I haven't felt compelled to write in here for a long time. However, today one of my former mentors, Patrick Combs, asked the following question, and as it was very timely and relevant to a situation in my life, I responded, and wanted to share my response as well as additional thoughts on the question.
What is your best habit or trait for success? What has resulted in the most success for you?I would like to preface my response by saying that while there is success and failure in all different aspects of my life, when I read this question my thoughts went to success within myself and how I treat other people and the world, and that is how I would like to respond.
For me it's about my personal relationships, as they affect everything I do. When something goes wrong, I figure out the root of the issue, try and place myself in the position of the other person or people involved, and always give them the benefit of the doubt. If I am angry at someone, I figure out what qualities in myself have brought out that anger. By placing the responsibility on myself to determine the way I feel and interact with the situation, I am able to handle things calmly, kindly, and with the right degree of importance. I incorporate the same practice into my goals and experiences. If something goes wrong, or I fail, I re-frame what happened so that it turns into a positive learning experience. This isn't always easy, but if I am persistent about it, every outcome eventually takes on a degree of positivity and I am able to move forward.
It has taken me every single day of my 21 and a half years to get to this point. I have gone through many cycles of depression, battled countless insecurities, and spent many days feeling worthless. I am nowhere near perfect. I have done hurtful things, I have lashed out in anger, and I have isolated myself and rejected everyone who cares about me.
But that is my past, and my response above is what I am working on in order to construct my present and my future. I experienced a situation a couple of days ago that gave me the opportunity to see just how far I have come from the person I used to be. In order to keep anonymity for the other person involved I will not go into details, but this was a situation in which I could easily have been cast as a victim. My initial reaction was to be angry, to cut the other person down with biting words that would tear down their character.
Instead, I took a step back. I was fortunate enough to be able to put a bit of time and distance between myself and the situation, but I was able to compose my thoughts and my feelings enough through journaling, exercise, and meditation in order to respond to the situation calmly and without creating more trouble.
Getting angry and being a victim may feel good in the short term, but overall not only does it not solve anything, but it may escalate a situation even further. The person in question apologized and asked for my forgiveness. And while this does not excuse this person's actions, I understand that this person was not trying to hurt me, and that this person would have to live with their actions, while it was completely in my control how I responded and felt about what had happened. So I forgave this person. I impressed upon this person that what had occurred was not okay, but love and kindness are what matter far more than anger and cruelty.
By forgiving this person, I was able to forgive myself for my part in the experience, and I was able to let go of what may have been a lot of pain and darkness. I am not beyond the situation yet, nor will things between me and this person remain the same, but I can remain centered and myself, integrity and self-awareness in tact.
Lastly, in order to continue to feel love for this person as a human, I found a way in which I could thank this person for what had happened, even if I was only thanking them in my head. I thanked this person for the opportunity to test my inner strength and my self respect, as well as for letting me down- because by letting me down, this person made it necessary for me to acquire the tools and resources to pick myself back up.
Bringing this back to the question of success, it is experiences like this that pull me through hard work, frustrations, and failures. By being able to turn any situation into a positive, growing experience, I am able to persist, have breakthroughs, sustain love for every living thing, and keep being inspired by all of the beautiful things in the world.
A couple of days ago, I saw this blog post on twitter: Living a Good Story, and Alternative to New Years Resolutions. I have always had a slight aversion to New Year's resolutions- if I want to change something I should just do it, instead of using the convenient excuse of a new year. However, when new things come around, like birthdays, new years, changing seasons, etc., inevitably it is a time of reflection and a time to hope for change in our lives. This post spoke to me because the basics of what it talks about are that setting goals isn't enough. We need to create a narrative around the goal so that we will commit to it and fulfill the climactic result of this narrative.
Now, I love goal setting, when it's done right. In my early teens I was taught to set goals with these steps:
* Positive outcome
* Present tense
* Date accomplished by
For example, instead of saying, "I will get straight A's this quarter", my goal would be "I have a 4.0 GPA on March 18th, 2010". Or, instead of "I'm going to lose x amount of weight", my goal would be "I am a healthy, active, fit, XXX pound woman by June 1, 2010".
Giving our brains a positive mental image and a deadline makes it much easier to stick to goals. But this post takes it several steps further, in a direction I really enjoy.
His steps are:
1. Want something
2. Envision a climactic scene
3. Create an inciting incident (find a way to hold yourself accountable)
For that first goal, I could go beyond that and picture myself on graduation day, graduation summa cum laude (with highest honors) and vividly imagine how good that will feel, and how proud of me my parents will be, etc. etc. To ensure that this will happen, I have already told my parents that I will be graduating summa cum laude. No way I can go back on that now!
