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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!

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.

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!

5 Sneaky Reasons You Feel Tired All the Time

5 Sneaky Reasons You Feel Tired All the Time

Are you skipping through your day, full of joy, enthusiasm, and boundless energy? Or are you barely dragging yourself out of bed in the morning only to stumble from task to task, completely overwhelmed and exhausted?

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re leaning more toward the overwhelmed and exhausted than the skipping part.

I’ve been there too. Completely drained of energy and doing my very best just to make it through the day.

It’s a tough place to be.

And the more frustrated you become with the situation, the worse it gets. You’re desperate to feel better but are skeptical that anything will change.

Take heart! There are several reasons why you may feel tired all the time and surprisingly simple solutions.

Stick with me and I promise you will be feeling more energized in no time at all!

This post may contain affiliate links and as an Amazon affiliate, 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.

1) You Feel Tired Because You Have No Boundaries

There’s no denying the fact that diet, exercise, and sleep habits play a huge factor in your energy levels. But sometimes fatigue has more to do with the emotional than the physical.

If you feel tired all the time, it’s time to take a good, hard look at your to-do list.

Is it full of activities which ignite your soul with limitless passion and zest for life? Or is your to-do list full of obligations you dread but feel compelled to do anyway?

We all have those tasks which are necessary but not particularly fulfilling. And life certainly can’t be all fun and games. But if you’re feeling drained, could it be because you’re spending more time living for others than for yourself?

If you struggle with overwhelm and saying “no” to others, it’s time to put up a few personal boundaries!

How You Can Set Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries tell you where your responsibilities begin and where they end. At first glance, this may seem restrictive but it actually means freedom.

It means you have the freedom to say “yes” when it aligns with you and your inner purpose.

It’s the freedom to say “no” when you don’t want to do something.

And it means you have the freedom to sit back, relax, and enjoy your life.

Sounds great, right? But how can you actually implement this in your life?

By starting with a commitment. The commitment to stop people pleasing and to start living life on your terms.

And the next step? Learn how to say “no.” Say no to anything which only depletes you of valuable energy while serving someone else’s purpose.

Learn more about how to stop people pleasing and start living your own life by clicking here.

2) You Feel Tired Because Your Mind is on Overdrive

Another incredibly common reason why you may feel tired all the time is because your mind won’t shut down. Day, night, and all other times in between, your brain is constantly working to exhaustion.

Although thinking in and of itself is not a bad thing, the nature of those thoughts impacts how you feel overall. If there is a positive vibe, you may actually feel somewhat energized and uplifted. But if those thoughts are negative, your precious energy will drain faster than you can ever possibly replenish it.

If you struggle with overthinking, your thoughts are also likely to be dominated by worry, guilt, and indecisiveness. The constant dread created by these types of thoughts is enough to make anyone feel tired in only a short amount of time!

Negative thinking is a definite energy suck but it’s never too late to turn it around!

How to Stop Overthinking

Changing your mindset requires both a commitment to change and a keen awareness of your thoughts. After all, it’s tough to change something you’re completely unaware of!

Step one is simply learning to identify your thought patterns. Start recognizing your thoughts and how they make you feel. One of the best ways to do this is to put pen to paper. Writing down all those thoughts circling in your head gives them a place to go and an opportunity for you to objectively analyze them.

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Find a journal you love and spend some time every day recording what’s on your mind. Is there any truth to your thoughts? Or do they tend to focus on things past and present instead of on the here and now?

Challenge your thoughts! Poke holes in the ridiculous negativity which likely has no basis in reality. Start talking to yourself as if you are your own best friend. Be compassionate and kind to yourself. Take a deep breath, recognize the effort you’ve made toward positive change, and congratulate yourself on your more peaceful inner world.

3) You Feel Tired Because You’re Not Feeding Your Passion

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

Oprah Winfrey

Do you know that feeling you get when you’re doing that thing you love to do? Or even that feeling you get when you talk about that thing you love to do?

Pretty incredible, isn’t it?

We all have something that lights us up inside. Something we totally nerd out about and can’t get enough of.

That passion feeds our energy reserve and ignites our zest for life. It’s what makes life worth living and counteracts all the negativity we encounter in the world.

But how often do you put that thing on the back burner because you simply have too much on your plate? It’s unfortunately all too easy to shove your passion to the wayside while you’re going about the business of life.

I get it. Finding time for that thing feels impossible and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But it could just be the key to your life-changing transformation!

How to Find Time for Your Passion

As a wife and working mom of 3, I know a little bit about time. I know that it slips away all too quickly and is incredibly easy to waste. Other than energy, time is one of the most valuable resources we have but we need to be both mindful and careful in how it’s spent.

Awareness is key. In order to make changes, you must first understand where you are currently spending your time.

Although it can be a giant distraction, my phone also holds one of the most valuable tools in tracking my time. Every week I get a notification of how much time I’ve spent on my phone the previous week and a breakdown of which apps sucked up the most. I take a few minutes every week to review and set an intention for the upcoming week.

