How to Step into Courage

Look.  I get it.  It takes lots of vulnerability to be courageous sometimes.  Trust me, after writing my previous post here, I almost erased it.  So how does one step into courage?  First, let’s take a look at the word itself.  What is courage?

  1. :  mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

That was how Merriam-Webster defined it.  But to be honest, I define it in thousand little ways and I am willing to bet that you have done any number of things that could be considered courageous.

I want to show you an exercise that I might do with my Club, so bear with me a moment.  Take a good look at this quote:  It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.  ~Erma Bombeck

Have you ever shown your dreams to other people?  That moment when you are on the brink of telling them the greatest joy you ever had and the plans you want to make and you rush forward and.  Stop.  <<< well that’s fear and we’re actually going to talk about that a little later in my Club and on my FB Page, but courage is when you take that deep breath after the panic and you go ahead.  So if you’d like, take a moment to journal around this thought.  You can pin this to come back to this if you want, but I really want you to think about this quote.

Our culture is ripe with tales of courage.  Do you remember being a kid and watching Indiana Jones?  Oh how I loved that movie.  Especially this part, and I didn’t make it so ignore the spelling:

Well, it just so happens that I couldn’t stand snakes after I accidentally stepped on one in an outdoor hotel lobby.  And it wrapped around my ankle and bit me and I had to go to the hospital for hours with no food in my stomach in case it was venomous.  Anyway, so later in life I volunteered at the Virginia Living Museum and I learned how to reach my hand into a pillow case, no lie, and grab a snake that was not venomous.  I also learned that their scales are like the same thing as finger nails…it still doesn’t mean I like them, but I tried.

Anyway, I bet you have done something in your life that took great courage.  I felt fear yet I was choosing to try to get over that fear as best I could.  That is a sign of stepping into courage.  I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.  ~Nelson Mandela

Then there was this time that a lady was bullying my friend and everyone at work was so afraid of this lady.  She would scream we were racists if we stood up to her, so she would hide, go on longer lunch breaks, not come back to the classroom for hours, seriously, and then when she did show up, she wouldn’t help my friend (yes, later she was put on probation).  Anyway, she stood in the hall screaming at my friend in front of kids and other teachers one day so I stood up to her and said whatever it was I said to get her to calm down, and then later I reported the incident when no one else would.  They didn’t want to be the ones to report this lady, no lie, because they knew she’d come after them.  A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer. — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

After that incident, I was shaking, but I got it done.  Have you ever stood up to a bully before?   It’s not easy, but it must be done.  I will always practice what I would preach to my children.  How could I not?

At some point in your life, there are any number of actions that have taken courage my friends.  I just know it.  You have probably felt afraid, but done something anyway like riding a roller coaster.  You have listened to your heart or even your gut and stepped out on that stage to speak.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”~ Steve Jobs

I said yes to jumping on an airplane to England last year, and going by myself to speak at a conference and I am so glad I did.  I hadn’t actually met anyone in person and my parents thought any number of things could have gone wrong…it was a list daily.  But without the courage to travel alone, walk around London alone, and go see Stonehenge alone, I would have always regretted it.  What if…what ifs are the things we don’t want to be thinking about.

Want to learn more?  30 days of journal prompts around courage in the month of August plus tutorials, master classes online, meditations, bonus yoga poses and more.  >>>  Head|Heart|Health Club <<<

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The Steps I took to Change my Life

 

Sometimes, my mind starts to wander and I think back to the year that my skin was on fire night and day.  I have tried very hard to block those memories out, so maybe you have no idea why this blog is called “The Burned Hand”.  I remember getting the incurable disease and thinking that my life was completely over at just 23 years old.  I feel like Ygritte whispering that I know nothing at that age.  And I didn’t.

I think back to the years that I had my children, and knew that I was so extremely fatigued it wasn’t normal and that I was not “bouncing back” from childbirth.  Then the second blood test and the news I had one more incurable disease, okay.  Not shocking, I already knew.  And more phlebotomies yearly would be needed.

I think back to the year my career as a teacher really started taking off and I was known as Mrs. Happy.  I had finally done it!  I changed my outlook on life and working with invisible diseases wasn’t going to stop me.  And then I started getting violently ill after eating.  I couldn’t look at food.  I looked pregnant all the time and my stomach was distended.  I started having severe allergy attacks, and I had vertigo for 3 weeks.  I spiraled down into a place of pain.  No one could touch my skin again, only this time was worse.  The base of my neck to the sitting bone was on fire.  I felt every single vertebrae as if it was on fire and begging to be put out like a living, breathing thing.