For the second, even though I am not concerned about weight I would like to get into ridiculously great shape this year. I am imagining myself beating my half marathon time twice (I think I'm going to run two this year) and scaling peaks around Colorado, where I am moving at the end of the summer, and knowing that I have to be in great shape to do both of those. As for the half marathon, I am running the first with somebody and plan on sharing my goals with several people so that they will help hold me accountable. As for the mountain climbing, I've talked to my friends out there and told them to be ready. Which subsequently means that I have to be ready.
I'm excited to sit down and write out in detail all of my stories for the coming year, and to figure out all of the things I'm going to have to do, all of the conflicts and struggles I will have to endure in order to make these stories happen. I like the idea that I am still pursuing my goals but that I am creating meaning beyond my mind and beyond myself for them. I also like that when all of this is accomplished I'll be able to look back on my year with satisfaction.
What does your 2010 story look like? What moments will make it great?
I was just reading my old online diary, and I came across the following list from June 29, 2003:
32 Things To Do...
Hmm well this is my 32nd entry of 2003...so I decided to make a "32 things to do before I am 32" list. Here goes:
1. Go to college *
2. Find a 4-leaf clover *
3. Write a novel
4. Become fluent in Spanish *
5. Be on a game show
6. Learn HTML (more than basics) *
7. Get a degree in design *
8. Have my own clothing line
9. Become fluent in French, Italian, German, and Portuguese...to name a few.
10. Learn to skateboard
11. Study abroad *
12. Be a camp counselor
13. Meet INCUBUS
14. Live in New York
15. Learn Karate
16. Organize my bookshelf *
17. Go to every state in the US
18. Own 500 CDs
19. Read all of Shakespeare's plays
20. Make a million dollars
21. Design a building
22. Get married
23. Play golf
24. Travel to Greece
25. Go to all 21 Hispanic countries
26. Go to my 10 year high school reunion
27. Design an amusement park
28. Perform my songs
29. Eat gelato in Italy
30. Invent something
31. Reach my 30th birthday
32. Discover who I am.
*** (* denotes something I have achieved or have almost achieved)
Now this is incredible to me. It's so easy to forget the details, and while sometimes it is really really hard for me to go back and read past journal entries, poetry, etc., at other times its amazing to be reading this and still see ME so clearly. Sure, if I were to remake this list some things would change, but the essence is still there. I feel like I'm at a really exciting time in my life. A huge phase (full-time school) is about to end. I have been in school for as long as I can really remember. And I like to remember, sometimes. Sometimes when I go back and re-read my words, re-experience my pain, my frustration, my uncertainty it kills me that I can't reach out to the person writing, letting her know it's going to turn out okay, even if some of the same frustrations and insecurities are still there. But at the same time it heals me, knowing how much more capable I am of dealing with it, and when I come across entries like this I am glad that that girl survived and makes up a vital part of my life. It's never too late to nurture my inner teenager. She still appreciates the attention.
Last night I was reading a blog post at Cranky Fitness and they were addressing something that has been addressed many times before: women and body image. As women we are given societal clues that we will never be thin enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, or good enough. I've touched on this before, in my Celebration of Me post, but sometimes it feels like it's not enough. So last night I made a list of things I love about my body and would like to share that now:
Things I love about my body:
- My hair is awesomely wavy. All I have to do is occasionally wash and comb it for it to look good.
- My eyes are extremely blue, and with them I view the world, notice details and vibrant colors, express unspoken sentiments and witness beauty all around me.
- I love my neck for being long and strong, and for holding my head which contains my mind.
- I appreciate my shoulders for carrying all of my stress and tension, and for supporting my arms and any weight that I carry.
- My arms are strong and flexible, able to do many push-ups and chatarangas. They also can carry my groceries the mile back to my apartment.
- I am incredibly thankful for my hands and fingers. Their dexterity, muscle memory, and strength allow for hours of writing, drawing, painting, typing, playing guitar, playing other instruments, crafting, and all sorts of other skills requiring the slightest of movements and great control.
- I love my spine for keeping me upright and in line, and for notifying me when something is out of balance in my body.
- I love my abs and my stomach for propelling me though the day, for being able to hold a plank for more than 2 minutes, and for keeping me warm.
- **One more thing I love about my arms, back and shoulders** Thank you for the ability to accurately and consistently throw a disc and for always remembering how.
- I love my hips for containing my womb, and for holding my emotions and supporting me, even when I let them get way too tight.
- I love my legs for carrying me through a half marathon, for their strength and speed when I play ultimate, and for bringing me everywhere I go.
- I love my butt for providing me a padded seat, and my glutes for being really strong.
