The Balanced Empath…7 Tools You Need Today!

The Balanced Empath...7 Tools You Need Today!As I scan my feed for just a second, something comes into my line of sight that potentially has energy attached to it that could disrupt my mood.  There are posts about pain, hurting people, animal cruelty and more, but whichever post gets my attention, I know that I have the power to choose how I am going to stay balanced.  It wasn’t always this way though.

I know that I can pick up on the vibrations, moods, auras, energy or however you want to explain it of other people.  What I didn’t realize long ago was that those energies can also be projected through social media and other forms of communication.  Prior to social media being the big thing, I think people had an easier time staying balanced.  However, let’s face it, we have to learn to adjust to the changing times.

Being an empath is hard enough as it is, but becoming one that stays in balance, well, at one time that seemed like a far off dream.  I would fluctuate between happiness, sadness, anger, peace, and calm all in one hour it would seem.  Maybe it was a little bit longer than that, but I know that three years ago, moods came on me like a heavy blanket trying to smother a raging fire.  What I was doing was being swept away in the blaze, and the little bit of control I had seemed non-existent.

I was suffering from anxiety, depression, pain and illness, and 2013 was the catalyst to me letting everything get out of control.  The final straw was in November of that year and by 2014, I had vowed to change everything I was doing.  I was the only one capable of changing things.

The 7 tools I used to create balance in my life:

  1. I started with my mental body (thoughts), and learned how to recognize what was not really mine.  I did this through a variety of ways, but the first thing I tried was meditation.  I wasn’t all that great in the beginning, but I kept at it and even found a local woman who would later become one of my dearest friends who taught guided meditation in a group.  I am so thankful for her guidance during that time.
  2. I learned more about how to stay in the present moment with mindfulnessIt sounds like a buzz word.  I know.  But I started to realize how much time I was spending in moments that would never change.  Time lost to sadness over things I could never possibly go back and fix.  National tragedies, curing cancer, animal cruelty, all those things, well, I could only start with the present moment and love the ones I had now, fix the ones I can, and help those who let me.  << Who let me.  I could not stay in the moment of unbearable sadness and mourn the loss of friends or family who passed too soon.  It was robbing me of this present moment.  Hell, even looking out the window at my daughter’s playhouse was robbing me of the present moment as I was getting sad thinking of times long gone.  So I started to change the way I was thinking and thank those moments and move into the present.  The playhouse disappeared with my blessing (as well as my daughters) and is becoming a new yoga shed.
  3. The mental body was in need of repair.  The pain and suffering of my illnesses had taken a toll on my physical body.  I decided to start restorative yoga, and then gradually move to Vinyasa yoga.  I still wasn’t convinced that it was going to be my thing, but then the decision was made for me and I became a yoga teacher after 200 hours of hard-core training.  I kicked in and gave it all I had, and spent many nights soaking in a tub with new pains, of my own making this time, and the weirdest thing happened.  The pains from the past 5 years started lessening.  I then became certified in yoga for arthritis and pain…and started teaching others that there was a new way to live.
  4. I learned how to ground and stay centered…which was something no one tells you about.  I connected to the breath, the earth and my center.  Centering is literally connecting to your core.  To your essence and really getting focused on your body.  So many times I had felt “floaty” or only half here.  I started using wonderful affirmations, visualization techniques and core rooting that really helped guide me through difficult times.
  5. I learned how to let go of energy that was not mine.  This was a freaking HARD lesson and it was a huge one baby.  You know that angry driver that cuts you off, the office worker who always lies, the boss who tells you what you want to hear?  Poof.  That’s theirs.  The things in the news feed that are evil, angry, and just plain not true?  I started learning how to rise above that kind of mentality and what it meant to truly call upon my own energy and release all the other stuff.  I was in control of what I allowed in.  << Huge lesson.
  6. I gave myself plenty of time to be human…and to forgive.  I was going to occasionally drop my newly created boundaries at times, and things were going to slip.  But I knew that within was a greater power to start back up again…kind of like that tire analogy.  Do you know the one?  Where they say if you have one flat tire, you aren’t going to get angry and slash the other four, right?  Right.  You start back over fixing the one that’s flat.  So I would do energy check-ins and see what had worn me down that day…or week.  Where did I have a leak and what did I need to fix?  What was working in my life?  What wasn’t working?  Same concepts I teach in my Club.
  7. I journaled about nearly everything I could and didn’t stop.  I learned how to dig deeper than I ever thought, how to rephrase the mind, how to shield and protect my energy, and best of all, how to let go of things.  I worked on my emotional well-being with this newly created form of journal therapy.  I worked on the inside and really concentrated on understanding my gifts.  If you are in need of some journal therapy and this post resonated with you, here is something you will love >>> Journaling for Empaths <<<

