DAILY CONTEMPLATIONS

The late (former) Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres once said that negative people and positive people all die the same death, but that they live very different lives.

The way I look at it, the question is simple: when something negative, unpleasant or challenging happens to you in life, do you get better or do you get bitter?

While I was a going through what I considered the worst divorce in history, I remember waking up every day thinking throughout the day what a horrible thing divorce was. I wondered how other people had gone through it and come out with their sanity, and not marred with cynicism about love and life.

For a year afterwards, all I saw was the negative in everything, my former life, my life circumstances, and most of all myself.

I was worried about supporting my son, some of our “friends” of course had to choose sides, and I found out during the divorce about my degenerative eye condition. I had bills upon bills to pay, was struggling to make ends meet, and it seemed like every check I wrote bounced.

I could not wrap my mind around why all of this was happening at one time, and I felt like giving up on most days because there was no good in the world.

The times when my son was with visiting with his father and I had time alone were my darkest hours.

Depression came and wrapped me up, and I could not break free from seeing the worst in every situation and imagining that more of the worst would happen.

Then one day I realized that, as miserable as I was and as much as I wanted my situation to change, it was not going to, at least not in the moment I wanted it to.

I realized that there was only one thing I could change, and that was my perspective and how I looked at everything.

I decided that I could look at my life in one of two ways: either I was destined to be punished eternally and live a miserable life full of pain, hurt, and guilt; or I was going through all of this because the Universe knew I was strong enough to bear it and I would come out stronger, better, and happier than if I did not go through it.

I chose the latter.

When I decided to change my perspective, I felt comforted to know that all that I was going through had a purpose, even if I did not understand it. I found a peace in knowing that I could change my mood in an instant by changing my perspective.

What I learned is that while we all go through tough times, but how we view what we are going through is completely up to us. Even after I realized the importance of perspective, I still had moments when I let the negative invade. When that happened, I thought of the following to shift my mind back to a place of peace:

Nothing lasts forever.

There is no emotion or situation that will last forever. Life ebbs and flows, and the good and bad in life will come and go, eternally.
This world is a dual world.

The physical world and what we see and feel is not all there is. There is a world of spirit and purpose underneath it, and no matter what it looks like on the outside, there is much more going on beneath the circumstances we perceive as negative.

If I can remember that and tap into the deeper meaning behind what I am experiencing, then I can accept what I am going through with greater ease.

We have a choice in how we view things.

Today, I look back on all that I have been through in the past ten years and instead of feeling angry, bitter, or consumed by it, I feel that so much has come from it.

I started to meditate regularly again, I rediscovered my passions and hobbies, I made lasting friendships.

I have built wonderful relationships with the friends that supported me through the tough times and I know that I can go through tough times and not break.

Somewhere along the way, I was able to find the silver lining in my rainbow, and you can too.

Take a look at your life and think of the many tough times you have endured and the many blessings that have arisen from them. You have a chance to find the bright side to your situation, no matter how tough it seems, by only changing your view and identifying the positive of every experience. There is a lesson in the pain and there is a beautiful rose in your thorn bush. Only you are focusing on the thorns.

Changing your perspective is like changing the window through which you view the world. When you change how you view the world, you change how you feel about it.

The problem with our own perspective is that it’s limited. Take the time to expand it.

When we meditate sometimes on Sunday mornings, one of the visualizations I have you follow is imagining yourself floating into space. I usually have you hover over Earth and look down with a bird’s-eye view. You look down and see your life all the way down there. From up there, you can see everyone else involved, and see the challenge or situation in its entirety.

What do you see that you didn’t before? How does your perspective change from way up here?

From out in space, fear and anger and grudges seem a little bit funny, and there are no harsh judgments. Up there, there’s no borders, no conflict. Just feeling present in the moment with love for a pale blue dot and its people hurtling through the universe.

So whether it’s opening a new door or hovering in space, the shift always begins within your mind.

xo Shelly

Almost twenty years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I wasn’t really my own best friend. I was in graduate school and although things were going okay with my studies, I wasn’t very happy. When I made a mistake or failed I beat myself up for days or sometimes weeks.

I mostly focused on the negative and rarely took the time to appreciate the small and wonderful things about my life and myself.

I compared how I looked, my results in school, and success while dating to what other people had and their results. I was stuck in a rut of negativity and low self-esteem. Not a good place to be in.

But finally, after many years, I broke out of that rut.

It wasn’t easy. But step by small step I made changes in how I thought and how I viewed the world and myself. I stumbled along the way and many times I fell back into my old negative habits. Committing to a daily meditation practice was certainly the cornerstone, breathing and pausing mindfully multiple times a day. But in addition to meditation, there were some other habits that helped me make a big change in my life – habits that I still rely on to this day in order to maintain and build my self-esteem.

One of the first things I decided that I needed to stop doing was comparing myself and what I had to other people and what they had.

But what does one do instead, since replacing a habit tends to be more successful than trying to just stop doing it? I decided that I would compare myself to myself instead: to look at how I had grown; how far I had come; how I had become more successful in small or bigger ways.

One other interesting thing I discovered was that when you are kinder toward other people in your life, you tend to think about and treat yourself in a kinder way, too. And the other nice thing about this is that how you treat others is how they tend to treat you in the long run.

