How to Dramatically Improve Your Mental Focus

How to Dramatically Improve Your Mental Focus

The world is full of distractions. Thanks to technology, we can now follow any breaking news story in even the most remote corner of the world. Or stay caught up with friends from high school without as much as a phone call. We can even entertain ourselves for hours on end simply by watching 30-second video clips made by strangers.

All these distractions can make focusing on one task for any length of time feel impossible. And it can seem as if the world discourages the deep mental focus necessary for goal achievement and true mastery.

The good news is that there are ways you can dramatically improve your mental focus. Even if you’re not training for the Olympics or to be a cab driver in London, learning to improve your mental focus has incredible benefits. From stress relief to momentum to a greater sense of accomplishment, taking the time to improve this vital skill is well worth the effort!

In the following post, I’ve broken down the various ways you can improve focus both in the moment and over time. Although each tip requires effort, the benefits over time far outweigh the time spent up-front.

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

How to Dramatically Improve Your Mental Focus NOW

Although there are long-term tactics and daily habits which compound to better focus over time, there are also ways you can improve your mental focus right here, right now.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

Check the clutter. Does your environment encourage you to focus, or is it distracting? I’m speaking from experience when I say that focusing surrounded by messiness is nearly impossible.

As an example, I give you Exhibit A, my living room, when I sat down to start this post yesterday. It gave off an incredibly messy, cluttered, and chaotic vibe. And although I tried as hard as I could, I wrote barely ten sentences.

Yikes … did a typhoon hit my living room?!

Getting into the flow of creativity felt impossible.

So I took a break. I hit up Pinterest and got my organizational groove going. And then I made a quick Wal-Mart stop.

Three short hours later, my living room was well on its way to Better Homes & Gardens greatness. Maybe it wasn’t quite impressive enough for a magazine, but things feel 100% more relaxing.

Huge improvement! Ready for my photo shoot …

And when I’m relaxed, it’s much easier to get into a creative flow.

Needless to say, after taking a timeout to organize my environment, my mental focus improved by leaps and bounds. If you’re also struggling to get into a creative flow, take a quick check of your surroundings. It may be well worth your while to take time out to be more productive in the long run.

Limit Distractions

It’s ironic that as I type, my 5-year-old is whispering, “and now the chickens have the ball” into my ear. And the dog has wrapped himself up around the patio furniture for the 16th time today.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’ll say it here. Life is one huge distraction!

Although distraction comes in all shapes and sizes, it’s not all bad. I love my family more than anything and acknowledge that my kids are growing bigger every day. At some point, they will no longer be whispering random phrases about chickens in my ear.

I’m thankful for the distraction my family brings because it reminds me of what’s truly important.

But having limitations on my time and attention means I’ve learned to limit wherever I can. One of the ways I’ve done this is by shutting off phone app alerts. As a result, I am no longer interrupted every time I get an email. Shutting off phone alerts is one of the simplest ways to improve your mental focus.

Although stopping a task to respond to one email may not seem like a big deal, it adds up over time. Research shows that it can take around 23 minutes to re-focus on a task after an interruption.1 Multiply that one email by the total number of emails you get in one day, and it’s easy to see why limiting interruptions matters!

Add Variety

This next tip is for you if you want to improve a skill or to understand a topic on a deeper level. Whether you’re trying to become a better pianist or pass a business law exam, get creative with your study time.

The more creative you can get, the better! For example, if you’re studying for an anatomy quiz, bust out your lyric writing skills and pair that previously boring material with your favorite pop tune. You could also try creating a quiz, explaining the topic to a friend, or even writing a blog post about it.

And when practicing a skill or studying, keep in mind that learning doesn’t stop at remembering the information. You have to also practice retrieving the information you’ve stored in your brain. Finding creative ways to store and access the information ensures stronger neural connections and the ability to apply the knowledge in various settings.

Using a variety of techniques to learn keeps things exciting. And when something is interesting, it’s much easier to improve your mental focus.

Don’t Scratch the Itch

Have you ever been trying to get into a creative workflow, but all these intrusive thoughts keep popping up?

“I wonder if Jessica had her baby yet. I should check Facebook.”

“Is it going to rain later today? I should check the weather.”

“What are the current COVID-19 rates in my state? Maybe I should check the news.”

It’s almost as if your brain knows it will be working hard, and it wants to avoid the work by distracting you. And it usually distracts you with incredibly superficial ideas. The type of ideas that take almost zero energy to address.

And since these ideas take no energy, one would think they’re not a big deal. Except for a couple of things. Remember how long it takes to re-focus when you’ve been distracted? Multiply that one distraction by the number of times your attention shifts from the topic at hand during the day.

The other thing is that distraction can become a habit. Give in too many times, and your brain forgets how to do the challenging work necessary for goal accomplishment.

My brain loves to throw superficial distractions at me constantly. I’ve found that when I consistently give in, it’s much tougher to get into a creative flow. But I’ve learned a simple trick to thwart my brain’s attempts at laziness.

Whenever a distracting thought comes up, I tell myself that if I still have the burning desire to check Facebook in 5 minutes, I will. Problem solved! And by the time 5 minutes have passed, I’ve completely forgotten about it.

If you’re looking for more tips on getting into a creative flow, make sure to check out this post.

Take a Break

After you’ve put in focus for a length of time, give yourself the reward of a break! Breaks are essential if you’ve been focusing intensely for a sustained period because your brain needs to recharge.

So indulge in that guilty Netflix pleasure or chat it up with a friend. You’ve earned it!

How to Improve Your Mental Focus Over Time

Now that you have a solid understanding of quick fixes for how to improve your mental focus, it’s time to switch gears to habit changes over time.

Set Goals

Although setting goals is essential, one of the more important tasks is to review your progress. Are you attaining the goals that you set for yourself? When you look back at where you spend your time and energy, are you satisfied?

There’s a ton of advice out there about setting goals. Anyone can sit down and write a list of things they would like to accomplish. But setting goals is the easy part. The hard part comes when you commit to a goal and focus on making it happen.

Although it can be difficult to acknowledge this truth, you actually can’t do it all. And depending on the size of the goal, you have to make tough choices. Pursuing one goal often means saying “no” to 26 others.

But you can accomplish great things if you align your goals and actions.

