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05 Feb

Role of Communication: Friendship v/s Relationship

Post by: Shweta Gautam

Communication is an important part of our life. I believe without communication, humans are no less than animals. The power to think and express our thoughts is solely what separates us from them. But, do we understand the impact, effect, and role of communication concerning the people in our lives?

We all have heard, read, and studied about the importance of communication in our lives. Though I have always seen people talking about communication from a professional perspective. I rarely see people share their views or rather initiate a conversation about the importance of communication in our personal lives. I don’t see people talking about communication with family, friends, and relationships. But, I do know it is extremely important to have it.

As the literal definition of communication reads, “Communication is a two-way process. It includes a sender and a receiver”. Hence, it is important to analyse communication from the personal front as much as we do it for our professional world.

My experiences about communication in both my friendships and relationship have taught me a lot in life. I now resonate and understand the similarities, the differences, and the potential impact it has on an individual. Having friends who understand your relationship and a partner who understands your friendships is a true blessing in disguise. Not all are fortunate to find both at the same time. While I have been lucky to have found friends at an early stage of life, my experience with love has been bitter-sweet. And as I’ll recite the stories of the two important aspects of my life, that have given a lot to me, I am sure you all will relate to my personal experiences at some or the other level. So, let’s begin with what came first – friendship.

 

Role of Communication: Friendship

My experience with friendship began very early in my life. And, I feel I am quite fortunate that I have my first friends as my present friends too, i.e. almost 21 years later I am still friends with the very first people I called my ‘friends’.

I have always been the girl who is too shy and uninterested in talking to strangers but once we know each other I am an unstoppable chatterbox, quite literally. I met both my childhood friends in my school. Because our fathers were their childhood friends, all three of our fathers happened to send their children to the same school. And, we practically carry forward the legacy of their friendship. We went to the same schools, went to the same institutes, attended each other’s birthday parties, shared our lunch during the school recess, and created a lot more memories together every day without actually taking any effort in doing so. The seriousness of our friendship can be measured from the fact that the three of us don’t have a single picture together from our childhood. Because we were too busy living in the moment.

Two girls and a boy sitting together and eating lunch raised some frownings. Especially for our guy friend, he was teased by his friends for having lunch with two girls. Well, I don’t blame them, the credit for the mentality goes to our society.

After sharing almost every big milestone, my friendships with both of them has only grown stronger. Moreover, if someone matters to me, I’ll do all that I can to keep them in my life. And, communication is the very first step to that. Growing up together, we have had our misunderstandings.

As children, the arguments were as mere as misplacing each other’s things or maybe snatching something or just random fights. As teenagers, it was the typical adrenaline rush that acted upon and led us to fight on things that didn’t matter. Most of the time, the fights then happened because of the people who are not even a part of our lives today. And, as adults, we have had some serious issues. Sometimes it is our respective relationships and sometimes it was a pure miscommunication. Because text messages are so strong today to create any misunderstanding and not convey the right information.

Having both a girl and a boy as close friends teaches you a lot about life. These two people beside me, I have never felt the need to search for friendships outside. Yes, I do have other remarkable people who I can call friends too. But, who are your true friends? The names you remember in the most adverse situations. Well, these two are exactly that to me.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that our friendship would have ended a long time ago if we have not been vocal about our feelings. Our first school only had a middle school education. Therefore, I was separated from my best friend. She went to a different high school. And, the guy friend and I luckily went to the same high school.

On the first day of the new school, it was the first time in 14 years that I wasn’t going to see my best friend waiting for me in the school outside the class. Though, at least we had the same institute to spend the other half of the day together.

A new place meant new people. It meant new friends. But, none of us ever saw our new friends as a threat to our old bonds. We knew it was irreplaceable. And that is the very essence of true friendship for us.

A true friend will understand the how and why behind your deeds and will never question you. If they find it wrong, they will stop and guide you for sure. And, today it’s been 21 years since the three of us have been friends. We have had a lot of people come and go. But, irrespective of whether we meet or not, whether we talk daily or not, whether we celebrate occasions together or not, we are connected at hearts.

Adulthood is filled with breaking our expectations. It is the time of life that teaches us some of the hardest lessons. And, one such truth to life is – you don’t get to spend your life with your friends. You spend your life with your partner.

Therefore, if there is one thing that strong and real friendships don’t rely on – it’s communication. We don’t talk to each other daily rather we do it rarely. But, even then we know we will be there to double each other’s joy and half the sorrows when needed. We know that we have a lot of people coming and going in our lives, but we will always find each other besides when in need.

Real friendships rely on trust, understanding, and respect. They are all about picking up from the same place where we left it last time, with the same emotion and thrill.

And, it is not only my childhood friends, as I mentioned I have been fortunate in the matter of friendships. Both my girlfriends from my graduation and post-graduation years are proof of that. Ever since I received my graduate degree, I only met her twice and we are perfectly strong without regular communication. We barely talk on phones, we wish each other on occasions, we support and celebrate each other’s win on social media with a simple share and as a friend, this is everything we expect from each other.

I am not the kind of person who can be kept within boundaries. And hence, I prefer being friends with people who understand that as we grow and move forward in life, we meet new people as well. But, meeting new people doesn’t mean forgetting the old ones. Every single person I have ever called a friend resides inside my heart with many strong and beautiful memories, some bitter ones too. But, in the end, they are all my experiences and my positive outlook on these experiences makes me the woman I am today.

 

Role of Communication: Relationship

Now since you know my experience with friendships, Let’s continue to the most important aspect of my life.

I am an old-fashioned lover when it comes to romantic relationships. Probably this is the reason why my present relationship is the only relationship I have ever been in. And, to my belief, it will be the only relationship I’ll have.

My love story might rather sound like a movie. But, while I prefer my friends to understand me even without any regular or daily communication, I have a contrary opinion about communication with respect to a relationship. I believe that as much as relationships require love, trust, and loyalty, communication is the fourth pillar that makes it strong.

How am I the right person to advise you on anything about a relationship? Well, we have been together for almost 7 years now. And to top that, we are in a long-distance relationship.

Told you, it sounds like a movie. We met on Facebook while we were in high school. Living in two different cities that we didn’t even knew exist. 7 years down the line – in a long-distance relationship- both of us have learned a lot about each other, about love. And, one of the most important lessons is, if you don’t communicate with your partner, you can’t have a relationship going smoothly.

