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4 Easy Tips for Living Light

Photo by Holly Lay
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. ~Arthur Ashe

Several years ago, my good friend and I shared an apartment. We both just started our first “real jobs” and weren’t making a ton of money. We took turns cooking dinner, and we came up with a plan to use everything in our fridge before we went grocery shopping.

We didn’t waste food and saved serious cash at a time when we needed to most. It also forced us to be ridiculously creative.

Apples and tofu were the only thing in the fridge? Check out the pantry. We’ve got some walnuts, honey and a lone red onion. Suddenly we went from scrounging to gourmet cooking.

We called this using what you have, and we applied it all over the place. I just used it while shopping yesterday.

Find Power in Silence

Photo by Phillipe Put
Silence is a source of great strength. ~Lao Tzu

When I was a kid, my family would take long road trips. We were from the Midwest, so in order to get anywhere the drive was at least six hours. But we were ambitious. Six hours was a weekend trip.

We were more interested in traveling to Detroit (a 13-hour trip) or Seattle (a 22-hour drive). When you pack five people in a car for that long, there are bound to be issues, and one of those was the radio.

Since my father drove most of the time, we were at his mercy when it came to the music. Or more often, I should say, the silence. While we were a musical family, my father would insist on turning off the radio every hour or so, just “to hear myself think,” as he said.

We would whine and complain.

“It’s just so boooooring without anything to listen to,” we’d say.

Fast forward decades later, and I suddenly find myself turning off the stereo at home, while I’m working or driving. This is odd for me — I consider myself an audiophile.

How to Be Patient … Now

Photo by Roel Wijnants
Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Monday came around, and I was bouncing off the walls. I couldn’t get any work done; I was so distracted. I had been waiting for this day for what seemed like ages: My husband would finally be home from a week-long business trip. Yeah, it may be cute, but it also showed me that I am no good at waiting.

Of course, I knew this. And I don’t think I’m the only one. Just look at everyone frustrated in their automobiles when traffic doesn’t move at the speed they want. When I wait for the bus, I rarely sit more than a few moments before I pull out my phone to check the schedule because it’s taking “forever.”

Patience is something that’s been pulling at my heart strings for a while now. “Don’t you think we should get to know each other a little better?” it would ask. For years I’ve stubbornly pretended I couldn’t hear, but it (of course) waited patiently until I was ready.

6 Tips for Asking for Help

Photo by David Urbanke
Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence. ~Anne Wilson Schaef

For the past few months I’ve been training for races I’m running this summer. Before I signed up, I had never run more than a few blocks without stopping. I’d just never gotten into it.

I’m not really sure why, but I’ve always wanted to run a trail race. Plus a triathlon is on my Nothing’s Impossible List, so why not start with the part I’m no good at?

I headed out to buy some good shoes. The owner offered me advice and ideas about how to begin running and what sort of training plan to follow.

What’s funny is that I figured there couldn’t be much to it. Instead I realized that I was a young babe in an old woods. There was a lot to running, and I didn’t know what I was in for.

I’m so thankful I opened up to that shop owner, because now I have all sorts of things to help me succeed. I was a little embarrassed to admit I was trying something new (that’s one of my ego’s trouble spots — I always want to look like an expert), but by doing so, I probably saved myself a whole bunch of misery, injury and wasted time.

4 Things Good Listeners Do

Photo by Jan Fidler
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. ~Bryant H. McGill

Some acquaintances and I were hiking together in a new spot. Everywhere we turned there were things to behold — falcons perched, coyotes hunting, altars built — it was an experience I can’t wait to repeat.

Since we were all fairly new friends, we all had plenty to tell each other. There was very little silence, even in such an awe-inspiring place. When I got home I realized that I didn’t remember a lot of what was said. I was embarrassed to admit it, but it seemed I had forgotten to listen.

I’ve been told many times that I’m a good listener; in fact, many people open up to me for just that reason. Maybe it was because I was tired, or maybe I was just out of practice (working alone will do that to you) but I decided to revisit some of the things I draw on to listen well. Here are four tips on how to listen:

3 Tips for Building Wealth

Photo by Michael Sissons
The importance of money flows from it being a link between the present and the future. ~John Maynard Keynes

A while back, my husband and I took a vacation into the southwest deserts of the United States. We were driving through a particularly affluent area when my husband made a sarcastic remark about how much money everything cost.

