Feeling Through Music: Playlists For Every Mood

It’s hard to describe my relationship with music. No word in the English language can capture the way a good song makes me feel.

How do you verbalize an entity that has brung you joy, relief, and comfort for as far back as you can remember?

I have been expressing myself through music in every phase of my life:

  • Pop, when I was a starry-eyed kid with my head in the clouds and all the world was a stage,
  • Rock when I was a brooding emo teen, and I thought no one would ever understand me,
  • and R&B as an adult for its chill vibes and relatable lyrics.

Since I was first introduced to this art form, my music taste has expanded vastly; there’s no telling what you might hear when you put my phone on shuffle. It could be soul, metal, trap, EDM, or an anime theme song. But no matter the genre, the type of music I listen to always echoes how I’m feeling in the moment.

That’s because there’s power in song.

Courtesy of “the little book of self care” by Joanna Gray

Music is more than just mere entertainment; it’s a soul transcending experience.

If you’ve ever seen music live, you know what I’m talking about.

Every which way you turn, fans are in their own zone. Whether they’re dancing and singing along, nodding their heads, crowd surfing, moshing, or swaying from side to side with tear-stained cheeks and their phones raised to the sky, it’s all proof that there’s something powerful at play here.

I believe musicians are the worlds most influential people. They have a gift that unites people through emotions.

Music is so influential that a tune can literally affect your mood.

Some of the most important moments in your life require music (graduations, weddings, birthday parties). What would a celebration be without a good soundtrack?

That’s definitely true for me. The most magical moments in my highlight reel feature music: my high school prom, Bamboozle 2010, my family cruise in 2018, that time Husbae sang to me at my brother-in-laws…

But music isn’t just there for us when we’re in a good mood. It can help relieve feelings of anger, stress, and sadness, too!

I have playlists for every mood:

  • “Anxiety Reducing” when I need to calm down,
  • “Issa Vibe” when I want to chill out,
  • “Make Her Dance” when I want something to get me moving,
  • and “Dark and Brooding” when I hate everything and just want to cry in the dark (lol)

Music means the world to me, so I want to share it with you!

I created these mood-specific playlists that are designed to adhere to whatever you’re feeling at the moment.

Not just the happy ones, because sometimes we feel down, too. (You’re human. You’re allowed.)

So whether you want to keep that mood high, you’re trying to chill out, or someone just cut you off in traffic and you never got the satisfaction of flipping them off, I have the perfect song for you! To me, sharing music’s a profession of love. Let me show you how much I love you.

1. So in love

If you’re feeling particularly smitten

2. Let’s Dance (NSFW)

If you’re in the mood to dance

3. Issa Vibe

Super chill. Anxiety reducing.

4. Lets Put A Smile On That Face

Guaranteed to make you smile 🙂

5. Mood. (NSFW)

When you’re MAD mad.

If you’re like me, then music is a form of therapy. Sometimes hearing the right lyrics paired with the right tempo ignites a fire in you like nothing else could. I definitely have my days where I just need to escape, and music has always helped me. I hope it helps you, too ❤

*Don’t be a stranger, drop some of your favorite mood altering music in the comments! I love being put on to new tunes ^_^

*Don’t forget to like, share, and leave a comment ^_^

*Like the post? Show me some love! https://www.buymeacoffee.com/kaillaby

6 Valuable Lessons I Learned From Yoga

Yoga is my favorite way to exercise. It enhances flexibility, promotes mindfulness, and encourages discipline.

These days, I get my yoga fix from my favorite Youtube channel, Yoga By Biola.

Not only has yoga been doing my body right (aowww), it’s also been having a major influence on me psychologically.

Here are 6 valuable takeaways I’ve learned by practicing yoga.

1. Yoga Taught Me Patience With Myself

I judge myself harshly when things don’t go according to plan. When I make a mistake, I can be pretty mean and impatient with myself. It’s as if I’m mad that I’m falling short of my own expectations. How many of you can relate?

This impatience stems from past experiences where I wasn’t granted the tolerance and compassion for my flaws. My mistakes would be met with punishment which caused me to set up unrealistic standards for myself. Yoga teaches me that this way of thinking is wrong.

It’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Allowing yourself to learn and grow instead of punishing yourself for being human is better for your long-term success and self-esteem.

In yoga, it’s less about how perfectly you can get it right the first time and more about your gradual progress.

Abiola Akanni’s practice teaches me to be patient and kind to myself, down to how I talk about my body.

In her “slow flow hip opening” routine, she speaks about observing the body without judgment. Not discrediting yourself for being tight in a certain place or having a limited range of motion, but instead making a mental note of your body’s progress and the messages it’s sending to you at the moment.

Yoga By Biola does an excellent job of encouraging people to move in a way “that feels safe” and to not be so caught up in trying to achieve stretches and bends that our bodies aren’t prepared to handle. Abiola is super accommodating and often recommends using additional accessories (i.e., yoga blocks, pillows, books, belts, etc.) in case you need them.

We could all benefit from being more patient with ourselves. Most of the time, we’re our harshest critics and our own worst enemies when really we should be our own best friends!

Be mindful of how kind you are to yourself in moments when things aren’t going right for you. Grant yourself the graciousness you give to other people, and remember to love yourself unconditionally. (Side note: It’s NOT ok to insult yourself. Even in jest. What we speak, we become.)

2. Yoga Taught Me The Power of Consistency

I started doing yoga to improve my flexibility and counter tightness in my hips and groin, a consequence of constantly sitting and not having enough movement in my legs.

At first, I didn’t see the improvement I was looking for, not taking responsibility for my lack of persistence.

When I started taking it seriously, I noticed that the more I kept practicing, the easier the bends and poses became. Each time I was able to lean into it just a little bit further, and before you know it, I was pulling off moves with ease. (Ok, nailing pigeon pose!)

This inspired me to become more consistent in other aspects of my life. Like

  • My work ethic
  • My hair and skincare routines
  • And relationship building.

With yoga, just like anything you strive to achieve, you have to be consistent to see the results. It helps to think of each practice as a stepping stone in your journey versus expecting results immediately.

If you want to see progress with anything, you have to be consistent.

Establish a routine and keep at it. If you commit to the process, you’ll inevitably get better over time. The hardest part is finding the patience.

Just put your energy into achieving the goal, turn a blind eye to the timeline, and the Universe will take care of the rest. T.T.P!

3. Yoga Taught Me To Dedicate Time To Peace and Mindfulness

As someone who lives with anxiety, my peace is often disrupted by my mind’s desire to constantly overthink which can cause me to lose focus and feel overwhelmed. It’s helpful to incorporate a habit that anchors me in the present and cleanses my mind of this noise.

When I’m done doing a flow, I always walk away feeling calm and alert. The state of zen does wonders for my anxiousness and mental clarity.

I even started keeping a journal nearby because sometimes, the increased alertness inspires new thoughts, feelings, and creative ideas.

This very post was inspired during *one of my daily practices.

