In March 2014, I completed a values exercise suggested in Pam Slim’s book Body of Work. After some self-contemplation and narrowing down possible choices, I concluded that beauty was one of my foremost personal values. I defined that value for myself as the acknowledgment of all the beauty in this world, whether in the form of art, nature, or mankind.
Beauty gets a bad rap. People often see it as the superficial attractiveness of individuals or celebrities, something you either have or don’t, a quality that diminishes over time. That’s not the kind of beauty I’m talking about.
Dictionary.com defines beauty as “the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations, a meaningful design, or something else.” Beauty delights the senses and pleases the mind; it can include awe-inspiring visual impact as well as anything that invokes a deep sense of reverence within you.
As John O’Donohue writes in Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, “Beauty dwells at the heart of life. If we can free ourselves from our robot-like habits of predictability, repetition and function, we begin to walk differently on the earth.”
Over the past year, I’ve become more conscious of the beauty that surounds us and now I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you.
On September 21st, I am launching A Call to Beauty, a 12-week e-course that invites you to rediscover all of the beauty that exists in our world. It is a call to seek things that inspire and invoke a sense of wonder within you, to be present to and grateful for your life here and now.
If you’ve felt disconnected or distracted, if the stress of daily life is getting you down, or if you’d like to experience more wonder in your day-to-day life, it would be my pleasure to share my beauty practice with you. Through the course, you will learn tools I’ve used to uncover and honor more of the beauty that surrounds us every day.
As a course preview, I’m offering readers a free downloadable guide, Beauty Surrounds Us. To grab your copy today, click over here.
In the beginning of the getting to know yourself series, I outlined three basic tools—journaling, meditation, and pausing—that enable you to better understand yourself. Now, in this series wrap up, I will share five attitude adjustments that will help you own your own life.
Attitude is important. While our beliefs provide the lens through which we view the world, our attitude shapes our day-to-day choices and impressions. Our beliefs impact our attitude, but we can adjust our attitude without tackling any major belief changes, by simply choosing to approach the world differently. Belief changes can come later or not at all.
Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky has found that very little of our happiness is dependent on what happens to us; 50% of your personal happiness, she says, is based on your genetic set point, 40% is your attitude or outlook toward life, and 10% is what happens to you. Thus, you can make a significant impact on your life simply by adjusting your attitude. How do you do that?
Attitude Adjustment #1: Practice Gratitude
We all become accustomed to our status quo. As psychologist Richard Wiseman writes in his book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute, “Present an individual with a constant sound, image or smell and something very peculiar happens. They slowly get more and more used to it and eventually it vanishes from their awareness.”
This is true for all of us. I become accustomed to the house I live in, having food available in my refrigerator, a car that starts and drives every time I turn the key. Even people who live in multimillion-dollar houses and drive Ferraris become accustomed to what they have and eventually come to overlook their blessings.
At the same time, bringing your attention to what you’re grateful for is easy and very effective. As cited by Wiseman, psychologists studied the effect of writing down gratitude versus summarizing annoyances or recollections and found that “those expressing gratitude ended up happier, much more optimistic about the future, physically healthier and even exercised significantly more.”
Adopting an attitude of gratitude is a choice, just like any attitude. It’s not contingent on having a partner or a better job or a new car; it’s about appreciating what you have now, in this moment.
Starting a gratitude practice can be as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for once a week. The key is to find things you are truly grateful for, not begrudgingly grateful. Even when you’ve had a bad day or are unhappy in your current job or life situation, there are things you can appreciate. Maybe someone held the door open for you, you had a delicious mocha, or you have someone special in your life. It’s that simple. As you become accustomed to appreciating what you have, you’ll be able to practice gratitude in the moment as well.
Attitude Adjustment #2: Believe in the Possibilities
We all have a choice whether to believe that what we want is possible or impossible. The former is unequivocally the best choice.
Believing what you want is possible gives you power. Even if your dream isn’t literally possible—I will never be a professional dancer as I once dreamed, for example—you can still take steps toward making your dream possible when you stay positive.
Believing your dream isn’t possible is disempowering and serves no purpose. What do you do if something’s impossible? Nothing, right? It’s impossible, so why bother?
Most of the time, our dreams aren’t literally impossible anyway. They are possible although they may be challenging, or unpopular with our family or friends, but as adults we get to choose for ourselves what works best for us.