Whether it’s an LDR or a normal relationship if you don’t speak your feelings, you are ultimately risking your relationship and your well-being. Because, when things matter and you keep them inside, they bother you like hell. They can get onto your mental health. I have been there and I have felt that. And, the only way to deal with it is to be vocal about your feelings.

Being in a long-distance relationship, trust issues, jealousy, possessiveness are some of the factors that are sure to come, you simply cannot resist it. And, they are sure to come when you know there are a lot of people waiting for you both to break up. So, how do you deal with all the insecurities and that am-I-not-worth-it feeling? Well, you let your partner know how you are feeling, you let them know what’s going inside your head and heart.

But, is that so easy? Is it so easy to just call and speak out every word? No, it isn’t. While I am the person who believes in talking out to untangle the knots in a relationship, my partner wasn’t this expressive always. As a writer, expression of thoughts is an embedded trait of your personality. But, my partner is the 360 degree opposite to me. He is quiet, reserved, take things to his heart, prefers to keep them inside to not “bother” anybody with his perception, and chooses to communicate when things are completely out of his powers.

It is a fun and learn ride when you are head over heels in love with someone opposite to you, stays 200 km away from you, meets you once in 6 months but loves you more than anything in his world. It has taken me 7 years to make him comfortable with communicating himself especially when I do something that bothers him. After all, we are all humans and mistakes are a part of our existence.

The one secret behind every successful relationship is that it has touch rock bottoms and still survived. We had the worst phase of our long-distance relationship about 2 years ago. This was the time when we felt it was all over and we have lost each other. We even did this “final talk” before parting ways. But, even if life screws you, it always has a backup plan too. Our back up plan was communication. Being away from each other, we didn’t have anything else in our hands. The only thing we could do was talk about the unprecedented times. Hence, we decided to not call it quits and stay together for the sake of the beautiful past we had, for the sake of the potential future we had planned. And, we stuck through it. While a lot of people did everything in their power to separate us, we had them failed at every attempt all because we were up, front, and clear that we wanted to stay together, talk to each other and get through it.

The worst and the best part of the entire scenario was we dealt with all of it from the distance. It gave us this very important lesson of “whatever is meant to be will be yours”. Though, I have a different perspective on that. I believe we have lived it all and will live for a few more years before we finally seal the deal with a kiss because we want to be together.

Every time we are asked about our relationships, the response to being in a long-distance relationship is just this thing – Is he/she loyal? While we always answer the question with a prideful yes, we know this question isn’t leaving us for the next 2-3 years at least. That is how long we plan to take it forward as a long-distance relationship.

My relationship with my man is the most beautiful thing about my life. It is the very reason why I am a professional writer today. I am the artist (writer) and he is my muse forever. I began writing as a way to express my feelings to him. His love, even from the distance, has me bloomed into the woman I am today. Once he was this quiet and not-preferring to communicate kind of a person but seven years down the line, I am happy to admit he has finally begun to be vocal and open about his feelings.

Communication is the strongest pillar of any romantic relationship. While we expect the other person to know us better than ourselves, we often forget that building that bond and level of intimacy takes time. As I mentioned, I am an old school but a hopeful romantic. I fantasize a lot about dreamy getaways but at the same time, I know our reality of the present as well, which is nothing but distance. Hence, while we are working every moment to make this relationship a success, while we are hopeful about our future as a couple, we stay grounded to our reality. We are aware that we still have time to reach there, and along with love, trust, and loyalty, communication is the fourth wheel of our vehicle. And, we can’t lose either of them to not just reach the destination but enjoy the journey as well. After all, we want a good love story to recite to our babies in the future.

 

This is what words do to you, once you begin, it’s hard to stop. Well, we have finally reached the destination of this article. For me, the bottom line of communication for love and friendship with respect to my personal experience is:

“True friendships can survive with or without daily communication but true love requires communication to survive.”


Shweta is a Lifestyle and Wellness blogger and writer. She provides writing services for businesses and coaches in the niche. When not working, she is usually found feeding her passion for braids. She is also an English language enthusiast. Follow her on Instagram to know more about her and her business.

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10 Jan

Now You Can Live a Spark-filled Life

Guest Post by Stephanie James

What does it mean to live a “spark-filled” life?  It means being lit up from the inside, learning how to befriend yourself and make yourself a priority in your own life, and it means being fully alive and living your life full of authenticity, purpose and passion.

But how do we get there? We’ve all heard the expression, “Just be your own best friend!” but after 30 years in the mental health and personal development field, I know, it just isn’t that easy.  It truly starts with the art of learning to befriend yourself first.

Just imagine when you meet a new friend.  You don’t instantly trust them with your deepest, darkest secrets, nor do you automatically feel you can rely on them to be there for you when times get tough. A friendship like that takes time to cultivate.  The same is true when you are growing a relationship with yourself. You have to begin by being someone that you can rely on; to know that you have your own back and will show up for yourself when you need to.

A great way to do this is to establish a morning routine that is focused on self-care.  Use the first hour or half hour of your day to exercise, meditate, and write in a gratitude journal. Write the things you are thankful for each day, even if they are small and seem the same each day. We can be thankful for our warm bed, having hot water in the shower, and having food to eat. This doesn’t have to be big things. Then, when you are finished, put your hand on your heart and allow yourself to marinate on these good feelings.  By focusing on these feelings, you are actually telling your brain, that likes to purge information unless it is useful for our survival, “Hey! Pay attention! This is important! File this!”

Make this sacred time. I use a wall calendar to mark off when I show up for myself like this and instead of crossing off the day, I put a heart on the calendar. It is wonderful to see a full month filled with hearts and see how I have been truly loving to myself. When you show up for yourself each morning in this way, you begin to build a relationship with yourself; you begin to build trust with yourself and can begin to rely on yourself to have your best interest in mind.

I have worked with hundreds of people who find the simple act of establishing a morning self-care routine truly transformative.  It is one of the least selfish things you can do.  By making yourself a priority and taking care of yourself, you are giving to yourself in a way that will create more resiliency, calm, and well-being and you will be sharing with others from a place of fulness, rather than from a place of lack.

