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7 Ways to Support Sensitive Souls

Photo by Matteo Paciotti
Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. ~Anthon St. Maarten

Not everyone is familiar with the term Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), but chances are you probably know someone who fits the definition. To generalize, we can say that HSPs experience life on a larger spectrum than the average person — both highs and lows.

This is neither inherently good nor disadvantageous — it all depends on how well an HSP manages his or her sensitivity. As an HSP myself, I can say one of the greatest challenges is handling big emotions.

And if you’re in a relationship with an HSP, it can also provide a challenge for you! Ultimately, everyone must own their personal responsibility to grow self-awareness and manage their emotions.

But for any of you supporting someone with big, sensitive emotions on their quest to learn and grow, here are some tips from my own experience as an HSP.

How to Cope When Little Things Overwhelm You

Photo by 9042004 Duke
It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are the most important. ~Arthur Conan Doyle

I have always been wary of the little things in life. The little things can steal my serenity, rob me of peace of mind and kill my joy.

At the same time, I have been aware of the little things in my life:

  • The smell of freshly brewed coffee
  • The overheard laughter of a stranger
  • A spider web glistening with morning dew

How can I be defeated by little things or more likely, how can I LET little things defeat me? I identify with the concept of Chinese Water Torture as a method of ultimate despair — the premise being that drops of water fall onto the forehead of a restrained individual and ultimately render them insane.

6 Tips for Learning Hard Lessons

Photo by Felipe Neves
God gives us each a song. ~Ute proverb

Often I am woken up by the songs of coyotes howling in the predawn. It might be a single, mournful wail, but more often the entire desert hillside comes alive with the yipping chorus.

It’s a beautiful, eerie song that evokes something ancient and primal, almost like a genetic memory stretching back to the beginning of time.

As well as hear them, I also see them frequently. Wild and furtive, a coyote darts across the path during my morning walk, where I see her hiding among the sage and bitter brush watching me with wary eyes.

I wonder what she thinks. If it’s pure survival instinct, why doesn’t she run? Has the pack come to recognize me over the past two years as I walk several times a week along Rattlesnake Trail that winds up the hill by a cattle ranch, the same territory they occupy?

Stop Pretending and Start Being You

Photo by Maxi Adrian San Agustin
You’ll never know who you are unless you shed who you pretend to be. ~Vironika Tugaleva

I grew up in the 1970s, and I learned a lot from the experience. Tom Wolfe called the ‘60s and ‘70s “The Purple Decades” because they had such gaudy styles.

Style seemed to be a big deal then, even more so than in other decades. Everyone of a certain age felt free to try new things and express themselves.

Expressing oneself sounds like a good thing, but actually it depends on what you’re trying to express. Is it the real you or just something you borrowed from the people and styles around you?

How to Succeed Through Acceptance

Photo by Antoine Robiez
Of course there is no formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings. ~Arthur Rubinstein

I’ve spent a great deal of my life trying to figure out what I should do next, determining where I stand in relation to those around me, creating a harsh comparison between where I am and where I should be.

In these moments of contemplation, I’ve always found a way to diminish the beauty of where I stand today. What is out there always seems a little brighter, a little more impressive than what already surrounds me.

And this way of thinking and interacting with the world plants the belief that action is king — action is the only way to change and change is the only way from point A to point B.

But what if you’re supposed to stay at point A for a little while?

How to Reclaim Your Life After Childhood Abuse

Photo by Utomo Hendra Saputra
Editor’s Note

This article deals with child sexual abuse, a difficult issue for most to stomach. Because, as Leslie points out, one in four women and one in seven men have been abused before they are 18, and because so many abused children grow up to seek help from posts like those on TSN, I thought it was important to publish Leslie's article. However, if the subject is triggering, please seek a safe space where you can read this article, ask a trusted friend to read it with you or come back to it when you're feeling more ready.

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth. ~Buddha

I’m a survivor of child sexual abuse.

But even after decades I still can’t say that completely without shame. That’s the nature of this kind of abuse. Logic tells us we were children. We had no choice.

But the wounds go deep and are so hidden that for me, and many like me, that feeling of shame becomes as much a part of who we are as our eye color. We just learn to live with it.

We survive. But once innocence is lost, it can never return.

I believe many survivors of childhood abuse are drawn to spiritual traditions. Those of us who manage to fight the low self-esteem and the numbing lure of drugs and alcohol still need to make sense of what happened.

31 Promises to Change Your Life

Photo by Lauren Hammond
It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go. ~Bob Proctor

As a young girl, I learned early that I was different. I heard family members talking; I heard the mean taunts and the comments about my mother. I was constantly compared to a woman I knew nothing about.

Every time I did something wrong or didn’t get something right, I would brace for the barrage of insults and name calling. The most popular one was “You are going to be just like your mother.” No one had to tell me what that meant. I figured that out early when, at four years old, my cousin nicely told me I would never amount to anything.

I promised myself that I would prove everyone wrong. I would become someone. I worked harder in school and most of all, I did all I could to please everyone I came in contact with. I wanted to make everyone like me and not see the side that my family members saw.

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.

How to Find Your Life’s Purpose Today

Photo by Daniel Zedda
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Countless self-help gurus urge people to find their purpose, to lead a purpose-driven life, to be purposeful about their choices.

The thinking goes like this: If you’re feeling a pervasive sense of un-fulfillment and lack — perhaps sprinkled with varying degrees of anxiety or sadness or anger — then you’re probably lacking your purpose. Find your purpose, the enlightened people say, and all else in life clicks into place.

Roger that. It’s a logical thread to follow.

There’s just one problem: Trying to find your life purpose causes a lot of people more stress and anxiety. It throws life wildly out of balance. It creates striving. Until that holy grail of Here’s my life purpose is found, life can feel perpetually lacking.

Living Authentically: A Personal Story

Photo by Matteo Paciotti
Whatever it takes to find the real you, don't be daunted if the rest of the world looks on in shock. ~Stephen Richards

About a year ago I left my job, moved up in the mountains far away from family and friends, and started anew. I had enough of crowded places, constant machine noise and a life spent mainly indoors. My way out was to use part of my savings to offer myself a year to find out: “What’s next?”

Until then, I had lived in different cities around Europe, working in offices for many years — a normal western lifestyle with its ups and downs and its hectic and stressful rhythm.

For some time I had been uneasy about it, and as I started searching for other possibilities, I suddenly felt I needed to do a clean cut and find a way of life that really fulfilled me.

Here I had my big chance to review my life, and the main question I tried to answer as honestly as I could was: Did I live according to my dreams, my convictions and the demands of my heart?

Obviously I did not.

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