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A lot of my thinking these days includes concepts that seem to have levels of contradiction. As we move on in this life, it seems that so many experiences can’t be deemed all good, or all bad. There is a lot of truth in those shades of gray (and I’m not talking about the book, never read it.) Nothing has taught me this lesson more than experiencing the pain of divorce, but knowing that I have four children who are exactly who they are meant to be. Little by little, I let go of the idea of what I thought had to be right, and see what is healthy, satisfying, and free. 

There was a time when I said that as long as I could make a difference around my own family dinner table, that was my highest and best use.  Although I believe that the dinner table is a place where so many of the world’s troubles can be minimized, I think that was also a story I told myself because I knew that the more ambitious dreamer in me couldn’t be fully seen and still have a happy home life. There is so much that goes into building a platform like The Optimists Journal and, the more I am out there doing that, I see a world of people seizing the day and following their dreams…despite the questions, fear, and intimidating circumstances that anyone attempting to do something on their own will encounter.  Everyday I push a line between a new big, strong minded world, filled with things and judgments that both scare and challenge me, and a small world filled with short term comfort, but that is followed by the let down that I feel when I choose not to challenge myself. When I have the courage to push my storytelling platform forward by asking for the interview, talking about my book, 365 Days of Optimism , shoot video (something that would bring tears to my eyes just months ago) or set up for a new speaking event, the exhilaration I feel is unparalleled.  Along this path, there is always the sting of rejection, because my vision doesn’t always translate to everyone on the first meeting or conversation (or maybe ever) but I’m getting so much better at not letting that derail my belief in deciding what I feel is crucial to deliver with The Optimists Journal content.

I am so energized as my new endeavors cross over with my regular life, like today, when I got to play eight games of volleyball with friends, enjoy the sunshine and dolphins jumping just west of the courts at 16th St., and then shoot some video about gratitude, optimism and this beautiful life that is here for all of us to seize if we only have the courage to listen to our calling.

One of the ironies of the human condition is that we want so much to belong to a group, to fit in, but we are the most energized when we are being true to ourselves.

This is something I feel the pull of on a daily basis, but have come to learn that the only way forward for me is not to shrink back into comfort and look for approval from other people, but follow my vision, knowing that I am the same person I have always been, only stronger and more independent minded today…something I am grateful to have the strength to keep challenging.

I believe in my vision for The Optimists Journal because I know that our ability to tell our stories and self reflect has a direct effect on the quality of our relationships.  Self reflection is brave, telling your story is scary.  So many of our stories are marked by imperfection and we judge ourselves so harshly. I don’t believe that any choice is unforgivable, but that learning from those choices is invaluable to our growth and the patterns that we create in our relationship with ourselves and other people. As I wrestle with my own imperfections and missteps, and learn to have strong healthy boundaries, the compassion I feel for other people continues to grow, and from there I am open to learn so much more.

Our capacity for self reflection is also important because it gives us the ability to regulate our emotions. We learn that our experiences are fleeting, and pass so quickly, that not every emotion needs to be acted upon.  When we learn to feel but not act, we reach a level of maturity that adds a freedom and calmness to our days and provides a grounded nature that no one can take away.  I continue to hone that skill daily and, although far from perfect, I work on it because I have felt the satisfaction of not being knocked off course by the emotions that rise up within me.

As humans, each of our paths is unique, meant especially for us to walk.  They are distinctly different and deserve to be honored.  Don’t let the fear of judgment and the need to fit in pull you off of your path, the lesson is the same at 13, 44, and beyond.  It can feel lonely at times to honor the path we were born to walk, but it has been my experience that just when that path is feeling especially dark and quiet, we find the right connections that help light our way.

Stay tuned for some exciting announcements next week about a partnership that will bring valuable information to The Optimists Journal to make your home a more healthy place in a seamless and easy way. It’s fun for me to bring relationships that I am grateful to have, despite the miles and experiences between us, into the growth I am experiencing here.

I would definitely consider myself a creature of habit, one who thrives on routine, and enjoys little things like choosing my coffee mug every day and counting my blessings for the roof over my head and the computer that I have to do my writing.  Based on the standard, my life, even with its crazy ups and downs is seriously above average. The ups and downs I speak of are what have caused me to do a lot of seeking, contemplating, and work, to understand myself and why I am here on this earth. My whole life I have looked for patterns and meaning but now, as I get older, I want to know how it all adds to my path and what actions I can take to create my best possible life and hopefully help others along the way too.  

I was visiting with Neda (check her out on IG @nedaheals), the amazing energy healer in Redondo Beach, who I did an interview with (click link here).

While I have always considered myself somewhat timid and definitely shy, she pointed out to me the other day that, as I walk this new path of single motherhood, independent life, and needing to be both nurturer and producer at the same time, my choices for how I am setting up my goals for The Optimist Journal march straight into the path that I am most afraid of.  It wasn’t something that I had considered before but, as she spoke, I saw that she was right.  