The next thing, I find that is really important in igniting your sparks, is to take time to truly explore what it is that lights you up! One of the ways I encourage clients to explore this, actually might seem a bit counter-intuitive at first, but it is amazingly helpful.  I encourage people to first get in touch with what their limiting beliefs are that prevent them from living the kind of “spark-filled” life that they would like to have. We often don’t realize that our words and actions are being driven by these unconscious beliefs, that are often pick up in childhood when we were in theta brain wave state and we took others opinions of us to be the truth. These beliefs can go so underground, that we don’t even realize what they are, we just know the outward manifestation (such as, I don’t have the job, relationship, self-esteem, etc. that I desire in my life.)

The way to begin “unearthing” these limiting beliefs, is to grab your journal and write a list of the areas in your life: relationship, career, finances, friendships, health and fitness, body image, spirituality, and self-concept.  Now, write down where you see yourself in all of these areas in one column and in the next, write down where you would like to be. When you look at each area, begin to notice the beliefs that come up in-between these two columns.  I worked with a man whose father had told him as a child, “Rich people are really unhappy!” Without realizing this, my client had internalized his father’s words and they had become a self-limiting belief that had kept him from being truly wealthy. Subconsciously, he had adopted the belief that if he were to become rich, then he would also become unhappy. When he became aware of that limiting belief, he then had the power to change it.

Now the fun part.  Take each of your limiting beliefs, and on a totally separate page, write down what you would like to believe about yourself instead and put a couple steps of action underneath each. An example would be:

“I am healthy and fit.”

  1. I work out 30 minutes per day.
  2. I eat healthy and nutritious foods.

This then becomes an Affirmation Action Plan that you read out loud to yourself each day that begins to prime your mindset and change your belief structure. Research tells us it takes 21-30 days for something to become a habit; that’s why so many exercise plans and diets are 30-day plans. In 30 days, your brain begins to automate the information and it becomes easier and easier to follow through (and believe.)

Lastly, one of things that can help you ignite the sparks within yourself, is to write out a list of the things that bring you pleasure. With all that is going on in the world today, it is easy to get distracted and forget some of the simple things that bring joy to your life.  I have clients begin their list with bringing in all of their senses; such as, “What tastes bring me pleasure? What smells bring me pleasure? What sights bring me pleasure? Etc.” As you begin to write your list, let yourself marinate on the good feelings that arise.  When we hold up images in our mind, our mind experiences them as happening “Now”; just as when we are thinking about the future and we feel anxious- it’s not happening now, but physiologically we are experiencing it as “Now.” The same is true for our pleasurable memories.

Let yourself write as many things as you can think of, utilizing all of your senses.  The first morning’s sip of coffee, petting my dog Jewels, and opening the curtains in the morning so the light floods my house, are all simple but wonderful pleasures in my life. It is also a principal in physics that whatever you focus on expands. What you focus on, you will notice more of it. When you focus on noticing what lights you up, you will find yourself feeling more illuminated internally.

The spark is truly who we are inside; our true essence. Sometimes we just have to do a little excavation to let that light truly shine through.  Through befriending yourself, rewiring negative beliefs, and focusing on what truly brings you pleasure, you will be well on your way to experiencing greater well-being and creating a more meaningful, spark-filled life.


BIO

A seasoned psychotherapist, a dynamic public speaker, published author, and filmmaker, Stephanie James delivers her message in a powerful way to help others find their own internal sparks and create their best lives at the next level. Nominated for Fort Collins Woman of The Year in 2014 and a graduate of the University of Denver, Stephanie has an unrelenting commitment to help others ignite their best lives and to become the best versions of themselves.

The Spark with Stephanie James is a world-wide weekly radio and podcast created to help you live your best life. Her guests are luminaries in the fields of psychology, inspiration and motivation, science, entrepreneurialism, and more!  

Her book, The Spark, Igniting Your Best Life, is available on Amazon. A compelling and inspiring book, The Spark is an excellent guide.  Step by step, Stephanie James shows how to examine beliefs that don’t serve us, ways to develop more authentic and rewarding relationships (including with ourselves), and how to approach each day with zest. 

Stephanie has a passion for connecting with people from all walks of life and continues to fulfill her personal mission to bring as much love and healing to the world as possible. Her soon to be released film, When Sparks Ignite, is about the challenges we all face and how those challenges can actually become the match point that ignite something amazing within us that then can become our gift to the world. 

https://www.stephaniejames.world/

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24 Nov

The Grief Path: Mourning the Love of Your Life

by Barbara Abercrombie, author of The Language of Loss:
Poetry and Prose for Grieving and Celebrating the Love of Your Life

I thought I knew about grief. I had been through the death of my parents. I certainly knew how much grief could hurt, how it could knock you flat like a wave sneaking up behind you. The difference is that when you’re an adult and a parent dies, you go back to your own life. When your spouse or partner dies you can’t do this, he or she was your life.

There’s no way to prepare for this kind of grief.  There’s no way to imagine what it’s like when the person you’ve loved and shared your life with vanishes. No way to comprehend the long journey ahead of you. How do you find a path for it? Can there even be a path through grief? And where can it lead?

With the first step into this new, unwanted future, I discovered the busyness of the newly bereaved – the necessity of things to be done. Decisions for a service and burial, an obituary to write, miles of paperwork, juggling a stepfamily, my own family, and friends. Then the service was over, family went home, many friends went back into couples, thank you notes were written, the paper work got done, and I felt more alone than I’ve ever been in my whole life. There was no path, only getting through it day by day, sometimes hour by hour.

One of my daughters thought I should join a grief group, which sounded like an oxymoron. My grief felt too singular, too deranged for a group. A stepdaughter wanted me to move out of the house so it could be sold. Blended families can add another layer of grief.

Reading and writing have always been my way through bad times. In the echoing silence of the months after my husband died, I looked to poetry and stories for solace. I wanted company –  poets and writers who had lost the love of their life and could put the chaos into words for me. “Help me. Remind me why I’m here,” is the final line of a poem by Kim Addonizio that I read over and over during those first few months I was a widow. This poem said exactly what I was feeling but couldn’t say to anyone, and though I wept every time I read it, I felt I wasn’t alone. The writer of this poem knew exactly what I was going through. That was comfort.

