Own Your Airspace

Be too busy being yourself to wonder what it’s like to be someone else. You have your own set of molecules drifting around this planet. To covet someone else’s set is to devalue your own. To desire someone else’s voice is to devalue the lilt of your own song, the unique tune that others may understand but cannot reproduce. Today is the day to sink into the fibers and blood and cells and tendons and marrow of your own body. Inhale the pocket of air that surrounds you in this immense universe and own every atom within it.

Yes, it may appear that others breathe better air. Maybe theirs seems cooler, warmer, crisper, more expensive, better smelling, better tasting. But theirs is no different from yours. Theirs comes with the same elements yours does, so resist the urge to step in another’s pocket and thereby suffocate yourself. Lift your hands in passionate self-awareness and self-acceptance. Admire and appreciate others, but do not negate your own personhood, the feeling of being you, that singular experience in your flesh. Across millennia of human existence, there has been and will be only one you. That’s amazing.

You are a unique speck of life on this ball of water and rock, here but for a short time. Blow bubbles. Laugh. Shout. Breathe. Own your airspace.

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30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 30: The Journey Continues

“When you change, everything will change for you.”  -Jim Rohn

Wow–I can’t believe 30 days have passed already! Our journey has come to an end now, and I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. I’m so thankful for the new and old followers, likes, and comments. I hope I’ve inspired you to love yourself unconditionally, pursue your goals and dreams freely, think flexibly, and live fully. This has been a rewarding challenge for me, both in terms of learning about myself and posting daily.

I’m taking a week off from blogging, but before I go, I want to remind you that the journey toward personal growth never ends. As long as you’re alive, you’re constantly learning, growing, and evolving. Embrace it! Here are 10 tips summarized from this series to help you on your own unique path.

1. Love and accept yourself. You have a right to take care of your needs, appreciate yourself, and value yourself. Never forget your intrinsic human worth.

2. Be a flexible thinker. Allow for variation and change. You’ll win some, you’ll lose some. You’ll never be perfect. Be open to all of life’s possibilities, and know that whether you succeed or fail, you’re worthwhile.

3. Treat your body right. You only get one. Don’t get caught up on how it looks–focus on what it does for you, and feed it the nutrients it craves.

4. Take control of yourself. No one can make you feel, think, or do anything. It’s all up to you to decide what things mean for you. Take mastery over yourself.

5. Surround yourself with honest, real people. Real friends accept you for you and care about you. As much as they love you and want to see you succeed, they’ll also be honest with you when you’re not doing your best.

6. Connect to your external world. Our inner worlds can be exciting places, but there’s a lot to admire outside of ourselves, too. Put your feelers out into the world and savor its richness and diversity.

7. Respect others’ rights. We all have a right to our own unique existence, whether someone likes it or not. As long as what you do does not hurt you or infringe on someone else’s rights, live as you desire, and allow others to do the same.

8. Find your peace place. The world’s chaotic sometimes. Step back from draining relationships, work, and other sources of stress and tap into your own peace place–art, music, writing, nature, anything that uplifts you.

9. Be thankful. Be grateful for what you have. Somewhere, someone doesn’t have half as much as you do. Thank others as much as you can and appreciate what’s in front you right now.

10. Commit to personal growth. Finished products we are not. There’s always something for us to learn, to see, to experience. Commit to your personal growth through books, blogs, audiotapes, and more. And don’t just read or listen to them–try to apply them to your life. You always have room to grow. Be positive during the journey!

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30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 27: A Letter to the One Looking Down

The lotus begins life in the muddy bottom of a pond. Slowly, it grows toward the surface. When it reaches the light, it becomes a beautiful flower.

I want to talk about you.

You’ve been told you’re not smart enough. You’ve been told you’re not good enough. You’ve been told that other people are better, more worthwhile. You’ve spent years crying, feeling sorry for yourself, thinking everyone else had a better chance to reach their dreams than you did.

I’m here to tell you you’re wrong.

You’re worthwhile. You’re not perfect. You have good and bad days. You don’t always remember things. You don’t always make the right decisions. But you’re valuable.

You don’t always feel beautiful. You slip up sometimes. Still, you’re unique, complex—and worthwhile. Nothing can make that more or less true.

You can’t control what others think about you. You can’t control what others do or say. You can’t read anyone’s mind, nor can anyone read yours. You’re not going to like or agree with everything everyone says and does. Some things others do are going to make you upset. But you can control what you do.

