Run At Your Our Pace

Dear Self,

When will you really start listening to me? You have more inside of you than you ever acknowledge or embrace! I hope today showed you a valuable life lesson — focus more on running YOUR best race at your own pace. Yes, you used to be able to run 4 to 5 miles everyday but that was 10 years ago when you were in high competition shape. You let life, work, and other things like metabolism and stress bring you to this point. (Ladies and gentleman, it is true…. 2 miles is now a STRUGGLE for this girl. She is not in the competitive or even physical shape that she used to be. In her mind, she thinks that she can get back to that point and knows that she can. However, one thing that she stumbles through sometimes is inconsistency and poor prioritization of self care. If she can finally pass that self-imposed hurdle then she will reach this goal. So far, she has been doing great).

When you first set out in your mind to run 3 miles without stopping today, I said “it’s about time that you get back at it.” But, I was nervous for you because this is not the first time you made this goal in the last year. You’ve started before with a image of ten years ago in your mind. Then, the burn in those legs starts about 0.5 miles in and you hear those voices of doubt telling you to just walk for a few seconds before getting back at it.

There was something different about today. You threw your headphones on and hit the road just as you did in the past. But this time, you said “even if I have to jog at the slowest pace of life, I will not stop” until this Nike Running App say “you have reached your goal.” I know that was a hard decision because you wondered how many people walking and running would wonder why you were running as fast as you could just as well speed walk. I saw you wondering who was looking at you and running past you but you stuck to the game plan. Although you were fighting the thoughts, I know you were worried that someone you know would see you struggling along with your little steps as you ran along the beach.

Oddly enough, with each step something physical and mental re-energized within you. You were finding yourself again because you finally embraced your strength, momentary weakness, and personal pace. What I loved about you today is that you were ready to embrace where you are today! I’ve been trying to tell you this for a while now — where you start is not where you will end. Instead of spending so much time trying to figure out the end (which is impossible to know with certainty), why don’t you continue doing what you did today — focus on learning to embrace the process!

Today, you zoned in, you took a first step (for the likely the 100th time) and you ran slowly, very slowly, at times even embarrassingly slowly. HOWEVER, you completed your goal! You ran 3 miles without stopping once and managed to do it with a huge smile on your face and in your heart. Tomorrow, you will be strong enough to pick up the pace. Then, a year from now you will be even stronger than that. You will never get to your ultimate goal if you don’t complete the process. You will find new determination to never quit once you fully understand that repeated small successes will someday equal big wins.

Life is a race, but you already know this. Don’t spend too much time trying to overanalyze the run. Just run at whatever speed you can push yourself toward today. Some days will be a series of sprints while others will feel like a long endurance training session. The next steps for you are to continue to listen to your life. Learn when you are supposed to sprint and when it is time to regroup and slow things down. Confidently stay in your own lane and focus on your own form and breathing. Your race was designed for YOU. No one else can run it and you cannot run someone else’s journey. Looking to the left and right, worrying about who is passing you and who might catch up are only distractions.

Embrace your own journey. Feel the burn and adjust; don’t feel the burn and quit. You were never meant to run someone else’s race. You were meant to master your own. As the Nike Running App’s Coach Bennett said, “finishing my best doesn’t have to mean finishing first.”

#dearself is a series of blog posts written to my past, present, or future self. To follow the #dearself series, join our email list or follow The Life Me Blog on Facebook and Twitter @thelifemeblog 

Happiness is a Choice Not a Chase 

Dear Self,

Are you happy? You have asked yourself this question so many times throughout your life. Whenever people asked you where you envisioned your life in the future, your answer always included that you wanted “to be happy.” If someone asked you right now where you want to be 5, 10, or 20 years from now, “being happy” would definitely make the list. Sure, it’s a common goal. Then again, who would not want to be happy in this life?

I am OK with you leaving happiness on your list of goals as long as you promise me to remember one important principle — happiness is just as much a choice as it is a chase. There were so many times when you didn’t feel happy. It was sad for me to watch you become increasingly frustrated with not “feeling” happy because happiness is just that — a feeling.

The “feeling” came and went and the other feeling called blah came and went too. I cannot even tell you how many hours, days, weeks, and even months you spent trying to figure out what would make you happy. At times you looked like a deflated happy birthday balloon struggling to hold on to helium. You smiled and wished that people could not detect how frustrated or unhappy you were, but I know you and I knew better.

