10 Years of Positively Present!

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From now until the end of the month, EVERYONE who signs up for Patreon will get a copy of Through the Year: 52 Pages of Inspiration from Positively Present, an exclusive e-book containing 52 Positively Present illustrations. For just $1 (or more, if you're feeling generous!), you can get this unique collection of illustrations all while supporting Positively Present!

In March, the book will only be available for higher tiers. If you like what I've been doing over the past ten years, please consider supporting my work on Patreon. (And if Patreon isn't for you, don't worry: I've got something for you! Use code "anniversary" in the print shop for 25% off your order all month long!)

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This week, Positively Present turns ten years old. TEN. It's hard to believe that something that started as a little personal growth project (remember when I was too scared to even tell you my first name?!) turned into a full-blown career. I suppose that's how a lot of businesses start (a personal hobby one day turns into a business years later), but it still shocks me sometimes, just how far Positively Present — and I! — have come in the past decade.

Of course, with this big day approaching, I've been spending a lot of time reflecting so I thought I'd share some of the lessons I've learned from ten years of doing this. Even if you're not a blogger or a creative, check out these life lessons and spend a little time reflecting on what you've learned since 2009. I'm all for staying the in present, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to take a look back and reflect on how far you've come...

 

LESSON 1: LUCK

Sure, I've worked hard creating content over the years, but I can't deny that luck has played a role in the creation and continuation of Positively Present. I've been fortunate enough to come across some great people and organizations as part of my work here and through them, I've been given some amazing opportunities. While I've definitely learned the value of hard work over the years, I've also learned that sometimes it's just about being in the right place at the right time. 

 

LESSON 2: WISDOM

I started Positively Present as a way for me to discover how I, a negative worrier, could learn to live more positively in the present. While I still struggle with anxiety, worrying, and negativity at times, I've learned so much from writing, researching, and creating, as well as from followers and fans. With time comes wisdom, but I've learned that paying attention to that wisdom (and writing it down!) helps it stick with me. 

 

LESSON 3: OPTIMISM

Of course, one of the greatest lessons I've learned over the past ten years is how to be more optimistic. I'm by no means perfect in this regard (I still have to redirect my mind from negative thoughts all the time), but I now have more tools and resources and awareness that helps me focus on how to make the most of the moment (even when the moment's terrible). 

 

LESSON 4: SELF-LOVE

I didn't realize how big of a role self-love would end up having here, but it's been just as important as positivity and mindfulness. Over the years, I've learned how valuable self-love is and how cultivating it can help in almost every aspect of life. Perhaps I would have learned that without PP, but I'll always be grateful for the way this site has guided me to focus on self-love and self-awareness. 

 

LESSON 5: FREEDOM

I've always loved my freedom, but working for myself (something I was able to start doing after about three years of working on the blog as hobby) continually reminds me just how important freedom is for me. I'm so thankful to be able to do what I love and, while I'm often frustrated by the life as a "starving artist," I'd rather have an empty fridge and be free than be chained down with a full belly. 

 

LESSON 6: SUPPORT

Without the support of friends, family, loved ones, and awesome patrons, Positively Present never would have survived over the years. Both emotionally and financially, I've received incredible support from those around me, and, much as I love to rejoice in my freedom, that freedom wouldn't be possible without the support, encouragement, and help of others. 

 

LESSON 7: CREATIVITY

Through my work here, I've learned more than I could have imagined about the importance of creativity and about my own ability to create. It started purely as me blogging about my thoughts on being positively present and has since turned into books, planners, workbooks, design work, and illustrations. I've always loved creating, but having the opportunity to share it here has been an amazing teacher. 

 

LESSON 8: HONESTY

Sharing my words and work here has been, at times, scary. While I certainly don't share every detail of my personal life, I've definitely opened up here in ways I never would have thought possible. Learning to be honest with myself (and, in turn, with others) has taught me a great deal about how important honesty is. Looking to understand things as they truly are isn't always easy, but the more I do it here, the better I get at it. 

 

LESSON 9: CONNECTION

As an introvert, I'm not always putting myself in positions to create new connections, but Positively Present has brought me together with people from around the world who also want to share and learn and grow. It's been so awesome to meet new people (and to learn from them!) over the years. The internet has it's issues, for sure, but I never would have been able to meet so many diverse and unique individuals without this little site right here!

 

LESSON 10: CHANGE

Though much has stayed the same over the years when it comes to the content here, a great deal has changed in terms of how that content's delivered. Once just a little personal blog, it's now a brand with a variety of different social media platforms and IRL products. Change has never been my favorite, but working on Positively Present over the years has helped me to accept and work with change, and I'll be forever thankful for that life lesson. 

