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How to Achieve Flow State and Live a Happier Life

How to Achieve Flow State and Live a Happier Life

“Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

When was the last time you completely lost yourself in a project? I’m not talking about the stressful loss of self which happens when you’re up against an impossible deadline. (College flashbacks, anyone???)

I’m talking about losing yourself while doing something for the sake of the activity itself. Something that you enjoy doing so much that you completely lose track of time.

It’s almost as if you get sucked into an alternate world where all your stress and anxiety is suddenly swept away. And regardless of the activity, you quickly find that not only are your skills challenged to their utmost but that you actually enjoy the challenge because it’s so deeply meaningful to you.

Although there are several names for it such as being “in the zone,” what I’m describing is called “flow state” and the term itself was coined by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

And Csikszentmihalyi first became intrigued with the concept after noticing how deeply absorbed artists became in their work. Decades later, the benefits of achieving a flow state are still at the forefront of positive psychology. The concepts central to flow are also key to a diverse range of fields.

Curious to learn more? Let’s dive into exactly what flow state is!

This post may contain affiliate links and as a member of the Amazon Affiliate program, this means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

What does being in flow state feel like?

In most cases, flow state occurs with some type of creative endeavor. It could be writing, painting, music, or even sports. Anything which completely absorbs your focus and challenges your abilities can trigger flow state.

I have personally been in a flow state while doing a number of different activities including piano practice, dressage, and writing. Proof that flow state truly can occur during a WIDE range of activities!

If you can relate to being multi-passionate, make sure you check out Why Having Multiple Interests is Your Greatest Strength.

In his TED talk (which you absolutely need to check out!), Csikszentmihalyi lists 7 different elements which describe how it feels to be in flow state.

  1. You become completely focused on the activity.
  2. A sense of ecstasy takes over and the reality of everyday life fades away.
  3. Inner clarity presents itself and you know exactly what needs to be done, when, and in what order.
  4. Your self-confidence dramatically increases because you know your skills are up to the task.
  5. Inner serenity replaces worry as your ego becomes less and less important.
  6. Time flies as flow state takes over.
  7. Pursuing the activity becomes the reward and you require no external motivation.

I don’t know about you but inner clarity, serenity, and self-confidence are all areas I’m constantly working to foster. And combining those areas with something I’m already passionate about?

What could possibly be better???

4 Stages of Flow

Although Csikszentmihalyi is considered the pioneer of flow state research, there have been others who have advanced his work. One such researcher is Steven Kotler, a journalist, author, and executive director of an entire research initiative dedicated to the topic.

Kotler is credited with coming up with the 4 stages of flow.

  1. The struggle phase involves overloading your brain with research, new skills, and any information related to whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. Hint: this phase often feels like the exact opposite of flow state.
  2. The relaxation phase is an incredibly important one in which the subconscious takes over problem solving. Doing something physical such as taking a walk is most effective way to shift from conscious to subconscious thinking. Skipping this step can result in burnout.
  3. Flow state and inspiration finally take over and you experience the 7 elements listed above.
  4. The final stage is consolidation and it involves transforming the experience to your subconscious. This stage, however, comes with a downside. Remember those feel good neurochemicals released during flow? During this stage, they leave. In an attempt to regain the flow state, a tendency for self-sabotage can often result.

A solid understanding of the 4 stages can not only help you understand flow state on a deeper level but also guide your experience by allowing you to gauge where you are at any given time.

It’s also crucial to remember how important relaxation is to achieving flow state. As is the reality that it does have to end at some point. Constantly pushing yourself to achieve flow can have a dark side and will lead to eventual burnout (or worse). But if you have a solid understanding of the process, you can take faith in knowing that all 4 stages are important to the overall experience and its benefits.

The Benefits of Flow State

“Contrary to what we usually believe … the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times – although such experiences can also be enjoyable. If we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

There are simply so many incredible benefits to incorporating flow state into your life. Your self-confidence climbs to new heights and your ability to enjoy your life on a much deeper level increases by incorporating activities which spark your passion.

Tapping into flow also improves your concentration and not only makes you more efficient but ultimately allows you to produce at a higher level than you would otherwise.

I personally LOVE activities which require all my brain power because it leaves me feeling as if I have reached my fullest potential. I’ve also found that my sleep quality improves dramatically because of the energy it took to attain flow and the peace it brings.

You may also find that your inner critic suddenly disappears because you focus so deeply on the activity that you have no brain power left for criticism. Instead of criticizing, you’re caught up in the moment of whatever it is you’re doing.

And ultimately, your happiness improves because of all the positive energy in your life.

Pretty incredible, isn’t it?

How do I achieve flow state?

Whether you already have familiarity with exactly what being in flow state feels like or have only just been introduced to the concept, let’s move on to the big question you’re probably asking yourself. “How do I put myself into this state so I can not only improve my productivity but also my overall happiness?”

Although there are several different ways to promote flow state, it requires a foundation of 3 elements. It’s also important to keep in mind that there are a huge range of activities which can inspire flow state. But not every activity lends itself well to those 3 elements.

The following 3 questions address each of the required elements. If the answer is “yes” to all of the below, you can move forward with confidence that the activity will indeed inspire flow!

  1. Does the activity have clear goals and a definitive way to gauge progress?
  2. Am I able to get some type of clear and immediate feedback about my performance?
  3. Is there a balance between my perception of how challenging this activity is and my perception of my own skills?

How do I know whether an activity is capable of triggering flow state?

As an example for how to evaluate an activity, let’s consider piano practice.

Piano practice checks the box for #1 above because there are so many different ways to gauge progress. Whether it’s learning the first few measures of a piece or finally memorizing an entire Beethoven sonata, clear and concrete goals are everywhere.

You can also check off #2 because there are several different ways to get immediate feedback on your performance. The first, and most accurate, is to record your practice session. This method allows you to completely focus on your practice in the moment and reserves critique for afterwards.

Pssst! Check out my recommendation for the easiest to use and hands-down best microphone out there!

The second method to get feedback is by taking lessons from someone. This is an incredibly valuable form of feedback because it’s objective and critiquing yourself will always have a bit of the subjective to it.

Looking for a piano teacher? Check out this post for How to Find the Right Piano Teacher for You. And if you’re ready to jump in, find a list of online piano teacher accepting new students here.

The third is by listening to your playing in the moment. This method is somewhat more difficult because multitasking on playing and critiquing makes both slightly less effective. But it is, nonetheless, a way to receive immediate feedback.

Box #3 is also easily checked off because there is an incredibly diverse range of repertoire out there. Whether you are just beginning to play or have played for years, you can find something right at your level. And you can also continually challenge yourself by choosing tougher and tougher repertoire.

Now that you have a solid understanding of the benefits, stages, and the basics on achieving the flow state, let’s move on to how you can better incorporate it into your life!

Find the Balance

In his TED talk, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is very clear about the balance between challenge and skill level. To achieve flow state, challenge and skill levels must be high.

In other words, if there is a mismatch between challenge and skill, flow state is unattainable.

As an example, when a task is highly challenging and your skill level is low, you will feel anxious and worried. But when the challenge and your skill level are both low, you are likely to feel apathetic.

Neither are particularly desirable states.

You therefore must focus on finding the balance between challenge and your individual skill level.

Pay Attention to Your Internal Clock

The reality is that we all have times of the day when we are at our creative best. Everyone has a slightly different clock but typically, everyone functions better when all physical needs have been met. This means adequate sleep, hydration, and regular exercise.

Taking care of your physical needs translates into more favorable mental and emotional states. Pay attention to when you feel most positive and are able to focus on a deeper level.

You probably don’t have to think too hard to figure out what this time of day is for you. For me personally, my most productive time is always in the morning. I have found that as the day drags on, my creative and emotional energy drains essentially to zero by evening.

Achieving flow state when your energy is drained is significantly more difficult than when you are in the zone. It’s usually much easier to give in to distraction and your brain has a more difficult time thinking creatively.

Eliminate Distractions

It is ironic that I write this post amidst my 3 kids and husband, all vying for my attention. This is not particularly conducive to achieving flow due to the continual interruptions. Although I can’t always change the situation, I have learned to adapt.

I do this by listening to the same Pandora channel every time I sit down to write. Doing this signals my brain that it’s time to focus on the task at hand.

I have also found that in order to achieve flow state, it’s essential that the music is strictly instrumental rather than anything with sung lyrics. And as I am a classical pianist, the music has to be orchestral and no solo piano otherwise my mind wanders to analysis of the piece and pianist performance.

The music must set the stage for creativity rather than become the star performer of the play. You may find that listening to solo piano is right up your alley. Or maybe pop gets you into flow state more easily than any other genre.

Find what works best for you and do you!

Set a Goal

Ideally this should be a small and very actionable goal. When you sit down to work, it should be something that you’re very clear on. Such a goal might be something like “write the introduction of my blog post” instead of “work on content.”

Setting a small, clear goal enables you to focus on the task at hand instead of peripheral tasks which may focus your attention elsewhere.

Look for the goals which truly move the needle forward in whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.

And remember that focusing on the journey itself rather than the destination is always key to establishing the type of habits which result in huge breakthroughs and ultimately, goal attainment.

Final Thoughts

Whatever it is that lights you up inside, I truly hope you have found insight to not only take it to the next level but to improve your overall happiness.

If the concept of flow is intriguing, make sure you check out Csikszentmihalyi’s book.

Or the writings of Steven Kotler.

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And if you’re interested in a musician’s perspective, don’t miss out on this one.

Until next time, I hope you pursue your passions and truly live a life you love!

Top Piano Practice Myths You Need to Stop Believing

Top Piano Practice Myths You Need to Stop Believing

You’ve thought about learning to play the piano but something is stopping you. Maybe it’s time. Or your age. Maybe you don’t feel “musically talented.”

Or maybe you would love to learn piano but have no idea where to even start.

Perhaps you have enrolled your child in lessons only to discover the challenges inherent to maintaining a practice regimen. And you’re now questioning whether their lack of practice makes lessons even worth it at this point.

I get it.

As someone who has played piano for as long as I can remember, I’ve also heard my fair share of myths surrounding the instrument. And there are a shocking number of piano practice myths out there!

Rest assured that at least part of what may be holding you (or your child) back from learning the instrument is likely a myth.

But you don’t have to let a series of lies hold you back from the joy of playing any longer. Let’s dive deeper into the top piano practice myths you need to stop believing!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Kids and Piano Practice

Parents … this one’s for you! How many times have you signed your kid up for an activity only to be dismayed by the amount of fighting created by said activity?

Maybe it’s having to attend soccer practice instead of a friend’s birthday party. Or maybe your daughter would rather watch “The Babysitter’s Club” than go to her Girl Scouts meeting.

Signing your kids up for activities is all fun and games until the accountability hits. Believe me … with 3 kids, I’ve been there a time or two!

The Downside of Piano Lessons

And signing them up for piano lessons is no different. Many piano teachers out there have strict policies regarding weekly practice. I’ve even heard of teachers kicking students out for not practicing.

Or parents simply removing their kids from lessons over the guilt of not maintaining a practice schedule.