So I found it very helpful to focus on being kind in my daily life. This helped to put my metta (lovingkindness) meditation practice into action. Now, this kindness doesn’t have to be about big things. It can simply be to do things like:

-Just being there and listening fully for a few minutes as you let someone vent
-Giving someone a genuine compliment
-Letting someone into your lane while driving
-Taking a few minutes to help someone out in a practical way by giving advice, using Google to help them find something, lifting a heavy table, or making arrangements for a dinner at a restaurant

And you know what? You’re gonna screw things up. You’re human.

Instead of beating yourself up when you make a mistake, fail, or stumble in some way, ask yourself: How would my best friend or parent support me and help me in this situation? Then simply do things and talk to yourself like he or she would.

This simple change in perspective can help you to not fall down into a valley of depressed thoughts, but to be constructive and optimistic about what you do from here on out.

You see, one of the biggest reasons why I beat myself up so much was that I often wanted things to be perfect. And so I held myself to an unrealistic standard, in school and with whatever I did, really.

A big problem with this mindset was, of course, that I often did not do things at all because I was afraid that I could not do them perfectly. Or, I felt it would be too much work and quit before I had even gotten started.

Just realizing how this mindset was hurting me and people around me helped me to let go of it and adopt a healthier outlook. Also, reminding myself that there is a thing called “good enough” and focusing on reaching that instead of perfection helped me not only to get better results, but also perform better in all areas of my life.

It also helped me to stop procrastinating so much and to take a lot more action to improve my life step-by-step. One thing I learned over the years (from my son actually) is that “good is good enough.”

Here is my experience with self-love:

-Life becomes simpler and lighter, because you will not make mountains out of molehills nearly as often anymore.
-You’ll be less needy and more stable as a human being. When you like yourself more, when your opinion of yourself goes up, then you’ll stop trying so eagerly to get validation and attention from other people.
-You will sabotage yourself less. By raising and keeping your self-esteem up, you will feel more and more deserving of good things in all areas of your life. So you’ll go after these good things more often and with more motivation. And when you get them, then you’ll be a lot less likely to self-sabotage because you know that you deep down actually deserve to have them in your life.
-You’ll be more attractive in any kind of relationship. With better self-esteem you’ll get the benefits listed above. And all of that is highly attractive in any kind of relationship. No matter if that relationships is with a friend, at work, in school, or with a partner.

All these huge benefits coincidentally also made my life happier. And as I moved through my days, I kept these very important reasons for keeping my self-esteem up and improving it in the forefront of my mind. Imagine that!

So stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once. Investing in the development of good habits, a foundation (like meditation) on which to build upon is a great start.

See you on the sand on Sunday!

Did you ever wish you could just take off from work and get away from it all? Last summer I had the opportunity to do just that.

I was wrapping up an almost twenty year career in corporate America. My son was in summer camp. So, my husband and I decided to go spend a week in Islamorada.

The weather was everything you would expect it to be: sunny, warm, and gorgeous.

Being away from the daily grind of work prompted deep reflection on my part. As a result, I came to some unexpected insights about my career and my life.

I learned that to some degree, ambition can make you miserable.

When you’re on the fast track, you’ve always got this nagging, stomach-knotting anxiety that you’ve got to go and make it happen or else you’ll be left behind, unable to take your place at the table of materialistic plenty. Worse yet, you start to worry that others will elbow you out and grab your share.

For sure, our competitive society is full of this kind of attitude. And it’s easy to get pulled into it yourself.

I’m not saying that ambition is bad – especially when pursued for good reasons, like taking care of yourself and improving your state in life.

But the dark side of ambition is that it can pile on the stress. Remember that knot in the stomach I talked about?

I learned that only when you take a break from the grind can you realize the impact of your ambition on your spirit.

Only then can you discover what’s driving you and sort out whether it’s truly important or not.

For my part, I discovered that “climbing the ladder” in an organization was no longer important to me.

What emerged as most important was using my strengths and experience to coach leaders, help them solve their problems, and make their own marks.

I also learned that I was more stressed than I realized.

After just a few days of sleeping in and waking up to the sound of waves and tropical birds, I realized the knot in my stomach was gone. What’s more, I didn’t realize how big of a knot it was.

A good chunk of the stress knot was present because of my own doing.

For many of us, this knot of stress is the price we pay for trying to make a living and get ahead. The price includes responsibilities that bear down on you. Maybe over time your health and wellness starts to slip away.

The next thing you know you’re in the grind.

But what’s being ground up is you.

At this point, I learned I had a choice: I could go back to the grind or I could use the strengths I developed over my career to serve others in a more balanced way.

I’ll give you one guess what I chose.

I learned that we really don’t need a lot to live well.

While we were in the Keys, my husband and I were in a small one-bedroom studio. The sum total of our possessions amounted to a couple of suitcases of clothes. And our guitars.

And that was plenty. In fact, it was more than enough.

Living this stripped-down lifestyle removed the hidden burden of having material things to worry about. I’m talking about things like a house, two cars, furnishings, bikes, golf clubs, lawn mowers, washers and dryers, and all the other things we buy to simplify our lives.

The radical downsizing opened me up to experience the rhythm of a simpler life.

And it wasn’t boring at all.

On the contrary – with the hustle, bustle, noise, and possessions gone, I had time to notice the little things that make life rich and enjoyable.

Like the cooling ocean breeze or the small birds that jumped from branch to branch in the trees outside our studio window.

Like connecting more with family, friends, and the transcendent.

Living with less clears away the clutter of our go-go modern lives and allows us to get reacquainted with our authentic human selves.

I’ve learned that we often like to think that we have unlimited time, but all that we can truly count on is this moment.

