Dream Big First Figure Out the Details Later Part 1

Dream Big First, Figure Out the Details Later (Pt. 1)

If this post had a second subtitle it would be this: Don’t settle when it comes to your dream life and don’t get sidetracked by security, external success, or money. Also, this post comes to you in 2 parts, enjoy part 1 below 🙂

THINKING ABOUT YOUR FUTURE

Sometimes I feel like we are led to believe that there are a bunch of pre-arranged lifestyles, aka different career paths that currently exist, and it’s our job to figure out which one appeals to us the most (or sucks the least). Then, we are supposed to take the steps towards making it become what we do for the rest of our lives. Whoa! Scary. No pressure or anything! I remember being primed this way in high school. In Planning class, they wanted us to pick the career that we were going to strive for from there on out. I do think it’s important that schools prepare us to enter the work force, however, the way they go about it can restrict us in what we think is possible for our lives.

I want you to create an image in your head of what you think your future will look like. Where do you live, what do you spend your time doing, who are you with, and how do you make money? Now, imagine your wildest dream for your future. This is your absolute dream life! Don’t hold back, be outrageous, and really focus on what you desire.

Does this image look different than the previous one? How do you feel about that? Does it make you sad at all? Well, I think these images often do differ and it makes me sad! I think when we imagine our futures we need to dream big first! Before we worry, before we break it down into steps, and before we think about what other people will think of us.

When we plan our futures, we tend to do so within the boundaries of safety, security, and minimal experiences of fear, threat, or chances to fail. Doing so is logical, realistic, and obtainable. But it could also make us settle for less. You’ve only got this life (for all intents and purposes) so why not strive for your wildest dream?! If you can think of your big picture first, you might actually have a chance of making it happen! Now, don’t go imagining a future where you sit by the pool and money rains down from above, but if you dream of being an astronaut or artist, then you can f***ing make it happen!

Just because there are so many systems in place, like university, college, 9-5 jobs, gender roles, and career blueprints, doesn’t mean that you can’t create your own system for your life that is just yours! You can also work within these systems in a way that is unique to you!

DO YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO?

What you love has to come first. You can figure out how to make money doing it after. I have come across way too many people in my life who don’t enjoy what they’re doing for approximately 40 hours of each week, and have been doing so for years. Whether they didn’t think big enough, they let money get in the way, or they just got stuck, I can sense that they’re not happy. They tell me it’s too late for a career change, or they found something that supports their family, or buys things to help them enjoy their time at home. This is fine and supporting your family is super important. But that’s all it is: fine. And that’s at best! A lot of them actually report being depressed, bored, or very unfulfilled, which ends up preventing them from truly enjoying their time with their family anyway! I hate this! It sound to me like they feel as though this is it for them, that this is all they’re capable of or all that exists for them in life. I think certain societal structures and expectations make us feel this way. I understand that this isn’t how everyone feels, but It hurts my heart to think that I can only name less than a handful of people in my life that feel excited about going to work and even fewer that would say they love their job and feel fulfilled doing it. I’ve been in this place and I don’t want to be there forever! When we put security or money before our happiness, we set the tone of our lives to be lacking in the areas of true importance!

What do you really love to do? Even if it isn’t a career, it can be anything! There is a way to make it into your living if you make it the focus of your life. You may say that your hobby isn’t easily made into a career, but consider Twitch streamers, YouTubers and drag queens, to name a few. Isn’t it worth a try? This is your life we’re talking about! I don’t think it’s meant to be spent feeling crappy and doing things just to fill time and bring home money. I just won’t accept that. If you put in the effort, I think the universe is going to have your back and help you get there. And the best part is, it’ll be in your own weird, original way.

You may also think that you don’t want to turn your hobby into a job, and that’s fair. That isn’t for everyone. Maybe you’re happy with a tolerable job if it means that you can come home and do whatever it is that you love at the end of the day. If that works for you that’s fine, just make sure your job isn’t taking up your mental energy and causing you to feel negative emotions, preventing you from fully enjoying your hobbies.

WHY DO WE DREAM SMALL?

What makes us dream small in the first place? The answer is usually fear! That good ol’ emotion that comes in handy when keeping us alive, but can also get in the way of us taking risks that could pay off in the end. Fear makes us settle for tolerable careers because we want to be secure, respected, or because we think we might fail at creating our dream life.

Don’t let your fears stop you from dreaming in the first place. Dream huge! Just create a wildly, joyful and successful life in your head; one where you look at your fears as signs of what is important to you. One with love, joy and fulfillment. Only once you’ve done this should you turn and focus on what it takes to get there and what fears you need to overcome to make it happen.

MONEY OR TIME?

Do not go into a field of work because of the money. I’d say this is one of the top predictors of an unsatisfying life. If you need to be struggling financially for a while in order to be working towards your goal and doing what you love, then it will be worth it in the end. Say f**k you to how the world says you have to make money and what you should prioritize. Put your happiness before material wealth.