But can we take a step back for a minute and think about why we enrolled our kids in lessons in the first place? Was it so they could be the next great concert pianist? Or was it simply so they could learn about music and have fun?

Kids have way too much on their plates these days. The pressure to perform is everywhere and I hate the thought that kids are removed from what could be a lifetime of joyful music making simply because they didn’t practice per someone else’s guidelines.

If your child is naturally motivated to practice on a regular basis, great! You won the piano parent lottery! But if not, let them discover aspects of the instrument which are fun for them. If they love watching piano YouTube videos, great! Or if they love to improv instead of practice their lesson materials, awesome!

Stop forcing piano practice. Instead, encourage anything even remotely related to the instrument and you will foster a lifelong love for music. And honestly, isn’t that the whole point?

Lastly, make sure you find a piano teacher who supports the main goal as being fun and enjoyment rather than strict practice schedules and the pressure to perform.

If you need help locating a piano teacher, make sure you check out my recent post on how to find the right piano teacher for you!

Learning Piano Means Hours of Daily Practice

And speaking of piano practice myths … let’s dive into the one about daily practice requirements.

When I tell people that I practice piano every single day, the response is often, “Wow! How do you find the time? I’d love to play but have absolutely zero time in my day.”

And the truth is, I make time. I prioritize practice on a daily basis and refuse to let anything interfere with that time.

But I also don’t spend hours upon hours of playing on a daily basis. My practice sessions are often 20 minutes or less. And even those 20 minutes are frequently interrupted by kids screaming, work calls, and just the general chaos of everyday life.

Sometimes those practice sessions don’t even involve putting my fingers to the keys. When life gets too busy, they may consist of watching instructional videos (yes, on YouTube) or performances of pieces I’m currently studying.

Although there are days when I’m able to devote more time to practice, I’ve actually found that my memory retention is better when I practice for shorter time periods.

And so I continue to carve out those small chunks of time in my day to become a better pianist. If you’re curious to hear the end result of all those small practice sessions, check out my performance of one of my favorite pieces of all time … Elegie in E-flat Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Elegie in E-flat Minor, Sergei Rachmaninoff

Piano Practice Myths About Your Age

I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me that they would love to learn piano but never learned when they were young. My response to this one?

It’s NEVER too late!

There are actually so many advantages to learning the instrument as an adult. Not least of which is that you get to decide WHY you want to learn to play and have the flexibility to determine HOW you learn.

No one is forcing you to learn a style or genre you hate. And there’s no guilting you into recitals or exams you’re completely disinterested in taking.

You are in control.

Another major benefit of learning piano as an adult is your attention span. Children have such short attention spans and keeping them focused is a perpetual challenge. As an adult, however, your ability to focus on something for longer periods of time is completely developed and when combined with motivation, you are an unstoppable force!

You also get to choose whether your practice instrument is a keyboard, a spinet, or even a baby grand. Your learning is all in your hands.

How incredible is that?

If you’re curious about even more benefits of learning to play piano as an adult, make sure to check out this post.

All Music Must be Memorized

In the world of classical piano, memorization is historically mandatory for performances. Watch any great pianist on YouTube and it’s very likely that they are playing an incredibly difficult piece without a shred of music in front of them.

And they’re pulling it off without so much as a wrong note anywhere.

Talk about intimidating!

This is one of the piano practice myths nearest and dearest to my heart because for years, I struggled with memorization. Although I started piano as a child, I never memorized ANYTHING until I began my college studies and suddenly realized memorization was mandatory.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to learn how to memorize at that level of playing! And I can’t say that I mastered the art of memorization until after college when I started memorizing for my own enjoyment.

The key phrase here is “for my own enjoyment.” Music is, at its core, something created for enjoyment. If playing from memory brings you joy, do it. But if the thought of memorizing a piece brings fear and apprehension, what’s the point?

Play for the fun of it and if that means playing from a book, so be it!

You Don’t Need a Teacher to Learn Piano

One of the most rampant piano practice myths out there involves the ability to learn piano all by yourself. There are an incredible number of apps, websites, and YouTube videos devoted to the topic of teaching yourself piano.

And I don’t necessarily disagree.

There are so many aspects of the instrument including music theory, improv, and composition which can be picked up by watching videos and reading blogs.

But there are other aspects, such as technique, which truly require the expertise and insight from a knowledgeable teacher. You simply can’t replace the 1:1 feedback you get from lessons with an experienced teacher.

And thanks to technology, there are an incredible number of teacher who offer online lessons. Teachers with a variety of performance and educational backgrounds.

The online world gives you access to teachers you would never otherwise have the ability to study with. It truly is an incredible time in history study piano!

And if you’re looking for an online teacher, check out my Resource page which lists incredibly talented piano teachers currently accepting new students.

You Must Have a Teacher to Learn Piano

I know what you’re thinking … “Didn’t you just say I needed a teacher to learn piano?”

Kind of.

Depending upon your goals, having a piano teacher is essential. This is especially true if you’re interested in pursuing higher level study of the instrument.

But if your goal is to learn a few pop chords as a party trick, apps and videos may be your best bet.

And if you have already have a solid background in the instrument but are wanting to get back into it again or simply brush up your skills, you may also benefit from an app or website.

My personal favorite online course is run by Dr. Josh Wright, an internationally acclaimed pianist. I absolutely love classical piano and his course is hands down the best for classical players. It delves into all the intricacies of technique and interpretation of some of the most beloved piano repertoire.

I personally have learned so much from the course that I became an affiliate because I felt other pianists needed to hear about it as well! If you’re interested in checking the course out for yourself, click here.

Piano Requires Perfection

“Use the talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”

Henry van Dyke

Spend any time at all trolling YouTube and you will come across a litany of flawless performances of some of the most difficult piano repertoire out there. Musical perfection at its finest.

Sometimes I think people get the impression that to play piano, you MUST play everything perfectly, all the time. And that if you’re not at least a little on the perfectionism side, piano isn’t the instrument for you.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

There’s so much that learning how to play the instrument gives you in return, even if you can’t play anything perfectly. I personally feel that as long as you inject emotion into your playing, wrong notes don’t matter.

There’s also something to be said about making each performance of a piece (whether in front of other people or your dog!) unique. Making something unique comes from a range of different factors, including wrong notes.

And as long as playing is meaningful to you, who cares what anyone else thinks?

The world could ALWAYS use a little more beauty, in whatever form it comes so play on!

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, make sure to check out this post on how to overcome perfectionism.

It’s Your Turn to Talk About Piano Practice Myths

I truly hope you have found this post both inspirational and informative in dispelling some of the biggest piano practice myths out there. And hopefully dispelling the myths has provided that little kick of motivation you need to go after your piano playing dreams!

If you’re looking for even more resources, check out the following posts:

How to Find the Right Piano Teacher for You

How to Learn Piano as an Adult

Become a Better Pianist with These 5 Simple Tools

Are You Ready to Improve Your Piano Playing?

5 Benefits of Learning Piano as an Adult

And if you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course, check it out for yourself here.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this post! Did I miss one of the piano practice myths currently holding you back? If so, drop a comment below and I’ll be sure to let you know what I think!

Now get out there and start making some music!

How to Successfully Manage Multiple Goals at Once

How to Successfully Manage Multiple Goals at Once

January is the month for goal setting and this post on how to manage multiple goals at once is dedicated to a specific set of the population. If any of the following rings true for you, keep reading because I’ve got the answers you never knew you needed!

Are you someone who dabbles in a little bit of everything? Do you have such varied interests that people raise their eyebrows a bit when you describe them all?

Maybe you switch careers and hobbies like you switch your socks because you become bored so easily. Or maybe you have given up hope of ever making significant progress in any one area.

You long to just find that “one thing” you were meant to be and do but somehow it always evades you. Each new thing you try promises to be that “one thing” but it never really pans out that way.

And the thought of sticking with one career for an entire lifetime terrifies you.

If any of this sounds familiar, first know that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. There’s actually immense value in having wide-ranging interests in today’s world. Your perspective is unique and worthy of celebration!

And understanding how to manage multiple goals simultaneously requires an understanding of just how valuable you are.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Why Having Multiple Interests is a Strength

Have you ever heard the term “multipotentialite?” The term describes someone who has multiple interests across a wide range of topics. Up until several weeks ago when I stumbled across this life-changing book, I had no idea this was even a thing.

I thought there was something wrong with me because I could never stick with one thing for very long. My first undergraduate degree (yes, I have two) was a long and winding road which has essentially nothing to do with my current career.

And my hobbies which range from dressage to piano to quilting also offer unprecedented diversity. If you’re interested in hearing more about my story, make sure to check out last week’s post!

But after reading this book, I have come to realize that having multiple interests offers huge advantages. The first is that having multiple interests means you’ve mastered the art of being a beginner. Because you’ve started so many different things, you’re completely unafraid to try new things. This also means that you’re open to new experiences and most importantly, ways of thinking.

The second advantage of having multiple interests is that you’re able to draw on diverse background knowledge to solve problems. Your perspective is entirely unique which means you’re not stuck in the rut of thinking which traps many specialists. And by “specialist” I mean someone who sticks to one career or hobby and hones it deeply instead of the “generalist” who tries everything.

The third advantage is that having multiple interests is the mark of intelligence. It’s a sign that you’re curious and interested in the world around you. You desperately want to learn new things and grow as a person.

But with the strengths also come challenges. One of the biggest being how to manage multiple goals simultaneously.

Why It’s Difficult to Manage Multiple Goals

At first glance, it may seem as if the ability to manage multiple goals at once is easy if you also have multiple interests. And for some multipotentialites, goal attainment may be fairly simple and straightforward.

But for others, learning how to manage multiple goals at one time is a learned skill. Without this skill, you could easily resign yourself to the fact that there’s too much on your plate and you should just quit everything.

You may also feel that because you are doing so much, excelling in any one area is completely unattainable and therefore not worth your time.

Or maybe you feel overwhelmed by the amount of time required to make progress in any of your areas of interest.

Maybe you’ve abandoned interests in the past for these or any number of other perfectly legitimate reasons. Achieving goals is tough, even for people who set their sights on only one thing over an entire lifetime. It’s especially tough for those of us who have seemingly conflicting aspirations.

But time, overwhelm, perfectionism, and a range of other reasons don’t have to hold you back any longer. Remember that multiple interest advantage about being open to new ways of thinking? You’ve already mastered it and are well-equipped to change your mind set about your ability to manage multiple goals! Let’s get started!

Pace Yourself

I think sometimes we have a tendency to think that because we have all these interests, we MUST do each of them daily. I’m here to tell you that if you’re anything like me, doing everything every single day would be IMPOSSIBLE.

Give up the pipe dream that you can do ALL THE THINGS on all the days. It’s not only a lie but it’s a fast track to burnout. And if you’re burned out, being your awesome self is impossible. You (and the world!) deserve more.

Learn to flip the narrative around by looking at your time from a larger perspective. Instead of pursuing your interests on a daily basis, consider mapping out a week or a month at a time. Sit down and carve out chunks of time for all those interests in advance.

Dividing your interests up also offers the benefit of rotation and thereby decreases the risk that you will easily become bored. It’s a win-win all around!