And you can dramatically improve your mental focus by gaining clarity and becoming specific about your goals. Our brains love clear-cut and measurable when it comes to goal-setting, while vague only results in mental clutter.

Therefore, if you want to improve your mental focus, consider whether your goals align with your actions. If they don’t, it’s time to make tough choices about where to devote your time and energy.

Check out this post for how to gain clarity on your life and goals.

Make a Plan

After taking time to seek clarity on your goals, it’s time to set a clear direction for where you want to go.

It may sound counterintuitive, but you only need to figure out the next step or two. You don’t need steps 3-5 or even 8-11 when you’re just getting started.

Take one step at a time. The next step will reveal itself when you’re ready for it.

Even if it’s a concise one, having a plan helps to reduce mental clutter and improve your mental focus over time. And, if nothing else, it gives you a way to track your ongoing progress.

Improve Your Mental Focus by Sleeping & Exercising

Sleep and exercise go hand-in-hand with better cognition. Each has a role in reducing stress and promoting feel-good chemicals in the brain. Both are vital components of overall health.

Since we’ve already established that specifics important, try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, pair with 150 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly, and you’ll be well on your way to improved mental focus!2

And if you’re looking for tips on improving the quality of your sleep, make sure you check out this post.

Meditate to Improve Your Mental Focus

Alongside sleep and regular exercise, meditation is rising to the top as a practice beneficial for decreasing anxiety and improving mental focus.

Although there are different types of meditation, mental focus is central to most practices. In some instances, it may be awareness of the breath. Focusing your thoughts on a specific image or feeling may form the basis of other meditative practices.

Regardless of the type, meditation also involves regularly refocusing after distraction. And being able to refocus after distraction is a beneficial skill in today’s highly distractible world!

Although research into meditation and the brain is relatively new, results have been positive. One study even demonstrated enhanced focus among people who regularly meditate compared to those who do not.3

Meditation offers a host of other benefits to those who practice it regularly. It may just become your new favorite self-care activity!

Play Games

I’m not kidding! There is research to support specific games having the ability to improve your mental focus.4 Mario Kart didn’t quite make the list, but if you’re a fan of sudoku and crossword puzzles, you’re in luck!

You could also try chess, word searches, and jigsaw puzzles.

These and similar activities improve both working and short-term memory while improving problem-solving skills. How amazing is that?

Stop Multitasking

It may come as somewhat of a shock, but did you know that our brains can’t multitask? Although it seems as if we can do two (or more) tasks at once, our brains can only do one. What you are experiencing when trying to do multiple tasks at once are micro shifts in attention that facilitate the completion of tasks.

But the micro shifts in attention come at the cost of both efficiency and accuracy. And I have to think that multitasking regularly prevents the deep, mental focus required for specific tasks. It encourages superficial and distracted thinking, which is the exact opposite of focus.

Multitasking is difficult for me to break free from because my work and home life are inherently filled with it. I find myself in a constant state of distraction, and finding the time and mental energy to focus is challenging.

But I’m always searching for ways to improve. And by trying each of the above strategies, I’ve improved my mental focus over time.

It’s Your Turn to Improve Your Mental Focus

And there you have it! Actionable tips you can try to improve your mental focus both in the short term and over time. Give them a try, and let me know how they work in the comments below.

If you’re looking for even more resources, check out these life-changing books!

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1. Wong, K. (2015, July 29). How Long it Takes to Get Back on Track After a Distraction. How Long It Takes to Get Back on Track After a Distraction (lifehacker.com)

2: Harvard Health Publishing. (2020, October 1). Tips to Improve Concentration. Tips to improve concentration – Harvard Health

3: Gowin, J. (2012, April 20). Brain Scans Show How Meditation Improves Mental Focus. Brain Scans Show How Meditation Improves Mental Focus | Psychology Today

4: Raypole, C. (2019, September 3). 12 Tips to Improve Your Concentration. How to Improve Concentration: 12 Science-Backed Tips, and More (healthline.com)

How to Get Out of a Creative Funk

How to Get Out of a Creative Funk

You love putting new and exciting things out into the world. Whether it’s writing, painting, music, or crafts, you have a spark of creativity just itching to burst itself into flames.

Except lately, something has been holding you back. That spark has dimmed into a barely perceptible flicker of light threatening to extinguish itself at any moment.

Your passion for creating is still there somewhere, but it’s buried beneath layers of perfectionism, distraction, and the emotional drain which accompanies your busy life.

Unfortunately, you have passed into the “creative funk,” a place where ideas dry up and the music stops.

First of all, it’s essential to know that EVERYONE who has even one creative bone in their body goes through a creative funk sometimes. No one can be brilliant all the time!

But even knowing that getting into a slump is common doesn’t change the fact that you can feel cranky and frustrated when it does. After all, isn’t getting into the flow of your art one of the best feelings in the world!?

Although going through a slump is disheartening, there are steps you can take to find your inspiration once again. Let’s dive right in so you can start tackling that creative funk of yours!

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.

Free Writing

Even if you’re not a writer, taking time to write down the thoughts surrounding your block can be exceedingly helpful. You don’t even need a fancy journal. All you need is paper, a pen, and a willingness to sit with your thoughts for a few minutes.

Don’t think too hard about your responses. Put pen to paper and write whatever comes to mind. Now is also a great time to bench your inner critic.

Start by asking yourself what you feel right now. Are your feelings, as a whole, positive or negative? Take some time to explore what may be contributing to your current emotional state.

Maybe you’ve been putting in too many hours at work. Or you’ve taken on too many tasks at home. Perhaps you haven’t taken the time you need to indeed rest and recharge.

Then ask yourself what you would rather be feeling. Think about how it feels when you’re at your creative best, and everything simply flows. Are there specific outside factors that help you get to that place of flow? Maybe it’s that one channel on Pandora. Or the corner table at Starbucks, iced cinnamon dolce latte in hand.

Is there a specific time of day when you feel most creative? And how can you arrange your schedule to accommodate creating at that time?

Finally, what inspires you? Is it spending time in nature? Or maybe it’s a chat with your bestie. Perhaps some of your best ideas find you during a long run.

Now it’s time to close the gap between the creative funk and your genius. Go back and read over what you wrote. Take a hard look at those hazy thoughts which once aimlessly bounced around in your head. Start making connections now that those thoughts are staring back at you in black in white on the page.