My shoulder went out.  My hip went out.  I couldn’t walk and I took a leave of absence from teaching, for presumably, a year.  I told everyone that, but I knew I was never going back.  I knew.  I actually thought that I was going to stay in that place of pain for a very long time, if not forever. 

I was diagnosed then with an autoimmune disease (just barely they said) and “fibromyalgia” due to the 18 points of pain that were in my body.  Didn’t I want to take pain meds for the rest of my life?  No.  No, I didn’t because I already had one disease that could mess with my liver and I wasn’t going to chance this.  It was at this point, that I realized I was screwed.  I had two options.  Get better or become something I didn’t recognize anymore…wait!  I already was.

The post will continue, but you can open these in new tabs if you are interested for later:

So life beats you down folks.  It does.  And it will over and over again if you let it.  What you do after this is up to you.  So here’s the point in my story that I don’t share much, but I was sitting on the couch in those early years, which yes, I wrote through the pain in 2013, but it barely scratched the surface, anyway, and I knew that I had a choice to make.  Get up and live.  Other people surely had as many diseases as I did, okay, I didn’t know anyone at the time, but surely they existed.  So I would live and change my life for them and show them that it could really be done.  I could do it.

One more test would come back in this puzzle that explained that on a purely cellular level I was not processing things correctly, but at that point, I didn’t care anymore.  I already knew I was different, and I was going to move forward.  So here comes the point where I tell you the steps I took.

The Steps I took To Change My Life:

  1. I decided I was going to change.  <<< This is the biggest one that you have to learn.  No one, and I do mean no one, can force you to change.  Period.  If you are waiting for your sign and this post is speaking to you, please write down on your calendar “Day I decided to change and live my life.”  <<<  Seriously.  You’ve got this.
  2. Stop making excuses and lying to yourself.  I will get out of the house tomorrow.  I will join the gym in a few months.  I will try yoga next month.  I will eat better after the “holidays”.  I will…yup.  Said them all.  Been there done that.  I made a plan, and then I stuck to it.  I called it 4 Weeks to Wellness and when each week was over, I would start back again.  Slowly and surely repeating the things I needed to change.  Fitness, I had to move.  Nutrition, I learned what was causing all that pain, balance, what was that anyway? and finally, self-care which was really lacking.
  3. I learned to be thankful for what I already had.  This one was hard.  Not that I wasn’t thankful, but I was so angry.  I was mad at the universe for giving me this life…never really thinking I had that much control over it all, but I was so very wrong.  I was wrong.  I woke up and started a gratitude practice even in my darkest hours.  I couldn’t sleep, but I would roll over and pull myself off.  I would not think of the pain, if it came in I shut it down with these words “Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”  I almost crawled to the bathroom with my eyes shut tight and said I will not insert the F word, think about this F word pain.  When i opened them on my bathroom mirror was the mantra “I am healing”.  Then I would say that to myself every single day.  Also, side note, my girls started to use dry-erase marker like I taught them and left mama messages to read on the mirror.  I was living for them and my husband and I was going to succeed.
  4. I started back to yoga.  I am thankful that someone took the lead in this and initiated my Yoga Teacher Training.  Can you imagine hardly being to move and going to yoga?  I almost said no a thousand times.  I almost quit a thousand times.  I would soak in the tub and almost cry out from pain at doing it, but I would not give up.  I would walk slowly and I would do the best I could, but I would finish that damn training.  I would and I did in June of 2015.  I went on to become certified as well in yoga for arthritis and pain.
  5. I started helping others.  I already had my FB page, but it just wasn’t enough.  How could I connect with others who could change their lives just by thinking about it, writing about it through my new journal therapy, starting a gratitude practice, and with sheer grit, take control of their heads, hearts and health?  I took some money and invested in a platform to build an online community.  I called it the Head|Heart|Health Club and I was going to make it work.  In January of 2017, I opened my doors to everyone who might want help, and I haven’t really looked back.

So if you are new here to the blog, welcome.  I really wanted you to know who I was before, who I am now, and what I am hoping to accomplish for the future of healing yourself.  I know you can do it.  Please stay in touch with me here <<< and get my monthly updates by newsletter if you’d like.  ~Aimee

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5 Money Beliefs You Need to Leave Behind

A long time ago, I worked in the projects.  You actually don’t understand poverty until you have seen people who really do live in areas considered “below the poverty line”.  I know that doesn’t help you right now, but it needed to be said.