Every day is not going to be wonderful, but you can smile. You can feel thankful and joyful no matter what is happening.

You don’t have to be famous to be worthwhile. You can enjoy living an ordinary life. You can take pride in the things you do to keep things running smoothly.

You can speak clearly because you belong here. You don’t have to shrink away, thinking others’ opinions and existence are more worthwhile. You have just as much right to be here as anyone else, and you have a right to your own unique existence.

You have a right to be present. You can absorb details about people and the environment. You don’t have to worry about what your hair looks like. You don’t have to worry about your skin, teeth, height, weight, clothes, education, marital status, bank account, credit score, or friends list. Though you want to do your best in all aspects of life, you can’t control everything. Yet, you are worthwhile.

You can gracefully give and accept compliments. You can admire others and accept their admiration of you. You have a right to feel good about yourself no matter how you look.

You are not a static photograph. You are a living, breathing, dynamic human being. You are so much more than you know.

You don’t have to do anything to please others. You can be compassionate, but you can care about yourself, too. You can laugh, smile, and chat with others. You can put your two cents in just as anyone else can. You have that right.

You can absorb people, nature, and life freely. You can make mistakes, and you can learn from them. You don’t have to hide for fear others will know your shortcomings. Others have shortcomings, too.

You don’t have to worry about being the best at everything. You can’t. The most you can expect of yourself is to do your best work. Know that you can’t do everything perfectly, but know that you can be proud of what you do.

Not everyone is going to like you, and you’re not going to like everyone else. Yet you can accept others. You can accept yourself. You can take criticism with the intent of strengthening yourself. You can dismiss anything hurtful or rude.

You don’t have to judge others, and you don’t have to judge yourself. You can be as silly, smart, or sassy as you want, as long as you remember you’re no better than others, nor is anyone better than you. Like you, people have their own unique way of being. Your worth is on par with everyone else’s.

You have a right to look people in the eye. You don’t have to plan what you’re going to say. You can handle any social situation when it happens. You have a right to speak loudly and clearly. Others do too, and they expect that from you.

You are free to have your own style. You can wear prints, solids, sleek, bohemian, anything you want. You can express yourself through fashion, music, arts, writing, sports, any way you choose. You have that right.

You have your own gifts. Others have theirs. You are not going to be perfect even at your strengths, but you can take pride in what you’re capable of. No one has your unique voice, experience, biology, psychology, spirituality. Things won’t be easy, and nothing says they should be.

Stay focused. Growth is painful. Goals take discipline. But your dreams will come true if you believe in yourself and fight for them. You’re going to fail sometimes. You’re going to fall short of your goals.

But even if things don’t work out exactly how you want them to, you’re still worthwhile. You can pick it up and move ahead.

You can have a balanced view of yourself and others. No one is wholly good, bad, right, or wrong. Everyone, including you, is too complex for a label.

Your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, feelings, interests, and talents are worthwhile. You as a living, breathing being are worthwhile.

Let nothing distract you from that.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 23: Declare Your Independence

 

Today, it’s time to free yourself from people, things, and habits that have trapped you. It’s time to take back your strength, your dignity, your passion for life. Decide to no longer let these vices control you:

  • Toxic friendships
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Complaints and ungratefulness
  • Procrastination and boredom
  • Envy
  • Poor money management
  • People-pleasing
  • Deceitfulness
  • Unnecessary anger
  • Irrational fear
  • Self-hatred
  • Victimhood

Decide to be happy and at peace with yourself and with others. Decide to be free.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 22: 7 Tips for Building Real Confidence

I used to think that if I smoothed foundation over my face perfectly, showed enough of my curves, and delicately curled every strand of my long luxurious weave, I’d be confident. If you looked pretty, feeling confident had to be the next step, right?  So I buffed, flipped, and sculpted my face and hair. I did everything magazines and YouTube videos instructed me to. When I finished the heavy-duty labor, I took digital photos of myself to make sure everything looked natural. I had no choice but to be confident after that.

But I never felt it.

I wondered how I could make myself look like a model but still feel like hiding. Weren’t fly hair, makeup, and clothes an “upgrade”? I thought for sure that good looks made people bold. If I didn’t look pretty, I couldn’t imagine any other way of feeling confident. What’s more, all that attention to my looks without any focus on my intrinsic worth was making me pretty vacuous.