Mark Doty wrote in his memoir that while grieving for his partner he learned that “Being in grief, it turns out, is not unlike being in love.” I wrote pages and pages in my journal about my husband, us, our life – lovestruck as well as griefstruck. I started writing a memoir about his final year. I talked to him, not only on paper and in my head but also out loud. I would go into his closet and touch his shirts; his shoes made me cry. I couldn’t stand silence, yet music – whether country or opera – was too emotional to listen to, so I kept talk radio on day and night. When I was writing and I heard someone say on the radio the same word I had just written, I thought my husband was trying to reach me in code.  Hope. Voice. Time. Self. Paper. I made lists of the words and tried to turn them into poems.

Jack Gilbert wrote a poem about his belief that his wife came back as the neighbor’s Dalmation.  Jan Richardson wrote in her memoir that the sudden appearance of sparrows signaled her dead husband was sending her a sign. Doriannne Laux ended a poem with a plea: “Give me a sign if you can see me./I’m the only one here on my knees.”  Reading these poets and writers made me feel less crazy for thinking my dead husband was sending me messages in code via the radio. 

How do we get through this time, with or without signs from our beloveds?  What we can’t see in the beginning is that there is indeed a path – most likely twisted and full of sharp turns and potholes, but one that takes us forward.  Sometimes my path was a sidewalk; I walked my dog for hours every day covering the same territory. I went through the motions of living my life – yoga classes and inviting friends over for potlucks, going back to teaching, but I wasn’t myself and it didn’t feel like my life.

I realized that time was pushing my husband into the past, further and further away, but I wasn’t ready to let him go. I kept writing, I kept reading. I wasn’t ready to let go of my grief; it kept me connected to him. Writing about him kept him in the room. I continued looking for poetry and memoir for solace, and also to justify feeling narcissistic in my grief, because the writers and poets I found were just as grief obsessed as I was, and grief after all is about the griever.

I found company in Hafiz who wrote “Don’t surrender your loneliness/So quickly ….”  And in Kevin Young who wrote, “what’s worse, the forgetting/or the thing/ you can’t forget.”  When I read, I felt part of a world that made meaning out of pain. 

After two years I began to realize that the tears, the pages of memories that I wrote, the miles I walked with my dog, the hours on a yoga mat, the time with students in my classroom, the potlucks in my kitchen, the volumes of poetry and memoir that I read – all of it was a path into the future. A path I had walked without knowing it was leading somewhere.

Finally, and this happened only gradually, I found myself remembering grief. Grief as something that I had felt in the past, no longer the wave that used to flatten me, no longer feeling grief in every bone and muscle of my body but thinking about how it had felt in the past. I still missed my husband deeply, but missing isn’t grief. Missing is a feeling that can go on forever while you begin a new life. Whatever shape that new life takes, there’s the possibility of joy again, even love. In the space hollowed out by grief there is room for your heart to expand, to open to the world, to grow and to give thanks for the love you once had. At the end of my path I was amazed by gratitude.

# # #

Barbara Abercrombie has published over fifteen books, including The Language of Loss. Two of her books were listed on Poets & Writers Magazine’s “Best Writing Books of the Year” list. Her personal essays have appeared in many national publications and anthologies. She has received the Outstanding Instructor and Distinguished Instructor Awards from UCLA Extension, where she teaches creative writing. She lives in Pasadena, CA with her rescue dogs Nelson and Nina. Find out more about her work at www.barbaraabercrombie.com. 

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04 Nov

Sleep Quotes and the Wisdom (or Not) Behind Them

Sleep is one thing we all have in common. No matter where you live, how old you are, or what language you speak, if you’re alive, then you sleep. Since we’ve all been doing this sleeping thing our whole lives, we might just have some thoughts to share on the subject. And if you happen to be a celebrity, these thoughts might be shared with the public. Let’s look at some of these famous quotes about sleep, and see if we’re getting good advice.

 

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”  – Benjamin Franklin

 

Franklin was likely speaking from experience. His routine was that he would sleep from 10 pm to 5 am. Today, that’s the same routine for other successful people, including Jeff Bezos and Arianna Huffington. Ellen DeGeneres gets in her eight hours from 11pm to 7pm. However, Elon Musk and Barack Obama get to bed later, at 1 am, and then sleep until 7 am. So, can we thrive on less sleep?

 

There’s more than comes into play, including how people spend their daytime hours. Are you getting enough exercise and sunshine? Are you eating healthy foods? The quality of sleep you get it also very important. A study at John Hopkins University found that short but uninterrupted sleep is better than long hours of interrupted sleep. This is because interruption doesn’t allow the brain to go through all the sleep stages we need for energy and mental alertness. So, if you are getting that deep, uninterrupted sleep, even for fewer hours, and you are functioning optimally during that day maybe you don’t need as much sleep.

 

Research has shown that a good night’s sleep does make us smarter – or at least perform better on tests. A study at KU Leuven University in Belgium found higher test scores for students who slept seven hours each night during the exam period than those who got less sleep. The research accounted for differences in study habits, health and socioeconomic backgrounds.

 

Work eight hours and sleep eight hours and make sure that they are not the same hours. – T. Boone Pickens

Here’s a successful guy who believed in balance. Work, sleep, and then also live your life. Good advice. If you’re working too much and not giving the mind some downtime to rest before sleep, you’ll have a more difficult time getting to sleep, and probably not sleep as well.

 

I need nine hours of sleep because of all the activity I do. It doesn’t always happen, but I really try. – Ana Ivanovic

 

8 hours sleep is average – the ballpark for most of us. But some people need less, like Elon Musk, apparently! And some of us need more, like pro tennis player Ana Ivanovic. You don’t have to be an athlete, either – expending mental energy also requires a body-mind reset through sleep. If you find yourself yawning in the afternoon, or feeling like you need a nap, you might just need more sleep at night. When you’re getting enough quality nighttime sleep you shouldn’t need to take a nap. Young children and the elderly are exceptions, they usually need a nap in the day.

 

I don’t sleep enough, and it does… what is the opposite of wonders… horrors. It does horrors for my skin. – Kate McKinnon

I think my biggest tip – and I consider it a part of my beauty routine – is getting my sleep, without a doubt. I do a true eight hours. – Tracee Ellis Ross

 

There’s a reason why we call it “Beauty Sleep” and these actresses will tell you! It works both ways. Get good sleep and it shows on your face – your skin, your eyes, your smile. Or stay up too late missing those precious sleep hours and that will show up on your face, too. There’s only so much that make-up can do to hide the signs of lack of sleep. Who better than an actress to confirm this?