If you still feel cemented in the mundane, check out my next tip for shaking a creative funk.

Find Inspiration Wherever You Can

Although I tend to take comfort in habits and routines, sometimes they are an absolute buzzkill for your creativity!

New experiences, different ways to do the same old thing, and shaking it up are vital to keeping life fresh. And when life is fresh, creativity flows.

Maybe it’s even time to try a completely new art form. If you’re a writer, have you ever considered learning to play an instrument?

Or if music is your thing, have you ever considered taking one of those evening painting classes? Perhaps a stained glass art class is something that excites you.

Figure out what inspires you right now. Is it time to pick up that partially finished quilting project you started several years ago? Or maybe you need a trip to the craft store to spark some inspiration.

Creativity can come in so many different forms, and sometimes it takes stepping out of your monotonous routine to get those juices flowing again!

For more on getting into the flow, check out this inspiring post!

Seek out Support

If your creative funk persists, perhaps it’s time to consider help. Fortunately, support comes in a multitude of forms.

Maybe it’s time to find a teacher. There have been so many times in the past when my piano playing starts to get stale. I find myself playing the same pieces over and over. And I continue stumbling over the same techniques time after time.

But reaching out to a teacher has given me the exact inspiration I needed to master the technical aspects. And most importantly, it’s reignited my passion for playing.

Help can also come in the form of emotional support from friends. If your friends also have creative inclinations, chances are excellent that they’ve also encountered a creative funk or two. Talking about what you’re going through with someone else can be incredibly cathartic and may be precisely what you need to get your groove back.

And speaking of talking it out, never underestimate the power of therapy. Therapy can be beneficial if you find that the roots of your block run deeper than simply feeling uninspired. Fear of failure, perfectionism, low self-esteem, and other serious issues stunt your creative growth and impact diverse areas of your life. But a therapist can help you work through those issues, freeing your creativity and helping you embrace a more fearless life.

Pay Attention to Your Cycle

I’m a sucker for productivity and feel my best when maximizing my “to-do” list. On the flip side, I feel frustrated and overwhelmed on those days when my level of energy does not match the number of things I need to check off.

And deep down, I’ve always known that having fluctuations in energy is an entirely normal human experience. But it wasn’t until I discovered this book that I realized how to work with my biology.

In her book entitled Do Less, author Kate Northrup unpacks the key difference in productivity between men and women. She asserts that if women embrace the concept of life as a cycle instead of linear, they are in a better position to embrace energy fluctuations. And by embracing instead of fighting energy fluctuations, productivity improves.

Northrup presents a fresh take on productivity. It’s a take that throws guilt out the window and encourages you to reframe your thinking around productivity. She affirms that the path to happiness and peace is paved with “no’s” instead of “yes’s.”

And once you’ve ditched all those obligations, guilty thoughts, and unrealistic expectations, you’d be amazed at how much room is left over for creativity!

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Do Less, click the Amazon link below to revolutionize your life!

Change Up Your Environment

Although I’m not a student of the feng shui movement, I have become very aware that the environment plays a massive role in my creativity. If the space around me is messy and chaotic, my ability to create becomes stunted.

This post wouldn’t have been written if I hadn’t first taken the time to clear my space. Unfortunately, my “office” currently consists of a table in the living room. This table is often littered with toys, homework from the kids, and a litany of miscellaneous items without definite homes.

I attempted to write in this state of general chaos and disarray for several weeks but felt utterly unmotivated and uninspired. Until I took a few minutes to free myself from the clutter. At which time, the words once again began flowing as they do when I’m at my absolute best.

Sometimes overcoming a block means taking a hard look at your surroundings.

Do you ALWAYS work in the same spot at home? Try working on your patio instead. Or maybe, like me, you simply need to clean up your workspace.

Maybe you always sit in the same corner booth at Starbucks. Try checking out the Caribou down the street instead.

There are a million tiny ways to improve your surroundings to facilitate creativity. And if none of the above advice has reversed your creative funk, maybe it’s time to take a break!

Take a Break

Taking a break can be as simple as taking a nap or going for a walk. It could also mean getting out for a round of golf. Or maybe your inspiration will return after finishing that compelling novel you started last week.

Perhaps getting wrapped up in the newest blockbuster thriller will be enough to set you on the path to greatness again.

There are times when your brain needs to step away for a bit to process creativity subconsciously. And even if it seems as if your mind is fully absorbed in the activity, it’s still hashing out that blog post or navigating the technical challenges of the piece you’re perfecting.

The break could be 20 minutes, or maybe you even choose to step away for several days. You are not a machine and are therefore incapable of consistently churning out content without downtime. Embrace the breaks so you can more fully embrace your art!

Are you feeling emotionally drained? Check out this post for help.

Cut Yourself a Break

And speaking of breaks, don’t pressure yourself when you’re not feeling it! When your energy is lacking, cut down on your creative output instead of amping up the pressure on yourself. Try to get creative with your creativity. For example, can you re-purpose anything you’ve previously done if you simply don’t have the energy to create something new?

Or do you have a partially or almost fully completed project that you could put the finishing touches on so you can gain some momentum? Finishing a project can sometimes be enough to propel you away from that creative funk you’ve been battling.

Cutting yourself a break also means freeing yourself from your own judgment. Give yourself the freedom to create something terrible because you never know when it might turn into your greatest masterpiece. In many cases, we are the ones standing in our own way.

Waste Time

And speaking of productivity, if you’re even the tiniest bit of a perfectionist or a mom, it can be easy to get wrapped up in productivity. When your list is a mile long, it’s tempting to pack “productive” activities into every single minute.

For example, you may insist upon listening to podcasts during your commute. Or use the little spare time you have to read books about productivity, time management, and other highly “non-fun” topics.

But eliminating unfocused time from your day might be the very thing killing your creativity.

Your brain needs a lack of structure sometimes to weave together all that genius inside just waiting to be released. Consider this your invitation to waste time.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Go ahead. Watch a few episodes of your favorite telenovela. Laugh your way through the new Kevin Hart movie. Or simply enjoy a stroll through the neighborhood while listening to the playlist of your teenage years.

Just make sure to leave the guilt at home.

If you lack clarity, check out this post to find yourself again.