Highly Sensitive people really have to make an effort every day to realign to the present moment, so I hope these tips help you.  I really expand on them in the Journal for Empaths, and I know that it will be of great benefit to you personally.  Thank you again friends.  ~Aimee

5 Things to Start in a New Month to Re-charge!

5 things to start in a new month to re-chargeI don’t know about you, but I am very thankful to see the start of a new month.  I feel bogged down by all of that old month’s nonsense somehow.  Like “get it out of here already” and let’s begin fresh.  Although to be perfectly honest, it could have to do with looking at your bank account at the end of the month and seeing how many “friends” you have in there and wanting them to invite more friends over there so you know, it’s not lonely.

So whee, start of a new month. I feel re-charged with the first day in a new month.  Like it has its own energy and I am going to plug into that.  So I wanted to share with you my tips on how you can use this in your own life.

For inquiring minds, it doesn’t matter if you are single, have kids, don’t have kids, have pets, have no pets except for dust bunnies, whatever.  This really relies on you.  I need you to get that concept like you need air to breathe.  The start of changing and re-charging is always up to you and it can be done at anytime you choose.  So with that in mind…here we go.

5 Things to Start to Re-charge:

  1. Embrace the morning.  Look.  I get it.  I actually do considering I have the Vampire disease and I really am a night person, but I have been setting my alarm clock back 5, 10, then 15 minutes earlier.  Why?  What does this do for you?  First, please use a real alarm clock.  Everyone who watches my videos knows I say this.  It gives back the power and takes it away from your phone.  Any number of things can and do go wrong with technology anyway, but the worst is checking out what everyone else is doing before you check in with yourself.  << Busted.  Seriously.  The urge to check-in on social media is an addiction that only you can start to change when you get fully centered in your own routines that don’t involve the phone being the first thing you check.
  2. Start with gratitudeSo this morning, as the sleepiness was wearing off, and I stretched in bed, I was thankful for my favorite flannel sheets that I use no matter what the temperature is outside.  I embraced my eyes opening, and said thank you for today.  I did a body scan quickly, and told my body how I wanted it to act today.  << This is something I teach in my club about the power of positive thinking and using it to manifest the desires we wish to see come true in our lives.  It’s kind of a long story about how I used to feel when I woke up, but for those of you who are new here, feel free to read this later >> About me <<.  I continued to say thank you for the blessings in my life as I got out of bed.
  3. Have a plan for your meals.  I start this off when school starts again in the fall because in the summer, its fresh veggies and fend for yourself.  However, there’s strength in planning as you don’t see the worst foods in your fridge and grab those…well if you do, it’s at least because you wanted it instead of there was nothing to eat.  I am certified in sports nutrition, but even I struggle with staying on track.  Because I am gluten intolerant and do still have autoimmune disease, I get that life isn’t always fair.  So in order to go around that thinking, I have everything that supports me fully in front of me.  Like 5 foods to boost my mood <<< Read later:)  A new month means a new plan for my fridge, which oddly enough, makes me feel so good!
  4. Move your body!  People who are not used to exercise are often drawn to my style of group coaching.  Why?  Because I get that you don’t want to move when you are in pain, but the benefits outweigh the negatives.  So this summer, I started a new program for myself and I was in some pain of my own making.  And you know what?  That actually feels freaking amazing compared to the pain of dis-ease.  My youngest daughter started to run cross-country as well and her results have been amazing.  Her entire energy changed.  She came home full of those great “runner’s high” endorphins and her entire mood was different.  She was doing things she didn’t think she could do so naturally this boosted her head, heart and health.  Get your friends, fam and anyone else out there walking with you.  No one said you have to start big, and if you need help, check out my baby steps program >>> 4 Weeks to Wellness <<< for a great start to your month.
  5. End your day with journaling.  The research on this alone is astounding as some of you know that I am a former teacher who loves brain based research.  Since starting my own personal journal practice in 2015, my life has changed for the better.  when thoughts struggle to overtake me, I do my yoga breathing, get centered and journal it all out.  I create my world based on how I want it to be and I start to remove my own blocks on paper.  The research on this is that we are using language more and thinking about how to remove these blocks thus improving our immune function as well.  << Seriously.  Writing also has critical connections to speaking, and your communication improves from the “dumbing down” we have seen do to technology and using abbreviations.  << Don’t be mad, it’s not my research, but it is true.  You can use this technique with your entire family if you want and measure the results in as little as 3 months.  Memory starts to improve, comprehension, and more. 

