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Learning to Put Your Own Happiness First

worryPhoto courtesy of Amanda Lynn

I ask my children every day, “Are you happy today?” I ask my spouse, too. Their satisfaction with life is extremely important to me – but not more important than my own.

While that may sound selfish, it’s actually a very healthy mindset. Many people put everyone else’s needs so high on their list of priorities that they risk their own happiness in the process.

“The Constitution only guarantees [Americans] the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin

Since it is considered such a “normal” practice to put our own happiness on the backburner – it’s even more critical that we stoke our own fire on a regular basis.

Why should you stop worrying about everyone else all the time and put your own happiness first? There are a lot of reasons! A few of them include:

  • Everyone must figure out how to be happy on their own. At some point, they need the skills to find their happy place without you pointing them to it every single time. They’ll never develop these skills if you don’t let them try.
  • Your own happiness shouldn’t depend on someone else’s. Even if they never find their way to their happy place, you’ve got to be ok with that and be able to be happy anyway.
  • Believe it or not, you don’t hold the only key to happiness.  In fact, if happiness actually is hidden behind a magical door somewhere, everyone holds a key. We all have the skills and abilities required to find our own version of happiness.

Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway!), the exception, of course, is very young children. As our children grow, they do need the adults in their lives to guide them along the path of life toward discovering what makes them happy.

In fact, I’m a big proponent of teaching children to live mindfully as young as possible, giving them the skills they’ll need to find extraordinary happiness in simple, everyday activities.

Raising children and finding one’s own happiness can be done! They are not mutually exclusive events, and it has been shown that the best parents are, you guessed it, happy! Taking time out just for yourself and nurturing your inner self is great for you and your children.

The thing that we all need to realize is that our own satisfaction and joy needn’t be derived from someone else. Sure, being a part of their happiness is an amazing thing; however, it’s important to continually practice being happy without watching the smile on someone else’s face.

Instead of tiptoeing around someone else’s mood and holding off your own happiness until they decide to crack a smile, find the closest mirror, and just grin.

Trust the knowledge that the people in your life have what they need to find happiness - they will get happy when they’re ready. In the meantime, you get to be happy now.

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Road Rage: Why it’s Bad for Your Health

roadrage2Photo courtesy of Josh Greenfield

Road rage is a behavior that we often poke fun at and think of as a quirky personality trait. The reality of road rage, however, is definitely not funny. Feeling personally offended by what other drivers are doing often leads to fits of intense anger, aggression and in some cases, violence.

Although it is easy to make jokes about, if you or a loved one regularly get extremely agitated while driving, it’s time to do some self assessment. Because of the potentially serious outcomes, it is important to get a handle on how to control your emotions behind the wheel. What sparked my interest in this behavior pattern is the fact that my own husband is aggressive behind the wheel, and it concerns me.

Studies have conflicting results on whether road rage is more common with men or women. Regardless of sex, anyone can exhibit the behaviors of road rage if they assume that other drivers are out to get in their way. This may ring true in other areas of life as well. To determine if your driving frustration has the potential to become dangerous, ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Are you dealing with a lot of pent-up stress in your life?
  • Do you view driving as a race?
  • Do you feel like other drivers are trying to annoy you?
  • Is it common for you to drive above the posted speed limit?
  • How often do you find yourself tailgating someone?
  • Do you honk your horn or flash your lights in an attempt to show your anger to other drivers?
  • Is swearing something you do often in your car, especially directed at other drivers?
  • Do you often feel that other drivers are “in your way” and need to be taught a lesson?

If you or someone you know answered positively to the above, know that there are ways to help a raging driver calm down behind the wheel and turn back into a reasonable driver.  Some steps to take include:

  • Remember that other drivers are human. In fact, they may be dealing with marriage trouble, screaming kids in the car, or maybe they aren’t feeling well. Whatever they did that annoyed you was probably an honest mistake and had nothing to do with you. Don’t take it personally.
  • Drop the anonymity. You are not your car, and you shouldn’t let it become a shield while you act like a bully. Treat other drivers like you would treat them face-to-face in a social situation. Use courtesy, and give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • Listen to good music. I’m not suggesting you pipe classical symphonies through your vehicle every time you drive, but there seems to be some pretty solid evidence supporting the fact that quieter, more relaxing music leads to less instances of aggressive driving.
  • Look at the big picture. Anger is not good for you – plain and simple. Is it really worth getting your blood pressure and heart rate elevated over?