Yet, look at you now. Time taught you what me and life were trying to teach you all along — happiness is a choice not a chase. Even more, I was trying to show you that happiness is external and joy is something you find within. You were quite hardheaded at times, but you slowly started to learn that you could bring happiness into your life instead of waiting for it to come knocking on your door.  Please do me a favor. Do not go back to being a semi stress hoarder. I am going to need you to eliminate the joy killers in your life one by one.  Do not think for one second that you are going to just coast through life and stumble upon happiness. You are going to need to work at this thing! Even fairytales are not that smooth sailing.

By the way, can I just say one thing before I move on? Child, thank goodness you learned to stop equating people and things to your happiness! You were killing me with that emotional rollercoaster. Ugh! I’m sorry but I had to get that one out. Oh, and another thing… we secretly had a party when you discovered that happiness is not something you need to earn! I’m not sure how you developed that warped thinking. We put that thinking through the lie detector test and it determined that whoever told you that is indeed a liar.

So, now back to business. Your joy is what is going to endure when you have less than you hoped for. You do understand that life may become somewhat unpredictable, right? Well, it will be your choice to continue stamping your life with the hashtag #goodvibesonly.  Yes, good vibes only! Learn to breathe and give your mind a break from ruminating on things that stress, worry, or deplete your happiness. Not just once, but whenever your mind needs it. Breathe baby, breathe.

Honestly, I’m proud of your growth. You’ve moved from chasing happiness to choosing happiness. Now, the goal is to learn to maintain your inner joy among all the different demands of life. Overall, I think you are going to crush this goal. All you need to do is remember some of the things that help you stay in control of your joy.

Remember…

  1. Organize and plan your day as much as a possible. Take control of the things you can and plan for success. This will allow you to make time for things that bring you happiness or at least help you to minimize your stress levels.
  2. Check your stress! Minimize it as much as you can.
  3. Be more conscious of the things that go well versus everything that may go wrong.
  4. Take a few moments to be thankful for both the small and big things in your life.
  5. Let it go. Don’t dwell on the negative for too long. Allow yourself time to mope and then move on. Tomorrow is a new day and this too shall pass.
  6. Be happy for someone else. Happiness is contagious 🙂
  7. Feed your happiness jar. Listen, read, explore, and surround yourself with things/people that inspire and motivate you.
  8. Practice self-care.
  9. Exercise, meditate, and pray.
  10. Be patient and don’t expect perfection; it’s not realistic.

If you can choosing happiness and find that joy inside, I can almost promise you that happiness will keep choosing you.

Dear Reader, how do YOU continue to choose happiness everyday? Comment below! 

#dearself is a series of blog posts written to my past, present, or future self. To follow the #dearself series, join our email list or follow The Life Me Blog on Facebook and Twitter @thelifemeblog 

Read another blog post on Happiness: 10 Steps to Finding Happiness

5 Reasons Finding Inner Peace Is So Important To Your Success

Once upon a time, two people — my mom and dad — decided to have a baby. I had no choice in the matter, or at least that’s what I believed. For those philosophical and spiritual believers out there, I know that you are yelling at the screen right now. “God sent you here for a reason. You have a purpose for being here.” You are right and I believe that. I agree that my life on this planet matters to this world in ways both great and small. I guess the hardest part of life is not necessarily in being born, rather it is in trying to live.

There are so many pressures, messages, challenges, stressors, choices, and factors around us which make living a prosperous, happy, successful, and purposeful life a true journey. The journey is filled with ups and downs, peaks and valleys, highs and lows, and lots of tears and laughter. In the end, it all creates a beautiful story — a mosaic, a masterpiece. However, here is where the choice becomes our own. What colors are we going to paint our masterpiece with — vibrant shades of bright, colorful experiences and joys, or black and white shades of regret, fear, and deprivation?

I have found myself on a journey to answer this very question over the last few years of my life. While life has been quite good overall, I wonder what other colors I still have inside me to paint with. I spent time thinking about some reasons that might prevent me from shining as brightly as it can.

Finding and maintaining your inner peace is something you will have to put energy toward for the rest of your life. However, you will not be able to live this life successfully without it. Find your inner peace, then go paint your life masterpiece.

One thing is certain — the life journey of discoveries, successes, and personal empowerment requires possession and sustainability of a strong sense of inner peace. I’ve always believed that having a strong sense of confidence was the first step to truly pursuing insurmountable goals. From personal experience, I’ve found that finding a sense of inner peace is the best friend of confidence. These two co-conspirators — confidence and inner peace — will empower you to embrace life with fervor, direction, purpose, and perseverance.