Time is more valuable to me then money. I would rather work less hours to be able to spend more time writing and doing other things I love, than working full-time at a job I dislike and coming home exhausted, stressed, and with money to spare. I’m lucky that I currently have both a job I like and enough spare time to do the things I love. Brandon Stanton, the man behind Humans of New York, said in a recent podcast that, when he started out, it was more important to him to be making just enough money to do what he wanted to do (photography) all day long than be more financially stable and work somewhere else. He didn’t start out by focusing on how to make money doing photography, but rather on making sure that he was doing the thing that he loved, as much as possible. I think this is the definition of fulfillment!

We think there needs to be financial security first when planning our careers, but aiming for that often leads to us pushing aside and even stepping over our dream work.

GREAT! NOW I REGRET EVERYTHING I’VE DONE SO FAR!

If you’re realizing that your path needs to change in order to reach your dream life, you may develop regrets. I want to ask you not to feel like you’ve been wasting your time. You may realize that you haven’t been taking any steps towards the life you want, but that doesn’t mean it’s all been for nothing! For me, I think I needed to work the jobs that didn’t inspire me to figure out what it feels like to be unfulfilled! For example, working in management taught me about leadership and made it clear to me what I don’t want in a career. Going to university for Psychology taught me a lot and got me comfortable with writing. All the negative emotions I’ve felt allowed me to connect more with others. I wouldn’t be able to write about improving life and mental health if I hadn’t gone through some depressing, unfulfilling, sh*tty times myself. These things have all added to my ability to create interesting work that is uniquely able to be created by me!

If what you’ve done in no way relates to your goals, at least you’ve learned what you don’t like! You now know what not living your dreams looks like and how much of a tragedy it can be. I understand that not being fulfilled is not the world’s worst tragedy. There are truly tragic things that occur but remember that you’re not contributing to the world by existing in a place of boredom and un-fulfillment, living below your fullest potential.

Thanks for reading, part 2 is to follow 🙂

-Jess

Caring What People Think

Caring What People Think – The Biggest Obstacle to True Self-Expression

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’ve worried about how other people perceive me. I tend to be quite aware of what social image my words and behaviours create in other people’s minds. I’m not sure why humans are so hyper-aware of other’s opinions of us but, evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense that it would have been important for us to be harmonious in our tribes. If we didn’t fit in, we’d get left behind and become prey. Fair enough. But nowadays, caring what other people think of us has lost its evolutionary benefits and has instead become a source of anxiety.

WHY IT’S HARMFUL

When you aim to be perceived in a certain way, you stifle your true character, your self-expression, and your creative process. I find that my desire to control how other people view me comes from the fear of being misinterpreted, underestimated or thought of as stupid, heartless, or unaware. Thus, when I feel as though I am not being perceived the way I’d hoped, I feel a bit anxious. I’ve spent time in my head calculating how to come across a certain way instead of fully expressing every part of myself and focusing on what’s important to me.

I think this fear of judgment, criticism, or not being perceived the way we want to is one of the biggest obstacles in expressing ourselves creatively and living out our dreams. Firstly, we’re distracted from actually doing the work/being the person that comes from within because we’re doing the work/being the person we think will get us appreciation instead. Secondly, we may never really push the boundaries and forage towards our wildest dreams because were creating/working/living within the realm of the narrow goals or predetermined lifestyle other people have set for us.

WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE

Sometimes, I think we try to control how we are viewed by “fine-tuning” how we behave. But I think doing so will only cause us worry or let us down. There will always be misinterpretations and there will always be people that don’t like what you do, what you say, or who you are. You literally can’t please everyone. It’s such an exhausting mental process that is completely useless! In no way does it move us forward and it sure as hell doesn’t let us express ourselves fully! When I only use the parts of my creativity or aspects of my personality that are acceptable or appreciated by everyone, I’m letting an untapped pool of creativity and personality lay dormant.

I find we sometimes try to change how someone looks at us by indirectly letting them know what they should think of us. This can look like highlighting certain qualities about ourselves that we like, hiding ones we don’t, or exaggerating the behaviours that make others focus on the fact that we are x, y, or z. This just doesn’t feel authentic to me! Of course we’ve all done it and it’s tempting to cultivate a character for others but it will never lead to real fulfillment and satisfaction. It’s the most satisfying thing to actually be ourselves, fully, in every arena of our lives.

Sometimes all we fear is misinterpretation, but there are other times when we want to be perceived as someone who we actually aren’t. If you want to be confident but you don’t feel like you are, change that, don’t just try and convince people that you are! Become someone you’re proud of! If being confident is meaningful to you, put in the effort. When I want to cultivate a certain quality, like confidence, I want to make sure that I’m doing it for me and not because I want other people to think I’m confident. Actually being confident means you’ve put in the effort to practice confidence in the moments when doing so is most difficult. Telling people you’re confident isn’t what makes you confident, it’s actually feeling it, for no one but yourself!

HOW TO MAKE THE CHANGE

I often think to myself “what if I just stopped trying to be perceived in a certain way and just did things and said things because I thought they were the right/kind/me thing to do?!” Oh my god, what an idea! Wouldn’t life be amazing and care-free?! Well, it’s possible!

By drowning out the voices in your head that tell you you need to be more this or that, you can really focus on what excites you! What feels good to make, what qualities do you love about yourself, what hobbies light you up, and what lifestyle do you want to lead? Share your interests! Make deeper connections with people by letting them know who you really are! Dress how you feel, not how you think is acceptable. Make your surroundings reflect who you are on the inside. Surround yourself with people that appreciate the real you, not people who have expectations of you or who are not really themselves.