 

I drink a ton of water. And I never go to bed too full. – Chrissy Teigen

 

Chrissy Teigen has the right idea when it comes to eating. It’s best not to go to bed on a full stomach, because then your body is busy digesting instead of focusing on getting you into a sleep state. But it’s also not good to go to bed hungry either. Chrissy posts on her Instagram account about her “night eggs” that she swears by for sleep. She eats one lightly seasoned hard-boiled egg before bed, and it give her just enough protein to get her through the night without being hungry. But when it comes to water – it’s great to drink water during the day, but definitely limit your intake after 7 pm or your sleep will be interrupted when you need to get out of bed to visit the bathroom!

 

Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight. – Phyllis Diller

Make sure you never, never argue at night. You just lose a good night’s sleep and you can’t settle anything until morning anyway. -Rose Kennedy

 

I think we’ve all heard this from marriage and relationship experts: “Never go to bed angry.” Worst advice ever! What is the alternative? Like Phyllis Diller says, stay up and fight? I’m sure Phyllis was joking – how can anyone possibly sleep after getting all riled up in a heated argument? I think Rose Kennedy has a better idea. Never argue at night. Table the argument, go to sleep and figure it out in the morning. Chances are, after a good night’s sleep, the argument won’t seem so important anyway. You’ll be able to think more clearly and may even have dreamt up a solution to the problem!

 

Nothing makes you feel better than when you get into a hotel bed, and the sheets feel so good. Why shouldn’t you wake up like that every day? Spend money on your mattress and bedding because these things make a difference on your sleep and, ultimately, your happiness. -Bobby Berk

 

Bobby Berk is an interior designer and television host. He travels a lot for work, so he knows about staying in hotels. Many people experience a great night’s sleep when they stay in a hotel. And when they come home it’s just not the same. The difference? The mattress. Hotels are really good about getting fresh new mattresses all the time so that their guests are comfortable. So, Bobby is giving us really good advice. A new mattress is an investment in both our health and happiness. And of course, the bedding should feel good when you’re in bed, and look good enough to make you smile when you’re out of bed!

 

 

https://podcasts.hopkinsmedicine.org/2015/12/18/december-24-2015-interrupted-sleep/

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/11/13/the-sleep-habits-of-highly-successful-people-infographic/#1459a7376d7f

 

https://nieuws.kuleuven.be/en/content/2014/for-better-marks-get-a-good-nights-sleep

 

 

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30 Jan

A Bigger Yes

We are the luckiest.An excerpt from We Are the Luckiest by Laura McKowen

Before Laura McKowen got sober, she had a long, successful career in public relations in the Mad Men-esque drinking culture of the advertising industry, where “liquid lunches were frequent and drinking at your desk in the late afternoon was perfectly normal.” In the five years since she stopped drinking, she has become one of the foremost voices in the modern recovery movement.

In her new memoir We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life (New World Library, January 7, 2020), McKowen flips the script on how we talk about addiction and encourages readers not to ask, “Is this bad enough that I have to change?” but rather, “Is this good enough for me to stay the same?”

We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

# # #

For so long, all I could see was what I would be losing by giving up drinking — love being only one representation of many. Despite all the aphorisms and positive thinking and stories I’d heard from other sober people promising me otherwise, all I could feel was the loss. Augusten Burroughs, in his book This Is How, said that what worked for him in getting sober was to find something he loved more than drinking. I understood that intellectually, and it sounded awfully catchy and inspiring, but it just didn’t feel true for me.

Being in that room with Seane, feeling whatever had been sparking up in me — even in the midst of all the emotional angst and discomfort — I started to get it. For the first time, I could imagine chasing something bigger.

# # #

Here’s what is true, for you and for me: the grief and the sadness are real. When you give up something you’ve relied on as heavily as I relied on alcohol, even when that something is actively destroying your life, it is a true loss. You can’t deny that, and more importantly, you don’t have to.

I thought there was something wrong with me for feeling so heartbroken. How could I actively miss a thing that had nearly cost me everything, including Alma?

There was nothing wrong with me, though. Alcohol had been my friend. It had carried me through a lot of pain I might have otherwise not been able to withstand. It had softened experiences that needed to be softened. It had been there for me always, without question. My drinking — and whatever it is you do to feel better — was born of a natural impulse to soothe, to connect, to feel love. And although alcohol hadn’t actually delivered those things, it was absolutely yoked to them in my mind. In my heart and body, too. It was just what I knew.

So of course I was terrified without it. Of course I missed it. The absence of it was terrible. And necessary. Maybe it’s helpful to linger there for a minute, in the terrible and the necessary. To start to see them as the same. Maybe in this way, pain is not such a problem.

When I saw Seane up there, doing what she did, I realized it wasn’t in spite of her pain that she was doing these things but because of it. She knew exactly what it took to walk through the fire. That is what I recognized in her. That was why I believed her.

Because that strength was in me, too.

I had always quashed my pain and cut it off before it could burn all the way through. I drank it away or ate it away or disappeared into another person or work. Being there over those four days, without contact with Jon or Alma or the comforts of home, had given me a taste of what it was like to just let it burn. I felt it. I felt it all over my body. And although it was excruciating most of the time, there were a few moments when I surrendered the fight and simply allowed everything to wash over me. In those moments, I found that right alongside the sharp intensity and unease, there was some small part of me willing to stay, another voice softly saying, I am willing to be here.

Behind all those nos and never-agains is a much bigger yes. It might not seem clear now, but it will be clear soon. Listen to the voice. Listen to your body. This is in you already.

There is a life that is calling you forward, begging you to meet its eye, to glimpse its vision for you. You can get only so far by running away from what you do not want. Eventually you will have to turn toward what you do. You will have to run toward a bigger yes.

# # #

 

Laura McKowen is the author of We Are the Luckiest. She is a former public relations executive who has become recognized as a fresh voice in the recovery movement. Beloved for her soulful and irreverent writing, she leads sold-out yoga-based retreats and other courses that teach people how to say yes to a bigger life. Visit her online at http://www.lauramckowen.com.