Prioritize

In line with pacing yourself is the vital concept of prioritization. There will be times when one particular interest is more important or relevant than at others.

Learn to become flexible and follow your intuition.

Both pacing and prioritization continue to be personally challenging for me but I have learned to accept the fact that I simply can’t do everything. But as long as I fit one of my interests into each day, I consider it a win.

One thing which has helped me with both pacing myself and prioritizing my interests is having a planner. This incredibly useful planner facilitates daily, monthly, and longer term planning involving multiple projects at the same time. And when you’re trying to manage multiple goals, this is the planner for you!

Don’t Fall for the Myth of Immediate Gratification

We live in a world of immediate gratification. The answers to any question you can possibly think of are at your fingertips whether it’s 1 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning.

If you suddenly have the urge to talk to someone you haven’t talked to in years, all you have to do is hit them up on social media.

And if you’re wondering what your favorite celebrity is up to right now, simply consult Instagram.

All this immediate gratification sometimes fools us into thinking that EVERYTHING can and should be immediate. It has us believing that if something takes longer than 5 minutes, it’s not worth our time.

But the truth is that true accomplishment, the kind you feel down to your very core, takes time. And for those of us interested in everything, this is a tough lesson because there may be times we’re tempted to move on rather than put forth more effort.

Sometimes moving on is exactly what you need to do. But there will be other times when sticking with it for the long haul is your calling. Getting clear on your why is usually key in determining whether to keep pressing on or abandon ship.

And when your venture is to manage multiple goals, getting crystal clear on your why is crucial.

Become Indistractable

When you have multiple interests, the obvious answer to pursuing all of them simultaneously may involve multitasking. After all, doesn’t doing more than one thing at the same time improve efficiency?

As I learned in this book, it actually does not.

Humans are incapable of multitasking. Need proof? Try to keep reading this post while multiplying 362 x 586 in your head. Notice how you really can only focus on one of those tasks at a time?

We actually become more efficient when we focus on only one thing at a time. And the fewer interruptions while we complete the task, the better the outcome and the more efficient we become.

Each distraction shifts your focus away from the task at hand and it takes more time and energy to re-focus than staying honed in on the task in the first place would have taken.

Find ways to protect your time and you will be amazed at how your ability to manage multiple goals at the same time also improves.

Time Batching

Along with becoming indistractable is the idea of batching your time to improve efficiency and thereby your ability to manage multiple goals simultaneously.

Time batching involves doing all similar tasks at the same time and then moving to the next set of similar tasks. A simple example of this would be blocking off an hour of your day to address all email-related tasks instead of responding to each one as they filter in throughout the day.

It may seem counterintuitive but responding to messages as they come in shifts your attention from whatever you were doing before. This means you not only didn’t finish that other task but you require additional time and energy to re-focus after responding to the message.

It also increases the chances that your attention will be drawn even further down a nonproductive rabbit hole. As an example, let’s pretend the email is advertising a sale at your favorite store. The temptation will be to immediately check out just how cheap those jeans you love are.

Pretty soon you’re checking out tops, shoes, and jewelry. Then dresses and skirts. And then you realize it’s been an hour and you’ve made zero progress on whatever you were doing before that email hit your inbox.

Been there, done that. Which is why I now batch my time and have seen gigantic improvements in my efficiency and ability to manage multiple goals at the same time.

Other Thoughts on How to Manage Multiple Goals

I simply can’t emphasize strongly enough the importance of embracing all that comes with having multiple interests. There’s a freedom which comes with knowing it’s completely normal to have wide-ranging interests. Not only is it normal but there are incredible benefits to being a generalist rather than a specialist.

Give yourself the gift of flexibility. Know that your interests will shift more rapidly than those of specialists and that’s ok. You may find that there are certain interests which stay relatively stable over time while others change quickly.

And that’s ok too.

Keep exploring, learning, and growing. Avoid rigid time frames for your goals because this only contributes to frustration and stalled progress when deadlines are not met, especially when you have multiple goals and interests.

Never underestimate the value of being able to apply what you’ve learned in one area to another. You never know how what you’re doing now will benefit you or others in the future.

Your contribution is unique, amazing, and worthy of sharing with others!

It’s Your Turn

I truly hope you found this post inspirational and are more motivated than ever to manage multiple goals simultaneously! Remember that there are so many other people out there who are also torn by having multiple interests and that it’s not only completely normal but a desirable quality to have.

Learning how to maximize this quality in yourself takes time but is well worth the effort. This book was pivotal for me and completely revolutionized my outlook on having multiple interests. If you’ve never read it but this post struck something inside, I highly recommend you read it!

And for a high quality planner which supports the unique needs of someone who has multiple interests, check out this one:

Lastly, you can improve your ability to manage multiple goals by reading this book:

And as always, I’d love to hear your perspective on this post and whether you have tips for how to manage multiple goals at the same time. Until next time, stay safe, healthy, and motivated to be the best version of yourself!

Why Having Multiple Interests is Your Greatest Strength

Why Having Multiple Interests is Your Greatest Strength

Have you spent your life frantically searching for that “one thing” you’re “supposed” to be doing? Do you have a hard time honing in on one path in life because you have multiple interests? Are you easily bored?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you’re not alone!

Until recently, I felt that there was something tragically wrong with me for having multiple interests. I was constantly down on myself for switching interests, majors, careers, and even hobbies! The result was a constant sense of guilt for being unable to just hone in and focus on one thing. And I felt as if I was somehow “behind” in life for the many twists and turns I’ve made, both personally and professionally.

Let me catch you up to speed on a few of those twists and turns.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. And as a member of the Amazon Affiliates program, I may earn a small commission from purchases. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

My Story

In my younger years, all I ever wanted to be was a veterinarian. I grew up on a farm and loved all types of animals but specifically wanted to be a large animal veterinarian.

All through high school, I focused on math and science classes. In my junior year, I chose a college with an excellent track record of preparing its students for the study of veterinary medicine. And then, not even a week into my freshman year, I did a complete 180. I suddenly found myself majoring in music, of all things!

At first glance, it may seem like a completely random change. However, I had actually taken piano lessons since the age of 7 and had a sincere passion for the instrument. But I had never considered music as a career until the first week of my freshman year at the university.

Studying piano at the college level was challenging in many ways. Despite the challenges, I found so much value in what I was learning and was incredibly motivated to improve my own playing abilities. It was, at first, all-consuming.

But then, at some point, my tendency to explore kicked in again.

Blazing New Paths

The summer after my freshman year, I worked as a camp counselor at a camp which featured horseback riding. I loved it so much that I spent the entire summer re-evaluating my decision to pursue music. And by the end of the summer, I was again signing up for ALL the math and animal science classes.

During the fall of my sophomore year, I spent time shadowing a large animal veterinarian, a prerequisite for veterinary school. In my head, I had this vision of what being a veterinarian was all about. And although the science fascinated me, the realistic daily life of being a veterinarian was polar opposite from my vision.

I found myself once again switching majors. This time to pre-law.

I honestly have no idea how I landed on this one but I did have some vague understanding that lawyers do a ton of reading. And I LOVE to read so somehow that seemed like the logical next step for my life.

My pre-law phase lasted exactly 1 semester and my transcript was officially starting to resemble some crazy squirrel desperately searching for buried nuts.

Multiple Interests Collide

Since my business law grade certainly didn’t reflect a passion for that field, I again dedicated myself to music. Even despite all the major changing I had done over the past several years, I had continued to study piano. I also had taken a position accompanying a church choir in my college town and even took up studying organ, something I had never in a million years considered doing before.

As graduation grew closer however, I grew more and more anxious about how I would actually make money after college. My degree was not strictly a teaching one but had more of a broad, liberal arts emphasis. That meant I would have to be creative about making an actual living. Not a great feeling when at your core, you are a type A planner who NEEDS a plan to survive.

I did briefly consider studying piano at the graduate level however at the time had very deep-rooted doubts about my talent and playing ability. Combined with significant performance anxiety, it didn’t seem like the best option at the time.

And so, once again, I did a complete 180. I finished out my music degree and ultimately graduated with a bachelor of science in fine arts but after graduation, set my sights on nursing.

Again, this may seem like a complete deviation from everything thus far except on two counts. One was that my mom was a nurse and I therefore had a somewhat cursory understanding of what the job entailed. The second was that I had a TON of science classes under my belt thus far.

Trouble finding clarity in your life? Check out this post to find yourself again.

What the …???

Over the next several years, I gradually finished up a 2 year nursing program, worked a variety of different nursing positions including as a floor nurse and in management, and finished up a 4 year nursing program. At which point I began asking myself, “Now what?”

Once again I began feeling restless.

Ultimately these feelings culminated in pursuing a graduate nursing degree and eventually, a career as a nurse practitioner. Although I enjoy the flexibility this position offers, I continue to long for new knowledge and experiences in completely unrelated fields.

And I have continued to foster music in my life through various accompanying gigs, an occasional piano student, and a full-time organist position at a local church.

Even beyond nursing and music, I also started a blog and took up the sport of dressage in recent years.

At this point, you’re either nodding your head because you have a similar story or are asking what the f*** is wrong with me.

And I sincerely hope you are the first because maybe you too have felt behind and confused about your multiple interests. Maybe you’ve been frustrated by your lack of significant progress in any one area. Or perhaps you feel annoyed that you just can’t seem to follow one thing to completion.

Your Greatest Strength

This next part is 100% for you. I see you and feel you because I was you until I discovered this book which changed EVERYTHING. And after a bit more research, I discovered that there are actually people out there wired just like me. People with multiple interests in seemingly unrelated fields, called by some “polymaths” and “multipotentialites” by others.

Regardless of the term, I discovered the truth that there’s NOTHING wrong with having multiple interests. And not only is there nothing wrong with multiple interests but it actually could be your greatest strength!

The Myth of Specialization

From an economic standpoint, specialization makes sense. Specialization, or the focus on one specific task or field, results in greater productivity. It also enables the ability to become really good at something because it’s the only thing you focus on.

And specialization is emphasized even from our earliest years. Specialization is expected from the minute you are first asked what you want to be when you grow up. At that moment, the seeds of being “one thing” above all else are planted.

As we grow older, we are expected to fall into some type of category. We either fall into the doctor, the factory worker, or any number of other “one thing” categories. And by doing so, putting everyone into neat and tiny boxes becomes infinitely easier.

But what if you don’t fall into a specific category? What if having multiple interests means you are constantly on the search for that next thing to fully engage and fascinate you? And what if you never felt that “one thing” calling?

Well then, my friend, you are very likely a “polymath” or a “multipotentialite.” You have the unique ability to morph into many different categories and provide the type of insight no one else has. Having multiple interests is your super power and your greatest strength.

And you most certainly are not alone.

Real Life Examples

Throughout history, there are dramatic examples of people who have multiple interests and never specialized in any one thing. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, was a painter, inventor, and early engineering genius who made lasting impacts on a wide array of fields.

Nikola Tesla was a mathematician, inventor, and humanitarian who also spoke 8 different languages.

And Helen Keller made profound achievements in activism, as an author, and as a lecturer all over the world despite her significant sensory challenges.