We always make time for work, friends, and social media, but how many of us dedicate time to our peace?

Take the time to be present, and as a result, you’ll be more relaxed. It’s hard to be chill when you’re constantly distracted.

Sometimes just a few minutes of deep breathing and stretching can be enough to regain your focus and find your tranquility. Considering how much time we willingly forfeit to our obligations, we should be willing to at least spare 20 minutes for our peace of mind.

*Here’s one of my favorites:

4. Yoga Taught Me How To Use Every Part Of My Body

In yoga, some poses require you to isolate specific muscles in the body. When done right, these poses can improve posture, release tension, and increase range of motion. Yoga will have you activating muscles in your body you didn’t know you had or, at the very least, the ones you misuse. For me, that’s my upper body and spine.

I’m guilty of hunching my shoulders and not sitting upright, which can have negative effects on the chest and back. Poses like cat-cow and triangle pose are helpful for that.

Yoga by Biola offers different yoga flows that target specific parts of the body. Her routine for the neck and shoulders will give you the greatest release of tension you’ve ever felt. (Skip that massage you booked, all you need is a chair!)

Each routine challenges me to activate muscles I didn’t realize were weakened (Like my triceps and biceps. hello spaghetti arms!) or carrying stress.(It’s the shoulders and hips for me).

I take each challenge as a moment of self-reflection and check in on parts of my body that could use improvement. I invite you to do the same.

Remember to be kind and patient with yourself and try to follow the instructor’s tips verbatim to prevent injury.

5. Yoga Taught Me That Breathing Is A Thing

If you have ever attended a yoga class, you’ve probably heard the instructor tell you things like “focus on your breath” or “remember to breathe.” Typically they’ll ask you to inhale or exhale deeply depending the intensity of the pose. I’m sure you’ve rolled your eyes at this advice and convinced yourself it doesn’t work. But, really. Breathing is a thing.

I have found that the more I elongate my breath, the more space I make in my body, inviting me to sink into those really ambitious poses. Like the goddess squat, for example.

Photo courtesy of Youtube.com

Turns out there’s a scientific reason why.

According to healthline.com, deep breathing not only helps you increase your pain tolerance but also lowers your chances of injury and helps you relax.

Now when I’m faced with tense situations (a heated argument, a setback, a vigorous exercise), I take a second to breathe, and it makes a huge difference for my threshold of tolerance and pain. I invite you to do the same.

Try this: Instead of short, shallow breaths through your mouth, try deep inhales and exhales through your nostrils which will allow you to breathe deeper.

Bonus perks if you suffer from environmental allergies. (like me!) It has amazing benefits for the sinuses, too. Happy breathing!

6. Yoga Taught Me To Embrace My Femininity

Doing yoga has unlocked new levels of femininity within me. It makes me feel strong and powerful and unleashes my inner Goddess while encouraging me to try moves in a way that makes me feel safe and in control of my body without feeling ashamed or sexualized. (like the opening of my hips, groin, and chest.)

It promotes body positivity, something I know a lot of women struggle with.

*One of the things that impressed me about Yoga by Biola was her take on woman’s sexuality with her Trap Vinyasa Core demo.

I created Trap Vinyasa to help you explore sensuality and begin identifying as a sensual vessel as opposed to a sexualized body

Abiola Akanni

Here she encourages us to embrace our sensuality with confidence by incorporating twerking or the chakra shake as she so cleverly words it 🙂 (say what you will about twerking, it’s fun A.F. and an amazing workout)

Yoga teaches me that femininity is divine and that I should welcome all the things that come with that: softness, gentleness, sensuality, strength, and fluidity.

Because of yoga, I am a stronger, happier, and wiser version of myself. Not a bad takeaway from an exercise that I get to do from the comforts of my own living room.

Namaste!

*Don’t forget to like, share, and leave a comment ^_^

*Like the post? Show me some love! https://www.buymeacoffee.com/kaillaby

*She also has a playlist called “The Divine Yoga series”, a 6 part series inspired by “the 6 archetypes of the divine feminine”. I invite you to try and make it to the end!

5 Unique Journals You Can Buy At Target

Target is one of my favorite places to shop.

Recently I had some extra time on my hands and took a detour from my usual candle venture (lol) to get lost in their selection of journals and notebooks, a habit I’d like to continue from now on.

As a writer, I live for journals.

I’ve been gifted a few, including the very colorful “Zen As F*Ck” which HusBae gave me a few Christmas’ ago.

Not only are journals a safe secret place to air out your thoughts and feelings, but they’re also a practical way to check-in with yourself.

These 5 journals offer that and more.

If you’re a journal lover like me, here are some unique ones you can find at your local Target.

1. Get To Know Me Better

This journal’s pages are filled with writing prompts and fill-in-the-blank sentences designed to learn all there is to know about a person.

It’s like your own personal trivia book.

Reply to all kinds of personal prompts like “Hidden talents I’ve kept hidden are” and “Things I like to do when I’m alone are.”

Target.com

It’s a fun way for someone to get to know you and the perfect opportunity to get in touch with yourself.

Who knows, your answers may surprise you.

2. A Great Way To Capture And Relive Memories

This journal would be a great keepsake to pass down to a family member or loved one.

It’s a record-keeping book designed for you to answer a different question about yourself every day for 5 years.

Target.com

I think it would be cool to look back on your answers and see how you were feeling and thinking at a specific moment frozen in time.

Seems like a fun psychological exercise to me.

3. This Freaking Journal Helps You Blow Off Steam

When I saw the long flowing text on the cover, I was drawn to this one immediately.

Anytime a sentence starts with “I’m so freaking freaked out” in enlarged white underlined font, you have my attention. It’s the humor and originality for me.

As I made my way through the title, I couldn’t help myself–I burst out laughing in the middle of the aisle (and yes, I am the type of human who’ll laugh to herself in the middle of Target. )

In addition to making me laugh with its quirkiness, it touched me with its self-affirming concept.

This journal is filled with inspirational quotes followed by check-in stations that start with the phrase “Why I’m So Freaking Freaked Out Today”.

You are then given several blank lines to pour your heart out on each page.

Target.com

I love that it gives me a space to freak out. I can see myself turning to this book in times of crisis and meltdowns.

Sometimes, you just need a safe space to spill your guts out and blow off steam.

Hey, it beats sending an angry text.

This journal is bloody brilliant. 10/10. It’s definitely going on my Christmas list.

4. A Journal That Flexes Your Creative Muscle

The aesthetics of this journal caught my eye: the way the gold foil pops against the black binding made me anxious to see what was inside.

I loved that it’s small and lightweight so it’s easy to transport.

I like to take journals with me on the go for distraction-less fun sometimes. It’s a peaceful way to pass the time.

What’s unique about this journal is that it requires your imagination. It’s filled with titles that are writing prompts designed to inspire your own short stories, helpful for creative flow.

Target.com

Each assignment presents a challenge: write your story using the required group of words on one page or less. Talk about concise.

