The Art of Chasing Your Dreams

Insomnia

I lay in bed checking the news of the day, again, in case I missed anything. Though I never miss anything. Jelena’s back together again, though, in case you blinked. My eyes hurt from the brightness of my screen. I miss my mom.

I’m in that weird place again where it all falls apart to fall together and it’s beautiful to recognize the beauty before there is any. I anticipate the shift and welcome the chaos as it will bring growth when the dust settles.

Reminds me of the time I spent eight hours climbing a mountain thinking the top was just within reach, only to have the illusion of close proximity shattered each time I mastered the hill in front of me. It felt like someone kept moving the peak just to piss me off. And it was working.

In retrospect maybe that mountain was more of a test than a taunt. “How bad do you want this?” it scoffed. Not bad enough, to be honest. I slid right back down the muddy hill the second I discovered my water supply was running low. I didn’t want to reach the top more than I wanted to be alive.

But there are some things in my life that I want as badly as I want to be alive. Things no amount of thirst could ever make me stop climbing for.

If what I’m after is purpose-driven, I’ll fight with everything I have and then I’ll tap into a fight I didn’t know I had. Because when you care about something, you can always find the fight in you that you didn’t know you had.

There should always be things in your life that you’ll never stop climbing for. Even if you’re thirsty or tired or defeated. Even if the mountain moves every time you think you’re at the top.

Inch by inch it will make no sense and you will without a doubt run into obstacles that will look like dead ends. Don’t be fooled.

The crowd of people around you will thin out until you find yourself alone. Focus.

And when you forget, try to remember. The things that make you feel alive are the reason you are alive. Take the ship out of the harbor. Remind yourself what you were made for.

Get thirsty. Get disappointed. But don’t stop climbing.

You Can’t Miss It.

There’s nothing like having a birthday around the corner to make you call everything into question and re-evaluate your life. I mean, it’s not like you figured out world peace or could brag about your EGOT, but up until this point you were generally happy, moderately successful, and the barista at Starbucks almost always spelled your name right, so you had that going for you. 

But that was back when that milestone was no bigger than a pyramid in the distance; it fit comfortably in that tangible space between your index finger and your thumb, to be dealt with another day. When you approach it, however, you can no longer deny its significance and are forced to acknowledge it for the monstrosity that it is. 

You begin wondering about it all and wondering if it’s all enough. If, in everything that you were doing, you could have done more. If, in your pursuit to become your best self, you shouldn’t have made so many mistakes, allowed for so many distractions. Ultimately, you arrive at the only question that really carries any weight; am I where I’m meant to be or am I missing it somehow? 

I am not sure what being a late twenty-something on the verge of eventual thirty-somethingdom is supposed to look like, but in my head it seemed different somehow. By then, you should have it all figured out, I thought. Married, obviously. Bi-coastal, probably. You’ve lived in London for at least a few years (which explains why your kids are British). Your success is outshone only by your happiness, both are validated by the inexhaustible supply of love found in all areas of your life. 

But then you get here and it isn’t quite what you thought it’d be. It was harder, somehow. And not as pretty all the time. Sometimes, without warning, the road just ended and you had to forge a path no one else had ever been down nor could vouch for. Sometimes the love didn’t last, and sometimes love just wasn’t enough. Sometimes you just had to let go of the things you thought you’d always hold on to. 

And sometimes— most times— you had to renew your mind and set yourself free. Free from heartache, disappointment, sadness, loss, betrayal, pain, regret, failure, setbacks, fear. Those things you never seem to account for when planning out your big, bright future filled with hope and limitless possibility. 

But maybe that’s the beauty of it all. Maybe the great thing about not having it all figured out is that you get to figure it out. Only in doing so will you know what it means to have sheer faith for no logical reason. To take a risk that terrifies you and excites you at the same time. To see the pieces of the puzzle fit together in a way far better than you could have ever orchestrated yourself. 

You also get to learn what it takes to get up again after you fall. And how, with experience under your belt and a lesson etched in your psyche, you willfully choose to move forward and rise above— stronger, better, more prepared, resilient, and maybe, just the slightest bit more humble. 

Because really, that’s what life is. A refining process. And it is only by going through the fire that we can be sure of who we are, what we stand for, what we believe, and what we want. It is also only though this process that we know what is worth fighting for and what we are willing to live without. 

And so it is through all these things that I arrived here. ‘Here’, it seems, does not, in fact, look like the ‘here’ I imagined. It’s more beautiful somehow. It’s wise and mature and imperfect. And still quite messy at times. But beautiful all the same. 

Sometimes you just have to take a step back from where you’re going to appreciate where you’re at and where you’ve been. In doing so, you realize you are exactly where you are meant to be. And you can’t miss it.

In a way that I just know.

I guess it’s just time to be honest. I’ve tried keeping my cards to my chest to no avail. I’ve fought the fight and exhausted the options. I’ve held my breath. I’ve waited; thinking it would come back around. I’ve let it go, or so I’ve tried. The timing, I thought, needed to be perfect. The words just right. The stars would align and the things I’ve been after would come to fruition. 