If you don’t have this feature on your phone, you could also track your time with pen and paper. Writing down where your time is spent on an hourly basis can be truly eye-opening.

After you have an idea of where your time is spent, it’s time for positive change. Start slowly by slotting off even 5 minutes a day to do something related to your passion. Sometimes starting is all you need to realize that you CAN make time in your schedule if it truly is important to you.

Check out this post for more tips on finding more time in your day!

4) You Feel Tired Because You’re Playing the Comparison Game

Social media is utterly amazing! At no other time in the history of the world have you been able to connect with old friends, instantly catch up with someone you haven’t talked to for years, or find out what your neighbor is up to at this very second.

You can meet someone on the other side of the world or connect with others who share your passion.

But social media has a dark side. I’m willing to bet that you’ve lost countless hours caught up in someone else’s drama at one time or another thanks to social media. Or felt your mood darken after scrolling your feed.

Social media has made it easier than ever to compare yourself to others. Gone are the days where you could go home after a long day and shut out the world. We are now constantly faced with everyone else’s highlight reel while feeling a deep sense of inferiority and disconnection from others. And it’s emotionally draining.

How to Stop the Comparison Game

After going through a period of constant exhaustion, I took a good, hard look at my life and made a few discoveries. One was that I wasn’t getting nearly enough sleep at night. Two was that social media was partly to blame for my poor sleep.

Scrolling feeds at night is a nightmare on multiple levels. The blue light from electronic devices has been scientifically proven to decrease sleep quality. It also keep your mind reeling at a time when it should be winding down and preparing for sleep. And if you have alerts activated, you’re virtually guaranteed poor sleep from the constant beeping ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

Even beyond the ill effects on sleep, I began noticing how negative my mindset was becoming. It seemed that the more time I spent on social media, the worse my self-esteem, motivation, and sense of self became. I knew something had to change.

And so I silenced the alerts. From Facebook to Instagram to email, I stopped them all. No more random beeping in the middle of dinner with the family or movie night. The silence was strange at first but also oddly comforting. It truly felt as if I was taking back my life.

I also picked up this book. Although I have always prided myself on efficiency, this book has been truly instrumental in helping me identify all the unnecessary distractions in my life. I highly encourage you to check it out!

And if you haven’t seen “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix, check it out. It will make you re-think EVERYTHING.

5) You Feel Tired for Physical Reasons

Although the majority of this post focuses on emotional reasons why you may feel tired, don’t ignore your physical self. If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, your diet is terrible, or you’re not exercising, you can’t expect to feel energized and ready to seize the day.

It’s also entirely possible that you have an underlying medical condition contributing to your fatigue. Seeing your primary care provider is an incredibly important first step in your journey toward a more refreshed life. Your provider can have a 1:1 discussion with you about your risk factors for certain conditions and reasons why you may feel tired all the time.

If your provider determines there are no underlying medical conditions, maybe it’s time to see a counselor or psychiatrist. We are living in stressful times and all need an occasional mental health tune-up. Don’t put your health on the back burner. You are too important!

Take Charge of Your Physical Health

If there are one or more areas of your physical health which are less than optimal, start slowly. Make small, positive changes in one area at a time. Success comes from small changes on a daily basis.

If your diet could be improved, find one small area to work on rather than completely overhauling everything. Consider cutting down on sugar, salt, or drinking more water every day as a first step.

Sleep can be a struggle for everyone from time to time. Consider a sleep diary to record what time you go to bed and wake up, how you feel when you get up in the morning, and whether you woke up at all during the night. A diary can be helpful in pinpointing specific sleep issues you may be having, an important first step for lasting and impactful change.

And exercise presents its own unique challenges in the time of COVID. Although typically a faithful gym goer, I have recently switched to working out at home to reduce potential exposure. I do have to say that there are a ton of great online resources for home workouts! Gyms can be intimidating but you can eliminate this barrier by picking up a few free weights and enjoying the privacy of your own home.

The key to any change is to start small and be consistent. You can do ANYthing but don’t have to do EVERYthing all at once!

Bonus Resources

And if you still feel tired after trying all of the above, here are a few bonus resources which have significantly impacted my life!

From the Blog

Inspirational Reads

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I truly hope you have found something helpful in this post! Leave a comment below about why you feel tired and what you plan to do about it! Although frustrating, it can be comforting to know that other people are in a similar situation and that you’re definitely not alone.

5 Powerful Strategies to Ditch People Pleasing Forever

5 Powerful Strategies to Ditch People Pleasing Forever

Is saying no to others, even when you have no interest in doing what they ask, difficult?

Are you constantly seeking approval from those around you?

Do you find yourself subtly changing into a different person when around diverse groups of people?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, people pleasing tendencies may be running rampant in your life.

People pleasing is an unhealthy coping mechanism which keeps you from becoming the person you truly are. It robs you of authenticity and results in exceedingly unsatisfactory relationships.