The 5-Minute Rule

If you’ve tried all of the above and are still hopelessly stuck, here’s the secret weapon for which you’ve been searching. This solution is guaranteed to banish the creative funk you’ve been wallowing in.

The first step is to figure out some type of reward. Maybe it’s an episode of your favorite show. Or perhaps it’s cheesecake from your favorite restaurant. Is it, perchance, a cinnamon dolce latte from Starbucks?

Whatever it is, choose something that feels celebratory to you.

The second step is to tell yourself that you will get the reward if you work for at least 5 minutes. Then set the timer.

Once 5 minutes is up, you can either continue working or move on to the reward. That’s it!

No matter how small, any progress is progress and should be celebrated as such. Reward yourself!

This technique is effective because it gets you out of your head. It forces you to put pen to paper, fingers to keys, brush to canvas, or any number of other creative endeavors. The 5-minute rule compels you to take action instead of lulling you into a false sense of action created by thinking.

And here’s a little-known secret about creativity. In most cases, work comes BEFORE inspiration. And I know we spent a ton of time talking about inspiration today. But the reality of it is that you’ll never feel inspired until you start creating.

You have to get out there, make mistakes, and create some genuinely terrible stuff before you have enough experience to be great. That’s how creativity works. No one gets to be amazing fresh out of the gate.

So don’t sweat it! Stop pressuring yourself. Have fun! Look for ways to fall in love with the journey instead of the destination. And if your interests change over the years, embrace the change. Create in whatever medium feels right to you at the moment.

The most important thing to remember is never to give up! The world needs your unique contribution.

It’s Your Turn

I hope this post inspired you to find new ways to overcome the proverbial creative funk. Take this opportunity to examine your life and figure out whether something more profound contributes to the block. Then work to resolve the issue.

And if there is nothing more profound, consider switching it up! Get out there and have some fun! Talk to new people, try a new hobby, or find a way to waste some time.

Do something that lights you up instead and feels exciting. And you never know where this one tiny step will lead.

Don’t forget to drop a comment below with your comments on this post. How do you overcome a creative funk?

Become Unstoppable by Learning to Believe in Yourself

Become Unstoppable by Learning to Believe in Yourself

“You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.”

Deepak Chopra

What would you do with your life if you knew you couldn’t fail? Would you start the business of your dreams? Perhaps you would finally ask for that long-overdue raise. Maybe you would even take the first steps toward a brand new career.

Taking action on your dreams requires you to believe in yourself. But how many of us can honestly say we truly believe in ourselves? How many of us trust ourselves so profoundly that it no longer matters what anyone else thinks?

Thanks to many factors, we are in a crisis of self-doubt. And as a result, we are not living up to our full potential. We aren’t starting businesses, helping the people we could be helping, or stepping outside our comfort zones.

We’re playing small.

But by understanding where self-doubt comes from, you can start learning to believe in yourself again. You can boldly step into the life you were meant to live.

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 purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Why is learning to believe in yourself essential?

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Henry Ford

Self-doubt is a killer because it quietly lulls you into feeling inferior. Feelings of uncertainty turn up the volume on your inner critic. And distrust in yourself blocks any ability to celebrate your accomplishments.

The worst part is that you may not even recognize self-doubt for what it is. You may not recognize a failure to believe in yourself because it shows up as procrastination. It also appears as self-sabotage, imposter syndrome, or any number of other negative coping techniques.

Therefore, you may think you’re dealing with one problem, but a completely different one lurks beneath the surface.

And until you dive down to the root of the issue, absolutely nothing will change. You will continue struggling with indecision, uncertainty, and anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle fueled by forces both outside and within your control.

What is the origin of self-doubt?

Disbelief in oneself is a learned behavior. We are born with an innate sense of our value and ability to conquer challenges. But somewhere along the road of life, our self-confidence is shaken.

And one of the most obvious examples of intuitive self-confidence is learning to walk. Have you ever noticed a baby’s reaction to failure? Babies don’t know that failure is a possible outcome. They don’t make comparisons between their abilities and those of other babies.

When learning to walk, babies fail over and over and over again. And then they get back up and try again.

As babies, we believe so strongly in our capabilities that we can’t even consider alternate outcomes.

It’s only when our awareness increases that something inside shifts. Maybe it’s a limiting belief imposed on you by a parent. Or pressure from a friend to act a certain way. Perhaps you struggle with rejection from others.

Whatever it is, you stop believing in yourself.

And although doubting yourself is a devastating outcome, you already have everything you need to flip the script.

Believe in Yourself by Listening to Yourself

“Our intuition doesn’t always tell us why. Listen anyway, and you’ll find out later.”

Kate Northrup

One of the biggest reasons we stop believing in ourselves is that we stop listening. We start ignoring what our bodies are telling us and therefore lose connection to our intuition.

And in a world that values being busy, it’s all too easy to hush our quiet inner voice. In all its hustle and bustle, turning instead to the outside world’s raucous noise is straightforward and expected by society.

But blocking out all that noise is exactly what you need to believe in yourself. If you don’t start to ignore the buzzing all around, it’s impossible to hear, much less trust, yourself.

I recently read a life-changing book that tells you exactly how to welcome the quiet voice inside you. And until reading the book, I had no idea how little attention I was giving myself.

I also never realized the massive impact listening to my intuition could have on my outlook and life. It’s a truly transformative way to believe in yourself.

And if you’re looking for more tips on improving your emotional energy, make sure to check out this post.

One Day at a Time

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.”

James Clear

A second reason we lose faith in ourselves is an accumulation of past failures. We set massive goals without any clear path toward success. Then we are bewildered by our inability to achieve the goal despite having no definite plans on how to move forward.

Not only do we fail to accomplish the goal, but we lose confidence in our ability to achieve goals in the future.

But the truth is that if you dissect your goals into tiny pieces, you are virtually guaranteed to accomplish them. This is especially true when you learn how to incorporate goals into your life seamlessly. And once you start achieving your goals, restoring trust in yourself becomes effortless.

Start small. Think about how you can be 1% better with every day that passes. And read this miraculous book on habit change.

If you’re curious to learn more about habits, check out this recent post.

Find Your Strengths

Learning to believe in yourself starts with knowing who you are and what makes you tick. Without a solid foundation of who you are, it’s difficult to find inner trust.