How come when they did, it looked so different? How come when I got a taste of what was meant to be it was no more? Well, it must not have been meant to be, they say. But that feeling, deep down inside you, that you get when your life is on track and you feel - not just say aloud - that you are where you’re meant to be. I felt that. 

It reverberated though me, gave me an otherwise unreproducible confidence that overrode all the voices that said I couldn’t, wouldn’t, can’t or shan’t. A quiet peace that trumped hope in a way that I just know, I’d bet my world, hell I’ve bet my world, that the absolute best is not just yet to come, but it’s on it’s way. It is well with my soul.

Tell me how the very thing that lifts you up, that reminds you who you are, that brings to the surface an authenticity in your character that you would otherwise mask in an effort to be accepted — tell me how that thing isn’t meant for you. When it is you. It’s as much a part of you as your perfectly worn-in jeans, the VSL written on your Starbucks, or your friendship that, despite the distance, doesn’t skip a beat.

Love is just an extension of the very best part of yourself.

To anyone who’s ever had their heart broken.

image

Above all else, guard your heart. —Proverbs 4:23 NIV

I’m very careful about who I chose to let in my life; as we all should be. We are, after all, the sum of the five people we’re around the most. But I’m especially guarded when it comes to who I let into my heart. As with everything in my life, I refuse to settle for mediocrity. Plus, I kinda believe in soulmates. 

It’s actually pretty sneaky, this love stuff. It rarely happens, and when it does, it’s always when you’re not looking for it. Like when you’re volunteering at an event for Generosity Water, and you don’t notice the boy that’s been noticing you all night. A month later, he’s all you can think about. Funny how that happens.

So you spend the summer trying to navigate your feelings, and it doesn’t work out. And in that moment your heart is shattered, not because of what you lost, but because you lost what could have been. You suddenly find yourself with more questions than Siri can answer… and who does she think she is anyway always telling you she “gives up”?

You briefly consider never letting anyone in again, perhaps henceforth assuming the identity of a celibate nun. It’s starting to sound like a lot of fun, but then your friend sends you a quote on vulnerability (see below) and you decide having your heart broken sounds better than having an unbreakable heart.

image

Plus you still have hope inside you. So you close your eyes and turn to God, thankful he can read your mind because you’re too weak to even pray aloud. You ask Him to give you strength beyond your means, something of the Chuck Norris caliber, please, because anything less won’t suffice getting you out of bed.

He delivers, and you don’t even shed a tear over said boy, which is saying a lot because sometimes you go through a box of Kleenex when you’re watching Gossip Girl (please tell me Chuck doesn’t die, he was just starting to get it together). But you know if God was going to take someone that incredible away, it is only so He can give you someone even better.

So that’s months ago - you’ve blogged about it, moved on, have the best friends in the world and way too much going on to give it another thought. Before you know it, you’re not looking again. But if you were, you’d be thankful for that broken heart. That experience raised the bar, and from now on, your heart refuses to accept love of a lesser value. You’ve reached a whole new level of expectation, one that only God would dare to exceed.

Strong Enough to Break

I had my doubts, but I threw them all out; I had faith.” - Meiko

I’m in the heart of the city and it’s pouring rain. It’s a surprisingly warm 62 degrees outside. In LA this would be considered winter, but here it means fall has arrived and coats are still optional. Rain or shine, Chicago is the most beautiful city in the world.

No matter how long I’ve been away, walking the familiar streets of this city makes me feel like I’ve never left. But it also reminds me why I did leave. Inside of me is an insatiable hunger which has led me all my life towards a search for something more. Something deeper. God’s purpose for my life.

I came to Chicago this week on a whim. I guess I needed to experience an actual change of season to recognize the one that I’m stepping into in my own life. This last year has been a series of bold yeses and unapologetic nos, the combination of which, in retrospect, has felt a lot like a divine test of my character.

I suppose that’s what happens when you publicly call yourself out on your desire for self-actualization via practicing what you preach. As I strive to become the best version of myself, I realize that means figuring out how to be genuine in my strengths and weaknesses alike. Regardless of the circumstances I find myself in.

When things are going good, it’s easy to be a light to others. When we feel loved, it’s easy to open up and be vulnerable. When we’re inspired, it’s easy to lift up those around us. When things aren’t going our way, what’s easy is to retreat, put walls up, and shut out the world. But it’s in those situations that our attitude counts the most.

Truth is, I hate failing. I hate letting people down. I hate not having all the answers. I hate anything that makes me feel weak. But at the end of the day, we can’t control everything that happens to us in our lives, but we can control how we choose to respond. The true test of our character reveals itself in those not-so-glamorous moments.

In the midst of heartbreak, choose to love. In the face of disappointment, choose to encourage those around you. When you think your situation is impossible, choose to have faith. That, to me, is a true testament of your strength. After all, if there’s nothing to shake you, how will you know if your foundation is strong enough to hold you up?

Big Lights Will Inspire You

Sorry for the impromptu hiatus from blogging. I assure you I carried around a pocket full of dreams during my travels this summer, but found myself seizing moments instead of trying to document them.

Imagine my surprise when I blinked and realized not only is October half-missing, but LA has decided to unprecedentedly participate in the phenomenon known as ‘seasons’. Hostage to its temperamental whims, we’re being jerked between triple-digit purgatory and chilly London skies.  I suppose this is one way to keep us on our toes.