Excerpted from the book We Are the Luckiest. Copyright ©2020 by Laura McKowen. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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18 Jan

Defining Self Care

“Self-care” has become somewhat of a buzz word lately. So many people are talking about it, especially online. In most of the discussions, self-care is used to describe taking a bath, getting a massage, having some aromatherapy, and the like. It kind of comes off as prioritizing yourself, maybe to the point of being selfish. But let’s really unpack this, and understand what self-care really means.

 

This is my definition of self-care: Being responsible for your own happiness and well-being. We can’t “get” happiness from any outside source. That means we can’t buy it, and we can’t rely on anyone else to provide it for us, or give it to us. So, if we’re not happy or well, we can’t blame anyone or anything – the buck, so to speak, stops with ourselves. When we can understand that, then we can make more informed choices about what we do, and how we do it.

 

For example, let’s look at the three pillars of health in Ayurveda, and how this relates to self-care.

 

1) Food: Food is anything we “eat” through any of the senses. What do you put in your mouth, what do you smell, what do you touch, what do you watch, what are you listening to? If you’re stressed out, yet continue to watch violent television shows, or listen to argumentative talk shows on the car radio, you need to make different choices. If your digestion is poor, and you’re eating junk food late at night, you need to be doing something different. This is self-care – knowing how to take care of yourself body, mind, and spirit… and actually doing it. No one else can do it for you. You absolutely have control here – so we have to look at our habits, and stop being on auto-pilot.

 

2) Sleep: You’ve heard me talk about sleep for years as the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council. What could be easier than going to bed at a reasonable time? And yet, we don’t do it! We have every excuse to stay up later than we should. We’re on our screens way too late, we don’t invest in our sleep by making sure we have a new mattress and pillow. It’s like we see sleep as a chore, something more to fit into our busy day. Like a little kid, we don’t want to go to bed because we’re afraid we’ll be missing something! It’s time to change that mind-set and understand how important sleep is in every area of our lives. Self-care means being disciplined about your sleep schedule, and sleep hygiene so that sleep can actually work for you!

 

3) Activity: Activity is everything we do in our lives – work, exercise, relationships, our daily routine and habits. It’s not just what you’re doing, but also what you’re thinking about. Where is your attention focused? Self-care is also knowing our limits. Are you taking on too much? Are you being too active, is life too hectic? Or are you not active enough, is life too slow? There’s a beautiful “Goldilocks” amount of activity that’s unique to each of us, and “just right” for each one of us. Find yours and take care of yourself in this way. You might have to say no when you feel obligated or pressed to say yes, or say yes when you’re a bit uncomfortable jumping into something new. Tune into your intuition and do what is best for you.

 

Take good care!

Lots of love,

Lissa

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20 Nov

Paradigm Shift

Over the past two decades, there has been a quiet revolution in the fields of psychology and neuroscience challenging two fundamental assumptions. The first is that humans are hardwired to experience emotions and that emotions happen automatically. Unless you’re a saint, if you’ve been honked at by a rude driver, you will have seen this firsthand. You will have experienced reacting in a way that feels completely automatic (and likely regrettable). This is certainly what seems to be happening. The proximity between stimulus (the honk) and reaction (anger) is so close that your perception was that you had no choice but to react in a certain way. To make sense of this experience, you likely have attributed this phenomenon to the myth that humans are emotion- ally hardwired.

This is understandable. Early humans who were able to band together effectively increased their likelihood of survival. Evolution favored traits that let people be accepted by and remain part of the clan. In essence, get- ting excluded from the tribe was an almost certain death sentence. As a result, your brain has evolved to recognize threats to your social status and to respond in ways that protect you from risk to your psychological safety. In fact, brain scans show that when you feel excluded or rejected, the part of your brain associated with physical pain—the anterior cingulate cortex—lights up. Hence, as we saw in chapter one, when someone looks at you a certain way or makes a disparaging remark, your amygdala is triggered and institutes a fight/flight/freeze response, releasing the hormone epinephrine and instigating a series of physiological responses. This reaction, known as the amygdala hijack, in turn impairs your most sophisticated mental capabilities—your ability to think rationally, to be creative, to problem solve, to exercise self-control. What started out as an essential survival adaptation—to keep you safe from physical harm or to keep you included in the tribe—has become a major limitation to effectiveness in modern-day life.

So while there may be something to the notion of hardwiring, the truth is far more nuanced and interesting. Your brain is a prediction machine, continuously comparing new stimuli to past experience and making guesses about what action your body should take based

on those comparisons. Beginning in early infancy, your brain begins to construct rules or beliefs for each cate- gory of experience, and they get embedded in your pro- gram. Over time, these rules solidify, and you think it is just the way things are—the way you are wired. Driver honking at you equals someone treating you unfairly, which means you must be angry.

One of the leading researchers in this area, Lisa Feldman Barrett, has arrived at a profound and revolutionary conclusion challenging the myth that humans are hard- wired:

Our emotions aren’t built-in, waiting to be revealed. They are made. By us. We don’t recognize emotions or identify emotions: we construct our own emotional experiences, and our perceptions of others’ emotions, on the spot, as needed, through a complex interplay of systems. Human beings are not at the mercy of mythical emotion circuits buried deep within animalistic parts of our highly evolved brain: we are architects of our own experience.8

The second fundamental assumption being challenged is the view that what you perceive through your senses—primarily sight and sound—dictates the way you feel. In reality, it is mostly the other way around. We touched on this notion in chapter one with the introduction of polyvagal theory—the idea that your central nervous system is constantly scanning your internal state to detect physiological markers that suggest potential threats to your social safety. You continuously experience countless sensations in your body—the result of your glucose levels, breathing rate, lack of sleep, etc. Your brain’s process of registering and integrating changes in

these sensations is known as interoception. Interoception influences what external sensory input you pay attention to. If sleep-deprived and hungry, you will experience the same situation completely differently than you would if well-rested and fed. Again, Barrett does a wonderful job of summarizing this for us:

You construct the environment in which you live. You might think about your environment as existing in the outside world, separate from yourself, but that’s a myth. You (and other creatures) do not simply find yourself in an environment and either adapt or die. You construct your environment—your reality—by virtue of what sensory input from the physical environment your brain selects; it admits some as information and ignores some as noise. And this selection is intimately linked to interoception.9

The implications of this paradigm shift in under- standing human behavior are massive. The sum of your genetics, childhood experiences, culture, neurophysiology (including the anatomy of your brain and, more importantly, your physiological state) all help shape your program and, in turn, how you behave. Your brain uses the rules of your program to make predictions about what actions are most appropriate for any given stimulus. This understanding is revolutionary, and it’s good news. While it is certainly understandable to feel as if certain behaviors are automatic, you nevertheless have the capacity to control every response to every situation. The question now becomes what you can do to master your code (including your physiology) so that the actions you take are more consistent with the choices you would like to make. Since you are truly the architect and author of your experience, you have the possibility (and dare I say responsibility) to create the conditions that will allow you to construct a different way of perceiving and reacting to your circum- stances. The bad news? No more excuses!