If you are interested in getting the best of my journaling bundle, I put together some of my best resources for you to take advantage of only until the end of this month.  >>> Journaling Bundle <<<  The bundle discount ends soon. 

I really hope this inspires you to start living your best life right now.  I know that if I can do it, and turn my life around, so can you.  ~Aimee

How to Practice the Lost Art of Being Present

The Lost Art of Being Present“Mom!!  Can so and so have a ride, and such and such.  And can I go over to this person’s house later?  But first I need some new cleats…okay?  Oh and 40 snacks.  Like right now to take into band.  And I forgot to tell you we have to have people over to finish tie-dying these shirts.  And then can you take Person X back home because they don’t have a ride?”

Ohmmmm.  That was just one of my teens on one particular day this week.  I know that it sounds a bit frantic, and it can be, but so can grocery store shopping if you let the overwhelm get to you.  >> Check out my latest video on staying balanced over here <<< 

So the days of doing nothing, not having a cell phone, not having to feel connected to a device are long gone (perhaps).  However, you can inject mindful moments into your day by practicing being present.

This might be a typical experience in your mind Present moment thought. Past. Past. Past. FUTURE! FUTURE! Present moment thought.  It’s kind of like scrolling through your feed, right?  Checking your social media, and then deciding what you want to click the like or love on.  I would like you to practice the lost art of being present consistently, for one week, before you scroll onto something else.

How?  Your mind screams.  Why should I?  Your mind also thinks.  This is the kind of stuff those “yoga” people do.  I just don’t know if I can do it.  Well, before I was one of those yoga people, I was trapped in so many patterns of over thinking that my thoughts were just like ping-pong balls.  I was exhausted from over thinking because I was time traveling everyday without the Tardis.  Seriously.  If you don’t believe me, try this.

There is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.  Leo Tolstoy

How to Practice Being Present:

  1. Take out your tiny notebook and write P for past, N for now, and then F for future.  Using little tick marks, start tallying your thoughts.  Yes, it might be a lot of work to do in one day, but try it for one day.  Which column had the highest score?  You are going to be very surprised.  You spend more time in other moments even if you start thinking about paying a bill in the future, what are you going to cook for dinner, what do you need from the store, I can’t believe that guy just cut me off in traffic, my boss is a ___ for treating me ___ in the meeting, I have to get 40 snacks, and so on.
  2. Notice your activities.  This might surprise you, but you struggle because you also are judging yourself.  So don’t judge how you are being in your activities, just start to notice what you are doing.  As you garden, start to notice the dirt shifting around your hand or garden spade.  As you come into a new yoga class, don’t notice what anyone else is doing, just focus on the way your body feels on the mat.  As you are walking, start to notice the way your foot moves on the path, and how you are breathing.  Are you breathing shallowly because you are overthinking?  Notice, observe and shift back into the present moment.
  3. The present moment has arrived.  There is no guess work as to what is happening right now.  We already know it.  So practice during one of your normal routines like eating lunch.  Just notice the way you make your sandwich or even your kids sandwiches.  Put music on and listen as you work.  Be fully present so much so that other people’s energy does not throw you off.  That becomes the key which only you hold.  There is only room for your energy as you stay present.  What other people are doing with their frantic thoughts, which then spirals out, can’t really bother you if you are staying present.  You start to become an observer of what is happening. 
  4. Triggers will become apparent in this way.  As you notice your energy, you will start to observe which friend, colleague, child, neighbor, etc, are using old mechanisms to trigger you.  They have learned that behavior as well, particularly anyone who wants to ruffle your feathers.  I will use myself as an example.  I value honesty as one of the top qualities a person can have.  Dishonesty triggers a wave of energy that will result in anger if I don’t ride it out and then breathe deeply.  This includes using tactics of “omission” from my darling kids.  So I have discussed full examples of this so that “Hulk Mom” doesn’t come out.  Instead of worrying, I proactively explained what will happen.  This helps work around a possible trigger.

