6 Things You Should Stop Settling For

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As the leaves start to sprout on the trees and the flowers begin to poke their heads up through the dirt, I'm reminded, once again, of how spring is the ultimate symbolic season of change and growth and blooming once again. After months of drab, colorless treetops, things are blooming as they always do, and it's showing me that we, too, can bloom again, even when things have been dormant for some time. One of the best ways to channel the springtime vibe of transformation is to investigate what we've been settling for.

When we can identify the areas in which we're not getting what we truly want in life, we're able to consider how we might reshape those aspects of our lives. Of course, such transformation won't happen overnight, but recognizing the places in which we might be settling is the first step towards change. Here are six areas in which settling should be avoided. But don't beat yourself up if you've been settling in these areas. Just consider how you might want to change them going forward. Like the seeds tucked underground all winter long, you, too, can recognize that there's more to life than dirt and darkness. You, too, can push out of your confines and stretch toward the sunlight you deserve. 

 

LUKEWARM LOVE AFFAIRS

Real love (not that easy falling-in-love stuff) is tough. There are highs and lows, good times and bad. But if you're not in it together — usually on the same team, mostly putting in the same amount of effort, having similar feelings for one another — it might not be a full-hearted kind of love. If you only see someone when it's convenient for them, if you put in all of the effort and get little in return, if you worry constantly if the other person feels the same, it's time to stop settling and seek out the kind of love you (we all!) deserve. 

 

JOY-STEALING WORK

Work — even the very best kind — is no piece of cake. It's tough, even when you love your job. But if it feels like it's sucking the life out of you, if it feels like it takes everything you've got and gives nothing back, it's time for a change. You might not be able to drastically change your work situation, but you can seek out a similar job in a new place, find a way to transform the work you're doing, or even take a pay cut to work in a more fulfilling environment. Most of us spend a huge chunk of our lives at work so it's definitely not an area of life where settling should be acceptable. 

 

FICKLE FRIENDSHIPS

Every relationship — even the best of friendships — has its ups and downs, but if you're putting in all the work, it's time to consider if it's worth it. Consider whether your friend is asking about your wellbeing, interested in your life, or doing kind things to show their appreciation for you. (And, on the flip side, consider if you're doing these things as a friend!) Relationships of all kinds should include give and take and if you're the only one giving, you're settling for less and should seek companionship elsewhere. 

 

SECOND-RATE STORIES

Life is short, so why settle for second-rate things? This is particularly true when faced with items that have tons of options (like books!). There is an incredible amount of text to be read in this world, so if the book is bad, put it down. Don't waste time on second-rate stories when you could pick up a magical, potentially life-changing work. Same goes for food (if it's bad, send it back), clothing (if it doesn't work, return it), etc. Yes, it can be easier to stick with what's already in your hand, but do you really want to look back a mourn all the time you wasted on second-rate nonsense?

 

DEADEND DREAMS

Consider, for a moment, what a dream life looks like to you. Is that your idea of an ideal scenario or someone else's? It is something that gets you up in the morning, pumped to started your day and move toward that dream? If not, you might be suffering from a case of uninspired dreaming. Reflect on what you really want — and make sure that you're not aiming towards goals that others have set for you or goals that you set for yourself a long time ago that no longer speak to what you want your future to look like. We change, and often our dreams do too. 

 

LACKLUSTER LEISURE

How are you spending your free time? Are you truly enjoying the activities you've deemed as "leisure"? If you are, awesome! Keep at it! But if you're doing something just because it's easy, you've always done it, or it's someone else's idea of a good time, consider exploring new leisure-time activities. In fact, maybe just try doing something different to see if you like it. If you're always watching TV, try going for a walk. If your weekends are spent on a hiking trail, consider a Netflix binge. Try new things to make sure you're not settling for how you spend your friend time! 

 

Life is short is such a cliche, but it's true. Too many of us (myself included!) are settling for things (and people...) because it feels easier than change. You're not alone if, like me, change intimidates you. But do what you can to find the courage to stop settling for less than you deserve. It's rarely easy to let go of what's comforting (even when it's unhealthy), but the sooner you do it, the sooner you'll have the freedom to pursue the things in life that add real value, that make you excited and empowered! 

 

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8 Ways to Play Kind Games, Not Mind 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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