Choose to believe in possibilities.
Attitude Adjustment #3: Focus on What You Want
The importance of focusing on what you want is twofold: 1) It helps you stay positive, and 2) reminds you that there’s no reason to seek an end you don’t desire.
Let me give you an example: Recently my husband and I were talking about making a big lifestyle change. We’d both kind of given up on a dream we had, out of practicality, and so I began brainstorming alternatives that could make us almost as happy. I’m a natural strategist; that’s what I do. However, consciously analyzing myriad possibilities and trade-offs grew overwhelming so, out of frustration, I put aside the problem-solving hat for a few days. A few days later, I had a flash of insight about how to achieve our original dream.
What happened to me is common, Dr. Wiseman writes. Our unconscious mind works in the background when we let a problem go in our conscious mind, and that is when truly innovative problem solving happens.
While I’m a big fan of exploring possibilities, they mean nothing if they’re not in service of your goal. In the situation above, I was being overly practical instead of focusing what I wanted. Luckily, my unconscious mind found a solution to my real problem when I stopped trying to analyze the situation ad nauseum.
The other facet of focusing on what you want is letting go of what you don’t; that is, staying positive versus worrying about what could go wrong. Like I suggested in Attitude Adjustment #2, most of what we want is possible. Keeping that in mind gives us power to bring about what we want.
Attitude Adjustment #4: Remember You Are Never Alone
Each of us feels hurt, outcast, or unfairly persecuted sometimes, but this is a transient thing. Something may not be going as we feel it should or we may be in a situation that isn’t serving our needs. Everyone experiences this
I recently spoke to someone I hadn’t talked with in years and she told me about a scary work situation she’d experienced. Her story reminded me of my own, very different, scary work experience, deepening my sense of empathy for her.
All of us, every human being on this planet, experiences stress and challenges, and all of us ultimately want to live happy and healthy lives. That’s part of the beauty of our human experience and there’s a great camaraderie in that, I think.
So, remember you’re not alone the next time something doesn’t go the way you intended. As long as you’re alive, there’s always another chance to get it right.
Attitude Adjustment #5: Remember You Are Worthy
I wrote an entire post about worthiness for this series, and I think it’s worth mentioning again. Believing that you’re worthy is a choice, and I know it’s not always an easy one. It is essential, however.
As Dr. Brené Brown shares, “Worthiness has no prerequisites. Those things you think of as prerequisites are your shame triggers. Where most of us get these is from our family of origin, but we can also get them societally.” Here she shares a bit more with Oprah:
Shame is “the painful belief or experience of thinking we’re unlovable, that we’re unworthy of connection and belonging.” It is a universal experience; everyone experiences it. When we do, our limbic system reacts and we respond by fighting back, retreating (flight), or freezing.
So, what do you do when we experience shame or a feeling of unworthiness? “Empathy is the antidote to shame,” Brené says, and “compassion is making a spiritual commitment to empathy.”
Self-kindness, being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with criticism.
Common humanity, recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience—something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone (which ties nicely to Attitude Adjustment #4).
Mindfulness, a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them.
“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.” So says Max Ehrmann, author of Desiderata, and me.
For more behind Richard Wiseman and Brené Brown’s work, I highly recommend the following resources:
The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection and Courage by Brené Brown, PhD – In The Power of Vulnerability audio program, Dr. Brown offers an invitation and a promise—that when we dare to drop the armor that protects us from feeling vulnerable, we open ourselves to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Here she dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and reveals that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.
59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute by Richard Wiseman, PhD – Troubled by the realization that the self-help industry often promotes exercises that destroy motivation, damage relationships, and reduce creativity, psychologist Richard Wiseman examines diverse scientific research that can help you change your life in under a minute and in an easily digestible format.
It’s week nine of the getting to know yourself series and we’re deep into the fruits of knowing yourself, also known as owning-your-life territory. This week, our topic is callings.
The word ‘calling’ is most often used to describe a vocational calling in a divine sense. That’s not the only way to think of callings, however. My favorite definition is from women’s leadership and well-being expert Tara Mohr, who says a calling is “a longing to address a particular need or problem in the world.”