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.  Buddha

If you are interested in learning more about staying present, learning how to focus on your own energy, and harness your inner power, I invite you to try my Club out for a month >>> The Club with Soul.  <<<

How to Practice the Lost Art of Being Present

 

 

Lies that keep you from moving forward.

Lies that keep you from moving forwardOccasionally, someone has to be the bad guy.  You know that one friend who really wants you to succeed so they tell you something you really don’t want to hear.  Well, that’s me today.

Life is going to be a million different things for you.  It’s going to be beautiful and brilliant one moment and the next is going to suck big time.  You’re going to be up one moment only to be smacked down again a minute later.  You’re going to be minding your own business going to your “routine” doctor’s appointment and then you get told that a few more tests are needed.  So you panic…and go from point A to Z in your head in a matter of minutes.  But the bottom line is, it’s your reaction that counts. It’s what you do in those terrible moments that define you.  

I remember getting the news that I had a few incurable diseases.  If not treated, they could have killed me, yes.  But I was 23 years old so you know, I probably had the same amount of time as others ahead of me.  That was before I was even married, before I even really thought about being a mom, before I said yes to my first real job and before I had ever even bought a house, experienced the joy of paying bills and taxes and whatever being an adult encompassed.

Some of you have heard this part before, but for those who want to learn more here are a few posts from the early days, and the rest of you can keep reading after this:

So, I do get it folks.  I do.  In full disclosure…I don’t mind pissing people off with the truth. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s liberating, sometimes it’s messy and ugly and then you wake up the next day and you feel amazing! Why? Because maybe you weren’t fully being honest with yourself about who you are and maybe you were hiding living in your truth. So that “courage” it took you to finally speak your truth feels better. Like you are finally living in your own skin. Well, it’s time for you to stop telling yourself these things.

Lies that keep you from moving forward:

  1. I will never _____.   The truth is, if you start something off with that, you won’t.  Period.  I will never find a person who loves me (says your mind, or your status).  I will never get that promotion.  Oh that can never be me.  It won’t.  Not with that attitude.  So what does one do with this?  You take baby steps with your mind.  Okay, right now the situation seems out of my control.  So what can I control?  My reaction.  My thoughts.  My ability to change me.  I will one day feel amazing again.  I just know it.  <<< So that was my head after 5 years of pain.  Straight and constant pain daily had almost gotten me to I will never…and I realized that I had to do something drastic.  I had to start saying “One day I will….” and I got there.
  2. They are just lucky.  You have convinced yourself that someone else is more entitled to a share of luck than you are.  You are therefore not as lucky and will never have whatever it is.  What you don’t know is that “they” have worked their ass off for whatever it is.  They have felt defeat so many times it wasn’t funny.  They were trying their best one day and were on the 50th time of trying to get ahead when it finally happened for them.  So what can you do?  Start small again.  This is exactly what I teach my Club.  Look, I never knew the word “manifestation”.  I didn’t watch the “Secret” and I don’t care what that secret was because I know I have it figured out.  I believed that “it” whatever it was, was going to happen for me.  So in the beginning, it was just to live without pain.  That was enough for me because it would mean I had my life back again.  I was going to create my own luck and that is exactly what I teach.
  3. The past or future is better than right now.  Achoo bullshit.  Sorry.  I call it like I see it.  I miss the past too sometimes.  And yes, there’s grief for people I lost, but I know for a fact they wouldn’t want me to live that way.  I did take an entire year to grieve once and I don’t regret it.  But then it was time to pick myself up and keep moving forward.  Of course, shortly after that I was diagnosed with my first disease, but I did keep moving forward.  So what can you do?  Create Mindful Moments.  If it is very hard to live in this moment right now, try to notice when and where your thoughts wander.  Gently pull them back to the present moment.  I am not saying yoga cures everything, but it does actually change you.  I brought myself to my mat and practiced what I needed to do.  Time and time again until it became less practice and more second nature.  If my mind strayed to the pain, I would then focus on the way my hand was pressing into the mat.  The way the next day, it was easier to hold a position for a few seconds longer than the day before.  Until one day, I did something I worked on for an entire year and I will never forget the way my buddy smiled at me as I said hey, look at me!!  I did it.  There was this internal glow that I created all for myself and I had that power within me…so do you my friend.

