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The Paralysis of Perfection

Have you ever had a juicy goal or dream that went nowhere? Maybe it was because you couldn’t get past the perfect ending you envisioned. Getting stuck there is largely thanks to the hoards of mental critics that magically appear when you’re about to do something you’ve never achieved. They instantly perk up and fill your head with refrains of: “How are you going to do this?! You’re not ready! Who do you think you are?” They readily supply you with a constant stream of evidence of your imminent failure. That you aren’t smart enough, you don’t know the right people, you don’t have enough money, you have no clue what you’re doing…anything and everything is game.

In short order, you’ve talked yourself out of something you passionately wanted to do. You haven’t taken one step, but in your mind, you’ve pinpointed and played out all the ways you’ve already failed. Your dream suffered Death by Doubt.

Waiting for the perfect moment doesn’t get you anywhere. I’ve missed out on opportunities and experiences because I let my fear of “doing it wrong” stop me. I’m now in that camp that believes it’s better to have tried and failed than to never try and be left with a dreaded “What if?” Waiting until you’re completely prepared and ready will paralyze your dreams…because that time hardly ever comes.

Please don’t misunderstand me…I’m not advocating running headfirst into life without any consideration. This rally cry is for those who have a tendency to be too thoughtful, too cautious. It’s for the Type A personalities and perfectionists. You know who you are.

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I chose this picture I took in Utah as an example of nature following through with her desires without worrying about a perfect ending. This twisted specimen is not what we normally envision when we think of trees. I was grateful the trees had carried on despite whatever challenges and odds they had faced…and there had to be a few. Each tree had a massive goal, and it succeeded in my opinion, but in a way that couldn’t have been predicted.

Nike was spot on with its iconic slogan, “Just do it.” The thing about “just doing it” before you’ve got it “all figured out” is…at least you did something. There are only three things that can happen after you take a step toward your goal:

  1. You fail. Maybe even worse than you could have predicted. Now you know what doesn’t work, and knowledge is power. If you still want to pursue that goal, you can brainstorm another tactic or try again with a refined approach based on lessons learned. If you figure out that your awesome goal wasn’t as awesome as you imagined, great! You can move on, with more perspective in your pocket. 
  2. The result is what you expected or hoped for. Yes! You know what works and can continue. Rock on!
  3. The result is crazy successful, beyond what you thought was possible. Major celebration time! You see that the only limits are the ones you put on yourself. 

Remember, most of the success stories you hear are about a victorious end result following many failures. If you have a passionate desire, a dream that won’t leave you alone, a juicy goal that excites you as much as it scares you…take that first step, no matter how small.

Do your absolute best each step of the way, and let go of whatever is out of your control. Trust yourself, trust Life. Celebrate your courage to feel the fear and do it anyway. Remember WHY you are reaching for this big, scary, audacious ending. Let that vision light you up and keep your fire burning. But just DO something.

What better time to start than right now?

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Lessons from my “Balance Bootcamp”

It’s been a while since my last post (2 months and 4 days to be exact). I’d like to explain. Not because I think you’ve been offended or curious about my absence, but because I want to consistently provide valuable content and conversation here, and I’d like to share why Consistency took a side road.

During June and July, I wrote a book that has to do with personal transformation (a term I prefer over “self-help”). It’s for anyone who feels a little lost, is seeking more direction and fulfillment, and wants to live their juiciest, most awesome life! I can’t wait to share more with you soon, but in the meantime, I can tell you that my book will be back from the editor next week…whoo-hoo!

Another contributing factor to my absence was the start of graduate school. It has taken my brain a month to recover from the shock to my neural pathways, since it’s been [ahem] quite a few years since my last academic experience. It’s also been a significant challenge figuring out how to balance all the lovely moving pieces of my life.

While I don’t have it down perfectly–who ever does?–I have found my center once again. The last two months served as a lesson for how positive, powerful thinking is a daily practice. It’s not like riding a bike, where you never forget how to successful use it. You have to work at it by being self-aware, remembering the basics, calling upon Faith, and allowing time for quiet reflection (where our most enlightening moments lie). Balance is certainly not a one-and-done sort of thing.

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I like to always leave you with some takeaways, so here are some lessons from my recent Balance Bootcamp:

  1. Remember the big picture–why you’re putting yourself through (and enduring) challenges to reach your goals. Knowing why you’re doing something, and keeping your eye on your desired result, will help keep you afloat.
  2. It’s okay to feel crappy. Ignoring or pushing down your feelings will usually lead to a blowup or meltdown later on. So recognize the fear, doubt, and frustration, and feel them. But then…
  3. Allow yourself to move on from the drama. I relied heavily on this mantra: “All is well. Right here, right now.” It put things in perspective. 99.9 times out of 100, nothing is happening in the moment to cause the negative chatter in your head. You’ve got to get out of panic mode in order to see the road ahead. There is always a solution, you just might not be seeing it right now.
  4. You CAN find the time to do what’s most important. But you have to plan for it! If it’s important to you, schedule it. And do it first, if you can.
  5. Take time to practice self-care. The busier we are, the easier it is to neglect ourselves. Big mistake. Even a few minutes to do something that gives you joy, centers you, or allows you to relax is crucial for your well-being. Forcing yourself to push on doesn’t end well.