Well, it was a summer of love, anyway.

Yes, love; I’m borrowing you from Merriam Webster in hopes of adequately abridging my summer. Perhaps I feel so inclined to do a one word synopsis because I’m in the middle of reading Kevin Hall’s Aspire and I find his brilliant account of etymology to be incredibly inspiring.

But either way, love, my very favorite of virtues, weaved its way into every fiber of my existence these last few months, reiterating my belief of what really matters in life. Fulfillment; the kind that comes with knowing you are satisfied in every area of your life that you crave to be satisfied in.

In Who’s Got Your Back, Keith Ferrazzi offers a personal success wheel categorizing the areas of our lives that we seek fulfillment. By concentrating on advancing in the areas of deep relationships, giving back, spirituality, intellectual stimulation, physical wellness, financial success, and professional growth we propel ourselves forward towards a meaningful, happy, and successful life.

For me, that meant a summer of take-no-prisoners games of hand-and-foot with my grandparents, volunteering to laugh incessantly with a roomful of toddlers, humorously over-analytical discussions with my family, barefoot walks and witty banter with Taylor and Alisha on the streets of Chicago benefiting kids 8,000 miles away in Africa, and patient, obedient conversations with God.

And then there was the late nights in front of the fire with tea and a good book, fleeting yet urgent adoration of the Romeo and Juliet sort, fearlessly connecting with daughters of the king, turning big ideas into blueprints into working projects, and the sweet simplicity of nights bathed in music surrounded by the most un-Hollywood of friendships.

Then, autumn was in the air and there I was walking with my Aunt Janet six miles around the lake that she lives on, both admiring and dreading the falling leaves. I briefly departed from my optimistic nature in order to tell her that fall makes me sad because it means summer’s over, the trees are dying, cold weather is moving in, and another year is approaching its end.

She laughed dismissively at my melodramatic conclusion, and proceeded to tell me why fall is her absolute favorite time of year. Fall, you see, marks the turning over of a new, brightly colored leaf, and with that comes all the hope, anticipation, and promise that only a new season can bring. Thus we are given a chance to catch our breath, reassess our goals, and proceed with the confidence that a new day has come and all things are possible.

Time to bid adieu to Summer 2010. Adieu, by the way, is French and literally means “to God”. Interestingly enough, it was part ofàdieu vous commant, “I commend you to God.” Who (besides Arthur Watkins) knew etymology could be so fun?

Hurry Up and Wait

"And I’ll kneel down, wait for now. I’ll kneel down, know my ground." - Mumford and Sons

If there is one thing I am terrible at, it’s waiting. Once when I was 12, I was waiting for my mom to take me to school. She was held up by my brother who was deliberately taking his own sweet time getting ready.

On top of that, the car was blocked in by my dad’s stick-shift truck. I took it upon myself to move the truck so that we could leave faster once my mom did come outside. Nevermind having not yet been taught to drive (let alone manually). I’ve seen it done, I can figure it out, I thought.

So I climbed in the truck, started the engine, and all of the sudden I was flying backwards, held hostage to an uncontrollable vehicle, paralyzed by fear. The truck miraculously sailed right between two trees unscathed before crashing into a third. Needless to say we were a lot later to school that morning than we would have been had I just waited for my mom.

Sometimes life just makes you wait. Sometimes, after you have done everything you can to get to where you want to be, you have no choice but to sit back and let it happen in its own sweet time. Well, just as driving stick has never gotten easier for me, neither has waiting. Persistence, not patience, is my forte.

When persistence becomes impatience, hastiness, or pushiness, our actions can become detrimental to our futures (that’s when we crash trucks and prolong the desired outcome). Oddly enough, this season of my life seems to be titled ‘hurry up and wait,’ thus I’ve been forced to discover ways to uncover the hidden opportunities while I ‘wait’ for the right opportunity. Not an easy feat for go-getters.

Before I go any further, let me define the ‘waiting’ period I’m referring to. I’m not talking about sitting around, doing nothing, and hoping your dream will fall into your lap.

I’m referencing the point in your journey when you’re going after what you want so hard that you’ve exhausted all possible avenues of making it happen and all that is left to do is what is not in your hands to do. Don’t sit around twiddling your thumbs, maximize your ‘waiting’ potential.

Last weekend I had the privilege of hearing Priscilla Shirer  speak,and in one of her messages she stressed the importance of sowing the right seeds today in order to reap the right harvest tomorrow. That means whatever season of life you are in, your decisions today will directly affect your future tomorrow. This especially applies to those of us in the ‘waiting’ period.

That means instead of closing your eyes and wishing this waiting period would just pass, you take control of the situation and do things today and every day that will align you with your personal goals- look for the beauty in the ordinary, find the hidden opportunities (or create them!), get uncomfortable, think outside the box.

One of my friends is this beyond-gorgeous model who books everything from Fashion Week in NY to month-long gigs in China… that was until her most recent photoshoot where the stylist chopped her long, blonde, beautiful hair into a short, choppy, asymmetrical mullet. Talk about waiting periods. All of a sudden the girl in the mirror no longer resembled the girl in her headshot and her phone stopped ringing. What’s a model to do?

