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Cool, Calm & Collected: A How-to Guide

fonzie

Photo courtesy of Pat Williams

Throughout my life, I’ve been told numerous times that I always seem to have everything under control. “Cool as a cucumber,” is how I’m described, even when faced with what may seem like an insurmountable challenge.

I attribute my ability to “keep it together” to several very influential factors. First, I have to give a nod to both nature and nurture. My parents certainly have their wits about them and did a good job raising me to be capable and tenacious. Second, I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of difficulties - starting at a very young age.

During a crisis or emergency, it’s a normal reaction to feel panicky or to lose control of the situation at hand. Many people struggle to reign in their emotions when the pressure is on. If you’re someone who feels out of control or helpless in complicated or stressful situations, luckily there is hope for you.

By following a few simple guidelines, you can learn how to react more effectively and efficiently the next time a problematic situation arises.

  1. Step outside of the situation. In order to handle crisis situations with aplomb, remove yourself from the equation.  Look at the scenario from a third-person point of view in order to assess what needs to be done, and how to do it.
  2. Use a quiet voice. It may not come naturally at first, but I learned this particular tip a long time ago from one of my teachers, and it’s extremely effective at calming people down.  I always noticed that she spoke quietly whenever chaos was about to ensue, and the practice stuck with me to this day.
  3. Choose your reactions. The power of choice can be quite momentous if you actually put it to use. In situations where your mind and body seem to have an ‘automatic stress response,’ practice choosing a different reaction. Make this happen by becoming astutely aware of the very beginning of stressful situations and your natural reactions to them.  By acknowledging that you are no longer going to react with emotion or panic, you will have taken control over your own behavior.  Your brain will begin to respond accordingly by creating new automatic responses - if you consistently choose to react calmly to stress.
  4. Diffuse with humor. Let me preface this with a disclaimer: Not all situations are joke-appropriate. With that being said, if you can find the funny in the face of a challenge, use positive humor instead of sarcasm, which can have a negative impact on your psyche instead of making you calmer.
  5. Look to the future. A very good friend of mine once helped me through an extremely difficult time, and her tactics really resonated with me. Perhaps the most impactful was that “nothing lasts forever,” and the general sentiment that “this too, shall pass.” This mindset has gotten me through dozens of challenging moments and situations over the past decade, and it can help you, too. Picture yourself in the future – whether that’s tomorrow or next year. The crisis you are currently dealing with will be a thing of the past, and you will have survived to tell about it.

It always helps put things into perspective when you ask yourself, “How important is this to the big picture of my life?” Even though some of the things life throws at us can be messy, complicated, trying, annoying and undesirable – they may not have much bearing on your future at all.

keepcalm

Photo courtesy of Yeseren

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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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The Golden Rule: Reversed

goldPhoto courtesy of Mykl Roventine

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

We’ve all heard some version of this quote before, usually as children when our parents were attempting to turn us into decent people. “Remember the Golden Rule,” my mother would often remind me - before I did something I’d end up regretting. As it turns out, following the Golden Rule is a pretty effective way to ensure that you treat other people with respect.

But – what should you do when those other people aren’t returning the favor? Do you still have to follow the Golden Rule? My vote’s on no – but don’t stoop to their level, either. Putting up with poor treatment and disrespect simply shouldn’t be on your To-Do list as you move toward the life you really want. Be on the lookout for anyone who wants to subject you to:

  • Abuse – I think we all know that it’s not ok to get knocked around by someone and then stick around for more. But remember, emotional abuse can be just as, or even more damaging, and should be treated so. If someone is abusing you – in any form – they don’t love you, and it’s time for you to move on.
  • Taking you for granted - Many people bring this one on themselves, but that doesn’t make it right. If you’re being treated more like the hired help than a spouse or a friend, it’s time for you to wake up and smell the insult. You deserve to be acknowledged for your efforts.
  • Inconsistency – You need people in your life who you can count on when you need them. Constantly receiving mixed or contradictory messages from those who are close to you can leave you feeling discombobulated instead of how friends should make you feel: understood and confident.
  • Mean girl behavior – You know this personality type from way back in middle school. It comes in the form of tightly knit groups of (usually) girls who are eager to spread rumors in such a passive-aggressive manner that you end up thinking you’re the crazy one. Unfortunately, mean girl behavior has stuck with some women well into adulthood, and it can be just as traumatizing to you now as it was at age 12. The mean girl (or guy) typically draws in at least one other friend to harass or bully their peers. Doing so gives her a sense of control, and takes the attention off of her own insecurities. My advice on dealing with mean girls in adulthood? People can only bring you down if you let them.
  • Jealousy - Feelings of insecurity can lead others to believe they are inherently “not good enough.” Because of this, any perceived threat to your relationship with them will be met with anger – and fear that you will discover their “unworthiness.” Although you may think that consistent reassurance can eventually put an end to any behaviors a jealous friend subjects you to; that’s simply not going to happen. Since jealousy stems from a low sense of self, the change will have to come from within the person who is feeling jealous. Don’t allow yourself to be punished for someone else’s low self-esteem.
  • Lying - Being lied to can range from annoying to extremely frustrating, depending on who’s telling you the lies. Everyone lies from time to time, but a close relationship with a compulsive or pathological liar can be maddening.  Getting a true compulsive liar to see the hurt they’re causing is difficult; in fact, you may need to resort to an intervention of sorts. Be forewarned – lying can be indicative of a much larger problem like narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder. If it’s not a relationship that you plan on keeping for the long term, say bye-bye to the liar and pursue relationships with more honest and forthright people.