Practicing gratitude for all that you do have, allowing yourself to be vulnerable with the people who matter, doing random acts of kindness, and not being afraid to show others your authentic, imperfect, and beautiful self-is what we should all be striving for.

We are given this one life, and I encourage you to dig deep and think about how you want to spend your time and energy. I don’t know about you, but while I’m here I want to go on more adventures, learn new things, connect with people in an authentic and meaningful way, build the kinds of relationships that I deserve, taste delicious foods, travel, help others who are struggling, and let myself experience and feel every emotion-pleasant and unpleasant.

I would urge you to think about what your values are. If you are living a life that is not in accordance with you true values-it may be time to be courageous and to start making some changes. After all, nobody is going to give a crap about any of those materialistic achievements at your funeral or thereafter.

See you Sunday on the sand!

No one knows the real you but you and sometimes, I guess it’s true that we don’t know ourselves. It can be because we’ve lost ourselves, or maybe because we never knew ourselves to begin with.

I grew up as a co-dependent people pleaser, with a lot of self-doubt and a lot of shame. I didn’t have a sense of self at all. I was like a leaf that the wind blows away, and I needed to be more of a tree with deep roots, grounded and rooted in love.

Growing up, I received a lot of conflicting and negative messages from my family, such as you are loved but you are flawed. I was hungry for the approval of others.

I learned not to trust my ability to make a good decision because the people in my life did not validate my view of reality.

It took me a long time to see that I could have a different opinion than other people and still be loved and accepted.

When I did make a decision, I got the impression that people are in your life to change your mind, and guilt and shame were good tactics to achieve that.

This has made it extremely difficult for me to make and stick to decisions.

If you think you aren’t qualified to make a good choice then you’re going to be afraid to make any choice.

I have often run around asking multiple people, “What should I do? What should I do?” I invited them to give me input. But then I was angry with them for “telling me what to do.”

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.

What I was really telling myself is that my opinion didn’t matter. I valued other people’s opinions far above my own. I disowned myself. Somewhere in my mind I thought that they must have known better. After all, what in the world could I know?

But there is no shame in speaking from a place of truth.

You do know something and that is not a bad thing. In fact, you probably know more than you think you know. But thinking you don’t know anything keeps you from taking the good advice you would give yourself. And it keeps you dependent on other people.

People seem to lose respect for people who are wishy-washy and can’t make their own decisions. In other words, people who can’t think for themselves are also people who don’t respect themselves because they don’t respect their own opinions.

It takes a lot of courage to stand up and take personal responsibility for your life and actually “own” your decisions.

I have let others play the scapegoat by allowing them to be my decision makers. For example, because of my lack of assertiveness in past relationships, I handed over my brain and responsibilities to my partner.

I think it was because of fear but also laziness on my part. But no one can really be happy this way. You won’t be happy, and the other people won’t be either when they hear you blame them for your choices.

Ask for advice if you feel you need it, but take it with a grain of salt. In the end, you are the one who needs to live with your decision. The gurus won’t be the one with the consequences of your choice.

Don’t be so afraid of making mistakes. Fear of the choice being “bad” keeps you stuck. Accept that you are human. As far as I know, all humans make mistakes. The only ones that won’t give you grace are the ones that have no grace for themselves. So lighten up a bit.

We all know some truths that we need to stop denying and start accepting. That unsettled feeling in our gut is there for a reason.

It’s time to stop sweeping things under the rug and start having the courage to speak up. We need to tell ourselves that we are relevant and that our opinions matter, and that by standing our ground we can be a positive force for change, because we have something to say that someone out there may need to hear.

Later in life, I had finally come to the conclusion that I need to trust my best judgment, stick to my decision, follow through, and let the cards fall where they may.

I think the important thing to realize is that life has a way of working out. Even if we make the worst possible choice, we still have the freedom to make adjustments.

So let yourself try what feels right for you, and don’t worry about making the “wrong” decision. One of the best things I have learned is that the world is a place to explore, and it will embrace you if you embrace it!

There comes a point in every person’s life when he or she parts ways with someone: a spouse, a friend and anyone in between.

Upon first meeting this person, there’s a sweet beginning, but once you come to really know each other and grow comfortable, you suddenly realize that the relationship no longer brings any particular value to your life and is perhaps, even detrimental.

Sometimes, we hold on to people purely based on how long we have known them. Time can tie people together, but if you feel as though there’s nothing substantial keeping you connected, time is not a strong enough reason to hold on to something that’s simply no longer worth holding onto.

We grow complacent with people once we’re comfortable with them. But, hanging onto someone for the pure sake of it and because you don’t know anything else isn’t a good enough reason.

It’s okay if you have outgrown the relationship. People change through growth. You aren’t the same person you were ten years ago, guaranteed. Nor should you be. If you have changed, evolved, grown, healed – or if you desire to – it’s hard to carry someone on your back while those transitions are happening. If anything, it only stifles your growth.

Fear is another reason why we can’t move on. There’s the fear of being alone and not being able to find someone else; fear of someone using our deepest and darkest secrets as blackmail; fear of the hate and tension that will ensue; fear of regret once someone is gone.

Sometimes, things are better left as mere memories. You can try to change things back to how they were or try to create things to be the way you want them, but you’ll never be truly happy because it’ll never be anything like how things once were.

If anything, there’s now too much pressure and expectation in the air to recreate what you both once had. Instead, hold on to and cherish the memories, but move forward. Be thankful for what a friendship or relationship brought you and taught you.

Beyond that, friendships and relationships — while they do have their downfalls and can require fixing — should essentially come naturally.