Here are five reasons why finding inner peace is so important to your life’s journey:

1. Overcoming and embracing your past.

There are inevitably going to be some areas of your past that you wish you could travel back in time to change. Well, it’s NEVER going to happen. All the mistakes, happy times, losses, challenges, characteristics, and situations are what they are. We really only have two choices: be overcome with trying to change something we will never be able to or try to learn from the past and move forward. In this sense, we have to learn to accept the things we cannot change from our pasts. Inner peace will enable us to say, “I cannot change what has happened in my past, but I can control what might happen in my future.” The challenge is to allow your past to inform your present, but not to prevent yourself from being controlled by your past. Inner peace allows you to accept the positive (strength and courage) your past has developed within you while empowering you to release the guilt and anxiety associated with things that might have been different.

2. Accepting what you have right now.

This point builds off the importance of overcoming and embracing your past. Once you’ve accepted and come to peace with your past, you will likely complete an inventory of where you currently are bodily, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. This part of the process takes courage, strength, and honesty because it can send you back to square one of questioning your past. Finding inner peace in this area will allow you to complete an honest inventory about where you are now without destroying your self-image in the process. Inner peace in this area allows you to say, “I may not have everything I want, but I have everything I need within me to create my life masterpiece.” We already have the strength and power within us to become powerful beings. However, it takes effort in order to discover and believe this about ourselves.

3. Embracing your uniqueness.

Being different can feel like the greatest blessing and the greatest curse at different times of life. We are all encouraged to be different and unique, but at the same time, the world is sending us messages that there are standards and norms which we should strive to emulate, match, and live by. It’s important to learn from others around us, but the true test is to become who we are meant to be (not a carbon copy of someone else). Embracing your differences may take a lifetime, but it’s necessary to truly live the fullest life that was created for YOU. Finding inner peace allows us to begin the process of embracing our differences and seeing them as a part of our personal story.

4. Facing challenges and opposition.

Everything takes work, life included. For the most part, life comes with some basic instructions, but not with the complete dummy proof guide. There will be challenges. Those challenges will rattle us. Stress is inevitable. People will sometimes grind your gears.  In the same breath, I can say that life is both easy and difficult. In the complexity of life, it will be imperative to find a place of peace that you can return to for reassurance, relaxation, stability, and recharging. When life feels overwhelming, you will need an anchor — a place of faith. Even when life is going well, you will still need a place of inner peace to sustain you. How do you find inner peace? How do you protect the peace within your life?

I would love to share my tips on how I am finding inner peace. Be sure to let me know if that’s something you would like me to share! Comment below or message me on Facebook or Twitter!

5. Discovering your purpose and setting goals.

Good fighters right relaxed. When I watch UFC on television with my lovely man, I am always roaring on about how this fighter or that fighter is not “intense” enough. He always has to remind me that being intense before a fight is not necessarily a good thing. They are supposed to fight focused, yet relaxed and in control. What a great life lesson! Life is the ultimate fight. In order to continually discover our purpose and achieve our goals, we will have to fight for it — mostly against our inner thoughts, fears, and our perceived personal limitations. Finding our purpose and pursuing it will require a strong foundation of inner peace. Pursuing our goals will also require a strong foundation of inner peace, confidence, acceptance, and strength.

Finding and maintaining your inner peace is something you will have to put energy toward for the rest of your life. However, you will not be able to live this life successfully without it. Find your inner peace, then go paint your life masterpiece.

Life Me: a mindset, a declaration, a movement.

If you would like me to share my personal journey to finding inner peace, leave a comment below, or find me on Facebook or Twitter!

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Why Focusing In Life is So Hard

You want to know why it’s so hard to focus on your own life and ride your own wavelength of zen? Well, I re-discovered the answer today. Wait for it… Wait for it…

It’s because everyone around you is so DARN LOUD!

The Setting

I wrote this post yesterday during a fit of frustration on the plane to a hopefully calming vacation in Las Vegas while attempting to read My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel amidst the cackles and clangor of inebriated passengers as they become new found airline besties.

The Story (and Lesson):

Listen, I’m all for freedom of friendliness, libation, and acquaintance; but by golly, do they have to be so LOUD? Then again this is a country built on freedom of speech, so who am I to tell the new found besties to sacrifice their hyperactive happiness for my peace and serenity. I mentally rummaged through all the fine print I read inside the safety manual. There was a lot of reassuring information about oxygen masks, life vests, safety devices, and “in the event of an emergency” situations, but nothing about being courteous to your neighbors. But wait, isn’t this an emergency? Am I not being forced to sacrifice my page-turning enjoyment to listen to the loudest passengers that have ever flown on a plane, ever? Doesn’t that warrant some kind of rescuing?