But you can take back control over your life and halt people pleasing in its tracks. Recognition is the first step.

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.

What is People Pleasing?

People pleasing behaviors can show up in your life in a wide variety of ways. Some ways may be obvious to others (external) and others (internal) may only be perceptible to you.

Internal examples may include:

  • Taking responsibility for the emotions of others
  • Feeling overwhelmed by tasks and obligations which are not even your own
  • Fearfulness that others won’t like or accept you unless you are agreeable with what they say or ask of you
  • Intense discomfort when you perceive that someone may be upset with you
  • Inability to identify your feelings

External examples may include:

  • Agreeing with the opinions of others even if you don’t actually agree
  • Frequent apologies to others for actions or circumstances completely out of your control
  • Inability to say no to others
  • Avoiding conflict with others at all costs
  • Inability to express your feelings to others
  • Intense need to prove yourself to others through your actions

Unless you begin to recognize how people pleasing is impacting your life, change is impossible. And as someone who has struggled with people pleasing, I can tell you with confidence that it’s truly no way to live.

Until I began taking personal development seriously, I struggled with the vague sense that something big was hindering my journey. Something was driving my guilt and irrational need to agree with everyone around me. And something was getting in the way of being able to live life on my terms.

After countless podcasts, hours of self-reflection and journaling, and more discussions with a therapist than I can count, I finally had a revelation. People pleasing was at the root of so much of my unhappiness and negative outlook.

You may also enjoy reading this post about improving your mindset.

What’s Wrong with People Pleasing?

“There’s something very addictive about people pleasing. It’s a thought pattern and a habit that feels really, really good until it becomes desperate.”

Anne Hathaway

At first glance, people pleasing may seem harmless. After all, what’s wrong with making other people happy?

Boundaries

One major problem with people pleasing is a complete lack of boundaries. Saying “yes” to everyone else can unfortunately mean saying “no” to yourself.

What can start as a simple desire to be nice can lead to a cascade of overwhelm and neglect of your own needs. It’s almost as if you become so hyper-focused on everyone else that you completely forget yourself.

The needs of those around you begin to take priority and you slowly lose yourself. Your needs take a back burner as you put out the fires of everyone else around you.

As you slowly assume responsibility for the thoughts and feelings of those around you, your mindset turns decidedly more negative.

And without boundaries, you start to resent those around you for all the work you’re doing and the work they’re not doing. This quickly transforms into resentment and passive aggressive thoughts, feelings, and actions.

A lack of boundaries is the fast track to overwhelm, burnout, and stress.

Looking for more information about boundaries? Check out this resource.

Stress

People pleasing often means your calendar is packed to the brim with activities you may not be particularly excited about. It may be so full that you feel as if adding even one more task would absolutely put you over the edge of sanity.

You’re constantly running, running, running but never feel as if you get anywhere. You also lack a sincere sense of accomplishment because instead of setting and meeting your own goals, you’re constantly going after the goals of everyone around you.

Self-care is consistently neglected in the name of self-sacrifice. In fact, you may be completely unable to identify activities which would be good for you because you’re too busy meeting everyone else’s needs.

You have zero free time and no hope that you ever will in the future.

Although stress can be good, too much over an extended period of time can lead to chronic physical and mental illness. It can also lead to low self-esteem and unfulfilling relationships.

Need advice on how to find peace despite stress? Check out this post.

Self-Esteem

Constantly focusing on the needs of those around you means you will completely forget your own needs. As your own needs sink lower and lower on your ever growing list of things to do, so will your self-esteem.

You begin to believe that everyone else’s needs are more important than your own which only serves to plummet your self-esteem even lower.

And as your self-esteem worsens, so does your relationships with those around you. Excessive people pleasing often means you’ve completely lost touch with who you are as a person, the very thing which can actually strengthen relationships with others. The loss of self means loss of connection with anyone else either.

Losing authenticity can further lower your self-esteem and worsen depression and anxiety. A constant sense of guilt and a complete lack of fulfillment clouds your thinking and can feed addiction, perfectionism, and an already negative mindset.

Looking for advice on how to achieve a more positive mindset? Check out this post.

Why Does People Pleasing Start?

In order to understand strategies to ditch people pleasing, you need to understand why it develops in the first place.

Your Early Years

As with almost anything in life, your early years may have had something to do with your current people pleasing tendencies. If your parents were overly critical, or emotionally/physically unavailable, your young self may have adapted a people pleasing coping mechanism.

You perhaps learned early on that if you were “helpful” and “agreeable” then people loved and accepted you. And because we are incapable of caring for ourselves when we are young, we depend upon others to care for us.

Acceptance, by any means possible, means survival.

Although you may have developed people pleasing coping mechanisms as a young child, you are now an adult. You have control over your own life now and can choose to make positive changes, especially if your current mindset isn’t working for you.

Fear of Rejection

This next one relates closely to the previous one in that a deeply rooted fear of rejection drives your people pleasing activities. You have learned that people like other people who agree with them, even if only superficially.

