Zest with abandon!

Between Yule and Imbolc every year I go through a period of re-evaluation and hermiting.  I think about what I have done in the past  year, what I have learned, where I am and where I would like to be.  As I am coming out of this period of re-evaluation and moving forward with dreams and my day-to-day life, I found a timely article – What I came away with is a curated set of 15 insider tips for increasing self-confidence and building connections wherever you are on your journey and irrespective of gender. Here goes:

Listen to your inner voice and …

I think every self-help book I have ever read has mentioned “find your inner voice”, but what the hell is your inner voice and how do I find it?!?  In the journey of Know Thyself I believe I have figured out what this means for me.  However, the journey has taken so many twists and turns that at times I feel like Bugs Bunny needing to take that left turn at Albuquerque but instead finding himself in the most interesting situations.

To me that inner voice is the part of you that screams for attention when you are about to do something you shouldn’t, you know that feeling you get when every fiber of your being tells you this is a bad idea?  Yup, that’s the feeling I mean.  Conversely, that inner voice is the cheerleader jumping up and down when you are doing something you really want to do, that feeling of inner peace and all is right with the world.  If it feels so right when we do listen to the inner voice, why don’t we listen more often?  I have no idea.  Human nature? Self-destructive tendencies? Ignorance? Logic our way out of intuition?  All of the above?  None of the above?

How do I find it?  Make time and space to listen to yourself.  Get to know your thoughts … which means taking enough down time to get the tv ads, theme songs and the latest song that is stuck in your head, out of your head.  Meditate, garden, go for a run, take a hot bath … do something that puts you in touch with yourself and silence.  Don’t be afraid to be alone.  Being alone is one of the most beautiful gifts we can gift ourselves.  After all, if you cannot appreciate your own company; how do you expect anyone else to?

Great, now I have started paying attention to my inner voice – now what?  Really listen to what it says.  I have learned that the more I match up that inner voice and my outward actions the truer I am being to myself which brings us back to Know Thyself.  Have you sensed a theme yet?  I’m a huge advocate of Know Thyself.  We are taught how to be good at our roles and fulfill our roles in society and relationships.  When does anyone teach us to be ourselves?  If you are very lucky you have or had  awesome parents who support and encourage this, but let’s face it they only have you for so many hours a day; after that  you are at the mercy of school, work, friends, etc.

take note of the things that ignite your zest for life.

I once became so lost in the roles of responsibility and survival that I lost this.  Completely and utterly I no longer knew what brought me joy.  It had been so long since I had played not only had I forgotten how to play, I didn’t even know where to start.  So I began a journal of exploration.  I went out and saw what activities my town had to offer, read magazines for the  latest trends, listened to women at work and what they did for relaxation, etc.   I tried many things and along the way I journaled it all.  In time I discovered who I was at that time.  In fact, this is still an activity I do a few times a year.  It keeps me from being in a rut and makes me try new things.

What is hard about finding the things that ignite your zest for life?  For me, it’s the fact my job takes up so much time and is so completely opposite from anything that brings me zest and joy.  One of the amazing things about finding what ignites your zest for life?  You never know where that road will lead you.  I never envisioned my life would be where it is today and yet I wouldn’t trade the love, family, friends and honesty I have for anything.  Is my life perfect? no, but it’s perfectly evolving for me.  Every moment is a new opportunity for growth, love, friendship and living to the max.

Writing and cooking are near the top of the list that brings me zest for life.  It is one of the goals that is immediately attainable, as in spending time writing.  Gaming and reading are both relaxing and creative outlets as is gardening, okay aside from weed pulling but really who enjoys pulling weeds?

Most importantly, don’t overlook the people who bring zest to your life.  Think about it.  There are people in your life that you love to be around.  You cannot wait to see them or speak to them.  These are the ones that you cannot imagine you life without, nor would you want to.  Conversely, who drags you down?  Those people don’t need a place in your life.