Discovering your strengths is one of the best ways to learn about yourself because it lays the groundwork. Seeking clarity on this one area of your life lays the foundation for every other area by giving you a place to jump off.

I have found that self-doubt pops up as I approach the unknown in my own life. It happens when I’m thinking about trying something new or expanding beyond my comfort zone.

But knowing areas where I excel gives me the confidence to embrace new opportunities. This knowledge encourages me to believe in myself even when I’m traversing the uncharted.

And if you’re looking for a way to uncover your strengths, check out this helpful guide.

Start a New Hobby

I’m a massive believer in the power of hobbies to bring joy and fulfillment into your life. Hobbies are a creative outlet and means of self-expression.

And as someone who has a wide range of interests, leisure activities provide the perfect means for exploration. However, until recently, I felt that maybe there was something wrong with me for never having discovered my “one” thing in life.

Guilt about my apparent inability to commit began clouding my life. I couldn’t understand why honing in on one thing was so difficult.

And then I discovered this mind-blowing book that transformed everything I thought I knew. It confirmed the value inherent to leisure activities, and suddenly, the cloud of self-doubt lifted.

Exploring your interests allows you to listen to your intuition and play to your strengths. Hobbies also provide an avenue to expand your social circle.

These are all powerful strategies to begin learning to believe in yourself.

Check out this post for more compelling reasons you should start a new hobby today!

Believe in Yourself Through Positive Self-Talk

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

Louise Hay

The way we talk to ourselves matters. Everyone has a running commentary in their head, comprised of conscious and unconscious thoughts. Unfortunately, we become so used to hearing that voice that sometimes we forget to make necessary adjustments for our good.

And before you know it, your harsh inner critic is dictating your entire internal dialogue. It’s no wonder why you lose faith in yourself when that happens.

Negative self-talk only fosters feelings of being inferior and a failure. This type of commentary brings you down emotionally and convinces you that you’re not worthy of trust.

But you are the creator of your thoughts and have the power to make positive change.

Learning to shift the conversation takes practice. It’s a daily awareness of your emotional state and the employment of specific tactics to switch it around.

Certain practices such as journaling, visualization, and surrounding yourself with positivity are potent steps toward a more positive thought life. Start prioritizing these types of self-care activities in the way you already prioritize physical care. I guarantee that you’ll be amazed at how much easier it becomes to believe in yourself!

And if you’re looking for another resource in positive thinking, check out this recent post.

The Importance of Self-Love

Love and trust go hand-in-hand. This is true of marriage and in life. If you don’t show yourself the same love and compassion that you show others, trusting yourself becomes a challenge.

Loving yourself means forgiveness when things go wrong. It means asking for help. And it means living according to your core values.

Struggling with self-belief sometimes means you’re not living up to your guiding principles. But by taking the time to uncover what matters most, you send a message to yourself that you matter!

And when you sincerely believe that you matter, trust soon follows.

If you’ve never done it before, I highly encourage you to think about which values matter most to you. And if you’re not sure where to start, check out this list of common core values.

Find Inspiration

There’s nothing like a little inspiration to restore trust and faith in yourself. Sometimes we are led to believe that we can permanently fix whatever is going on mentally by reading ONE book or listening to ONE podcast.

But mental fitness is similar to physical fitness in that it takes repetition to make lasting change. You must commit to a better thought life by daily practices such as meditation and journaling.

Tiny practices completed daily result in massive change, so don’t give up! The more you work to improve your inner life, the more you will begin to believe in yourself.

And if you’re looking for inspiration, make sure to check out one of these posts:

Or one of these phenomenal reads:

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It’s Your Turn

Learning to believe in yourself is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight or even in a week, a month, or a year. It’s a habit that takes time.

It takes time because listening to that still, small voice inside feels incredibly counterintuitive. In this noisy, tumultuous world we live in, we are so used to hearing only the loudest voices. It takes practice to listen for the silence.

But it’s in the silence that you will find yourself. The slight twinge of inner tightening you sense when something doesn’t feel right. Or the massive lightness inside when you know you’re on the right path. Your path.

Even when the world screams rejection, it’s your inner knowing that pushes you through to greatness. It’s the belief in yourself that propels you to new heights.

I asked this question at the beginning but will ask it again. What would you do with your life if you knew you couldn’t fail?

I’m hopeful that this post inspired you to go after whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. The world needs your unique contributions, so go out there and leave your mark!

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post in the comments below. Is there anything you’ve done to foster trust in yourself? And what have you been inspired to accomplish?

What to Do When Your Emotional Energy is Drained

What to Do When Your Emotional Energy is Drained

Do you ever have those times in your life when you feel overwhelmingly tired? When EVERYTHING feels impossibly tricky, and you have zero energy. Even getting through the day feels like a marathon of marathons.

Maybe you’ve even lost interest in doing things that once brought you great pleasure. Or you feel as if your work and home lives are crushing you beneath a gigantic mountain of obligation.

There are countless reasons you may be feeling fatigued. Maybe you’re not getting enough sleep at night. Your diet is a bit off-kilter. Or perhaps you are even having issues with your thyroid.

But what happens when you’ve ruled out all possible physical causes for feeling fatigued? What then?

I’ve been there before. I struggled to find answers about why I feel caught in a dense fog of weariness. And the search for answers led me on a journey of self-discovery toward a transformation in both mindset and energy.

This journey led me on a path toward doing less, being more present, and, most importantly, tapping into the power of emotional energy.

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 emotional energy?

To understand emotional energy, we must first acknowledge our bodies as being comprised of equal parts, physical and psychological. Each impacts the other and therefore contributes different types of energy.

In the most basic sense of the term, emotional energy is the energy we obtain from our emotions. And there are experts, including author and psychotherapist Mira Kirshenbaum, who believe the emotional contribution is even larger than the physical one.

I think everyone has their concept of emotional energy, and we are conditioned to believe that we are at the mercy of our emotions. There’s also a belief that the experience of having feelings is deeply embedded in our brains at birth. And if this were true, it would mean that we have very little control over our emotions.

Believe me when I say that I was as shocked as anyone when I recently listened to a TED talk by Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett that challenged everything I thought I knew.

And what I learned is that your brain is constantly making predictions in an attempt to create meaning. Emotions are, in fact, neutral until you assign significance to them. And that significance comes from your brain’s ability to make predictions based upon past experiences.