The Golden Rule tells us to treat others how we’d like to be treated. In cases where that’s just not working, treat yourself how you’d like to be treated. Kiss the mean girls good bye and pursue outside relationships with people who make you feel good rather than drag you down.

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6 Steps to Improved Real World Communication

omgPhoto courtesy of Tama Leaver

As a parent of children born into Generations Y and Z (born between 1980-present), I’m feel like I’m constantly nudging them to communicate more.  You know, the “old fashioned” kind of communication – the kind where you speak to others, face to face, without using an electronic device, and really laughing out loud.

With the constant advancement of technology, it’s a safe bet that the way we communicate with our friends and loved ones has changed forever. The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to change completely.

Those of us who grew up in Generation X (born 1965-1979) were raised with a pleasant mixture of basic technology awareness combined with real world communication skills. Most of us who are now approaching 40 spent our crucial developmental years without even one computer in our homes! We whiled away our childhoods playing with the neighborhood kids, engaged in make-believe games - and as teens, writing love notes on paper and talking endlessly on phones with cords.

Our children, on the other hand, have been raised with cell phones to distract them while we changed their diapers, iPod touches on their 8th birthdays, Instagram accounts and Facebook profiles.  Even their school interactions are shifting toward the impersonal, with more and more learning and instruction taking place on Smart Boards, iPads and laptop computers.

As a result, many of today’s young people have a serious deficit when it comes to communication skills, making real life relationships difficult to navigate. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon first hand, and frankly, I’m more than a little bit concerned. Fostering and nurturing friendships and family bonds are skills that are learned. The problem?     No one’s teaching them.

If you have a Gen Y or Z child (or are one yourself), try implementing some of the following simple steps to ensure better all-around relationship success.

  1. Say those three little words. With the foundations of so many relationships today being built on the internet and via text messaging, many people have had a brainfart when it comes to showing emotions in person. If someone is important to you – tell them! Show your appreciation for the people in your life, and say “I love you” to your family members at least once a day.
  2. Make eye contact. This is a skill that has fallen victim to the replacement of real life conversations with text messages.  Many people today find eye contact uncomfortable simply because texting doesn’t require it. To get more comfortable with looking into someone’s baby blues, you’ll need to practice. When you’re listening to a friend speak, look at them. Try not turn your attention away at the slightest distraction.
  3. Quality over quantity. It’s ok to text and email. There’s no fighting it – we’re living the technology era. However, it doesn’t take much effort to spend some quality time each day with those who mean the most to you. Quality in this case means in-person interactions with no screens.
  4. Call instead of text. The next time you need to get ahold of somebody – why not give them a ring instead of shooting them another text? A phone call is more personal, and many people have simply dropped the habit of talking on the phone.
  5. Ask questions. During those times you set aside for quality interaction – show your interest in others by asking them poignant questions about their well-being.  Inquire about their day, or simply ask pointedly, “How’ve you been?”  Maintaining eye contact and listening intently to the answer lets people know that you care about what they have to say.
  6. Leave the phone at home. I know it sounds impossible, but it’s really not.  After you leave your phone at home once, you’ll experience a sense of freedom. If it’s not an absolute necessity, turn it off or let it charge on the kitchen counter while you’re enjoying time with your friends or family.

Most importantly, make real life interactions a priority. If you must have your cell phone with you during family or other social outings, keep it silenced and refrain from checking it too often. As you try to make the most of this self-learning process called life, staying engaged in the people around you is one of the most enjoyable things that you might’ve never even realized you’ve been missing.

