A Beautiful Life Starts With a Beautiful Day

A lot of times we catch ourselves thinking about how our lives could be different and about all of the ways we are trying to improve it to reflect our own self-expression. We can sometimes get carried away with all of the potentiality that we may cause ourselves to be unhappy with our current lives. It can be easy to fall into the mindset of asking ourselves, “When will it be my turn?” or “Am I there yet?”.

I’ll tell you a secret: You’re never there. There will always be something to yearn for, to keep you reaching. There’s no end point, until it all ends. It’s human nature.

To prevent this reality from burning me out, it’s crucial to take experience your beautiful life day by day. It’s certainly exciting to see your beautiful life unfold before you in big, dramatic ways, but most days aren’t filled with highly compelling events (despite what social media may depict). But this doesn’t mean that each day doesn’t bring its own little opportunities for joy and excitement.

For example, I can’t wait for the day when I can finally work from home without commuting to work for three hours a day. But until that day comes I use this time to listen to my favorite podcasts and audio books and boost my mood by singing in the car. I would also love to go back to living in France one day so I find ways to bring France to me. I listen to French songs, read French books, watch French movies, drink my morning café just like how I remember it was and enjoy French treats from a local shop that imports them. Doing these actions makes me feel as if I am living the life I truly want which puts me in a mindset of gratitude and positivity.

The life you envision for yourself will certainly be different, but it’s all about moving closer to the sensations that we wish to experience by finding ways to experience the same delight within the lives we have now. Doing so not only makes our lives shift faster in the direction we want, but makes the process feel easy and fun.

If you find that thinking about your dream life is making you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, then try to incorporate one new action into your day that will make you feel as if you’re already there. Like I said, there’s no destination so you may as well find a way to enjoy the ride one day at a time.

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Motivational Monday: Have Low Expectations

You might have heard that one key to finding happiness is to keep your expectations low. But on the other hand you are also told to keep goals and grind, hustle and work towards the life of your dreams.. How can these two attitudes exist at the same time in our heads and why is it important to do so?

Let’s start with the more obvious one which is the purpose of having goals and a vision for your life. If you don’t have a plan, you are almost certainly planing to fail. Goals allow us to focus our energy in a certain direction and know when we are progressing so that we can appreciate all that we have accomplished. A vision motivates us to continue trying when it is tempting to stop, which builds character and resilience.

With all of the benefits that are gained from keeping a lofty vision, what is meant when we are told to have low expectations or to let go of resistance? Isn’t this contradictory to the “never give up”, “keep on hustling” mindset? No. This attitude is not talking about lowering our standards for our life, it’s talking about not becoming emotionally attached to an outcome that is beyond our control. Visions are a combination of controllable efforts on our part and trust and faith that the other parts will fall into place. For example, if your goal is to get promoted to a certain position there are many controllable aspects that you will put effort into such as: discussing a career plan with your immediate manager, networking with people in that department, developing skills that will be pertinent in that position, and beefing up your resume with applicable experience and achievements.  However, there are so many pieces of this goal that are uncontrollable such as: the merits of the other candidates, whether or not the position actually comes available, or even if your interviewer actually likes you or not. Both the controllable and uncontrollable aspects combined bring you an outcome but the only expectations you should have about the process is what is within your control. It is a meaningless expense of emotional energy to attach yourself to an outcome that is ultimately not up to you. Another reason to keep yourself unattached to a result is because you never know what other, better opportunities may be given to you in the future as a result of something not going the way you envisioned. Life is unpredictable, and that includes being unpredictable in a good way!

Aiming high but having low expectations should be rephrased as aiming high but leaving options open because that’s really what it is. This sort of attitude keeps your motivation focused and attracts better opportunities even in the face of less than ideal outcomes. A healthy attitude toward life is to remain open and optimistic because you never know what’s waiting around the corner. Release yourself from unreasonable expectations and focus on your efforts and before you know it, life will be running towards you instead of you chasing after it.