In other words, your emotions are created entirely by you. And as such, you have far more control over your emotions than you thought.

Why is emotional energy significant?

Not only are our brains in charge of assigning meaning to emotions, but biologically speaking, our brains are designed to look for danger. A primary function of the brain is keeping the body safe and it accomplishes this by constantly searching for potential threats.

Left unchecked, our natural tendency to focus on the negative and construct worst-case scenarios can deplete emotional energy and leave us feeling completely and utterly drained.

I have to confess that I’ve spent much of my life avoiding strong and predominantly negative emotions. It’s almost as if I thought I could deny their entire existence and never have to face feelings such as embarrassment, shame, or sadness.

Unfortunately, this practice of ignoring a specific set of emotions led to an overall decreased awareness of all emotions. And in fact, failing to recognize the impact of emotional energy in my life is just as harmful as not treating high blood pressure or diabetes.

Our mental and emotional well-being is just as essential to our overall sense of wellness as our physical state. Unfortunately, there is a shocking lack of credible information out there about how to care for our emotional well-being.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across an incredibly thought-provoking TED talk by Dr. Guy Winch that I suddenly realized how little I knew about emotional energy and its impact on how one feels physically.

Armed with this new knowledge, I began piecing together a completely new outlook on emotional energy. And the new outlook is based upon the knowledge that what you think about is what you get.

The Mind-Body Connection

Remember all that stuff about physical and emotional components? As it turns out, emotions can trigger a physical response in the body.

Think back to a time when you were extremely nervous about something. It could be a test, a performance, or even a difficult conversation. How were you feeling physically?

In my experience, being nervous means my heart races, my palms get sweaty, and my hands shake. Maybe you have similar physical sensations when nerves start to rise.

Regardless of your exact sensations, apprehension is the easiest to begin connecting emotional energy to physical awareness. And once you make this connection, it becomes easier to tap into the more subtle emotions.

As a general rule, negative emotions typically result in physical sensations of contraction within the body. The sensation is very similar to the rock, which suddenly appears in the pit of your stomach with bad or unexpected news.

On the other hand, positive emotions often present as the sensation of expansion. Think about the light, airy feeling you get after completing a complex task you have been dreading for weeks.

Understanding how to interpret your emotions is crucial to conserving and enhancing your emotional energy because it’s tough to change something about which you’re clueless!

It also gives you the ability to manage emotion on a deeper level because we often feel emotions physically before our “thinking brain” has even had a chance to process the event. And the better we are at identifying emotions, the easier it becomes to manipulate our emotional energy.

How does your emotional energy get depleted?

Although the ultimate goal is to improve your emotional energy, it’s vital to first understand how it gets drained in the first place. One of the biggest culprits is chronic stress.

Chronic Stress

Life is stressful. But nothing drains your emotional energy faster than prolonged and unrelieved stress. The type of stress that comes from high-pressure jobs, intense schooling, or even the decision to have kids.

All three are scenarios where you often feel as if you have no control over your life. And without positive coping strategies, you may begin suppressing your emotions to get through the day without a breakdown.

Suppressing your emotions may be effective in the short-term, but it leads to emotional numbing and even depression over time. And it takes you further and further away from happiness and an overall sense of well-being.

Being Indecisive

Another huge drain on emotional energy is being indecisive. Indecisiveness zaps all your energy by causing you to continually go back and forth, mentally weighing out the pros and cons of a particular situation.

The pitfalls of indecisiveness are especially evident with big life decisions, but it can also happen with too many small, daily choices. It’s almost as if you have a set amount of emotional energy and instead of focusing it all in one area, you spend a little bit everywhere without anything to show for it at the end of the day.

No Boundaries

A lack of personal boundaries is a classic source of drained emotional energy. It’s similar to being indecisive in that your emotional energy gets spread too thin.

Even worse is the fact that you’re probably spending your energy in places that aren’t even that important to you. Energy is, unfortunately, a finite resource and requires careful consideration before spending it. And when you have no boundaries, your energy gets scattered here, there, and everywhere.

Perfectionism

Yet another source of drained emotional energy is perfectionism. Contrary to popular belief, perfectionism is more than high standards. Perfectionism is the belief that one can attain completely unattainable levels.

And what’s worse is the fact that more often than not, we often impose perfectionism upon ourselves. It’s an internal form of aggression that is particularly destructive because you can’t escape yourself. Nor can you ever feel satisfaction at a job well done because you’ll never reach the standards you set for yourself.

How Can You Improve Your Emotional Energy?

Now that you understand the significant contributors to a drain in your emotional energy, it’s time to move on to how you can plug those drains!

Identify the Source

One of the first things you can do to improve your emotional energy is to pay attention to your emotions. There can be many contributors to feeling down, but until you correctly identify the one(s) explicitly impacting you, it will be challenging to make positive changes.

I recently read this transformative book called Do Less by Kate Northrup that suggests you start listening to yourself. Pay attention to your body and how specific thoughts make you feel on a physical level.

We often spend so much time ignoring our emotions and physical sensations in the name of productivity that we lose that valuable connection. But if you start small such as with decisions about what to have for breakfast or how you should spend a couple of free hours this weekend, you’ll soon see huge returns on your overall well-being.

Reverse Chronic Stress

Once you incorporate listening to yourself again, you may realize that chronic stress is at the root of your emotional energy crisis. Although solving this type of issue can be a bit trickier, there are small steps you can take to start feeling more revived.

If the energy drain is your career, try to identify the specific situations causing distress. Spend some time digging into both the situation and your response to see whether it’s possible to transform your mindset and approach it from a more positive angle.

As a nurse practitioner who strictly sees patients in the nursing home setting, this past year has been incredibly stressful for me. After reflecting on my low energy state, I was finally able to recognize the full impact my career has had.

Switching careers isn’t exactly an option at this point, so I began searching for other answers. My search led me to a book called The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer.

This book taught me how to let go of situations where I had no control and be present. These are both essential tools to begin dealing with significant stressors you may not necessarily have complete control over. I learned that sometimes acceptance is the best way to start feeling better.

And although acceptance is one option, choosing to leave a situation you can’t overcome is undoubtedly another valid one. Whether it’s a toxic work environment, a career you chose to appease someone else, or a relationship that simply isn’t working, walking away is sometimes the best option.