 

 

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4 Steps to Conquer the Overwhelm

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There are times when your mind is racing out of control from stress, you’re feeling the wild horses of anxiety gallop in, and you hope the earth will open up and take you out of your misery.

We’ve all been there.

Here are 4 steps that can bring you from a place of overwhelm to to a head space where you can deal: 


#1. Breathe. *REALLY* breathe.

How often we forget to fully implement this simple yet crucial step! When we breathe deeply, we not only calm our system but take our mind out of crisis mode. Stop whatever you are doing and focus in on the sound and rhythm of your breath. Inhale and exhale fully until your heart rate slows. Bonus move: Try tilting your face upward 45 degrees while you do this. I find it naturally tugs your mouth into a slight smile in this position.

#2. Strip away the story.

Emotions cloud our ability to separate fact from fiction. While our feelings are completely real to us and valid, we have to question the story we’re telling ourselves that’s causing our distress. Is it really true?

Suppose we are in conflict with someone. Instantly, we think we’re experts in interpreting their facial expressions, the meaning behind their words, and accurately predicting their next moves. We are the only ones to have successfully entered another person’s head, right? Nice try. While we have the capacity for complex ideas and understanding, we also have fantastic imaginations that can construct entertaining stories. Imagination is a wonderful quality in the creative process, but can create unnecessary drama and pain during stressful situations.

To cut through chatter and get to the facts, try analyzing your circumstances like a scientist. What scientists think of or consider as “real” are things they can prove. Strip away all the story and see what facts are left. What remains is likely a much tamer situation than originally thought.

#3. Slow your roll.

Determine if any action is required. If not, don’t do anything right now! Most of what we worry about works itself out without any action on our part, or we find out that what we were worrying about isn’t as dramatic as we’d assumed (see Step 2).

But, wait, don’t we have to act quickly when things go sideways, put out the fire before it spreads? No. Or at least not until we can confirm we are about to take decisive and supportive action, as opposed to simply reacting. Our primitive brain’s job is to keep us safe, so when there’s a perceived crisis, our instinct is to react. That fight or flight stuff worked really well for our ancestors when there was a tiger chasing them through the jungle. But unless we are in immediate danger, it’s usually to our detriment that our mind urges us to react. I think we can all agree that most decisions made from a state of overwhelm never have the best results.

So resist the urge to “do something.” Overwhelm energy—that extra energy you don’t know what to do with but is screaming to get out—feels crappy. Unfortunately, we often do or say things that are destructive or unsupportive in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort—like lose ourselves in junk food or take out our frustrations on someone else. Instead, do something active. Take a brisk walk, tackle some yard work…punch the air if you have to. Once you expend that energy, you’ll feel more relaxed and less reactive.

#4. Unleash your angst without causing casualties.

Still charged up? One way to freak out responsibly is to write down all of your friction-building feelings about the situation. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and let it all out, anything that you’re thinking. Voice record it if that feels more natural to you. Don’t stop until time is up. This exercise gives you permission and freedom to express how you feel and to identify what it is really bothering you. Then, tear up or delete your entry, allow yourself to let it all go, and move on.


While these tips can’t wipe away adversity, they can at least help squash overwhelm so we can deal with situations from a more centered place. One in which we can tell our brain’s crisis center, “Hey…thanks for looking out for me and being ready for action. But I’ll take it from here.”

Photo by Kristin Rath

Getting Back to Happy

Have you ever gone through a vibrational rough patch? When you experience low energy or emotional numbness, not just for an hour or a day, but for several? That happened to me a few months ago. I couldn’t seem to shake the funk I’d been dragging around for so long, I was concerned it had become part of me. It ticked me off, actually, because I wanted *so badly* to get back to being happy. I kept saying, What’s wrong with you? Come on, get happy! BE HAPPY!! Berating myself into happiness wasn’t working. As you’ve probably experienced in your own life, that never works.

How do you get back to happy? 

I commanded myself to walk to a nearby park, even though all I wanted to do was lay in my bed. It was a bright day that sharply contrasted my mood. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. I wanted that too. I took a seat on a step leading down to an expansive pond, and turned my face to the sky, looking for answers. Looking for a way back.

What do you do when you’ve temporarily lost your joie de vivre?

The pond rippled from the wind. It was beautiful. Effortless. Everything was going with the flow. The twigs, patches of pollen, multi-colored leaves, and ducks were going with the flow of the water. Not resisting. Not second guessing or asking why. Just going with it. The grass and tree branches were bending with the breeze. Allowing nature’s abundance. None were saying, No, that’s not good enough. No, that’s not the right way. No, I don’t want that. 