I was quick to join in, but then I realized that one of our goals was to create wealth like that for ourselves. I asked him, “How can we ridicule something we desire? How will we ever attain something like that when we shun it now?”

It was a big question that stunned us both into silence. Since then, we’ve been working hard to understand our money stories and how we relate to wealth. It’s brought us into some emotional places, but throughout it all, we’ve felt our relationship with our money improve.

How to Be More Optimistic

Photo by AP Photographie
If pessimism is despair, optimism is cowardice and stupidity, is there any need to choose between them?” ~Francis Parker Yockey

On one of my husband and my first camping trips together, we were walking down a wooded trail next to a crisp mountain river. The heat was severe, as it was mid-August.

“Ugh,” my husband said. “This heat is so oppressive.”

“Yeah, but we’re about to go swimming,” I replied. “Don’t be so pessimistic.”

“The difference between my pessimism and your optimism is that I’m optimistic about the big things and you’re only optimistic about the small things,” he replied. “I think my pessimism is better than your optimism.”

I hated to admit it, but he was right. I would worry constantly about whether our relationship was working but blindly skip along, happy to ignore the 100 degree heat.

Before that I used to think everyone should be an optimist, but I don’t think that’s really what we should all be aiming for.

6 Ways to Let Go of Anger

Photo by xvire1969
Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave. ~Indira Gandhi

I hate to admit it, but I am not good at letting things go. A few days ago I stared getting worked up about a disagreement a good friend and I had. It replayed in my head; the hurt in my heart flared up again.

The worst part? It happened more than a year ago, and it’s been resolved. If she knew I still harbored these feelings, she’d probably be upset. After all, weren’t we past that?

It used to be that I would forgive and forget immediately, but I realized that I wasn’t truly forgiving people; I was simply using the technique of denial.

So instead, I swung to the other end of the pendulum, where I couldn’t seem to let go, even if I’d said I’d forgiven.

The benefits of letting go of a grudge aren’t all just in your head. Forgiveness leads to healthier relationships, less anxiety, lower blood pressure, fewer depression symptoms and less risk of substance abuse.

With all of this in mind, I set out to make an effort to forgive in a healthy way and quit walking around with the weight of all those grudges.

3 Lessons on Creating Trust

Photo by EDUARDO IZQUIERDO
Trust is to human relationships what faith is to gospel living. It is the beginning place, the foundation upon which more can be built. Where trust is, love can flourish. ~Barbara Smith

My husband and I have been considering buying a house but knew we had some hurdles that might make it unlikely. We contacted a loan officer who worked with us and gave us a positive opinion. We were absolutely thrilled and started looking at homes.

It turned out, however, that he’d processed some incorrect information and we might not be able to get a loan this year after all.

To say we were bummed out would be an understatement. Both of us tried to see the positive side but couldn’t seem to shake our disappointment.

Neither of us wanted to talk about it, but finally I brought it up.

5 Reasons To Embrace Jealousy

Photo by Sarah Ann Wright
Let age, not envy, draw wrinkles on thy cheeks. ~Thomas Browne

This morning I spoke to my sister on Skype for almost two hours. She lives in Istanbul, so we don’t chat as often as when we lived in the same house, but we’re pretty close despite the ocean between us.

I remember in the not-so-distant past that getting off the phone with her was bittersweet. She’s lived in Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Italy, South Korea and even international waters. The bitterness didn’t come from being so far apart from my lovely sister, but the fact that I was extremely jealous of her.

I remember vividly sitting in my home in Minnesota expressing my excitement for her when she told me she was planning on moving to Asia.

“You’re so lucky,” and “This is such a great opportunity for you,” came out of my mouth, but what I was thinking is I can’t believe I’ve lived in one state my whole life. I should be traveling and exploring too.

It was embarrassing to be jealous of my younger sister, so naturally I denied it to myself and anyone else who had the guts to say it. But in my head, the envy found a place and rooted itself there, determined to make permanent residence.

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