 

Darren Gold is a Managing Partner at The Trium Group, where he advises and coaches CEOs and leadership teams at many of the world’s most innovative companies, including Roche, Dropbox, Lululemon, Sephora, Cisco, eBay, Activision, and Warner Bros. He is the author of the new book Master Your Code: The Art, Wisdom, and Science of Leading an Extraordinary LifeLearn more at www.darrenjgold.com.

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19 Nov

Authenticity

BOOKcover-LiveTrue-hiResCHAPTER 21: Authenticity

But above all, in order to be, never try to seem.

—Albert Camus

 

This above all:

To thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

—Shakespeare

 

Who are you really, if not who you really are? That may sound like some kind of Zen koan, which is a paradox, or a puzzle for Zen Buddhist monks to meditate on to gain enlightenment. Perhaps we won’t reach enlightenment by contemplating that question, but we can certainly find out who we are by knowing who we’re not. If we ask ourselves, “Who am I?” we will automatically answer with our name, or what it is we do for a living, our role, or our persona, such as “I’m a mother,” “I’m a doctor,” “I’m an actor,” “I’m a carpenter,” or even, “I’m an addict.” We may be any one of those things, or a combination of them. But unless we know who we are other than just our “identity,” or what we do, we might not know whether we’re

being true to ourselves, or authentic in whatever identity we’ve taken on. Maybe somewhere in your role as a mother, you’re conflicted about having given up a career to be a parent, or maybe torn about working and leaving your children at home or daycare. Or, maybe if you were/are an addict, you were once on top of the world but lost confidence in yourself at one point in your life, and couldn’t handle failure so you numbed yourself with drugs or alcohol. Or maybe you became a doctor because it was expected of you to be one since you come from generations of physicians, as I spoke about in the previous chapter on honesty. Who we are might not be what we wanted, or intended to be at all, but we’ve been that person for so long, who would we be otherwise? Some people just fall into being who they are, or inherit being who they are, or are told to be who they are. Others knew who they wanted to be when

they spoke their first words. But whether you announced your identity at your first dance recital, or you smiled compliantly when your father announced at your Bar Mitzvah that you were going to be a lawyer just like him, somewhere on the “Who am I?” train, you woke up and realized that you got on the wrong one, became inauthentic to yourself, and don’t know how that happened. There’s a great song by The Talking Heads, called “Once in a Lifetime,” which really sums it up:

 

And you may find yourself

Living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself

In another part of the world

And you may find yourself

Behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house

With a beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself, well

How did I get here?

 

It’s very conceivable that you can wake up one day and ask yourself, “How did I get here?” A good way to avoid that from happening is to ask yourself, “Who am I?” long before

you end up somewhere you really don’t want to be, or flummoxed by how the hell you let yourself get there. Mindfulness helps us not forget who we are. It keeps us present and aware, and if, or when we might feel an impulse to be inauthentic, it reminds us immediately that falseness of any kind feels wrong with every fiber of our being. When we’re mindful, we have heightened awareness, and with heightened awareness, it’s hard to be dishonest with ourselves. It’s like having an inner lie detector, as I’ve spoken of, or truth barometer that goes off inside us, and makes it almost impossible not to pay attention to it. Even if someone is suggesting what we should do, or who we should be, as I mentioned, we get a signal loud and clear that no one can decide who we are, and only we can determine our authenticity.  But whether you decided who your authentic self was long ago, somewhere on the life path you can either forget it, doubt it, turn away from it, give it away, or even make a decision that you dislike or hate who you really are, and deny ever being that person. It’s like an identity swap, only instead of taking on a role that isn’t you because you felt you had to, you gave your authentic self away gladly, and after living so long as someone you’re not, you’re now desperately looking for who you are, like a mother trying to find the baby she gave up for adoption. The good news is you can always find that person you once were, and when

you become reunited with your authentic self, it can be the greatest and most freeing day of your life. it’s not easy living a life trapped in inauthenticity, and it takes work to pretend to be someone we’re not. It can also be very painful to be seen, liked, or even loved for a false self, and terrifying that if, or when you’re found out that you’ve lived dishonestly, not only can you be met with tremendous anger and resentment, but you can also be blamed or accused for harming others in some type of way, be it emotionally or psychologically.

Ora Nadrich is founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking and author of Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity. A certified life coach and mindfulness teacher, she specializes in transformational thinking, self-discovery, and mentoring new coaches as they develop their careers. Learn more at theiftt.org and OraNadrich.com.

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21 Oct

“You Are What You Read”

An excerpt by Jodie Jackson from her book, “You Are What You Read”.

In the early stages of my research into the psychological impact of the news, I went to a constructive journalism workshop. At the beginning, the course director asked all the journalists in attendance why they had decided on their chosen career.

My scepticism about the creators of the news was suspended as I heard the participants’ answers: to make the world a better place, to hold power to account, to inspire, to educate, to give a voice to the voiceless, to expose wrongdoing, to stimulate debate, to challenge the status quo. I was in admiration of their intentions.

I later found that these journalists’ answers were incredibly common through research that showed that the journalists interviewed shared a common characteristic: the desire to contribute to the improvement of the human condition and make the world a better place. They then went on to say that they achieved this by reporting suffering as a way to counteract ignorance and stimulate empathy. This strategy can be very effective. But while it’s true that the news of others’ suffering can conjure empathetic concern and can lead to altruistic behaviour, which may reduce that suffering, it can also lead to personal distress. And those who experience such distress will not be concerned with the needs of others. Instead they will seek to reduce their own suffering by withdrawing or avoiding the news.