With no way to politely ask these chatty birds to pipe down, I decided to make something of this experience and share the lessons this noise has forced me to tackle. What else am I supposed to do? Do you want me to risk a confrontation, get booted off the plane, and possibly get arrested because I had to defend myself against one of these tipsy passengers when they try to punch my lights out? No! I am saying no to violence and that’s my final answer, for now. Instead, I will take a deep breath and patiently hoped for some desperately annoyed passenger to do what I don’t have the gumption to do — ask them to shut up! Oops, I mean to “please, if you would be so kind, might you quiet down a bit?”

As I become more and more frustrated by each screech and shout, the feeling inside reminds me of moments in my life when I’ve felt trapped, frustrated, limited, and a victim of other people inserting noise into my rather happy place. Those were times when I found it most difficult to focus on my journey. Right now, I would do anything to be able to go into my own head and turn up the selective attention dial to “I can’t hear you” mode but nothing is a match for the voices of Godzilla. The more I think about ways I can tune these various conversations out is the more anxious and tense I am becoming. Under other circumstances I would have reveled in the opportunity to eavesdrop on the fascinating conversations around me. Honestly, they are discussing interesting interpretations of life. The two new buddies behind me are shifting in and out of intellectual conversations about love, relationships, passion, religion, happiness, spirituality, God, and new places to experience once we reached our destination. Our other friends across the isle are adding to the noise with topics including food, TV shows, etc. The problem isn’t them per se — well maybe it is because there is no need to shout at the top of your lungs if someone is sitting right next to you– but it is more the fact that I am not in the mood to listen to their stories at this volume at this moment. I want to read my book during this flight and then reflect on life.

Though quite terrifying– if you really think too hard about it– there’s something quite calming and spiritual about flying. The views, the perspective, and the fact that my life is in the hands of complete strangers surrounded by complete strangers for hours while thousands of feet above the ground is both unsettling and kind of magical. That is until turbulence hits and I am reminded that death could be imminent. Oddly, I am sure that fewer planes have crashed from turbulence than during take off or landing, but I could be wrong. Anyone know? Well, just as a wrote this paragraph I can report that I am entering the first phase of a full on panic attack, so let’s change the subject back to the chatterboxes behind me.

As I said before, in my mind this plane ride included a specific plan for my time– me, God, reflection, and a book, not writing a blog post about my frustration with the noise. I’m sure I would have found “the best method for tuning out deafening voices” in the book about anxiety but I was only able to get to page 32 before the voices of Godzilla destroyed my focus. Still annoyed but determined, I am deciding to start talking to myself — in a healthy way. “You’re stronger than this. Don’t let them distract you. You had a goal in mind, so stick to it!” Typically I would be completely oblivious to the loud mouths around me as they are drowned out by my music or a movie. However, I forgot my headphones this time! Thankfully my other-better-equal half is always thinking ahead and he brought an extra pair. Nonetheless, I didn’t planned on plugging my ears with noise-cancelling headphones; I planned on having an intellectually stimulating experience with my books. As you can surmise by now, their volume has reached the decibel that would interrupt even the most focused person’s brain frequencies! So, I am taking the headphones, but it is still not working.

I am asking myself over and over, “Why is it so hard to just focus? Why can’t you just push through? Is it really that hard to tune them out or are you just being petty?” Feeling defeated, I am reminded of the times in my life when I felt overwhelmed by the noise around me — times I’ve been focused on something in my life and then every voice begins playing in my head (again, not in the DSM-5 diagnosis kind of way). They are the times in which all the negative, positive, confused, logical, irrational, intellectual, and analytical voices/thoughts tell me how to be confident, worried, certain, and fearless all in the same frequency. Ay dios mios! As my mind is shifting to those moments when I’ve asked the same question –“Why is it so hard to just focus?” — I am beginning to recognize a parallel between my focus, life, and the challenge of tuning out noise. I am not sure I really want to confront it, but here goes. Simply realized, the more voices and noise in my head– including my own at times– is the more difficult it is for me to focus on my own life and my own journey.

Some noises are louder than others — fear, other people’s opinions, opposing viewpoints, societal and family expectations, cultural norms, and internal self-talk. At times, it can just be too loud, too confusing, too opposing, too headache producing, and too tiring to combat. Although annoyed at my clangorous neighbors, I am happy that I had the chance to look myself in the mirror and confront factors that at times make it hard for me to focus. Although a critical exercise, confronting these factors one time on a plane is not going make me a master at tuning out the loudest noises in my life. It is going to require mental maturity and mental martial arts!

Today, I am reminded that I have a lot more work to do. It would be great to block out the noise by creating a magical force-field around my head, but I’m sure that would not prevent me from concocting some ridiculous thinking within my own head.