Then, after deep sessions with the book that changed my life—”Boosting Self-Esteem for Dummies” (yes, I know)—I had a revelation: If I had a strong sense of my worth as a human being, I could feel courageous regardless of whether my hair was done or I had impeccably cat-lined eyes. When I discovered I was worthwhile, I understood how confidence transcended physical appearance. Ask yourself how you’d act if you believed you were as valuable as anyone else, and do that. It’s a long process, but that’s what true confidence is all about. Here are just a few of my hallmarks for building healthy, sustainable confidence.

1. Maintain good eye contact. Nothing conveys confidence more than the ability to look someone squarely in the eye and speak. Eye contact shows that you value yourself and the person you’re speaking to. Shifting eyes express uncertainty, shame, or fear. It’s easy to look down or away when you don’t feel good about yourself. I made a habit of avoiding others’ eyes. Start looking—not staring—into people’s eyes and watch how they open up to you.

2. Smile. When I struggled with self-acceptance, people asked me if everything was ok because of the down-and-out expression I wore. It was terribly annoying to hear that question, and I’m sure it’s just as annoying for others to have to wonder. I always admired people who looked pleasant, eyes alert and mouth curled slightly upward, but I thought I’d look weird if I tried. After my revelation, though, I found smiling much easier. When you know you can’t control what other people think and you have a right to your own existence, you can smile as you please. It may feel funny at first, but it makes you feel good—and makes others comfortable, and more likely to approach you. I’ve gotten so many positive responses since I started smiling. And I do it everywhere—on the bus, at the grocery store, at work, in the mall. I sit alone and smile now because it makes me feel good. A warm, easy smile beats a frown any day.

3. Breath deeply, walk slowly. Have you ever held your breath in an uncomfortable situation? Doesn’t help much. I used to shrug my shoulders up tight and hold my breath when I felt nervous. Far better for your confidence is to take a few deep cleansing breaths. You’ll feel much more relaxed, and it’s also really good for your lungs. Don’t forget to walk slowly, too. Doing so gives you time to take in your surroundings and feel calm. Take a deep breath and walk like you belong—you do.

4. Speak in your natural voice. When I’m talking to good friends or siblings, my voice feels smooth, slightly mid-pitched, and comfortable. I noticed that when I’m in class or speaking to someone I don’t know, my voice gets really deep and growl-like. Pay attention to how your voice changes when you’re in different social situations. The voice you use when you’re with the people you’re most comfortable with is the voice you should aim to use all the time. Also, speaking slowly appears self-assured. It’s not easy, though. Sometimes my voice volleys between grumbling deep and airily high-pitched. I have to make a conscious effort to meet that mid-range tone, but with practice, it will get easier.

5. Accept that you’re not perfect. Confidence means rolling with your good, bad, and neutral points. It means you can go for things without worrying about how others perceive you because they’re just as human as you are. If you believed that, you’d take risks and feel fine about not getting things perfect. Mistakes are part of life. When you accept that you’ll never be perfect, you’ll feel more confident to try things.

6. Appreciate what you and others have without making comparisons. You may not like some of your facial features or body parts, but you’re better off accepting them. Be generous in complimenting yourself, knowing that your worth is on the inside. Likewise, appreciate and compliment others without comparing yourself to them. I used to wish I were taller or had smoother skin. But as many billions of people there are on Earth, we’re all unique, so don’t waste your time beating yourself up about what you think others have that you don’t. Accepting yourself, flaws and all, is very confident—and attractive.

7. Keep it positive. During my freshman year of college, I hung with a girl who was so down on herself that it was tiresome. She’d constantly complain about her how unruly her hair was, how much weight she’d gained, and how she couldn’t find a boyfriend. I found myself encouraging her more than just hanging out, and it got old fast. I was still struggling with myself at the time, but it was enlightening to see how low self-esteem comes off to others. No matter what, remember to be positive. It’s tiresome to hear someone constantly berate themselves. Lift yourself up—don’t wait for someone to tell you’re ok. You already are. Accept it, enjoy it, and keep it positive.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 21: Be Prepared

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“To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”

-George Washington

I had a bizarre weekend. Friday night, it stormed so badly I had to camp out in my basement. Just when I thought I’d lie down there and watch a few episodes of What Not to Wear on my DVR, the power went out. Lightning flashed like paparazzi bulbs. Thunder reverberated through the house. As the remnants of the 100-degree day settled in, I hoped the power would return in the morning. It didn’t.

