“Take a moment to appreciate what you have.”

“Take a moment to appreciate what you have.”

We are constantly adapting, constantly faced with new days and new stimuli. We meet new people, each with their own experiences and desires, hopes and dreams. And observing them from the outside, we catch only a very surface level image of what is actually going on. And when that happens, we can sometimes envy what others have, and completely lose sight of everything that we, ourselves have.

Green envy banana

It’s normal, it’s natural, and it’s probably happened to us at some point. So what can be done about it? Take a moment to realize that what you see isn’t the entire picture. Once that is done and accepted, create a list of everything that is good in YOUR life. It could be anything from the people to the possessions to the places you’ve visited or the dreams you are slowly reaching towards. It’s easy to want something. And that desire is even greater when you forget all the little somethings you already have.

But this isn’t just something to do when the green envy bug bites. This is something you can do at any point during your day. Some people do it just before bed, and make a mental checklist of everything they have to be thankful for and appreciate. Others do it at the start of their day as a way to move forward with a smile on your face. I do it randomly. Anytime something makes me even the slightest bit happy, I take a moment, step back, and frame it alongside every other good thing that’s made me smile recently. In this way, every little moment of joy becomes a major source of optimism, energy, and strength.

So do it now. Take a moment to appreciate what you have. And smile about it. Because odds are if you can read this, you have more than you think…

Appreciate Chalk

Humans are creatures of habits and routine. We often like seeing patterns in the chaos around us; it can be a comfort. Patterns in our own lifestyles can also become a source of comfort. Any sort of change in that can become a source of panic.

But as this post demonstrates, change should be welcomed, and not feared. It keeps the ‘newness’ in life, and gives us the diversity of experiences we need to thrive, and be happy.

A great post.

Living In The Now

This is my twenty-third post in a series, where each Monday (if possible) I will post about a point of reflection or insight that I will use to reflect and meditate on during the week. In order to make it a bit more focused and interesting, I will attempt to do this with topics beginning with letters from A to Z. I have often found that having a specific topic to reflect and/or meditate on during the week really lends itself to interesting insights and growth, because you not only have several days to reflect and meditate on the topic, but you have several days to put any lessons and insights that you discover to work in your every day life. For those that follow me on Twitter (@JasonLivingNow) I will try to write updates as the weekly topics come up during meditations, moments of reflection, or just during everyday…

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“Give yourself something to smile about, by giving someone else something to smile about.”

“Give yourself something to smile about, by giving someone else something to smile about.”

We all have our good days, and we all have our bad days. On the days when things feel absolutely horrible, it can be hard to remember the good days, it can be hard to pull ourselves out of a rut, it can be difficult to motivate ourselves.

But no matter what is causing you to have a bad day, no matter how bad you may feel, there seems to be a consistent way to fix it: namely, by doing something kind for someone else. It can be big, it can be small. These gestures of kindness towards someone (anyone), no matter if you know them or not, are an immediate pick me up. If humans are empathetic creatures (as I sincerely believe they are), then bringing joy to someone else can help us reach a kind of joy as well.

A smile can be utterly contagious. So the next time you feel you want to smile, but can’t, or you feel down, and want a quick pick-me-up, exercise a little empathy and kindness to bring a smile to someone else’s face…then watch the magic unfold on your own.

Happiness, smiles, and the joys of life, are best when shared with someone else.

People Smiling

“Challenge yourself to be more.”

“Challenge yourself to be more.”

Throughout our lives, we start to build expectations based on our experiences. We look at what we’ve done, what our skills are, what our deficiencies are, and all of them begin to fill a cookie cutter image of ourselves. While these experiences and habits have a tremendous impact on who we are, how we behave, how we think (etc), they are not the upper end of what we are actually capable of. We are capable of so much more, and although the tendency is to stay with the status quo, its challenging ourselves to BE more that opens up a door to really making the most of our time, our lives, and who we ultimately are.

Our lives will provide opportunities for challenging ourselves in two ways…sometimes we get lucky and find ourselves with an opportunity, other times we must seek them out ourselves. Where an opportunity lands in our lap, our first instinct may be to step away from it. It is new. It is different. It is not what we are used to. We may doubt our capability, our capacity, indeed, our ability to even handle what’s in our path. Before we can seek out an opportunity, the same doubts and insecurities can get in our way, and as comfortable the status quo can be, it doesn’t really offer a chance for growth.