On the flip side of this, if you actually do have money, do you feel like you aren’t entitled to it?  Do you feel bad for having it?  You see, for a long time, I felt really bad about money after seeing children from poverty.

I was a teacher, yes.  I struggled just like everyone else to make ends meet.  To be honest though, I never struggled as badly with little money as I did when I had more money, and then suddenly didn’t have as much.  Life’s funny that way.

What lessons did money really teach me then?

  1. I was not as poor as I imagined.  I didn’t have any idea how to use food stamps.  I could actually pay for gas for my car and did not have to use public transportation.  My belief was that I was really struggling.  And while I was, it was not at a level that some people are currently facing.  Money showed me that lesson and in turn, I thanked God for my current situation.  I became a mentor and took children out in their neighborhood to places they wouldn’t have been able to go without my help.
  2. I was not as rich as I imagined either.  Money is hilarious.  It taunts you to spend it and spend it you do.  Then that funny guy called Visa calls on you one day and you owe $20,000.  For house remodeling…that you did to save money.  Oops.  My belief was that I could always make more…that is until the day I got really sick.  I had not learned the save for a rainy day lesson.  I was out that day.  Sick.  I needed to have a savings, so lesson learned.
  3. I was “always” going to be in debt.  You think there is absolutely nothing you can do, but you are wrong.  You can actually call credit cards and reduce your rates, work to pay off the least amount or the highest interest rate, and continue to visualize your debt being paid off.  Here is the part where I start to lose you.  I did good things.  I paid for things, donated, and such…even when I had not as much as others, and more than some.  I tried very hard to get out of this fear mentality that debt wants you to be in.  I knew that it was not going to be forever and I was right.  The belief that it was going to get worse held me back.  It almost stopped me in my tracks, but I made a plan.  This is the hardest of the steps I think.
  4. Others seem to have it “easy”.  There were times I would look at other people’s posts and think wow!  What a nice vacation.  But you know, they split it 3 ways maybe and I didn’t know that.  Or you might see the “I did a great job and got a raise” post.  They don’t mention it took them 5 years of hard work.  Don’t always think that the grass is greener because you know I say it’s Astro-turf.  Some people just make things appear as if it was handed to them, and it’s okay.  You know you are a hard worker and there’s no shame in being real.
  5. Throwing in the towel by saying “I can’t afford that.”  When I was driving my mini-van into the ground…with the oil leaking, the tires deflating and fixed more times than I can count, the hood looking like hail had beat it to death, and the hub caps rusting, anyway, I thought “I will not be able to afford a new car anytime soon…but I have to”.  I started changing the way I thought that year.  I had used that car to get me to more doctor’s appointments than I could count and it had been a good car, but it was time to move on.  So I wrote about it as if it happened.  Over and over again.  Each month.  And then it happened.  We donated our car to a good cause and I bought a vehicle I had long since wanted because one of my illnesses left me with really sensitive hands to cold…and the vehicle came with a warm steering wheel control as well as butt warmers!!!  I thought it was heaven.  I still do.

Money is energy.  I see that now, and I also know that I actually have more control over my actions with it than I previously realized.  I don’t use it as an excuse, I don’t hide behind it, but I don’t need to lie about it either.  When I want to go after something now, I just work harder, and put more energy into my plan.  I don’t if you believe this, but try it sometime.  Don’t let money control your thoughts…control your thoughts and therefore control the flow of money.  ~Aimee

Money beliefs

Want to learn more about my journal therapy?  See the work with me tab here on the page.

Overthinking 101: Learning How to Postpone “Worry”

Look, I get it.  I worry with the best of them.  In fact, I come from a long line of “worriers”.  Things like Don’t push the trash down with your hand or you will get cut. Or If you go snow skiing, you will probably fly off the mountain.  Recently it was A shark might eat you if you swim in the ocean and if that doesn’t happen a rip tide will get you. 

I actually love swimming in the ocean and taught my daughters to jump waves as well as my niece with my brother…while the worrier was watching.  We all came back in one piece.  So what does this type of habitual practice do to your brain?  Well, I probably should have been in therapy, in fact I tried it once, but she just there listening to me saying “umm hmm” so that made me wonder what was going on in her head and that was worse to be honest.