The next day was beautiful–perfect cerulean sky, crisp morning air–but the damage was widespread. While we only ended up with a few branches in the driveway, many of our neighbors’ trees had fallen. A power line sat in the middle of the main street. Traffic lights were blacked out, meaning that drivers had to use their judgment. That was definitely not a pretty sight, considering that some drivers don’t know what “complete stop” means. Gas stations had lines around the block as if they were giving away iPads, and some inconsiderate folks took to jumping the queues, angering patrons to the point of threats and curses. Businesses were dark. The suburbs looked like something out of a dystopian novel. It was a mess.

While I was luckily able to drive to my sister’s fully powered house (after waiting 30 minutes for gas), I realized something: We are not prepared for emergencies. We’re so used to living in our comfortable, electrified bubble that the slightest glitch can incite pandemonium. What will we do when the real drama begins? A lost Internet connection is the least of our worries.

Thankfully, our power was only out for less than 36 hours. But things could have been much, much worse. At least two elderly women were killed from falling trees while sleeping. Another man was electrocuted. Businesses continue to lose money, and some people won’t have power for days. It was a very sad weekend that taught me a valuable lesson: We need to be ready for anything. While we can’t prepare for every single crisis, we can have a general back-up plan to serve us when life, as it inevitably does, goes awry. You don’t know always when the storm will come. But even when the sky is clear, you’ve got to be ready for the lights to go out.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 19: 10 Ways to Recharge Your Motivation

I can’t resist sharing Marc and Angel’s posts. They’re so wise! This post on motivation was just what I needed for a dragging day.

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Achieving goals is not a matter of possibility, it’s a matter of motivating yourself to focus on the right things.  You know you should be doing something, but sometimes you just don’t feel like doing anything.  This stagnation can last a long time if you don’t head it off and take action.

Here are some daily motivation tricks that work for me:

1.  Get started!

This is by far the most important tip in this article, because in the end, all of the other tips in the world won’t make as much of a difference as this simple and timeless instruction: Sit down and start!  Do you feel the push-back of laziness?  There’s no better way to overcome it than to just start.  Reading more about motivation won’t help.  Reviewing your to-do lists won’t help.  Only doing actually helps get the momentum going.  And the only way to do something is to just start.

So stop thinking about how hard the task is going to be or how long it’s going to take you.  Just get started!  Not starting is failing.  Start telling yourself, “As soon as I start working, I’ll feel more motivated.”  Because once you start, you’ll realize it’s not nearly as hard as you thought it would be.  Read Getting Things Done.

2.  Find and use your positive voice.

As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”  Be aware of your self-talk and stay positive.  Positive thinking can be amazingly powerful.

You have the choice to replace negative self-talk with a more encouraging and friendly voice.  A voice that will consider your goal as not just a possibility, but aprobability.  A voice that does not look externally for validation before taking action, but rather uses self-belief as its driving force.  A voice that realizes that any person who has ever achieved greatness had to do so against similar odds, and that all things are possible to those who commit to their vision.

Tell yourself over and over again that you can do it.  Try saying, “I want to go to the gym,” “I am going to nail this presentation,” “I am going to have a great day,” etc.  See what effect it has.  Persist with this kind of positivity and eventually you’ll feel better about whatever it is you want to get done, and you’ll even start to fool your unconscious into believing it’s true.

3.  Spend time with people who inspire you.

What better way to recharge yourself for improvement than spending time with someone who inspires you.  They are smart, driven and motivate you to be better.  Study their qualities.  Study their habits.  Surround yourself with them, talk to them, learn from them; they are already living and producing results at a level you admire and aspire to.  Compare stories, successes and failures.  Let their inner light guide you.

4.  Start a friendly competition.

You can really raise your motivation with some friendly competition.  We are all competitive in nature, take advantage of this by using it to fuel your motivation.  Find a co-worker or friend with similar goals and turn it into a competition or game.  The key is to find a way to make it fun.  This will make the task or project seem less like work and more like play; and it will also encourage you to avoid defeat.