A journal that encourages creative writing and productivity? Count me in.

With a copy of “Write The Story,” who needs a writing class.

5. A Daily Reminder To Take Care Of Yourself

I’m a huge advocate for self-care, so anything that acts as a vessel for this is a win for me.

The pages are filled with inspirational quotes designed to uplift your mood.

Each page serves as a reminder for self-love and begs the question, “what did you do to take care of yourself today?” followed by a space for you to track your mood and energy level.

I think this is a great way to just check in with yourself and make sure you’re given the individual care that you truly deserve.

This could be helpful if you’re someone who needs a little extra push when it comes to practicing self-care or to build yourself up if you’re having low self-esteem.

*Don’t forget to like, share, and leave a comment ^_^

*Like the post? Show me some love! https://www.buymeacoffee.com/kaillaby

6 Vegan Products You Didn’t Know You Needed

It’s hard to believe it’s not dairy

Over the course of my new lifestyle (once vegetarian, now, basically, a pescatarian) I’ve tried some incredible food.

From restaurants to supermarket finds, I’ve had my fair share of vegan and vegetarian cuisine.

Although there were a few (dozen) misses, the things that were good were impressive. So much so that they’ve gone from foods I was just curious to try to food I can’t stop talking about. I thought to myself, why not make a list!

Allow me to put you on to some of my favorite vegan finds I’ve come across in my local shopping adventures.

1. Earth Balance Coconut Spread

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen this pop up in my story.

IG @happinessovereverythingblog

This coconut butter is DELICIOUS.

I tried it once at my local Whole Foods out of curiosity and fell. in. love. I was devastated when it didn’t come back to the shelves.

Since then, I’ve looked for it everywhere and virtually gave up until it popped up at a local Food Bazaar. Now it’s my go-to vegan butter.

I use this spread for EVERYTHING! OK!

From breakfast to baking–it’s great on toast, spectacular in oatmeal, and cooks eggs and pancakes perfectly. I once used it to bake chocolate chip cookies, and it added this nice extra layer of rich sweetness to the recipe.

The spread is light and flaky, just like coconut. It melts almost instantly when heated. If you’re looking for rich, tasty non-dairy butter, I recommend you seek this out. It’s worth the scavenge and the $6 price tag.

2. Just Egg Patty

Whoever was the brilliant mastermind behind this invention, give that guy a raise!

The Just Egg patty has been my go-to for eggs since I stopped eating them this past Winter, thanks to an episode of DC’s Titans. (lol, no, really. It was disturbing. I couldn’t get the image of that cracked egg out of my mind o.O).

This was my 3rd attempt at trying an egg alternative, and it’s the only one that left a (good) lasting impression.

When trying new vegan food, the decision usually comes down to two things: flavor and texture.

The other two vegan eggs were either too mushy or completely bland.

These bad boys mimic the texture of eggs perfectly.

The four patties come pre-cooked and frozen, so all you have to do is warm them up.

It’s topped with its own seasoning but feel free to add your own.

I usually fry them in a pan with some butter and the leftover juices from my plant-based sausage for extra flavor.

Cook on both sides for a little under 5 minutes, and VOILA! It’s like a miniature omelet.

I found these at a local Whole Foods, but they can be found at Food Bazaar and Target, too!

3. Sweet Earth Mindful Chik’n

Just like with eggs, I had a hard time replacing chicken once again due to failed attempts at replicating texture and flavor.

My first time trying the Sweet Earth Chik’n was in one of the brands’ frozen dinner meals. (HusBae swears by them.)

When I found out that they sold the Chik’n separately, I knew I had to try it. I was amazed by the results.

Although the Sweet Earth Chik’n is bland, it wins because of its texture and diversity.

I’ve experimented with this and was able to fry it, bbq it, and use it in a curry.

It comes in a “raw” form, so it has to be cooked thoroughly before eating. Just be sure to season it generously or cook it in a sauce.

It’s a great transition from the real thing. Take it from me; my family called me the “chicken hawk” as a kid.

4. Milkadamia Latte Da Barista Macadamia Milk

I recently learned about Macadamia milk thanks to my cousin, Kevin (shoutout to cuz).

While he was still living in NYC, he worked in a coffee shop (who hasn’t?!) which offered Milkadamia Latte Da Barista Macadamia milk on their menu.

He was so enthused about how good it was, he bought me a box during his last visit, and my taste buds couldn’t be happier.

Up until then, I was only buying almond and oat milk.

I like oat milk thanks to its creaminess and almond milk because of its light vanilla flavor.

I’m not a fan of coconut or soy milk because the flavor is too overpowering for me. This is where macadamia milk reigns supreme.

This macadamia milk is light! It has a semi-sweetness that won’t overpower a bowl of cereal and a creaminess that is great in coffee!

I’ve found this milk at my local Food Bazaar and Whole Foods. Check with your local supermarket to see if it’s available.

5. Kite Hill French Onion Dip

I stumbled on this gem as I was wrapping up a shopping trip at a local Whole Foods. Now, I’m a chip and dip kinda chick. I’m a sucker for good tortilla chips and salsa or the classic combo of Ruffles and french onion dip.

The problem here is

  • 1. Tortilla chips aren’t exactly healthy. They’re loaded with sodium and contain a lot of oil which is bad for my skin.
  • 2. Most dips are made with dairy.

I’ve been cooling it with the chips for some time, reaching for pretzel crisps instead.

And now, thanks to one of my favorite vegan brands, Kite Hill, I have a replacement for French onion dip 🙂

Kite Hill is a vegan brand that I trust. They have almond milk-based yogurts and creamed cheese that I swear by!

All of these things considered, I still wasn’t ready for how good this french onion dip was.

Kite hill did not skimp out on flavor here. This savory dip is a flavor bomb! It also manages to be perfectly creamy with no added graininess (it happens sometimes with almond based foods).

It complements chips and pretzels amazingly.

Pick it up at your next Whole Foods or Food Bazaar shopping trip.

6. Field Roast Frankfurters

Field Roast always knows what the people want.

Field Roast has been offering plant-based meats and sausages for some time. One of my closest friends (hiii Kendel!) recommended their spicy chipotle sausage to me.

Those are great and all but these ballpark franks, though!? Game changers.

It’s everything you want in a hot dog, minus the guilt of having one. (C’mon. You can’t pretend you don’t know what it’s made of at this point!)

These franks are meaty, plump, and delicious.

They’re spiced amazingly and are the perfect size for a hot dog bun. (yes, that’s a thing).

Now, thanks to Field Roast, even if you don’t eat meat, you can enjoy a good ol’ fashion stadium hot dog.

Fruitarians, make sure to bring these with you to your next cookout.

Inevitably, all they’ll have to offer you is rice and potato salad.

*Don’t forget to like, share, and leave a comment ^_^

*Like the post? Show me some love! https://www.buymeacoffee.com/kaillaby

The Problem With Complaining

They say a little complaining never hurt, I say complaining never helped anyone. Here’s what you can do, instead.