Focus: keep your eyes on the prize, however you define it.

This is something that I haven’t done.  I haven’t kept focused on my dreams.  I’ve allowed all the “should’s”, “should not’s”, fear, and personal-insecurity to distract me.  No more.  I am in the process of defining what I want and then figuring out how to get it 🙂  Also, I have to remember that what is my prize today may not be my prize in five years and that is alright.  I am allowed to grow and change as long as I am being true to myself.  Because each new experience is going to affect who I am and what my needs are, so it is only logical that over time what I dream and desire will change accordingly.

Keep learning and challenging yourself.

I never stopped doing this.  There is so much in the world to explore, so much to see and do.  I love learning new things and having new adventures.  Each day I push my personal boundaries to grow as a person.  This isn’t the easiest way to live, but for me it is the only way.  Choosing to see everything as an adventure is a mindset and that isn’t for everyone.  It also can lead to insomnia if I am not careful.  With great ease I can obsess over what I want to the point that I need to just step away and let things happen because I have worked as hard as I can and need to take a moment and let all the energy I have put into XXX project take its own momentum.  Otherwise it is easy to burn out.

Create your own tomorrows: don’t wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder. Ask for what you want.

This reminds me of a quote I found around the turn of the year Ask for 100% of what you want, 100% of the time.  It doesn’t mean you will get it, but if you don’t ask then you never will.  The author then went on to say if you can’t get 100% of what you have asked for it gives you a fantastic opportunity for negotiation.  I have been practicing this since I found the quote and it is working out rather well.  At first I completely struggled with feeling selfish and so forth and so on, but I’ve been working on that – to quote Gomez Adams I’m feeling much better now.

Celebrate your successes.

Hmm, definitely something to think about.  I think the larger part is acknowledging your successes.  After all, not every success is an outwardly measurable milestone such as a promotion or buying that house.  So what does success mean to me?  something to think on.

Push through your fears.

I have spent years working on this one.  I was raised in a way that cultivated allowing fear to rule my life.  Learning that fear was the only thing holding me back was the first lesson.  The harder lesson was learning that the worse thing that could happen is that I would fall and have to pick myself back up.  In hindsight, I am torn between the mental and emotional perspective.  The mental perspective is: I don’t understand why it was so hard or what was so daunting about moving through the fear and just letting go of its hold on me.  The emotional perspective completely understand what was so difficult, it was removing the stigma of failing, it was removing holding my self to other people’s expectations, it was fear of losing love … all of this and more.

View failures as a springboard to propel you even further.

We learn more from failures and mistakes than we do from successes.  Every obstacle and how we handle that obstacle teaches us about ourselves.  It gives us an opportunity to grow, learn and put our best foot forward.  I think about my mistakes a lot, not to dwell on the past but to gain wisdom from the situation.  I try to learn about how I acted and reacted, as well as what I could have done better.  Otherwise, our mistakes become missed opportunities for personal growth.

Always look ahead, behind, up, down and sideways: you never know where the next opportunity will come from.

I agree, the more we look outside the box the more we see.  Many times this involves taking a leap of faith.  They aren’t easy, but are almost always rewarding.  Sometimes we do this by gaining perspective from another person, other times we do this by removing another person’s perspective.  We always have opportunity and choices, we may not like them but they are there.

For instance, I could quit my job and sit at the local coffee-house and write all day long.  However, that will only last as long as my bank account does which at this juncture won’t be that long.  Then I’ll be back in survival only mode and writing will be forced on the back burner once again.  Is this an option, absolutely.  Just because something isn’t a smart choice doesn’t mean it isn’t a choice.  As cold as its been in the Midwest, quitting my job and hopping a flight to somewhere warm is another option … but again, not a smart option.

Or I can reflect on the fact I really want my next career to make a difference and focus on what making a difference means to me.  Once I have an idea on that, I can research career and school options.  Which I have begun to do and that’s making my head spin in and of itself.