WHY IT WILL BE HARD

We are very social creatures, and looking to others for cues on our behaviour is helpful to keep us aware of how we treat others. I don’t think that forgetting about what other people think of us needs to turn us into jerks. It doesn’t mean saying fuck you to everyone and existing independent of collaboration. Instead, it means not letting the need to please come in the way of freely being who you are and doing the things that you feel you are made to do.

Caring about what other people think exists in many areas of life. It makes us unable to embrace the “weird” things about us. It makes us feel negative emotions, like embarrassment, loneliness, and shame. It makes us feel removed from others. It makes us hate our physical appearance, personality traits, or areas of interest. It makes us doubt our capability to complete things and be successful. It might even make us think we are bad or unworthy. These things are hard to get over but by addressing the fact that many of these things come from the fear of criticism and judgement, we’re able to stop the cycle of being guided by social structure and opinion and instead be guided by our personal interests and desires.

BENEFITS

If we all focused more on guiding ourselves rather than being guided by others opinions and we all started appreciating when others do the same, the world could look a little different:

  • We could embrace the weird things about ourselves that actually make us special rather than trying to cover them up and missing out on the feeling of true expression and authenticity.
  • We could feel less marginalized or misunderstood because we would no longer need to justify our mental illness, our “flaws” or  our “oddities”. Instead of having surface relationships because we want to be “acceptable”, we could start connecting on deeper levels about things that matter to us.
  • We could feel better about our appearance. Instead of feeling as though we need to fit a certain look/style or be a certain size, we would be able to use our appearance as another way to express who we are.

I think this is where the fun begins! This is where we truly start living and being the individual only we can be!

CONCLUSION

Be sure to respect your process of change as well. If you gain respect or a following for something and your creative process or desires turns in another direction, you may find yourself continuing to create/like things in the old area of interest to please your following. However, you may begin losing yourself and your potential to create new things that represent who you are now. Humans evolve and that’s just natural. Don’t feel as though you need to stay in a box because people like you when you’re in it. There will always be lovers and haters and if you need to step out of that box to grow, then you do it!

The point of all this is so that you can experience the immense joy and being yourself; of true self-expression. Something that has given me great joy as of late is acknowledging and using my strengths, creating things that feel good to make, and being proud of my interests. I find that I used to try and highlight particular interests around particular people or groups of people that were interested in the same things. Now, I remind myself that being authentic is more important to me than being liked.

I also feel vulnerable even sharing the fact that I care what people think of me. But, again, I remind myself that I think it’s more honourable to admit this than pretend it isn’t happening. Being vulnerable is admirable to me because our drive to have other people think we “have it all together” is strong, even though it only gets in the way of real connection. I know I appreciate people who unapologetically like what they like even when it is controversial, “lame”, or outside of the norm. Why? Because I know they’re being themselves!

-Jess

Empathy Can Change the World

Empathy Can Change the World

This is probably my favourite topic and I feel like I could talk about empathy for hours!

The reason why I am so interested in empathy is because I think it’s the best quality someone can have and it’s a cure for so many social problems and world issues. Empathy can reduce conflict between people, build more meaningful relationships, improve mental health (by turning it towards ourselves), and help us plan services for our communities.

So, what is empathy? To me, being empathetic means truly accepting another person’s perspective and not judging them for it, even if you might not be able to understand, relate to, or agree with it. It means fully putting yourself in their shoes by thinking about all of the life situations/circumstances they’ve been in, their mental health issues, their support networks (or lack thereof), and all of the things in their life that have led up to them being the person they are now.

By practicing empathy, we are so much better equipped to support other people! I find that we often get angry or hurt because someone acts a certain way or treats us a certain way and we either take it personally (feel hurt) or judge their behaviour. Instead, we can use empathy to look at their situation and think “hey, maybe that person has been through some sh!t. We all have! Maybe she wasn’t treated well by her partner and that’s the only model she has of how people treat each other and is why she’s treating me this way”.

Have you ever thought that you just couldn’t understand how someone did something? Maybe you thought what they did was mean, or bad, or even wrong? I’m often shocked when I hear people describe a conflict with another person and how unable they are to see the other person’s side! It’s like anger blinds us and we immediately become self-protective. Have you ever been cancelled on by a friend? It sucks! We can easily come up with reasons to blame them for how we feel. And we can’t change how we feel about it but we can change how we react to it. With empathy, we don’t get mad at the friend but instead ask if they are ok or give them some time. Maybe you’ll discover they have anxiety and were having a really triggering day! Another example could be seeing a kid stealing. Think about how that kid may have been homeless from a young age and feared for their safety and survival on the streets and thus their only means of obtaining food to keep themselves alive was to steal! By being empathetic you have a greater capacity to understand and accept people’s actions because you can understand that, if in their position, you may have done the same.

But, how can being empathetic and understanding the reason behind actions change the world? Well, I think it’s the preventative power empathy has. By this I mean that if we all practiced having a bit more empathy, some tragic events could be avoided in the future.