Recently, I picked up my copy of “The Power of Now,” a book that was recommended to me by my therapist as a tool to help me deal with my anxiousness, stress, and overthinking.

When I arrived at page 82, under the subheading “Wherever You Are, Be There Totally”, author Eckhart Tolle goes deeper into the concept of unconscious thinking.

When asked to provide examples of what unconscious thinking looks like, he starts with the most common form: complaining.

Complaining: A Common Language for the Unhappy

“To complain is always nonacceptance of what is,” he explains, “When you complain, you make yourself into a victim.”

This line received the writer’s stamp of approval, aka a yellow highlighter, and a verbal “YES!”.

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Tolle.

I hate complaining.

It used to be something I did a lot of, if not to vent my frustrations, definitely as a conversation starter.

It’s a common language that unites the unhappy.

Have you ever noticed how common it is for people to resort to complaining as a coping mechanism?

My problem is not necessarily the actual complaint. It’s how it starts and ends there.

Very few people seek solutions to the problems that are constantly on their lips; it’s as if they find comfort in the unhappiness.

I’m a firm believer that complaining is pointless. Sure, it may feel good at the moment, especially when others can relate, but aside from the temporary release of your pain, how else is it beneficial?

It would be more helpful to turn the complaints into a moment of self-reflection.

Time for Self-Reflection

Pay attention to the things you often complain about. It is your mind trying to tell you something: you’re unhappy.

You’re not happy with the job you’re doing, the person you’re dating, or the apartment you live in.

You’re not happy with the way you look, the amount of money you have, or the way you’re being treated.

You’re not happy with the direction your life is headed. That much is clear. But, after a while, we have to take responsibility and have ownership over our lives because anything else makes us a victim, and we are not victims

You are in control of your life, your mind, and your emotions.

You do get to control your narrative and the direction your life is headed.

It’s easy to give up the power and play the victim. This way, we don’t have to deal with accountability. But there’s freedom in owning your life. There’s power in responsibility.

The real question is, what do you plan to do with your power?

The Only Two Options There Are

When faced with an unhappy circumstance, as humans, we are left with two choices: accept it or take action.

By making the conscious (or unconscious) decision to do nothing, you are left in a mental limbo. This is where your pain comes from.

The pain is rooted in the inactivity and continuing to leave your unhappiness unaddressed.

Try this: when complaints come up, try asking yourself, “what can I do about it?”. 

If there are solutions and steps that can be taken, map them out and execute them but start right away. Sitting idly on these steps just puts you back to square one.

If the situation is beyond your control and nothing can be done to make it better, you have to accept it.

The path of acceptance is not an easy one, it will take practice and lots of mental strength. But the latter option is no better or healthier.

The opposite of acceptance is denial, and that denial is what is feeding your pain.

I’m not saying that no one cares about your feelings or to keep them to yourself; we all get down about something. What I’m suggesting is that instead of sitting in these feelings and resorting to complaining to resolve them, which could potentially snowball into bigger problems (such as declining mental health), you should instead seek solutions and ways to help yourself because you are stronger than you give yourself credit for 🙂

So the next time a complaint comes up, what do you intend to do about it?

Are you going to step up, take ownership, and find a way to improve your life and strengthen your mind?

Or will you continue to standby and be a victim of your circumstances?

The choice is yours.

*Don’t forget to like, share, and leave a comment ^_^

*Like the post? Show me some love! https://www.buymeacoffee.com/kaillaby

A Life Outside Of Your Comfort Zone: The Benefits Of Conquering Your Fears

Conquer all the fears.

A few years ago, when the trend of big butts was steadily on the rise, I was on a mission to snatch my waist and increase my muscle mass, so I sought the help of a close friend and personal trainer(sup Necye!?).

One day we met up at a local Planet Fitness to start the endurance-building regimen he created for me.

He gave me a simple task: jump over a bench. He demonstrated a few times to show how effortlessly easy the exercise was, but for some reason, when it came time for me to do it, I froze in place.

The task wasn’t necessarily difficult, but I was intimidated by the idea of failure.

I kept thinking of all the things that would go wrong:

  • “What if I trip?”
  • “What if I fall? Omg I would be so embarrassed…”
  • “The bench may be higher than it looks, what if I can’t jump that high!?”

No matter how many methods of encouragement my friend used (affirming words, demonstration, being assertive), my legs would not move. There I stood, frozen in place by my own fear and self-doubt, trying to figure out a way to psych myself into it.

I even got my feet to move a couple of times, but they refused to jump. I was shocked and bewildered at how little courage I had to do something so minute and knew I must’ve looked so stupid.

Suddenly, with minutes left of our hour session, I felt my defenses come down, and without warning, I ran and jumped over the bench, relieved when I felt my feet plant perfectly on the other side.

As silly as it may have seemed, that literal leap took courage, and afterward, I was grateful that I shook my fear and overcame my comfort.

When’s the last time you lived life outside of your comfort zone?

Taking Steps to Overcome

By literal definition, your comfort zone is

the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity

merriam-webster.com

You know that voice that’s constantly making you cancel plans and bail out whenever you’re asked to try something new? That’s your comfort zone.

I know it’s comfortable to settle in a space where everything is easy and you’re in control, but this fear of the unknown is holding you back from your life’s potential.

Although fears can stem from evolutionary instinct and have roots in past experiences, nine times out of ten, our fears are illusions, creations of self-doubt, and lack of understanding.

Conquering your fears and stepping outside of your comfort zone makes you realize how much bigger life is than what exists inside your bubble. I know every time I step outside of mine, I come out relieved.

For example, one of my biggest fears is social interaction. You wouldn’t think so with my cheerfulness and sunny personality, but speaking to strangers is really intimidating. This is based on my traumas from bullying, lack of acceptance, and the scarring of toxic relationships. My social anxieties caused me to be over apologetic and disconnected. I was definitely the type to come up with excuses to avoid hanging out with people. (YES! I’ve got a fever! Now I HAVE to stay home!)

However, these behaviors are counterproductive to my career as a freelance writer. Networking and relationship building are CRUCIAL in the freelance world, so I had to figure out a way to be more social. It was scary as hell at first; my first couple of attempts were jumbled messes of me speaking loud, fast, and fumbling over my words, but I learned to talk calmly with confidence and self-control with practice.

Here are the steps that I take when facing a scary situation. Maybe they can be helpful to you:

  • I breathe it out– My experience with yoga taught me how significant the breath is. It can help you, not only through the most difficult yoga poses but also by calming your mind in the most stressful of situations. If deep breathing can help you through anger, stress, and pain, why not through fear? Give it a try the next time you’re tackling something scary.
  • I build up the courage– Whether it’s pacing back and forth in my living room burning sage, journaling, or talking to myself in the mirror, I build up my mental strength before doing something courageous. Although having encouragement can be helpful, no one can convince YOU like YOU can. Try talking yourself up before stepping outside of your comfort zone. You’d be surprised by how far a few “You can do it!”‘s will get you.
  • I take baby steps– I can’t say that I always go 0 – 100 in scary situations, especially if the fear is tied to a traumatic experience. In cases like this, I micro-dose and build my way up. If you fear open water, for example, try exposing yourself to small bodies of water first and then build on top of that until one day you’re comfortable enough to step into the ocean.