Clearly, there are profound benefits of having multiple interests even if society would have you believing otherwise.

Creative Problem Solving

One of the most significant benefits to having multiple interests is the ability to creatively problem solve. Instead of pulling from a very specific and narrow knowledge base, you are able to integrate ideas from seemingly unrelated topics. This offers a completely different perspective to problem solving.

Although I’m not denying the fact that there are times when a specialist perspective is required, multipotentialites are in a much better position to solve truly complex issues. And as the world becomes more and more complex, we need multipotentialites to synthesize information which may never have been connected before.

We need people to reach out across disciplines to advance technology and our understanding of ourselves.

Check out this book for even more fascinating examples of how multipotentialites bring a unique perspective to problems old and new.

Variety

Another significant benefit to being a multipotentialite is the variety which comes from having multiple interests. You’re not afraid to try new things and branch out because you’ve done it 3 million times before.

I would also venture to say that you’re deeply connected to yourself and have a solid understanding of your interests.

You’re likely to be one of those people with 15 different simultaneous (and seemingly unrelated) projects but wouldn’t have it any other way!

Overthinking on overdrive? Check out this post to find out how you can clear your mind.

One Step Closer to Success

In a specialized world, giving up on something before you’ve seen it to fruition very much seems like failure. It seems like a complete waste of time and effort.

But what if I told you that every failure is a step closer to success? What if I said that quitting something early on actually means you are that much closer to true success?

Instead of wasting your time on projects or hobbies you’ve lost interest in, you’re free to move on to the next thing. And yes, there’s something to be said for sticking with something to the bitter end but there’s also something to be said about having the courage to move on.

Even if your progress seems small, we can’t predict the future. There’s no way to know the impact that small progress will have on your or others in the future. No effort when done for a noble pursuit is a waste!

Never be afraid to move on because you never know the success hiding around the next bend in the road!

Check out this book for even more stories of how “giving up” is a good thing.

It’s Your Turn

At the end of the day, having multiple interests is a spectacular quality which opens countless doors for you. It’s true that you’ll probably never find your “one thing” because you’re destined for “greater THINGS.” Your contribution is an outstanding one which we need in this highly complex world we find ourselves in.

I honestly had zero understanding of just how powerful having multiple interests is prior to stumbling upon a book written by David Epstein called ‘Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.’ Prior to reading this book recently, I felt that I was doomed to continue wandering around aimlessly searching for the “one thing” which is my destiny.

His book completely revolutionized my outlook and left me asking, “What next?” Where else can I contribute? What are the other areas where I can make an impact?

If any of this rings true to you, drop what you’re doing and grab ‘Range.’ I guarantee that it will erase all the guilt you’re carrying around and enable you to triumph because of rather than despite your multiple interests.

And as always, I would love to hear what you think about this post. Tell me all about the winding path your life has taken thus far and what you’ve come away with as a result of failing to stick to the beaten path.

And never forget that you are amazing with incredibly unique gifts to share with the world!

How to Find the Right Piano Teacher for You

How to Find the Right Piano Teacher for You

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

Albert Einstein

The piano is an incredible instrument with musical versatility unmatched by any other. It can inspire emotions ranging from elation to despair. And when played well, piano music can make you laugh, dance, cry, or simply dream.

And to have the ability to evoke emotions in others through this amazing instrument? It’s a feeling unlike any other.

As someone who has spent the better part of my life mastering the piano, I can say with confidence that learning how to play is freedom. It’s joy, struggle, and personal satisfaction unmatched by few other life pursuits.

Learning to play the piano well is less of a sprint and more the marathon of a lifetime.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Why You Need a Piano Teacher

Whether you’re just starting out on your piano journey or have been playing for a while, finding a piano teacher is crucial. It’s the difference between the overwhelming frustration which comes by studying on your own or learning and growing through the struggle with someone by your side.

Although there may be times when you can manage learning independently, to truly succeed, you need guidance from someone further along in their journey than you. You need the expertise which comes from the right piano teacher.

Learning to play the piano well is a skill which takes time and considerable practice. There are an incredible number of subtleties you must learn to truly master the instrument. From learning how to voice and shape a phrase to executing stylistically appropriate dynamics, there’s so much to take in!

Although several aspects such as music theory and history can be mastered independently, there are many which simply can’t. Technique, for example, is a crucial aspect which can make or break your playing. Correct technique is the difference between effortless playing and serious injury. And learning correct technique requires outside perspective from a teacher.

Having a piano teacher also adds a level of accountability which can be difficult to achieve on your own. Your teacher can tailor lessons to your individual learning goals and fill in gaps which can happen when trying to piece things together yourself.

Even beyond technique and accountability is the fact that your progress will be so much faster with someone guiding your learning.

If you’re serious about learning to play the piano, finding the right piano teacher for you is a must.

You may also enjoy reading ‘5 Benefits of Learning Piano as an Adult.’

Questions to Ask Yourself

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensures that you do things differently from everyone else.”

Sara Blakely

The right piano teacher is out there for you. But finding this person starts by looking within yourself.

The very first question to ask yourself is why you want to learn to play piano. Is it because you want to impress friends and family with your skills? Are you fascinated by jazz and want to improv over a band someday? Or maybe you’d like to be able to accompany the church choir. Maybe you’d simply like to pass the time doing something both creative and engaging.

Whatever your reason for learning, now is the time to get crystal clear on it. Once you start looking, you’ll quickly realize how many different piano teachers are out there. Seeking clarity on your why now will make your search easier later.

After determining your why, think about the amount of time you’re able to devote both to lessons and to practice. Consistent daily practice, even if it’s only for a few minutes, produces the best results. Now is also the time to figure out whether you’re able to dedicate extra time on a weekly basis for commuting to lessons or whether you’d prefer to conserve your time with online lessons.

Next consider your budget. Just as there are many different types of piano teachers out there, so too are there lessons at all price points. In general, you can expect to pay higher prices for teachers with more educational and performance experiences.

You may also enjoy reading ‘Piano Practice Tips to Improve Your Playing.’

Additional Considerations

Not all piano teachers are exactly the same. Some focus solely on adult beginner and intermediate students. Other teachers prefer working with children. Still others prefer focusing on a specific genre such as classical, jazz, or pop.

Even beyond the individual interests of the teacher is consideration of their background. Did they study music in college? Do they have any advanced degrees in music? And what type of performance experience do they have?

Believe it or not but there are actually groups dedicated to the professional development of music teachers. Having membership in such as group is often an indication that the teacher is serious about what they do and is themselves working towards improvement.

How to Find a Piano Teacher

After you’ve completed self-reflection about your reasons for learning, your time availability, and your budget, it’s time to begin the search for a piano teacher.

One of the best places to start is at your local university. Many college professors also teach lessons on the side and are happy to take on new students. If their studios are full, piano professors are also typically able to give references for other teachers who do have availability.

Interestingly, college students studying music are often themselves great teachers. They are also typically eager to take on new students to gain teaching experience prior to graduation.

Another great place to find a piano teacher is through word of mouth. Try reaching out to others in your community to find the best teachers.

And if you’re looking for an online piano teacher, try posting a question in a relevant Facebook group. There are several aimed towards adult piano learners and they are a convenient way to find teacher candidates and to address general questions about playing.

Yet another great resource is the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), an organization dedicated to supporting music teachers. Teachers can actually become certified to teach through the organization by completing a series of projects which is then reviewed to ensure competency. Not all teachers on the MTNA website have completed certification however the fact that they are members suggests a dedication to the profession of teaching music.

There are also state and local chapters of the national organization and reaching out locally is a great way to find someone in your area.

Evaluating Prospective Teachers

After you’ve located a prospective piano teacher, it’s time to see whether you think they will be a good fit for you and your piano goals. Taking time upfront to determine whether there’s a good fit between you both saves time in the long run. The following are several areas to consider and questions to ask when evaluating piano teachers.

Evaluating Piano Teacher Professionalism

Professionalism is the first area to consider when evaluating a piano teacher. This is a somewhat broad concept which includes how the teacher interacts with students and how they conduct their business. It also includes whether they’ve taken the time to come up with their own teaching philosophy and whether they continue to improve their own playing.

Do they have a studio policy which outlines expectations for their students? Is there a weekly practice requirement? Do they teach from a set curriculum or do they individualize student learning? And do they require students participate in performance opportunities such as recitals or contests?

Do they include policies on billing and what happens if you must miss a lesson? Are there make-up lessons available or do you lose out on the lesson fee if you must cancel?

It’s important to figure out expectations on both sides in the beginning to avoid misunderstanding later on.

Is it possible to watch a lesson with one of their current students? If so, are the interactions between piano teacher and student pleasant? Does there appear to be mutual respect between the two? And how does the teacher handle situations in which the student doesn’t initially understand a concept?

It can be very helpful to interview the student independently as well regarding their experience with the teacher. Do they feel that lessons with the teacher have been valuable? And would they recommend their teacher to others?

A positive review from a student is often a good indicator of solid professionalism on the part of the teacher.

Evaluating Performance Skills

After determining the teacher’s level of professionalism, it’s time to evaluate their performance skills. Learning to play piano is a skill and it will be very difficult to learn from someone who themselves doesn’t play competently. Having the ability to demonstrate during lessons is therefore incredibly important.

Are they actively involved in performing and if so, is it possible to watch a performance? If not, are they willing to demonstrate their pianistic skills? Is their playing inspiring and engaging? Does their playing appear relatively relaxed and expressive? And does their technique seem like the type of technique you would like to have at some point?

It’s worth mentioning that not all fantastic performers are gifted teachers and vice versa. Being able to play and being able to convey the information required to play to someone else are two completely different skillsets. It’s therefore important not to base your decision to study with someone solely on their pianistic skills.

As mentioned above, professionalism also plays a key part in evaluating whether you feel they are a good fit for you and your goals.

Next Steps in Your Piano Journey

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Seneca

Hopefully by taking the time to clarify your piano goals and thoroughly vet potential candidates, you will find a perfectly compatible piano teacher.

Although professionalism and playing ability are important, keep in mind that studying the piano is difficult. Learning any new skill presents a challenge and the piano is no exception.

It’s therefore incredibly important to find a teacher who is also highly encouraging and inspires you to be better. You should leave your lesson feeling motivated and ready to take on new heights in your playing. If you find that you’re constantly feeling defeated and down on yourself after lessons, it may be time to start the search for an alternate teacher.

Never be afraid to look around if it’s simply not working out with a teacher. It’s your piano journey and you want to make sure you have an optimal learning experience. Sometimes personalities clash or expectations are not aligned and that’s ok. You’re always free to move on if you feel it’s just not working out.

And if you’re ready to take the leap, check out this list of online piano teachers currently accepting new students. Each teacher has a unique background and perspective so you’re sure to find a great one!

Bonus Resource

Although I highly recommend having a piano teacher to guide your learning, it can also be helpful to have supplemental resources. And in my opinion, one of the very best resources out there for pianists interested in learning classical piano is Dr. Josh Wright.