I’m not saying that I have all the answers because I don’t.  I just know that you are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for.  Over the course of my 200 hour Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training, I doubted myself more times than I can count.  I would come home and soak in the tub and be in immense pain.  I would look up at the heavens and ask why me.  But the answer was always the same “why not me?” and so I learned to stop telling myself lies.  I really could do this.

If you’d like more information on my journal therapy/yoga mindset/learning to live your truth Club, here it is >>> Head|Heart|Health Club <<< Click there.

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

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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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How NOT to Multitask – Work Simpler and Saner

MultitaskGuest post by Leo Babauta

You’re working on two projects at once, while your boss has placed two new demands on your desk. You’re on the phone while three new emails come in. You are trying to get out the door on time so you can pick up a few groceries on the way home for dinner. Your Blackberry is going off and so is your cell phone. Your co-worker stops by with a request for info and your Google Reader is filled with 100+ messages to read.

You are juggling tasks with a speed worthy of Ringling Bros. Congratulations, multitasker.

In this age of instant technology, we are bombarded with an overload of information and demands of our time. This is part of the reason GTD is so popular in the information world — it’s a system designed for quick decisions and for keeping all the demands of your life in order. But even if we are using GTD, sometimes we are so overwhelmed with things to do that our system begins to fall apart.

Life Hack recently posted How to Multi-task, and it’s a good article on the nature of multi-tasking and how to do it while still focusing on one task at a time.

This post is How NOT to Multi-task — a guide to working as simply as possible for your mental health.

First, a few quick reasons not to multi-task:

  1. Multi-tasking is less efficient, due to the need to switch gears for each new task, and the switch back again.
  2. Multi-tasking is more complicated, and thus more prone to stress and errors.
  3. Multi-tasking can be crazy, and in this already chaotic world, we need to reign in the terror and find a little oasis of sanity and calm.

Here are some tips on how NOT to multi-task:

  1. First set up to-do lists for different contexts (i.e. calls, computer, errands, home, waiting-for, etc.) depending on your situation.
  2. Have a capture tool (such as a notebook) for instant notes on what needs to be done.
  3. Have a physical and email inbox (as few inboxes as possible) so that all incoming stuff is gathered together in one place (one for paper stuff, one for digital).
  4. Plan your day in blocks, with open blocks in between for urgent stuff that comes up. You might try one-hour blocks, or half-hour blocks, depending on what works for you. Or try this: 40 minute blocks, with 20 minutes in between them for miscellaneous tasks.
  5. First thing in the morning, work on your Most Important Task. Don’t do anything else until this is done. Give yourself a short break, and then start on your next Most Important Task. If you can get 2-3 of these done in the morning, the rest of the day is gravy.
  6. When you are working on a task in a time block, turn off all other distractions. Shut off email, and the Internet if possible. Shut off your cell phone. Try not to answer your phone if possible. Focus on that one task, and try to get it done without worrying about other stuff.
  7. If you feel the urge to check your email or switch to another task, stop yourself. Breathe deeply. Re-focus yourself. Get back to the task at hand.
  8. If other things come in while you’re working, put them in the inbox, or take a note of them in your capture system. Get back to the task at hand.
  9. Every now and then, when you’ve completed the task at hand, process your notes and inbox, adding the tasks to your to-do lists and re-figuring your schedule if necessary. Process your email and other inboxes at regular and pre-determined intervals.
  10. There are times when an interruption is so urgent that you cannot put it off until you’re done with the task at hand. In that case, try to make a note of where you are (writing down notes if you have time) with the task at hand, and put all the documents or notes for that task together and aside (perhaps in an “action” folder or project folder). Then, when you come back to that task, you can pull out your folder and look at your notes to see where you left off.
  11. Take deep breaths, stretch, and take breaks now and then. Enjoy life. Go outside, and appreciate nature. Keep yourself sane.
 