Remember: Although your fear may seem trivial or juvenile to someone else, it’s not ok for anyone to make you feel belittled or invalid. A lot of people take the tough love approach, which can make your fears worse. What you need is patience, understanding, and support in overcoming things at your own pace.

I base a lot of my life goals around stepping outside of my comfort zone, not just for my career but for the sake of personal growth.

Benefits of Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Living a life outside of your comfort zone comes with psychological benefits like feelings of empowerment and personal growth.

Let’s dive deeper into these concepts.

Empowering

Stepping outside of your comfort makes you feel powerful. The boost in bravery comes from the liberation of staring fear in the face and living to tell the tale.

You realize how you are in control of your life, and that type of mental strength can move mountains. Silentmindsingingbowls.com has a quote about this on their blog post “The Amazing Benefits of Facing Your Fears”

“When we come to personally understand that we can change our own brains, it’s incredibly empowering. We can make ourselves calmer, more creative, anything we want.”

Once you’ve hardwired your brain to be less afraid, you feel like you can do anything.

Personal Growth

Challenging your fear builds character.

I know a lot of people who suffer from low self-esteem due in large part to self-doubt. It doesn’t help when you’re surrounded by people who are feeding into that.

Beware: People who have been limited by fear their entire lives will often try to project those feelings onto you. They’ll convince you that you’re incapable of stepping outside of your comfort zone and that what you’re trying to achieve is impossible because this is their reality.

But once you start tip-toeing on your boundaries of comfort, you’ll be able to blur the lines of your capabilities.

Before you know it, fear won’t even be a contender, and you’ll be achieving new heights of personal growth.

With your new and improved fierce skin, gone are the days when fear is holding you back, allowing you to open doors you swore were closed off to you.

Look, I know the idea of facing your fears and challenging your comfort can seem scary and maybe even a long shot. But I’m living, breathing proof that not only is it possible, but there are enormous payouts.

Ask yourself are you limiting your personal life, growth, and dreams because of your fears?

How much longer will you allow your imaginary boundaries to keep you from living?

Stop getting in the way of yourself. Try something brave today.

Conquer all the fears.

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The Two Major Keys to Achieving Your Goals

Being an independent artist is one of the most soul-fulfilling careers you can ever have. After all, who doesn’t want to get paid to pursue their passions?

Although the market is saturated with millions of talented artists who are all working toward the same goal of making their dreams come true, the reality is that most people will drop out of the rat race before they ever see success.

It’s not because they’re not worthy or for lack of trying, it’s because along the way they lose sight of the two things that are absolutely necessary to achieve their goals : motivation and discipline.

I came to this realization on my own path. Less than a year ago, I decided to become a writer full-time and I never looked back.

I refused to go back to the mundane life of working a 9-5 and I’ve been on my own ever since–just me, my computer, my determination, and my endless collection of composition notebooks and notepads.

I thought it was all I needed to get by but I often found myself staring at a blinking cursor and an empty screen as if I could somehow will the work into existence.

I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. The passion was there but try as I might I still found myself falling victim to bad habits, distractions, and inconsistent behavior.

To put a stop to this madness (and to get my life together) I did what all millennials do in times of crisis, I turned to the internet.

That’s when I found this quote on Pinterest

You will never always be motivated, so you must learn to be disciplined

The discovery of this was one of the most profound moments of my adult life and writing career.

I found myself wondering:

  • “Is it discipline that I lack? or motivation?”
  • “What’s the difference?”
  • “Can you have one without the other?”
  • And last but not least “Which of these do I need more of to achieve my goals?”

After months of rummaging through articles and picking the brains of industry professionals, here’s what I learned about motivation and discipline.

How Motivation Works

You can be motivated in one of two ways: intrinsically and extrinsically.

Intrinsic motivation is a motivation that has no intentional ties to a reward or incentive, the sole purpose of you doing it is because of a passion or a strong willingness to do.

Take me writing this for example. I didn’t write this for critical acclaim, fame, or money. I wanted to write this post because I have a desire to help people. I like the idea of using my words and personal experiences to inspire others.

For you, it may look like:

  • Joining a dance class because you love expressing yourself through dance
  • Climbing a mountain because of the thrill or sense of accomplishment
  • Starting your own business because you want to be your own boss

If the ties to your reason why are personal, or psychological, it’s considered intrinsic motivation.

Research suggests that intrinsic motivation is more powerful than its extrinsic counterpart. According to psychologytoday.com, Intrinsic motivation is more effective because “it is integrated into identity and serves as a continuous source of motivation.”

Basically, it hits different when you inspire you.

“It hits different when YOU inspire you”-Kaillaby”

Extrinsic motivation is a motivation that’s related to an incentive or reward. This could be anything from money, praise, or attention.

I definitely have extrinsic motivations, money is the first that comes to mind. I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to live a certain lifestyle and generate a level of income I know I wouldn’t have been afforded working at my office job.

For you, it may look like:

  • Cleaning the house to avoid complaints or nagging from your spouse.
  • Getting all A’s on your report card for the praise or high status.
  • Going to work because you need the money.
  • Giving a good performance at work out of fear of being reprimanded by your boss.

If something or someone else is your reason why then it’s considered extrinsic motivation. Although extrinsic motivation has its benefits (after all, who doesn’t want to be rewarded?) it can be risky if the reward loses its luster. Once you’re no longer impressed by the bribery, you’ll lose your momentum.

It’s important to note that regardless of whether the inspiration is internal or external, for a payout or personal satisfaction, it’s always best to lead with positive reinforcement.

Inspiring through fear (like threats or punishment) or negativity (demeaning or insulting) won’t get you as far. You end up causing more psychological harm than good and it could end up backfiring.

Ruling with fear or scare tactics may be effective in the short term, but that fear will eventually grow to resentment. Once the fear is gone, *poof* there goes the motivation.

You can learn more about the types of motivation from this article I found on psychologytoday.com

How Discipline Works

Discipline requires willpower– it takes mental prowess and structured behavior.

Think of it as the following formula:

Your work ethic x your routine + consistency = discipline.

When it comes to discipline, it’s all about commitment.

Commit. Commit. Commit. Commit.

It’s not enough to come up with a plan, you have to stick to it to achieve your goals, something I didn’t realize was preventing me from achieving success.

Take my skincare journey for example.

I suffer from acne and hyperpigmentation.

I found a skincare system called Curology that I was convinced to try after viewing their ads and reading their testimonials online.

When I first tried it, I thought it wasn’t working because after a few weeks I wasn’t seeing much of an improvement in my skin. My impatience almost persuaded me to quit and try something else.