If a person isn’t bringing something significant to your life, not treating you how you’d like or isn’t the type of person you want him or her to be, it’s a clear sign that you need distance.

While it would be selfish of you to not accept a person for who he or she is, it would be unfair for you to have to endure a friendship or relationship that isn’t cultivating a better you.

A good reason to let go is because things are not the same anymore.

People simply grow a part, which is perfectly normal. You realize you want different things, no longer share the same interests, no longer understand and no longer connect.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of accepting that it takes time to let go, rather than holding on to something that just can’t be brought back, was lost a long time ago or perhaps, was never really there at all.

It’s difficult to hold on to people in life, but remember that you’re destined to meet different people along your journey who will bring you happiness, sorrow, pain and joy.

If you know in your heart that you can’t trust this person and he or she cannot be loyal, then you need to ask yourself why this person is in your life. Trust and loyalty are the foundation of any friendship and relationship.

If they’re not present, it may only lead to paranoia, frustration, tension and anger that you’re better off without feeling.

Find someone with whom you can share your deepest darkest secrets and you know that after walking away, his or her lips will remain tightly sealed. Find someone whose faithfulness to you will be unquestionable because his or her actions, rather than empty promises, bring you a peace of mind.

Sometimes people can let go because they are unclear of where things stand.

Engaging in an undefined friendship or relationship is confusing because you don’t know what you mean to the person, if anything at all. If the person can’t make you feel as though you’re significant, reflect on why you’re allowing someone to treat this way.

Be in the company of someone who is proud to have you in his or her life and will make that known to you and the rest of the world. Be in the company of someone who won’t gamble with your heart and mind simply because he or she knows you’re not going anywhere.

If the friendship/relationship is making you unhappy or miserable, it’s time to bid the person farewell. We must not allow ourselves to feel trapped and used to being treated far less well than we deserve.

If someone is putting you down, competing with you, not paying attention to you, not caring about you, abusing you, embarrassing you in front of others, making you question yourself, belittling you or simply just not caring about you, remove the negativity from your life as soon as possible. Respect yourself enough to be able to walk away.

It is hard to make a relationship work if you can’t ever agree or see each other’s points of view. If the one thing you can agree on is that neither of you can agree, it might be time to walk away.

In many friendships and relationships, people come together through unlikely chances, through their differences and lack of similarities. Therefore, it can work, but if you find that it’s a significant source of many of your disputes and tensions, get out now.

If your relationship makes you feel as though you’re the only one putting in effort, time and love, reflect on whether or not it’s worth it. If someone truly loves you, cares for you or wants and needs you, the person will never allow you to invest disproportionate effort.

Find someone who makes you feel worthwhile and worthy. Find someone who fights to have you in his or her life. Find someone who knows how lucky he or she is to have you.

Find someone who acknowledges everything you have done and will do. Don’t waste your time on anything less.

If you find that your relationship isn’t providing you with support, reflect on what the person is providing. You deserve someone who will be there to encourage you throughout your journey and believe in you maybe even more than you believe in yourself.

Ask yourself whether you can do without the relationship or whether it’s something you unquestionably want and deserve. Sometimes, there’s this belief that we can be “too picky” with what we want from others in life, but then again, why should we settle for anything less than happiness?

Don’t ever allow someone to make you feel needy for wanting someone who will love, care and support you, someone who will listen and give you insightful advice, someone who wants the same things, someone you can trust and will be loyal to you, someone who believes so strongly in you and your capabilities. Just someone who makes you feel like you’re someone.

Don’t be afraid to move on from a relationship that no longer serves you. It doesn’t mean you have to excommunicate a person, per se. It means you have to be willing to be honest enough with yourself and value yourself enough to not want to waste anymore time and effort on something that doesn’t contribute to the quality of your life or helps to make you a better person somehow.

Food for thought! xo Shelly

About this time two years ago, I sat staring at myself in the mirror. All I saw was failure.

And for the first time in a long while, I cried.

All I could think about was having to get up the next morning and force myself through another day. Force myself to put on a smile and pretend to be happy. Force myself to act like everything was moving in the right direction.

I’d been putting on this façade for months by this point.
My professional career was in a great place, my finances were the best they’d been in a long while, and I felt like I was doing okay by a lot of people.

Yet I felt stuck, broken on the inside, and like I was massively holding something back in terms of what I had to offer the world.

And in that tear-filled moment with the mirror, I knew I had to let go of the career and life I had worked so hard to for.

I spent the next year trying to work out what the hell was going on. I suppose you could say I was trying to find myself, but the cliché-ridden nature of those words makes me cringe even now. So I prefer to say “working my sh*t out.”

I took as much time as practically could as a wife and mother and daughter and executive to step back, I traveled, sought connection, read, listened to podcasts, and dug deep into my soul for answers to questions I had previously written off as too time wasting for me to deal with.

But a key question that kept coming up for me was “what is my purpose?”

I would muse on this for days, weeks, and months at a time, desperately trying to figure out the answer and looking for some Eureka moment.

Almost every book I read, every podcast that I listened to, and every video I watched all seemed to keep coming back to this question in some roundabout way. Each moment of consumption giving me more information on systems, steps, and questions to find out what my purpose is on this earth and what I am “here to do.”

I became obsessed.

And in that obsession I created confusion.

Who was I? What did I want to start? What did I want to talk about? How could I help and serve others without draining my own life force?

Even while spending time connecting with others and trying to figure my own stuff out, I still felt completely lost. Like I was simply shuffling through life with a black hole continually expanding inside of me.