Callings can thus be big or small, lifelong or temporary, and you may have several over the course of your lifetime, even simultaneously. I’ll give you some personal examples:
For more than 20 years now, I’ve felt called to adopt from foster care. As I write that, it seems like a long time, but it wasn’t an acute desire for that entire time. It was something niggling at the back of my mind and growing over time, sparked when I watched a Wednesday’s Child segment as a teenager; and fostered in college when I dated someone who’d been adopted, in my 20s when I volunteered at events for foster children, and then when I became a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) for foster youth in 2011. Adopting is obviously a big calling for me, and one that I’m simultaneously terrified of and excited to begin.
Among my more recent callings, I have felt compelled to share my personal development journey, which I now do here on this blog. And over the past two months, I was consumed with creating A Call to Beauty, a 12-week e-course that launches in September.
As you’ve read through the callings I’ve been experienced, you may have noticed some characteristics of callings. Again, I think Tara Mohr has the best handle on callings and so I’d like to share the following video she created, 7 Ways to Identify Your Calling:
To summarize, in the video Tara shares seven qualities she’s noticed about callings, including:
You have a vision of what could be regarding a particular issue or need in the world.
Or you have a pain or frustration around some aspect of the status quo.
Your calling feels like you’ve been given an assignment, like it’s something you’re supposed to do.
When you’re working on your calling, you feel a sense of ease and flow.
You initially have a lot of resistance toward your calling, however.
You don’t have everything you need to do the calling—yet. But the process of undertaking your calling allows you to gather the resources you’ll need.
You are not yet the person you need to be to complete the calling. But, as Tara explains, our callings are designed to grow us and help us become the person we need to be.
In case you were wondering, the answer to why heeding your callings is important is right there in Tara’s 7th characteristic of a calling: They help us grow and become the person we need to be.
So, what is calling you right now? Where do you feel you’ve been given an assignment, or do you have a new vision for the future or a pain point about an existing situation?
Author Steven Pressfield shares, “Each of us needs to pursue our calling with gusto and to live in that zone of flow as often as possible. Get out of your head and forget everything, be in the present moment and play. If you want to do something, put your body where you want to be. Just do it.”
In and of itself, getting to know yourself is important. As I wrote in that first series post, “Your relationship to yourself will be the longest and most significant of your lifetime.” But, there’s another piece to this, and that is taking responsibility for yourself, owning your decisions, and creating the life you dream of, that is, making your life yours.
I know the desire to go with the flow, to accept other people’s opinions or allow them to make choices for you. It can seem easier to drift through life and allow things to happen to you instead of deciding what matters most and making the appropriate choices to bring that into being. But, to live your best life, you need to make those choices yourself.
Let’s talk about talents. I could use many words to describe what I’m talking about here; your talents could also be called your gifts, your strengths, or your innate abilities. They are tangible and transferable, things you can give to or trade with someone else to create or exchange value. They are also broad and can be applied in many ways, in many professions, on many life paths.
Identifying Your Talents
Before we can hone our talents, we must first figure out what they are. Your talents are your innate gifts, they’re those things that create a sense of flow when you’re doing them. They’re the things you enjoy and for which you have an affinity.
When you look for your talents, you’re not looking for something you’re necessarily skilled at (yet!), but instead something you feel deeply engaged in when you do it.
Often, because our gifts are so close to us, so deeply ingrained in who we are, we can have trouble seeing them for what they are. You may assume that everyone is as good at negotiating as you are. Or you may think, because you’re a natural organizer, that organizing is so easy anyone can do it. Neither of those is true.
We each have unique talents and honoring and honing them is what leads us to developing a productive, happy, fulfilled career and life. So, how do you uncover your talents?
Self-Guided Talents Exercise: One way to tease out your talents is to create a list all of the things you’ve loved doing before. Consider volunteer and paid jobs, hobbies, and things you do willingly to help out at home or in your family.
You might want to start by writing down all of the roles you’ve held (student, teacher, manager, daughter, entrepreneur) and then spend a few minutes thinking through each one and writing down what skills you enjoyed using in each role.
Initially you may write down something like playing pool or dancing or writing essays. When you do, look at the larger picture, the transferrable skills behind each talent.
What makes you good at playing pool? Spatial relations abilities.
Dancing? Kinesthetic ability.
Writing essays? Linguistic or communications talents.
The things we’re good at that seem small and irrelevant can often be translated into broader themes that are translatable to a lot of different professions or societal contributions. Someone with spatial relations abilities could design a new bridge or make beautiful art. Someone kinesthetically gifted could be a welder, performer, or yoga instructor. Linguistic or communications skills could translate into careers involving writing, translation, or advocacy.