Instead, I reached out to one of their skincare professionals and asked them when I should expect to see significant results. Turns out, I wasn’t committing long enough. They told me it could take up to 6 months to see the results I was looking for.

The conversation motivated me to give it another shot. I stuck around, committed to the recommended routine, and low and behold: I’ve been seeing better results!

A lot of people underestimate how much commitment is required to achieve their goals, this can be said for anything from losing weight, to gaining fortune and fame to eliminating debt.

The internet age has us addicted to instant gratification and everyone wants to see results right away but, the reality is, you may not see any results at all for months. Maybe even years, depending on what your goal is. I know my impatience tends to be MY downfall.

It’s important not to be deterred just because you don’t get what you’re after right away.

Before you admit defeat, ask yourself:

  • Are you being consistent?
  • Have you created a routine and stuck to it?

If the answer’s yes and you feel like you’ve hit a wall or a plateaued:

  • Are you working around it?
  • Are you coming up with new, inventive strategies?

Use your motivations to keep your eye on the prize and continue building on your discipline until you get to where you’re going. Sure, it’s easier said than done but stunting your process will result in prolonged success.

What’s the difference?

When it comes to accomplishing a goal, think of motivation as the why and discipline as the how.

What separates motivation from discipline is action.

Motivation is what brought you to this post. Discipline is what will put these words into practice.

Although motivation will give you the wind beneath your wings, it is the discipline that will propel you forward.

Another difference is motivation doesn’t have to be consistent, it can be sporadic and can strike at any moment like lightning in a bottle but discipline will require commitment and consistency.

After all, the entire basis of discipline is rule and order.

Motivation is the energy you need to achieve your goal but discipline is the strategy that you’ll need to take to get there.

Can You Have One Without The Other?

It is possible to be motivated without being disciplined.

Who else is guilty of just sitting on a load of passion with no direction or plan to execute it?

You can also be disciplined without being motivated by just living your life according to rules and structure but lacking the drive or passion behind it.

Having one without the other is counterproductive to success.

If you want to achieve a goal, you’ll need to find a balance of both.

Which Of These Do I Need More Of To Achieve My Goals?

Although having both is best, in my research I’ve found that you’ll get nowhere without motivation.

I spoke with Mrs. Ivelisse Villalona, MSW a social worker in the NYC D.O.E who had this to say about the significance of motivation

“Professionally, when I work with kids, for example, it’s difficult to work on changing their behaviors if it’s not something they are motivated to do. So I can talk to them about making better decisions but if it’s not something that’s internal, like if the motivation is not there to make those good decisions, what I’m saying is it’s not going to work.” She continued “You can be disciplined but not necessarily reach your goal unless you have the motivation to do so. So unless the motivation is there, no one can-I feel in my professional opinion and personal, no one can influence your desire, your will to do something.”

Ivelisse Villalona, MSW

Even if you have the structure and plan you need, if you’re not motivated to stay on track there will be no movement.

The Bottom Line

If you’re having trouble reaching your goals, I recommend doing some self-reflection.

Therapist Jenny (Jinhee) Lee, LCAT, ATR-BC agrees! She recommends “finding a greater purpose to the goal and meditating on the purpose daily for reminder of what the work in one’s motivation is for. Having a greater purpose outside of the self can help motivate oneself to get through the process.”

After months of seeking, I got my answer: what I was missing was discipline.

Now, I’m fine-tuning my routine every day and I’m happy to say I’ve been finding success! But, I won’t stop here. I’ll keep using my passions and aspirations to feed my commitment and build on my routine until I reach my finish line. Cue Keni Burker’s ‘Risin’ To The Top’.

*Don’t forget to like, share, and leave a comment ^_^

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5 ways to Protect Your Peace

Your peace is sacred, protect it at all costs. Read on for the 5 building blocks you need to barricade your peace.

I inspire people with my sunny disposition. I often receive compliments on my high energy and people ask what keeps me walking on sunshine.

“Is it coffee? Money? Did you just go on vacation?”

I’ll let you in on my little secret: I protect my peace at all costs. I received this sound advice from a licensed professional (shoutout to Jenny!) and it has resonated with me ever since.

When I say peace, I’m referring to peace of mind–the source of your energy and happiness. Need some help protecting your peace? Here are my recommended tips:

5 ways to protect your peace

There are five behaviors I swear by in order to protect my peace:

  1. Having a “This too shall pass” outlook on life.
  2. Establishing boundaries.
  3. Ridding my life of toxicity.
  4. Keeping happiness on tap.
  5. Letting go of things that no longer serve me.

Let me break it down for you.

This Too Shall Pass

It is scientifically proven that bad memories are easier to recall than good memories are. I learned about this first-hand during one of my therapy sessions–at one point, I was really unhappy, and the topic of how tough my life was became a recurring theme.

One day, Jenny explained to me that negativity has a stronger impact on our minds and our lives simply because we give way more attention to it.

Basically, when bad things happen to us, our “woe is me” attitude comes from amplifying trauma and traumatic events, making them stick out like sore thumbs in our memory.

However, it’s important to know the difference between having a bad life and a bad experience.

“There’s a difference between having a bad life and a bad experience.”

When something bad happens, it’s natural to attach yourself to it, identify with it, and allow it to define you. Still, I want you to know that it’s not your life that sucks, it’s the problem.

I won’t devalue your feelings by telling you to get over what’s troubling you–I’ve had traumas that have taken me YEARS to overcome. With that being said, I bet for every negative moment you’ve experienced there are positive ones, too!

When you’re faced with a problem, try to disassociate yourself from it. It will take practice and a lot of conscious effort but, I’m living proof that it’s worth it! Here are some things I did to help me look on the bright side of life

