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One Simple Way to Improve Your Confidence

Photo by Jill Wellington
If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try. ~Seth Godin

During that awkward phase of high school when you are just as confused by what your math teacher says as what your hormones are telling you, my life shifted dramatically by the most dreaded experience for all school age children — I changed schools.

Thanks to the infinite wisdom of the local school board and their new school zoning policy, I was required to change to a new high school as a freshman. The standard adjustment period from elementary to high school was made exponentially more unenjoyable by the fact that my new school had an entirely new social demographic.

I went from the average awkward teenager to one who was so scared of just being looked at as he got off the bus that my entire body would break out in sweat. Forget talking to girls — walking through the halls at recess was difficult enough. All those eyes looking at me!

My family and friends encouraged me to be “more confident. This is perhaps the worst advice you can give to someone who is border-lining on social anxiety disorder.

A DIY Guide to Art Therapy

Photo by StockSnap
Art is not an amusement, nor a distraction, nor is it, as many men maintain, an escape from life. On the contrary, it is a high training of the soul, essential to the soul’s growth, to its unfoldment. ~Lawren Harris

Have you ever felt anxious about starting open-ended tasks?

Do you feel lost without a step-by-step guide for new projects?

How about a blank canvas? Does it throw you into panic mode?

Regrettably, this has been the story of my life.

Getting the perfect shot as a portrait photographer, creating a flawless website as an Internet marketer or even seeing a blank canvas in an art class — any new endeavor that had no template would make me panic.

Your Guide to Fun in 4 Steps

Photo by Ernest Iannelli
Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun. ~Randy Pausch

A few months back I went to a friend’s birthday party. We grilled, chatted and played board games, among other things. When I returned home, I said to my husband, “I had so much fun tonight!” I was sort of stunned by the fact for days.

What struck me was that I had spent years before going to parties, hanging out with people and spending time on my own without having fun. If I looked back, most of the time I was supposed to be having a good time, I was worrying about something I’d done wrong or how I’d get something done later. It was a rough way to live.

It was when I started my own business that I understood this habit I had. I had no idea how to live in the present moment. And when you’ve just invested your time, energy and cash into a business you don’t know will work, it’s nice to have an outlet. I finally realized I needed to find a few I could lose myself in.

I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one who struggles to have fun in the way we’re meant to — losing yourself in the moment, laughing until your stomach hurts or just feeling so content you haven’t looked at a clock in hours.

I think, sadly, many of us never learn how to do this as children. Our lives may have been filled with chaos or been too rigorously scheduled.

How Being Wrong is Part of Success

Photo by Nissor Abdourazakov
Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. ~Winston Churchill

Before I moved from Minneapolis to New York City in 2006, I worked in the prepress production department of a family-owned advertising agency that is consistently listed as one of the best places to work in Minneapolis, for good reason. (OK, I will spill: It’s Periscope.)

We had a saying there that I still refer to whenever I need it (which is often): “It’s okaaaayyyy to be wrong!” When someone discovered that she had made a mistake, she would raise her hand in the air and say, “I was wrong; it’s okay to be wrong.”

There was no blame. There was no asking whose fault it was and firing them or making them feel bad. It was a culture of acceptance of mistakes.

This allowed us to learn from them and improve.

We talked about our mistakes — what they were, how they happened and how we could avoid making them in the future. We talked about how we could do better, and because we treated them as a learning opportunity instead of a shameful failure, our mistakes led to better work.

This has been a tough thing for me to learn.

How to Be in the Moment

Photo by Máté Holdosi
Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. ~Dale Carnegie

I had been picturing the day for weeks, adjusting to the changing date, trying to avoid the palpable feeling of desperation that sat heavy on my chest when I thought about the long months ahead of us.

It was deployment number two. This one was decidedly more dangerous and carried with it more uncertainty, longer periods without communication and far more anxiety than deployment number one.

Military deployments, and the period leading up to them, are a constant wrestle with time — you dig your heels in, praying for time to creep forward at a snail’s pace, then you wish for the clock to speed through the next seven to 12 months of your life.

It leaves all those involved in a constant state of being out of the moment, thinking of the past and then looking forward to the future.

But while the tendency during this time is to discount the present in favor of the future or the past, it also opens the door to awakening to the now like few circumstances do.

How to Choose Love

Photo by Pech Frantisek
As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others. ~Marianne Williamson

In my mere forty years of experience on this wonderful planet of ours, I have come to realize many important (and not so important) things. For example, I have never really been one to get huge amounts of satisfaction from housework or spending my days at home.

Respect to those who do, it’s just not me. So, once my children were at school, I saw very quickly that a life without a career was not for me. As I love to share experiences and knowledge, I then realized that the world of education was the one I was meant for, and I became a teacher.

All of this is important — it has led me to do what I do, but it is being a mom that has led me to the most profound of realizations. You see, I was telling my children to be confident, to have faith in their decisions, to not let others affect how they think of themselves, when I suddenly recognized that I was guilty of doing the opposite.

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