyed that I'm wasting my time on social media; frustrated that I can't stop scrolling; distressed that I can't find a way to make a living from my art that others seem to love "I'm spending way too much time on Instagram right now."

 

Still annoyed, but hopeful I won't always spend so much time on it; inspired to stop scrolling because I realized I can change; stopped identifying my current action as a guaranteed future state

 

"I'm so happy to be here in my room with a new book, cozy on a rainy day!"

 

Comfortable and relaxed, but distracted by the to-do list I wasn't tackling; worried I should be out with friends on a Saturday night instead

 

"I'm so happy to be here right now in my room with a new book, cozy on a rainy day!"

 

Grateful for the alone time I so desperately craved after socializing all day; engrossed in my book and assured that I'd tackle to-do's tomorrow; reminded that I often long to be in bed with a book when I'm out and about 

 

"I'm so overwhelmed by all of the things I have to get done this week!" 

Overwhelmed (obviously); stressed and anxious about the lengthy to-do list that seems to be never-ending; tempted to lie down and do none of it

"I'm so overwhelmed right now by all of the things I have to get done this week!" 

 

Still a bit frazzled by the to-do list, but reminded that I'll soon have the tasks done (it's always more stressful to think of them than do them!); grateful for projects that bring in money and for the personal to-do's that, while annoying at the time, will bring my future self (and others!) joy

 

 

"I can't stop eating these delicious but terrible-for-me snacks!"

Frustrated with my lack of self-control; angry with myself for buying the snacks in the first place; envisioned myself unable to ever stop eating said snacks, stuck in and endless snack-and-shame spiral "I can't stop eating these delicious but terrible-for-me snacks right now!"

 

Reminded that guilt is a waste of time and I should either enjoy the snacks or put them away (which I did!); felt lucky to have snacks (affording groceries isn't a given for me!); made aware that my future self could be someone who doesn't eat such unhealthy snacks (unlikely, but possible!)

 

 

Hopefully these little examples inspire you to give "right now" a try and see if those two little words motivate you to return to the present the way they have for me! It might seem small, but staying present is hard and you never know what little thing will help make it easier for you. It's cliche to say, but there's truth in the idea that every second is a chance to turn your life around. Your whole existence is just a bunch of choices you make, and you can change at any moment. It's not often easy to do, but the first step is paying attention to what you're doing now, how it's making you feeling, and deciding if it's what you want to be doing in the future. Your "right now" is always up to you! 

 

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The 6 Essentials for Cultivating Self-Love

 

Positively Present - Self Love

 

As the year winds down and the stress picks up (so much to do before the end of the year!), it's the perfect time to turn our attention to self-love. There's been tons of buzz this year about self-care, which is great, but taking a hot bath or scheduling a manicure isn't going to magically help you love yourself. Sure, embracing self-care can add to or enhance self-love, but it's like trying to build a house when there's no foundation -- it might hold up temporarily but it's not going to sustain you in the long run. 

I've written tons about self-love (see blog posts here or read a whole chapter in my book The Positively Present Guide to Life), but I was reflecting about it from a new perspective over the weekend and came up with a few additional (or expanded) points on the subject. These essential are by no means all you need for self-love -- it's an ongoing process that takes individual understanding and inspiration -- but if you can manage these six essentials, you'll be in pretty good self-love shape! 

  

DON'T LOOK FOR YOUR WORTH IN PEOPLE OR PRODUCTIVITY. 

One of the most challenging aspects of self-love is recognizing that it has to come, 100%, from within. There is no person, thing, situation, or goal achieved that can make you love yourself. It can take awhile to learn this because we do often get self-esteem boosts from others' praise, from a job well done, from progress made. But those are temporary and fade with time. Self-love comes from within and cannot be obtained via another person or by external achievements. 

 

SPEAK TO YOURSELF WITH TRUE COMPASSION. 

Another tricky aspect of self-love to master is learning to speak to (and think of) yourself with love, compassion, respect, and kindness. This, as you might know, is much more difficult than it sounds. We're taught to seek perfection, to want to be the "best" version of ourselves, and reality almost always falls short (no matter how "perfect" you are!). It's a challenge not to be cruel to ourselves or critical of what to do or say, but speaking to yourself with kindness -- like, for example, the way someone who truly loves you unconditionally would -- lays the groundwork for continuing self-love. 

 

ACCEPT WHAT YOU CANNOT CHANGE. 