For starters, she took lots of vitamins that encourage hair-growth. Then she got new headshots to reflect the girl she is (for) now. And because you can’t undo spilled milk, she has been shopping herself for opportunities that she never would have thought of (edgy Tokyo stint, commercial hipster chick, Bon-Jovi hair double). One thing she’s not doing is sitting around waiting for her hair to grow back. She realized that waiting periods do not equal periods of inactivity.

3 Ways To Maximize Your ‘Waiting Potential’

1. Prepare

My friend in Chicago is in a ‘waiting period’ before she can move to LA to act in September. We brainstormed a few things she could do to align herself with her goal of acting and decided that she should take classes at Second City (unique to Chicago) in the meantime to get the kind of experience and connections that will open doors for her once she gets to Hollywood. She took her first class a few days ago, loved it, and is confident it is going to help her with auditions in LA.

2. Educate yourself

If your goal is to one day travel the world, use this waiting period to study the languages, history, geography, and culture of places you will one day travel to (just a helpful hint, if you’re wanting to learn another language, Rosetta Stone is probably the best program out there for it. Spanish or Italian anyone?)

3. Be creative

Let’s say you’re an aspiring photographer who would love to have your photos of people in Time Magazine one day. Take those pictures today. There are amazing portraits just waiting to be captured all over your city. Find the grandfather holding hands with his granddaughter as he walks with her across the street, find the homeless man playing the keyboards at the boardwalk, singing with a huge smile on his face, find a stranger, talk to them, find out their story, capture it, start a blog, share their story with the world. The world is your canvas.

Imagine six months from now you are sitting across from the person responsible for putting you where you want to be in life and they ask you what you’ve been doing to prepare for this desired position. Would you rather tell them you were waiting for your hair to grow back or that you saw more light than tunnel and were able to capitalize on previously unexplored avenues of your career as you hand them your bursting-at-the-seems-with-greatness portfolio?

Think about your résumé - your character résumé, work résumé, life résumé - are you constantly working towards expanding your experience, qualifications, skills, and education to align with your objective? Right now, during this “waiting period”, you are planting the seeds of your future; choose to plant these seeds carefully, consciously, and creatively and you won’t be caught off guard when your garden starts to bloom.

Are You Courageous Enough to be Happy?

image

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” — Henry David Thoreau

I like to think of myself as adventurous. Three years ago, I packed my suitcase and spontaneously hopped on a plane to LA. I had no money saved up, no car, no job, no place to live, and no friends or family to help out once I landed. Just a dream and faith that it would all work out. And it did. Beyond anything I could ever imagine.

But here’s the thing about that leap. Before I did it, I was in a rut and didn’t even realize it. I was overstaying my welcome at my lovely aunt’s house, driving my little cousins crazy, and wrapping myself in a big, comfy, security blanket of risk-aversion. I was trapped somewhere between making a decision (NY or LA) and being safe (Chicago). Then one morning I woke up, and I didn’t want to be safe anymore, so I bought a plane ticket.

It’s funny how ruts-under-the-guise-of-complacency sneak up on you. You don’t love your job, but you deal with it “for now”. You want to move to your favorite city, but you don’t because (insert whatever excuse you’ve been giving yourself). You’re too old for this, you’re too young for that. You have this dream in your head, but that’s where it stays because the path to it isn’t guaranteed and you are waiting for the right “moment” to take that calculated risk, only you and I both know that the most rewarding risks in life are not calculated and the best moment for anything will forever be right now.

Are you stuck in the bittersweet seduction of a rut? There is a difference between being truly satisfied in your situation and holding yourself back because of fear. Perhaps things are just not going your way right now and you are letting the opposition get to you. Are you inadvertently waiting for the straw that will break the camel’s back? Do you need to be forced into fight or flight by way of an uncontrollable circumstance? Maybe you feel like you can’t win because the odds aren’t in your favor.

I had a “the universe is against me” day last week. I woke up and found out I didn’t get this perfect-for-me-job in New York that I’ve been vying for. Then I found out due to circumstances beyond my control I have to move on June 1st (nevermind I just moved in January). Then I received an evasively lazy “no can do” response to a simple e-mail request. Icing on my big, fat, cake of rejection for the day.

I was feeling stressed out on the level above what yoga-breathing is able to cure, so I called my poor dad and proceeded to unleash an unfiltered emotional “the-world-must-hate-me” rant on him. He let me go on for a minute or two, and then abruptly snapped me out of it. “Let go of all this anger and negativity and open your eyes to the opportunity that is in front of you,” he said, “on the first, one way or another, you are goingsomewhere!”

Instantly my anxiety melted away, because, hello, he was right. I was goingsomewhere. This was not four walls closing in on me. The sky was not falling. I just did not see the window that had opened up in front of me, I chose not to see the light, refused to feel the breeze. Until that moment. “Wow, dad. You’re right… so where we going?” I asked, already smiling.

