The Bad News Is You’re Discouraged. The Good News is You’re Discouraged!

{Etsy print by rachelmarvincreative}

{Etsy print by rachelmarvincreative}

When I started blogging, I was in my late twenties. Things were different then. I was energetic and enviously ambitious, even naively so. But time changes things. Your priorities shift. Where relationship and career were my own two motivations in life, now a growing family, my health and owning a home seem to take center stage. You too might be surprised by what life unfolds.

Maybe on your path towards your dreams you hit a roadblock, an obstacle so great that you don’t expect to survive it. The weight of time, financial pressures, familial obligation are squeezing you so thin, you feel like the only road worth walking these days is the one toward practicality. Your dreams will have to wait.

Maybe that’s your life right now. And that’s okay. I think the biggest concern is not that you’ve stepped off the plate for awhile, but that you never return.

Discouragement can be the murderer of your dreams or it can be its greatest advocate. It’s normal to hit roadblocks, to want to quit, to believe it’s time to give up. But if your dreams begin to haunt you after awhile, don’t ignore them. Find a way to re-introduce them in your life. They may look like a different being. They may come in a different form. But listen to them and they will guide you back on purpose.

Moving to Hawaii changed a lot of things for me. The high cost of living and low paying jobs were disconcerting to say the least. I began to feel a palpable wave of discouragement from people whose dreams were long buried and who settled for a half-lived, but safe life. Being around desperation can damper your own sense of motivation. I too longed for the freedom we felt in California. Not only the financial one, but the sense that you could do anything and be rewarded for it.

What I realized is that some people believe it’s easier to embrace “get rich” schemes than follow a dream. A dream seems impractical and fantastical like fairy dust and the Kardashians. Only a handful of people in life are fortunate to get one. Everyone else needs to make a living.

I have to say even after living here and seeing how hard it is, I still believe in dreams. I think discouragement isn’t a sign that you should give up and quit. I think it’s a sign you’re on the right track. It means you need to pump up your enthusiasm, energy and courage to become encouraged. It’s requiring you to think harder, to dig deeper, to be everything you were meant to be. Adults forget that as babies and kids every stepping stone was an inconceivable task. We get lazy and comfortable in our ways. But we were not meant to be kids forever. We are challenged because we were meant to do great things.

If you are reading this and feel like you’re slipping off that dream cliff, hold on. Hold on to dear life for the dream you’ve been dreaming all your life. Even if you can’t articulate what it is exactly (maybe you have a desire to write, paint or create, but not sure how to do this as a career), don’t give up. I started with a BA in English and ended up with a Masters in Counseling Psychology. Not as a therapist, but as a self-help/psychology writer who occasionally writes about writing, pets and the environment. I’m still not done and you’re not either.

Do what you must to take care of yourself and your family. But remember this: Never, ever give up on your dreams. Doing so will do much more damage and disservice to your loved ones and yourself than you think.

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Making Peace With Where You Are Right Now

I’m going to confess something that I’m sure 90% of you won’t understand or agree with. Here it is. I hate living in Hawaii. Okay maybe hate is too harsh of a word. “Strongly dislike” or “difficult to adjust” may be closer to what I mean.

Yes, I know griping about a place with year-round summer weather and presidential beaches (Pres. Obama does come here at least once a year) sounds like a whine from a hard-to-please 4-year-old. It sounds ridiculous to my own ears. But having lived here my whole life and having come back, I am completely sure that being here isn’t exactly for me.

I actually miss the brisk autumn weather, the smell of firewood, the golden color of fall leaves. I miss cuddling up on the couch, the change of the seasons, the freedom to drive somewhere fun on a whim.

That being said, I can gripe and pout (which I swear I’ve done enough of already) or I can see this as another opportunity to stretch my comfort zone. I realized last night that this was again another lesson to be learned. I could begrudgingly go on as I have been or try to find a purpose for being here.

