My 200th Post: The Good Things Jar

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Happy Friday! ¬†We made it ūüėČ ¬†I’m excited to announce this is my 200th post on this blog. ¬†That is quite an accomplishment, I must say. ¬†It signifies a commitment to my writing practice and to you, my dear readers. ¬†It’s important to celebrate all those milestones, no matter how big or small they seem in the moment.

One way we can do that is to create a Good Things Jar.  I first saw this concept posted on Facebook, but there are many different versions of it.  In fact, a friend of mine and fellow blogger recently posted about The Happiness Jar, a kind of gratitude jar, which was introduced by writer Elizabeth Gilbert.

The Good Things Jar helps you focus on something good that happened each week. ¬†You write it down on a slip of paper and place it in your jar. ¬†Then, at the end of the year, maybe even on New Year’s Eve, you can open the jar and read about all the good things that happened in 2017.

Alternatively, if you don’t have time or space for a jar, you can simply make a list and keep track that way, but it might not be as much fun. ¬†I realized I was actually doing this last year when I kept a list of “miracles” (big and small) that occurred to me or someone else I cared about. ¬†This was in response to my word of the year.

But whatever you decide to do, keeping track of your successes, what you are grateful for, and the general positives in your life is guaranteed to be uplifting.

May you have a year filled with many good things!

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The Reality of Realizing a Dream

As I mentioned in a previous post, I went to Italy last fall. ¬†It was a monumental trip in so many ways. ¬†Venice was our last stop, and of course, I couldn’t go home without riding the gondola. ¬†Sure, it’s hokey and touristy, not to mention expensive. ¬†BUT it’s also the quintessential Italian experience. ¬†Right?

More importantly, it was all part of the dream I had of one day going to Italy.  It was the equivalent of crossing the finish line in a race.

But what does it mean to actually accomplish a dream? ¬†Is it all that it’s cracked up to be or do you sometimes get to that point and think: hmm, ok, well that was cool, what’s next? ¬†I think that’s why everyone says it’s so important to be in the present moment and enjoy the journey. ¬†That way, when you reach that actual moment of realization, acclaim, success, you don’t deflate.

Allow me to take you on my journey to realizing a lifelong dream and show you what I discovered in the process.

My husband and I decided a morning ride would be just as romantic and quaint as an evening ride, especially since it costs twice as much to ride after dark–and forget about being serenaded, that’s a whole extra charge. ¬†Our hotel recommended a trip around Rialto Bridge and told us we might have to haggle for a fair price. ¬†We found a dock with gondoliers advertising, but decided to check around, since their ride seemed a little short for the price. ¬†But as it turned out, other spots were even busier and no less reasonable in price or time length. ¬†We headed back to our original spot only to watch the gondoliers receive a telephone call and dash away. ¬†What now?

We entered a busy square and found a super tall–I mean gargantuan–male gondolier waving his big hands around and calling out his services. ¬†Well, I knew right away, this was our guy. ¬†He had a friendly face and despite a small concern as to whether he would fit under all the bridges, he seemed the most likely candidate for the job. ¬†I imagined he could steer us anywhere with those hands. ¬†Of course, as soon as we chose him, another couple swooped in like a couple of pigeons, not exactly to steal our guy, but rather to try to get in on the action by sharing a boat and saving some cash. ¬†This is common procedure and even recommended in guidebooks, but I was NOT having it that day. ¬†I mean, this was my shining moment of glory. ¬†I was not planning to share it with a couple of strangers. ¬†Plus there’s only one love seat. ¬†How do you have a romantic moment with other tourists? ¬†Anyway, I waved them away, and the gondolier didn’t seem to mind, so off we went! ¬†But I did feel a little sorry for the couple we left behind, who actually seemed pretty normal and well-intentioned.

Getting into the boat was a feat in and of itself. ¬†And then getting situated. ¬†The gondolier wanted us on certain sides to maintain the balance, but all we could think was: What about our photo ops? ¬†If you know my husband, you know there will be many of those, they need to be just right, and they cannot be dictated by the needs of the person steering the boat even if he’s just trying to do his job and keep us from capsizing or crashing ūüėČ ¬†Well, we got it squared away. ¬†As I say, we had THEE GONDOLIER who was willing to do whatever it took to make us happy and get paid. ¬†So we’re bouncing around trying to pose ourselves and feeling quite antsy and truthfully not really enjoying the moment or noticing much of the scenery except in terms of what would make a great shot. ¬†We reach the Grand Canal, the place to see and be seen, and truly wear ourselves out with photos.