Today, I have learned two things:

  1. I now understand why people invest in quality noise-cancelling headphones,
  2. no matter how noise cancelling the headphones, it’s much harder to cancel out the noise that exist — or you allow to exist — inside your own head, and
  3. be ready to listen and adapt when life speaks.

The good news is that this lesson has made me more of a noise-cancelling ninja and our neighbors alcohol consumption has finally caught up to them! The four amigos are quietly resting. Maybe now I can get back to focusing on my book or at least enjoying the remaining moments of this amazing view in peace and quiet.

Comment below or chat with me!

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How To Deal With Frustration With Life: 20 Questions

“I have a lot of faith in myself which is why I am frustrated with the fact that I am not doing more,” said my ridiculous-too-hard-on-myself mind. Can anyone relate to this?

About 5% of the month (or more), I wake up with this overwhelming thought that I am not doing enough and/or have not accomplished enough by my age. If I am honest with myself, it’s usually around the time(s) when work, bills, stress, life, and my personal goals collide in competition for my time. If I am not careful, these few days or moments of the month can snowball into longer negative narratives that re-play in my head. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially when it’s being wasted thinking negatively.

Two months ago I wrote a blog post about Having Faith in Yourself. It was a great reminder to rethink the mental and emotional limits we place on ourselves. Yes, exactly– the limits that we place on ourselves. It is true that sometimes the world, circumstances, and people seem like they are against us; however, it is also often true that our worst enemy is the person in the mirror looking right back at us. For this post, I want to chat with you about another side of life’s Rubik cube: When you have the faith in yourself to accomplish your plans/dreams, but things are not moving forward in the way you planned or hoped in your mind. What do you think/do then?

There is so much I want to experience and accomplish and at times it can begin to feel like I am not moving at the pace I would personally prefer. The pace, whether slow or fast, is attributable to either my own action/inaction while other paces are simply due to life and/or God having a better plan or better timing for me. Nonetheless, in some areas of my life things are moving slower than I would like and in other areas the pace is faster than my little life legs want to run.

When I think I am “not moving fast enough” or determine that “I am not yet where I want to be in life,” it is usually traceable to my tendency to over-analyze things. In most of my being-too-hard-on-myself sessions, it is easy to fall into the trap of focusing so much on the big picture that I overlook past and present victories. Sometimes we need to slow things down, count the blessings, weigh the good versus the bad, and appreciate the accomplishments and victories written in our life’s story.

When I start feeling like life is not moving at the pace I planned, I have discovered that it is very important to evaluate whether my frustrations are warranted, healthy, logical, or accurate. It is true that sometimes we are justified in feeling frustrated with certain aspects of our lives. On the other hand, sometimes we are dangerously infusing negative self-talk and energy into our life where it doesn’t need to exist. In order to figure out the difference and to minimize the negative thinking in my life, these are some of the questions I ask myself:

  1. Am I frustrated because I am being too hard on myself?
  2. Am I realistic about the goals I have created?
  3. Am I creating more frustration in my life because my priorities are not in the right places?
  4. Am I frustrated because I have not dealt with past frustrations and issues?
  5. Am I sacrificing too much in one area while neglecting other important areas of my life?
  6. Are my frustrations based on things within my control? If not, how can I spend more energy on the things I can control?
  7. Am I creating harmful frustration because I am comparing myself to other people’s timelines and successes?
  8. Am I listening to life when it tells me to readjust my plans?
  9. Am I adopting the right attitude for the situation at hand?
  10. Am I creating frustration because I am not organized/disciplined enough with my time and energy?
  11. Am I creating frustration in my life by  having the wrong kinds of people around me?
  12. Am I frustrated because I am trying to copy another person’s life?
  13. Am I frustrated because I have not taken the time to examine whether I am in line with my purpose, morals, principles, and values?
  14. Have I taken the time to establish what I want out of life?
  15. Do I need to learn to be more flexible?
  16. Am I just cranky and tired?
  17. Am I frustrated and just blaming my problems on everyone else?
  18. Am I really frustrated with the right situation or am I deflecting/avoiding addressing other issues in my life?
  19. Am I willing to throw in the towel on unnecessary battles?
  20. Am I creating frustration because I am living in a box that is too small for me and my life knows/feels it?

If you are willing to learn from the mistakes and successes in your life, then you are growing and learning! The faster you learn the lessons, the less time you will waste repeating the same test(s). Your life can change overnight– positively or negatively– so what’s the point in being stuck in a frustrated mindset? We will get frustrated; that’s life. But, we should still be willing to discover the lesson within our frustrations, move forward, and find greater success than before. Remember, you are only stuck if you keep repeating the same mistakes. Life is full of frustrations, but we don’t have to let the frustrations fill up our mental space.