"Happiness is a form of courage" - Holbrook Jackson

I don’t know who it’s by, but I love this quote: “Do not fear the winds of adversity. Remember: A kite rises against the wind rather than with it.” I am that kite. I just forgot for a minute. I’m the one that rises above when things don’t go my way. I’m the one who can assemble the pieces of an impossible puzzle. I’m the one who starts running and figures out her destination on the way. I’m the one who has God on her side and can’t lose because of it.

So are you, the minute you choose to break the unproductive cycle of a rut. Here’s a ladder, so start climbing:

  1. Don’t wait. If there is something in your life you want to be doing right now, the time to do it is right now.
  2. Take things into your own hands, create your own solution, do not sit idly by hoping someone or something will come along and fix your situation.
  3. Stop seeing problems as closed doors and start seeing them as open windows of unexpected opportunities.
  4. Be willing to take risks, get a little uncomfortable, try every avenue, flirt with uncertainty, put yourself out there, and find another way.
  5. No more excuses, procrastination, self-pity, negativity, or self-doubt. Replace any sentence you ever started with “I can’t because” with “I can because.”

One of my mentors is one of the most successful people in the entertainment industry and one of the happiest, most well-rounded people I know, but his career wasn’t a guaranteed straight shoot to the top. He built it from the ground up with a lot of hustling, risks, and determination. In fact, his journey was once interrupted by a devastating wipeout in the form of a staggering $38 million dollar bankruptcy (yes, you read that right).  If he can climb out of that rut, what the heck is stopping you or I from overcoming a little adversity?

Stand for Something Bigger Than Yourself

I celebrated my birthday last weekend, and noticeably absent from my mind was the usual dread that previously accompanied every birthday since I turned 21, onset by the mere thought of getting older.

It sounds ridiculous, I know, for any twenty-something to be yearning for her youth, but for a girl with big dreams and high hopes, every extra candle on that cake can feel like the hands of a clock, ticking against you. Women today want to do it all, be it all, and give their all, and I am no exception.

Years ago I compiled a life to-do list. The first few lines of it go something like this: “travel the world, inspire others through my writing, establish a thriving career that I am passionate about, give back, (meet! and) marry my soulmate, have kids, help others help themselves, make the world a better place.” No pressure, right?

So what made this birthday cake easier to swallow? I realized I am exactly where I am supposed to be, even if it isn’t where I expected to be. In other words, it’s the journey that counts, and mine is in full swing. I am grateful for every blessing, triumph, lesson, and mistake that has brought me to this point.

The biggest source of sudden complacency? I shifted my focus. Instead of worrying about who I am going to become, I started enhancing who I am right now.

There is something about getting older that makes you stop and take an honest assessment of yourself. Who am I compared to how I want to be perceived? Who are my friends and what do they say about me? What do I find valuable and why do I deem it to be so?

Once you are past your me-me-me stage, the answers to these questions become painfully obvious. Not as transparent, however, is figuring out how to align where you are with where you want to be. In other words, actively investing your energy into improving your character.

As Lao Tzu wisely said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Though I am a novice in my journey of self-actualization, this notion has become my first step towards reaching my full potential:

Stand for something bigger than yourself.

Understand what you stand for. Honor. Truth. Compassion. Humility. Grace. Authenticity. Acceptance. Love. Forgiveness. Faith. Generosity. Hope. Equality. Education. Sophistication. This is the foundation of who I am inside. What do you stand for? Are you sure?

These values lay the brickwork for who I feel I am on the inside, but do my words, thoughts, actions, and desires align with theses truths that I hold to be self-evident? Once you figure out what you stand for, are you practicing what you preach?

If I am an advocate of acceptance, equality, and education, should I not think twice before casting the first stone out of ignorance? If I stand for truth, honor, and grace, are those qualities engrained in how I treat friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike? Does my confidence bask itself in humility, or does my pride turn it to arrogance?

Mahatma Gandhi said to “be the change you want to see in the world.” For me this means constantly educating and challenging myself to rethink my thoughts and rework my actions until my perception and reality are completely aligned with the values I claim to stand for. With that said, I have a feeling I’ll be blowing out a few more candles before I master this concept… I guess that’s the beauty of growing older.

Confidence in 5 Easy Steps

Confidence is essential to success, but it isn’t always easy to maintain. Thankfully, it can be an acquired skill, just follow these 5 simple steps…

#1 - BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

"Whether you think you can, or can’t, you’re right." - Henry Ford

The quickest way to tear down your confidence is to fill your mind with negativity, worry, and fear of failure. Instead, envision only the fabulous things that are destined to happen once you inevitably succeed, and do not even consider failure an option. In reality, it isn’t. Worst case scenario: things don’t go as planned. Let’s be honest, things rarely go as planned.

Thankfully, there exists an invisible safety net between us and any risk we’ve ever taken: the simple fact that everything will eventually fall into place and work itself out (dare I say, for the better). Go after what you want optimistically, as if you are able and deserving of accomplishment (because you are). Trust positivity to lead you into a rhythm of success, and it will.

#2 - TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE

"Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?"  - What a Girl Wants

We all want to be liked. We all want to be accepted. Sometimes, in the midst of trying to fit in, we hide who we are because we are afraid of being judged, rejected, ridiculed, or -gasp- different.