I first learned about Dr. Wright through a podcast for piano teachers and immediately became fascinated with his playing and teaching philosophy. Initially I began following his YouTube channel and found so much value in his free content that I decided to invest in his paid membership course called ProPractice.

This course is hands down one of the very best investments I’ve made in my own improvement as a pianist! It’s an incredibly valuable resource for technical development and the artistic interpretation of many classical piano repertoire pieces ranging from the earliest beginner to advanced. I highly recommend the course to anyone who is serious about advancing their piano skills!

You can check out the course for yourself here. And if you’re interested in hearing Dr. Wright perform, check out this video of Chopin’s Ballade in G minor.

It’s Your Turn

As always, I hope you’ve found value in this post. Learning to play the piano is an incredibly rewarding pursuit and one that I’m so thankful to have started! Let me know where you are on your piano journey below and if you’ve yet to start it, please know that it’s never too late. Today is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself and grow in so many unexpected ways! Cheers to a new year and yet another chance for only getting better!

How to Gain Clarity and Live a Happier Life

How to Gain Clarity and Live a Happier Life

As I write this, we are on the verge of forever saying “goodbye” to 2020 and “hello” to 2021. It’s the perfect opportunity to reflect back on what was and what’s to come.

How was your 2020? Was it exactly what you expected at this time last year? Or did it take you completely by surprise?

I think I can safely say that 2020 took all of us by surprise.

Not even the most gifted psychic among us could possibly have predicted the chaos brought forth by a global pandemic.

And one of the biggest upsides in all the chaos is the ability to simplify. Maybe taking a break from everything has given you the space to consider whether all the busy-ness actually served any real purpose.

Or was it all just a distraction?

One big, shiny distraction taking you further and further from your goals, your inner peace, and ultimately, your happiness.

It’s funny how when the entire world grinds to a halt, you’re faced with the stark reality that very little of what you do on a daily basis actually matters in the grand scheme of things.

But thanks to the cancellation of basically everything, you suddenly have time to really hone in on those little things. Those things that actually bring meaning to your life.

You have the opportunity to feel that deeper sense of inner peace which comes from living life on your terms.

And it all starts with learning how to gain clarity.

This post may contain affiliate links and as a member of the Amazon Affiliates program, this means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

What is Clarity?

“Clarity doesn’t always mean you know exactly what you’re doing. It does mean you know exactly who you’re being and why.”

Christine Kane

Have you ever had a moment when everything just feels right? A moment of perfect calm when you know you’re living as the person you’re meant to be and everything just clicks into place?

Suddenly all the overwhelming anxiety dissipates and your brain finally finds peace.

You stop second guessing yourself and start making decisions from that place of inner calm instead of from a place of fear.

That magical place is clarity and to understand how to gain clarity it’s vital you understand both what it is and what it’s not.

Clarity is not making decisions based upon fear because those decisions are almost always made to avoid a negative outcome. Fear keeps you forever paralyzed in a state of indecision instead of action. Indecision, in turn, keeps you in a state of constant overwhelm.

When you gain clarity, decision making is simplified because you’re deeply connected with yourself. Fear no longer has a stronghold on your life and you’re free to live as who you are.

Clarity erases uncertainty, obscurity, and overthinking. With clarity comes inner peace and ultimately, happiness.

Read this post to find out how you can stop overthinking.

Barriers to Clarity

“The universe is always expanding your thought about yourself so be careful with who you think you are.”

Roxana Jones

Learning how to gain clarity requires awareness. It requires an alertness for what makes you feel grounded in yourself and what takes you further away from inner peace. Although there are countless barriers to gaining clarity in your life, here are the 3 biggest offenders.

Comparison

One of the biggest barriers to clarity comes from comparing yourself to someone else. Comparison will steal your joy, your sense of accomplishment, and your inner peace every time.

You are unique! Your life experiences are like no one else’s. As are your interests, skills, and talents. You grace this earth with a presence like none other.

And the world is a better place because of you so stop feeding into the lie that you don’t measure up! Stop drawing conclusions about your own journey based on someone else’s highlight reel.

Focus on gaining your own clarity regardless of what anyone around you is doing.

Read this post to find out how you can stop the comparison trap.

Your Self-Identity

Another huge barrier to achieving clarity is your sense of self. We all have a viewpoint about ourselves and who we are as a person. It may come as no surprise to learn that the viewpoint you have about yourself often develops early in childhood before you’ve developed the ability to filter information.

Maybe you were teased as a kid about your total lack of athletic ability. Gym class was torture, partially because you were told you had zero talent and stopped trying altogether. As an adult, you now completely avoid the gym and all types of physical activity because you’ve internalized this story about your athletic impairments. Avoiding the gym and activity in general works well for you until one day something changes.

Maybe it’s a health scare or maybe it’s the desire to lose a few pounds but you wake up one morning toying with the idea of getting into shape.

Buying tennis shoes and signing up for a gym membership sounds easy enough. Except for one thing.

You’ve spent the last however many years telling yourself that you’re terrible at all forms of physical activity and will therefore fail anything you attempt. After further thought, you abandon the idea entirely and go back to living the way you were before.

Do you see how clinging to your identity as a terrible athlete got in the way of achieving better health?

The same thing happens when you cling to old and outdated views of yourself when trying to gain clarity in your life. You have to be willing to challenge your self-identity and embrace positive change in order to truly gain clarity.

Distraction

We live in one of the greatest eras of distraction there ever was. Netflix, Hulu, TikTok, and social media are all designed to draw you in and keep you in for significant amounts of time every day. If you don’t believe me, check out The Social Dilemma on Netflix.

Thanks to technology, we have gained the ability to be “entertained” 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

I will be the first to admit that I am highly addicted to both Netflix and Hulu. Spending hours upon hours in front of a screen comes quite easily and naturally to me.

And there is some truly inspiring and uplifting stuff out there! Shows which make you think and shows which make you laugh. And everything in between.

But have you ever stopped to notice how you feel after binging hours of television? Do you feel empowered and aligned with who you are? Do you feel a deep sense of inner calm and true happiness?

Or do you feel more aligned with the characters on the screen than with yourself? Maybe you even feel frustrated with yourself for spending more time than you intended in front of a screen.

Becoming more deeply grounded in who you are demands that you take control of your surroundings and minimize distractions.

How to Gain Clarity in Your Life

“Doubt increases with inaction. Clarity reveals itself in momentum. Growth comes from progress. For all these reasons, BEGIN.”

Brendon Burchard

Clarity is a funny thing in that you’re the one who must find it for yourself. No one else can find clarity for you. It must come from within. But there are very specific steps you can take to find that inner peace and happiness which comes from gaining clarity.

Gain Clarity by Clearing Your Mind

In order to gain clarity, you must have a clear mind. There are several ways to calm your mind and clear your head.

One of my favorite ways is exercise, especially cardio. I feel my best after I’ve had a really tough workout and it’s partially because my body is exerting so much energy that my mind can’t get stuck in a loop of overthinking.

Another way to clear your mind is by doing an activity you truly enjoy and which is somewhat all-consuming. For me, this is either playing piano or dressage. Either is quite effective in grounding me in a place of true inner calm and perfect clarity. Each gives me a sense of deep fulfillment and happiness.

Meditation is yet another way you can effectively clear your mind and gain clarity.

Gain Clarity by Taking Action

There have been times in my life in which I have a general sense of where I want to go but am unsure of the steps. As a perfectionist over thinker, my tendency is to remain stuck in a cycle of thinking through all possible outcomes before moving forward. This generally manifests as procrastination because I’m unable to visualize all the steps I need to take.

But in life, you really only need to know one step. And that step is the one after the step you’ve just taken.

Clarity never comes from mulling the same problem over and over and over. But you can find clarity by taking action. It doesn’t matter if that action ultimately ends up being sideways because as long as you’re moving, you have momentum and progress.

Get out of your head and take some kind of action. You can always adjust course as you go but it’s impossible to adjust if you’re not moving at all.

Pay Attention

Have you ever heard that saying, “Garbage in, garbage out?” It’s so true.

Start really listening to the influences all around you. Who are the 5 people you spend the most time with? Are they encouraging and supportive? And are they trailblazers? How do you feel when you’re around the people you’re with most often?

Pay attention to your internal talk. Is it positive, compassionate, and uplifting? Or is it harsh and overly critical?

Learning how to gain clarity takes time and patience so there’s no room for criticism, either from external or internal sources. Although clarity comes from within, the influences of those around you can interfere with your ability to remain positive and focused.

It’s also important to pay attention to stress in your life. Are you letting stress overwhelm you? Or are you taking charge and changing what you can about the stressful situation? It’s incredibly difficult to gain clarity when stress is your main focus.

Read this post to find out how you can banish anxiety and live a more peaceful life.

Your Physical Self

All the mental work in the world is worth nothing if you don’t take care of your body. Adequate rest and appropriate nutrition are absolutely essential to gaining clarity in your life. Find a daily routine for yourself which supports both physical and mental health.

Do your best to maintain a clean environment as it is difficult to achieve peace surrounded by chaos. Between working full-time and 3 kids, this one is an ongoing challenge for me! At the end of the day, I simply don’t want to spend my remaining energy cleaning.

But … I’ve found that when my house is clean, it’s so much easier to connect with my inner peace and I simply feel calmer. It’s incredible how much your physical surroundings influence how you feel mentally!

It’s Your Turn to Gain Clarity

As we step into a new year, I truly hope you seize this opportunity to gain clarity in your life. Take this opportunity to embrace the New Year and celebrate the positive changes you’ve made thus far.

Let go of comparison. You are amazing, just the way you are! Celebrate the victories of those around you and remember that success is unlimited.

Release stories about your self-identity that no longer serve you. Stop letting who you were in the past hold you back from who you are now and from your future potential.

Stay laser-focused on your goals. Distractions are inevitable but you can overcome the urge to give in.

Take action instead of giving in to the temptation to overthink your next step. You can always change your course but it’s impossible to course correct without any movement whatsoever.

Do more of what makes you feel grounded in who you are. Look for opportunities to ignite your inner joy and passion.

Follow these steps and you will quickly find the inner peace and happiness which only comes from gaining clarity. If you’re looking for even more inspiration, check out one of these highly impactful and thought-provoking reads.

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I truly hope you have found inspiration from this post and that you resolve to gain clarity in the coming year. As always, please drop a comment below with your main take-away from the post!

All the best to you in the coming year and beyond!

8 Ultimate Christmas Movies to Watch This Season

8 Ultimate Christmas Movies to Watch This Season

One of my favorite holiday activities is curling up on the couch with my family to watch Christmas movies. It’s such a fun and entertaining way to get into the holiday spirit!

Or at least it always seems that way in my mind. Reality is often the polar opposite of imagination.

In our house, movie night typically starts with everyone eagerly awaiting the movie. Our 3 kids, ages 10, 6, and 4, are generally quiet and attentive for the first half an hour or so.

But just as my husband and I start to get sucked into the flick, the energy in the room shifts. Maybe it starts with an argument about which character is better. Or maybe one kid annoys another kid with incessant talking.

Whatever the reason, it’s not long before one kid is headed for time out and another is bawling their eyes out over some perceived atrocity.