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Turn Your Frown Upside Down: Can You Decide to be Happy?

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Photo courtesy of Lauren

As I wander through the world each day, I regularly find myself face-to-face with someone who radiates negative energy.

With each encounter, I walk away from the situation mystified at how much energy these people are simply throwing away. Energy that could be used so much more effectively toward making life better.

It’s not that I never get upset or mad. There are things that irritate me, and (although infrequent), I do have some conflicts in my life. As a matter of fact, I think a life completely void of struggle would be quite yawn-inducing.

However, there’s huge difference between having some conflict in your life and having some life in between all of your conflicts. Although I wouldn’t say I was ever a totally negative person, I can definitely tell you that I used to be a lot more cynical than I am these days.

Those people who seem to be absolutely brimming with negativity are generally unhappy or unfulfilled in their own lives, so they squash happiness, ambition and success wherever they can. If they’re miserable – you should be too. Innovative ideas thought up by others are picked apart and insulted. Jealous of the good things happening to those around them, they display obvious resentment of those who have what they want.

Eventually, putting out constant negative energy will push friends and family away from someone as they seek relief from the continual complaining and general air of discontent.

Does someone close to you display this type of behavior? Is it possible that you’re the Negative Nancy? Luckily, negativity doesn’t have to be a permanent state of being. After a period of pretty intense self-reflection and a great deal of research on the habits of unhappy people, I learned how much better it felt to be positive.  Some helpful advice to nix negativity from your life:

  • Force it (at first):  Refraining from making negative comments or engaging in unnecessary conflicts and debates won’t come naturally for someone who’s been practicing a whole lot of negativity for (possibly) years. The most effective way to shift into positive gear is to purposely set out to do so. Fastidiously police your behavior and set increments of time in which you are prohibited from saying anything negative at all. Start with small time segments to ensure success.
  • Reinforce positivity:  When you are able to avoid being contrary for your goal time period, you’ll immediately feel good about yourself. The simple fact that you were able to go against your natural instinct toward negativity will give you a feeling of peace and accomplishment. Sit with those feelings, and reward yourself accordingly.  This will make it even more desirable for you to continue on your journey toward positivity.
  • Smile Therapy:  Even when you don’t necessarily feel like smiling, do it anyway. Many studies, including one performed at the University of Cardiff in Wales, have reinforced Charles Darwin’s idea that “the free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensi­fies it.” We typically smile because we’re happy – but as it turns out, the reverse is true, too. You can feel more happiness because you’re smiling.
  • Observe and Repeat:  As you begin to realize the exorbitant amount of energy you’d been wasting on negative thoughts and actions, it will become much easier for you to observe and analyze your thoughts and why you’re having them. You’ll gain the ability to stop negative thoughts before they become spoken words.

Over time, these practices will become habit, and may even become a natural part of your new outlook on life. In your efforts to live a more positive life, try not to be too hard on yourself if you stumble at first. You’re making a valiant effort to use your energy for good instead of evil! Forgive yourself for your imperfections, and pride yourself on your desire to improve.

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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 Stop Being Tardy for the Party

late

Photo courtesy of Steve O’brien

On my way to lunch with some friends yesterday, I received a text, letting me know they were running about ten minutes late. “No problem!” I responded, and, true to their word, they strolled into the mom and pop café at exactly 1:10pm.

Not only were they only negligibly late (I don’t really consider someone late until it reaches the 30-40 minute mark), but they were conscientious enough to shoot me a text anyway.

I have awesome friends.

With that being said, I do know a few people who run on a schedule that pretty much deviates from every other human being in the modern world. I’m willing to bet that all of you know someone who has earned the reputation as the latecomer in your group of friends.

As it turns out, chronically tardy people aren’t typically showing up late just to get your goat. In fact, many of these people have repeatedly attempted to fix their chronic lateness, but have failed time and time again.  Even when their lateness means being reprimanded at work, arguments with friends, and problems in romantic relationships – being late is much, much more complicated than it seems.

Recently, a study was conducted at San Francisco University, aiming to examine why certain people struggle so immensely with being on time. The results showed some clear patterns. When compared with their on-time peers, the chronically late participants struggled with self-control in at least one area of their lives (overeating, shopping, substance abuse, gambling). They also had a much harder time staying on task in a manner similar to ADD sufferers. Many of them also admitted to some moderate to severe anxiety or phobias, displayed a great deal of ambivalence, and/or an affinity for thrill-seeking behaviors.