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Getting Rid of FOMO

Fear of missing out. We’ve all experienced it. Probably while scrolling through our instagram feed. Ha! I used to experience it when I would use social media and see beautiful pictures of people living it up in foreign countries or drool-worthy walk-in closets filled with luxury purses (purses are my weakness). But now, instead of letting those images fester into jealousy or discontent, I use them as a source of inspiration and celebration and here’s how you can too without avoiding social media.

Reconfigure the purpose of social media

Its up to you to define what purpose social media has in your life. For some people, unfortunately, it can be a source of competition and constant one-up-manship. They spend so much precious time looking at pictures and videos that they create a very negative narrative in their head and it goes something like this: “My life sucks, I don’t have as much stuff as so-and-so, I don’t get to go or do all the cool things that so-and-so does, if I want to live the good life then I need to do/have/be what so-and-so does/has/is”.

The funny thing is even if you were to have the same things or do the same things as that other person, there will always be someone else doing and having “more”. There is a hadith that says,

If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would want to have two valleys.”

Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6075, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1048

Instead of letting all those photos let you grow so utterly dissatisfied with your own, see them as a source of inspiration and a celebration of beauty that propel you to find your own beauty in your life. Or, even better just as what it is — a picture on the internet. After all you don’t really know that person or what their life is like in reality. A beautiful life is made in the small moments and details, not by owning all of the things.

 Imagine yourself in that picture

This is a good one. Whenever you see something that is starting to give you FOMO, fully and completely start imagining yourself in the reality of that situation to see if that’s something that will actually bring you joy. If it does, then see the paragraph above and find a way to bring that into your life, but I bet that most of the time it won’t bring you true joy.

For example, luxury cars a big hit on instagram. Girls and guys pose next to their(?) Masertis and Lambourghinis with all sorts of custom work done. It’s looks pretty cool but let’s think of the reality of owning that sort of vehicle.

  1. Insurance costs: A cursory search online shows that a Lambourghini insurance quote ranges anywhere from $5000 to $20000 a year.
  2. Maintenance costs: Again, looking online in 2014 it cost around $30000 annually for maintain a Lambourghini. This includes a $400 oil change. And I thought my $80 oil change was expensive!
  3. The daily realities of driving this vehicle: If I were driving this car, I would be worried about getting in an accident and getting ripped off by the other person. Also, there’s the constant anxiety I would get when parking or leaving it unattended. Some kid could accidentally (or purposely) nick or scratch it while taking a picture of themselves with it to put on Instagram, ha!

This method always works pretty well for me. By the time I’m done thinking about the whole situation I’m content with letting so-and-so have their picture online for me to enjoy and having them deal with the daily reality of that picture.

Know yourself and make a plan

Using the two methods above will allow you to know what truly makes you feel happy and alive. Just because something is popular online (see above: Lambourghini example) doesn’t mean that its what would make you feel like you’re living life to the fullest. In fact, I believe if we allowed ourselves to let go of what we “should” think is cool and fun, but instead explored our own tastes and interests, we would experience so much more than what may be “trending”. So, if you find yourself lusting over someone else’s life, I mean, truly and deeply wanting to share similar experiences, then simply make a plan and allow yourself to have that. Nothing is impossible, most people just aren’t patient enough!

Log off and connect with yourself

This one is self-explanatory. If you find yourself getting worked up and obsessive about some pictures on the internet, simply log off. Do something that you like such as exercise, read, cook some food — just change the scenery. There’s no need to get stressed out about some silly pictures of someone else’s life because your life is too short to be anything but happy and beautiful as often as possible. Bring your emotions back in check and reconnect with your balance. You are what you think about and if you keep approaching life from an angle of lack and resistance, that’s what you will get. Instead, find something that expands and lifts your spirit and you’ll be back to yourself in no time.