The path of creating a blog and website to help people tell their stories and learn from mine, and other healers that cross my path, puts me directly in front of the things I have feared most. Not only do I have a new book to promote, (as I said before, the writing is the fun part) I am stepping out of my comfort zone and announcing two speaking engagements as well.  The first I will do at Brigadoon 2019 in Sundance, Utah, on Feb 26. One of the slogans for Brigadoon is “No PowerPoints, ever.” Boy is that right up my alley, no technology, just a conversation on my topic of optimism and my new book, 365 Days of Optimism…easy enough for me because it feels so organic.

The second event is in my hometown of Fresno, on March 26, where I will have an original, one on one conversation with Coach Chris P Austin,  two-time NCAA Champion, about how we as humans learn from both the principles we apply to our lives and the experiences that we encounter and create along the way. Do principles or experiences serve us best? Is it a combination of both? How do experiences and our principles affect coaching and parenting kids today? How do they affect our relationships and our own heroes journey that every human has the gut instinct to seek? And those are just a few of the questions we will talk about in our conversation. I promise this conversation will be nothing short of interesting, relevant and valuable.

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Back to Neda and what she noticed in me, that actually helped me see myself as braver than I believed myself to be before our talk. She showed me that in laying out my plan to create The Optimists Journal and help people heal generational pain, I dove headlong into confronting my biggest insecurities and the things that scare me most. 

  1. I am afraid of being seen.  I have stood up in front of crowds and forgotten what I was supposed to say, it may have been fourth grade, but it hung with me. Then as I got older, being noticed caused me a lot of trouble in my relationship.  If I did something well, there would be a moment of recognition for whatever I would accomplish and that felt good, but too quickly it would turn into defending myself for whatever attention was given, which created a pattern of shrinking back and not fulfilling my purpose.  It felt like being a turtle who sticks her neck out only to have something scare her quickly to make her retract into her shell.

  2. I am not an expert in anything. There is no Dr. before my name and my degree from Cal Poly SLO has absolutely nothing to do with this creative endeavor. The more I live though, I am convinced that as long as I am an expert learner and my mind stays open, the things I gather as a student of life give me great human credentials. No book is shut, no idea fully developed in my line of thinking. There is always room to improve, learn something new, even change an opinion or two if the right argument is presented. Raising four totally different humans beings, learning from love, loss, sports and everything else that each day of my life has brought forth is reason to celebrate, share and speak up…especially if its exactly what scares me most. 

So as I was reminded tonight as I read the weekly newsletter, The Long Game,

https://www.getrevue.co/profile/taylor-somerville/issues/the-long-game-issue-100-159336

written by Taylor Somerville, a guy I met when I took part in an XPT Life Experience in Malibu,

https://www.xptlife.com/product-category/experiences/fitness-vacations/

who is boldly carving his own path as well, I will focus on my process and my work and let the expectations, the thoughts of others, and even the results fall away. If I can achieve that in my head and heart, success is not just a potential but a guarantee.

Have you ever felt yourself standing on the edge of the neat and organized world where everything appears to make sense from the outside but it feels small, like you know there is something more out there that just won’t stop calling? The line between the big, strong minded world, and the small thinking, scared world looms large for me these days.  These worlds are both right at our fingertips.  I see them distinctly in almost every decision I make…sink back into comfort or charge forward into the kind of unknown that is both exciting and makes my heart pound and my brain hurt most days. Perhaps that has something to do with growing my own vision and knowing that for my heart to be content, I need to keep striving to push it forward.  There are a few rules I have realized that have helped me in these tougher moments of self doubt when the big world is calling but the fear is real.  

Rule #1 - THE BIG WORLD WILL NEVER BE PERFECT

One of my dearest friends put it best -

“If I can’t start with everything in place, I can’t start yet.”

I don’t think I’m blowing a big secret here, but in case you haven’t noticed, EVERYTHING IS NEVER IN PLACE! Not since I was 20, rented one room, and did only my own laundry, could I fall into bed with that wonderful feeling that everything was finished, and done the way I liked it. Don’t let your quest for the ideal keep you from the daily grind that will get you where you want to go (eventually!).  Perfectionism actually makes us think small, because it is so hard to have anything in this world be perfect, we are doomed before we start… so we convince ourselves, why start? Then, with our lack of action, that sense of overwhelm comes along, self doubt kicks in, and we have no energy to take the small consistent steps that can lead to our greatest accomplishments, not to mention we miss the beautiful journey along the way. This journey may or may not include some roughly folded towels and undone dishes…but that’s up to you to decide.

Rule #2 - CONSISTENCY IS THE NAME OF THE GAME

Consistency has always been, and will remain, the key to growth & success.  We live in the time of instant gratification.  We can order almost anything and have it on the doorstep in a matter of hours, sometimes minutes.  We can have our questions answered in seconds.  So what does that do to our attention span and ability…to wait?  Anything worth keeping takes time to foster and grow.  Small steps can be tedious, even trying at times, but if we let ourselves see slow growth as lack of progress, we don’t sustain the energy to see our goals to completion. 