You are unique. I am unique. Do not be fooled, this is what makes us beautiful. We have certain personalities, beliefs, philosophies, opinions, dreams, abilities, disabilities, quirks, and qualities that define who we are. Do not ever be afraid to be you. Plant yourself firmly in the foundation of your truth and your confidence will be unwavering.

#3 - KNOW YOUR WORTH

"It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes." - Sally Field

Holly, one of the pastors at my church, said last Sunday that most battles begin and end in the mind. I believe the same can be said for the battle of confidence. True confidence comes from within. Pseudo-confidence can be influenced by many outside factors - success, failure, health, wealth, opportunities, career, family, friends, and so called friends, to list a few.

What do these things have in common? They are external and transient, yet we often allow these factors to influence how we feel about ourselves and we internalize the self-doubt that comes with it. We cannot always change these factors, but we can choose to not base our confidence on them. Decide today that you are worthy.

Make an affirmation to yourself that you are deserving, capable, beautiful, strong, and destined to shine. Perceive yourself as confident from within and reflect this stance in your actions. If you feel that someone or something is threatening your confidence, dismiss those feelings of inferiority because they are an illusion that you do not have to accept. You and I have an endless source of true internal confidence that will forever remain unscathed as long as we choose it to be so.

#4 - SET YOUR OWN BAR

"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent."  -Eleanor Roosevelt

Do not try to keep up with the Joneses or the Kardashians. Let go of comparing yourself to others. Set your own benchmark. Your expectations for yourself should be high, but they should be your own. Jealousy is a self-destructive disease and if it is an ever-present theme in your life, chances are confidence is not.

Take control of your own self-perception. Replace jealousy with humility, grace, gratefulness, and happiness. This will turn into confidence. Remember, true confidence comes from the inside, once you choose to accept that, jealousy, social status, appearance, and materialism become meaningless.

#5 - PURSUE YOUR PASSION

“If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you, and you will find great things happen for you, to you and because of you.” - T. Alan Armstrong

Chasing your dreams takes guts, and by guts, I mean confidence. Success, happiness, and prosperity are not guaranteed. You have to believe in yourself enough to trust that you can obtain these things by pursuing what you are passionate about.

It seems like a catch 22… pursuing your dreams will give you confidence, but you need to first possess confidence in order to have the courage to pursue your dreams. Where does that initial confidence come from? You guessed it - it comes from within. You are not here by mistake, you were born with a purpose.

You may not think you know what your your purpose is, or where your passion lies, but trust me, if you look deep inside you will discover it if you choose to. Passion is what makes your eyes light up. Your purpose is what makes life worth living. Pursuing your passion with purpose is what makes you feel alive. That unparalleled feeling of LIVING is the revelation of your innate confidence radiating through every ounce of your being.

Living In The Moment

"It’s so beautiful here. I want to come back here some day." - Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert

"It almost makes me not want to get to know you better," says a friend of mine, who I’ve grown exponentially fond of in the last year. The "it" he is referring to is the constant reiteration of my plans for the near future, which will take me out of LA for extended periods of time. He feels I am so focused on what is to come that I am missing out on what is in front of me.

He’s right.

Have you ever been driving down the expressway, just thinking to yourself, and five minutes will pass before you snap out of it and realize you don’t remember a thing about the last five miles? The people at Psychology Today refer to this as mindlessness, “times when you’re so lost in your thoughts that you aren’t aware of your present experience.”

"The compulsive thinker, which means almost everyone, lives in a state of apparent separateness, in an insanely complex world of continuous problems and conflict, a world that reflects the ever-increasing fragmentation of the mind." - Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now

Is it possible to be mindless for months at a time? To set a goal for yourself and be so focused on accomplishing it that you lose yourself along the way? I seem to have no problem living in the moment when I’m in the moment I want to be living in. It’s when I’m anxious, hungry, and determined to get to the next level that I get tunnel vision.

An article I read in the Times Online sums it up well, “Putting your life on hold, in the belief that this job, this thing, this event, will magically make it all right, holds no chance of peace. Noticing what is right under your nose — which is the wonder of being alive in a world already full of possibilities — brings riches no material item ever can.”

There’s got to be a balance between being ambitious and being content, and I have a feeling it involves prying yourself away from the burden of the constant distractions that seep in and actively concentrating on quieting your mind and appreciating the present moment, also know as mindfulness.

It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.” - Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist Monk

According to Psychology Today, “cultivating a nonjudgmental awareness of the present bestows a host of benefits. Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment reduces the risk of heart disease.”

Great, now we know why we should live in the moment… so, how do we do it?

3 TIPS FOR LIVING IN THE MOMENT

1. Breathe

Mindfulness may not be a natural impulse, but it can be accomplished by something as simple as breathing. Pay attention to the air you are taking in and releasing. Do not let any other thoughts creep in and take you away from just focusing on your breath.

This silence will calm your mind and bring you to the present moment. I know this from practicing yoga, but I recently made a conscious effort to remind myself to do this on a daily basis and I’ve discovered it can quickly become an innate impulse that instantly snaps you out of over-thinking.

2. Realize you are here, now

Is your life a big ‘fill in the blank’? When ______ happens, I will feel like myself again. If only ______ didn’t happen, everything would be different. When I get ______ I will be happy. Delete these thoughts from your head and fight like hell to not let them reappear.