People who regularly get angry are three times more likely to have a heart attack than their more carefree peers. Getting all bent out of shape over a driving mistake certainly isn’t going to improve the situation, and the only person affected will be you (and anyone in the car with you). By letting the incident roll off your back, you’ll enjoy the rest of your ride and be on your way to making calmness into a habit. Your driving stress level will decrease, and if you’re lucky, your good attitude will eek its way into other areas of your life, too.

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What Can Mindfulness Add to Your Sex Life?

kissongrassPhoto courtesy of Jon Rawlinson

Mindfulness makes for an existence that is much more enjoyable, simply because you’re living in the moment and paying attention to your life. Living a mindful life means that, regardless of what you’re doing, you are present – mentally as well as physically. Many people skate through life distracted, thinking about everything else except the moment at hand. What does that mean for the moment at hand? Well, it gets passed over, ignored: an experience lost.

When I was a child, I remember feeling like I always wanted to have “something to look forward to.” Continually excited about the future, getting older, having adult experiences.  Hindsight tells me there are so many moments I must have missed.

Rather than dwell on what I didn’t experience when I was ten years old, I will give my young self credit for one thing: knowing that life only gets better and better with age. As we gain self-awareness and clarity of mind, we learn how to seek out the kind of experiences that will make us happiest. One of those adult experiences just happens to be… sex.

It’s true that, as a general rule, people don’t typically put “mindfulness” and “sex” in the same sentence, but they should! I am here to tell you that it is absolutely impossible to have a completely satisfying sexual encounter if you’re not fully committed to the moment.

In fact, many cases of sexual dysfunction have improved drastically with the practice of mindfulness, according to Lori Brotto, professor of gynecology at the University of British Columbia. Both women and men suffering from low libido or low self-esteem were able to “…increase their sexual desire by [becoming more] attuned to their body’s sexual responses.” Not only did their desire increase, but they enjoyed the act of sex more, too.

For those of you who already have a decent sex life – wanna kick things up a notch? Luckily, applying mindfulness strategies in the bedroom isn’t only for couples with existing problems.  The reality is that most long-term, committed couples admit to wanting to spice things up after awhile. They don’t necessarily have any complaints – but a little something new wouldn’t hurt, either.

According to Marsha Lucas, PhD., a huge percentage of her clients ask for advice about how to spice up their sex lives. Years of the same old, same old can get, well – old!  Mindfulness meditation is what she prescribes to her patients who want help in this area. At first, most of them look at her funny, but they always come back the next visit and thank her profusely.

It’s often helpful to try exploring mindfulness as a couple outside of the bedroom first. Together with your partner, take turns sitting in a chair while the other person feeds you different pieces of fruit with your eyes closed. Practice focusing on the sensation and taste of the fruit in your mouth for a full minute before swallowing. During this time, also notice how your body feels in the chair, and how your feet feel touching the floor. Push all other outside thoughts away anytime they enter your mind.

To bring mindfulness with you into the bedroom, you’ll switch from focusing on food to focusing on your partner (and yourself). Again keep all other thoughts at bay and pay attention to how your partner’s body feels, tastes and smells as you explore it. It’s also ok to observe how the bed (or table, floor, etc) feels against your body. It’s easy to find these things exciting with a new partner, but they sometimes need to be rediscovered or rekindled in long-term relationships.

To learn more about bringing mindfulness into your love life, check out this book written by Dr. Lucas herself: Rewire Your Brain For Love: Creating Vibrant Relationships and Using the Science of Mindfulness. Oh – and remember – practice, practice, practice! ;)

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Disconnect Your Phone and Connect with Life

cell phonesPhoto courtesy of Ding Yuin Shan

Recently, a friend of mine treated me to a day at a local spa for my birthday. It was utterly blissful – we were pampered from head to toe, and I haven’t felt that relaxed in a really long time.

However, as I took in my surroundings during one of my treatments, I slowly became aware that I stood out.

I had been sitting, reclined in my spa chair with my eyes closed, attempting to be mindfully aware of my entire body. The sensations I noticed were incredible, and I am certain I would have missed out on half of them had I not been paying extremely close attention to my experience.

As I looked around the pedicure room, I noticed that every other woman was bent over and white-knuckling a digital device of some kind. I picked up my phone to check for messages. Admittedly, I even “checked in” to the salon on Facebook. But then I had an alarming thought: am I holding onto my cellphone or does it have a hold on me?

I plunked my phone back into my purse and didn’t look at it again until hours later when I came home.

I’m the first person to admit that having an iPhone has improved a lot of things about my life. My job is easier, I can get directions instantly, and I’m never at a loss for a good place to eat. I’m definitely pro-smart-phone. What concerns me, though, is the loss of social cues that seems to come along with owning one.