Important in life, as well in self-love, learning to accept what you cannot change is vital to long-lasting contentment. There are many things about ourselves that we'd like to change. Some of these -- an attitude, perhaps -- can be transformed with dedication and diligence. However, there are also things we cannot change (or maybe cannot change right now), and when it comes to these aspects of the self, acceptance is crucial for self-love. Accepting what you cannot change frees to you place your thoughts and energy into more proactive pursuits. 

 

SAY NO WITHOUT HESITATION. 

Saying no to things you don't enjoy, people who bring you down, life paths that won't suit you, or situations that make you uncomfortable is another self-love essential. The world would be a much better place if more people felt the freedom to say no. For some people, this skill is easier than it is for others, but regardless of your natural say-no level, it's an important skill to hone if you want to cultivate more self-love. Bonus points if you can learn to say no without feeling the need to offer explanations or excuses! 

 

PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN. 

Stepping away from your phone (or screens in general) is not always easy, but technology can be a barrier to full self-love. If you rely too heavily on it, you lose aspects of your true self. If you spend too much time comparing your real life to others' online ones, you risk entering a comparison trap in which you may feel as if you'll never been good / successful / beautiful / perfect enough. As a huge fan of my phone, this is a tough one for me, but if you want to create more self-love in your life, you've got to set boundaries so that you can avoid comparisons and actually enjoy what's happening in the real world. 

 

KNOW YOURSELF. 

And, finally, the last self-love essential requires that you know yourself. This one can take time and gets easier the older you get, but the more you know about yourself, the more you can tailor your choices, relationships, and mindsets in a way that enhances your life in more positive ways. If you don't know what you really want, or who you really are, it can be nearly impossible create a life that encourages self-love. The best way to know yourself is to pay attention to how things, people, and experiences make you feel. Take note of the positive and negative reactions and adjust accordingly! 

 

Though we each have the capacity for self-love, the road we take to find it is rarely the same. Cultivating self-love takes time, effort, and attention, and it's an on-going process, but I promise every ounce of effort is worth it. The more you love, respect, and care about yourself, the better every other aspect of your life becomes!  

 

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Keeping the Peace: How to Discuss Tough Topics

Tough Conversations Advice

With the Thanksgiving holiday this week and the potential for gathering around tables with those who might not share the same political, religious, or cultural points of view, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic of talking with those who share different views. Conquering controversial topics — particularly with family — is not for the faint of heart, but I truly believe there's a way to stay positive, voice your opinion, and still keep the peace. 

Of course, if you’re dealing with someone who is violent, judgmental, or narrow-minded, you’re going to have a hard time discussing tough topics with them. However, if you can find people who are open-minded and willing to listen and talk about contentious issues, it’s possible to share your beliefs in positive ways. 

So, how do you go about sharing your opinions without putting other people off? Here are some of the best ideas I’ve found (after doing lots of research and trying them out for myself!) for talking about your beliefs with those who don’t share them.

 

KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE.

It might sound obvious, but a lot people aren’t truly certain about what they believe. Many people flip-flop on certain issues, have beliefs based on one-off op-ed pieces (rather than facts), or base beliefs on those held by those surrounding them. Before getting into any serious discussion (especially with people with opposing views), do your research  both the fact checking and the soul-searching kind. Carefully consider the issue, taking stock of what you know and what you might not know.

Just as importantly, consider how you feel really about it. It's incredibly tempting to jump onto the bandwagons, to join groups, and to identify with the labels, but remember: you are complex human being with unique experiences, insights, and ideas. We all want to belong, but think carefully about what beliefs you align yourself with. Before declaring, “I’m a _________________,” or “I believe in _________________,” ask yourself if that’s 100% true. It may very well be true, but it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure that you not your peers, not your family, not a portion of society you aspire to be like  do, in fact, hold these beliefs.

Also, it’s important to keep checking in with yourself periodically to see if you still hold the beliefs. We are ever evolving, changing creatures and what you believe at one point in your life may not be what you believe later. Because sometimes we get lazy, we might cling to beliefs we’ve had for a long time because we think we still believe them, not because we actually do.

 

SCRUTINIZE YOUR SOURCES.

It is so very, very important to check your sources, and then check them again. So many people hold — and speak about  beliefs not based on facts. With the incredible rise of the Internet, you’re able to read this article and countless other things that literally anyone can post online. Sometimes this is amazing — different viewpoints!  unique perspectives! — and sometimes this is just insane — fake news sites created just to get clicks, opinion pieces skewed with untrue claims, etc.