The initial buzz that had been created by these noble and inspired answers was quickly dulled as I began researching how people feel when they watch or read the news. Their dispirited answers included comments like depressed, paranoid, hopeless, insignificant and scared about our future.

The news is supposed to empower people by enlightening them with information that they otherwise may not have known. It should also help them zoom out of their personal lives and allow them to feel connected to the world around them. But it seems that when some people lift their head above their personal horizon, they immediately want to retreat to the safety of their own surroundings. They may even decide to put their head in the sand and ignore the wider world for the sake of their sanity; deciding to remain unaware of the daily disasters and instead choose the more comforting thought that ‘ignorance is bliss’.

People that avoid the news are often judged because of the enormous social pressure to be well informed. If you don’t know the detail of global policies, domestic issues and the latest corruption, you are often tarnished with the disapproving titles of ill-educated, naïve, lazy, self-involved or shallow. However, having spoken to some wildly intelligent, caring, benevolent and creative individuals who have chosen not to expose themselves to the news regularly, I can say that this is not always the case.

Although it is common for journalists to want to believe the stories they tell make the world a better place, it is more difficult to digest the idea that the news they are creating can actually cause harm. But it is time we publicly acknowledge that good intentions can have unintended consequences, and the stories we are told about in the news do not always have the positive impact that was intended by their writers.

We know that the news predominantly reports the problems of the world, from systemic social issues of poverty and inequality to individual petty crime, with very little to comfort the reader. We accept that these are the types of stories we expect to hear from the news. This expectation has become so entrenched in the news industry that a television news programme can have ‘more images of violence, suffering and death in a half hour than most people would normally view in a lifetime’.

So what effect does all this bad news have on us?

It is important that we ask this because the subtle potency of the news appears largely unquestioned by the very consumers who are affected by its content. Instead of questioning it, many routinely defend its position. But with the average American spending seventy minutes a day absorbing news content, it is important that we ask what are the psychological effects that the news has on us. It is time we, the consumers, turn the investigative lens on the news industry to expose the effects of the negativity bias on our mental health, the health of our democracy and our society. Once people begin to ask questions, it may be that people do not so quickly defend the incessant negativity of the news.

 

Jodie Jackson is an author, researcher and campaigner. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of East London (UK) where she investigated the psychological impact of the news. As she discovered evidence of the beneficial effects of solutions-focused news on our wellbeing, she grew convinced of the need to spread consumer awareness. She is a regular speaker at media conferences and universities. Her new book is You Are What You Read: Why Changing Your Media Diet Can Change the World(Unbound, September 3, 2019). See more at www.jodiejackson.com, and find her on twitter at @jacksonjodie21

 

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15 Oct

AVOIDING YOUR BEST WORK LEADS TO CREATIVE CONSTIPATION

The following is a modified excerpt from Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done.

***

There’s a big difference between what your best work and all the other work you do. Doing your best work is fulfilling while you’re doing it and also creates a bridges the gap between the life you live today and the life your soul yearns to be in. And your best work isn’t just about work you get paid for — it could be playing in your hobby band, raising your kids, being the church secretary, or community volunteer projects.

Your best work is always going to be challenging because it’s the work that matters to you. And because it matters to you, you’re going to be thrashing — that is flailing, having mini identity crises, “researching”, and all the other kinds of meta-work that doesn’t actually push the work forward — along the way. Best work is starting to look suspiciously like hard work, and our natural reaction is to avoid doing hard work and to instead find something easier to do.

When it comes to your best work, not doing it comes with two major costs: (1) you won’t be able to thrive, and (2) you’ll be stricken with creative constipation. Since I’ve already discussed the link between thriving and your best work, let’s talk about creative constipation, or the pain of not doing your best work.

Creative constipation is exactly what it sounds like. We take in ideas and inspiration that get converted into aspirations, goals, and projects, and at a certain point, if we’re not pushing them out in the form of finished projects, they start to back up on us.

And like physical constipation, at a certain point, we get toxic. We don’t want to take in any more ideas. We don’t want to do any more projects. We don’t want to set any more goals or plans. We’re full and fed up.

That inner toxicity becomes the broth that flavors all our stories about ourselves and the world; our head trash gets more pronounced and intense, and what we see in the world goes from bright to dark. Creative constipation leads to behaviors in which we lash out at the world—and sometimes even more intensely at ourselves. We become resentful of others—even people we love—who are doing their best work.

Our ability to feel positive emotional peaks is diminished at the same time that our ability to feel negative emotional troughs is amplified. You’ve no doubt encountered the tortured, depressed soul who’s creatively constipated—and you may have been there yourself.

There’s a reason that nearly every spiritual tradition links creativity and destruction: the same energy that fuels creation also fuels destruction. The Jewish, Christian, and Muslim God creates and destroys; “beating swords into plowshares” works equally in reverse. The Hindu god Shiva is seen as

a destroyer who makes way for creativity. Creativity and destruction are seen as a continual loop in the Taoist concept of yin and yang.

Spiritual insights such as these also show up in our everyday lives. Think about how often you’ve engaged in retail therapy—and thus destroyed your time and resources—because you’re unsatisfied about something in your life. Think about how often you’ve indulged in emotional eating because you’re not creating the change you want to see in your life. Think about how many people blow up their lives in a midlife crisis because the career and life they’ve made haven’t satisfied their deep needs.

Now think about the people you know or have read about who are doing their best work. Notice how they’re healthier, happier, (usually) more financially comfortable, and in good relationships with others? Doing their best work creates meaning for them at the same time that it cocreates who they want to be in the world. And these folks know that doing their work in the world is the wheel of change, meaning, and growth, more so than merely being stuck in their heads.

So at both deep and practical levels, we can choose to channel our energy to do our best work and thrive, or we can choose to leave it unharnessed to gradually destroy ourselves, our relationships, our resources, and the world around us.

Better to do the hard work of creation than the hard work of repairing the destruction we’ve wrought.

 

Charlie Gilkey is an author, entrepreneur, philosopher, Army veteran, and renowned productivity expert. Founder of Productive Flourishing, Gilkey helps professional creatives, leaders, and changemakers take meaningful action on work that matters. His new book is Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done. Learn more at productiveflourishing.com.

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