  1. I distracted myself with a hobby– doing something fun and productive is a healthy way to distract your mind so that your troubles are not your main focus. For me, it was getting lost in fantasy novels and self-help books, watching anime, listening to music, and going on nature walks. Maybe you prefer biking, boxing or crocheting. Hey, whatever floats your boat, but getting lost in a hobby will serve you better than your negative thoughts.
  2. I immersed myself in positivity– surrounding yourself with positivity is a great way to boost your spirits. I’m a sucker for words of affirmation, so I engulfed myself with as many affirming words as possible- I downloaded the Mantra app on my iPhone which gives you affirming quotes at random and allows you to save them and use them as wallpaper (something I do to this day), I created a board on Pinterest dedicated to positive quotes (some of which I printed and taped to my wall and Mac), and when I needed to crank it up a notch I would burn sage and say a daily mantra. However positivity may present itself to you, I say do it and do it often.
  3. I went through my ‘motions– I tried to make my feelings go away by numbing them or pretending I didn’t feel them, but they would always find a way to rise to the surface. Ironically, I always felt much better after I went through them. Masking or numbing your feelings will not help you get over them, it just prolongs your process of healing. If you have to cry, cry. If you’re feeling angry, be angry. Find a safe space and go through your ‘motions where you can be free from worry or judgment. It’s way more beneficial than trying to will your feelings out of existence.
  4. I opened up about it– When the weight of life became too much to bear, I sought therapy and O.M.G it was the best decision I ever made for my emotional health. I’m a huge advocate for therapy and recommend it to anyone who is going through a tough time or surviving a traumatic event but I’m sensitive to the fact that it may not be an option for everyone. Whether you’re speaking to a friend, a spouse, or a therapist, I recommend opening up about your problems. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and seek emotional support, it can go a long way.
  5. I used a journal– Writing has been a form of therapy for me since I was a teen. My journal is my number 1 safe space because it’s so personal and I know no one else will read it but me. When I journal, I don’t have the fear of being misunderstood or judged about my feelings and I’m free to write about what I want in the style I want. This level of intimacy allows me to get to the core of my feelings in a way that no other medium does because I know no one else is listening or watching. If you’re fearful of opening up to people, I recommend a journal or diary. You’re still able to air out what’s on your mind without having to worry about it reaching anyone else’s eyes or ears. It will take some practice if you’re not used to putting your feelings into words, but if you keep up the habit you’ll see improvement over time (practice makes perfect!)
  6. I released it– This was the most difficult part for me–getting to a point of acceptance. To move past my trauma, I had to accept that this bad thing happened and that it was beyond my control. This unfortunate unforeseen event, however devastating, can not be removed or changed from my past. And since it was beyond my control, I had to let it go. Unfortunately, there are no magic words or exercises that can do this for you. You have to do this last part on your own. The good news is, acceptance is a sign of growth and progress. Once you’ve defeated this final boss, you’ll notice that your problem will be easier to cope with. You’ll hurt a little less, think about it a little less, talk about it virtually never and life will suddenly seem a little brighter every day.

This disruption of peace that you’re holding on to doesn’t define your life. Your life exists outside of your problems and, if you make a conscious effort to put your best foot forward, you’ll find that life is good, and it’s ok. “This too shall pass.”

“Don’t let a disruption of peace define your life.”

Establish Boundaries

Establishing boundaries for yourself is absolutely necessary in order to protect your peace. I wish someone gave me this advice sooner.

Since I was a kid, I never set boundaries for myself and at one point was a selfless pushover who would accept people and their toxic ways without any push back out of fear that I would offend them or that it would end the relationship.

This left an enormously heavy weight on my mind and spirit, a weight that wore me down emotionally and affected my self-esteem.

Once I got in tune with my feelings and got the courage to speak up for myself, I started walking around with my head held high, light as a feather, just a beaming ray of confidence.

When you set ground rules for what you’re willing and unwilling to put up with, it prevents people from stepping into a sacred space where your peace can be jeopardized.

This violation can leave you with lingering feelings like anger or sadness, which can snowball into something worse if left unaddressed aka anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem.

Unsure of where to start? To put this into practice, here are a few tips that helped me:

  1. Pay close attention to when you feel emotionally provoked by someone’s actions or words.
  2. Dissect it with the “What, Why, & How”: Why did it upset you? Was it what the person said (or did)? Perhaps how it was presented to you?
  3. Communicate your feelings.

Emphasis. on. communication.

It does not matter how small the violation may seem, if it provoked you emotionally that means it matters to you, and your feelings matter.

It’s important to communicate your feelings and not let them build-up, this can lead to bigger problems such as stress or anxiety.

Speaking up in defense of yourself is establishing a boundary and letting people know that it’s not ok to hurt you. It does not matter the person’s relationship to you, if they care about you then they’ll care about your feelings.

Beware: toxic people will try to convince you that establishing boundaries is wrong and selfish. Although it’s certainly selfish, there’s nothing wrong with protecting your feelings. If you don’t, who else will?

Toxic people will try to convince you that establishing boundaries is wrong

It will take a lot of guts to stick to your guns, especially when you’re sticking up to an authoritative figure, but you must commit to it if you want to maintain peace.

Rid Your Life of Toxicity

Sometimes we hold on to toxicity out of convenience or fear, but if you’re trying to maintain peace, you’re going to have to let it go.

Toxicity can appear in numerous vessels–a job, a relationship, a habit; if it causes you emotional or physical harm, it’s toxic.

Toxic vessels thrive on dependence.

It will try to convince you that you can’t do better because you don’t deserve better and that your life can’t exist without it. That is 100% not true.

You can and should move beyond toxicity because you are worthy of happiness 🙂

I have been the victim of toxic workplaces more times than I’d like to admit.

I kept convincing myself (and allowing other people to convince me) that it was ok to tolerate.

I would say things like “It’s not like I’m unhappy ALL the time.”, “All jobs are like this.”, “NO ONE is COMPLETELY happy at their job.” or the classic “At least my bills are paid.” Na, that’s not it.

I got to a point where I asked myself “What’s more important, money or happiness? This toxic vessel or my peace?”

Once I got to my threshold of mental anguish, I parted ways and low and behold, my happiness has been at an all-time high.

It may be hard to let go of some of these vessels, like a job for example, but the right thing isn’t always easy.

I think Dumbledore said it best:

If you value yourself, you’ll prioritize your happiness and do what you have to do to preserve and protect it.

It’s impossible to maintain peace when you’re constantly being exposed to physical or emotional harm. It may be hard and it may take some time, but you’ll need to rid your life of toxicity if you want to protect your peace.

Be advised that when you’re trying to move forward in your newfound lifestyle of peace, happiness, and light, the life you so truly deserve, toxic vessels may attempt to hold you back.

It will try to latch on to you and convince you it can be better, but remember why you got to the point of uprooting in the first place.

Keeping Happiness on Tap

The basis of peace is happiness so it’s helpful to have a multitude of sources for it.

Think about it, what truly makes you happy?

I’m a minimalist, so for me it’s pretty simple. Here’s my list:

  1. Spending quality time with loved ones.
  2. Watching or listening to my favorite kinds of media (tv, movies, music).
  3. Meeting like-minded people.
  4. Good food.
  5. Shopping.
  6. Reading.
  7. Writing.
  8. Sex.
  9. Animals.
  10. Learning.
  11. Being in nature.
  12. Aromatherapy.
  13. Bubble baths.
  14. Accomplishing something.

Try making a list of things that bring you joy and make it a point to indulge in these things as often as possible. Aim to be realistic, as much as traveling makes me happy, it’s not something I can do on a regular basis.

The goal is to have happiness on tap, so think of things you can do routinely and commit, commit, commit.

Letting Go Of Things That No Longer Serve You

I am an ever-growing person, as everyone should be.

I bet the standards you had for a spouse have changed since you first got introduced to dating and the dream job you swore you wanted as a kid morphed into something else (sorry, you can’t be a football-playing king in space).

Between life experiences and education, you’re destined to change throughout your life–you will go through phases and trends, likes and dislikes, hobbies, and even relationships.

Sometimes we hold on to old patterns and people for the sake of nostalgia. I know I’m certainly guilty of this.