Maybe you love where you live, but don’t feel at home in your own skin, at a job, or in a relationship. It’s all the same. When we’re feeling unwelcome in an environment and when we think we “should” feel comfortable, that’s when suffering begins. On a larger scale, it’s being okay with where you are situationally as well as physically and emotionally. It’s all the same whether you’re in a job you hate or you’re stuck in a state you don’t mesh well with like me. How do you find peace and happiness when where you are is not where you want to be?

Practice patience. Patience is something I grapple with often. But I realize that’s probably why I’m being tested with it again and again. On days when I can’t wait any longer for things to settle, I remember that it took me 3 years to love California, so 5 months is hardly enough time to like it here. How do I practice patience? Meditating helps as does being out in nature. Any activity that forces me to focus on the present moment instead of how much I’d rather be somewhere else is essential in moments like these.

Learn acceptance. Acceptance isn’t the same thing as settling. It means accepting the moment that you’re in right now. You might not like it, but so it is. Once we stop resisting and accept the situation we’re in, something wonderful happens. Some of the pain of being where you are dissipates.

Find the silver lining. Maybe your job is tedious or your apartment is noisy. But if you look hard enough, you might find that what you do love about your work is your co-workers or that where you’re living is convenient to stores. Even I have to admit that being within 15 minutes from the beach is a blessing. Every situation has its good and its bad. It just depends how you look at it.

Be grateful. Where you are currently isn’t exactly where you’d like to be. But there is still something to be grateful for in every situation. You have a job and a roof over your head. For me, it’s being near family and to the beach. When we focus on the little things we have to be grateful for, we attract more things to be grateful in our life.

Visualize what you do want. Incessant complaining won’t get you far. If you want to change your situation, do what you can to make tiny changes to get to where you want to be. Spend a few minutes every day dreaming up your best life. What does it feel like to be there? Who’s with you? What are you doing? Even spending a little time in your dream life can raise your mood, empower you and draw hope back into your life. All necessary ingredients for getting you to where you want to be.

What helps you feel better when you’re unhappy with where you are?

 

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It Pays to Risk Big: Risky Behavior Not So Risky After All?

There’s a misconception that risk is bad for you. It’s an old wive’s tale that says a good life is a quiet one. It’s why there are people who don’t travel, who stay unhappily in the same job/relationship for years, and why we never quite live up to our potential.

The fear of feeling uncomfortable dries up our ambitions. We mistakenly believe that staying at home or working the same job is safe. Somewhere along the way when we abandoned the tooth fairy and the magic of Santa Claus, we also bid adieu to our childlike spirit that craves adventure and self-growth. We settled instead.

I had a childhood friend who’s parents didn’t want her to leave the house out of fear. Leave home and she could be hit by a car, struck by lightening, or killed. But who knows what staying stagnant will do to our soul?

Psychologically we feel safe when we don’t venture outside our comfort zone. We avoid uncomfortable stomach butterflies, the shame of failure or the fear of success.

We get so comfy in our stagnation that shaking things up feels intolerable and unsafe. Yet, playing it safe can prove risky to our success.

In The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things, Larry Dossey, M.D. says:

“I believe the urge to take risks is innate, inscribed in bone and blood and genes, and that when we completely avoid risk, we sabotage our greatest potential.”

By not choosing to take risks, we can compromise our physical health as well. In his book, Dossey shares research that indicates risky behavior can stimulate our immune system aiding in things like cancer and infections.

If risky behavior is good for us, then what’s stopping us from pursuing our dreams?

Maybe we’re not all built to jump out of planes or even on a surfboard, but that doesn’t mean we’re ill-equipped to take on our dreams. Maybe what we need is someone to tell us right now that what we’re doing means something, that it will be worth it, and that our efforts in the present moment have significant influence on our future.

Well it is.

It will be.

And it does.

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Why You Should Never Give Up

{Random abstract watercolor painting I drew up with watercolor pencils and a paintbrush.}

We often hold back from our true potential out of fear. There is a small, but demanding voice that screeches at us and says, “No one cares about what you do. You’ll never be good enough. ” Like a mosquito, it buzzes in our ears, annoying even the most confident and successful amongst us.