We proceed with the movie, pausing multiple times to calm and re-focus the kids or abandon movie night altogether if the train goes entirely off the tracks.

More times than not, movie night ends with an early bedtime and unfinished film.

Ah … the joys of parenting!

But as the song says …. “You’re gonna miss this.” And someday, I’m sure that will be true. For now, I’m doing my best to take it day by day and enjoy the little moments with them, even despite the fighting.

And with that, I give you my ultimate list of favorite Christmas movies!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

1. Elf (2003) PG

I’m a sucker for Will Ferrell because I absolutely love laughing! He is one of those actors who can immediately flip my mood from cranky to joyful and he definitely delivers in this lighthearted Christmas movie.

In fact, I love this movie so much that I watch it multiple times throughout the year. It can typically keep my kids fairly engaged as well, which as you can tell from the beginning of the post, is a challenge!

This movie follows Buddy, a human raised as an elf in the North Pole, as he travels to New York to track down his biological father. Along the way he meets a variety of characters, infecting them with his insanely upbeat holiday spirit.

Despite the hilarity, there is a strong message which comes out over and over again from this movie and why it’s one of my very favorite Christmas movies of all time. The message is that even when challenges come your way, if you maintain a positive outlook, good things will happen. And I don’t know about you, but that’s a reminder I can use throughout the year!

Find it: Hulu with Starz add-on

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to have a more positive mindset.

2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) PG-13

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is one of those laugh out loud films which doesn’t take itself too seriously.

It follows Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, a family man desperately planning a memorable Christmas for his family but who is met with resistance on every front. From power outages to unexpected visits from irritating family members, he does his best to make the most out of every situation.

And obviously, hilarity ensues.

Part of the charm of this movie is that almost everyone can relate to his struggles. I mean, who hasn’t found themselves inadvertently locked in the attic while the rest of the family gathers for Christmas shopping? Ok … maybe not that one.

But who hasn’t expected that huge Christmas work bonus which somehow doesn’t quite materialize? Maybe you’ve even spent hours upon hours putting lights on your house only to find nothing sparkles or shines when you plug the whole works in.

Highly disappointing.

But when it happens to someone else, suddenly it’s all hilarious!

Similar to Elf, I find this movie inspiring in that despite everything thrown at him, Clark perseveres. He keeps going in his ultimate quest for the perfect Christmas. It’s a great holiday reminder to never give up!

Find it:

You may also enjoy this post about how to stay motivated when things get tough.

3. Jingle Jangle (2020) PG

If you loved The Greatest Showman, you’re in for an outstanding holiday treat with this one! Jingle Jangle is the story of a famous toymaker who loses everything. His brilliance, his inventions, and ultimately, his family.

It’s only when his granddaughter visits for the holidays that he realizes everything he needed was right in front of his nose the entire time.

This film combines spot-on musical numbers with exciting and engaging choreography throughout. Although we had to watch it in multiple sessions, my kids were engaged throughout and dancing right along!

This film delivers powerful messages of forgiveness and gratitude, messages we could all use after this especially tumultuous year.

It’s a fabulous film which I’m confident you’ll add to your “must watch” list of Christmas movies year after year.

Find it: Netflix

4. White Christmas (1954) NR

It only seemed fitting to follow-up a brand new Christmas tradition with an old one. And by old, I mean a film which has been around for the past 60+ years.

This film is the epitome of the classic musical tradition. Not to mention its title track is the ONLY Christmas song I enjoy any day of the year.

The story follows two best friend entertainers as they travel across the country to save the inn of their former military general. And there is, of course, a romantic twist to the musical. Because what would a classic musical be without a bit of romance?

Watching this movie always brings me back to a simpler time before computers, Nintendo, and social media. It brings me back to what’s truly important in life. Doing good and being there for those you care about.

In this complicated and sometimes frightening world, I love the reminder that simplicity and authenticity still exist. After watching this film, I think you’ll agree that there’s a reason why it’s one of the Christmas movies to withstand the test of time.

Find it: Netflix

5. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018) PG

If you’re looking for a new twist on a classic story, look no further than The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

As a second grader, my daughter had been listening to The Nutcracker in music class when this movie first came out. She loved it and insisted we see the movie in theaters.

And so, I took both her and my son, age 4 at the time, to the theater to see it. Although skeptical about his ability to sit through the film, he actually remained captivated the entire time. The film was so well done that it would be difficult to imagine anyone losing interest.

Between the brilliant casting, costumes, scenery, and music, this film expertly weaves elements of old and new together seamlessly. It was almost as if I was watching something both entirely new and vaguely familiar at the same time.

This film also delivers a powerful message of never giving up, regardless of the challenges you’re facing. It’s an outstanding movie that you definitely don’t want to miss!

Find it: Hulu with add-on

6. The Polar Express (2004) G

Following up a number of live action Christmas movies finally comes an animated masterpiece. The Polar Express follows a young boy as he makes the life-changing decision to board a train bound for the North Pole on Christmas Eve.

Along the way, he learns the value of friendship, sacrifice, and the true meaning of Christmas. This is another of those classic Christmas movies which truly withstands the test of time.

And despite the animation, there are plenty of hair-raising action scenes which will leave you on the edge of your seat. It’s guaranteed to suck you right into a completely different and magical world.

And I love the take-away message that one decision to take a tiny step can completely transform your life which is applicable year-round. If you’re short on holiday spirit this year, The Polar Express is virtually guaranteed to restore it!

Although my kids have yet to see it, I’m hoping to incorporate this film into our Christmas Eve this year. Fingers crossed that they’re as captivated by it as I am!

Find it:

You may enjoy this post about how to de-stress during the holidays.

7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) PG

Although there have been several Grinch movies, the Jim Carrey one has and always will be my favorite version. He has a way of bringing the Grinch character to life unlike any other actor.

His portrayal of the Grinch flips you from absolutely hating the guts out of him to feeling empathy and even love for the guy by the end. He makes the Grinch absolutely relatable in many ways.

Who hasn’t felt utterly left out at some point in their life? Or that perhaps others are not to be trusted and a life in solitude is thus safer? Perhaps you’ve even felt that if you can’t have fun, then no one else should either?

Maybe none of us have ever gone to the extremes the Grinch does but regardless, we’ve all had these feelings at one time or another in our lives.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a reminder that in order to have a friend, we have to be a friend. We have to be willing to put ourselves out there but with an open heart, we will find acceptance.

Find it: Netflix, Hulu with add-on

8. Mulan (2020) PG-13

Ok, ok. I know this isn’t exactly a Christmas movie but I still wanted to make mention of this incredible cinematic masterpiece. It’s by far the best movie to come out this year and I would be remiss to not mention it.

Having somehow missed the cartoon version, I had no idea what to expect from the movie. I was absolutely blown away by the acting, the film score, and the story line itself.

Mulan is a woman raised in a society with strict gender expectations. As a woman, she is expected to bring honor to her family by marrying well and having a family of her own.

But Mulan’s interests and skills are far from domestic. She is athletic, intelligent, and brave, qualities which are better served on the battle field than in the home.

When a fierce enemy threatens her country, Mulan makes the difficult decision to disguise herself as a man to defend her beloved country and bring honor to her family in a way which is true to herself.

Although the story takes place centuries ago, echoes of gender expectations are still heard today. Women still earn less than men in many companies and are still largely in charge of domestic duties in many households.

We have yet to see a woman president.

Closing the gender gap is still miles away.

But this film inspires hope. Hope that if Mulan could bring honor to her family not as a wife and mother but as a warrior, we too can break away and follow our own paths.

Mulan is exactly the inspiration we need to spark incredible change in the coming year!

Find it:

It’s Your Turn

And there you have it! 8 ultimate Christmas movies to watch this season. Are any of the ones I mentioned also on your list of favorites? Or did I miss your favorite one? I’d love to hear about your favorites and maybe add a few flicks to my own “must watch” list!

5 Easy Ways to De-Stress During the Holidays

5 Easy Ways to De-Stress During the Holidays

Ah the holidays. There’s a chill in the air and cars filling parking lots from now until Christmas. Everywhere you look are reminders of the holiday season.

And although words like joy, happiness, and peace show up on Christmas cards, ads, and store fronts, you may be feeling anything but calm and centered.

Dread, stress, and overwhelm may instead be dominating your life during this holiday season.

But stress doesn’t have to hijack your holidays! You can remain your fabulous self by learning how to de-stress during the holidays.

And if you can de-stress during the holidays, you can definitely learn to de-stress during other chaotic life phases too!

Stick with me and I guarantee you’ll be feeling more Zen in no time!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

1. Stick to Your Routine

Do you have a solid daily self-care routine?

Establishing a daily routine which carves out non-negotiable time for you is one of the keys in being able to de-stress during the holidays. Although there may be some deviation from a strict schedule at times, this is not the time to completely abandon self-care rituals!

Exercise and other forms of physical self-care ground you with purpose and a sense of accomplishment. And exercise comes with the added bonus of an immediate mood boost from endorphins!

No self-care ritual would be complete without emotional fulfillment either. Whether it’s journaling, reading, or any number of hobbies which bring joy to your life, keep it up! Don’t give up those things which light you up inside, especially when life gets crazy.

The holidays are stressful enough without eliminating those easy sources of daily accomplishment, personal growth and encouragement.

Abandoning your daily rituals during the holidays (or other stressful life events) is like rolling out the welcome mat for stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. It’s asking for trouble. Cling to those positive self-care rituals like your life depends on it!

And if you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for your daily self-care routine, here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Journaling
  • Walking the dog
  • Meditation
  • Practicing an instrument
  • Trying out a new hobby
  • Reading a personal development book
  • Taking a bath
  • Hiking
  • Quiet time set aside to dream big
  • Catching up with a friend

2. Abandon Perfectionism

I recently started reading this powerful book about the habits mentally strong women avoid. One of the very first habits discussed in the book is perfectionism.

This dangerous mindset trap can trick you into believing you’re not good enough. It convinces you that everyone else is happier, calmer, and more successful than you. And even if you’ve gotten a handle on it in the past, it can sneak its way back into your life during particularly stressful times such as the holidays.

As women, we tend to struggle with perfectionism and unrealistic expectations to a greater extent than men. We feel greater levels of internal pressure to always put our best face forward. To achieve, succeed, and to never let anyone see us sweat.

And the holidays are no exception. You likely have all these expectations about the “perfect” Christmas without even realizing it. All these completely unrealistic ideals you’re constantly striving to meet. Despite their unrealistic nature, you continue to see the gap between your ideals and reality which drives you further and further into negativity. Not to mention all the extra work required for you to make your ideas reality in an already packed schedule.

But what if, instead of busting your butt and getting all stressed out, you simply let it all go? What if you dropped all those unrealistic expectations and simply lived in the moment?

Now is the perfect opportunity to confront your perfectionist tendencies and take a step towards a more positive mindset! Let this holiday season be the very first in a lifetime free from perfection.

If perfectionism is a struggle for you, check out this post for help!

3. De-Stress During the Holidays by Living in the Moment

One of the reasons perfectionism is so damaging is that it takes your mind off the moment. It forces you to focus on the gap between expectation and reality instead of on simply living.