Find Your Tribe

Have you ever noticed that certain people energize you and others who completely drain you? It’s fascinating to think that, unlike physical energy, we can get emotional energy from the people around us.

And I’m sure you’ve heard that famous saying about how we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. It’s so true and points to the importance of surrounding yourself with people who fill your cup rather than dump it.

Start paying attention to who you spend your time with and if they change your vibe for the negative, consider searching for a new tribe.

Resolve the Unresolved

Whether it’s perfectionism, indecision, or a lack of boundaries, start taking steps to resolve whatever is draining your emotional energy. Start taking measures to not only recognize what’s holding you back but to take action toward solving it.

In my own life, meditation and journaling have been incredibly beneficial in helping me step towards higher emotional energy states. Meditation teaches you how to stay present, especially if you tend to gravitate toward the past or the future.

Journaling helps bring up thoughts and feelings hiding deep inside but are draining your emotional energy. There’s something about putting pen to paper that releases negativity and truly enables you to resolve whatever is holding you back.

It also highlights the fact that we can’t out-think our brains. In other words, simply telling your mind to stop with the negativity and hamster wheel of worst-case scenarios is entirely ineffective. But learning how to connect the physical with the psychological is influential and critical to truly transforming your life and improving your emotional energy.

Other Resources to Improve Your Emotional Energy

Whether it’s a lack of energy or juggling too many projects at once, my passion is helping women overcome whatever is holding them back. I’ve encountered barriers in my own life but have also experienced the triumph of overcoming them and want to help others do the same.

Check out these posts for more motivation and inspiration to overcome that one thing threatening to hold you back!

And if you’re looking for even more tips to improve your emotional energy, here are a few of my favorites!

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I sincerely hope this post has inspired you to examine your life and work towards a higher emotional energy state by addressing the negative and channeling the positive. Remember that you are amazing and have a unique contribution to make in the world. But you need positive energy to make your impact!

Leave a comment below with your thoughts on emotional energy and what you think may be holding you back from a higher energy state.

How to Change Your Habits and Transform Your Life

How to Change Your Habits and Transform Your Life

We are only a month or so into 2021, so I have two questions for you. First of all, did you make a New Year’s resolution this year? And secondly, are you still sticking with it?

If so, I’m sending you a virtual high five! And if not, I’ll still send you a shout-out because resolutions are hard!

In thinking back over the last several years, I’m not sure whether I’ve been able to stick with even one resolution past January 10th. And if you’re anything like me, abandoning a resolution has nothing to do with motivation.

It also has nothing to do with the inability to recognize the need for change.

We all have things in our lives that we know we need to change. Whether it’s exercising regularly, eating healthier, or changing our mindset, opportunities to live a better life abound.

And the start of a new year offers a compelling beginning to what we hope will ultimately be that better life.

Except it never entirely turns out that way. Let me tell you why.

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.

The Myth of the Resolution

While driving around one day, I noticed a somewhat cryptic sign which read, “resolutions are for quitters.” It happened to be shortly after the New Year, and the sign was advertising a burger place.

For whatever reason, this phrase stuck with me. And I can’t say whether the marketing ploy motivated anyone to suddenly abandon their resolutions and pull over for a delicious burger with a side of fries chased down by a frosty cold one.

But in its own strange and slightly mysterious way, the sign spoke truth to me. Because resolutions really are for quitters.

Resolutions are all but guaranteed to fail. The whole concept of suddenly starting or stopping some profoundly ingrained habit is a bit ridiculous just because the calendar flips over.

As if anyone could suddenly change themselves simply through grit and sheer willpower.

Despite my skepticism around resolutions themselves, I truly believe in the transformative power of change. But this sign had me thinking that maybe resolutions get a bad rap. That perhaps the difficulty isn’t in the concept of the resolution itself but instead in its execution.

Resolutions, Habits, or Both?

I know I started by talking about resolutions. But resolutions are only one small piece of the equation.

Whether it involves getting into shape, writing a novel, or becoming a better pianist, you’re going to need more than the simple desire for change to achieve the desired outcome.

You could consider resolutions as the goal itself, while habits are the small, daily steps you take to achieve that goal. And the outcome depends upon your habits.

Let’s think about the following (highly unscientific) equation:

Resolution + Habits = Success

Unfortunately, the following equation is equally valid:

Resolution + Habits = Failure

As you can see from both equations, you can start with the same resolution but, depending upon the habits, end up with entirely different outcomes.

Habits either bring us closer to the life we want, or they push us further away from it.

And these small actions repeated over time add up to massive change.

If you think about it, making a resolution is the easy part. The piece most people miss (myself included) is the habit.

So how do you effectively change your habits to transform your life?

Unfortunately, what you think you know about habits just might be leading you astray.

The Myth of the Habit

How many times have you heard that all it takes to form a habit is repetition?

That if you repeat some action x number of times, it will suddenly stick. And boom! Instant transformation.

I’ll admit that it’s a great concept. Repeat and be transformed.

Except how many times do you need to repeat something for it finally to stick? Thirty? Sixty? 302?

Despite thorough searching, I’ve never uncovered the exact answer to that question.

It also doesn’t address what to do if you break your streak. Do you have to start all over from the very beginning if you miss a day?

If so, that sounds more than a little depressing.

There’s also very little advice out there for the logistics of fitting this new habit into your life.

Like, should you just haphazardly shove it into your lunch hour? Right away in the morning? Or maybe before bed?

Most of the information out there is broad, generic, and implies that changing your habits is insanely hard. Period. End of sentence. Good luck and best wishes!

It’s no wonder there’s such a negative stigma around resolutions and habits!

Fortunately, I recently read a book that changes everything I thought I knew about habits. It sheds light on why habits typically fail, and it provides a clear road map for positive change.

The book is called Atomic Habits, written by James Clear, and if this is the first time you have heard about it, now is the time to take a closer look!

Change Your Habits Intuitively

Before discovering this book, I felt overwhelmed by the entire concept of habits. It was almost as if the accumulation of failed past attempts to change my habits made me think that future change was therefore improbable.

Despite these feelings, a small piece of me knew the untapped potential inside if I could unravel the habit puzzle.