The good news is that tardiness doesn’t have to be a permanent factor in anyone’s life. Just like many other psychological issues, there are steps that one can take to be on time more and more consistently. If you or someone you know is always late to the party, be aware the changing this behavior takes time, and a lot of understanding from friends and loved ones. Consider the following:

  • Practice self-reflection and self-awareness on a more regular basis in order to discover what lies behind your chronic lateness.  Figuring out if you’re always late to the same type of events can be telling – the answer might be as simple as situational anxiety.
  • Determine what you consider ‘late’ to be.  Are you always the same amount of time late, or does it depend on the situation?  What types of events do you show up to on time, if any?
  • What do you get out of being late?  Does it give you a rush? Do you like to cause a scene? Perhaps you’re afraid of being the first to arrive.
  • In general, how good are you at estimation? Many latecomers think they can do more than they really can in a set amount of time. You may need to retrain your concept of how much time you really have.
  • How forgetful are you? Another type of latecomer is constantly distracted, loses things frequently, and has difficulty focusing. If this sounds like you, it’s possible that you may have an attention deficit disorder, and you may actually benefit from seeing your physician.

Making the leap from lateness to promptness is a challenge, but one that can be conquered with the right attitude. Setting small, achievable promptness goals will help you learn how to tell time all over again. Your internal clock needs to be re-set, and you can do that by promising yourself to be on time first. Once you’ve mastered honoring your own time goals, start planning to arrive early – everywhere you go. Always leave room for traffic, forgetting something, or getting lost. Before you know it, you might just be the first one to the party!

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8 Things to Stop Thinking About

daydreamPhoto courtesy of Scott Anderson

I’ve come to realize that a little daydreaming is ok, but that it can be all too easy to get lost in your thoughts, leading to distraction and a less mindful way of living. Allowing your inner thoughts and dialogue to take a major detour will derail your focus, making you much less productive at work and more stressed in life.

There are some common “thought traps” that are easy to fall into, and they can leave you ruminating rather than really living. When these thoughts pop into your head, let them pass through without stopping.

1. Woulda, coulda, shoulda: If you’re constantly preoccupied with thoughts of things you wish you’d done differently, you’re essentially beating a dead horse with an old stick. Let thoughts of the past move right on by, and every time they pop back in for a visit, think about something positive that came of the choices you did make.

2. Fantastic fortune and magic carpet rides: Passive fantasies about the life you really want will get you nowhere. Get those thoughts onto paper, and into action!

3. Worries. Dwelling excessively on an anxiety-provoking topic ultimately won’t make one bit of difference in the outcome of any situation. Worrying is something everyone does, though, so it’s a natural and normal feeling.  Just don’t let it control your life.

4. The Oops. I used to literally punish myself anytime I’d made an embarrassing mistake at work by replaying the event over and over again in my mind. What’s done is done, and the only thing to do is to learn from your mistake and do better next time.

5. How you’re measuring up. In other words, you’re preoccupied with what other people think of you. The only person you should be measuring yourself against is, well, yourself.

6. Why me? This is a huge thought trap for many people. It’s essentially a Pity Party for One. Stop asking “Why me?” and ask “Why not?”

7. The missing piece. Are you spending precious time focused on what you don’t have? We’ve all met that person who constantly bemoans all of the things she hates about her life. This type of person usually displays extreme jealousy when others experience good fortune, too. What a waste of energy and lost minutes that could be spent enjoying the present moment for what it is.

8. Your limits. Most people are convinced that they have invisible limits that no one else can see or sense. Staying within your preconceived limits allows you to feel safe, but it also hinders how much success you can attain.  Limits only exist in the mind. In reality, you can accomplish anything.

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When Familiarity Breeds Contempt:10 Friendship Enders

love hatePhoto courtesy of Rory Finneren

Last week, a friend and I were sharing the traits we liked most about each other, and we remarked that time has given us a new perspective on friendship. In addition to getting older, living mindfully has also given me a pretty good handle on the type of people I enjoy being around.

For me, a typical ‘friend interview’ goes something like this: I’m introduced, in any number of ways, to someone new.  I almost immediately begin evaluating this person’s friendability. My scoring system is simple: if I get a good feeling when I’m around you – boom – we’re friends.

Nine times out of ten, going with your gut instinct works pretty well, but it is possible to get the wrong first impression.

Unfortunately, you often won’t discover someone’s annoying traits until the two of you get more familiar and comfortable with each other. As long as her worst habit is biting her nails or telling really bad jokes – you’ve got nothing to worry about.