Anyway, I discovered yoga years ago, but I didn’t actually “get it” at first.  I love this article on it because it was like this.  I started to think if a freaking neuroscientist thought just like me at first, then perhaps I am not the only one noticing that some people do go to “yoga” and in fact are not doing yoga at all.

So what did I start teaching that was different in my own yoga classes (and in real life, including my HHH Club)?  I started teaching yoga-like thoughts and being aware of the absence of thought, even if it’s just a minute.  Now, what if you worry about all of the above mentioned things, plus many others that never ever come to pass?  Here are a few tips for you.

Overthinking 101 notes:

  1. Postpone worry.  On your calendar, write out a time that you worry.  I know, it’s crazy.  But seriously.  As you are working, if worry starts to come into your head while you are busy doing something else, just stop, write worry at 5p.m. today, and keep going.  If it gets really bad, set a timer as well so you can worry about the sky falling for exactly 15 minutes and if you start to think about it longer, you are reminded you devoted enough time to that thought, now it’s up.  Like an appointment.  Meet back there in your head tomorrow at a different time if it still lingers, but don’t think about it anymore.  This actually allows you that slight bit of control that we need.
  2. Obsessive thoughts can be faced.  So imagine for a minute you are Sheldon Cooper.  What happens if he doesn’t knock the third time?  Can he go a whole day without that?  So if you don’t get this, Sheldon is a character I love on a T.V. show.  He has to knock three times and say his neighbor’s name.  But let’s put this in perspective again.  My dad uses antibacterial squirty stuff like it’s going out of style.  What if a germ actually gets on him?  To test this theory and face not using the anti-bac, he would have to touch something and then not use it.  See if he can last after being in public. Each time maybe go a bit longer.  Again, you get the drift here.  Each time try to go a little bit longer without feeling like you have to do the obsessive behavior and see what happens.  Are you okay?  Can you make it from one task to another without reaching for the anti-bac or knocking on the door a third time?
  3. Use a mantra to relax.  As you begin to feel stressed, say “I am in control of my thoughts.”  Then breathe in and hold at the top of a breath just a sec and focus on that feeling, then release and breathe out.  Keep breathing in and out for a full round of three.  Start to notice the tension in your body releasing.  Notice the set of your jaw, and unclench the teeth.  Let the shoulders relax, and just be aware of being in your body.  Notice how you control the rise and fall of your chest by breathing deeper, not shallow, short breaths, but deep, controlled breaths.  You are in control.  You are able to breathe deeply and focus on the now.

As I have been working on my practice of teaching others how to control their thoughts, I am reminded again and again that just like anything we do, the power of now must be practiced.  We mindlessly go through our days sometimes and that is really not healthy.  Flex that muscle and learn to practice the power of now through tiny activities like washing the dishes, going on a walk, gardening, yoga and meditation.  Each of your tasks can be a mini-meditation in itself.  Like riding a bike, but just practice staying present.

Want to learn more?  >>> Head|Heart|Health Club <<<

 

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Warning! Are you becoming the Hermit Empath?

“Mom.  Name the friends you hang out with.”  Sigh.  I have friends, but I am a grown woman and I like my alone time.  It is a familiar conversation in my house.  For highly sensitive people, sometimes it is very hard to be around large crowds of people, noises, and anyone who might be trying to hide things.  So that pretty much is everyone, right?

Let me explain.  We all hide things to a certain degree, of course.  However, if you are an empath, you pick up on so much more.  <<< If you aren’t sure, I liked to my first article on my experiences. Anyway, here is an example of something that might happen to me.  Someone sends me a text or a message.  It seems like an ordinary message, but behind it I feel the reason they sent it and can tell that there are ulterior motives and/or strings attached.  I decide whether or not I want to answer and how to answer as I know that there is something else coming.  Maybe this sounds a bit woo-woo to you, but it really happens.  Another example, someone says something in conversation that seems innocent to others.  I look around at a gathering and see if anyone else believes what they just said and people are buying it.  I am in disbelief because I feel the lie…and it makes me uncomfortable so I usually change the subject if it is a group of people or I just decide that it’s time to leave.

Final example on this…you go to social media and you see a series of clues that someone you know has put out there, but it’s like you have x-ray vision and no one in your circle does.  You casually mention that so and so seems to be really upset and you think maybe they need to talk about it or something along those lines, and suddenly you are starting gossip when the truth is, you were really just concerned.  This is the one that makes me upset because people are like how do you know?  What did you hear?  What do you know?  Erm.  I just felt it.  So perhaps you back away slowly from this because my, that escalated quickly.  Thus the makings for the empath hermit.