But FINALLY, we settled down, relaxed, and absorbed the sights and sounds of our surroundings.  We cuddled, politely kissed, sailed under bridges, cruised down secluded passageways, listened as our guy chatted about history and architecture while we admired the ambience, and savored every delicious minute.  And even still, it was over too soon.  But again, our gondolier did not rest until he got a few final perfect shots of us in the boat, per our request.

So how did I feel after stepping out of the gondola? ¬†Elated, exhausted, perplexed, complete, and secretly a little bit disappointed although I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why. ¬†I’m certain I¬†built up the expectation in my head to a staggering degree that could never quite measure up to any experience in real-time. ¬†But to be fair, I only had romantic, Hollywood movies as a model. ¬†Anything would pale in comparison ūüėČ

So was I totally 100 percent gratified afterwards?  No.  But was it still worth it?  Yes.  And here is why.

Riding in the gondola was a symbolic part of my journey and I couldn’t really consider the trip complete without having experienced this moment.¬†I think for me, it was about honoring the occasion. ¬†It was THE EVENT to mark the rite of passage. ¬†To say I came, I saw, I did everything there was to do in Italy including the gondola ride. ¬†I could then go home feeling certain that I’d accomplished my lifelong dream to go to Italy and discover my roots.

So am I saying don’t bother going after a big dream in case it doesn’t live up to your every expectation? ¬†Of course not. ¬†Go after your dream with confidence! ¬†After all, my trip to Italy as a whole was everything I hoped it would be and more. ¬†But when you reach the TOP, if the view isn’t quite what you expected, no big deal. ¬†It’s the getting there that’s the real prize. ¬†You might even find that the very thing that had been thrashing around, unsettled, in your heart, becomes still. ¬†And whatever comes next, because there will certainly be new mountains to climb, you can hold this moment of accomplishment in your mind as a testament that dreams really do come true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Your Actions, Not Your Awards

I was talking with my friend the other day about working on longtime projects and how the day-to-day process can be grueling.  You see the end goal in the distant future, but it always seems just out of reach.  But what is the end goal really?  Is it the praise you receive or could it be something else?

I think it is important to celebrate the act of finishing.  This is quite an achievement in and of itself.  You would be surprised to know just how many people never actually finish what they start, especially when it comes to a longer project.

Why don’t we finish? ¬†There are lots of excuses. ¬†We’re too busy, we’re bored with it, we’ve changed direction, we no longer have the resources, and on and on. ¬†But there really is just one reason: we’re scared. ¬†We don’t want to know what the end result will be. ¬†We’re worried we’ll fail. ¬†That our project won’t turn out as we imagined. ¬†If we stop now, we’ll never have to taste failure…or success, whatever that is.

So for those brave souls that push through these fears and frustrations and make it to the end, I say THIS is the victory. ¬†This is the accomplishment for which we should be so proud. ¬†Celebrate those actionable steps you take, each and every one, regardless of the outcome. ¬†And then see how you feel. ¬†You might be surprised to find that you want to take more steps. ¬†That you’re motivated by simply finishing. ¬†That you become more confident in your ability to make decisions and carry them out.

Typically I think we only find ourselves celebrating after we receive a prize or praise for finishing our project.  If we win an award for our submission to a writing contest, we celebrate.  If we get a promotion at work, we celebrate.  If we lose five pounds, we celebrate.

But what is the true accomplishment?  Is it winning the award, or is it finishing the work and having the courage to submit?  Is it being recognized and selected for a promotion, or is it being motivated to do our best at work and actually enjoying what we do for a living?  Is it losing weight, or is it having the strength to adopt a healthier lifestyle and commit ourselves to an exercise routine every day?

If we only celebrate our awards, we run the risk of never being satisfied with ourselves or our lives unless we receive awards.  Also, we tend to simply want more and more, almost like a drug.

On the other hand, if we celebrate our actions, we take pride in ourselves regardless of whether the outside world recognizes our value. ¬†Then if we receive recognition, it’s just icing on the cake. ¬†But meanwhile, we don’t internalize it as much, because we’re already back at the wheel taking action once again. ¬†We’re not caught up in our successes or failures. ¬†We’re free to simply live, experiment, try, push ourselves even further.

So start celebrating the act of finishing without awaiting judgement. ¬†Don’t wait for others to deem your work worthy. ¬†Don’t wait for an arbitrary award to be handed out. ¬†Give yourself a reward right now for simply being brave enough to take a chance and act.

New Mantra: “Pursue Excellence. Ignore Success.”

The Atlas Slave was an unfinished work by Michaelangelo.