Seeing all the raw beauty and noting its effortlessness grounded me into the present. The dialogue loop in my head shut off, taking all my concerns with it. I was thankful for the warm kiss of the sun through the chilled air. I was thankful for my sunglasses that allowed me to easily gaze at the sky. I was thankful for the punctuations of laughter and gleeful yelps from children in play. My focusing in on what was right before me brought me into a state of gratitude. And I remembered…

Life is a bowl of cherries

Photo by Kristin Rath

Gratitude is the way back to joyfulness.

Gratitude isn’t about guilting yourself into thankfulness for the things you *should* be appreciating, but about what you can appreciate in the moment. Whatever it is. The sun, the sky, the soft blanket around you, a really great cup of coffee, breathing. My mom has said to me–when I’ve griped about some minor thorn in my side–“Well, at least you have two legs that work. Not everyone does.” Not always what I wanted to hear, but she’s right. That was indeed something to be grateful for.

Gratitude is the answer. It can lift you back to what’s really important.

How could I have forgotten this simple but powerful practice called gratitude? We take things for granted. It’s just human nature. The trick is training ourselves to consistently bring our focus back to what we have and what’s going well in our lives, instead of focusing on what we don’t have and what isn’t working.

Gratitude is a gift. One that we can conjure up in an instant and gift to ourselves and others in a moment. And it doesn’t cost us anything. Rather, it gives back to us in the form of joy, peace, love, compassion.

In gratitude, we raise our vibration. With gratitude, we can get back to happy. Even when it seems impossible.

What can you be grateful for, right now?

Jars aren't just for picnics. They're earth-friendly containers for taking lunch or snacks to work!

Healthy Picnic Recipes in a Jar

Note: This is a guest post. I did not receive any compensation from the author’s company in exchange for publishing this article. 

Jars aren't just for picnics. They're earth-friendly containers for taking lunch or snacks to work!

Jars aren’t just for picnics. They’re eco-friendly containers for taking meals or snacks wherever you go!

It’s finally spring again! This beautiful season’s warmer temperatures and longer daylight bring bright thoughts of spending time outdoors — and what better way than with a picnic? It’s hard to think of a happier spring pastime than bundling up a bunch of food and blankets and heading to your backyard or a local park. But what foods should you pack? What are some easy, transportable ways to bring delicious, healthy meals on the go? Enter the mason jar. When you make a meal in a mason jar, it’s easy to grab in the car or throw in a backpack and bring to the beautiful outdoor space nearest you. To inspire you with healthy picnics in a jar for your next weekend getaway, here are some great recipes to try:

  • Veggies and Dip: Forget plastic bags and use a mason jar to pack the time-tested, beloved snack of fresh vegetables and dip (hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki, etc.). Use this informative post from The Kitchn for inspiration!
  • Salads: There’s no limit to the type and style of salad you can mix together in a mason jar — just read this post from The Muse for proof! Whether it’s a vegan cobb salad, a Greek chickpea salad, or a curried lentil and kale blend, these recipes prove how simple and delightful a mason jar salad can be! Simply pour the dressing at the bottom, stacked with heftier ingredients, and add the lighter components (like leaf lettuce) at the top. Shake when you’re ready to eat, and everything combines beautifully!
  • 7-Layer Dip: Pack this classic party dip in a mason jar, and you’re halfway to a great picnic treat. Add your favorite chips to another jar, and you’re all set. For a recipe to get you started, head over to KristaandJess.com.
  • Sushi in a Jar: Love sushi? Try this version of deconstructed sushi in a jar, which involves rice, vegetables, vinegar, lime juice, pickled ginger and more.
  • Yogurt Parfaits: Combine some yogurt with fruit and granola in a jar, and you have a ready-to-go parfait whenever you want it! Here’s an example from Ezra Pound Cake.
  • Frittatas: Take a nod from My Living Nutrition and bake frittatas in jars! While this meal takes a little prep work and a half hour of baking time, it yields six ready-to-enjoy egg bakes stuffed with vegetables and pastured meat.
  • Casseroles: A little like frittatas, baked casseroles are wonderful meals to make in mason jars. Simply portion your casserole mixture into jars and bake as normal, checking for doneness earlier than you usually would.

Even the above list doesn’t include all the many ways to make meals in mason jars. There are also mini pies, fruit cobblers, cheesecakes and more! What are some of your favorite picnic foods? Could you transport them via mason jars? Why not give it a shot this season?

About the author:

Steven Musumeche, owner of Picnic World Picnic Baskets, is an avid outdoorsman and picnic guru from Lafayette, LA. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the piano, fishing, camping, and hanging out with his wife, daughter and three pet beagles, Cassie, Ellie & Annie.