3 Ways to Harness Inner Change

Inner Change

Life is always changing…yet inwardly, we resist.  Do you find change to be a scary process?  Especially if you are trying to harness inner change?  I know that at times, I do.  I am facing something right now that could be a very simple change, yet I am finding it hard to consider.

Moving.  Changing addresses.  I feel like that is a really hard thing for many people.  It’s just a house, right?  No.  Not to many people.  It’s memories, feelings, neighbors and more.  So why the resistance to change?

Resistance can show itself in many ways.

The “what ifs” start to surface.  It is this area of uncertainty that drives us mad.  We know the reality we are living in, correct.  We don’t know this scary possibility over here.  So let’s just stay in the reality we know.

We have no control over the change.  It’s like this, does the caterpillar start to freak out as soon as it goes in the cocoon?  Everything happens as it should once it gets in there…and then the butterfly emerges and flies merrily away.  None the wiser I suspect about all the little close calls it might have faced while in that cocoon.  But we start to question what will happen as we set this in motion..never stopping to think that it could just take its natural course and everything will turn out the way it should…or maybe always was going to anyway no matter what we did.

Nothing looks familiar over here!  I went to sleep thinking about the possibility of a new house.  Insert whatever you are thinking of here.  I have a little routine down right now and it works wonderfully.  What if my routine is interrupted?  What if moving messes up my business for a bit as I get settled (I work from home).  I need to remember the important things, and the things that are going to take some time getting used to.  Not focus so much on all the differences.

3 Ways to Harness Inner Change

  1. Get very clear on why you are even considering this change in the first place.  What are the benefits of doing something new, taking a new job, moving, making new friends or doing something that you might consider equally scary right now?  Do you have support should you wish to make a change?  A sounding board that really has no vested interest in your decision other than for you to be happy?  If not, consider joining us in my closed group, <<< but you really do need supportive people around you.
  2. Uncover the block to this change.  This one is really a big step.  If you haven’t journaled around this idea, might I suggest drawing a giant boulder in the center of a page, and then putting all the reasons around this “block” until you have exhausted this, and honing in on the one reason you really think might be the biggest block of all.  It will probably stem from fear, but you do the work and see if that is where it leads you.
  3. Don’t give up.  If the change is scary, worth it, and you know you can do it, make it your mission to succeed.  Put reminders everywhere (fridge if it’s food related, mirror for self-esteem, on the scale if you are wanting to lose weight, etc.), and affirm to yourself that this inner change is worth a few months of discomfort if it is what you truly want.  New thought patterns can be created, and soon those new patterns will become your fall back.  The old paths will become overgrown, and you will feel much better for making that commitment to yourself as you learn to harness inner change.

Here comes the part where you really get real with yourself.  Is this inner change worth the discomfort?  Yes as long as it is within your alignment of what you want for path.  Breathe in and take 3 deep breaths.  Imagine this change has already happened and everything went well.  How do you feel now?  You have your answer.

For more monthly guidance on getting out of your head, aligning with your heart and helping your overall health, join us in the Head|Heart|Health Club.