There are also several assessments you can use to tease out your talents.
Multiple Intelligences Test: In 1983, Harvard professor Dr. Howard Gardner proposed a theory of multiple intelligences. From his research, Dr. Gardener found that each of our brains develops differently and that some parts may develop more fully than others.
He suggested there are eight forms of intelligence, including verbal/linguistic, math/logical, spatial, musical, kinesthetic (physical ability), interpersonal (relating well to others), intrapersonal (self-understanding), and naturalist. To explore your various intelligences, take this free assessment.
StrengthsFinder: Developed by psychologist Donald O. Clifton and The Gallup Organization, StrengthsFinder measures the present of 34 talent themes, your innate patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be applied productively. For more information or to take a paid version of the test, visit http://www.strengthstest.com.
VIA Character Survey: Developed under the direction of Dr. Martin Seligman, the “father of positive psychology,” the VIA survey measures 24 individual character strengths. You can take the free, scientifically validated assessment here.
Honing Your Talents
Once you’ve figured out which talents you’re naturally inclined toward and enjoy using, keep developing them. If you love learning new things, read, take classes, and never stop learning. If you’re a people person, spend as much time as possible around others, figuring out how to bring light to both their and your lives. If you’re a naturalist type, spend time in nature, learning about flora and fauna, and figuring out how to preserve our natural habitat.
Doing so is the only way you can bring your very best to the world. In the process, you’ll be taking responsibility for your life and bringing about your own greatest fulfillment.
As Abraham Maslow said, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. He must be true to his own nature. This need we may call self-actualization.” Go forth and be self-actualized.
For part nine in the getting to know yourself series, click here.
This is week seven in the getting to know yourself series. This week, we’re going to talk about getting to know ourselves through exploring our interests and passions.
A little less than a year ago, I wrote about passion and purpose after asking some friends to tell me what their passions were and discovering that some of them felt they were still figuring that out.
Let’s take some of the pressure off needing to know right now and instead focus on what passion means. Passion is “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” Interest, passion’s more reserved cousin, is “a feeling of wanting to learn more about something or to be involved in something.”
Your interests and passions can help point the way to discovering who you are and who you want to be. So how do you uncover them? Well, by examining what you like to learn about and how you like to spend your time, of course. Here are a couple of ways to do that:
Explore Your Surroundings
Grab a small notebook and pen, or a voice recorder, and walk to your front door. Then, walk right out the door and stroll down to the street, turn around, and look back at your home. Imagine this is your first visit and you know nothing about who lives here. Now take notes on what you find.
What style is the home? What do its surroundings tell you about what the person who lives here values?
As you walk inside, take note of the furnishings, art, and colors used. Is there somewhere that seems to be the central hub of the home? What does that say about the person or people living there?
Is there an area you particularly love in this space? Where is it and why does it inspire you? Do you see a lot of personal touches, or is everything very clean and modern? Is the wall art homemade or professional?
What kind of books or magazines are there? What do they tell you about the interests of the inhabitants? Do you see any collections? Is someone collecting vintage letter openers, or perfume bottles, or beer caps? What kind of person lives here?
Write down or record whatever you find as reminders of what your interests and passions are. If, as you’re walking around, you don’t see much of yourself in this space, ask yourself why that is. Look for any hints you can find regarding your interests and passions.
If you had trouble with the exercise or would like to explore your interests and passions further, here are some journaling prompts:
Describe your ideal day. How would you spend it? With whom? What does your ideal day say about your interests and passions?
Which areas of the bookstore do you always visit? What do those areas suggest about your interests and passions?
List your five favorite films. Are there any commonalities? What would they they say about your interests and passions?
What are your causes? What social issues could you spend all night discussing, or what volunteer organizations do you love to support? How do these causes point to your interests and passions?
What hobbies do you most enjoy now or have you enjoyed in the past? What do they suggest about your interests and passions?
Now that you’ve discovered (or rediscovered) your interests and passions, you might be wondering why I asked you to do this. The answer: To help you make better decisions about how and where to spend your time based on what will bring you the most happiness. It’s really that simple.
Getting to know yourself is about learning to honor the truth of who you are, and your interests and passions are one part of that.
For part eight in the getting to know yourself series, click here.