It’s when familiarity breeds contempt rather than closeness that you’ve got a problem. Breaking up with a friend is hard to do, but putting up with more than one item on this list is enough to drive anyone straight to Friendship Divorce Court:

  • Chronic interruptions – Let’s face it – we’ve all interrupted someone before. However, when someone makes a habit of cutting you off mid-sentence, it shows that he or she honestly doesn’t care what you’ve got to say. Someone who is worth having as a friend wants to hear what you’re thinking, and they respect your opinion enough not to interrupt while you’re sharing your thoughts.
  • Habitual lying – Honesty is (almost) always the best policy, whether it’s between friends or lovers. Most of us turn to someone we trust for advice, and we really do want to know if those pants make us look fat. If you’ve caught a friend in several lies, you can be sure that there are many more lurking in the shadows of your friendship.
  • Unannounced visitsTHE POP-IN is an act of disrespecting someone’s schedule, time, and privacy. The type of person who practices frequent pop-ins puts their time at a much higher level of importance than yours.
  • Constant attempts to make you look bad – Whether to your face or behind your back, if you’ve got a friend who has such incredibly low self-esteem that she wants to bring you down to her level, show her to the door, and fast. You deserve to be surrounded by people who boost you up instead of weigh you down.
  • Perpetual guilting – This type of person never seems to handle her responsibilities, in and outside of the friendship. This can be extremely tiring and frustrating, because oftentimes you will end up as the scapegoat.
  • Continual complaining – Unless you share a mutual love of grumbling – nobody likes a whiner, right?
  • Bossiness - No friend of yours has the right to tell you what to do. Friends should give advice, not orders.
  • Excessive gossiping – Know that if she’s talking about other people when she’s with you, she’s talking about you when she’s with other people.
  • An inability to be wrong – Do you know what having a friend who’s ‘never’ wrong means? It means that you’re ALWAYS WRONG – and that’s just no fun at all.
  • A total lack of self-awareness - This type of person has trouble with social cues, overstays her welcome, invites herself to your house (with or without your knowledge – the POP-IN), and rarely shows up to scheduled events on time. Her worst crime? She has no idea she’s committing friendship murder.

Don’t waste your precious time with someone unless you feel pretty darn great when you’re together. Oh, and if you get the distinct feeling that you’re being given the slip, perhaps it’s time to look at your own friendability score.

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3 Simple Plot Twists that Will Change Your Life Story

Photo courtesy of Melissa Maples

Sixteen months ago I was living a very different life story.

The main characters were pretty much the same; the setting was the lovely, lofty place I still call home. To onlookers, casual observers and indifferent passersby, my world as it is now remains unchanged, even static, if you will.

Those of you who’ve experienced a profound internal metamorphosis can understand when I say: Nothing changed, yet everything was different.

As you’re making your way through the plot of your life, remember that you’re the author, illustrator, and most importantly, the editor. By shifting and twisting the plot bit by bit, you have the power to keep making changes until the story matches the picture in your mind.

If the main character in your favorite novel can find his or her way to a happy ending, you’d better believe that you can, too. Like everything in life, editing your own plot line to perfection takes trial and error, but at least one of these three major plot twists is bound to be just what you need.

  1. “Kill off” an unsupporting character. It’s so easy to get rid of the bad guy in books and movies, and it won’t be quite that simple in real life. If all of your days and nights are filled with angst that always leads to the same person, fire the “actor” and fill the position with someone who’s a better fit for the role.
  2. Frankly, my dear, you’ve got to stop giving a damn. After all, Rhett Butler managed to do it in Gone With the Wind, so you can, too. A plot twist that will have a huge impact on the story of your life is to stop wasting your precious energy and emotions on arguments with people who just don’t, and likely never will, get it. The freedom and relief that will come your way may seem trivial now, but letting go of things that just aren’t all that important will allow you more time to focus on the things that are essential to your complete happiness and satisfaction.
  3. Take a hard look at the mirror, mirror on the wall. Hone in on your self-awareness. Love yourself unconditionally, with every single flaw you’ve got. Only when you’re able to embrace yourself in all of your imperfection will you be able to improve as a person. After all, you are the main character, and it’s up to you to decide it you want to be the Protagonist or the Villain. Make changes accordingly.

Personally, I got the biggest results from #3, and now my character is frequently brought to tears of joy. In my life story, the moral turned out to be “You get what you give.” Try to see what you can learn by re-reading the pages of your own story, and always keep in mind that you’re the one holding the pen.

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