Let go of past mistakes and future worries and accept the fact that the moment at hand is the only one that really matters. Don’t let something that happened before dictate who you are today. Don’t be afraid to say yes to something now because of something that may or may not happen down the line. Yesterday no longer exists and tomorrow is not guaranteed. The moment is now, live with intention and without regret. Begin each day as if it were on purpose.

3. Stop and smell the roses

In the words of Ferris Bueller, “life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Practice mindfulness in everyday activities. Where are you right now? What do you see? What do you hear? What are you touching? Take it all in.

Go for a walk and look at the world around you, there is beauty to be found. In the shower, pay attention to the water as it splashes against your skin. Put on some music and dance around the room as if no one is watching. Spend some time with little kids and animals, both who have the natural instinct to enjoy life in the moment. Practice bringing your awareness back to your physical existence.

My grandpa is good at this. I always catch him staring out his window at the lake he lives on, watching the hummingbirds, bluejays, and robins that constantly flutter between various bird feeders he set up years ago.

I often find myself following his gaze, taking in the serenity of the view; the hummingbird weaving intricate patterns in the air gracefully searching for the best place to drink, endless waves quietly lapping the shore in the background, and the occasional squirrel perched on the deck, picking at a single kernel of dried corn between its paws.

It is in those moments when I am fully aware of the world around me that I find peace within myself.

Giving Up Coffee?!

40 Days. That’s how long I will be going without coffee starting yesterday. Instead of feeling deprived, I feel somewhat empowered. It all started in January when I decided to improve my overall self. I took a look at my habits with eating, spending, leisure, and exercise and realized I needed a bit of an overhaul.

Suddenly, I could no longer vouch for my daily $3 Coffee Bean fix. So I swapped my grande soy iced-coffee for my homemade almost-as-fancy-but-definitely-not-as-yummy french press, saving about $75 a month. Progress.

But then I picked up a copy of a little book called “Skinny Bitch” by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnoiun which told me bluntly in chapter 1 that if I can’t live without my morning cup of coffee (guilty) I am either “addicted to caffeine, sleep deprived, or a generally unhealthy slob.” Gulp. Intrigued, and slightly insulted, I read on.

It turns out in addition to delivering that lovely buzz, caffeine can cause digestive problems, peptic ulcers, depression, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention it raises stress hormone levels and inhibits important enzyme systems that are responsible for cleaning the body. The icing on the cake? Coffee is acidic and acidic foods cause your body to produce fat cells in order to keep the acid away from your organs.

Perhaps I’m in denial, but I don’t (want to) believe that coffee in moderation will make me sick, fat, and unhappy. However the book did open my eyes to the fact that my morning cup of joe isn’t exactly an occasional indulgence, but rather a habitual reliance, one that I decided I’m fully capable of weaning myself off of.

Hence my 40 day strike. I’m hoping that gives my body enough time to detox, regroup, and un-addict itself to coffee so that I can reacquaint myself with it at a later date as a stronger version of my former self who enjoys but does not depend on her morning fix.

Be Impeccable With Your Word

It’s Saturday and I’ve agreed to attend a housewarming party, a birthday party, and a concert, all on the same night. I’ve come down with a cold, and sexy voice or not, the runny nose and sore throat are key indicators that I should ditch everything and dive under my down comforter for 12 hours with a bottle of Nyquil.

My best friend that was supposed to be my partner-in-crime has opted out of being my best friend tonight, which means I’ll be attending the festivities sick and all by my lonesome. Oh, and to top it off my hand is not communicating very well with the scorching hot curling iron it’s holding, thus I’ve somehow managed to aquire two scarlet-red burns on my ear and forehead, respectively. At this point I’m pretty certain it’s my omen to cancel.

But I said I would go, and the guilt from the mere thought of backing out is eating me away. Ever since I read “The Four Agreements” and Don Miguel Ruiz told me to be impeccable with my word, I made a pact with myself to do just that. That means when you commit to something, you must follow through, says the voice of the little angel (devil?) sitting on my shoulder.

It also means there is no “try”, you either say yes or no, to which I have to remind myself (the girl who loves to please other people), to choose my words carefully so that I continuously under-promise and over-deliver. As opposed to triple-committing to equally important events all occuring in the same time frame (mental note).

Well, I made it to the house-warming party, long enough to see my hair guru’s gorgeous new abode and spot a certain A-list celebrity canoodling with her drool-worthy boyfriend in the corner. Thirty minutes later I am across town at The Roxy, catching up with a bunch of familiar faces at After Midnight Project’s long-overdue hometown gig.

Then 1 a.m. rolls around and all the energy I’ve mustered quickly disipates, my sexy voice has turned into the voice of an old woman who has just smoked fifteen packs of cigerettes, and I swear I hear my bed whispering my name. Guilt washes over me as I realize there is no way I’m making the birthday party.

I text my friend a sincere apology and quickly interpret his no-reply as him hating me forever. I climb into my warm, forgiving bed that never seems to mind when I abandon it and pull the covers over my head in shame. Resolutions are a work in progress, I suppose.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It’s been pouring for 5 days straight in Los Angeles, but as I write this, the rain has stopped just long enough for the sun to peak through the dark gray clouds as if to remind me that it still exists.