It’s the perfect set-up for stress and discontent.

Think how much happier and more peaceful you would be if you let all that other stuff go. How much easier the holidays would be if you stopped worrying about finding the perfect gift or baking the ultimate cookies or spending hours upon hours decorating your house.

What if you enjoyed each moment for what it is and felt grateful for all the gifts in your life?

Stop trying to force your life to be something it’s not. Instead focus on all the tiny moments which make your life worth living.

The wonder in your kids’ eyes as you drive around looking at Christmas lights. Sneaking in that hot cup of coffee in the morning before the kids wake up. Cuddling up and watching an inspiring movie with your spouse.

Instead of getting caught up in the stress and commercialism of the holidays this year, look for opportunities to breathe in the small things and to simply enjoy the moment.

4. Forget Comparison

Comparison is another of those sneaky mindset traps which sucks you into believing everyone around you is happier and farther ahead than you are. As if there’s some type of timeline we are all supposed to be following in life and you’re failing if you’re not at a certain point by now.

And although the holidays are a time for joy and peace, they can also be a reminder of what you don’t have. Maybe you haven’t found your dream job yet. Or maybe between work and home, you’re struggling to find time for yourself. Maybe your kids fight constantly and you can’t remember the last time you had date night with your spouse.

We all struggle in one way or another. We’re all fighting internal battles which we don’t share with the world.

You don’t see your neighbor posting about their struggles with depression. Your best friend is also not posting about their dysfunctional relationship with their parents. Or the fact that they dropped out of college because of overwhelming anxiety.

But do you know what is shared with the world? Triumphs. Beauty. Success. The good stuff.

We are all on different journeys and are faced with distinctly unique challenges. It’s impossible to compare your journey with someone else’s because they’re not even close to the same.

Don’t even waste your time trying. Live your own life. Find your own joy.

Check out this post for more on how you can ditch comparison.

5. Plan Ahead

I know the holidays are already upon us but a practical way to de-stress during the holidays is to plan ahead. Every year I resolve to start the gift buying process earlier in the year but have yet to actually do this.

I will say that I am taking full advantage of Amazon and the Wal-Mart pick-up feature to reduce my in-person shopping time and Covid risk.

And with the pandemic being what it is this year, we are all facing a pared down holiday season with fewer festivities and events.

As someone who works exclusively with the age group most susceptible to Covid fatalities, I am fully supportive of people staying home and reducing the risk of spread. Despite my support of quarantine, the thought of missing said festivities is sad but ultimately for the greater good.

Take this opportunity to focus on what truly matters this holiday season. Strip the commercialism out of the holidays and simply spend time with loved ones, even if it’s via Facetime.

Plan out how you will celebrate the season and maybe even how you will celebrate next Christmas. There’s no time like the present to plan ahead for next year!

Bonus Ideas to Help You De-Stress During the Holidays

Despite your best efforts, it’s entirely possible that stress will creep in during this season. Try one of these tips to take back your calm and to once again feel the peace.

Quick & Uplifting Reads

Here are a few of my very favorite reads to transform your mindset and give you a more positive outlook. The first one was absolutely mind-blowing in all the best ways!

I find Rachel Hollis to be incredibly inspirational and relatable. She has a way of getting through to me like few other authors are.

And lastly is the book I mentioned above and am still in the midst of. Thus far it’s also been incredibly inspirational.

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Sleep Better

Sleeping after you have kids has its own set of challenges. You make it through the baby phase of frequent nighttime feedings and diaper changes and then hit the toddler phase. In this phase, your littles may be overcome with fears of monsters and nightmares, prompting you to have them sleep on your floor or in your bed just to get a few precious hours of shut eye.

And then they hit school age where they may flip on every light in the house just to stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Don’t forget the slammed doors and other loud midnight noises.

And then there’s your spouse. You love him dearly but he also feels the need to flip on every light in the house on the way to the bathroom, waking you just when you had finally drifted off after tucking those little monsters in.

All this nighttime waking leaves you feeling tired, groggy, and crabby the next day.

I know because this was my life. Until one day I had an epiphany. What about a sleep mask?

I went to Amazon and found a mask I love and haven’t looked back since! It’s changed my sleep game and if you’re struggling, you should definitely check this one out!

Get more tips for better sleep here.

Up Your Exercise Game

Until Covid hit, I was a faithful gym-goer. But as going to the gym is one of the more risky things you can do right now, I have shifted to home workouts.

I’m a huge fan of Beachbody and have seen fantastic results from several of their programs.

Despite my love for Beachbody, I also love running. But I live in a cold weather state and running outside in the winter is treacherous at times. Between the freezing cold temperatures and the ice, it’s tough to enjoy outdoor winter running.

And so, after much deliberation, I decided to take the plunge and invest in a treadmill.

We’ve had it almost a week now and it’s hands down one of the best decisions I’ve made! This particular model is suitable for both light walking and faster running and the machine itself is so quiet you can barely hear it in the next room. It’s truly been a smart investment in a healthier future!

An Inspirational Movie

And if you’re looking for an inspirational movie, look no further than the live action version of Mulan. I have no idea how I missed the cartoon version so had no idea what to expect but was blown away by this film.

Don’t miss out on this one! It will leave you motivated, inspired, and ready to take on any challenge that comes your way.

It’s Your Turn

I truly hope this post has inspired you to find ways to de-stress during the holidays. This is not a typical holiday season but figure out how you can make the most of it anyway! We only get one life and your job is to make the most of it, especially during the challenging times.

Drop a comment below with how you de-stress during the holidays and know that I’m sending you warm holiday wishes!

You’re Overthinking It: Strategies to Overcome Obsessive Thoughts

You’re Overthinking It: Strategies to Overcome Obsessive Thoughts

Do you struggle with overthinking? Maybe you find it nearly impossible to make decisions. Or maybe your brain keeps you up at night with a constant stream of worst case scenarios.

Maybe you even have frequent headaches, stomach issues and are absolutely exhausted. All the time.

You’re definitely not alone! Overthinking is a habit which steals joy and paralyzes you with fear and indecisiveness.

Whether it’s ruminating on that dumb thing you said 5 years ago or worrying about the dumb thing you fear saying in 5 minutes, overthinking is the worst!

Although it can be a tricky habit to break, you can find freedom from obsessive thinking. But it does take some effort on your part. Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

This post may contain affiliate links and as a member of the Amazon Affiliates program, this means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

What is Overthinking?

The most basic definition of overthinking includes thinking either too much or too long about something. But if you’re reading this and are looking for solutions, I’m guessing you already have a solid understanding of the word!

Overthinking can take several different forms. And although it may have started as one form, it can quickly spread to other areas of your life. Regardless of the form, overthinking is a destructive thought pattern which destroys inner peace and your sense of self.

The Past

The first form involves obsessing about things which have happened in the past. This may involve regrets, broken relationships, or any number of your less-than-stellar moments. Unfortunately overthinking the past hardly ever involves your highlight reel!

Ruminating on the past is all too easy to do. For me, it often occurs after a difficult conversation such as a fight with my husband. Even after the conversation has ended, I find myself replaying the interaction over and over again. It’s almost as if I’ve convinced myself that spending brainpower on the altercation afterwards will somehow change the outcome.

Or allow me to take back the incredibly hurtful or stupid thing which came out of my mouth.

No such luck.

Ruminating on the past can also be intense dissatisfaction with various choices you’ve made. Maybe you even spend hours upon hours regretting those choices and desperately wishing for a different outcome.

No such luck there either.

The Future

Overthinking the future often revolves around decisions. This form has also been a significant struggle for me throughout my life. I’m constantly second guessing myself!

Whether it’s what I should cook for dinner tonight or whether I should take that alternate position recently offered to me, decisions are difficult!

And it feels as if time spent deep in thought should ultimately reveal the correct decision. As if I’ll somehow stumble upon the correct answer after hours upon hours twisting and turning between the various options.

But it never quite turns out that way.

It instead leaves me second guessing EVERYTHING and no closer to a final answer.

Going Outside Your Comfort Zone

Other than the past and the present, there are plenty of scenarios which can trigger unhealthy doses of overthinking. In my own life I have found anything which triggers fear also triggers overthinking.

It could be the most fabulous opportunity in the world but if it involves going outside my comfort zone, my brain goes into overdrive. Almost immediately, every possible worst case scenario pops up in my mind.

It’s almost as if my brain is trying to convince me that nothing bad will happen if I consider each and every possible negative outcome repeatedly. As if somehow spending hours and hours stewing on every worst case scenario is beneficial.

Or maybe it’s simply my brain trying to talk me out of doing whatever it is I’m feeling drawn toward. Either way, it’s incredibly unhelpful and sets me up for a host of negative thoughts to come flooding through.

Comparison

Yet another form of overthinking revolves around comparison. I truly believe that comparison opens us up to so many negative thought patterns and overthinking is no exception.

When not done intentionally, time spent mindlessly scrolling social media can set up a cascade of overthinking about how we don’t measure up in this way or that.

And what starts as a glance at someone’s post and simple desire to change ourselves in some way ends with self-loathing in multiple areas. Once negativity gains a foothold in your life, it can be difficult to shift back to the positive again because negativity attracts more negativity.

After a while, it becomes second nature for your brain to overthink comparisons between you and everyone else out there.

Although I’ve only listed 4 specific areas in which overthinking dominates, there are many others out there. Now that you’ve had a chance to think about it, which specific scenarios trigger your overthinking tendencies?

Check out this resource for eliminating comparison in your life.

What’s Wrong with Overthinking?

If you’ve stuck with me this far, I’m guessing you have ideas about why overthinking is a bad thing. I’m guessing it’s already impacted your life in some way and definitely not for the better!

One of the primary drawbacks of overthinking is that it focuses on the problem instead of the solution. It keeps you focused on everything that’s wrong instead of on all that inner power you have inside. Overthinking tricks you into thinking you’re making headway on solving the problem however you’re doing the exact opposite.

By keeping you focused on the problem, you are virtually guaranteed to never find a solution. It’s a waste of valuable time and energy which could be spent elsewhere.

Not only is overthinking unproductive but it’s terrible for your mental health. There are multiple studies linking anxiety and depression to overthinking because it’s a thought process which keeps you trapped.

It keeps you from making forward progress and convinces you that you are the sum of your problems. Overthinking has you believing that you are a victim and unable to change your circumstances because it locks you into indecision.

And what’s bad for your mental health also spills over into your physical health. There’s a strong connection between the brain and the body and if your brain is suffering, your body also suffers. As a result of overthinking, you are likely not sleeping well at night and may even suffer frequent headaches and stomach upset.

It’s a vicious cycle pulling you further and further from your true self and inner peace.

But enough with the negativity! Let’s figure out how we can reverse the effects of overthinking and be the amazing souls we were meant to be!

How You Can Stop Overthinking

Overthinking keeps you trapped in your head and feeling powerless to change. One of the most effective ways to stop overthinking is to start taking action. In other words, to get out of your head, you have to step into your body.

Exercise

Physically moving your body is an almost instantaneous way to stop obsessive thoughts. Any physical activity which gets the blood pumping works wonders for your mental health and restores your sense of power.