What is one of your frustrations with life? What do you do when you feel frustrated? Care to share, vent, get some ideas, etc.?

Comment below or chat with me!

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Fine Print

Sometimes one thing holding us back from doing what we want and need to do is the fact that we spend so much time getting back up from falls that could have been prevented if we paid more attention to details.

Chasing a dream can feel wonderful and turn out very wonderful having few detrimental hiccups along the way. When this happens, consider yourself blessed. I enjoy focusing on the big picture while I chase my goals; it keeps me optimistic, hopeful, and focused on charging forward. While this is a good practice, I have learned that God gave us two eyes and two ears for a reason — to figuratively keep one on the big picture and one on the details and fine print OR to enable us to focus more efficiently on one at a time.

I really dislike when the fine print and details — that I didn’t pay close enough attention to — throws me a curve ball that I wasn’t expecting. In most cases I could have been prepared for it, but I missed it because I was focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time. It is important to discern when it is time to focus on the big picture and when it is time to focus on the details. Paying attention to the fine print and details takes time and patience, so it is no surprise that we usually want to rush through things. However, within the fine print typically lies the keys to avoiding unnecessary pitfalls. In a way, paying attention to both the big picture and the details is like running straight ahead while making sure to check the ground beneath you for rocky surfaces and ditches!

Personally, I like looking at both the big picture and the details. However, I have found that I am less motivated to pay attention to the details when I become fatigued mentally, emotionally, or physically. When life hits, I allow certain things to slip through the cracks. It is kind of pitifully funny to think about it because sometimes I see the matter walking toward the crack and I tell myself “it will not fall through that crack because I have sealed it enough to prevent it from fitting through there!” Then boom, through the cracks it goes! In other cases, I don’t even see the matter moving toward the crack because I am too distracted or tired to take the time to inspect the area for cracks.

Over the past months I have learned that fine print and details come in many different forms; yet, in most cases they are to be paid close attention to. From my experiences, these are the types of fine prints and details to pay more attention to — both literally and figuratively:

Written and explicit: There are certain things that are spelled out quite thoroughly and clearly. Whether we choose to pay attention to those details is another story. From contracts, directions, warranties, and signs to health, relationships, work, money, or business, there are rules and guidelines that are to be followed and adhered to. It is not hard in this case to understand that failure to comply usually results in a clearly stated reaction or result. Typically, when I let something fall through the cracks in this area I feel that I deserve little sympathy. I should have read or paid attention to the details, right? Thankful I have learned this lesson before, but every now and then it comes back to bite me in the hind parts!

Is there obvious and accessible information in your life that you are simply not taking the time to pay attention to?

Written and implicit: I think this combination confuses me the most! This is the area in which the fine print and details exist within a gray area that is only implemented when and if the people that created them feel like utilizing them. A small scale example would be store return policies: the enforcement depends on the store and the sales associate. On a larger scale, there are other areas in our lives when people have the option of deciding whether they want to uphold the rules of the fine print or whether they want to let things slide and/or override them. I love it when someone overrides something or pays less attention to the fine print on my behalf; but, I also get annoyed when I know they have made exceptions for other people, yet chose to say “no” in my case. The truth of the matter is that it is usually my fault for being in a situation in which I have to rely on someone overlooking/overriding the fine prints. The only person to be upset with in that situation is me. For the most part, erring of the side of caution and paying attention to our own details puts us less at the mercy of other people’s discretion. And if those people are not fond of you for any reason, you are screwed (which is a whole other story)!

Are you often relying on other people to get you out of situations because you failed to pay attention to details?

Unwritten and implicit/explicit: There are instances in life when the rules are not written, but people in the know or with experience accept and follow them. These are the most challenging details to detect and keep up with — in my opinion. This area gets a little tricky when it comes to people, politics, institutions, and society. In general, these made-up rules will only be applicable depending on the emotions, moods, characteristics, classes, or even demographics of the people involved. These dynamics are harder to trace, but I have found that it is still important to pay attention in order to minimize being caught in the gray area. When in Rome, you may not do exactly as the Romans, but you might find it important to know the unspoken rules the Romans live by.

In other cases, sometimes things have been done a certain way for so long that they can appear to most people as actual law. You may know that it is not written anywhere, but in that context it doesn’t matter since everyone else believes it to be an unwritten rule. You might choose to shed light on their ignorance, but it will inevitably cost you energy and stress that you may or may not be willing to deal with at that time. For example, in certain professional settings male facial hair is frowned upon. It is not written but it is understood by the players in that arena. It is also polite to hold the door for the person entering behind you, but where is that written? Sadly, these rules and practices are not written but you will be judged by them.