- I love my knees for overcompensating for my weaker hamstrings and hip flexors. I also love them for remaining intact after several injuries.
- I love my feet for bearing my weight, and for being strong, and for putting up with my obsessive nail picking.
- I love my bones, my muscles, my veins, my organs, my tendons and ligaments, my glands and nodes. I love my joins, my skin, my nails, my teeth, the fluids that run through my body, and my freckles.
- I love it all, because it is mine.
I started this blog as a way to voice my philosophies and thoughts on life, as well as a place I could put my experiences within a potentially larger context. It's interesting how relentlessly positive I was this past summer, and how I have been struggling with optimism for the past couple of months. It has been hard to place my shadowy unhappiness- it only appears sometimes, or as an accumulation of way too much going on in my life.
I think I started to feel less whole sometime around mid-October, though it's not really something I can place, as I didn't notice it until I was already deep in it. But logically, mid-October sounds right. I let myself take on way too much, and left very little time for myself. I was taking five classes, 4 of which were 300-level, and started my second job at around that time. The last three weeks of school I was a haze of caffeine and energy bars. I was mentally exhausted and foggy, and was sapped of the majority of my joy and energy. I got really sick around mid-October as well- the swine flu, actually, and I never completely recovered from all of the work that piled up around me during that time.
Every few months I get run down because I let myself take on too much. I stretch myself too thin, and forget to think about my own health. I lose sleep, only excercise sporadically, eat a lot of processed foods, drink coffee like it's water and eventually my body shuts down from the stress.
I will not allow myself to do this anymore. I am going to work on being realistic about how much time I can commit to outside activities. I am currently working on decreasing stressors in my life. It is easier at the moment because I am on break, but it is also difficult to release habits and tendencies that are so ingrained into me.
Current stressors (to name a few):
- Projects hanging over my head (including my thesis)
- Money issues
- Diet (my nutritional intake these days is far from optimal, even if healthy)
- Overexercising and then underexercising
- Being alone a lot
- Eat out way less and plan my meals in advance for a lighter grocery bill and less stress over what to eat
- I have been coffee-free for a week and I have been exhausted. I am going to attempt to limit my consumption to 1-2 cups a day. I refuse to eliminate it completely because I love the taste so much and my life would be less rich without it.
- Less intense exercise daily (under 45 min) compared to 2-3 days a week of intense strength training (1 hour or more). I am also fortunate enough to be taking yoga classes right now, which is fantastic for my body, mind, and spirit.
Basically, taking time for ourselves is essential. Identifying stressors, figuring out what to do about them, doing that and taking time to do what we love will keep balance and peace in our hearts and lives.
After more than a week of not really exercising and eating mainly chips and salsa and peanut butter sandwiches my body was not feeling all that great. As a result, I was not in the best state of mind either. When I get that way I know that the best thing for me is to get up and run but it's also the toughest time to do so. Finally, luckily, last night around 6:30 I couldn't take it anymore and I got up, put on my shoes, and was out the door before I really had the chance to think about it.
Something pretty amazing happened- rather than taking a mile or so to hit my stride and sink in to the run, I felt good right away. Those first few steps really clicked and not only did I feel incredible but I was running significantly faster than I usually do. It was slightly raining and finally cooling off, and as I got to the lakefront path I was feeling really, really good. Something about the rain and the ease with which my body was running helped me relax more than I have in weeks. This may sound cliche but seriously, every step was like my worries and doubts diminished and I became stronger.
I managed to sustain that pace for about four miles, and just as I was starting to get tired I rounded a corner and there was a perfect rainbow over the harbor. It was absolutely beautiful and that unexpected delight gave me enough energy to finish my run feeling good and at a pace faster than I knew that I could do. I don't think I have ever, before yesterday, actually taken the time to consciously be grateful for refraction of light and the ability of our eyes to witness it. But I am so grateful for that, because it allows us to see the world in color, and to perceive all the different hues, tints, shades, and tones that make up our complex realities.
On a different note, I think I am moving into a new phase in my life. I'm not entirely sure why I feel this way, but I can sense that change coming. I'm curious to see what discoveries I make along the way.
Oops I have neglected this blog for the past month! There has been so much going on with me- a lot of great opportunities at work with my design job, so many great ultimate frisbee games and good times with my friends. I have also been moving into a new apartment (I'm finally here and getting settled) and that has been stressful but fun. I also had my 21st birthday this past week, and am so grateful to all of the friends that have come around to celebrate me and wish me well. Thanks to everyone who makes me feel so special every day!
Now that I'm out of that busy transition phase for awhile, hopefully I will have time for more updates. I hope you have all had a great summer so far and are making the most of your August!