I have hope. Just as I trust the sun to always return, I believe things will always get better than they are. Even as the rain pelts down on this gloomy city, I find myself staring up at the dim sky, searching for rainbows. There is always beauty in despair.

Even in the tragic aftermath of Haiti’s 7.0 earthquake, we are reminded of hope. Millions of people have come together giving their money, time, expertise, talent, and voices, making it their mission to help Haiti rebuild. And rebuild, it will.

This is hope. A belief that no matter how bad things are, if we commit to the belief that things can get better, we can rebuild, renew, and reveal a greater tomorrow. Hope is engrained in the DNA of humanity and tends to shine brightest in the darkness of adversity.

What are you facing in your own life? Dig deep beneath the surface of an obvious solution and tell me what it is you really need. Is your problem that you need a job? Don’t just tell me you need a job. Think about what you want out of that job and what it means to you, that’s what you need.

You need a career that will give you stability, financial security, health benefits, and a sense of accomplishment and self worth where you feel satisfied both intellectually and emotionally and where you are nurturing your passion while being encouraged to grow.

Is your relationship hitting a dead end? I’m sure you can tell me about what the other person is doing wrong, but what about what you are doing? Maybe you are doing everything right except not walking away from it.

The only relationship you need to be in is one where you are mutually benefitting one another and contributing positivity to one another’s lives, where you are committed to making the relationship work, where you are both invested but not dependent in the other person, and where you thrive as a team more-so than as individuals. Otherwise, what’s the point?

So have you figured out the true problem? If so, you’ve already figured out the solution. Daunting?  It doesn’t have to be. “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” - St. Francis of Assisi

New Year, New You

It’s a new year and the beginning of a new decade… if we ever needed an excuse to start over, the universe is handing it to us on a silver platter. So what are you going to do differently this year? I’m talking more revolution than resolution, the kind of momentous overthrow that delivers results that change your life. “2010” has that kind of epic ring to it, don’t you think?

5 Ways to Get a Fresh Start

1. Forgive Yourself

Chances are, you’re not perfect (though some people I’ve met would argue otherwise). Here’s the thing, we all make mistakes, some bigger than others, but at the end of the day if it doesn’t kill us, it will make us stronger. If you’re one of those people that lie awake at night beating yourself up over what could have been, make an active choice to stop torturing yourself for being human.

Take one last honest assessment of what is eating you away, be as objective as possible and determine the lesson God’s trying to teach you. Write that lesson down, learn it, live it, breathe it, and you will be a better person for it. If you don’t one day become grateful for that mistake you made, at least you will be grateful for the lesson.

2. Be Happy

Easier said than done sometimes, even for an eternal optimist like myself. The trick is remembering what (or who) truly makes you happy, and disconnecting from things (or people) that deliver a false sense of contentment. If you can’t remember anymore, it’s time to put yourself out there and experience new things.

Like yoga, or if you’re brave enough, my personal favorite Bikram Yoga where not a shred of personal anxiety remains after you spend an hour-and-a-half sweating your butt off in a 105 degree room full of half naked people. Not to mention the endorphins your body gets from working out. Point is, figure out what makes you happy and go after it. You owe it to yourself to be happy, and you’re the only person that can make it happen.

3. Remember: It’s Not Personal

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Strive to always do what is right - not in the eyes of others, but in your own heart. Other’s thoughts are transitory. One moment they will love you, the next they will not. Act on what is right in your own heart, and there will be victory.”

I can’t sum it up better than that, but I can tell you that it took me a long time to realize this and if I would have gotten it through my thick head sooner it would have saved me a lot of time, tears, and pointless analyzing. Don’t let other people’s perception of you be your reality.

4. Reinvent Yourself

Now is the time to rewrite your own script and commit to the person you want to become. Think about those things on your bucket list that you’re hoping to check off… what are you waiting for? Dreaming of starting your own company? Put your plan in action, that company isn’t going to start itself. Wish you weren’t chronically late? Realize that other people’s time is just as valuable as your own and become that person that shows up when they say they will. Hoping to make six figures this year? What are you sacrificing to make that a reality?

There’s a great tool I stumbled upon at http://www.futureme.org that might inspire you to put your hopes and dreams into words, and ultimately into action. On the site you write a letter congratulating your future self for accomplishing all these goals you set for yourself way back in 2010. When you get that letter a year (or five) from now, you will see where you measure up against who you hoped to become. Hopefully you surpass your own expectations.

5. Take Baby Steps

Define for yourself what a fresh start would mean to you, and then realize that the Egyptian Pyramids weren’t built in a day. Make one small step in the right direction, understand that it is going to take time, and don’t give up on yourself the second you mess up. Remind yourself of the Japanese proverb, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

If a fresh start to you means losing weight, remember that you didn’t put that extra hundred pounds on in a month and you can’t expect your body to lose it that quickly either. Decide on your first step, and commit to it. Build up your confidence and challenge yourself, but give your body time to adapt. Setting a big goal for yourself can be daunting, but if you break it down into smaller steps it will become manageable.

blog comments powered by Disqus