After self-reflecting I realized that I was still holding on to ideas, habits, and relationships that no longer served me. At one point they may have been beneficial but they served no purpose for my present-day life.

Once I became conscious of the weight I was carrying from my old self, I was able to shed my skin to make way a new life of peace. I did this by:

  • Changing my phone number (this helped me control who’s able to contact me. bye bye old friends)
  • Cutting my hair (this helped me with insecurities I was having)
  • Establishing new habits (hiking and yoga in the park does the mind and body good)
  • Upgrading my mindset (goodbye excuses, hello discipline!)

These shifts and updates have allowed me to move forward peacefully in my new chapter and I’ve been on cloud 9 ever since.

It’s ok to change. As much as we’d love to keep everything the same (our habits, our friends, and our way of life) realistically, you can’t.

Holding on to past dead-weight will weigh your future down, you’ll constantly be torn between the past and your future. Don’t allow your past to stunt your future growth.

Take yourself on a journey of self-reflection and assess whether the things in your life are truly serving you: does it have a purpose? are there any benefits in it for you or are you just holding on to this because of how you used to feel about it?

Once you pinpoint the weeds in your garden, rip them out. No questions asked and no explanations needed.

Letting go of things that no longer serve you is a great way to protect your peace because you’re able to move forward with your new life without the distraction of old habits and relationships.

We are more in control of our lives than we give ourselves credit for. If you want a drastic change in your life, that requires sacrifices.

If your aim is to protect your peace and maintain happiness, try putting these things into practice. It may be difficult, and it will take lots of conscious effort, but your peace is worth it. Happiness > Everything.

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Self Reflection? The Soul Searching Power Of A Checkers Game

How one match of checkers turned into a very valuable life lesson

One rainy Sunday morning, I stopped by my Uncle’s house for some coffee, breakfast, and a game of checkers with my Grandmother. Being the reigning checkers’ champ in my own home, I had no doubts whatsoever that I would walk away with the “W”.

Four games later, my Grandmother had four consecutive flawless victories.

No matter what strategies I tried I couldn’t beat her. I was making moves that I felt were clever, adept, and unsurpassable yet and still, my Grandmother was always 1 step ahead of me leaving me awestruck and dumbfounded. Throughout our games, she’d give me helpful tips: pay attention, look at the board before you make a move, and most importantly, concentrate. Seemed like easy enough advice to follow but, try as I might, I kept goofing up.

“You don’t concentrate,” my Grandmother told me, “there were times when you came close, and I was sure you had me beat, but you couldn’t see it because you weren’t paying attention”. Her feedback tripped me up because I was truly and genuinely oblivious to this fact. Of course, I was paying attention! Well, wasn’t I?

Valuable Life Lessons

This experience made me realize that I have a lot of growing to do. You see winning streaks have a tendency to stroke the ego and, for a long time, I was undefeated in the game of checkers. Then, my Grandmother came along and revealed all the chinks in my armor.

She showed me that:

  • I’m overly confident
  • Anxious
  • And quick to rush to judgment

These tips go beyond our checkers’ games. In life, one false move could make or break you. Taking your time and concentrating before executing your movements could be the difference between success and failure. I’m certainly guilty of moving too fast or not doing my best due to my anxiousness, but they say slow and steady win the race, something I should have taken into consideration during our checkers’ games.

The Bottom Line

Look, there’s always going to be someone bigger, better, faster, or stronger than you, but please don’t take it personally. Being beaten at your own game is not a testament to how much you suck, but instead of how much learning and growing you have to do. Therein lies the difference. Don’t cower away or let a bruised ego get the best of you. Instead, use these moments as opportunities for education. Internalize them and ask yourself,

  • Where are you going wrong?
  • How can you be better next time?

I’ve always been told that, in order to be the teacher, you have to be one hell of a student, to be a leader you have got to learn how to follow, and to beat your Grandmother at checkers, apparently you have to pay closer attention.

There are a lot of people running around with unchecked egos and, I personally think, nothing is more dangerous or damaging to your mental growth. Once you give up on learning and growing as a person, you stunt your own potential.

Remember that there is always room for improvement and life moments like this are a reminder of that. Do you feel that you can grow and improve as a person? If you answer no, I’d recommend doing some self-reflection. Pay closer attention to your errors and mistakes, notice any patterns?

Do you find yourself making the same mistakes over and over? Start there and see where it leads you.

As for me, my Grandmother and I have another match of checkers coming up. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Find Your Spark: The Findings of a Lost Soul

Read on to find out how I went from being a “lost soul” to suddenly finding my spark

I was 31 years old when I got my spark. For those of you who have NOT yet seen the movie “Soul”, a spark is your life’s purpose, your inspiration and reason for living. It happened when I was watching HGTV’s “Fixer Upper”. This episode featured a young couple who were looking for their first home together. The coffee shop owners found a home for less than $100K and used the remainder of their budget to renovate their home and give it the personal touch they needed to make the home REALLY theirs. Your girl Joanna did her thing, like always! During the last shot of the couple in their home, they were welcoming friends over and telling the camera crew how delighted they were with their starter home, and that’s when I felt it, that twinge of “I want that“. The feeling of “this would make me happy” was shocking to me, you see because I always thought my life’s purpose was Writing.

By the time I was a teen, I knew I wanted 2 things out of life:

  1. To make enough money to live in one of the most expensive cities in the World
  2. To entertain people.

I have been on a quest of fulfillment ever since. That quest has caused me to start working at age 13. Since then, I’ve made my way through five industries and 12 jobs, all of which left me feeling unfulfilled. It didn’t matter whether they were reputable (some of them were) or if they helped me move out on my own (some of them did), none of them made me happy. That’s because I was making moves for all the wrong reasons. Your job isn’t supposed to be your happiness. Your happiness should exist outside of external instruments. Your life should make you happy and your life should not start and end with your work.

It took me up until now to realize a life of working isn’t living and it’s all I’ve been doing up to now. Investing all of my time and energy into my work and having no air around me. No time for fun, friends, or family just duties and then one day you look up and realize it’s all you have. I don’t want a life of completing tasks. I want to be able to conduct science experiments with my daughter, or to lay in bed with my Husband and talk about the theories of the Universe, or call my best friend and laugh and talk for hours, or visit my Grandmother on a Sunday morning and play checkers while we have our coffee. THIS is living folks. These moments are life.

I’m not telling you to quit your job, I’m encouraging you to make sure you exist outside of it.

Hey, we all have to make a living and frankly, I quite like being a Writer. I enjoy helping and entertaining people with my words but it’s not my life’s purpose because working isn’t living. Rapping JCOLE’s “Can’t Get Enough” with my Husband off of our terrace at 1 in the morning is an example of living (that’s a hook right thurr). Talking to my Mom about recipes I found on Pinterest is living. Reading books with your children, catching up with friends, and taking walks outside are all examples of living. Take the time to be alive. I hope you’ve found your spark. And if not, no worries! As the lovely George Eliot once said:

It’s never too late to be what you might have been

George Eliot

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