Running is one of my favorite exercises because it elevates my mood and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I also truly enjoy dressage because it’s a physical and mental workout. I’ve found that it’s impossible to ruminate on my problems while trying to cue intricate movements from my horse!

Acceptance

This next one takes a bit of mental practice but it’s completely worth it. In many cases, the mental pain we experience is created by ourselves and our tendency to overthink. We feel like we have to reject anything which doesn’t fit in with our life plan or “the way things should be.”

But this is simply not the case. You can choose to accept anything, regardless of how terrible it is. Acceptance does not mean that you necessarily agree with something. It simply means you choose not to let it steal your joy and peace.

You choose to find the positive of the situation instead of dwelling on the negative.

Check out this resource for finding inner peace.

Focus

A few weeks ago, I was looking for something completely different to read and stumbled across a truly life-changing book. Within its pages I found the type of wisdom which is obvious and yet revolutionary. It’s the type of wisdom which you immediately recognize as what’s been missing from your life.

Nothing in this book is complex and in fact, it’s the simplicity which most appeals to me.

One of the most powerful concepts I’ve taken with me is that I can choose my focus. If something is troubling me, I can choose to stop thinking about it.

I’m not suggesting you use this method to avoid responsibility in life. What I am suggesting is that you can use this technique to ignore those obsessive thoughts. You can change the channel and don’t need to keep watching that same old movie you’ve seen 10,000 times. Lock in a new movie and a new thought pattern.

Action

Since overthinking paralyzes you in thought, step out of your brain by taking action. Any action. Whatever will move you forward toward your goals.

Your brain tricks you into believing that overthinking is forward action but nothing could be further from the truth. Unless you’re some type of wizard, nothing was ever accomplished by thinking alone.

Even in those activities which require extensive thinking, some action is required. Writing, for example, is primarily a thinking activity. But action is still required to move those thoughts from your brain to the page.

Socialize

I know this is a bit of a taboo topic right now but another effective way to stop overthinking is to socialize with others. We all need other people to live full and complete lives, especially when you struggle with getting outside your head.

It’s so good for us to hear the perspectives of others and realize that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Other people have struggles, triumphs, and lessons which we can learn from. And there are other people out there who want to support you through your struggles. You simply have to be willing to reach out.

Reframe

As a writer, I love this next one! If you tend to overthink the past, consider reframing your own story. Approach your story as an author would. Expand upon the challenges but find the triumph. Be the hero of your own story.

Exploring your past from this perspective allows you the space to both acknowledge your struggle and to celebrate your strengths. It’s entirely possible that your overthinking stems from unresolved issues with your past but by writing it down, you will have the opportunity to finally resolve and move on.

Bonus points for sharing your written story with someone else!

Gratefulness

Gratefulness is the ultimate solution to a host of mindset challenges because it forces us to acknowledge the positive. It’s one of the best ways to force yourself to see all that is amazing in your life!

Getting stuck in a cycle of overthinking is incredibly difficult when you’re instead busy expressing thankfulness for the blessings in your life.

Keeping a gratefulness journal is a solid way to get your thoughts on paper and to have something to refer back to when your brain is on overdrive.

De-Stress

Although stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing, too much is harmful for your wellbeing. It’s much easier to get stuck into negative patterns of overthinking when you’re stressed to the max.

And unfortunately, our brain responds to stress the same regardless of whether we have a looming work deadline or a grizzly bear chasing after us.

Do yourself a favor and figure out the most effective ways you can de-stress and stop the overthinking loop in its tracks!

It’s Your Turn!

Overthinking is one of the best ways to ruin your mood, destroy your sleep, and set you up for more negativity in your life. Although not mentioned above, never hesitate to reach out for professional help if you’re struggling to stop overthinking. Seeing a counselor or psychiatrist can be life-changing and the key to setting you free from obsessive thoughts.

As someone who also tends to overthink, I truly hope you have found this post helpful in your quest for greater joy and more inner peace in your life! Comment below with what you found most helpful or whether you have a tactic I may have omitted. If you’re interested in learning more about changing your mindset, here are two books I highly recommend. Until next time, stay healthy, safe, and remember that we’re all only getting better!

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The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Pianists

The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Pianists

The holidays are right around the corner and you’re racking your brain for that special piano-loving person in your life. I completely understand that shopping for someone with an interest perhaps not shared by yourself is challenging. No worries … I’ve got your back! Whether it’s your piano teacher, accompanist, spouse, or maybe a little something for yourself, this ultimate holiday gift guide for pianists has something for everyone!

Let’s get started!

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Novelty Gift Guide for Pianists

No ultimate holiday gift guide for pianists would be complete without a few novelty gifts! These items make great stocking stuffers and are a thoughtful way to let someone know that you recognize their passion for the art.

A New Phone Case

And what better way to show your passion for something than through your phone? These eye-catching phone cases are guaranteed to bring joy and a little reminder throughout the day that something wonderful is always waiting at the keyboard!

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Kitchen Gadgets

Whether entertaining or enjoying a simple meal at home, these next few items combine the culinary with the musical. Bring your love for music into the kitchen with one of these fun and useful gifts!

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Mugs

And of course no ultimate gift guide for pianists would be complete without a few novelty mugs! Because what pianist wouldn’t want a hot cup of coffee or tea out of one of these witty mugs???

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Jewelry

Maybe you or your pianist would love a new piece of piano-inspired jewelry! Jewelry is one of those classic gifts which is useful, beautiful, and can be treasured for years to come.

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Ties, Keepsakes, and More!

Sometimes you need that little gift which keeps on giving. Whether it’s inspirational artwork or a warm, cozy nap on a cold, snowy day, one of these options is guaranteed to bring a smile to someone’s face. Bring the smile with one of these fun novelty items!

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For the Ultimate DIY Enthusiast

If your piano enthusiast also geeks out over Legos or is a DIY-er, this next gift idea is perfect! Lego has now come out with a grand piano set which is actually playable when fully assembled.

In true Lego form, they have accurately replicated many aspects of a real grand piano including a lid which can be propped up and authentic hammer action along with moving dampers. When fully assembled, this set is as close to a grand piano as Legos can possibly get.

Although skeptical about this set at first, I believe the labor involved in assembling its over 3,000 pieces will actually make it even more endearing. This belief stems from reading an article about Ikea furniture. Apparently people who put together their own furniture end up loving it even more than furniture which was already assembled for them.

I think it boils down to the fact that when you put more effort into something, you cherish it even more. When you think about it, it’s a very similar phenomenon to the pride one takes in learning an instrument in the first place.

All in all, a pretty perfect gift, isn’t it?

Gifts for the Accompanist

Accompanists are busy people! Whether it’s solo & ensemble season, the holidays, or college jury week, there’s never a shortage of events needing accompanists.

And I’ve never met an accompanist who doesn’t have a ton of books to constantly tote back and forth. Help them tote those books in style with one of these musically themed bags!

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I’ve also never met an accompanist who couldn’t use a little jolt of caffeine to get moving in the morning! Or maybe it’s just me?! Either way, send your accompanist off to a magnificent day with one of these beautifully designed travel mugs!

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Accompanists are perpetually adjusting to their environment. They’re basically at the mercy of whatever instrument and stage is available at the time. Whether it’s poor lighting or that book which just won’t stay open, gift one of these useful tools and make their job just a tiny bit easier.

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Come to think of it, maybe a spa day would be the perfect gift for your accompanist? This is a must if you’ve just finished a recital which consists of completely atonal 20th century music. Gift this and hopefully they will pick up their phone the next time you call for a gig!

For the Serious Pianist

This next section is for the piano teacher or serious pianist in your life. Believe me, we can be a tough crowd to shop for! But with this ultimate gift guide for pianists, you’re sure to find that perfectly unique gift!

Click here for the 5 Tools to Take Your Piano Playing to the Next Level!

Give the Gift of Piano Maintenance

Although pianists have a sincere passion for their instruments, sometimes we’re not great about keeping up with maintenance on our instruments. Pianos should be tuned on a regular basis and ideally this should be done by someone certified by the Piano Technicians Guild.

The guild is an organization dedicated to educating and ensuring piano technicians meet rigorous testing standards before working on your piano. This means they have the knowledge and experience to provide expert care and maintenance of the instrument. There’s no one more qualified to assist with a wide range of piano issues and I highly recommend you entrust your instrument to a Registered Piano Technician!

Consider gifting a tuning or even a humidity control system for that special pianist in your life. Click here for a list of piano technicians in your area as well as other useful resources from the Piano Technicians Guild.

Books to Inspire and Motivate

What does every serious pianist love to do when away from the keyboard? Read about pianos and piano-related topics, obviously! Here is a selection of book ideas to get your gift wheels spinning in the right direction!

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Gift Lessons with a Coveted Teacher

Is your pianist friend constantly talking about that hugely famous pianist they’d absolutely love to study with? Consider gifting them a lesson or two with this person. Thanks to the magic of technology today, studying with people who once seemed unattainable is now more realistic than ever!

Many piano teachers have now moved to online lessons and advancing one’s piano skills is now easier than ever! The extra bonus is that your pianist will get to play their own instrument. As any pianist can tell you, adjusting to a teacher’s instrument often presents challenges of its own. Playing one’s own instrument during a lesson is therefore an extra treat that any pianist will adore!

Give the Ability to Record

I’ve gotten so much great advice over the years about how to improve my piano playing. But the best advice I’ve ever gotten was during college from my piano teacher.

She told me that in order to improve, I needed to record myself often. That way, I could pick up on ways to improve my playing independently. I could also track my improvements with any given piece.

In those days, recording involved buying a voice recorder because any other type of equipment was simply too big and bulky to carry around.

But thanks to technology today, doing professional recording yourself is as easy as buying a USB microphone to plug into your laptop. It seriously couldn’t get any easier!

And this microphone is hands down the absolute best there is out there! It’s incredibly easy and the sound quality is phenomenal. Whether you’re looking for yourself or for someone else, this is the microphone to get!

The Gift of Online Resources

Maybe your pianist has been struggling to learn that one piece which is just outside their grasp. Or maybe they’re looking for practice insight, technique help, and a supportive online community. If so, this next one is golden.

Dr. Josh Wright is an internationally acclaimed classical pianist who has put together a treasure trove of online resources. With a variety of videos and courses, his resources are absolutely unparalleled and insanely helpful to anyone with the slightest interest in classical piano.

After joining his ProPractice course, my playing improved so dramatically that I became an affiliate to share my experiences with others. Investing in this course has improved my playing more than anything else I’ve done thus far. I highly recommend it for anyone who is a self-directed learner and is looking for course credibility. Check it out here.

Give From the Heart

Whatever you decide to gift this season, I’m sure that special pianist in your life will love it simply because it comes from you! This has been a year like none other but it has certainly been memorable. Despite the challenges, my wish for you this season is that you treasure the small moments.

Live, laugh, and love more deeply than ever before. Cherish those you love and take in all the magic of the season. You deserve it!

As always, drop a comment below letting me know your thoughts on this post. Did I miss anything? Or do you have additional recommendations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!