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Author Archive | Adrienne McGuire

Simplify Your Life. Is it Really that Simple?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley

It’s the latest thing. All of the coolest grown ups are doing it and shaking their heads with pity at those who just don’t get it yet.

Simplifying your life: Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

There’s been a slow phase-out of the fast paced, jam-packed, overscheduled lifestyle people were leading a decade ago, at least if they planned on keeping up with the Joneses. These days, zen habits and mindful living are definitely on the rise, and the word Stress has become a six letter pariah - nobody wants it around except psychotherapists and pharmaceutical companies.

Those of you who are still embracing the overly busy and complicated lifestyle that’s so “yesterday” might as well open your front door and invite that undesirable pariah in for brunch. Even worse, if your life is in a state of overwhelming chaos, you probably won’t even notice Stress until it’s gotten good and comfortable. By that point, it will have made quite a mess of your life and will be extremely difficult to get rid of.

Simplicity: Is it right for you?

The process of making life manageable is different for everyone because the changes you may want to make will be specific to your needs and the current level of discord you’re experiencing. However, if you’re determined to overcome Stress permanently, there are some basic starting points that will help you to move toward a simpler life, and anyone can do them.

Kickoff to a more laid-back lifestyle with a crystal clear understanding of what is most important to you. Take some time to write out your priorities so that you can align them with the level of simplicity you’d like to achieve. Once you are sure of your top priorities, you’ll be able to go about organizing your life in the way you’d really like it to flow.

If you find that you’re overwhelmed by your life more often than not, you probably have a daily routine that’s not aligned with your priorities. The key is to set up a functional schedule that finds you spending the most time on tasks relating to the things that are most important to you.

Simplification: Is it really just that simple?

Because our world is so full of enticing distractions, of course it’s not that simple. An important part of living more simply is not allowing yourself to get sucked in by too many things that aren’t on your priority list, especially those that are useless or even contrary to your goals.

After you’ve found a way to fit the most important parts of your life into a simple weekly schedule, be sure to allocate a large percentage of the remaining time toward activities that fall somewhere between ‘priority’ and ‘useless.’ Allowing yourself ample opportunities for leisure and down time are vital components in living a simpler, more enjoyable life. As an added bonus, they’ll also help you stay more focused when working toward your goals (items on your priority list).

Along with creating a less complicated/more focused daily routine, you’ll also want to de-clutter your home, car, and list of friends, which involves getting rid of things that just aren’t working for you anymore.

Simple? Not even close. Worth it? Totally.

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A Dozen Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Morning

Photo courtesy of John Liu

Recently, my husband has been making some major changes in his life that have increased his productivity, feelings of self-worth, and overall happiness. He shares all of his ideas with me, and what I’ve noticed so far is that the changes that have had the most effect on his life are the ones that happen in the first hours of his day. Intrigued, I did a little research into the subject, and was surprised to learn a few compelling facts that now have me rethinking my mornings too.

As it turns out, many Americans are sabotaging their overall productivity without even knowing it by getting off on the wrong foot each morning. In the United States, 55% of all adults say that they are ‘morning people,’ while the rest feel perkier in the P.M. However, because you’re likely to find that your days end pretty much the way they start means it’s important to make mornings count.

Interestingly, a podcast about productivity is what really got my attention on this subject with the claim that those self-professed ‘morning people’ are healthier and richer, and that they live longer, happier, more productive lives.

Despite the multitude of internet articles claiming that it’s possible to transform into a person who gleefully bounces out of bed every morning, it is much more realistic to make some tiny shifts to your current (possibly less-than-ideal) morning routine.

See what you can take away from this list of what not to do every A.M., followed by an explanation for what makes each component important to achieving a successful morning (and day):