Many people today seem to have lost their grip on good manners. Ever been in mid-conversation with someone who interrupts you to answer a work call?  How about a personal text, or to check their Facebook notifications? Perhaps you’re even guilty of some of these things yourself.

If so, there are things that you can do to prevent your cellphone from running your life and potentially ruining some of your relationships. The key is setting some boundaries when it comes to when and where you choose to let yourself be interrupted by your phone.

In order to protect and nurture your most important relationships, it’s a good idea to earmark certain times, situations or events during which you will not be reachable on your cellphone. This will allow you to focus all of your attention of those people who are physically present with you during those times, giving them reassurance that they are more important than your need to “stay connected.”

Perhaps these times will include things like date night, dinnertime, and family gatherings. Alternatively, you could set aside a certain amount of non-negotiable screen-free time each day or week. Regardless of when and where it happens, by designating regular times to silence your cellphone and put it out of sight – you’re giving your loved ones a guarantee of your undivided attention. It’s only when we give our full attention to our families, relationships, and self-awareness that each of them will be able to grow and thrive.

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How to Comfort Yourself Without Food

icecream2Photo courtesy of Robert S. Donovan

Food, glorious food.

I’m looking at you, Ben. You too, Jerry. And your little multi-colored friends that beg me to find out if they melt in my mouth.

I tend to eat when happy, or in celebration. Because I’m so blissed out about my life, this means I’ve been eating a lot, and finding reasons to “celebrate” entirely too often. While I can’t complain about my happiness level being off the charts, I realized that I do need to get my food to activity ratio back in balance, or risk never being able to zip a pair of jeans ever again.

I didn’t think there was any psychology behind why I eat what I do, unless Deliciology has become an official line of study. I know it’s within my power to eat less, but I decided to look for some tips that would help me make the right choices. As usual, what I found was so interesting that I thought you guys might like to know what I learned.

As I suspected, certain foods definitely do have the ability to enhance our feelings of joy when we’re already happy. What is interesting is that there appears to be an actual, physiological reaction that occurs when we eat foods high in saturated fats, that explains why we crave what we do. Additionally, one study in particular discovered that the simple presence of saturated fat in the stomach not only enhanced positive emotions, but also cheered up those participants who were depressed. Participants who ingested saturated fat also handled difficult situations much better than the participants whose stomachs were filled with saline solution.

Here’s the kicker: the participants weren’t exposed to the smell, sight or taste of fat-laden food – they simply had saturated fat or saline solution tube-fed directly into their stomachs and were then asked to perform certain tasks. Those with bellies full of fat experienced a much easier time dealing with negative feelings like loss, guilt and sadness.

Though the study was relatively small, the physicians and psychologists conducting it have ascertained that ingesting saturated fat triggers the release of hormones that positively stimulate the brain.

It’s not just the yummy-deliciousness that makes us feel better, then! If saturated fats make us able to handle stress better, we should give our bodies what they want!

Except, no.

It’s true that a huge bowl of creamy macaroni and cheese may send out some signals to your brain, telling it that everything’s A-ok, but what happens after you digest that mac-n-cheese? Do you reach for the peanut butter cup ice cream sundae?

You could, and many certainly do, but eventually you’ll end up unhealthy and unhappy. Perhaps there are some people who are overweight and legitimately happy about it, but their hearts are still working extra hard to carry that extra weight around, happy or not.

Instead of feeding your sorrows or making up fake reasons to justify buying another irresistible sheet cake from Costco, turn to your inner senses, like smell, sound, and sight. In  50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Susan Albers, PsyD., teaches how to tell the difference between “emotional hunger” and actual hunger by focusing on real world mindfulness techniques that will help you relax and enjoy life to the fullest without depending on food.

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Can You Answer Life’s Most Important Questions?

good vs evilPhoto courtesy of Nicolee Camacho

Some of my favorite moments in life are those ‘a-ha’ moments known as epiphanies. There’s something so satisfying about figuring stuff out, especially if it brings me to a better understanding of myself. I’m a pretty inquisitive person, so I may be more analytical than the average person, but I bet you wonder about things, too.

And if you don’t, well -maybe you should.

Here in the TinyShift community, we’re all entrenched in this journey toward being the best we can be. Since we’ve all decided we want to live a life without limits, it makes sense that we’re constantly looking for more answers. Ideally, we’re seeking answers that will enable us to make appropriate tiny shifts with big consequences. As I’ve discovered, if you’re going to make changes, you need to know why first.