What unwritten rules or behaviors do you need to pay more attention to?

Fortunately enough, things falling through the cracks may not ruin the end goal. However, in other times failing to pay attention to the fine print and details can be detrimental. It can cost you time, money, resources, energy, or even your life. In our personal matters, goals, relationships, jobs, and associations, we had better start paying more attention to the writing on the wall, the fine print, details, or whatever you want to call it.

We will make mistakes, but making mistakes that are the least damaging for us is the ultimate goal. When are you paying least attention to the fine print and details of life? — when you are tired, having fun, around certain people, etc. What areas do you need to go back and pay a little more attention to? Whatever you missed, take the time to pay attention to it now.

Photo Credit: Phil Roeder

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Worrying Less About What People Think About You

“Stop caring about what people think about you,” he said.

I replied, “it is easier said than done.”

It is not always easy to analyze the causes of our fears, but it is usually very necessary. In my personal fear analyses, I found that too many of my fears centered around what other people — friends, parents, coworkers, associates, strangers, haters — were going to think about me. I asked myself, “if they are not God, why the heck do I even care so much about what they think?” I didn’t always have the answer, but I knew something needed to change if I wanted to live a full life.

I have never been a person that completely bends over backwards to ensure that people love me, but as a normal human being I do have a certain preference for people liking rather than hating me. The truth is that fear, comparison, competition, doubt, and insecurity in some ways center around us caring about what other people think about us. In general, overcoming the concern about what others are thinking is a major factor and hurdle for and in our success.

Whether we care to admit it or not, other people’s standards and expectations sadly become a factor in our decision making. I believe that people who are more successful — and I would argue happier as well — have found a way to overcome the “what will people think”  syndrome. Sometimes we miss out on the greatest adventures, opportunities, people, and experiences because we are overly concerned with what people will think about us and our decisions. 

Although it is easier said than done, these are some of the conclusions that allow me to move beyond worrying about what people think of me:

Sometimes what you think they think is not even accurate. 

While working at a very prestigious university some time ago, I was doing a good job but still felt slightly inadequate compared to what I thought were the geniuses I worked with. There were a number of opportunities to take more risks — some I did and others I did not — but I kept wondering what others would think about me if I stepped out in front, failed at a task, or took things in a new direction. To make a long story short, I was worried about them thinking I wasn’t qualified enough but the entire time they were thinking (I later learned) that I was doing great work, was very capable, and had a lot of potential to go even further. If you have ever experienced a time when you were certain you knew what someone else was thinking but ending up being wrong, then you have evidence that sometimes our worries are not always accurate. We cannot read minds so it makes little sense to be preoccupied and hindered by thoughts we may never know for sure.

Unfortunately, things are not always that positive; sometimes people are thinking negatively about us. In those cases, I use the following to help me move past the fear…

People are going to talk about you even if you are perfect.

From work to friendship circles to acquaintance gatherings, I cannot count the number of times in which we were all talking about how we love or like a person, place, or thing only to have one Negative Nancy (an expression, not a real person) chime in to share how much they do not like them or it. When asked for reasons why he/she did not like that person, place, or thing, they had absolutely no evidence to support their feelings! I can discuss the many reasons I think this happens, but it will never change the fact that people will have something to say about everything and everyone! God bless celebrities because we have never met most of them, yet we judge them like we own them! From these many experiences, I concluded that human beings are too complicated for me to ever prevent people from having an opinion about my life. I have been in situations were I felt I did everything right and someone still had something to say about it.

Sometimes people’s negative opinions about you are really just reflections of issues they have within themselves.

As you might have learned in a psychology course, sometimes people project their issues onto you. Sometimes people are thinking negatively about you simply because you remind them of what they are not or what they do not have. I remember when an old friend went on a rant about how I thought my boyfriend was the greatest guy on the planet. It was a very odd occurrence because I rarely talked about how deeply I was in love with him or ever mentioned much of any of the amazing things he did for me to her. She personally had a lot of issues going on in her life at the time, so I was quickly able to recognize that her comments stemmed from something else. Another instance came at work in which one woman tried to downplay the success of my work. She had a lot of social anxiety and insecurity (her own words) so I just assumed something about me reminded her of something she wasn’t happy about within herself. I have had my fair share of realizing that I don’t like someone simply because they have something I wish I did; so, I can speak with certainty when I say that you will never be able to control everyone liking, approving, or thinking positively about you. Sometimes the issues lie within the other person and out of your control.

The moral of the story: we should not allow our concern about what other people think of us to hinder us from taking opportunities, risks, or from striving for greater success. Since people are going to have an opinion no matter what you do, you would be crazy to wait around until everyone liked or agreed with you to make your move. It is probably impossible to completely stop caring about what people think of you, but you can work on getting to the point were the fear of opinions doesn’t prevent you from making a decision, taking a risk, or trying something new.