3 Social Tips for the Empath:

  1. Get centered before you go out to any event.  What does that mean anyway?  Put both feet flat on the ground (barefoot) and if you are sitting sit up straighter through the spine.  Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, but then relax them back down as if you are shrugging, but opening up the heart area.  In my Head|Heart|Health Club, I teach these steps in a series of videos relating to yoga and connecting to the body.  So now I want you to place one hand on your stomach area above your navel.  I want you to take a deep breath in and then hold at the top and then release the breath feeling your hand rise and fall.  Do this for a round of three.  This helps get you steady, especially if you suffer from anxiety, and this breath technique is available to you at all times should you need it.  You might feel like you need to deep breathe to connect to your energy more than someone’s at a party or event as a reminder that your feelings are still there and you can then snap back into your own body.  This is very effective.
  2. Dress for the event.  Visualization and physical reminders help as well.  You might want to wear pink to remind yourself to imagine a bubble of love.  For someone not familiar with this practice, it is easy to get caught up in these bad feelings, and feel miserable for knowing things.  As we practice “bubbling up” we can visualize a bubble of pink surrounding our physical body and carrying it with us into the crowd.  As many people are quick to point out the negatives of humanity, you are going to remind yourself that there is good out there as well, and carry that feeling with you in the bubble.  Think of it as Harry Potter’s Patronus…”a projection of your most positive feelings”, and only you know that it’s there.  If you like to wear a necklace or bracelet with a word or charm on it to remind you of that, go for it.  I actually wear a bracelet with the word gratitude.
  3. Do work prior to going out and when you come home.  Here comes the part that I teach my club, talk about on my page during my live chats, and do myself daily.  I journal and I do the work.  I work through all of the feelings, and I have learned to tell immediately what is mine and what is not.  I protect myself from the negative energy of others through a combination of yoga, journaling, meditation/prayer, and more.  It has really helped me over the years take back what is my energy and sift through what might be a negative feeling that merged with mine.  For very specific instructions, videos, tutorials, breathwork, and over 30 journal prompts designed specifically for the empath, check out my guide for your soul.  <<<

The work that I have done on myself and others has helped me become more aware of how I navigate the world.  I could have saved myself loads of pain over the years if I had realized what was happening earlier in my life, but the good thing is that now that I know, I am able to get out more and make better friendships and connections than I did prior to learning how to control my highly sensitive emotions.

Hacking failure…and using it to your advantage.

Failure sucks.  Yup.  We’ve all been there, done that.  You tried and failed miserably.  But what did you do with that knowledge?  Did you give up?  Go on to make more improvements in your life?  Change something about what you did and repeat it to achieve success?  I know that I have failed trying to do a yoga pose and actually fell on my nose…I luckily didn’t break it as I saw the fall coming, but I knew that I had to get stronger or I was not going to be able to hold myself up.

And that my friends, is what failure does for me.  It makes me want to get stronger.  I remember hearing this once about Thomas Edison when asked by a reporter if he should give up on the lightbulb: “Why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitely over 9,000 ways an electric lightbulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” 

As difficult as it is to remember this lesson, other approaches to what you are working on might work better.  If you feel like you need a fresh set of eyes on something, ask a friend for some objective help.  From personal experience, I know that I didn’t start off knowing how to play soccer.  I had to be knocked down quite a bit in the beginning.  And mountain biking.  Whosh.  I will never forget how ermmm it felt like I had ridden a horse for days in the saddle when I was done with a ride once.  I was like oh.  That’s why people wear padded pants.  Note taken.  And then the bruises and scrapes from falling, but I got back up.