I would dive into things headfirst and keep them going for a few weeks before deciding I was on the wrong path. Some idea would catch my eye and I’d take steps forward before getting bored and slacking off.

Until one day I had what I lovingly like to call a “f*ck it” moment.

I just couldn’t take any more listening to other people tell me how to find this purpose thing that was supposed to be so great.

I’d gone from never thinking about my purpose, to being obsessed with finding it, to just getting fed up with it all. In fact, I was pissed off that all these other people seemed to be living “in line with their purpose” while I was left stuck and still asking questions.

It was like when you’re a kid and your weird uncle does that crappy magic trick, and you just want him to tell you how he did it so you can stop trying to figure it out and get on with your life.

Then almost as soon as I gave up trying so hard, things became a lot clearer.

And I started to realize what a poor, vague, nothing kind of question it is to ask “what is your purpose?”

Because, when it really comes down to it, we as human beings all have just one, universal purpose.

To create.

Think about it. We create thoughts and knowledge and content and books and podcasts and TV programs and websites and furniture and iPhones and apps to go on those iPhones and other phones to rival those iPhones and slightly bigger iPhones we call iPads and all sorts of other inventions and relationships and businesses and lives for ourselves.

We even create other human beings!

But we also create fear and negativity and judgment and perfectionism and evil and other bad stuff.

So “What is my purpose?” is actually a pretty poor question when it comes to the kind of answer most of us are really looking for. The answer to that is simply to create.

This brought a huge perspective shift for me. All of a sudden, I stopped asking myself the same question over and over again and expecting a different answer every time.

Now I had a new question: What did I want to create?
Screw purpose! Screw this elusive, intangible, nothing of a question. What did I want to create? And I mean really want to create?

No longer did I feel like I had to find this one thing that I was put on this earth to do. No longer was I searching for this magic moment that would give me a sign that I should definitively label myself as this or that.

All I had to start doing was creating something, anything, several things that would make me feel purposeful.
But this then posed another problem.

What did I want to create?

It’s all well and good saying to go create something, but if you don’t know what or how then it’s still meaningless. Surely, if we truly want to feel purposeful, we must know ourselves first.

So I took a deep internal dive again. Only this time, with this new angle to my questioning at the helm.

I wanted to look deep into the depths of my heart and soul in order to find out what was really in there. To peel back all the pretending, all the bravado, and all the BS so I could just know what was really going on in there.

I asked myself about my beliefs, my fears, what I love, what makes me feel passionate, what doesn’t, my strengths, my weaknesses, and what I would say to the world if I had everyone’s attention for just fifteen minutes.

I wrote everything down, even if it was uncomfortable. And I didn’t settle for superficial, meaningless answers.

But the biggest thing of all, the thing that opened my eyes the most, was getting clear on my values.

Our values are the very essence of who we are as individuals. They are what guide us when it comes to making decisions so that we don’t end up feeling like a tangled mess inside. And they act as our inner compass when it comes to what we should create and put into this world.

So the act of creating something that made me feel purposeful became rather straightforward.

What knowledge or skills or expertise do I have in my head and heart? What do I love? And how can I bring all this together to create something that helps and serves others?

Suddenly, discovering “my purpose” became inconsequential.

Why do we need this one, single purpose? The real answer we want to that question, the feeling we want to garner, comes from creating purposeful and meaningful things. Things that make us feel like we are adding to the world and like we are helping in some way.

But we can only know what we class as “meaningful” and “purposeful” if we take the time to discover ourselves and know who we are.

So, if you’re like me and have struggled, or are struggling, with this whole purpose thing, I invite you to just give up looking. Instead, try going deep with yourself on two questions:

1. Who am I?
2. What do I want to create?

Maybe shifting your perspective like this can help get you unstuck, as it did with me.

And it may enable you to go and create something truly meaningful, whichever way you define that yourself.

Now, I know there may be some people out there to whom this all seems a bit over the top, or maybe even irrelevant.

We all have jobs or businesses to focus on, bills to pay, families to feed, and general life stuff going on. Thinking about all the bother of creating this big, elaborate, purposeful thing may be pretty close to bottom of the to-do list for a lot of people.

But that’s the thing—it doesn’t need to be a big, elaborate thing. You could choose to create happiness, or connection, or laughter, for example.

Sure, you could create a billion-dollar company, an international movement, or a charity helping millions of people. Or you could create joy by volunteering at a children’s hospital, or by making it your personal mission to lift other people’s spirits when they’re feeling down.

We don’t need to go into this with an attitude of having to create something huge and entrepreneurial if we don’t want to.

We can garner that feeling in smaller, yet equally as significant, ways.

Simply bringing ourselves to the present moment and asking “What can I create right now that would make me feel purposeful and meaningful?” can be pretty powerful.

Start small. And maybe you’ll get hooked from there.

Because, after all, we are all worthy of feeling purposeful. We just need to decide what this looks like to us.

See you on the sand on Sunday. xo Shelly

Here is what I know for sure: we are put here on this Earth to grow, to expand – to learn and experience and understand. Growth and discovery are the purpose of life.

Yet here is another truth I know for sure: I believe we tend to get in our own way.

Our experiences, our cultures, and even our families can create fears and limitations that can hold us back, or hold us down. They don’t do this intentionally. It’s just that we’re all doing the best we can in this beautiful, messy, complicated world.

There are so many circumstances or experiences that can get in the way of our growth and stifle our creativity and our lives.