Photo Credit: Jenny Downing

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Relationship Timelines: Dating, Marriage, Babies…

Is it just me or does it seem like when you are in a relationship and (1) get to a certain age (between age 25-30, at least) or (2) have been dating someone for 3 or more years (past age 21), people seem to ask the same basic questions regarding your relationship?

“How long have you guys been dating?”

“When are you guys getting engaged? Have you discussed it?”

“When are you guys getting married?” 

“When are you guys planning to have kids?”

And then after one child, “When are you guys planning on having more?”

As annoying as these questions can become, I am guilty of asking my friends these questions as well.

Let’s assume these are natural questions to ask (although I am not certain of that). The problem I have is when the questioner doesn’t think my answers are sufficient and proceeds to ask more questions. This ultimately ends with me feeling like I need to defend my timeline and the strength of my relationship. “Sufficient” answers in this context is hilarious to me because sometimes we really believe we know how another person should live their life; but most times, we barely even know how to live our own.

Listen, if you are in a great relationship, you need to feel that with certainty and not allow yourself to be swayed by other people’s decisions for your life. Yes, I have a great relationship, but that doesn’t mean my timeline choices make it any less wonderful! Usually people don’t even know the reasons why you make certain timeline decisions, yet they jump to conclusions and dole out timeline suggestions that you probably never asked for.

People can be in very different places relationship-wise– some single, some in new or long-term relationships, some newly engaged, engaged for a long time, newly married, married for a few years, not interested in marriage, in positions where they cannot have children, or with someone that is not interested in marriage or children. As I talk to friends about relationships, I find myself living by and sharing the same piece of advice: “The best thing you can do for your relationship is to stop comparing the relationship and timelines to other couples.” 

Disclaimer: With that said, do not use this statement as an excuse or justification for staying in a jacked up or abusive relationship! Every couple’s relationship dynamic and timeline might be different, but love is clearly identifiable and distinguishable. Disrespect, cheating, abuse, degradation, and selfishness are not characteristics of love. While you should not compare your relationship to others in aspects of timeline and dynamic, you should look to great relationships for positive traits of love. There is no ” thin line between love and hate” in a relationship. If you feel that you love and hate a person at the same time, then it is probably a sign you need to re-evaluate that relationship– fix it or end it. Trust me, I have been there and done the love/dislike thing and my conclusion is that a relationship like that is full of cracks!

For the most part, comparing your relationship and timelines to other couples’ is not a good idea! If you have found a great life partner– which should be the ultimate goal and requires more than chemistry [I wrote a post about this]– chances are you are destined to have a life journey unique to you as a couple. I believe that’s God’s ideal plan. So, chasing another couples’ timeline/journey means that you have stepped off your path onto theirs and at some point you will either (1) discover that your shoes weren’t built to last on their road or (2) that you missed out on the many blessings your road held because you were so interested in traveling on another couple’s path. In general, people need to live according to the timelines that work for their life.

Many years ago I started witnessing couples I adored (and swore had a strong relationship) go through divorce. In most cases, everyone loved the couples together. On the outside they were the perfect couples… or so we thought! After years of marriage (ranging from 1-15 years), we all were shocked by the news that they were getting divorced. From celebrities to people we know, we all have witnessed relationships we covet fall apart. Feeling hopeless and scared for my own relationship future, I decided that I would learn from other people’s relationship successes and failures, but that in the end I would do what works best for my relationship. Here I was comparing my relationship to ones that looked great on the outside but was suffering internally. However, all the while my relationship was working for me, my life, my journey, my purpose, and my happiness. I learned that if I am going to compare my relationship to others, it might be beneficial to know the details of what is really going on behind closed doors. 

I am not a relationship or a statistics expert, but based on what I have observed throughout my life, I know that having a successful long-term relationship requires more than simply checking something off on a timeline or list (engagement, marriage, babies, house, etc.). It seems more important to work toward things that will make my relationship last long-term versus working on a timeline or checklist.

Personally, I think couples’ timelines vary based on a few factors. So, before we go judging, questioning, or pushing someone into a particular timeline, we should consider some factors:

  1. the mental/emotional readiness, finances, health, and career trajectories varies from person to person and couple to couple making it difficult to force someone into a timeline and
  2. meshing two personalities, two families, two different careers, two different sets of life experiences, and two different life purposes in order to yield a strong relationship that is built to last is not something that should be rushed or taken lightly.

Photo Credit: Jurgen Appelo

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