  1. Sleep as late as possible. Early risers make good use of that quiet alone time. Allow yourself enough time to ease into your day without rushing around like a crazy person.
  2. Blast yourself out of bed with the loudest alarm possible. Jarring yourself into consciousness will guarantee that your day has a jittery start. Find a soothing sound that’s loud enough to wake you up but not startle you.
  3. Save time by skipping breakfast. – The importance of eating a good breakfast is ranked right up there with a good night’s sleep. Just do it.
  4. Forget showering – you took one last night, right? – Last night was a long time ago, and even a quick spray-down will leave you refreshed, invigorated and ALERT.
  5. Check all of your emails. – If possible, have a separate work email address and don’t log in to your work account until your work hours start.  Avoid checking personal emails until your first break of the day, or, if you simply can’t wait, at least put off responding until break time.
  6. See what everyone is up to on Facebook. – Does this even need an explanation?
  7. Make up for lost sleep on the weekends. – While it seems so tempting, keeping a regular sleep schedule – even on the weekends - will make it easier to wake up early on the weekdays.
  8. Don’t exercise. – Getting your blood pumping means more blood-flow to the brain, too. Your metabolism will be ramped up, giving you more energy and burning more calories!
  9. Wear the outfit that strikes your mood. If you’ve ever stood in front of your closet and wasted 30 minutes deciding what to wear, you know that morning-time is definitely not the best time to choose your outfit.  Lay everything out the night before, including shoes and socks, so that decision is already taken care of when wake up time rolls around.
  10. Save the fun for after work. Doing something fun before your work day starts is a surefire way to put you in a positive mood and a good frame of mind. All work and no play is no good for anyone.
  11. Shuffle your kids quickly out the door and onto the school bus so you can get on with your day. It’s been proven that two minutes of hugging per day makes for happier people. A little quality time with the little ones (or teenagers, as the case may be) will be good for all of you.
  12. Once you sit down to work, don’t get up until you absolutely have to. There are so many good reasons to take regular work breaks: improved circulation, avoiding eye strain, giving your hands a break from the computer mouse, and giving yourself a mental break only name a few.

You may never pop out of bed filled with vim and vigor, but that doesn’t have to mean that your mornings have to be disasterous and unproductive. Those of us who aren’t ‘morning people’ can learn how to make the most out of a situation that we’d rather not face at all…or at least until noon.

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Are You Killing Your Capacity for Creativity?

Photo courtesy of Mark Couvillion

The incredible convenience of modern technology has without a doubt improved the productivity levels of professionals around the globe, but at what cost?

Admittedly, I did make the switch to an iPhone about six months ago, and because of it, I’ve been able to successfully coordinate several virtual projects that might have otherwise taken a lot longer. My response time for work emails is impressive, and anytime an important client has had any questions, I have been able to reply when they needed an answer - not when I managed to get to a computer.

I’m a big proponent of taking change as it comes and being open to our ever-improving world. After all, we don’t refuse to use indoor toilets just because our great-grandparents didn’t use them, right?

Times they are a-changin’, and our time happens to be the era of huge technological advances. Instead of pounding out our work reports on a Brother Opus 885 typewriter, we’re now able to create documents simply by talking into our phones. Sitting in doctors’ offices will rarely leave any of us bored now that we can surf the internet while we wait. Finding new and interesting restaurants to try is as simple as asking your personal virtual assistant to do a search for you.

The incredible conveniences and productivity enhancements that we now have access to in our back pockets come at a price, and I’m not just talking about the big bucks you’ve got to pay just to own the latest technology.

Before nearly everyone had a hand-held office/entertainment/computer/communication device, down time was just that – down time. Waiting rooms, car rides, sitting by the pool – these were times that we used to spend thinking, imagining and coming up with new ideas. Solving our problems was something we used to have to do without any help from a massive network of connections or 24/7 access to the world wide web. It seems to me that the old fashioned concept of ‘thinking’ has quite frankly gone out of style.

So what should one do? Is it prudent to toss your iPhone 5 out the next open window you see or stomp it to bits on your driveway? Luckily, there’s a much easier and cost-effective solution.

Balance.

It’s ok to own a smartphone, laptop, tablet, e-reader, and whatever cutting edge gaming system floats your boat. Time keeps on slipping right on into the future, and far be it for us to sit back and not take advantage of this incredible world we live in. Multi-task by tele-working while you monitor your baby with high tech pajamas, email from the comfort of your totally customized, fully-loaded bed. Read books that you’ve downloaded – you can save a tree! Enjoy the hell out of your Xbox 360 Kinect and carry your grocery coupons in your phone.

The only catch is that you absolutely must plan time during your day where you’re not relying on technology. Let your brain do some of the work. If you work from home, turn off technology during non-working hours. Power down your phone once in awhile and even leave it at home from time to time. Read magazines at the doctor’s office, or just daydream while you look out the window at the sky. Ponder your life and try solving some of your problems without turning to the internet – see what you come up with.