It’s not that some people are just more talented, hard working or lucky. It is true that there are people who fall into those categories. But that’s not what got them where they are.

What gave them the ability to surpass the doubts and hurdles that overcome all of us is the belief they will eventually get there.

Even if their prose is so bad that it causes loved ones to swallow criticism in fear of hurting their feelings.

Even if their hours of work is not only monotonous, but heartbreakingly unproductive.

Even if you are not where you want to be.

Even if all signs seem to point to failure.

If you still are passionate about what you do, do not give up!

I realized after five years of writing professionally that there is a natural ebb and flow that comes with the territory. There will be moments when my ego believes, “This is it! I finally made it.” As if a single project could validate my existence. And there are equally moments when the jobs start to dry up that I begin to question my purpose.

None of that is important. These are mere external circumstances required to change as we do. If anything, they are there as lessons-inevitable opportunities to practice patience, faith and the type of unrelenting persistence required to accomplish big feats like finishing a marathon or that story you have tucked away in a drawer.

It took me a long time to realize that it’s not about proving myself. It took me years to realize that there’s no magic fairy dust that graces the head’s of only certain individuals. The way you make luck for yourself in life is to keep trying.

This means that I will pick myself up after every inevitable fall. It means that just because my rough draft sucks doesn’t mean it won’t sing after a dozen or more revisions.

What it means it that I don’t equate my bad days with the good of my soul.

It takes courage to meet our fears. But it’s the only way we’ll get there. And dear friends, we will get there, as long as we keep on going.

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When the Honeymoon Ends

In every relationship, there will come a time when you’ll begin to doubt whether you should be in it. It’s usually when the honeymoon phase ends. You wonder: “Did I do the right thing?”

I’m not talking about your romantic relationship or your friendships, but your career.

According to Real Simple magazine’s Daily Thought for September 7, 2012:

But when the love wanes, do you bail out? Do you hit the road? Do you venture into greener pastures?

I sometimes think of it. When writing begins to feel painstakingly hard, when thinking up new ideas feels like walking in slowly sinking sand, I contemplate a life writing-free. I imagine having a 9-5 job again where I feel respected by friends and family, where the benefits are good, a steady paycheck is a given and where vacation feels easy. I can turn off work as easily as shutting down my computer.

But I remember that it’s always greener on the other side. I remember what it was like to ache for meaningful life and the desperation I felt to do what made my heart soar. And I know that I’m lucky. But I wanted to tell you all that it’s not easy. That even if you’re feeling like this right now, it doesn’t mean that you’re off course. You can expect that challenges come regardless of what field you in. Sometimes the challenges are professional ones and other times it’s a personal test.

These days, I like to think of life as a class. Maybe I’m going through this so I can learn how to endure criticism. Maybe this happened so I can get better at responding to negative feedback.

If you allow your deep love and passion for helping others to drive you forward, then those other so-called setbacks are really just bumps in the road. If you learn these lessons, it’ll just make your tires stronger and more able to go right over them.

Sometime in the path toward your life purpose you will feel self-doubt. And that’s okay. Don’t avoid the feeling. Don’t bury it in other things. Listen to what your doubt is trying to tell you. It’s often less about them, the people who are bringing you down. Most of the time, it’s you. Take it as a reminder that no matter who said what about your work or what obstacles are thrown your way, it’s not a reflection in the totality of you. Don’t allow someone to break you down. Have the courage to remember that you have a special gift and your one mission in life is to allow that gift to come forward.

Above all this, remember that I’m in this boat with you. We are never alone. We’re soul soldiers trying to just do what we love and love what we do.

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How Much Would You Risk for Your Dreams?

Dandelion

As you know from this post, I’ve had a little more free time on my hands lately. Especially since my new blogging job at Beliefnet has been temporarily stalled because of all the increase in traffic that’s been landing there lately (good news for my future, bad news for me now).