Think about a kid that grew up in a not so great environment. Maybe his parents had drug problems, so he developed them as well. Or maybe he had mental health issues that he never got support with because his family was preoccupied. This kid grows up and his addiction and mental illness grows and leads him to steal, get in fights, or break things. Let’s say you’re his teacher, youth worker, parent or friend, and you just can’t understand why he would do something like that! You say “I don’t get how you could do such a thing” or “you’re a bad kid for doing that”.  This could make him feel like people don’t understand him and that he doesn’t fit in to society or that people think he’s just a bad kid. Would he not then feel like people can’t relate to him? Would he not act upon the title of being a “bad kid” because he’s already been labelled as one? He may start a negative cycle where he gets less and less support and feels more and more marginalized and may end up committing worse and worse crimes. He may eventually feel so removed, unsupported, and angry with the world that he ends up hurting other people. Consider the multiple school shootings that have occurred in America.

It’s a heavy subject, but think about how we tend to “give up” on kids (or adults) like this. We can’t relate to them so we think something is wrong with them and they can’t be helped. But really, they’re not helpless! They need the most help! They need support to address the negative things that have happened in their lives and move forward towards a fulfilling life! We need to try to understand them so we can give them hope to break their cycle.

When you look at the whole picture of someone’s life, you’re more able to understand their actions. I think we need to understand that what we all need from each other is help and support, not punishment and criticism. These are the things we can provide our friends, kids, and families with that have the power to make us all feel more connected and capable!

I’d also like to mention that I’m not saying people don’t do bad, unforgivable things. I don’t think you need to allow people to hurt you or others or that major tragedies are forgivable. What I am saying is that we all have the power to lower the incidences of such events in the future. By getting to the root causes of behaviours we may be able to provide those who feel marginalized get support before they feel the need to do such things.

Whenever you’re in communication with another person, remember the secret power of empathy. You never know if something seemingly meaningless you said to someone is a trigger for them, so never judge how they react. You don’t know if someone has been hurt too many times to trust you. You don’t know whether or not someone is rude to you because they’ve recently lost someone they love. You’ll never know what’s going on behind the scenes in someone’s life so why not give them the benefit of the doubt and try to connect with them. Be kind. I think we need to go into our daily lives thinking that we’re all fighting individual battles and we’re all just humans who have the ability to make each other’s lives a little better.

Thanks for reading,

– Jess

Killers of Good Communication

10 Killers of Good Communication

I think the most influential factor in relationship quality is communication. However, sometimes we humans really suck at communicating! There are certain communication errors we make that lead to hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and relationship turmoil. Here are some of these communication killers that turn good conversation into conflict.

(1) Not saying what you mean
We often say one thing but mean something else, like the classic “I’m ok” when we really just don’t want to talk about what’s bothering us. When we do this, we’re letting the other person try to figure out what we mean. Not only are we leaving room for misinterpretation, but it’s frustrating to talk to someone who we assume isn’t saying what’s on their mind.

Perhaps you do this because you’re afraid that the other person will react negatively to hearing how you actually feel. For example, you might not tell someone that they were being mean, even if you thought they were, because saying so might start an argument.

Not saying what you mean comes out in its worst form as passive aggressiveness. You might think you’re getting away with not being rude by being indirect but you’re also just not being real with the person. Say what you mean! You don’t have to be a jerk about it, say it with compassion, but get your point across clearly and straight forward. You can tell someone that you felt as though they were being rude but that you also know they probably did so because they’ve been having a rough week. Anyone you are communicating with deserves that, and so do you.

(2) Not taking things at face value
Because we humans are emotional beings, we can’t help but interpret meaning from words, body language, and tone. If we don’t say what we mean we tend to believe that others aren’t saying what they mean either. This happens in text messages often. I’ve been asked a few times if I’m alright because I write “ok”. I literally just mean ok! It’s merely an affirming statement but people take this short response, with its lack of emojis, to mean I’m angry or upset. They assume meaning from something that is meaningless. It leads to wasted time explaining and someone feeling hurt or worried unnecessarily.

Now, if someone is eluding to something negative in their text or words, then they are being passive aggressive. Your choice to not acknowledge their hidden meaning might be what they need to finally come out and say it. The downfall of this is that they might just keep doing it, accuse you of apathy, or think you’re being passive aggressive. This is where communication is key! Assuming face value of what people say doesn’t mean ignoring their cue (the passive aggressive comment), it means asking them about it rather assuming they’re angry. “I’m hearing you say X but your tone is making me think that you mean Y, can we talk about it?”

(3) Taking things personally
Another part of taking things at face value means not taking them personally. I think we’re all pretty aware of how much we worry about what other people think of us. Taking things personally in conversation stops you from having real connection because you’re too busy being upset or offended.

The biggest factors in taking things personally are jealousy and self-consciousness. Jealousy may be experienced as someone telling you they feel sad because they miss a friend and rather than using this as an opportunity to listen and show empathy you think to yourself, “do they ever miss me? Do they like this friend more than they like me”? You’ve gone and missed a positive interaction with that person! On the other hand, self-consciousness could be feeling the need to justify yourself when someone tells you they are proud of themselves for eating healthier. You don’t need to justify why you don’t eat healthy or take their statement as a stab at you for not doing so. It’s not always about you, in fact, it usually isn’t. Don’t let being self-oriented get in the way of meaningful connection with others.