Harness Inner Change

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Mental Badassery: Becoming Aware of the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Mental AwarenessMental Badassery: Becoming Aware of the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Guest Post By Leo Babauta

There’s a hidden mechanism that creates unhappiness, difficulty changing habits, relationship problems, frustration, anger and disappointment.

Barely anyone is aware of this hidden mechanism, even though it’s happening all the time, in all of us.

It’s the stories we tell ourselves.

We do it all day long: we tell ourselves a story about what’s happening in our lives, about other people, about ourselves. When I call them “stories” … that doesn’t mean they’re false, or that they aren’t based on the truth. It just means we’ve constructed a narrative based on our experiences, a perspective on the world around us, an interpretation of facts as we see them. Not false, but not necessarily the entire truth — just one perspective.

A different person could look at the same situation and tell a very different situation.

A few examples:

  1. You might have a story about how your boss is very supportive and praises you a lot, which means you are doing a good job and like your work environment, and this story makes you happy. Another person might look at the same situation and tell a story about how the work area is messy and people are always interrupting him and he’s tired and the clients are rude and smelly.
  2. You might be upset with your spouse because she was rude to you or didn’t clean up her messes for the last few days. Another person might have the same experience but tell themselves a story about how his spouse has been working hard at her job, has gone out of her way to cook a nice meal for you, and is tired and needs some comforting.
  3. You might have a story about how you keep procrastinating, keep failing at being disciplined, never stick to a workout routine. Another perspective might be that you have gotten some great things done despite getting distracted, you’ve been passionate about learning something and that’s taken a priority over work tasks you’re dreading, and you are tired and need some rest before you can tackle exercise with vigor.

Each of these examples have very different stories about the same situations — it’s about which details you pay attention to, and how you shape the narrative of those details.

Now, telling ourselves stories is natural — we all do it, all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it. But if we’re not aware of the stories we tell ourselves, we can’t understand how they shape our happiness, relationships, moods, and more.

Becoming Aware of Your Stories

Throughout the day, you’re telling yourself stories about what’s going on, about how wrong other people are to do what they do, about how good or bad you are at things.

My challenge to you is to start to notice what you’re telling yourself about everything.

It’s important to be aware of what those stories are, and how they’re affecting your happiness. If a story is making you happy, and you’re aware of that, then great! If you’re not aware of it, it’s not such a big problem if it’s making you happy, but what happens if the story starts to make you unhappy with your life? Then if you’re not aware, you have difficulties.

So start to become aware of your stories, good and bad. Notice them throughout the day.

Notice when you’re getting stuck in the story, spinning it around and around in your head. So and so shouldn’t have done this, and on and on, making you frustrated and unhappy with the person.

When we get hooked on a story, it’s hard to break away from it. But becoming aware of being hooked is the most important step.

What We Can Do

So what can we do if we’re hooked on a story? It can be very difficult to break out of that trap. I know, because it happens to me all the time — I see the story I’m telling myself, but it seems so solid and real that I can’t just let it go.

The first thing you can do is regard it as a dream. That doesn’t mean it’s false, it just means it’s not so solid. It’s something you’re playing out in your head, just like a dream, with very real emotional results. See it as a dream, not solid, and see if you can come out of the dream to the physical reality of the world around you in this moment. What sensations are happening right now, as opposed to in this dream?

The next thing you can do is not act on the story. Even if you’re caught up in it, that doesn’t mean you have to lash out at someone, or run away to distraction or comfort. Just sit with the story, notice how it’s making you feel, notice the physical sensations in your body. Notice that you’re caught up. But don’t act, just stay with your awareness.

There is another way of being: where you don’t cling to the stories but instead drop below them, and are just aware of the moment as it is, without interpretations, judgements, preconceptions. Stories will still come up, but you can notice them and not get caught up. Or if you do get caught up, notice that and don’t hold so tightly to it, coming back to the present moment.

However, this is a pretty advanced skill, and most of us can’t stay in this mode of being for very long. For now, just focus on awareness of your story, regarding it as a dream, and not acting on the story as much as we normally do.

In this way, you’ll be less caught up in whatever is causing unhappiness and frustration, and more present in the current moment.

 

Feel free to start changing your story today…