There are several mistakes we often make in our endeavors to grow, create, or experience something new. The first mistake is that we don’t take our instincts seriously.

For example, have you ever said “I’m fine” when inside you were hurt or afraid? Or said “It’s not a big deal” when, in fact, it was consuming your every waking thought (and likely your dreams)?

Or maybe you even rolled your eyes at yourself; told yourself that you were overreacting, or that a comment, dream, or feeling didn’t matter.

Well, don’t do that anymore.

It – whatever “it” is for you – does matter. It matters that you have a dream to start a business or take that trip or venture into something new. It matters that you want more than what everyone else is settling for. It matters that you are upset or unsettled or craving expansion in your life.

It matters because those things are signs that you are not on the right track, signs that something is out there calling your name, signs that you’re ready to discover and devour it.

And those signs should always be taken seriously. Listen to your inner voice. It’s there for a reason.

The second mistake we make is that we don’t create enough space for continued growth.

Growth requires space – actual physical space, as well as space in your schedule.

I think there are two reasons people don’t create this space. Either:

They think it’s selfish. They have kids, work, chores, and obligations. It would be selfish to put those off just for themselves.

Or they don’t think it’s possible. They have kids, work, chores, and obligations. Who has time or energy to undertake anything else?

While both of those are really symptoms of not taking it seriously, there is more to it.

If you think it’s selfish to create time for you to chase a dream, to process an emotion, to rest and reconnect , you’re missing one very important fact – you can’t give to others what you don’t have, and you don’t have what you don’t take the time to give to yourself.

Growth requires self-compassion, patience, and generosity. If you ignore it, it will nag you, deplete you, and bury you in stress.

But when you give yourself the things you need, you soon begin to overflow those same things -the compassion, patience, and generosity – back into your world.

When your soul is filled up to overflowing, the feeling of impossibility takes care of itself.

Make the things that matter—such as self-care, compassion, and authenticity – priorities, and you’ll find you have the time and energy to create the life you visualize.

Another common mistake we make is that we label our efforts.

Any time you start something big or life-changing with labels like “not good enough” or “stupid,” you shut down your growth before you’ve even begun.

Because how can someone who is stupid or not good enough possibly do anything worthwhile?

But you’re not stupid, and you efforts are good enough. You have to let go of the labels and approach your experience with an open mind and heart. This is what allows you to create possibilities that are more and better than what you know.

If you’re struggling with this one, hold on to one truth: Each and every person was born pure, whole, and open to growth and learning.

The struggle doesn’t come from who you are inherently, but rather the messages you’ve heard about who you are. Consider this:

“It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult.” ~Seneca

So as we wrap up the year 2016, I leave you with these few questions:

What messages have you heard?
What are your beliefs about yourself and what you can do?
What things are holding you back from venturing into life?

If you don’t read the entire post today, walk away with just this: Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once.

There were days that I wanted nothing more than to move forward. If I could only figure out which way was forward, I would definitely have started heading in that direction. It happened to be that I was through the most major break-up in my life.

For a long time, I was looking for someone to tell me exactly what to do. I’d read a book and it would have an inspiring idea, but then the implications of that idea would make me feel uncomfortable. Still, I’d try it on. After months of struggling, I realized it just wouldn’t fit.

This happened again and again.

I thought there was something wrong with me because other people’s frameworks didn’t fit me like a glove. It wasn’t until I started helping other people that I realized, they’re not supposed to.

Other people’s words can inspire us, inform us, and, at best, give us valuable frameworks within which to place our experiences. But how we fill in those gaps and connect those dots—that’s still up to us.

Self-discovery is supposed to be messy and confusing. You’re supposed to feel like no one has the answers for you, because they don’t. YOU have the answers. At most, you need a guide to help you find those answers, and even then, you always have the final say.

After many tearful conversations with my ever-supportive friends, I would look forward to sitting down on my cushion and experiencing the sadness and pain I was feeling.

I would spend my days intently focused at work, and, when my mind wandered, holding back tears. I would be looking forward to letting those tears flow. I finally became ready to let these emotions live and to acknowledge and accept them, to live with them.

I would walk to my cushion, and sit. I would set the timer. I would pull my head up high. I would collapse, crying. I would pulled myself up again. I would collapse again, bawling.

Merely the thought of pulling my chest up again at that time was exhausting. All day I had looked forward to a moment when I could let these emotions be, and then I found myself feeling too weak to experience them in the manner I thought I should.

Experiencing the discomfort, however, did not seem to be my current problem.

These emotions had something to teach me, and I wanted to learn. When I finally just sat in meditation with the pain I was experiencing, I would begin to understand the lessons. I thought the lessons would tell me what to do and how to move forward. But it wasn’t the silence that brought me to freedom from my wounds.

We all want to be strong and stable (like a mountain). We want to sit with our head high and feel the pain. We want to not be a pile of howling self-pity on our bedroom floors.

But there were moments that I was a weeping mass on my bedroom floor. I was overwhelmed.

In those moments I would reset my timer. Five minutes. For five minutes I would agree that I could cry my heart out. Then, I decided, I’ll get up, cook dinner, eat dinner, drink a glass of wine, and read a book, and then I’ll come back to the cushion.

This new way of thinking started to go much better. I would weep for about thirty seconds, and then I would lay there breathing deeply. The timer would go off and I would get up.

I would remember Pema Chodron’s advice about lightening up, which is exactly what I needed to do. She said, splash water on your face, go jogging, do anything different. I put on some Al Green instead of the cathartic break-up music I was used to playing.

