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How to Be More Optimistic

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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

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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

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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

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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.

7 Tips to Overcome Procrastination

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Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. ~Jim Rohn

When I recently told an acquaintance I worked at home full-time, she commented how difficult that would be for her.

“I’d never have the kind of discipline to do that,” she said. “I’d get distracted and wouldn’t get a thing done.”

Over the past several years, many people have commented on how disciplined I am, from my workouts to my diet to my career. It’s not to say I haven’t had a few donuts or skipped the gym a number of times, but generally I can motivate myself to do something regardless of how I’m feeling.

Many people think of discipline as a tough-love thing. Conventional wisdom often says the harder you are on yourself, the better off you’ll be. I disagree. I think it’s important to approach this topic with care and compassion. Know your limits — it’s the easiest way to expand them.

Living Alone in a New City – 5 Lessons

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If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older. ~Tom Stoppard

When I was little I’d lay in bed at night and dream about what it would be like to start over. I would move somewhere and no one would know who I was. I’d be living alone and in peace.

In this fantasy I was always the new girl at school. I was quiet and most people just left me alone. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I wasn’t a complete loner either. To me, this sounded like paradise.

In my late twenties I got to realize my fantasy, moving across the continent alone where I knew no one and could be exactly who I wanted to be, without all the drama that came from years of living in one place.

How to Create Good Habits

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Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them. ~Confucius

Recently, a friend in my 30 Day Challenge group brought up a really interesting point. “Have you noticed” he asked, “that it’s far easier to remove something or limit something from your life than it is to add to it?”

It gave me pause. Every challenge I seemed to excel at had something to do with deprivation. I’d quit caffeine. I’d stopped eating gluten. My media fast was pretty successful as well, but what I’d had trouble with was reading something every day for myself.

I took it as a challenge. I have all sorts of good habits that I cultivated in my adult life: daily journaling, exercise, cooking. How did I add these to my life? And what lessons can I apply to creating a new good habit?

Be More, Do Less

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It is the stillness that will save and transform the world. ~Eckhart Tolle

Several years ago I lived with a good friend who spoke English as her third language. While she spoke fluently after years of experience, there was one phrase I used that she had trouble grasping at first: Just be.

As in, “After we finish grocery shopping, let’s go to the beach and just be.” She’d always want to finish the sentence. “Just be … relaxing. Just be … writing.”

When I explained what I meant, that I would really just like to sit, observe and exist, without any expectations, she was delighted.

This, she declared, was a very un-American, very un-Western thing to do, which would make sense that why after fifteen years of learning English she’d never heard the phrase.

How to Overcome Perfectionism

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Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing. ~Harriet Braiker

My neighbor came to my door while I was baking my first loaf of gluten-free bread. She said she admired our diets and told me how she was doing more to eat less sugar.

“I’d heard from a lot of people that it makes a lot of sense for them,” I said, “but I just didn’t think I could cut another thing out. I mean, after getting rid of dairy, wheat, caffeine and sugar, what would be left?”

She laughed a little and said, “Well it’s all about just cutting yourself some slack. You don’t have to be perfect or anything.”

Here’s my confession: I have this compulsion to be perfect. Everything I do has to be just so, or I don’t want to do it at all. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.

How to Stop Gossiping

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It is one of my sources of happiness never to desire a knowledge of other people's business. ~Dolley Madison

A few months ago I was speaking to my husband about a friend of ours who had made a purchase we thought was misguided. We spoke at great length, giving our opinion on why we thought it was a bad decision and questioning his judgment.

I remember feeling a little uncomfortable and a bit sad afterward. I felt upset, but I couldn’t quite figure out why.

A day or two later, my 30 Day Challenge group posed its usual question: What’s your challenge for next month? Immediately my heart said, Stop gossiping.

I balked at this; I got a little defensive even. I didn’t gossip! That was the kind of thing reserved for petty high school girls with nothing better to do. That wasn’t me. That’s not a real challenge.

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