And so, I picked up Atomic Habits, which changed everything I thought I knew about habits.

It completely dispels the myth that change has to be complicated. Instead, the book suggests that you can achieve actual long-term change if you start small and work with rather than against your current habits.

Throughout the book, Clear shares dramatic stories of how tiny changes transform lives. One pound lost leads to two, and eventually, over one hundred pounds are gone. Sports teams so terrible they have no chance of winning a game, much less a championship become the best in the league. Clear even writes about his recovery from a horrific accident and how his path to discovering better habits eventually led to a bestselling book.

These stories quickly establish Clear as an expert in the field. But it is his straightforward approach to the somewhat complex subject area that gives you hope that you (yes, you!) can make positive changes in your own life.

In short, Clear breaks the concept of habits down into such minuscule pieces that making considerable changes to your life is significantly less intimidating. He teaches you how to incorporate habits seamlessly into your life instead of haphazardly shoving them in wherever they happen to fit.

And that is honestly worth its weight in gold.

Better, Little by Little

I’m not sure about you, but I tend to get overwhelmed by the mere thought of change. I have perfectionist tendencies which often result in completely unrealistic expectations about my performance. My mind goes into overdrive and happily spins off into unimaginable tangents about why change will fail. Or it will conjure up images of the enormous sacrifice required for even the slightest habit change.

These tendencies mean that I don’t always move forward as quickly as I would like to habit change.

But Clear introduces a straightforward concept. It’s a concept that quickly dispels any attempts by my ever-helpful brain to complicate.

This concept is becoming 1% better every day. The theory behind it is that you don’t have to make colossal changes in a short amount of time. All you need is to be 1% better than you were yesterday. Eventually, those small gains add up, and after a while, you’re significantly better at whatever it is you’re trying to do.

Clear’s is perhaps the least intimidating approach to habit change I’ve ever come across. It’s also an ideal response to my perfectionist tendencies, leading me down the path of negativity and eventual failure when left unchecked.

It’s oddly comforting to think that massive change only requires improving by 1% every day. Not 50%. Or even 25%. But simply 1%. This concept makes transformation attainable and realistic.

You may also enjoy reading this post about perfectionism.

Consider Your Identity

Another concept I found extremely valuable in the book is the relationship between habits and identity. Your daily actions (your habits) work to either prove or disprove your identity.

And the way you think of yourself determines your habits to some extent. Habits and identity weave closely together.

This is a powerful concept that takes habit change from something you haphazardly force into your life at the start of a new year to simply who you are as a person.

Let me walk you through an example from my own life.

Piano Player vs. Pianist

I’ve played piano since the age of 7 and even went on to study music in college. Ultimately, my career took me down a completely different path, but my love for music remains.

A few years ago, I decided to improve my piano technique and repertoire, even if it wasn’t my career. I resolved to play more advanced piano repertoire. And the habit that would get me there? Effective daily piano practice.

And so, I tried to incorporate practice into my life daily. But I hit multiple roadblocks. Work. School. Sick kids. I would go months without even touching the instrument.

As time went on, I drifted further and further from my goals.

After months of frustration about my lack of progress, a question suddenly popped into my head straight out of nowhere. What are some easy ways I can incorporate this goal into my life?

I began looking for ways to do just that by listening to podcasts and reading blog posts. And I lowered my practice standards from 30 minutes daily to whatever amount of time I had.

Not only did I relax my standards to reach my goal more quickly, but I changed my entire identity.

I essentially began thinking of myself as a pianist instead of someone who just plays piano on the side.

And although I subconsciously reached this conclusion before Atomic Habits even came out, while reading the book, I immediately recognized the concept as one which has already yielded massive success in my own life.

The book gave language to a technique I had somehow stumbled upon in everyday life.

Powerful, isn’t it?

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to improve your piano practice.

Change Your Habits by Considering Your Identity

The primary reason why considering myself a pianist rather than someone who happens to play an instrument is so powerful is that it shifts the focus. Instead of focusing so much on making sure I hit my daily habit of practicing, I see myself as someone who enjoys piano practice.

The constant frustration of not meeting practice requirements is gone because I can’t wait to sit down and play daily. Piano practice is my creative outlet and satisfies my desire to think deeply while putting the day’s stress behind me.

The daily practice supports my identity as a pianist, reinforcing my desire to practice. Defining my identity gives me a frame of reference from which I can decide my habits that further support or oppose this identity.

The concept of redefining your identity is the type of stuff missing from other advice out there about changing your habits. And this is the powerful stuff that transforms your life!

It’s Your Turn

Until stumbling across this book, I truly felt that existing information on how to change your habits was vague, disheartening, and impossibly difficult to incorporate. Atomic Habits covers information that had previously been missing in my life, and I can guarantee you will also find value in the book!

It’s a step-by-step guide to re-imagining your identity and then living up to that identity. But not in an overwhelming way which makes you question whether the change is worth the effort.

Instead, the book gently guides you through small and straightforward transformations that support your own identity. It reinforces what you always knew deep down about habits but somehow never could bring forth.

And it’s the missing key to transforming your life.

I genuinely hope this post has inspired you to get out there and change your habits for the better! Make sure to grab your copy of the book here:

Don’t forget to comment below about habits and how you are incorporating this into your own life!

How to Achieve Flow State and Live a Happier Life

How to Achieve Flow State and Live a Happier Life

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

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does being in flow state feel like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What could possibly be better???

4 Stages of Flow

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

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Flow State

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

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty incredible, isn’t it?

How do I achieve flow state?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find the Balance

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

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

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

Neither are particularly desirable states.

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

Pay Attention to Your Internal Clock

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

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

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

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

Eliminate Distractions

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

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

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

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

Find what works best for you and do you!

Set a Goal

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Or the writings of Steven Kotler.

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

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

How to Successfully Manage Multiple Goals at Once

How to Successfully Manage Multiple Goals at Once

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Having Multiple Interests is a Strength

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why It’s Difficult to Manage Multiple Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pace Yourself

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

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

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

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

Prioritize

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

Learn to become flexible and follow your intuition.

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

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

Don’t Fall for the Myth of Immediate Gratification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Become Indistractable

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time Batching

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Thoughts on How to Manage Multiple Goals

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

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

And that’s ok too.

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

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

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

It’s Your Turn

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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!

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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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