Rather than risk rocking the boat and possible rejection, you simply say “yes” to everything.

And on the flip side, you are seeking approval and validation from others rather than searching inside yourself. This leads to a constant cycle of people pleasing as you seek outside affirmation about your worth which is lacking from within. It ultimately means you end up believing that you need to prove your worthiness to others or face rejection.

Control

At its core, people pleasing can also be about control.

Disagreeing with others feels intensely uncomfortable and you do anything possible to avoid it. Anything includes agreeing even when doing so means you become inauthentic with yourself, your beliefs, and your own needs.

Agreeing means taking control by avoiding conflict. Taking control feels safe and predictable because this is likely a long-standing pattern for you.

It’s a pattern in which you subconsciously assume responsibility for the emotions of others around you and act accordingly.

But you can break free. You can stop living your life for others and instead, starting living for yourself!

Struggling with perfectionism? This post is for you.

How You Can Ditch People Pleasing

Now that you have some insight into what people pleasing entails, why it’s bad, and where it comes from, it’s time to cover how you can leave it behind forever!

1. Listen to Yourself

This first one seems intuitive and almost too simple but if you’ve been living your life for others, it will take time and practice. Start small and pay attention to that still, small voice inside.

Pay attention to your feelings instead of balling them up and shoving them deep down inside. How are you feeling right now? Are you authentically living a life you love? Or are you living the life everyone else wants for you?

How does it truly feel to say “yes” to something? Does doing what you agreed to do make you feel energized and alive? Does it align with your core purpose? Or does it leave you feeling tired and drained?

Practice identifying your smallest, most basic needs. Once identified, take action to meet them and relish in the satisfaction of finally having your needs met.

2. Say No to People Pleasing

No can be a tough word. You’re so used to pleasing everyone around you that it may sound harsh and uncaring. But as a fellow people pleaser, I can say with certainty that saying “no” to others means saying “yes” to yourself.

Start by identifying something on your list which you truly can’t stand. Something which is a huge imposition to yourself or which causes extensive anxiety in a completely useless and unproductive way.

Think about how great it would feel not to have that thing looming over your head anymore. How amazing would it be to get back just a little of your time and freedom?

Pretty incredible, right?

Now say “no” to that thing. Dump the responsibility which was never yours in the first place. Put it back squarely in the hands of the one who should have done it in the first place.

3. Get Help

Working on yourself is hard! Sometimes we all need a little encouragement that we’re going down the right path. We all need affirmation that the tough path is indeed the one we need to be taking.

Whether it’s a therapist, a coach, or a trusted friend, find someone to help you through. Find the person who can give you outside perspective on your internal perception.

Breaking free from people pleasing is tough and you need someone fighting right along with you to ensure your success. Life is meant to be lived in harmony with others in a healthy, positive way. By seeking out help now, you’re taking the first steps towards a lifetime of fulfilling and meaningful relationships!

4. Commit to Improving Your Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem keeps you stuck in people pleasing mode. It keeps you from putting yourself and your needs first. And it encourages you to keep seeking validation from outside yourself.

But in order to be truly happy, you must realize that you, and only you, hold the key to your own happiness. Nothing outside yourself will ever bring the type of truly satisfying and fulfilling happiness that you deserve.

And you deserve happiness as much as anyone else! Your needs, wants, and desires are important. It’s only when you realize this that you can improve your self-esteem and ultimately break free from people pleasing forever!

Struggling with self-love? Click here for powerful strategies to improve your self-love!

5. Set Boundaries

People pleasing is all about blurring the lines. It’s about abandoning your own needs in the name of helping others. And it’s about taking on responsibility which is not yours.

People pleasing is an insidious loss of personal boundaries. It starts ever so gradually but quickly snowballs into completely unmet and unvoiced expectations, passive aggression, and loss of yourself.

Boundaries are important because they tell you exactly where your responsibilities lie. They give you the freedom to stop worrying about things which aren’t yours to worry about. And they give you the opportunity to be amazing in the realm which is your responsibility.

Boundaries actually give you the space to be who you are without worrying about what anyone else thinks. They bring authenticity and with authenticity comes the type of true and meaningful relationships you so deeply desire.

Extra Resources to Leave People Pleasing in the Past!

Even when you understand the who, what, when, where, and why of a situation, truly leaving it in the past can be difficult. Here are a few of my favorite resources in my own journey to ditch people pleasing!

This Book

If you’re looking for a quick, motivational read, look no further than Girl, Stop Apologizing! It’s just the kick-in-the-pants you need to break free from negative thought patterns and to instead head off into your own direction. Entertaining, real, and absolutely one of the most inspirational books I’ve read thus far.

That Book

Although not what I would describe as motivational, this next one is eye-opening. After doing work in counseling, I realized that codependency was intricately tied into my people pleasing tendencies and got serious about learning more. This book has become an invaluable resource in discovering codependency and more importantly, what to do about it.