I would dance and sing out loud while preparing dinner. I had my dinner, my wine, my reading. I sat on my cushion. I experienced the feelings that had now transitioned into numbness.

The gratitude I have for that experience, for being able to recognize my needs and provide them for myself, to simply have given myself a positive, healthy break, is immense.

I gave myself the space I needed. I had hoped to sit on the cushion and get that space, but I found it shaking to “Love and Happiness” instead.

It’s not uncommon to want ourselves or our situation to be different. It is the desire to be a better person that pushes us to grow, change, and actually become better people. However, personal growth is often a slow and painful process. There are no miracles. If we keep picking at our wounds instead of embracing them, they never begin to heal. But when we begin to lean into our pain and suffering, when we allow ourselves to feel, that is when our body and mind carefully tells us when it’s sufficient and when to take that break.

The expectation to be something we are not, whether temporarily or permanently, is a form of aggression toward our selves.

The best thing we can do is nurture ourselves and our circumstances just as they are. Listen to yourself and do not try to force yourself or your situation to be something it is not.

When you give yourself a break, you create space. Allowing things to be, just as they are, without judgment or expectation, gives you room to breathe. And that is good for clarity. You will find things start to get better, if you let them.

When we become more willing to rest in a state of confusion, we accept things being “complicated.” There should be nothing disappointing to you about complication; it’s a sign of growth and transition.
It’s hard to see sometimes, but the joy of living is in the unknown.

Letting yourself be weak can give you strength. Letting yourself be confused can give you clarity. Letting your life be complicated can simplify it.

Have a beautiful Wednesday. xo Shelly

Imagine using a new language that prevents you from blaming others, being reactive, manipulating, fearing anything in the outside world, needing social approval, being offended by others, and being controlled or controlling others.

Imagine that these problems were simply eliminated from your life because your new language makes them impossible.

Perception of language engages your tongue and your brain toward a new level of understanding and perception of the way you view the world.

Here are a few guiding principles of what I mean:

Principle #1: There is no out there out there.

We don’t respond to “the world out there.” We respond to our perception of the world.

Perception is formed by beliefs, cultural norms, religious affiliation, genetic factors, life experience, sense of right and wrong, and so much more.

All of these factors combine to filter the information that passes through our senses, allowing us to figure out what things mean. In other words, we don’t ever directly experience anything outside of ourselves. We only experience ourselves.

When I listen to my husband talk, I am actually hearing my perception of his words, gestures and so forth. I am making meaning out of what he communicates based on that. This may or not match the meaning he intends to convey.

If I am offended by him, it is important to understand that I am actually offended by what I did with his words based on how I made meaning out of them. In essence, I am offended by the him-in-me. Not by him, the real person. I can never experience him, the real person, directly.

In essence, I am offended by this person that I have made a part of me by the way I perceive him. In the end, I am offended by none other than myself.

In short, it is not what people do to me that causes problems for me, but what I do with people to cause myself problems.

Here is an example of this in practice: “My husband asked me to calm down.”

This becomes: “I had my-husband-in-me asking me to calm down.”

This way of phrasing acknowledges that I do not experience my husband the way he experiences himself. He is not acting on me. I am acting on myself with my perception of him. When I respond to him, I am really responding to my perception. I am responding to me.

There are huge benefits to understanding and communicating with this in mind. When I really get this principle, a whole new world in me opens up. Suddenly, I don’t take things personally.

I do not get offended very easily. I can listen to criticism with an open mind. I don’t take myself so seriously or believe others have power over me.

Principle #2: I am an active process.

I act as opposed to being acted upon. I am my own agent. It is true that something may well act upon me. A tree may fall on me. A car may hit me. Another person may shove me.

Psychologically, however, I consider it more important how I respond to these events – what meaning I make of them – and I do this actively.
People so often portray themselves as passive or as victims in their use of language.

“She made me feel so angry.”
“My father makes me feel helpless.”
“I am troubled by my past.”

In reality (in me) I am the one doing the acting. I actively create my own experience. I can express myself differently:

“I anger myself with her.”
“I make myself feel helpless when I am with my father.”
“I trouble myself with my past.”

This way of putting words together suggests that I am an active participant in my own experience. I am doing to myself as opposed to having things done to me.
There is a world of difference between “I trouble myself with my past” and “I am troubled by my past.”

If I am troubled by my past, then I see my past as something fixed that is acting upon me. In this view, I might have my past being something back there that actually has power over me. So many of us think, speak, feel, and act as if this were actually true.

In the moment I shift myself to “I trouble myself with my past,” I transform my experience. In this view, I am doing something to myself. I am the agent. Nothing other than myself is acting upon me.

Moreover, I am acting on my past-in-me. In other words I am troubling myself with how I am creating my past. This is a significant distinction.

If I am the one who is taking action, I can stop taking this action. Or, I can act differently. A new world of possibility opens up when I get this concept.

I open a new world of possibility in me. I empower myself, no longer believing that I am a victim of outward circumstance when I “verb” myself in this way.
I am not motivated. I motivate myself. I am not excited. I excite myself. I am not sad. I sadden myself. I am not depressed. I depress myself.

I don’t give power to other people or circumstances or life to do anything to me psychologically. I do everything to myself. What do I want to do to myself?

Principle #3: Everything that is happening is happening right now.

We need to speak in the present tense. Most of us believe that there is a past, a present, and a future. I believe that there is only now.

I can only experience myself right now. While I am contemplating the past, I am doing so now, perceiving the past within me at this moment. My future is similar to my past in that when I think about the future I am creating it right now.