 

These are just a few of the many, many lessons I've learned since the beginning (though, even three months in, I'd learned a lot), and though there have been some major ups and downs, some wonderful successes and some time-wasting failures, I'm proud of what I've spent my time doing here on Positively Present, and I hope that you've learned something from following along. Here's to the next ten years of inspiration, insight, and personal growth! 

 


 

If you like the work I've been doing and want to support Positively Present, don't forget to sign up on Patreon to get a copy of Through the Year: 52 Pages of Inspiration from Positively Present, an exclusive e-book containing 52 Positively Present illustrations (a glimpse of what's in the book in the image below). All tier levels will receive a digital copy instantly when they sign up from now until March 1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support! 

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8 Ways to Play Kind Games, Not Mind Games


Positively Present - Kind Games
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If you follow me on Instagram, you might've seen this recent post, where autocorrect changed my caption from "mind games" to "kind games." Not surprisingly, this led me to think about what "kind games" might consist of since, even if you're not intentionally playing mind games with those around you, most of us do some game-playing. Anytime you're not clearly and effectively communicating with others — intentionally or unintentionally — it's a kind of game (at the very least, a guessing game!).

No matter how much you might aim for healthy, communicative relationships, it's hard to always get it right. No matter how well you know someone, it's challenging to convey yourself accurately (particularly if you don't even fully understand how you feel which, let's face it, happens sometimes!), and it can be a daunting task to comprehend others, even when they do their best to share how they feel. 

Communication is a kind of kindness. The better you are at expressing yourself (and understanding other others express themselves), the better your relationships will be. But if you're anything like me, knowing that isn't the same as doing it. I know how valuable good communication is — in work, in socialization, in romantic relationships — and still I struggle greatly with it because it requires bravery, vulnerability, and a self-awareness that sometimes I just don't possess.

Effective communication has been an issue for me in almost every relationship I've been in, and, much as I hate to admit it, I've been guilty of playing a mind game or two. Often it's not calculated or mean-spirited, but, regardless of the intention, mind games are unkind (and very unproductive!). Here are some of the ideas that came to mind when I started thinking about how I could turn mind games into kind games...

 

COMMUNICATE HOW YOU FEEL

Telling someone else how you feel is one of the kindest acts. It's also one of the hardest sometimes. But if you want to be kind, you've gotta be brave and just do it. (Bonus: it's also one of the best ways to be kind to yourself as well, helping you cut down on a lot of unnecessary drama!)

 

ASK ABOUT HOW OTHERS FEEL

If you don't know how someone else feels (if you're not 100%, absolutely sure!), ask. I know it can be awkward sometimes, but just think of how many conflicts you could have already avoided if you'd just asked instead of assuming. Assumptions seem like they save time, but they often make things way more complicated, which isn't kind for anyone. 

 

APOLOGIZE WHEN YOU'RE WRONG

If you mess up, say you're sorry. Actually say it. Don't offer an explanation and leave it at that, assuming the other person knows you're sorry. Apologize out loud (or in writing if that's not an option) and mean it. (Advanced version of this game: apologize to, and forgive, yourself, too.)

 

EXPRESS WHEN YOU'RE HURT

When someone's hurt you, let them know. You can be honest without being dramatic or hurtful. (It's not easy, but practice helps!) You can set your ego aside and express how you feel without shame or fury. It's a tough game to play sometimes, I know, but remember: communication is a kind of kindness. 

 

SAY YES / NO WHEN YOU WANT TO

If you want to say yes, say yes. If you want to say no, say no. You don't need an excuse. You don't need a reason. The more often you practice saying yes/no to what you do/don't want, the better your life gets. (And the more everyone else will get you, which is a winning strategy for making the most of all your relationships!)

 

RECOGNIZE SIGNS OF CONTROL

Pay attention to how you feel, and if you feel like you're trying to gain control of someone or something, take some time to figure out why you're seeking control (hint: usually it's about you and not them), and knock it off. Most of us don't want to control or manipulate others, but do so without realizing it. Recognize it, then stop. 

 

DON'T JUDGE SO HARSHLY

Don't judge yourself or others so harshly. Everything — everything — is so much more complex, so much more entangled, than we realize. One thread tugged and everything is shifting ever so slightly. It's happening all the time in a million different ways so don't be so hard on yourself or anyone else. We're all doing what we can with what we're given. 

 

TAKE A TIME OUT WHEN UPSET

How many negative interactions might you have avoided just by pausing before reacting? It only takes a little bit of time but if you wait before reacting to someone else when you're upset, you'll be doing both of you a great kindness. A deep breath, a walk around the block, a day alone. Take time to chill out. 

 

There are so many ways to practice kindness, of course, but one of the most important (albeit most difficult) is communicating in a loving, open-minded, and thoughtful way. What else would you add to this list? What kind of kind games would you like to play? What kind are you already playing? 