Not only is important to make sure the facts you have are, indeed, facts, but it’s important to be aware of how greatly biased the Internet is. The Internet helps us take sides. We’re encouraged — by the sheer nature of how the Internet is set up — to cultivate either/or mindsets.

Every day we are given a choice to pick one thing or the other: like or dislike this post, agree or disagree with that article. Social media, while it does allow for comments and more lengthy explorations into "gray" territories, often encourages us to choose one thing over the other, usually in a yes-or-no, black-or-white dichotomy.

And here’s the scariest part: what we choose is constantly reinforced with algorithms designed to personalize our content. We are given more content that aligns with what we like, less that showcases what we don’t like. Most of us don’t actively realize this, so it starts to seem like everyone and everything supports our views.

Unlike in the old days, when everyone saw the same images on TV and then disagreed or agreed with those images, we’re now shown images that support the ideas we’ve told the Internet we like. What we see online is meant to appeal to us — which can definitely be nice sometimes — but this is creating little individual bubbles where we’re all seeing the things we want to see, having our beliefs and preferences reinforced (often without even seeing information from the other side).

Do your best to go out of your way to find new sources, to find unbiased articles, to even reach out to those who hold opposing views and ask them for their thoughts.

 

CHANNEL YOUR COURAGE.

Speaking up about the things you believe in with someone who doesn’t share your perspective can be scary, which is why you're going to need to channel your courage. Anyone who has ever had to have a difficult conversation — a break-up, a resignation, etc. — knows just how much courage is required for talking about tough topics. 

When facing challenging conversations, remind yourself that fear (and anger...) is just a chemical reaction going on inside of you. For some reason, I've always found it helpful to bring to mind the biological responses of emotion to remind me that feelings of fear are both natural and combatable

Just because you are afraid to do something doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. In fact, it's often a sign that something is important — particularly when talking about conversations, not phobia-style fears. When beginning an important conversation, take a deep breath, remind yourself of the knowledge you possess (you've done your research!), and understand that, even though a conversation might be difficult, you are doing the right thing by making an effort to communicate openly and honestly with those you know. 

 

BE CLEAR AND HONEST.

When it comes to talking about difficult topics or beliefs, we don't always begin the conversation by being clear and honest. Too often, we are driven by strong emotions and triggered by the words of someone else rather that striving to be levelheaded and thoughtful in what we say. I know this is much easier said than done, but imagine what it would be like if you opened up a conversation like this:

“Hey, I know we have totally different views on this issue, but I’d really like to talk about it. I’m going to do my best to share my point of view calmly, and to listen and keep an open mind to what you have to say. I know neither of us will probably change our minds on this issue, but I think it’s important for us to should talk about it.”

When starting a conversation with someone of a different political background or belief, it can be helpful to make it clear that you’re not necessarily trying to change their mind. One of the reasons we have such heated debates about politics is because it often feels like the opposing side is saying, “You’re wrong. Here’s why.”

Or, if you are trying to change someone’s mind, what if you were honest about it? You could say something like, “You know I feel really passionately about this topic. It’s very important to me, and I’d really love it if I could change your mind about it so that you could see it the way I do. I know that might not be possible, but would you be willing to listen to what I have to say? After I share my thoughts, I’ll be more than happy to listen to your point of view, too.”

The key takeaway from this point is this: you’re never going to transform someone else’s mindset through trickery, bullying, or manipulation. (Okay, you might be able to, but is that the kind “win” you want?) You’ll get a lot farther — and probably have a more positive conversation — if you’re honest and clear about what you want to talk about and what your end goal for the conversation is.

 

SPEAK WITH COMPASSION.

Compassion is a word we hear often, but its actual definition isn’t always clear. Compassion is about recognizing another's pain and desiring to alleviate it in some way (regardless of whether or not you agree with that person's beliefs).

When you’re passionate about a topic, it can be hard to channel compassion in the way you speak and react, but it’s important to do so  not only for the other person’s benefit, but for your own mental state as well.

In the midst of talking about the tough stuff, we need compassion  especially for those who display aggressive, angry, and hateful behavior. Without compassion, we’ll never be able to find our way in this shadowy, complex jungle of difficult discourse. Compassion is our flashlight in the dark. It, alone, is not going to get us from point A to point B, but it sure as hell is going to make the path easier to see.

As I wrote in my article on compassion, defending what you believe and having compassion for those who think differently are not mutually exclusive. You can be passionate and compassionate. Remember this when you’re speaking with someone who has completely different views and you’re struggling with compassion. (Also, try your best to go into the conversation with a compassionate mindset!)

 

LISTEN – REALLY LISTEN.