This is my advice for ridding yourself of FOMO. Its such a silly emotion that is unfortunately so common these days, but I hope that this will help you or someone else you know start living their own beautiful life instead of observing someone else’s.

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Why You Can’t Keep Resolutions

My plans for New Year’s Eve evening include a chilled bottle of Martinelli’s Apple Cider, deliciously warm and buttery popcorn and some much needed relaxation and pampering in the form of watching one of my favorite movies, “French Kiss” with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. It’s an oldie, but it never fails to get me in a good mood.
To be perfectly honest, this evening has never held any special appeal to me. I’m not one for crowds or loud cheering, so partying it up is out of the question, I need my beauty sleep so staying up late is a no, and I never wait until a new year to invite change into my life. All of this talk about New Year resolutions bore me to tears as well. Who actually gets excited about losing weight?
And yet, I admit that there is some special reflecting that happens this time of the year. I love the feel and experience of a new planner and a new year asks us to intentionally and deeply think about what we’ve done and what’s to come. But too often I see people create and rush into goals that aren’t truly exciting and enlivening to their souls and inevitably by the time we get to mid-January those goals are abandoned.
This year I challenge you to breathe some love and elegance into your resolutions…
Instead of saving more money and paying off debt, why don’t you commit to finding ways to savor quality and implement a higher standard of allowing only what you truly value into your life?
Instead of finally losing those pesky 10 pounds, why don’t you fall deeply in love with yourself by enjoying only the best foods that would be fit for a queen?
Instead of quitting drinking and smoking, let’s learn to appreciate the amazing things that our body does for us everyday and show our gratitude by making healthful choices everyday.
It’s clear which version of these goals will give you the energy to be inspired to make a lasting change in your life. As long as you approach your resolutions from a space of love and belief you’ll be led — not pushed or dragged — into whatever person you want to be.
I wish you health and happiness in this new year!
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Getting Clean: Be Honest About Your Motivations

Let’s be honest.

I’d wager that more often than you think, the interactions you have with people in your life have a secret agenda behind them. Without us really being conscious of them, we make decisions based on motivations that are impure.

So what’s the big deal?

Keeping secrets has actually been proven to be harmful to our brain. Neuroscientists believe that it is better for us to either confess our secrets or not participate in keeping them at all. The reason for this involves a lot of complicated medical terminology but basically, it stresses your brain out. It puts your brain in a limbo because a part of the brain that is in charge of our emotional responses is also wired to tell the truth. Whenever you become privy to something secret, this part of the brain starts telling all the other parts of the brain to tell it and get it out so that it can do more important things like learning. When you don’t tell the secret and keep it locked in because you don’t want to hurt someone you prevent this part of the brain from working regularly and it becomes stressed. This can lead to some pretty unpleasant effects such as a low immune system, high blood pressure, memory loss, increase in the stress hormone coritsol and gastrointestinal and metabolic issues.

With that said, let’s get clean by following the steps below:

Step One

Pick something coming up in your schedule that you’ve committed to doing. Maybe you don’t have anything planned for this weekend, but you have to go to work on Monday morning. That’s fine — any commitment will do.

Step Two

Keeping this commitment in your mind, think about why you are doing it. I want you to ignore that first reason that pops up in your head — “because I have to” — and really go deep with this. Maybe you go to work because you need the money, because you want the recognition from your boss, but its mostly because you want the approval of your family. Who knows? Only you do, so think hard and find the reason that feels the most true.

Step Three

Now that you have the real motivation, think about what you let others think about why you are doing what you are doing. Using the example for going to work, if the real motivation is the paycheck, you may make your boss think that you love working for him or the company or it’s such a great opportunity to learn and grow and blah blah blah. If there is a disconnect between the reason in step two and this step, then you’re keeping a secret.