3 lessons I learned from failure:

  1. You get back up and try again.  Okay, so maybe your ego takes a beating.  That does occasionally happen in life.  My ego went to the backseat as I was wrestling with invisible diseases.  Things that had once been easy for me, like eating, became very complicated.  Walking tired me out, so I had to learn new ways to get exercise in.  I came back to yoga and couldn’t do things that I once had a better grasp on.  I knew that it was time for me to get serious about moving forward and that I was really going to experience set-backs, but that no matter what, I couldn’t give up on what I wanted to accomplish.  I was going to complete yoga teacher training even if I soaked in a hot bath with salts every single night.  Even if it hurt to move…because one day, it wouldn’t hurt as much.
  2. There is more than one way to do something.  I started dissecting what was happening to me.  Most of you know that I am fascinated with research and the holistic approach to healing.  I knew that I had to think, act, and imagine the goal being accomplished.  I had to immerse myself in the experience of what I wanted…and I also had to think backwards.  I would take a yoga pose and go slowly.  If my hip was tight, I would have to work on hips for a while.  If I didn’t feel strong, I would have to work on my core again, which side note, ummm had been cut to save my baby (emergency c-section).  I couldn’t compare my progress to anyone’s in the room.  Comparison makes you feel like a failure.  <<< Do not do that to yourself.  You only have to better than you were the day before and that is the root of my progress.  I was not looking at where others were going.  I only looked to myself.
  3. Failure was teaching me how to set myself up for success.  I knew that throughout history, people have failed.  I didn’t own it like it was my shame to fail.  I didn’t think that inventors had woken up one day and said “Hey Wilbur, I think we should build this and fly.”  Poof.  They flew.  Nope.  The crashing part sets you up for that awesome day when you really do learn to fly.  So sticking my crow pose, in yoga this was my nemesis for a while, well, getting into that and holding it for longer than a second takes work.  I am still working, trust me, but the day I did it, I knew that I was making progress in many areas.  Not just the pose or the form, but the act of not giving up.  The act of perseverance and sticking to my goal.

hacking failure

Want to know more about my Head|Heart|Health Club and how you can hack into your own success?  >>> I need support <<<     

9 Steps to Achieving Flow (and Happiness) in Your Work

9 steps to achieving flow

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha

A Guest Post by Leo Babauta

Have your ever lost yourself in your work, so much so that you lost track of time? Being consumed by a task like that, while it can be rare for most people, is a state of being called Flow.

In my experience, it’s one of the keys to happiness at work, and a nice side benefit is that it not only reduces stress but increases your productivity. Not bad, huh?

When I wrote about the Magical Power of Focus, I promised to write more about how to achieve Flow, a concept that is very much in vogue right now and something most of us have experienced at one time or another.

Today we’ll take a look at what Flow is, why it’s important, and how to achieve it on a regular basis for increased productivity and happiness at work.

What is Flow?

Put simply, it’s a state of mind you achieve when you’re fully immersed in a task, forgetting about the outside world. It’s a concept proposed by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, and these days you’re likely to read about it on blogs and in all kinds of magazines.

When you’re in the state of Flow, you:

  • are completely focused on the task at hand;
  • forget about yourself, about others, about the world around you;
  • lose track of time;
  • feel happy and in control; and
  • become creative and productive.

One thing I love about Flow is that it takes the very Zen concept of being completely in the moment, and applies it to work tasks. It’s a concept I’ve talked a lot about on Zen Habits — being in the moment, focusing completely on a single task, and finding a sense of calm and happiness in your work. Flow is exactly that.

Why is Flow Important?

I believe the ability to single-task (as opposed to multi-task) is one of the keys to true productivity. Not the kind of productivity where you knock off 20 items from your to-do list (although that can be satisfying), where you’re switching between tasks all day long and keep busy all the time.

The true productivity I mean is the kind where you actually achieve your goals, where you accomplish important and long-lasting things. As a writer, that might mean writing one or two important and memorable articles rather than 20 or 50 unimportant ones that people will forget 5 minutes after reading them. It means getting key projects done rather than answering a bunch of emails, making a lot of phone calls, attending a bunch of meetings, and shuffling paperwork all day long. It means closing key deals. It means quality instead of quantity.

And once you’ve learned to focus on those kinds of important projects and tasks, Flow is how you get them done. You lose yourself in those important and challenging tasks, and instead of being constantly interrupted by minor things (calls, emails, IMs, coworkers, etc.), you are able to focus on the tasks long enough to actually complete them.

And by losing yourself in them, you enjoy yourself more. You reduce stress while increasing quality output. You get important stuff done instead of just getting things done. You achieve things rather than just keeping busy.

Flow is one of the keys to all of that.

How to Achieve Flow and Happiness in Your Work

So how do you achieve this mystical state of being? Do you need to meditate or chant anything? No, you don’t (although meditation can improve your ability to concentrate). And Flow is anything but mystical — it’s very practical, and achieving it isn’t mysterious.