You may have forgotten just how enjoyable the unplugged world can be.

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Words to Live by as You Create Your Best Life

Photo courtesy of Nolan Williamson

One of the more popular internet memes at the moment involves creating mock “Hallmark” greeting style cards to share on Facebook. This is made possible by someecards.com – a website with the tagline, “When you care enough to hit send.” Pairing self-penned quotes with images that are consistent with traditional greeting cards has provided millions of social networkers with hours of entertainment.

These self-made cards usually contain deadpan humor that could be mistaken as offensive by someone unfamiliar with their parodic sentiments. Admittedly, a few of the cards have struck my funny bone, but I’ve always had a deep appreciation for more thought provoking (sometimes famous, sometimes not, but always meaningful) quotes and sayings.

When you feel yourself hit a wall or find that you’re lagging behind on attaining some of your life goals, it can be quite helpful to read through a few motivational quotes to move and inspire you. Today, I thought I’d share some of the inspirational quotes that motivate the staff here at TinyShift.  We look to these poignant and eloquent words (and many others) to keep us striving toward living the best lives possible:

You’ll never go anywhere if you never get going! This quote also points to the fact that even the most daunting of tasks can be accomplished as long as we keep moving toward the finish line, taking it one purposeful step at a time.

Photo courtesy of Oprah.com

Have you ever looked up from the chaos of your life and realized that you’ve been meeting everyone’s needs but your own? Sacrificing your life satisfaction only to go on living the status quo, especially if that means you’re lost and unfulfilled – just isn’t worth it. While calculated risk is usually advisable in terms of huge life changes, if you aren’t even sure where you fall on your own “to-do” list, there should definitely be some calculating and risk-taking in your near future.

Photo courtesy of Ginnyire

Instead of allowing yourself to be controlled by the “Coulda, woulda, shoulda,” focus on the here and now - things you can control.  If your present life isn’t exactly playing out how you had envisioned, make the changes you need so that you’re on track to thoroughly enjoy your future.

Photo courtesy of Crystal Coleman

As Shakespeare said, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

It’s up to you to discover and explore your passions in this life.  After all, no one has as much of a vested interest in them as you do. When a clear picture of your best life begins to take shape, forge forward into it and determine to make it into your new reality.

 

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11 Ways To Do More of What You Love This Year

Photo courtesy of Mohamed Malik

“This year is the year I’m going to make myself a priority.”

That is what I said to myself last year at this time, and the most important thing I did after that was follow through on my promise to myself. This year, you can do it too, no matter what difficult situation(s) you’re dealing with at the moment. It is extremely important to find ways to do more of what you love, and you can start by using the list below as a guide. I promise you that you won’t regret it.

  1. Create “Me” time. Make a conscious decision to schedule time that is specifically designated to doing things that you enjoy. To ensure that your “Me” time activities are honored, put them on any calendars that you share with your significant other or family members who require prior knowledge of what you’ll be doing in the near future.
  2. Participate in activities that feed your soul. Take some time to analyze what things give you the most enjoyment. If you’re finding that you don’t seem to have enough time to do all the fun things you used to do – prioritize. Quality really does win over quantity in this case.
  3. Live in the now. Putting mindfulness practices into action in your life will increase the number of things that give you intense pleasure. When you get good enough at mindful living, even the simplest activities will bliss you out.
  4. Love the one you’re with. Simply put, look for the happiness that already exists in your day-to-day life. Falling in love with your spouse all over again or getting to know your children on a deeper level are two examples of finding joy right in your own home.
  5. Get proactive about being productive. Train your brain so that you have the most effectual habits and productive routines, leaving you with more free time for leisure activities.
  6. Learn to let the word ‘no’ come more easily. Saying ‘no’ can be quite a challenge for some people, but consistently saying ‘yes’ to everyone’s needs but your own will leave you overscheduled and overstressed.
  7. If you were dealt a bad hand, trade in your cards. If too many things are making you unhappy in life, you’re highly unlikely to derive much pleasure out of anything. It’s never too late to make changes – even significant ones.
  8. Share your enthusiasm with your loved ones. Try to get your family members excited about the things you love doing. If you can get them on board, you’ll get less complaints and demands for your time.
  9. Ask, and ye shall receive. Sometimes, you simply have to ask for time to do the things you love. Try it and see what happens.
  10. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. As I recently told my son, “Never give up on something you really want.”
  11. Read This Year I Will… This book will help you follow through on your promises to yourself, giving you the skills you need to attend to your happiness.