Judgment and jealousy will not lead you into the bigger world. Don’t spend your time thinking about what other people are thinking, or allow their day to day to become your concern.  Goals are accomplished when we use our inner strength to make things happen, and then back it up with our consistent efforts.  Sure we can have cheerleaders or a connection or two, but that will never be what gets us where we want to go. I have had people in my life that if I concern myself with “what would they think” would stop me in my tracks. Over time, I’ve learned to take back that power. 

My vision, my decision. 

Big visions look small to the outside world when they are only being seen out of one persons eyes. But you won’t get the sustaining energy to accomplish your dreams from anyone but yourself.

Rule #3 - JUDGEMENT MAY BE NATURAL BUT IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT IT

This could also be called the 1% rule…and I’m not talking about the highest earners in America.  What I have learned is that other people understand about 1% of what is going on in our lives, and we know the same about them.  Only a small inner circle really gets to know our heart and mind.  If we let the perception of the other 99% affect our reality, our world feels small and closed off. It takes confidence and courage to bring our dreams to fruition…and that can be a lonely road at times, but I have felt the rush of energy, even flow, when I am being brave and living my own dream, no matter what anyone else thinks. Once you’ve felt that a few times, the bigger world looms much larger on the horizon.  

It seems that we will never know which small step was the game changer, but slow and steady, the path to success becomes apparent. Have faith that each small thing plays a role in the the big picture…and don’t wait another day to take that first step.

In a conversation this past week about life and the goals I am trying to achieve with The Optimists Journal, my wise and close friend said to me, 

“it’s already in your heart, it’s making its way to your head, and then it can flow freely through your voice”

It made immediate sense to me, and I’m working on it. I think that’s a big part of why I like writing so much, it’s a conduit that gives me time to move the words from my heart to my head. I learned so much about that process writing and publishing 365 Days of Optimism. As I move forward sharing my book and new ventures for The Optimists Journal, sometimes the patterns from past life experience chime in, there is excitement and enthusiasm and then all of a sudden a gripping sense of self doubt that feels almost paralyzing. The scar tissue and triggers born from some of life’s tougher moments rear their ugly heads, and I feel myself take a step backward. Doing new things is scary, there is no way around it. I push forward because I have a vision of something great, that elevates the level of social media and the vast amount of informational space that is the internet, but in the very next moment, I am longing for that comfort of what I have always known in my life…complacency speaking loud and clear. 

That gap between comfort and becoming, is the difference between surviving and thriving, baseline and best life…and I think I am just rounding the corner to allow myself to envision maximum potential.

Often it seems we have to sustain one of life’s disappointments or even devastations to shake us enough to contemplate what that best life looks like.  Only when we are brave enough to seek next level awareness, can we heal our wounds and slowly but surely lower the stress on our nervous system enough to process life in a way that achieves calm and flow. I still, even just this past week, experienced setbacks on this path, but thankfully, the adjustment back to the higher and clearer mind comes quicker these days. 

So often, I feel the pull between the big bright world of thinkers and doers, the place where I want to live and achieve my goals, and the small world of judgment and scarcity, as if there are finite amounts of confidence, generosity and kindness out there that we have to fight to receive before it’s gone. I am grateful that as the weeks and months go by, and I am brave enough to stick my neck out there, although there may be criticism and doubt, I get to sit in the presence of calm, present and open minded people that know there is enough space for everyone’s success in this world. With these minds, there is no gaming or territory to protect, just good conversation, action and a commitment not to force but to flow. Check out this interview with Cassidy Lichtman, Stanford All-American, former USA National Volleyball Team Member, currently working for Shift7 in Washington DC helping to create solutions that move society forward for the an example of one of these conversations.

INTERVIEW WITH CASSIDY LICHTMAN

Although force can be goal oriented, it is ego driven. Force always tries to act fast, sometimes before we have the full capacity to feel. Force compares accomplishments and keeps track of the imaginary finish line. Force makes us tired and then looks for validation from the outside to sustain the our energy.  In short, force is always calling for backup.

When we evolve enough to find even brief states of flow as we work toward our goals, we can be patient, because the process itself is so enjoyable and worthy. Flow attracts believers and like minds. Flow always propels us forward.  One of the most interesting things I learned about flow just this week is that the requirements for finding flow are different for everyone, based on our character traits. As part of the Catalyst Coaching Intensive, a life coaching course I am participating in, we took the VIA Character assessment and discovered the makeup of positive psychology personality traits that make up each of our personalities. For any individual, the top five traits in our personality must be in play to for us to achieve a state of flow. If you are interested, you can take the VIA here:

VIA CHARACTER ASSESSMENT

This deeper level of understanding of ourselves can add so much calm and clarity to our lives but also adds more work. Once you have experienced flow, even for a brief amount of time, it’s easy to feel why that work is only something to be grateful for.

Stay tuned in the next week for some exciting announcements about fun and engaging long form conversations that I am taking on the road, first to my hometown of Fresno, that aim to bring more flow and optimism to our lives.

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