Challenge Accepted

But the moment we surrender ourselves to the familiar, to the status quo, to the unchanging, we lose the motivation to accept the challenge, and thrust ourselves into an entirely new experience that will offer us a chance to learn, to grow, to become more. What we fail to realize is that the status quo is always there. We can always fall back on it. What we fail to realize is that there is a difference between accepting ourselves, and denying ourselves the chance to be even better than we currently are. Because the extension to the “Accept yourself” argument is simply this: “Accept yourself…but admit you can always be more.”

We can always improve. We can always strive to be more. And at all times we should be ready to heed the call of self-betterment. The human condition knows few limits. Do not impose them yourself.

There is no greater satisfaction in life than to look back, and see how far you’ve come. There is no greater joy in knowing that the things that were once seen as dreams, are now a reality. Challenge yourself to grasp them.

Comfort Zone - Magic Happens

“When faced with a 50/50, make a decision and move forward.”

“When faced with a 50/50, make a decision and move forward.”

Life can throw many decisions at us. Many of the places we end up in life are because we made one decision or another. As complicated calculating machines, we can take into account many different factors when selecting an option. Sometimes this decision is very easy, and all the factors line up on one side. Other times, this decision can be hard, and two decisions seem identical, with factors evenly spread on either side.

It may be easy to narrow decisions down to two choices. But once we get to two choices, we may hit an impasse that keeps us stuck, unable to decide what path to take. We can spend hours thinking and obsessing over the possible outcomes of each decision. But if after giving it a thought or two, the decision is still evenly split, don’t over-think. Make a decision, and move on.

Hindsight is just that…hindsight. There is no way you can predict exactly how things will turn out. Obsessing can lock you into a cycle which is difficult to break out of. Rather than making a decision, you stall, stuck behind the decision where no outcome is evident. Since you can’t predict what will happen, don’t stress, fret, or obsess over it. Make a decision and spend any time you would have spent over-thinking, into ensuring that the decision you just made was the right one. Move forward so you can learn, grow, and adapt.

Only by moving forward can you learn and grow from this impasse. So the next time you’re stuck at a 50/50 impasse, stop dwelling on the decision: pick a road, any road, and enjoy the adventure!

Fork in the Road

“Sell a bad past experience to yourself with a positive spin.”

“Sell a bad past experience to yourself with a positive spin.”

Life wouldn’t be complete without a few negative experiences to rattle our cages. Many times, this negative experience can come from expecting something, and finding to your dismay that things did not go as expected. It could be something completely surprising. Whatever it is, the optimism that may have existed before the experience may be momentarily shattered and you may question why you did what you did to begin with.

But like most experiences, how we perceive them is critical. Our natural state when something bad happens is to feel bad. Rather than obsess over what went wrong, take a few moments and try to ‘sell’ yourself the same experience, but with a positive spin.

Before you can begin, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Did I expect anything going in?
2. How did what happened differ from those expectations?
3. What is something I can learn from this experience?
4. How can I better manage my expectations next time?
5. Knowing what I know now, how would I react to this next time? How would I handle it differently?
6. If I could put aside my immediate emotions, how would I have handled this?
7. If I were a third party observer, what recommendations could I make to myself?
8. What about this experience bothers me the most, and why?
9. Is there anything in this experience that in 20 years will not matter, or will seem funny?

Bad Parking

Take a moment to breathe in and out, and try to smile. After answering these questions, there should be some ‘gain’ visible. Maybe you’ve learned something new. Maybe looking back on the experience from a future perspective leads to some amusing reactions.

As a final step, ask yourself the following:
“If I knew what would have happened before it happened, how could I spin the situation so that I still go through with it?” Salespeople are excellent at selling us things we don’t need. This bad experience can be discouraging when it happens, and perhaps even more so shortly thereafter. In the long run, it may seem like nothing, or it may be a point in life that we reflect on with regret.

In the short term, this exercise is about flexing that salesperson mentality, finding the good, accepting the situation, learning, and moving on. It is a much better solution than obsessing over what happened, discouraging ourselves completely, or suffering a fracture in our confidence. In the long term, this exercise aims to remove that element of regret that may continue to haunt us, and instead give us a valuable lesson learned, or something amusing to look back on and laugh.

When you think about it, many of the experiences we have seem like the ‘worst thing in the world’ in the moment, but are almost laughable in 20 years. With this positive spin on things, you can take something good from a bad experience and ensure that you share a laugh with yourself, or a lesson learned with others later on.

In this case, you aren’t selling yourself something you don’t need, but giving yourself something you may sorely need…optimism.

Glass Half Full/Empty

“Got time? Spend it!”

“Got time? Spend it!”

An important insight into some of the things you can do when you have all the time in the world.