In an ideal world, you’d be doing what you love and loving what you do every day. However, if you can’t do both (all of the time, anyway), take action to ensure that you spend time doing what you love as often as you possibly can.

 

 

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8 Ways to Get Rich Quick

Photo courtesy of Mark Becher

Now that all of the gifts have been opened and all of the gluttony is out of the way, we can begin to recover a semblance of normalcy and get back to our regularly scheduled lives. Last week, as I sat looking at the piles of opened gifts strewn all over my living room, I started making a mental tally of how much money I spent this year and why. It can be frighteningly easy to get a little bit too into the gift-giving spirit, and before we know it, we’ve got a room full of wrapping paper and empty boxes. At this time of year, the only thing emptier than those boxes is bound to be our wallets.

Unfortunately, some people are left with a certain sense of emptiness that stretches even beyond their purse strings after the holidays. This common occurrence is attributed to a phenomenon called the Post-Christmas Blues. Naturally, not everyone celebrates Christmas, but most Americans do celebrate at least one December holiday that gets hyped up all year long.  For those who are susceptible to emotional ups and downs, it’s easy to be left feeling blue after the holiday passes.

While your plan to right your finances may take six months or more, you can address the emptiness you’re feeling inside immediately by following most or all of the suggestions below. Luckily, it’s a lot easier to become an emotional millionaire than a real one. Bid a fond farewell to last year and begin looking toward a fresh start in areas of your life that could use a boost.

  1. Love and be loved. Spend time with those who love you back, and express your love. Tell them how important they are to you. Often.
  2. Accept life’s gifts. Devote more time to focusing on what you do have than what you wish you had. Many times, what we have right now is pretty darn great.
  3. Be the best person you can be and strive to live your best life. Be good to others - even those you don’t know.  Smile at strangers and watch as they smile back. Do your part to make the world a better place. It happens one person at a time.
  4. Laugh at yourself every day. I’ve always said that it’s extremely important to be able to laugh at yourself. Taking yourself too seriously gets old fast, and not only to you.
  5. The Beatles said, “Let it Be,” because you should. Let any past regrets or anger slip away. Dedicating time and energy to such negative emotions takes away from your ability to move forward and make progress.
  6. Know your worth. Be your biggest supporter and your loudest cheerleader. Don’t allow people to treat you like a doormat. People will see how much you respect yourself and follow suit.
  7. Goof off. In my family, we thrive on silliness. Singing made up songs in weird voices, doing funky hand jives, and creating homemade games are all a huge factor in how absurdly happy we all are.
  8. Indulge. – Let’s face it – none of us is perfect, and it’s high time we start admitting it. Indulge in your greatest pleasures from time to time, even if they’re not exceedingly good for you.

Paying off your financial debts is a necessary process that can lower your credit score if left unattended. Emotional debts, on the other hand, will slowly deplete your satisfaction with life, and repaying them becomes more complex the longer they’re left neglected. Sustaining financial stability is a prerequisite for adulthood, but when The Beatles crooned that being wealthy just wasn’t all that important, it seems to me, well… that they were right on the money.

 

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Kickstart 2013: Kindle Fire WINNER

Photo courtesy of DailyPath, Inc.

Happy New Year! May this be the year that you are able to master the areas of your life that you’ve been slowly improving. Or, if you’re new to making tiny shifts, welcome to the life improvement process!

The TinyShift staff has been so excited about our Kindle Fire Giveaway that the lead-up to New Year’s Eve was filled with more anticipation than usual for us.  The giveaway ended just as the ball dropped here in New York City, just a few blocks from our office. Early yesterday morning, we randomly selected a winner from all of the entries, and we’re pleased as Punch to announce that our Kickstart 2013: Kindle Fire Winner is:

Stefanie Gladden!!!  CONGRATULATIONS, Stefanie! You’ll be receiving your preloaded Kindle Fire shortly!