(4) Exaggeration
Exaggerating means inferring a higher intensity of meaning than is present. Don’t get into an argument with someone because they said they feel like you don’t listen. Take that comment seriously. Don’t blow it up to mean that that person dislikes you altogether. If you do, that comment will sit in your mind all day, causing you to worry and wonder. This goes for how you speak as well. When you always verbally exaggerate how you feel, you may appear untrustworthy because whoever you are communicating with might get a sense that you aren’t being real with them.

Be logical! It’s not logical to think that when someone says you’re not a good listener that they loath you and everything you stand for! Remember this when responding to their concern.

(5) Gossip
Stop venting about people behind their back and communicate with them. Gossip hurts but up-front communication has the ability to solve problems. You don’t have to like the person but when you gossip you do two things: (1) you cut off any hope of having a positive or even neutral (conflict free) relationship with them if your gossip reaches them and (2) you become untrustworthy to the people you are sharing the gossip with. If someone is constantly speaking ill of other people to me, I can bet that they are also gossiping about me with other people when I’m not around. This doesn’t make me trust them, like them, or feel that they are genuine.

(6) Distraction
If someone I am talking to is looking at their phone, I stop talking. I can’t say I’m not guilty of doing this myself, we’re all distracted by our phones way too much. I know that when I am on my phone and someone is talking to me, I’m not actually processing what they are saying. So, when other people do it I know that I am wasting my breath.

If someone says they can process what I’m saying while on their phone I usually don’t believe them. I don’t think the mind is capable of multi-tasking like this. Even if they actually can do both, it’s just doesn’t feel good to not make eye contact with someone or have them give you their full attention while you’re speaking. Not looking at your phone forces you into the moment and lets the other person know they have your full attention.

(7) Letting unresolved conflict come up
Don’t let old issues come up in conflict when the conflict at hand is unrelated. I can recall times when I have been angry with someone and my mind goes straight to all the things they have done wrong in the past. “You didn’t do X, and by the way, last week you didn’t do Y either!” This doesn’t help the problem at hand nor does it lead to a positive interaction.

The best way to stop these issues from coming up is simply to… resolve them! If you’re bringing up old conflict it should be to work through it and assess how you both can change your behaviours and communication going forward.

(8) Lack of empathy
Empathy allows the person you’re communicating with to feel supported and understood. Being empathetic in conversation means actively listening, not judging, and understanding the range and intensity of their emotions. It also means keeping in mind that different people have different conversational triggers that might upset them and you should be considerate of this (and don’t take it personally!).

It’s also highly beneficial to be able to simulate how people feel when you are in conflict with them. If you can’t be empathetic in conflict, you’ll both be arguing your points, unable to see the other person’s side, and you’ll never get anywhere. Begin realizing that they too are just fighting for what they believe is right based on their emotions about the situation. Doing so will allow you to more clearly see a solution that benefits both parties.

(9) Listening with what you’re going to say next in mind
In conversation, you might miss what someone is saying if you’re focused on how you’re going to respond the whole time. Communication isn’t about showing off what you know. Don’t worry, if you think of a great point but you forget it, it’ll be ok. Let the conversation flow naturally. Keep in mind that many times when people are venting, they don’t need advice, they just want someone to listen and agree. If they want advice, they will most likely ask for it.

(10) Having expectations
Thinking someone should be a certain way can harm our ability to communicate with them. For example, expecting that a brother should be empathetic and supportive while speaking with your brother, who displays neither of these characteristics, is only going to stunt communication. Put your expectations aside so you can really be present with the person in front of you. They may not be what you expected or hoped but you can’t change them. You can only change how you respond to them and communicate with them. People don’t like to hear that they are doing something wrong and need to change. Instead, be there to support them when they’re ready to make positive changes in their life.

 

Analyzing and improving my communication skills has always been of interest to me. In doing so, I’ve been able to improve my relationships and build new, meaningful ones. After going over all of the communication killers above, I have put a few more tips on how to improve your communication below.

Address the unspoken: You’re both thinking it anyway. Don’t be afraid to communicate and say the hard stuff that people don’t always want to acknowledge. If faced with passive aggressiveness or deferred meaning, acknowledge it. If there is unresolved conflict, the easiest way to resolve it is by addressing it and working through it ASAP.

Be honest: Don’t say you’re ok if you’re not. Don’t say you don’t need anything if you do. Doing so could immediately put a barrier up where a conversation could have taken place. Don’t block people from reaching out and helping you.

Speak from a place of love and empathy: This can be hard to do when you’re saying what you mean, honestly. Accusing someone of lying is going to spur conflict. Instead, try telling them that you feel hurt because you don’t think they were being honest. This could build connection and actually start the healing process.

Be present: Make whichever conversation you’re in the most important thing to you at that moment. Make eye contact with them, not with your phone. Listen to what they have to say without waiting to speak. Think of how you can help them or just be there to listen.

Change yourself: How others behave is out of your control and should be out of the range of things that affect your emotions and mental anxieties. Focus on improving how you react to conflict in conversation and how much empathy you provide to those you communicate with.