On the bright side, I’ve had ample time to work on my dreams: a book I hope to publish one day, a copywriting job, and my latest project (recovering a vintage typewriter I bought and shared on Facebook over the weekend).

Sunshine with a Chance of Crazy

Well in the midst of all my applying, I’ve gotten a surprising number of callbacks and interests. There were at least a handful that made my stomach tingle (you know the feeling you get when you really like someone? That kind).

But here I am, feeling that same doubt. Because I’ve gone and done something super crazy! Crazier than leaving a job for no job in tow. I’ve said, “No” to all of them. Why? Because they’d require a sacrifice I can’t foresee making right now-giving up the freedom and flexibility that comes with freelancing and telecommuting. Am I crazy or what?

I have to admit that turning down jobs, especially writing jobs that I would love, seems not only illogical, but quite frankly a little bit of stupid. But I can’t give up now. I think following your dreams take faith. The kind of faith that makes you walk forward without any certainty that something or someone will catch you if you fall.

If it sounds too crazy for you, think of it this way. If you were single and wanted to find your soul mate, would you get together with each person you met that was available just because they were available? Or would you risk turning a few down because you had faith that you would eventually meet the right person or at least a few date worthy candidates?

What Would You Give Up for Your Dreams?

I heard someone say once that you can have everything you want in life, but not all at one time. What’s required of you to fulfill that dream is to give up something else in return. For some, it’s family over career. For others, it’s a willingness to wait a lifetime in order to finish that book or travel to Europe. But whether it’s time, financial security or stability, it’s worth asking yourself this:

What am I willing to give up for the purpose of pursuing my dreams?

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Inspiring Businesses

When I’m stuck in a rut, when I’m feeling like my chips are down, the one thing that lifts me up better than an ice-cream cone on a sweltering hot day is soaking up the light from other inspiring businesses.

This past week I heard of two that really got me going and I wanted to share their stories with you here.

Teen Beats Sharks

I first heard about Maggie Bradshaw on Shark Tank. (One of my favorite mindless reality TV shows.) Even if you haven’t seen it before, the title really says it all. People looking for investors to fund their latest invention give a brief presentation to a financially wealthy panel (the sharks) and get ready for them to swarm. It’s a fun show to watch. But this time I was more afraid for Maggie and her younger 12-year old sister.

Not only did Maggie do better than most participants in the show, but all 5 of the sharks wanted to invest in her company. She was assertive, determined and more knowledgeable about business and profit margins that I was at that age. She held her ground, negotiated, didn’t show an once of fear and ended up getting 3 sharks to invest in her million dollar company. Maggie’s just 16. And her company? Necklaces made out of used bottle caps. Genius! You can find out more about m3 girl designs here.

A Truly Inspiring Bee

I haven’t met Bumble owner Mary Heffernan except seeing her in passing as I left her charming restaurant/play cafe, but she still inspires me. As soon as I walked into the cottage that housed her dreams, I was smitten. What I most admire about Heffernan is her out of the box thinking. She created a business out of what she felt was a need-a place where adults could enjoy eating out again with their kids. The cottage is beautifully and glamorously decorated so much so that I didn’t even realize it was a place parents bring their kids until I looked through the aquarium and saw children looking back at us from the next room. What a brilliant idea! Not only that but the items on her menu are organic and locally sourced. And I’m a big lover of details so I couldn’t help but adore the tiles in the bathroom shaped like what else? Honeycombs.

These are just a few business and I’m sure you have your own list of people and companies that make you want to be and do better in your own life. Who are they and what is about them that inspire you?

I’m signing off with one more bit of inspiration. George Lucas recently sat down to talk with Oprah on OWN and I had to jot down what he said about passion. Here it is:

“You sit down to do something at 7 o’clock in the morning and you get hungry and you realize it’s 7 o’clock at night. That’s your passion. That’s what you love. Find something like that, that you can make your career…The idea of making money. The idea of being famous. The idea of becoming powerful in essence is meaningless. It’s only that you’re happy and you’re only going to be happy doing what you love.”

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