To all of the rest of our readers, we give a humongous thank you for being a part of the TinyShift community by reading the blog, following us on Twitter, keeping up with us on Facebook, and pinning right along with us on Pinterest.

Because TinyShift would be nothing without our readership, we’ll be “appreciating” you regularly with more giveaways and fun contests that will help you make those small but impactful changes we’re always talking about! Stay tuned for what we’ll be offering up next.

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How to Find Success with Love and Money

Photo courtesy of Mark and Cece

Taking control of your own happiness is an important theme for us here at TinyShift. Our entire staff lives and breathes our mantra: making small changes that have big consequences. We’ve all seen our lives improve exponentially since we started taking control of our own lives. Part of what fulfills us on our journey is sharing our success so that you can also move toward living the life you really want.

We make it our practice to regularly learn about a variety of elements like books, apps, disciplines, practices (such as mindfulness, meditation, and cognitive therapy), courses, and the latest research that may help our readers find success. Recently, we were lucky enough to meet Cece Suwal and Mark Brener, who are Co-founders of The One World Initiative blog and co-authors of the national bestseller A Guide to Your Supreme Power. Let me tell you – this is one amazing twosome. They’ve been featured on ABC and in The New York Times, The New York Observer, Fortune/CNN Money Magazine, The Guardian UK, Shanghai Daily, and other news outlets around the world.

While talking with Mark and Cece recently, we learned that they are currently offering a 3-Part Mini-Course absolutely FREE. This course consists of: an audio series wherein multi-millionaires reveal their secrets, an e-book that addresses the root causes of anxiety and how to overcome it, and an e-book designed to help you enjoy happy and satisfying relationships and sex lives.

Here’s exactly what you’ll receive:

  • Multi-Millionaire Interview Series: Self-Made Millionaires Reveal Their Real Secret Tools for Success-a new, 3-part audio interview series and cheat-sheet-style e-book that will help you learn about the real ways to succeed financially, as shared by 3 highly successful multi-millionaires that Cece and Mark interviewed. (value: $100)
  • What Stress, Worry, and Anxiety Really Mean and How to Replace Them With Delight! – a 28 page e-book that explains the causes of anxiety and how to be free from it once and for all. (value: $30)
  • Relationship Advice That Really Works: How to Have Meaningful, Loving, and Sexually Satisfying Relationships – a 19 page e-book that reveals timeless wisdoms about love, why we need it and how to have awesome sex lives. (value: $14.99)

PLUS two bonus gifts!

  • How To Influence People For Maximum Results (value: $30)
  • Why Passion Comes Before Success AND What To Do If You Can’t Find YOUR Passion (priceless)

Again, we think this mini-course will help you as you take control of your life, and we think it’s great timing that we met Cece and Mark just as the new year is about to start.  We know you, our readers, are ready to make changes in your lives for the better, and this is a great tool to use on your journey. And it’s totally free!

To sign up for the mini-course, simply click here. You will be re-directed to their site. Please let us know your thoughts after you’ve had time to review everything!

 

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Create Timeless Rituals with Fun Holiday Traditions


Photo courtesy of Carrie Stephens

Every year I look forward to December 1st with great anticipation. On that day, our family decorates our home for Christmas. We make a huge event out of it – using teamwork to lug all of the dusty boxes from the attic, heaving and grunting under their weight, but loving the exertion because we know what their contents represent. My favorite part of the day comes when, after hours of deciding on the perfect location for all of the glittery snowmen and the mistletoe, we flip open the boxes filled with ornaments. Each tiny but ornate decoration reminds us of all of the happy Christmases we’ve spent together, and we reminisce about years gone by as we select the perfect spot on the tree for each treasured trinket.

Researchers tell us that the fun holiday traditions that our families enjoy every year are actually way more important than most of us probably ever realized. They’re so important, in fact, that families who establish and regularly carry out yearly traditions are stronger and have more tightly bonded members than other families because these rituals instill a deep sense of consistency and reliability in an otherwise hectic world. Traditions that we can rely on help us develop feelings of trust and confidence – two very important characteristics that aid in creating mentally stable and happy individuals.