– Jess

Sticking to Your Habits

Sticking to Your Habits: How to Get Back On Track When You Fail

Why is it so hard to get back on the horse once we’ve fallen off? This is something I often ask myself when I fail at sticking to a new habit. If you’ve ever decided to start a new habit, like eating healthier, quitting smoking/drinking, or writing a page a day, I’m sure you’ve faced the guilt, doubt, or even sadness of falling off the horse.

Over the last few years, I’ve added multiple positive habits to my life, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and working on this blog. I’ve failed many times at keeping up these habits. However, the length of time between when I fall off the horse and when I jump back on has shortened dramatically over time.

For a while, I would fall of the horse and not be able to get back on because I’d spend time regretting what I did, feeling shameful that I couldn’t keep my word, or feeling sad about my inability to complete or stick to something. But! There is one action that has allowed me to sustain momentum and obtain personal success: forgiving myself!

By being gentle with myself and reminding myself that I’m human, I’ve been able to forgive myself and get moving again much faster. Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean going easy on yourself or not holding yourself accountable, it just means acknowledging that you aren’t perfect and you shouldn’t aim to be! If you set a goal for yourself to start a new habit, it helps to acknowledge that you might f*ck up! You might not fail, but chances are you won’t be able to stick to that work out 5x a week every single week or you’ll have a relapse of some sort. When you acknowledge failure before your even start your habit, it will be easier to get back on track when it does happen.

What I used to do when I failed at a habit:

Become sad or depressed that I couldn’t stick to my habit.

Think about how I was imperfect and that there was no point in continuing on (sounds dramatic, but that’s where the mind goes sometimes).

Give up.

Go in the opposite direction. For example, if the habit was eating healthy and I had an unhealthy meal, I’d screw the rest of the day (or week!) and go seek out the worst of the worst.

Start from scratch. Instead of hitting a bump in the road and continuing on towards my goal, I’d feel like I needed to start all over again. The problem with this mindset is that, generally, we tend to want to start fresh tomorrow or next week. When we aim for perfection, instead of getting back on track as soon as possible, we cycle through all of the previous points and then pick a new date to start again. We’ve lost valuable time where we could have been improving and enjoying ourselves, rather than experiencing all of these negative emotions.

What I do now:

Step one is always to forgive myself. If I go right to criticizing myself for not being able to do something or wallowing because I broke my promise to myself, I’m not acknowledging that mistakes and failures happen, and that’s part of the process! You can’t be consistently perfect, that’s too much pressure. The graph to success isn’t a straight line, it’s a wiggly-ass line that dips up and down many times on its way to the top.

Remind myself I am human. If I wasn’t making mistakes I would probably get bored, I wouldn’t learn anything, and I wouldn’t improve.

I ask myself what the meaning of this failure was. What can you learn from your failure that can help you keep up your habit in the future? Maybe it happened because it showed you that there are other things more important in your life. Or it could have taught you that there are specific distractions that tend to stop you from succeeding. I think there’s something to learn from every mistake, so look for the lessons.

Remember that what has happened in your past doesn’t have to happen in your future. Sometimes I’ll think that I won’t be able to stick to a habit because, so far, I haven’t been able to show myself that I can. This is a pretty pessimistic outlook. It doesn’t allow for any growth or improvement and leaves you feeling doomed to a cycle of trial and failure forever. Change your thought patterns. Remind yourself that you are able to change your behaviours. Just because you’ve messed up before doesn’t mean you will forever. Maybe we all need to screw up a few times, or a lot of times, before we can be successful.

Decide if I need to recalibrate. I started out telling myself that I would like to write 2 new blog posts every week. However, with my current lifestyle, I am finding it hard to stick to 1 per week without some serious dedication. Therefore, I chose to recalibrate my goal to be more achievable. If I end up over achieving at this goal, there’s no reason why I can’t do more posts a week in the future. This isn’t to say that by recalibrating you’re taking the easy way out, it’s making sure that your goals are actually attainable so you can get some successes under your belt.

Write down why it didn’t work out. This week, I wanted to have a blog post done by Monday. When Monday came around, I hadn’t even gotten past the first paragraph. I felt sad and disappointed in myself right away. But, rather than repeat my old mistakes and let myself sit in guilt, I reminded myself that I had taken on a new position at work and my hours had nearly doubled from part time to full time. Of course I was going to be a little off-kilter and have less time! I was also getting used to a new schedule of waking up early when I hadn’t done so in a long time. I was trying to hold myself accountable to the deadlines I’d set based on my old schedule when I was actually living in a different one! By figuring out why I don’t complete my goals, I am able to set more realistic deadlines for myself and avoid failing for the same reasons in the future.

I acknowledge that sticking to habits is hard. In our world full of distractions and temptations, sticking to a habit can make you feel a little removed from the world. Particularly when doing it makes you feel marginalized, like not drinking alcohol or eating meat/dairy/sugar/etc., or requires hard work and time spent alone, like writing daily or practicing a skill. If you accept that your journey will have difficulties, you’ll be better equipped to face them when they come and push through to the awesome part! Sticking to a new habit and improving yourself is one of the best feelings there is!

I keep a growth mindset. If we have a fixed mindset, every time we fail we might think that the world is against us or our failures are beyond our control. This makes it a lot harder to get back on track. On the other hand, maintaining a growth mindset allows us to look back at our mistakes, figure out what we could have done differently, and accept that this challenge was a step in our process to becoming better. If you’re interested in learning more about achieving and maintaining a growth mindset, check out Brendon Burchard’s video.