Reflect rather than react, strategize rather than “stew.”

Experience has taught me that very few situations that arise on a day-to-day basis require an immediate response.  Most of the time you can tell the other party that you need time to consider.  If they are smart, they will give that to you, especially in the case of emotional situations.  It is always smart to take a step back before responding.  It’s also what I am doing now, reflecting on what is truly in my heart, what I truly desire and figuring out where that currently leaves me as well as what I need to move forward to attain my desires.

Network, network, network – and then network some more: inside your organization, within your industry, across your community, etc.

I really had to take a step back from this one and look at it from a broad perspective.  When I first read this all I could think about was my current work environment and networking opportunities.  Once I took a step back and looked at my entire social circle, which is varied due to my varied interests, I began to see more possibilities.  I really began to think about the amazing people who I have the privilege to know.  The variety of interests, creativity, intelligence, and heart of my social circle had me sitting back in awe.

Always hire people smarter than you.

I really have nothing to add here.

Never apologize for your greatness.

This is an awesome statement that many of us need to hear.  I think about all the times I apologize without necessity and the same for my loved ones.  Why do I apologize for who I am?  What put that programming in my head that I needed to do this?  So many of my friends and family do this, why?  What are we fundamentally teaching our children that the generations I know feel as if they have to apologize for themselves.  This really becomes evident when we compliment each other.  Most in my circle do not know what to do with a compliment.  Many respond they don’t feel they deserve such a compliment because … they can do better, or it wasn’t perfect, or it wasn’t a big deal or insert comment here … why do we do that?  Where is teaching societal values do we instill in children that they are not worthy of praise or that praise is something to be embarrassed about?  Definitely a mindset to work on.  Conversely, without humility and wisdom I can see someone becoming egocentric and/or selfish.  So with all things there is a need for balance, wisdom and grace.

Don’t take things personally and let go of the negative swirl.
Probably the hardest thing to unlearn … not everything is personal.  The biggest aid to learning this has been focusing on my actions and reactions, then reminding myself that is all I can control.  Is there still the “negative swirl” to work through, absolutely.  I struggle with feeling guilty when being honest with my wants and needs is so opposite a loved ones that it causes strife.  However, I cannot change who I am.  So, I am trying to stay honest and true, speak my thoughts and emotions with as much clarity, grace and dignity as possible and hoping for the best.
I am learning to not own other’s stuff … their actions and reactions are their own, I cannot control what anyone else does or says (despite my best efforts to keep the cat from clawing the wall).  In this lesson I find myself becoming more and more relaxed about life.  You know what, that makes things so much more fun and interesting.  The bulk of my OCD ways have fallen to the wayside as I learn what I can and cannot control.  Ironically, the more I do not try to control every moment of my life and my environment, the more control I actually feel I have over my life.  There is great freedom and abundance in acceptance.
Feel free to change your mind, often.
This is probably the most profound statement.  I am that person … the friend I have known the longest has dubbed me the “Queen of Change” since I was 12.  As someone who lives in a constant state of evaluation, re-evaluation, self-exploration, discovery and adventure the new input and experiences creates an internal environment that is ripe for change.  Yes, to some of my loved ones its is frustrating, to others they roll their eyes, laugh good humored while celebrating with me my latest enthusiasm or ah ha moment and enjoy the next phase of me.
  1. Have a Plan B, C and D: don’t let life catch you unprepared.

I always have back up plans.  After all, I know what and what I am.  I am the whirlwind of some of my loved ones call me.  I also know that the enthusiasm of some projects and ideas will only get me so far and then plans will go awry.  But until I have explored every avenue to make things happen, I’m going to follow that passion.  A life without passion is not a life worth living as far as I am concerned.  However, be open to opportunity and realize sometimes you have to throw your plans and scripts out the window to embrace something new and wonderful.  Leaps of faith do pay off.