____________________________________________

Why are you on this journey?

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Answer that before you take your first step. Once you have your ‘why’, you’ll find that more questions pop up. They won’t be easy to answer, but that’s the point. The more you challenge yourself, the better your chance at making progress.

  • Do you love yourself unconditionally? This is an easy question to brush off with a simple “Of course I do!” Dig deeper, though. Don’t let yourself get away with easy answers that aren’t authentic.
  • What would you like to change about yourself? Answering this question is difficult but essential. Without internal change, there can be no growth.
  • What does the general picture of your ideal life look like?
  • What can you get rid of? Many times you’ll find that along with a keen sense of self-awareness comes a desire to purge. Eliminate things and people from your life if they are impeding your ability to be happy or successful.
  • Do you have a timeline? Setting goals with general end-dates will encourage you to accomplish them. Most of us work more efficiently with a deadline.
  • Is there something missing from your life that would bring you gratification? What steps would you need to take to obtain or accomplish whatever is missing?
  • Do you need to make changes in your profession? I made a huge job change at the age of 36. It was scary and difficult, but crucial to my success and satisfaction.
  • How stable is your romantic relationship? This question alone can incite a litany of other questions, and may cause you to veer from your previous life plan. Remember that there are often many paths leading to your destination.
  • Are you making significant contributions to the world?
  • How well are you meeting your responsibilities?  As you come face to face with some of your imperfections, you’ll get in touch with some intense emotions. While it may be difficult to admit that you’re lacking in any one area, you must take stock of the good, the bad and the ugly. No sugar-coating allowed.
  • Are you looking to the future or are you stuck in the past? You’d be surprised how easy it is to confuse the two. Make sure that your goals will help you move toward a new and better future rather than a repeat of history.
  • Who and what are your top priorities?
  • Do your priorities match up with your goals?
  • What do you fear the most about your journey toward self-awareness and happiness? Often, simply acknowledging and sitting with your fears will neutralize their power.
  • (Your next question here.)

There are no ‘right’ answers to any of these questions, but leaving them blank isn’t a good idea. The more you challenge yourself to be accountable for your own life, the more pleasurable everything will become. Asking yourself the hard questions will result in some epiphanies of your own as you inch closer and closer to your definition of an authentic, fulfilled life.

What answers are you seeking? As some of us are on similar paths, we can learn a lot from each other along the way. If you haven’t shared in the comments before, we’d love to hear from you today!

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Mindfulness and Compassion Go Hand in Hand

look within2

Photo courtesy of Adriel Socrates

Mindfulness is a way of living in which you learn to become attentively aware of yourself in the present moment. Generally speaking, learning to live more mindfully allows calmness and acceptance to prevail over more reckless or negative emotions. For me, the practice of mindful living has helped alleviate physical pain and many of the negative emotions that I used to associate with pain.

Myself included, most people take strides to live more mindfully in order to improve their sense of self-awareness and self-esteem, along with getting more enjoyment out of life. Ultimately, many of us set out to live more mindfully to improve how we feel.

It’s true; I was turned on to one of my favorite mindfulness authors, Jon Kabat-Zinn, by my own therapist.  I’ve been a huge fan of his work and his theories ever since. Kabat-Zinn says that, to him, the concepts of mindful living allow us to embody and embrace who we already are rather than construct some identity for ourselves that may not be authentic.

In fact, there is an entire realm of psychotherapy based on something called ‘mindful self-compassion’. Psychologist Christopher Germer, PhD says, “the foundation of emotional healing begins by being aware in the present moment when we’re struggling with feelings of inadequacy, despair, confusion, and other forms of stress - and responding with kindness and understanding toward ourselves.

Studies completed by the psychology department at UC Berkeley strongly suggest that, along with self-compassion, within us lies empathy for others; we have compassion written into our DNA. Practicing mindfulness meditation and mindful living is simply taking a look at what’s already within you and setting it ‘free.’

As it turns out, this theory is far from new! A century ago, academician Albert Einstein himself suggested that we as humans are imprisoned by thinking of ourselves as separate from the rest of the Universe.  He went on to say that, although we typically restrict our compassion to ourselves and those closest to us, that the ability to be compassionate toward others is already within us.

All we have to do is set it free by being aware of it.

Perhaps Einstein was an expert on more than the theory of relativity!

Another important point made by Kabat-Zinn is that the focus of mindfulness should be on living it rather than talking about it all the time. So I leave you with this:

“Perhaps the most “spiritual” thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn

From Wherever You Go, There You Are

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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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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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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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