Start as soon as possible. If I tell myself I’m going to get a post done and I miss my deadline, I start writing again as soon as I can. Rather than letting it get to me and wasting a day away on Netflix, I am now able to acknowledge that I missed my deadline and either set a new one or just take my next available block of time to work as much as possible on that post.

Instead of letting your mind go to that place of guilt, give yourself the greatest tool in moving forward: forgiveness. You’ll be more optimistic and honest with yourself. You’ll be able to recover from challenges and failures much faster. You’ll improve quicker because you’ll have to start  over less. You’ll also save yourself from a lot of unnecessary guilt and sadness. Love yourself, forgive yourself, and move forward towards your dreams!

-Jess

6 Reasons Why You Should Start Before You're Ready

6 Reasons Why You Should Start Before You’re Ready

If you want to create something or change your life for the better, I can bet you’ve experienced the fear of not being ready. We tend to wait for everything to be perfect, to be in the right mindset, or even for inspiration to strike. When deciding what my first post would be I feared I wasn’t ready to share my thoughts with the world and therefor, this topic seemed perfect.

Whether you want to release your creation into the world, start your own business or change a habit, you need to start now, and here’s why.

WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT NOW, WHATEVER IT IS

(1) You’ll never actually be ready

As I write, I think to myself “will this be the perfect first post?” and “am I really ready to release my writing?”. Well, if I listen to my first instincts, which are fear based, the answer is obviously no. The fear of failure and judgment make us feel unprepared.

You may feel like you’re not ready because you don’t have all the resources, knowledge or experience you need yet. But ask yourself, why do I feel this way? The answer is: because it’s true! You never will know all there is to know about your topic, you’ll never watch every tutorial video on how to do it, and you’ll never create something that is immune to criticism. And guess what? You also might fail. So what?! People fail and that’s how we figure out what doesn’t work for us and what we don’t enjoy doing.

You need to decide if you want to spend your time researching and preparing or actually creating and releasing your stuff into the world. If you’re waiting to feel fully prepared before you start doing what you know you’re meant to do, then you’re never going to start.

(2) It will never be perfect

This can describe your creation or your journey. I have to keep this concept in mind when editing my writing, otherwise I’d never finish a post. It’s easy to to get caught up in the process of perfecting. If every post I wrote was perfect, or as close as possible, each post would take weeks to write and edit! I’d be wasting time and not releasing content that could be benefiting others. And sadly, this is what I’ve been doing for way too long. I’ve wanted to make this blog for three years but I was so focused on releasing perfected content that I ended up releasing nothing at all! Because, hey! Nothing is perfect. Now there’s an idea.

What I do release now may not be perfect, but it’s getting my message out. Having a schedule to release it saves me time and stress. Rather than tirelessly trying to make projects perfect, accept that perfection will never come, and that’s ok. It’s actually quite a relief! The pressure has officially been lifted.

(3) You have something the world needs

If you’re creating something with the intention of sharing it, it’s almost guaranteed that your work is needed in the world. Whether you share business advice, artwork, life-coaching, or e-courses, your work will help someone. It could allow them to improve their life, learn a new skill, or simply to feel joy. That’s AMAZING!

We all have the power to improve lives if we just get started! The longer you wait the less time your work has to get in front of the people who will enjoy and benefit from it.

(4) You won’t find your unique voice/perspective/energy until you use it

Often when I’m writing I pick one of my worries, I find a way to address and overcome it, and I share what I’ve learned. When I’m sharing these things with you, I’m also giving this advice to myself. My own experiences of fear towards criticism, imperfection, and not being ready led me to write this post. So, even though I haven’t conducted research or read every blog post on the topic, what I think gives me personal authority to write about this are the feelings and experiences I have.

We’re all case studies and we can all learn from each other. Nobody’s experiences, perspective or world views are the same so just by speaking authentically your unique voice is created. You don’t need to try and curate it. If you do it will likely be (and come across) as inauthentic. Not only will you cultivate a unique energy by doing, you’ll also improve your craft! I’m sharing my perspective and improving my writing skills the more I create!

(5) Your past does not dictate your future

Just because you’ve failed in the past does not mean you’re doomed to do so forever. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself for not succeeding sooner (or at all). Stop thinking that you’re not exactly where you’re supposed to be right now. Learn to love that it has all been a part of your process and give yourself permission to move forward.

(6) You feel powerful when you act upon your dreams

Instead of waiting to become strong in order to start acting upon your goals, reverse the equation. People we admire for being powerful, strong, and capable are that way because they face their fears in order to get stuff done that matters to them. To become someone you are proud of, you must start doing. When you face a fear, you feel strong. When you do something that’s hard, you feel capable. Don’t wait until you feel stronger to start. Start now and you’ll become that person you admire!

Now that you have reason to start before you’re ready, check out 7 Ways To Start Before You’re Ready for some ways to get going!

– Jess

7 Ways to Start Before Youre Ready

7 Ways to Start Before You’re Ready

There are many reasons to start before you’re ready, but how do you actually take the step? Here are some ways to change your thoughts and take action in order to create your dream life, even when you don’t feel ready.