 

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How to Stop Black-or-White Thinking

 

Positively Present - Black and White

 

It's normal for us to want to categorizing things, to label them so we might make sense of them, but as soon as we start identifying something — as good, bad, or any other descriptor — we're limiting our understanding of the thing. (Yes, there are quite a few things that are easily and unequivocally defined, but the list of such things is likely shorter than you'd think.) Attempts to label or categorize are attempts to understand, to provide clarity for ourselves in a world that often doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But, unfortunately, these sense-striving attempts often take people away from common sense, leading them down an all-or-nothing path that ultimately limits understanding. 

If we truly want to understand someone or something, we're going to have to make some effort because, like it or not, our minds just want it to be easy. Our minds want quick and easy answers and, tempting as those might be, they're not truth. Some, admittedly, would rather have a false sense of understanding than truth, but, since you're reading this, I assume you're trying your best to have an honest understanding of the world (or, at least as honest as our little human brains can make it, given our many mental and emotional limitations). So if you really want to do your best to avoid all-or-nothing thinking, to resist the temptation to label something black or white rather than looking for the shades of gray, here are some ways to combat that natural urge to take something and paint it a single color: 

 

  • Open your mind to new ideas. Keeping an open mind seems like an obvious first step, but it's not always (in fact, it's rarely) our default mode, particularly as we get older and have experience and feel as if we know what something might be like. Not only should you strive to keep your mind open to ideas when discussing a specific topic, but it's also important to try keeping an open mind generally, as it'll help you hone your open-mindedness skills. When you strive to remain open-minded, you're likely to perceive a situation as it is rather than how you think it should be. Of course, we're all doing the best we can and we're limited by what we already know, but the more you practice seeing the world from different perspectives, trying to put yourself in others' shoes, and attempting to be mindful of the world around you, the easier it will become to keep an open mind. 

 

  • Let go of your expectations. Expectations are one of the main reasons all-or-nothing thinking happens. We think something "should" be a certain way, so we're either eager to accept the situation as normal when it happens as expected or we're quickly disappointed when the situation doesn't meet expectations. Letting go of expectations is one of the keys to ridding your mind of black-or-white thinking. Expectations — those little "should" and "should nots" in your mind — often force you to think in all-or-nothing. They set you up for mistakes, for assigning meaning where there might be none, for making judgments without truth or wisdom. Releasing expectations (particularly related to experiences you've had many times before) is a challenge, but it's a vital aspect of quelling black-or-white notions. 

 

  • Look for the myriad of colors. It's tempting to fall victim to seeing things in black or white, which is why we must practice being vigilant in looking for the various hues and shades of every person, situation, or idea we encounter. It's important to constantly remind yourself that there many different ways of looking at whatever situation you're in. One way to keep this in mind is by practicing with an everyday object. Take, for example, the sky. Try looking at it from different points of view — sitting on the ground, standing, atop a roof, from your car window. It's all the same sky and, while it's likely to look relatively the same regardless of where you are, there are differences you'll notice based on where you are. Likewise, try looking at the colors of a cloud. At first glance, it will look white, but if you look closely, you'll see shades of gray and pink and yellow. Try to remind yourself of the sky and the cloud when you encounter something you feel all-or-nothing about. Consider your perspective. Consider looking more closely. 

 

  • Try to see things as they are. Much as we might hate to admit it, most of us tend to see things the way we want to see them rather than the way they actually are. This distorted thinking causes us to see the "black" or "white" in a situation not because it is clearly one color, but because we want it to be that way. After all, it's much easier to understand "black" than it is to understand "dark gray with a hint of blue that looks somewhat purple in the right light." So we try to make it easy on ourselves. That's fine for certain things in which a quick decision is necessary — like determining if a stove is too hot to touch — but when it comes to understanding complex topics, such snap judgments won't benefit us in the long run if we're seeking truth. You're much more likely to avoid extreme thinking if you do your best to look at how things are rather than how you'd like them to be. Objectivity is a skill and it's not an easy one to master, but the more you practice, the better you'll become at seeing something's true colors. 

 

  • Avoid labeling with a single word. When you think of something in terms of one word, you're limiting it immediately. Think about it like this: if someone asks how your day is, you usually respond with words like "Good!" or "Terrible," but neither of those words are likely to accurately describe the entire day. Even the worst days have decent moments and even the best days have their struggles. Recognizing that everyday is more than "good" or "bad" is a great way to start realizing that situations, just like days, are nearly always more complex than a single descriptive phrase. Do your best to start describing things, like your day, in detail, and you'll be practicing the act of avoiding one-word labels that hinder open-minded thinking. 

 

Combatting black-or-white thinking is challenging, but with these tips — and lots of practice — hopefully we can all learn to focus a little bit more on the nuances of ideas, situations, and people and move away from the limitations of an all-or-nothing mentality. Let me know in the comments below if you have any additional tips for conquering black-or-white thinking!

 

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