It can take practice, but you’ll get better at it. Here are the key steps to achieving and benefiting from Flow:

  1. Choose work you love. If you dread a task, you’ll have a hard time losing yourself in it. If your job is made up of stuff you hate, you might want to consider finding another job. Or consider seeking projects you love to do within your current job. At any rate, be sure that whatever task you choose is something you can be passionate about.
  2. Choose an important task. There’s work you love that’s easy and unimportant, and then there’s work you love that will make a long-term impact on your career and life. Choose the latter, as it will be a much better use of your time, and of Flow.
  3. Make sure it’s challenging, but not too hard. If a task is too easy, you will be able to complete it without much thought or effort. A task should be challenging enough to require your full concentration. However, if it is too hard, you will find it difficult to lose yourself in it, as you will spend most of your concentration just trying to figure out how to do it — either that, or you’ll end up discouraged. It may take some trial and error to find tasks of the appropriate level of difficulty.
  4. Find your quiet, peak time. This is actually two steps grouped into one. First, you’ll want to find a time that’s quiet, or you’ll never be able to focus. For me, that’s mornings, before the hustle of everyday life builds to a dull roar. That might be early morning, when you just wake, or early in the work day, when most people haven’t arrived yet or are still getting their coffee and settling down. Or you might try the lunch hour, when people are usually out of the office. Evenings work well too for many people. Or, if you’re lucky, you can do it at any time of the day if you can find a quiet spot to work in. Whatever time you choose, it should also be a peak energy time for you. Some people get tired after lunch — that’s not a good time to go for Flow. Find a time when you have lots of energy and can concentrate.
  5. Clear away distractions. Aside from finding a quiet time and place to work, you’ll want to clear away all other distractions. That means turning off distracting music (unless you find music that helps you focus), turning off phones, email and IM/PM notifications, Twitter, and anything else that might pop up or make noise to interrupt your thoughts. I also find it helpful to clear my desk, even if that means sweeping miscellaneous papers into a folder to be sorted through later. Of course, these days there isn’t anything on my desk, but I didn’t always work like this. A clear desk helps immensely.
  6. Learn to focus on that task for as long as possible. This takes practice. You need to start on your chosen task and keep your focus on it for as long as you can. At first, many people will have difficulty, if they’re used to constantly switching between tasks. But keep trying, and keep bringing your focus back to your task. You’ll get better. And if you can keep your focus on that task, with no distractions, and if your task has been chosen well (something you love, something important, and something challenging), you should lose yourself in Flow.
  7. Enjoy yourself. Losing yourself in Flow is an amazing thing, in my experience. It feels great to be able to really pour yourself into something worthwhile, to make great progress on a project or important task, to do something you’re passionate about. Take the time to appreciate this feeling (perhaps after the fact — it’s hard to appreciate it while you’re in Flow).
  8. Keep practicing. Again, this takes practice. Each step will take some practice, from finding a quiet, peak time for yourself, to clearing distractions, to choosing the right task. And especially keeping your focus on a task for a long time. But each time you fail, try to learn from it. Each time you succeed, you should also learn from it — what did you do right? And the more you practice, the better you’ll get.
  9. Reap the rewards. Aside from the pleasure of getting into Flow, you’ll also be happier with your work overall. You’ll get important stuff done. You’ll complete stuff more often, rather than starting and stopping frequently. All of this is hugely satisfying and rewarding. Take the time to appreciate this, and to continue to practice it every day.

“To be able to concentrate for a considerable time is essential to difficult achievement.” – Bertrand Russell

Dear Reader, we are working on uncovering our gifts this month in the Head|Heart|Health Club and using Flow to our advantage as we step into our power.  Want to try it out for a month and see how your life changes?  Feel free to join us!  Just click on “I need support” to read more.  <<<

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Which Spiritual Master Do You Think Like?

Discovering spirituality is a personal thing, and this quiz is really just for fun, but having a spiritual master to read more about, and the theory he or she practiced can help you along the way.  A guide is meant to be just that…a guide.  So who do you think like?

By the way, feel free to leave a comment, pin the quiz and share with your friends!

5 Fun Things to do on Summer Solstice

Summer solsticeHere it is, the summer solstice.  Or as the bard would have it, a fabulous tribute to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  One of my favorite quotes from that describes me perfectly.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!”
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

On June 21st or 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere, people everywhere have celebrated renewal, life, fertility, and hopefully a good harvest.