And Don’t Forget This Book!

If boundaries are particularly challenging, this next one is for you! I also discovered this one during counseling and have read it multiple times to fully absorb the value found in its pages.

And there you have it! I truly hope you have found this post helpful and have committed to leaving people pleasing behind forever! Drop a comment below on what you took away from this post and your biggest struggles in leaving the people pleasing in the past. Have you found tips or tricks which we may also find helpful?

Love Yourself: 10 Tips to Fearless Self-Love

Love Yourself: 10 Tips to Fearless Self-Love

Love yourself. We’ve all heard this timeless yet valuable advice. But how many can say they actually do? How many of us truly love ourselves unconditionally?

I will be the first to admit this has often been a struggle for me.

Learning to love yourself takes time and practice. It requires commitment to shifting how you think about yourself and the world around you. But if you stick with it, figuring out how to love yourself is one of the very best ways to improve your confidence, your self-esteem, and the relationships with those around you.

Are you ready?

Let’s dive right in to how you can love yourself and stop relying on the approval of others!

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. Love Yourself by Caring for Your Body

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the most concrete ways you can love yourself is by taking care of your body. Getting enough sleep at night, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet can make a huge difference in how you feel on a daily basis.

And when you’re feeling great physically, loving yourself comes much more easily.

There have been times in my life when I have been chronically sleep deprived and living off of sugar. Those were times in which I was physically and emotionally drained. Loving myself wasn’t even a blip on my radar at the time because I was in survival mode.

But surviving is NOT thriving. It’s not where I want to be for any length of time.

And I don’t think it’s where you want to be either.

Start taking care of your body today with one small decision. Think about which area is most lacking right now, make a plan, and take action!

You may also enjoy reading ‘Get Better Sleep Tonight!’

2. Journaling

To love yourself, you must first know yourself. And one of the best ways to get to know yourself is by journaling.

Although it can take some practice, journaling is an incredibly diverse exercise which helps you get to the very core of what makes you tick.

Sometimes daily life has a tendency to keep you stuck in your own head. This is especially true if you are someone who tends to the introverted side and who has an active “thought life.”

Getting all those thoughts out on paper not only calms your mind but also provides insight into who you are and what motivates you. It’s especially powerful when combined with personal affirmations such as “I can handle anything that comes at me.” Or “I am worthy of love and respect.”

Journaling is amazing because you can write whatever you want! Whatever’s on your mind or in your heart. It’s a completely judgment-free zone.

Take the first step today by making a decision to journal on a consistent basis. Figure out a time each day when journaling could be incorporated and start writing!

3. Banish the Negative Self-Talk

Have you ever stopped to think about your thinking? More specifically, have you thought about that little voice providing constant commentary to your daily life?

If not, start paying attention to that little voice. Is it typically cheering you on? Or is it telling you to fear everything and that failure is inevitable?

Self-talk is sneaky yet powerful. It quietly permeates every little thought and feeling.

Your self-talk matters. It can either build you up or tear you down.

Self-talk influences your confidence, self-esteem, and how you see yourself. And if you’ve never gotten serious about taking control of your self-talk, now is the time!

Awareness is the very first step in transforming your self-talk and finally loving yourself fearlessly!

You may also enjoy reading ‘5 Ways You Can Conquer Self-Doubt!’

4. Foster Self-Compassion

“You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”

Louise Hay

Love and compassion go together. But if you struggle with negative self-talk, you also likely struggle to be compassionate with yourself.

Self-compassion can be especially difficult if you have perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionism often means the expectations you have for yourself are vague and unreasonably high. They are often so high that no one could ever attain them.

And the consequences for not attaining these expectations? Self-directed shame, blame, and guilt.

It’s tough to love yourself when shame and guilt are constant companions.

Ditch the negativity! Give yourself a break the next time things don’t work out as you had wanted. One of the best ways to do this is to ask yourself this one simple question the next time your inner critic takes control. “Would I say this comment out loud to someone I love?”

If not, then don’t say it to yourself either. Your inner self deserves both love and compassion.

You may also enjoy reading ‘How to Overcome Perfectionism!’

5. Love Yourself by Finding the Joy

Amidst all the negative self-talk, harsh criticisms, and the challenges inherent to life, it can be difficult to stay positive. But it can also be difficult to love yourself if all you see is the negative.

I have definitely been caught up in the negatives at many points in my life. Overwhelm gradually took over and loving myself took a back burner. Those were times in which I mistakenly thought that if I just focused on work and what I needed to get done, things would eventually improve.

But the harder I worked, the worse I felt.

And then one day it dawned on me that I had completely eliminated joy from my life. I was missing out on all the wonderful things life has to offer by closing myself off to joy.

If you are feeling a constant state of negativity, try adding joy back into your life. Look for opportunities to smile. Laugh. Try something new.

You just might be surprised at how easy it is to love yourself when doing something which brings you joy!