Listening isn’t just about opening your ears to the sounds coming from someone else’s mouth. It’s also about paying attention to body language, tone, facial expression. It’s also about looking past the words and considering what someone might actually mean, instead of just focusing on what they’re saying. Often, below the surface, it's clear that "I'm aligned with [insert political party here]" really means "[a specific value] is really important to me and [political party of choice] really seems to represent that."

Will it be challenging to listen to other people talk passionately about their beliefs that differ completely from your own? You bet. But, if you want people to be tolerant and accepting of your views, you have to show others the same courteousness. If you want people to listen to you, you must listen to them. And when I say really listen, I mean it. It’s tempting to assume you know what someone is going to say or to take a stand on it before words have even been uttered, but don't allow yourself to make assumptions. Listen with your ears, watch with your eyes, and pay attention with your mind. 

Also, even if others' beliefs might sound crazy to you, don’t punish them for their honesty. Never forget that listening isn’t just about opening your ears — it’s about opening your mind as well. The point of talking about difficult issues with someone of differing beliefs is to open the lines of communication. 

 

RESPECT ALL BOUNDARIES.

Not everyone is going to want to have difficult discussions with you, and that’s okay. It may be frustrating not to be able to talk to people about what you want to talk about, but it’s important to respect others’ boundaries. If someone makes it clear that they don't want to talk to you about an issue, respect that. (Also, consider finding some people who do want to talk to you.)

Here are some other times you might want to respect boundaries — your own and those of the people around you — and not bring up, or keep talking about, tough topics:

 

  • When the other person is emotionally unready or unwilling to hear what you have to say. This isn’t to say you can’t talk about it at some point, but assess the emotional state of others and determine if it might be better to choose a different time to talk. Also, on a less dramatic scale, consider the general emotional state of yourself and the other person. If you (or they) had a terrible, long day at work, maybe it’s not the best time to get into a heated debate.

 

  • When violent acts might be committed against you. This is not a reason for a whole group to be quiet (if it were, we’d still have horrific institutions like slavery), but in one-on-one situations where you would be in great physical or emotional danger if you were to speak your mind about a certain topic, it’s best to remain quiet until you can find a way to communicate without harm coming to you or someone else. Please be safe when it comes to speaking up.

 

  • When you’ve honestly, openly stated your beliefs with kindness and compassion, and you’re receiving only hatred, judgment, and accusations in return. Some people are just not open to listening and talking. This is unfortunate, and it can be painful if it's someone you love, but it’s just the way it goes. Once you’ve said what you wanted to say, repeating it over and over (however nicely!) will no longer be productive.

 

  • When a large group of people is ganging up on you. Again, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t speak your mind, but sometimes it’s better to speak up when you either (a) have at least one person on your side or (b) can have a one-on-one with individuals of the group, instead of speaking to the group as a whole.

 

Regardless of what you’re talking about — or who you’re speaking to  it’s important not only to respect others’ boundaries, but to take care of your own boundaries as well. If you’re unsure about whether or not to keep talking, ask, “Would you like to keep talking about this topic?” If you’ve gotten to a point where your own boundaries are being threatened, say, “I’m glad we were able to start this conversation, but I feel it is no longer productive, and I think we should stop talking about it for now.” 

 

REINFORCE IT WITH ACTION.

Actions speak louder than words, they say, and it really is true. You can talk yourself blue in the face about what you believe in, but if you don’t support those words with actions, it’s going to be much less likely that people will take you, and your beliefs, seriously. Here a few ideas for how you can take positive action on your beliefs:

 

  • Donate to a cause that supports what you believe in
  • Volunteer for an organization you support
  • Share (legitimate, fact-based) information on social media
  • Offer to organize an event or fundraiser for a cause
  • Watch a film about the topic with someone who opposes it
  • Research the issue and consider new ways to offer help
  • Give (well-researched) books on issues you support to skeptics
  • Vote for the people who support what you believe
  • Call Senators / people in Congress and ask for change
  • Ask experts on the issues for ideas for how to help
  • Join local (or online) groups who share your beliefs
  • Read up on what others are saying (and gather facts!)
  • Shop at stores that uphold your beliefs (don't know? ask!)

 

It may seem like this action-taking isn’t a necessary step to talking about what you believe in, but it’s actually essential. Anyone can say they believe in anything, but to really have those beliefs heard (and have them matter), action is necessary. You might also want to see if you can have someone with opposing views take part in the action in some way. Sometimes people don’t realize what they believe until they see a situation for themselves.