Step Four

Now that you have found a hidden disconnect — a secret — in your life, it won’t do to just sweep it under the rug. You’ve only just begun to clean up your motivations so to keep on going you have to be truthful to yourself. You can tell your boss that you love your job, but remember that you’re here for the paycheck. You can tell your friend that “No, that dress doesn’t make you look fat, but perhaps this dress will accentuate your body better”, but understand the reasons why you tell her that — because you value her friendship and companionship more than your opinions on her wardrobe choices.

Once you continue following the steps above as often as you can in your life, you will more easily live your truth and begin to attract people and interactions that bring out your pure motivations instead of people and situations that make you perpetuate a web of deception. In fact, this is the reason why therapy, whether it’s journaling or speaking with a professional doctor, is so helpful. By staying attuned to the real motivations in your own interactions,  you can quickly identify the motivations of others and their hidden agendas and intelligently make decisions to avoid involving yourself in situations that may compromise your truth. You’ll start to feel freer and lighter as you unravel the web of manipulation that tangled your brain and you’ll be able to use that boost of energy to focus on living your life the way you truly love surrounded with people who truly love you.

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Your Life is Your Masterpiece

There’s the simple fact of life that everyone will die one day. No matter what divergences exist that separate our lives from one another, everyone of us will end the same way. However, its no use being glum about it — we might as well have a nice time and make something of ourselves until it happens to us.

That’s what I wanted to write about today — about the middle part between birth and death and the attention to detail that make it mean something.

Some people think that there’s no point in doing anything at all or no meaning in what we do because it will all be for nothing in the end. Our flesh and bones will have turned to dust, our belongings will belong to us no more and our memories and experiences will have gone from us and the world.

I disagree with the last part.

Every life matters and will have mattered when it ends. We do take something with us when we leave this world. We take with us to the grave our deeds.

Your life is the only thing you have and the details that you tend to make up that life. We all need to be mindful of where we place our thoughts and importance on things both big and small because no man is an island. What each of us does with our lives has a rippling effect and has influence far beyond what we will ever know.

You need to know what is important to you and find ways to live that out everyday. If you don’t know, its inevitable that you will allow others to make that choice for you and you will not have lived the life you could have lived and made the impact that you could have made. There is nothing more tragic than a wasted life.

Find your direction, find your conviction. Your life is your masterpiece that will endure long after you.

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Candlelight Dinner for One? Yes, please.

I eat dinner alone most of the time.

Not because I’m single or friendless, but because while my husband is content with chowing down in front of the T.V. while nestling on the couch, I absolutely insist on eating dinner at a table that is fully set with plates, silverware, cloth napkins and candlelight.

I can understand that most people, including my husband, might find this ritual out-dated, unnecessary and tiresome. After all, after a long day’s work in this society’s hustle and bustle, what can be more comfortable and relaxing than eating some food and zoning out in front of a screen? The promise of a comfy and cozy body and stomach and easy entertainment can be too much for some people to give up.

I have my grandmother to thank for my peculiar dinner habits. She was Austrian. By that I mean that she was born in Austria and came through Ellis Island with her mother and younger sister on a boat that left from Germany. I spent a lot of time with her during my formative years and I remember her as being one of the most elegant and sophisticated women I ever had the privilege of knowing. She had such class and a sense of decorum about everything that she did and she is the reason why I dine the way I do. Without fail, for every meal she would have me help her set the table while she put the finishing touches on a delicious and nutritious meal. This included all of silverware (all of it!), cloth napkins, place mats, dishes and flowers for breakfast and lunch but a candle for dinner.

When I was a young child and helping her with this, it seemed like such a chore. Now that I am older and she is no longer with us, I remember her whenever I complete my evening ritual. I find that I also eat better and slower than my husband and I don’t think this is a coincidence. I know that there a many people that promote this “slow food” lifestyle, and I’m glad to have been exposed to it from a young age by my grandmother.

It is truly amazing how the simple and shared act of preparing a dinner table can have such lifelong effects on someone. I hope that one day if I have any children, that they’ll take after me and learn to acquire this ritual.

What rituals do you have that are important to you?

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