While you’re at it, mutually support each other toward your goals.  Staying motivated on your own can be tough.  A partner in crime always helps

5.  Think about how far you have come.

You have made so much progress, you just don’t realize it.  Open your eyes and give yourself credit for all that you have accomplished.  Think about it.  Write down your past successes.  Consider using a journal to keep track of them.  You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised when you review your results.  It’s a great motivator to see how much you have improved and how far you have come.  You felt at the top of your game before and you can do it again.

And don’t forget to be patient.  The problem with many of us is that we expect quick results.  Think long term.  If you want to run a marathon, you won’t be able to do it overnight.  If you don’t see the results you want, don’t give up, give it time.  Think of your goal as a long-term journey, and your slump is just a little bump in the road.  In the mean time, be happy with your progress.  Read The Magic of Thinking Big.

6.  Embrace failure as a positive learning experience.

Ask yourself: What have I learned from this?  As Michael Jordan once said:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Do not judge failed attempts and mistakes as an indication of your future potential, but as part of the growth process.  Something does not have to end well for it to have been one of the most valuable experiences of a lifetime.  When times get tough, take a deep breath, and know that most great things come when you least expect it.  Being defeated is a temporary condition; giving up is what makes it permanent.  And most people that gave up didn’t realize how close they were to success.  Push through!

7.  Review, refine and breakdown your goals.

Set and pursue S.M.A.R.T. goals.  These goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.  And don’t be afraid to set big S.M.A.R.T. goals either.  Establish goals that inspire you even if they seem slightly out of reach at the moment.  If you set goals that are too easy to achieve, you likely achieve far less than you are capable of.  As Les Brown said, “Shoot for the moon, and if you miss you will still be standing among the stars.”

Break down your big S.M.A.R.T. goals into realistic, high impact tasks that you can track.  The thought of accomplishing a huge task can be overwhelming.  Try taking small bites at a time.  Break down your large tasks into mini goals.  Daily actions will yield greater benefits than biting off more than you can handle.  When you start to see your progress you’ll feel more alert and ready to tackle the next step.

For example, if you want to change careers, that goal may be driven by several smaller goals like going back to school, improving your networking skills, updating your resume or getting a new certification; and each of these smaller goals is then supported by even more granular sub-goals and associated daily tasks.  And it is these small daily tasks that, over time, drive and motivate larger achievement.

Also, make sure your goals are truly YOURS, and in line with your values.  If you’re striving for someone else’s goals you are never going to be motivated to pursue them.

8.  Let the whole world know what you’re up to.

When you’re trying to do something you’ve never done before, it can take a lot of concentration and effort, and life can get lonely pretty quickly.  To keep your motivation thriving, it’s important to let others know what you’re up to.  Don’t be shy!  Announce to the world that you are going to achieve a certain goal by a certain date.

Trap yourself.  None of us want to look bad in front of friends, family and co-workers.  If you’ve made a commitment to all of them, then the shame of saying you didn’t try will outweigh the effort of doing it.  Hold yourself accountable, don’t just commit once, but commit to giving progress updates to everyone at least once a week.

9.  Visualize your successful outcome in great detail.

Before we do anything our minds start seeing pictures of how everything might turn out.  Close your eyes and visualize how great the events will unfold – see yourself smiling, hear yourself being positive and feel how great you will feel doing the task, leading the project, playing the game, attending the meeting.  Form as clear a mental picture as possible.  Do this every morning for at least five minutes.  This is a surprisingly effective technique that will raise your motivation and enthusiasm, and get you into the right mood before you begin working each day.

Another great visualization / motivation technique is to post physical reminders all around you.  Post a picture of your goal in a place you’ll see every day.  Set it as your desktop wallpaper, or post it on your wall, refrigerator or bathroom mirror.  The idea is to keep your mind focused on end result and keep your excitement going.

10.  Spend some time every day working on a passion.

There are some things in life that you just have to do, even if you aren’t passionate about it – cleaning the house, paying bills, finishing that task for your boss, etc.  But the dilemma of doing these things is greatly reduced if you spend a decent amount of time each day working on something you love – something you’re truly passionate about.  Because subconsciously you know that regardless of what you’re doing, your passion is still part of your day.  Read The How of Happiness.

So make time to focus on doing something you really want to do.  Take an hour break and work on something that’s meaningful to you.  Engage yourself in a meaningful personal project, or pull the trigger on starting something you’ve wanted to do for a long time, but haven’t yet had the resolve to do.  Do so, and your motivation and happiness will skyrocket.