6. Be Grateful

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

Oprah Winfrey

One of the keys to fearless self-love is gratitude for all that you have and all that you are. You are you for a reason and have so many unique qualities to share with the world around you.

But only by sitting down and consciously listing out what you are grateful for can you truly begin to appreciate the blessings in your life.

Putting gratitude front and center in your life not only improves your self-love but also your overall outlook. It suddenly becomes much easier to see the good in every situation. Gratitude is a powerful force which can replace even the most persistent negative thoughts.

Commit to starting a gratitude practice today. It can be as easy as writing down 3 things you are grateful for in your journal each morning. A simple, yet powerful way to kick start your day and supercharge your self-love!

7. Focus on Your Strengths

It wasn’t until I committed to figuring out who I was as a person that I was finally able to love and appreciate who I am. And part of figuring out who you are involves determining your strengths and weaknesses.

We all have them. Areas where we both excel and struggle.

And I used to operate under the assumption that my time should be spent developing my weaknesses. That I could indeed excel at everything instead of only in specific areas.

But then I discovered this book and my outlook did a 180. The premise of the book is that spending time developing your weaknesses is actually a waste. You are instead much better off fostering existing strengths as you will be able to make exceedingly more progress.

I also discovered that for me personally, spending time in areas where I do not excel drains my energy. This makes me overall less effective than I would be by staying in my strengths.

Take the first step today toward discovering your own strengths by reading my story here. I highly encourage you to love yourself on a deeper level by starting your own strength finding journey!

8. Learn Boundaries

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”

Brene Brown

Sometimes one of the best ways to love yourself is to say “no” to others. If you’re in a constant state of overwhelm verging on burnout, maybe it’s time to examine where your energy is spent.

It’s so easy to lose yourself under the guise of helping others. And don’t get me wrong … you should help others when possible. But helping others should never come at the expense of meeting your own needs.

You are responsible for you. Being you comes with its own set of responsibilities and priorities. No one else will worry about your self-care or whether you’re making progress toward personal goals.

Freedom comes from knowing your individual responsibilities and saying “no” to anything which isn’t your responsibility. There’s a sense of peace which descends upon you once you stop worrying about things you have no control over.

Setting boundaries takes practice but is well worth the effort! Check out this book and learn how you can start setting healthy boundaries today.

9. Follow Through

Do what you say you’re going to do. Align your inner beliefs with your outer actions. Be true to yourself.

Following through is infinitely easier once you’ve established (and committed to!) personal boundaries. Without solid boundaries, agreeing to anything anyone asks of you is tempting, especially if you are a people pleaser.

Living a life free of boundaries means trying to take responsibility which isn’t yours in the first place. It quickly leads to overwhelm, burnout, and an inability to actually do everything you’ve agreed to do. Following through becomes impossible because there’s simply too much on your plate.

Learning to love yourself fearlessly comes from a place of authenticity. It comes from honesty to yourself and to those around you.

And although it takes practice, consistent follow through will increase the trust you have in yourself which will in turn improve your self-love.

10. Acceptance of What Is

“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it … this will miraculously transform your whole life.”

Eckhart Tolle

Acceptance is powerful. We waste so much of our time playing the “I’ll be happy when …” game. “I’ll be happy when I lose this weight.” Or “I’ll be happy when I’m done with school.”

And our culture of comparison only feeds into our unhappiness and inability to truly love ourselves. As does the constant subliminal advertising by companies promising to bring fulfillment and meaning to our lives through a new car or designer clothing.

True acceptance means finding joy and figuring out how to love yourself even when things aren’t ideal. It means learning to accept reality regardless of the circumstances and without blowing your budget on material objects you don’t need.

Wishing things were different instead of accepting reality is futile and a waste of energy. Refusing to accept what is causes untold pain and grief.

But the good news is that you have the ability to decide to accept your reality. Stop fighting against that which you can’t change. Spend your time instead looking for anything you do have control over and be a positive force.

Accept and love yourself.

You may also enjoy reading ‘Anxiety Relieving Activities Which Actually Work!’

It’s Your Turn

Figuring out how to love yourself, flaws and all, is a journey. It’s small daily decisions to reject self-criticism and to have more self-compassion. Getting enough sleep, journaling, and being grateful for the blessings in your life also pave the way to greater self-love.

Love yourself on a deeper level and you will find that your love for others also grows. As does your overall joy and happiness in your daily life.

I truly hope you have found this post helpful and have come away with new resolve to love yourself more! As always, I’d love to hear your biggest take-aways below!

Become a Better Pianist with These 5 Simple Tools

Become a Better Pianist with These 5 Simple Tools

Are you trying to become a better pianist but aren’t sure where to start? Maybe you’ve been faithfully playing and practicing for years but feel a bit stuck. Or maybe you’re simply looking for inspiration to keep going.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to become a better pianist, I’ve got something for you! From podcasts to equipment to courses, you are guaranteed to find something unique and helpful on your own piano journey.

Let’s get started!

Click here to read about the benefits of learning piano as an adult.