Because traditions create a sense of unity among family members, it means that people in families who practice yearly traditions will be less likely to seek out feelings of belonging elsewhere in other (potentially negative or dangerous) social circles. This naturally adds even more strength and importance to the familial bond. Family traditions help build a sense of identity in all members of your family, because the customs you create will be special and unique, ranging from the timing of certain events to inside jokes. The youngest members of your family can even gain a connection to their ancestors through rituals that have been passed down through the ages.

Traditions and rituals don’t have to involve a holiday, but as we are currently right in the middle of the holiday season, it just so happens that most of us are spending lots of time preparing for and enjoying holiday traditions at the moment. Because of the emotional connection that is tied to the events, foods, songs and rituals that surround holidays year round (but most significantly the holidays in December), it’s important to be aware of just how important these moments are to your family as a whole, and to your family members as individuals.

In today’s modern society, as we are constantly confronted with the interference of technology and with the advent of an ever-changing definition of “family,” it can be challenging to honor traditions that many family members have strong emotional connections to. We must all work to find a way to put down our electronic gadgets and make compromises that will enable us to keep our time-honored traditions alive. Even as family structures shift, the stability of practicing family rituals will keep any family strongly bonded and emotionally sound.

We here at TinyShift would like to take this moment to wish all of our readers Happy Holidays.  We sincerely hope your family traditions go off without a hitch.

 

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A Real Life Report Card: Making Changes for the Better

Photo courtesy of Hannah Swithinbank

As December is getting ready to melt into January, I’ve started taking note of the good habits I’ve formed in 2012.  In the past year, I’ve become mindfully aware of the power I have over my own life. The last thing I want to do is slow or halt the progress I’ve made in areas that are very important to me. Since I started making a conscious effort to break a bunch of bad habits and replace them with new ones, I’ve experienced some extremely positive changes in my life.

Being aware of your progression toward the kind of life you really want is crucial to your success, but being immersed in your day-to-day life can sometimes blur your perception of the big picture. And with that line of thinking, I had an a-ha moment.

In your school years, you always knew how well you were doing in a multitude of subjects all at once because you were given tangible evidence of your success every marking period.  Now you’re trying to master a much more complex subject: Life. Here in the real world, you’re the only one who can determine how close you are to achieving your goals. As both the student and the teacher, you’re pretty much left to your own devices when it comes to assessment. While most people have a pretty good idea of what it means to ‘Fail at Life’, it seems much more difficult to ascertain exactly when you’ve passed with flying colors.

What we could all use is a real life report card – a tangible way to measure the progress we’re making toward our goals. Succeeding at life isn’t something that’s easy to measure, though. And since we’re all improving in a wide array of different ways, I’ve compiled a few suggestions you can use to create an assessment that’s appropriate for your life.

  1. Put it in a jar.  Start each year (or other predetermined length of time) with an empty jar or other container of your choice. Whenever you reach an important milestone in your Happiness Journey, write a short note about it and place it folded in the jar. At the end of the year (or the real life ‘marking period’ of your choosing), read all of the notes aloud to give yourself recognition for making positive changes. Another possibility is to make a second jar for any setbacks you’ve experienced.
  2. Cross it off. Before implementing the above idea, write the small changes you hope to make in a notebook. List style works best for this assessment tool. When you empty your jar, cross off all of the accomplishments as you read them aloud. If you incorporate two jars, make notes under each item that still needs work.
  3. Blog it. Whether you prefer electronic posts or the kind you make with pen and paper, start a Journey Journal. This acts as a running record of your self-improvement, and can replace both #1 and #2.
  4. Reflect. Mentally assess where you are now versus where you were last year, or six months ago.  How do you feel?  Ask yourself if you are coming closer to ultimate happiness or veering off the path.
  5. Snap it.  Get into the habit of taking pictures of happy/momentous occasions so that you can refer to them later as you self-assess. Pictures can really jar the mind, and they will remind you of everything you’ve accomplished.  Conversely, photos can also help you remember moments that were low, giving you a reality check about how far you’ve really come.

Pick and choose some (or use all) of the above methods, but make sure you stop to take inventory of your satisfaction with life every now and again.  There’s a reason we had report cards in school, and although we shouldn’t spend too much time assessing ourselves (that would be too time consuming and detract from living mindfully) - if we don’t check in, we’ll be much more likely to check out, ending up right back where we started.

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