7 WAYS TO START BEFORE YOU’RE READY

(1) Commit to making your dream happen

What finally made me start creating before I felt ready was deciding that, no matter what, I was going to make this dream of mine happen. I got committed to it. I’m at the very beginning of my journey and I have no idea what my trajectory will be, but I do know that I’m going to create a life for myself that I love!

I used to get stopped by simple obstacles because I didn’t really believe in myself or my dream. Maybe I thought I wasn’t capable or that my dream was too big. I kept back up plans in mind, which is practical but also held me back. I moved up in a job I didn’t enjoy to have more financial security. It stressed me out and took away time I could have been spending working on my actual dream. All because I didn’t trust myself that I was capable of making it happen. And maybe it won’t happen, but I can’t accept a mediocre existence so it’s worth it to me to try!

(2) Keep your purpose in mind

When I started, I had the wrong mindset. I wasn’t driven by the idea of sharing what I have to offer with the world. I am now driven by the desire to share my perspective on topics like self-development, mental health, and authenticity that I’ve acquired through experience and education (self-taught and otherwise). And it feels amazing! It gives me purpose and makes me act upon my goals because when I’m not acting, I’m keeping what I’ve learned to myself rather than sharing it with the world.

If you’re a content creator, remember that although your knowledge may not benefit everyone, that doesn’t mean it can’t help someone. Something that has become second nature to you might be just what someone else needs to hear to make change happen for themselves. I choose to write for others who experience the fears I have and address these topics for all of us.

(3) Think small

Something I struggle with is thinking about the big picture rather than what I’m currently creating. When you look beyond your project and try to think of how it will add to your greater body of work or contribute to your unique “voice”, you will feel overwhelmed. I often will start writing a post and then get consumed with thoughts of how it will fit into a series, or a book, or an e-course and I become afraid of all the work that has to be done! It all feels like too much and I give up.

Let your purpose drive you but don’t get overwhelmed by trying to make everything happen at once. Just focus on what you’re making right now and it will all fit together eventually.

(4) Stop trying to be perceived in a certain way

It sucks to say, but I sense a desire in myself to want people to see my writing as perfect and polished from the get go. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to be perceived as intelligent and like I have my $h!t together. But that sucks! It’s not realistic nor relatable. Polished is boring, perfect isn’t real, and no one gets their $h!t together without sorting through their $h!t in the first place! I think it’s so much more valuable to see people online who show where they started, their path and how much they’ve grown. It’s great to have gurus and leaders, but even they started with bad writing, poorly edited videos, bad habits, and fear. In fact, these stories are what makes them relatable and makes us feel capable of succeeding like they have.

My writing might be imperfect but I’m doing something that scares me and that makes me proud of myself. That makes me the type of person I’d like learn from.

(5) Do the hard things

A concept I learned from Brendon Burchard is that in order to create an amazing life or career for yourself, you’re going to have to face a hard thing, every day, for… ever! I know this sounds daunting, but accepting this idea has allowed me to finally act upon my goals.
We’ve all heard the phrases “do something every day that scares you” and “change is uncomfortable” but in the back of my mind I always thought that after I got over an initial hump of hard work, that it would be a breeze. I now accept that, realistically, this is not the case.

I am relieved that I’ve been able to accept this idea. It’s not like I’m going to have to do something that makes me want to die of fear every day but there will be hard stuff that needs to get done every day when we choose unconventional paths. I used to avoid the discomfort. I’ve tried to start this journey many times over the last few years but whenever something got hard, I gave up. This was because I either didn’t expect to face such challenges or it was just too uncomfortable or difficult.
Some wise words come from Marie Forleo when she says “everything is figureoutable“. Whenever I doubt how I’m going to accomplish something hard, I answer myself by saying “I don’t know, but I’m going to figure it out”. I am much less likely to give up now because I know doing hard things is just a part of my process.

(6) Stop learning

When I first started creating a blog, I was consuming a lot of information about how I should be doing things. I was getting so wrapped up in SEO, web-hosting and perfecting the appearance of my blog that my actual posts sucked or I wasn’t posting at all. I was getting overwhelmed with all the videos, courses, and blogs about my desired field that I felt my own thoughts and ideas being drowned out. I am all about life-long learning but I think in order to produce unique work there is a point when you need to stop researching and just start creating.

(7) Stop worrying that it’s been done already

You’ve got a unique perspective and once you start creating things, it will come out. For example, I worry that the “Start Before You’re Ready” blog post has been written too many times and that I don’t have anything original to say about it. Interestingly enough, this brings me back to the point of starting before you’re ready. I don’t feel ready because I don’t think I’ve found original topics therefore I don’t write about anything! Whereas once I just chose this topic because it interested me, I started writing and I felt so many ideas flowing!

When you just start, you’ll find new takes on old ideas and your own voice really starts to come out. By simply starting, even though I was afraid and felt unready, I started solving my own problem. I am discovering what this advice really means while writing the post. And it actually works!

Here are some resources to give you more motivation to start now!

Marie Forleo’s Start Small or Sucky

Brendon Burchard’s How to Start a Dream

And if you’re truly not ready yet, soak up these words from Danielle LaPorte.

– Jess