To be honest, I would like to be here today:

Aimee at Stonehenge
The Burned Hand visits  Stonehenge

But if that is not an option for you, as it is not currently an option for me either, then I have a few ideas for you to celebrate today and tomorrow should you desire.

5 Fun Things to do on Summer Solstice:

  1. Do some gardening with herbs if you can.  I recently went to my favorite local garden center (it is owned by a local family), and I purchased lemon verbena, honey lavender, and rosemary, which is a favorite of mine.  I already have my chives, thyme, mint, and some catnip actually (mosquitoes don’t like it).  I have been infusing my tea with fresh herbs, cooking with it and just smelling it.  My family has been gardening for years and my dad is considered a master gardener, so identifying plants runs deep, but herbs have been a favorite since my first taste of basil.  Yummy.  An old favorite is a tomato/basil sandwich with nothing else.  Just a bit of Himalayan Salt and pepper.
  2. Make a fairy garden.  I have been a bit obsessed with fairies for as long as I can remember.  I started collecting pewter fairies, castles, gnomes and anything I could as a pre-teen, and have passed on my things to my youngest teen.  But this new craze of fairy gardens can be expensive.  So just get an empty pot, some dirt, grab some sticks on a walk, bark, moss (that’s what grows in my yard), and make a tiny display inviting the wee folk into your display. You can make tiny mushrooms, houses, and put a few of the plants that stay small like succulents and walkables (they will spread, but can be walked on should you want to do this in your garden).  Now I have to put another favorite quote in here from my college days.  “Faërie contains many things besides elves and fays, and besides dwarfs, witches, trolls, giants, or dragons; it holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the earth, and all things that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. Practice yoga or meditate!  HEY.  I am doing that tonight!! Yes, I make up a special class for my friends and then we sip wine after, but you don’t have to do anything fancy.  In my Club, I break down a few yoga moves that can be done anywhere, including a chair, but you can just do a few Sun Sals.  I linked that for you to watch as she has a sweet energy.
  4. Set intentions of what you want to come into your life!  My club members have really gotten into the habit of this as it is so good to focus on what we want in our lives.  I do this monthly with them as we really clear out the old and then shift our thinking into how we want the next few weeks to look.  Focus on the feeling at the end, and then yoke that feeling towards you with all your might as you write out the intention.  I know you might be reading this thinking I am cray, and I won’t disagree with you, but I have changed my life and continue to do so each and every month.  Need proof of what I speak?  You can read my about me here. 
  5. Create a new self-care ritual.  My something new this month seems to be bringing me pain, but I am starting to feel alive again after a knee injury.  I admit I am somewhat hermit-y << that’s a real word.  I keep a tight circle, and I force myself to expand it when I feel it shrinking…as it periodically does because of my nature to keep to myself.  However, I joined a new ermmm torture chamber, others call it a gym/personal training type place.  Anyway, I think it is good for me and I have been setting my alarm earlier.  That is itself is a miracle I tell you as I can sleep like the dead, but usually only those two hours right before I wake up, so I sleep late.  Anyway, I have all the excuses you can think of down, but not this time.  In order to exact change, I myself and no one else can make me get out of bed.  If there is something you have been wanting to try that’s new, I say go for it!

I hope this helped you think about the things you want to invite in your life, and not just on the summer solstice.  Summer always brings that child-like wonder and energy that might be dormant, so if you want a helping hand or two, come find me.  I have some amazing content geared just for your soul.  I use my empath abilities to check into the collective of the group and see what we really need from a Head|Heart|Health perspective.  Get out and enjoy the day my friends!

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Four Elements Quiz using Modern and Ancient Psychology

I have long been interested in the Myers-Briggs type tests and quizzes.  They say there are 16 basic personality types and there are lots of free quizzes out there for you to read up on.  This is another type of quiz here as well if you are interested, but I really was fascinated with this new type of quiz that combined several things into one quiz!

There are many quizzes based on the four elements, but most are rather light on research. This quiz will analyze your personality using ancient theories such as the 4 Temperaments, the 4 Cardinal Virtues, and the writings of Plato and Aristotle, as well as modern theories such as the Myers Briggs (MBTI), the Enneagram, etc. So are you Earth, Water, Air, or Fire? (The quiz now includes mixed elements.)  So without further ado, try this out and let me know in the comments on this blog what you got.  Does it sound right?  Share it with a friend.

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