I’ve been a fan of Deepak Chopra ever since I read his book, The spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence,¬†which is all about synchronicity.
Earlier this year, I came across a great article, “Deepak Chopra: A Life of Fullfillment,” where Chopra talks all about success. ¬†Given that he’s both a spiritual leader and a highly successful individual, I was excited to hear what he had to say on the subject. ¬†As expected, he had many wise words.
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To start, here is some sage advice:
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“If you focus on success, you‚Äôll have stress. But if you pursue excellence, success will be guaranteed.” ¬†–Deepak Chopra
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To go along with that he ¬†says, “Try hard and you will succeed.
¬†Try too hard and you will fail.”
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I think this is especially important for artists to remember, although anyone who is a perfectionist at heart or an over-achiever can benefit from these words. ¬†Sometimes when we want something, we try so hard to get it that we end up not getting it. ¬†It’s important to remember to relax, enjoy life, and take your time. ¬†In other words, don’t take life too seriously! ¬†ūüėČ ¬†That doesn’t mean avoiding hard work or showing up every day for the task. ¬†Rather it means, be kind to yourself if you have a down day or don’t complete as much as you hoped.
 
Chopra says, “Being locked up in your own mindset means being locked out of the world around you,” and as artists, that’s the last thing we want.
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If pursuing excellence sounds a little too much like pursuing perfection, you can look at it a different way and pursue fulfillment.
 
Here are some other strategies.
  • Create something of value that wasn’t there before.
  • Focus on:¬†¬†“Creativity, imagination, insight, intuition, conscious choice-making, love, compassion, understanding…” rather than instant gratification.
  • Adopt a growth mindset and see opportunities rather than adversity.
  • Engage the “unfriendlies” and dissect their point of view until you find the inherent value.
  • Remember that true creativity requires an open mind and curiosity.
¬†“I define success as the following,” Chopra says. “No. 1, the progressive realization of worthy goals. No. 2, the ability to love and have compassion. No. 3, to be in touch with the creative source inside you. And No. 4, to ultimately move from success to significance.”

Quote for the Day: Happiness

We all want to be happy.  The pursuit of happiness is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence.  Will Smith even starred in a movie about it.  But what does it really mean to be happy?

I recently watched a TED Talk that offered another model for this ideal.

“The happiness of pursuit”

Instead of always trying to accomplish something in order to find happiness, we might want to consider finding happiness as we try to accomplish something.

Shawn Achor says in his talk entitled The Happy Secret to Better Work,¬†“Every time your brain has a success,¬†you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like.¬†You got good grades, now you have to get better grades,¬†you got into a good school and after you get into a better one,¬†you got a good job, now you have to get a better job,¬†you hit your sales target, we’re going to change it.¬†And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there.”

So go after what you want.  But instead of viewing happiness as a destination, see if you can find happiness along the way.

 

The Key to Success: A Journal of Steps

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I keep an affirmation journal. ¬†In it, I write down all the accomplishments I’ve made towards my creative goals as well as the positive feedback I’ve received. ¬†It’s useful to go back from time to time and read over the list to remind yourself how far you’ve come. ¬†It also helps combat the negative voice in your head. ¬†When you confront that negative voice with your list of accomplishments, it’s amazing how quickly the voice becomes silent.

But what I want to share with you today is how I learned about a way to take this concept one step further. ¬†Awhile back, a fellow blogger, Timothy Pike, started following my blog. ¬†One of his posts caught my attention. ¬†He titled it, “My life changed, literally overnight, when I started keeping a success journal.” ¬†You can read more about it here. ¬†I quickly learned that his success journal was far more detailed than mine. ¬†Partly because he committed to writing down at least one accomplishment for every day of the year.

While I was only writing what I considered worthy accomplishments: having a successful art show or receiving encouraging feedback from an agent or editor, this blogger suggests that you write down every action you take towards your goal. ¬†For instance, not just winning a contest, but entering one. ¬†Not just completing a novel, but coming up with an amazing new character. ¬†And certainly don’t limit your accomplishments only to moments where others have responded favorably to your work. ¬†You need to feel a sense of worth from within yourself, so you can trust yourself and continue moving forward.

The most amazing discovery, as noted by this blogger, is what happens when you start keeping this success journal.  It not only lifts you up, it also pushes you to take further action towards your goals.  You literally want to have things to write down in your success journal, so you keep taking steps.  Action is always the key to success.

So what are you waiting for? ¬†Take a step in the direction of your dreams. ¬†Then write it down! ¬†You’ll be surprised at how quickly you want to take another step.