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Track Your Practice

If your goal is to become a better pianist, practice is key! And although this post is full of helpful tools to get you there, nothing can ever replace consistency.

Small actions repeated over and over again add up to big victories.

Victories such as flawlessly playing that piece which once seemed hopelessly out of reach. Successfully sight-reading all types and styles of music. And performing the piece you absolutely adore from memory.

Victory looks a little different for everyone but the common denominator is consistent practice.

Staying consistent has its challenges, especially if you have a busy life. As a mom of 3 who also works full time, I know firsthand how difficult it is to fit everything in. Between homework, housework, and your actual work, life can feel pretty overwhelming. And when you’re a mom, putting your goals and dreams on hold often feels like the path of least resistance.

But is it really easier to simply ignore who you are beyond wife and mom? Is it easier to give up those things which excite you and make life worth living?

Don’t get me wrong. There are times in your life when your focus needs to be on your family. But it doesn’t mean you have to abandon your own goals entirely. It may simply mean you have to shift how you go after those goals.

And if consistent practice is what you’re after, I’ve got the perfect solution for you!

1. The App Designed for Musicians by a Musician

Practicing consistently has been a struggle for me as long as I can remember. I would go through stretches where my practice was extremely consistent however these tended to be few and far between. And my playing suffered for it.

A couple of years ago, I was listening to a podcast and was introduced to one of the most helpful apps I’ve ever come across. An app designed by a musician to assist fellow musicians in not only achieving consistency but in getting the most from each session.

The app is called Modacity and it has tons of features to help you become a better pianist. From a metronome to a tuner to recording features, this app has it all!

It even has the ability to track the amount of time you spend practicing each day, a huge incentive to achieve consistency. Adding even 5 minutes a day to your practice total is extremely motivating. And for me, adding more time is enough to overcome any internal objections I may have to sitting down in front of the keys on any given day.

In fact, my back-to-back daily practice record was a few days over 365 this summer when an emotional incident derailed my efforts. I’m happy to say that my practice consistency has now gotten back on track and I am again going after any time I can get at the keys.

Other than the practice counter, the feature I love most about Modacity is the recording feature. There are many times when I’m practicing that I want to record and critique a section of my playing. Modacity allows me to quickly and easily record without any interruption in my practice session. It then gives me the option of whether to save or delete the recording. A truly useful feature which has definitely helped me become a better pianist!

2. Up Your Practice Game

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain – The Musician’s Way, pg. 6

Aside from consistent practice, one of the best ways to become a better pianist is to analyze your practice sessions. Are you playing with purpose or simply playing to play? Do you have a goal whenever you sit down to play? And do you know the steps you need to take for improvement?

I will be the first to admit that for most of my piano playing years, I was under the mistaken impression that more practice time = instant improvement. It never occurred to me that the quality of that time makes a huge difference in whether you linger in obscurity or whether you actually become a better pianist.

And it may sound strange but there were so many times I would sit down to practice and had no idea where to start. How should I allot my practice time? What are the best ways to resolve technical difficulties? How do I get rid of tension in my playing? What are the memorization tactics which result in the strongest recall?

I felt completely and utterly stuck.

Despite my frustration, I continued to love playing and desperately wanted to become a better pianist.

My desire to improve led me on a search for answers. Answers for how I could maximize my practice time and actually become a better pianist.

And then one day, I stumbled upon the book that changed everything for me.

The Ultimate Guide to Practice

“We first make our habits and then, our habits make us.”

John Dryden – The Musician’s Way, pg. 20

The Musician’s Way, written by Gerald Klickstein, is a comprehensive guide to practice and performance. This book breaks down nearly every practice-related topic into small, easily understood concepts. From defining practice to creating your ideal practice space to preventing injury, this book covers it all.

  • Wondering how you can solve your own technical issues even if you’re not working directly with a teacher?
  • Curious about the habits of musical excellence?
  • Looking for answers on how you can stay motivated to practice?
  • Struggling with memorization?
  • Are you searching for the key to fearless performances?

It’s all covered in this one resource which I consider essential for all musicians.

To say that this book took my playing from ordinary to extraordinary would be an understatement. It revolutionized the way I approach practice and inspired me on a deeper level.

In short, this book gave me tangible strategies to make my practice not only more effective but more efficient. And who doesn’t love efficiency???

Give yourself the gift of The Musician’s Way by clicking here.

Click here for tips on improving your piano practice.

3. Get Inspired with a Podcast

If you’re a busy person who also wants to learn, podcasts are the best! Not only are they packed full of great information but they are also typically free.

And in the quest to become a better pianist, there are some truly great podcasts out there!

The Bulletproof Musician

Learning to play an instrument generally involves performance at some point. Whether it’s in front of your teacher, a crowded auditorium, various family members, or your dog, there are times when you will have an audience.

And performance opportunities may very well mean performance anxiety.

Performance anxiety has been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember but hit its peak for me in college. A couple of years ago, I began searching for answers on how to finally conquer my stage fright and found The Bulletproof Musician podcast.