When I speak of the past, I can acknowledge in my language that the thoughts or feelings I’m having about my past are happening now. When I speak myself I want to connect myself with my experience in this moment.

“Tomorrow is going to be a scary day.”

This becomes:
“I scare myself with my thoughts about tomorrow.”
“I enjoyed fishing with my dad when was a child.”

This becomes:

”I am enjoying myself now with thoughts of fishing with my dad when I was a child.”

There may be endless combinations of words to illustrate how to reflect the here and now in our language. When I speak, I want to remind myself continually that I am doing to myself, right here, right now.

The past that I thought was behind me becomes another aspect of how I experience myself now. The future waiting for me in the great beyond is now within my reach.

So, the world I interact with is within me. I actively create it, right now.

When I first started speaking in this way, my world began to shift.

I realized when others judge me, I am actually using my perception of them to judge myself. I also realized that what they were saying was just their perception of me, not me.

I not only got the philosophy that I create my own world, but I had the actual experience, along with others. When these principles are infused with every sentence that comes out of your mouth, it becomes your reality before long.

Language forms the foundation of our perception. When you change the structure of your language, you change the structure and your perception of the world.

See you tomorrow on the sand!

We’ve all heard this quote before: “When something bad happens you have three choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”

This Wednesday morning, I’m here to tell you/us: don’t hate your past. No matter what it contained or what it did to you, the past shapes who you are, not just for the things you felt damaged you but for the lessons you can take from it.

Today, I want you to embrace your inner “world shaker.” I love working with the people I call the “world shakers.” They’re the people who want to make a difference in the world so that they leave it in a slightly better way than they found it.

I love these types of people because they’re so driven by their heart and passion for others. They’re kind. They value people.

You know what else these people have in common? They have empathy for others and a desire to make the world a better place. Not in a showy, “give me the Nobel Peace Prize” kind of way (although a bit more showy-ness wouldn’t go amiss!) but in a gentle, modest way.

Do you know what really amazes and inspires me about world shakers? They’ve had their own hurts, challenges, and heartbreaks but instead of letting those things harden them and make them brittle, they’ve allowed themselves to stay open and vulnerable.

They’ve taken those things that have wounded, battered, and pierced them and transformed the experiences into fierce empathy for others.

They can’t walk past the person who’s struggling because they know how it feels to struggle. They have a way of recognizing the human condition in all of us.

They turn it outward and use it as a learning experience, one that enhances their ability to empathize and drives their conviction to change things for others.

It could be the mother who refuses to pass on the cycle of abuse she experienced to her own kids, or the teacher who bans the world “stupid” from her classroom because she can remember how much it crippled her to hear it as a child.

It could be the man who gives coffee to the homeless guy every day because he can knows what it’s like to feel like no one cares about you, or the recovering addict who works with troubled teens to try and save them the pain of his experiences.

World shaking is often driven by a need to make things better because of the pain we’ve suffered ourselves.

Still, I still have to catch myself when I bemoan the things that have happened to me over the years. Like everyone, I’ve had my share of unpleasant, difficult, and downright heart breaking experiences.

For the longest time I was angry at the world because I’d experienced them. I hated the mistakes I made. I berated myself for my screw-ups and stupid choices. I felt defined by them—embarrassed and soiled—like I should be wearing a T-Shirt with the words “Damaged Goods” on it.

One day, a very wise person said these words to me: Everything that has ever happened to you is the perfect preparation for the person you’re destined to become.

And everything flipped.

Those things that I had regretted so much had shaped me. What’s more, I had a choice in it. I had inadvertently used those things that had happened to me as things that drove me forward. Many of the things I’d become interested in, my passions, and my values were driven by those very experiences.

I’m a passionate advocate for reducing stress which manifests into health issues, and I started my whole journey of learning about personal development and emotional resilience because of my own battles with stress-related illness.

I try to help people find joy, passion, and a sense of purpose and that’s undoubtedly because I spent so many years in jobs or positions that didn’t suit me or that where I didn’t feel I was making a difference.

I’ve also struggled in jobs that really did suit me because I didn’t know how to handle the stresses and challenges our work can bring. I didn’t understand the importance of asking for help, having strong support networks, actively managing stress, and making sure I wasn’t mentally giving myself a hard time too often.

Having to take a break due to burn out and stress used to feel horrible to me. I would feel so unproductive. But I learned that during these “time outs,” I was being productive in other ways. I studied, trained, and read—a lot!

I realized that resilience is a practice, not some innate skill that you either have or you don’t. I learned how to develop my own resilience and that made me immensely driven to help others do it, too.

My dark times also forged my sense of empathy, a key skill I bring to my work. If I’d had the “charmed” life I’d originally wanted, would this have been the case? Somehow I doubt it.

All of the lessons I’ve learned led to wisdom that can only be gained through experiencing life’s ups and downs.

Hard lessons learned are deep lessons. They shape us. Most of us are familiar with the term post-traumatic stress, but did you know there is also a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth?

It’s the ability to grow through adversity—to come out the other end stronger, clearer, and with a renewed zest for life.

I think that’s what many of us fail to recognize in ourselves, that those dark times, far from diminishing us, can give us the most profound of gifts—the gift of recognizing human life in all its messy, painful, courageous glory.

We can take those gifts and use them to be a beacon to others to say, “It’s okay. I’ve been there. This too will pass.”

And that surely is a real gift worth giving.

Thank you for accepting the gifts I choose to share. It’s gratifying and appreciated deeply. xo Shelly