“Feed your brain.”

“Feed your brain.”

Different things can inspire us, motivate us, or make us think. The act of thinking alone is an exercise that allows our mind to explore alternative viewpoints, and gather new knowledge. Much like our bodies need nutrients, our minds also need stimulation. Think back to the last time you really stimulated your mind. What did you do?

I was fortunate enough to meet up with a few friends yesterday and meet someone who was a physicist. When I was younger, I used to love astronomy but I slowly let it fade into the background of life. Meeting this man was an opportunity to open my mind and have him try and fill it with what he knew. Our conversation turned to life, the universe and everything, and one of my friends asked him a complicated question: “What came before the big bang then?”

As a physicist who was used to some of these very complicated ideas, he tried to explain. “‘What came before?’ may not necessarily be the right question to ask.” And he proceeded to explain why. His reply was complicated, but he used many examples to eventually help us understand his reasoning. In the end, we were left with an image of our universe that was breathtaking, beautiful, and horrific at the same time.

Grasping these complex concepts took a bit of work. Occasionally we would ask him to give us a pause to process. But at the end of our discussion, all of us were left thinking. There was a kind of peaceful tranquility about having learned something new, and I could see it in his eyes too since he had just helped us all learn it (which had no doubt helped him process and articulate some otherwise very complication concepts).

Happiness can come from stimulation. But the feeling of “newness” doesn’t have to come from material possessions. It can come from new ideas, new perspectives, new experiences. Seek them out. A jolt of happiness and inspiration can be only one new idea away.

Brain Flash

Two of My Favourite Places for New Ideas
Ted – Ideas Worth Spreading
The RSA

“Productivity can be its own reward.”

“Productivity can be its own reward.”

Our world is centered around productivity. At work, many of us are told to cram in as much work as we can into our hours to get as much done, so the cogs and wheels keep turning. Deadlines and timelines hang overhead ensuring that we stay on top of things and remain as productive as possible.

Recently, I’ve been noticing that productivity isn’t simply about avoiding missed deadlines, or getting things done. It can be a feeling of accomplishment as well. On days where I find myself less productive, I am sometimes left wishing I’d done more…but not because I will have more to do the next day, or because something was missed. I find myself wishing I’d done more simply because the feeling of making the most of every day can be a rewarding feeling on its own (there are a ton of entries about “letting go” and “taking it easy”, so on these days, that is how I should be approaching it).

Productivity isn’t just about how much work we fit into our work day. Its mostly about maximizing the things that you do in every minute of every day of your life. If you’re working, don’t be distracted by other more tempting things. If you’re relaxing, don’t be distracted by guilt, or work you COULD be doing.

That wonderful feeling of productivity stems from the fact that you can look back on a day and say: “I did my best”. THAT is the true definition of productivity, and that has its own rewards that can be isolated from the actual fruits of your labours. Meeting deadlines and getting things done is great, but looking back and knowing you were the best possible self and that you made the most of as many moments in the day, is an even greater reward.

Clock Productivity

“Combat internal negativity with external productiveness.”

“Combat internal negativity with external productiveness.” 

Often throughout the day, we engage in dialogue with our thoughts and emotions without knowing them. We internalize what happens to us from the outside and process things in that way. Sometimes, in this processing, we may hit negativity. It could be as simple as obsessing with a mistake, or wishing you had done something differently, or finding yourself thinking repeatedly about it, and finding your attitude shifting from the positive to the negative. Some examples can include: “I wish I had said something else.” OR “I don’t think I can do this.”

The voice of this ‘internal critic’ can haunt you throughout your daily tasks, and can even become an obsession where you cannot think about anything else. When this happens, I have encouraged “Acceptance” and “Moving on”. But how exactly do you “Move on”? One strategy I’ve found in combating internal negativity is to distract yourself with external productiveness. Feeling bad about yourself or something that happened? Convert that psychological energy into focus by giving yourself to a task. It could be carrying on with a project, clearing your desk, going for a walk.

Bad Thoughts

The beauty of external productiveness is that it can be ANYTHING, as long as you focus on it. Work and play can often provide distractions from our lives, and sometimes that distraction can be healthy to combat the negative voice of the critic. When all is said and done, it can give you the distance you need to reflect on what happened when timing, energy, and emotional state are more appropriate, and in the meantime, it can give you something to aspire towards, AND be productive in a way that you can be proud of later on.

Like most things, this is easier said than done. But being able to ‘shift tracks’ is a skill that can be acquired through time and practice. Why not start now?

Other Inspiration
Reflect or Distract Yourself – Psychology Today