One of the most compelling aspects of the podcast is that creator Noa Kageyama has personal experience with performance anxiety. Having learned to play violin at a young age, he began to notice inconsistencies in his performances as he got older. While studying at Juilliard, he had the opportunity to take a sport psychology class geared toward musicians. The class changed everything and propelled his career into a new direction.

Noa has spent years helping others overcome performance anxiety and the podcast is full of his very best advice. Although he has the experience to back up his knowledge, he relies strongly on research evidence, an aspect which lends further credibility to his advice.

He also frequently interviews prominent musicians about their own experiences. Listening to personal stories about performance challenges is incredibly inspiring and normalizes the performance anxiety experience.

If performance anxiety is holding you back, I highly encourage you to check out The Bulletproof Musician!

The Mind Over Finger Podcast

“Practicing is not forced labor; it is a refined art that partakes of intuition, of inspiration, patience, elegance, clarity, balance, and, above all, the search for ever greater joy in movement and expression.”

Yehudi Menuhin – The Musician’s Way, pg. 4

All musicians know that practice is the path to mastery. But practice is only effective if you are actively engaging in the process. Mindless repetition and practice without goals gets you nowhere.

If your goal is to become a better pianist, you MUST understand how to make practice work for you.

The Musician’s Way helped me master the basics of efficient and effective practice. And to advance, you first have to understand the foundational aspects of practice.

The Mind Over Finger Podcast transformed my basic understanding of practice into true mastery. It has been a constant source of new inspiration and motivation for me in my own practice.

Host Dr. Renee-Paule Gauthier hones in on most useful practice elements, dissecting each into bite-sized pieces which can immediately be implemented in your own sessions. She also explores a variety of music-related topics guaranteed to propel your musicianship to the next level.

One of the more compelling aspects of her podcast is the interviews she conducts with a wide range of musicians. From conductors to authors to musicians, her interviews run the gamut and guarantee that you WILL discover something useful!

4. Become a Better Pianist with this Essential Tool

The intriguing thing about making music is that it’s simply one moment in time. One tiny sliver of emotional expression in life similar to a ripple in the ocean. Once you play the note, it’s forever gone, never to return again.

Unless, of course, you capture that moment.

I spent so many wasted years trying to critique my playing in real-time. My vain attempts only resulted in mindless repetitions and frustration because the truth of the matter is that you can’t play and critique simultaneously.

Playing and critiquing require two entirely separate thought processes and trying to do both simultaneously mean you’ll do neither very well.

Luckily, there’s an incredibly simple solution which virtually guarantees you will immediately become a better pianist.

Record yourself!

And if you’re looking for ease and quality, look no further than the Blue Yeti USB microphone.

After I became serious about improving my piano skills a couple years ago, I searched high and low for the absolute best in recording. My goal was to find something which was both easy to operate and of the highest quality. This particular microphone checked off both those boxes.

The Blue Yeti USB microphone requires no complicated set-ups or adjustments. Simply plug the USB cord into your computer and begin recording. It’s that simple.

The one piece of advice I will give is that you want to make sure there are a set of headphones plugged into the microphone itself to cut down on background noise. Do this and you will be amazed at the sound quality you’re able to capture with this incredibly reasonably priced equipment! This microphone has hands-down been one of the best investments I’ve made for my own playing.

Check out the Blue Yeti USB microphone in action

5. Invest in Yourself

If you’ve been trying to become a better pianist but have limited access to one-on-one piano coaching, this next one is for you! I would never try to suggest that an online course can replace the value of working closely with an instructor. But there are times in life when you are simply unable to participate in regular lessons.

Maybe you live in an area where the closest piano instructor lives several hours away. Or maybe between work and kids, you simply don’t have time to both prepare for and attend weekly lessons. Maybe there’s a global pandemic and you are hesitant to attend in-person lessons for fear of getting sick.

Ok … if you had asked me about that last one a year ago, I would’ve told you that you were straight out of crazy town. But somehow, here we are. Who knew???

Regardless of why instructor-led lessons are a barrier for you, I’ve got the perfect solution!

Josh Wright is an internationally acclaimed pianist with a passion for helping others on their own piano journeys. He has an array of helpful courses perfect for anyone who wants to become a better pianist.

I have seen incredible leaps in my own pianism after joining his paid course. So much so that I immediately began spreading the word to others about how valuable his courses are. You can read my story of finding his courses and why I recommend others check it out here.

It’s Your Turn

I truly hope you have found this post inspiring on your own journey to become a better pianist! Give something new a try today … you just might be amazed at how far it will take you!

As always, I would love to hear what you found most helpful and whether you have any helpful tips or advice to share with others. Until next time … happy practicing!

Become a Better Pianist Resources

In case you missed them, here are links to the resources discussed above.

Click here to check out The Musician’s Way book.

Go here to check out the Blue Yeti USB microphone.

Click here to check out Josh Wright’s online courses.