How to prove that you’re amazing

You already know it deep down inside, but you can prove that you’re amazing. Sometimes as we go through our lives, the days run together and, while we keep plugging away at the tasks that will move us forward, sometimes it feels like we’re treading in place. We keep busy, keep doing things but at the end of the day it doesn’t feel like we’ve actually accomplished anything at all.

Goals – big and little

I’ve talked about the importance of setting goals for ourselves regardless of the stage of life we’re in. Working toward a goal every day helps keep us feeling productive. I’ve talked about setting that big goal and breaking it up into workable pieces. Those huge, pie-in-the-sky, goals are then reduced to things that we can get done every day. And by the deadline that we set, that big goal is achieved.

But in doing those smaller tasks we sometimes forget how they’ll move us forward. We don’t feel the incentive or motivation we should when we think about that big goal.

Modified bird-dog plank
Modified “Bird Dog” pose to work on improving my balance.

I test my own balance constantly and try difficult poses. (As we age, we lose our sense of balance unless we actively work on it. See my interview with Kathleen Cameron, Senior Director of the Center for Healthy Aging, about balance and preventing falls.) The “Bird Dog” is a plank exercise in which the opposite hand and foot are on the floor, the others extended. I certainly could not do that when I first started or for a long time after that. So I started on both knees with one arm extended, then both hands on the floor and one leg extended. Eventually I built up my strength and balance so that I was able to perform the full pose. But along the way I was discouraged by my lack of progress.

The Amazing Box

If you’re not seeing the progress you’d like, or if you’ve lost your motivation, it’s time to introduce the “Amazing Box.” This concept was introduced to me by Dr. Perpetua Neo,Doctor of Clinical Psychology.

Your Amazing Box - proof that you're amazing.
Your Amazing Box

The Amazing Box is your instant motivator. If you’re feeling down about the chances of your achieving your goals, it’s time to delve into your Amazing Box. You’ve broken down your “Big Goal” into more manageable chunks, right? Whenever you complete one of those chunks, write down your accomplishment and stick it in your Amazing Box. Or, if you like using digital tools like Google Keep or Evernote, type an entry. Color code your entry if you like! Pretty soon your Amazing Box will have loads of entries, proving that you are, in fact, amazing..

Congratulate yourself! Full plank with bird dog balance!
The Bird Dog plank balance.

My quest to do the full Bird Dog pose was before I learned about the Amazing Box. I could have written down each day’s achievement – like “I was able to hold the modified Bird Dog with my left leg extended for 15 seconds!” Or “I held the full Bird Dog pose for a nanosecond but tipped over onto my chin. I got back up and held it for a second!”

Track your progress in your Amazing Box. You’ll be astonished at how far you’ve come in your journey toward your goals.

Use your Amazing Box for other accomplishments too

So much of our day is spent on seemingly inconsequential tasks that take a great deal of time. Like repotting a plant. Or refilling soap dispensers and cleaning up the mess that inevitably ensues. Use your Amazing Box to brag about these accomplishments too. No one will see it but you, and if those darn soap dispensers make you crazy every time you refill them, you have every right to acknowledge your success in filling them.

Prove that you’re amazing

If you look at the obstacles in your way and feel that they’re insurmountable, look in your Amazing Box and think about the obstacles you’ve already overcome. Your Amazing Box gives you the momentum you need to keep going. The accomplishments you’ve identified in your Amazing Box will boost your optimism, your happiness and your resilience.

Whenever you’re feeling like time is escaping from you, or that you’re not good enough, or that you’ll never achieve anything, dip into your Amazing Box and see just how much you really have done. You have proof that you’re amazing!

Five ways to maintain positivity

I often write about happiness and optimism, because happy and optimistic people are generally healthier and live longer than those who are unhappy or see the negative in everything. But even when you start the day with a positive outlook, sometimes it can be hard to maintain that optimistic mindset. Here are five ways to maintain positivity.

When the sun is shining it’s easier to be positive and optimistic. Everything looks better when it’s bright outside. But how about when it’s nighttime, or it’s gray and gloomy outside? How can you maintain positivity then?

#1 on the list of How to Maintain Positivity: Smile!
#1 on the list of How to Maintain Positivity: Smile! After a workout, I have a big smile on my face.
  1. Smile. That’s it. Just take a breath and show some teeth. Even if you don’t feel like smiling. When we smile, our brain releases the hormones dopamine and serotonin, associated with happiness and reducing stress. Believe it or not, a study performed by a group at the University of Cardiff at Wales found that people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown. So, that’s the “fake it until it comes true” path.
  2. Journal your gratitude or express it in some other way. Say, “Thank you” to more people for even the smallest of favors. There is no place for unhappiness in you when you’re feeling grateful to others. Even having others in your life is something to be happy about.
  3. Take a walk. Increase your oxygen intake. When you breathe more deeply, your body is doing something positive. If you exercise regularly, that “exercise high” you feel lasts longer, plus you’re sleeping better.
  4. Listen to a favorite tune. I keep a playlist of songs that make me feel happy. Listening to one usually does the trick when I’m feeling down. Almost anything by the Zac Brown Band puts a smile on my face and gets my toes tapping.
  5. Meditate. Thinking of absolutely nothing for a few minutes helps me maintain positivity. Just breathe. If that’s hard for you, a short guided meditation will also help clear the cobwebs and help you maintain your positivity. If you’d like to try meditating but don’t know where to start, download the Garden Walk Guided Meditation.

These days, it’s important to grab happiness and optimism wherever you can. Practicing one or more of these techniques will help you maintain your positivity.

An ending is a time for reflection

An ending is a time for reflection, and the end of the year is no exception. I don’t much like to look backward, but the year-end is a natural time to do it.

No looking backward

I don’t like to look backward because the past is done. If it didn’t go well, there’s nothing I can do to change it. If it did, well, that’s great, but you can’t live in the past. But if you’re going to look back, the end of the year is the time to do it.

No resolutions

I also don’t like to make resolutions. “I resolve …” has a negative connotation. More often than not, the sentence continues, “… to not eat sugar.” Or “ … to work out every day.” But, really, how realistic is that? I don’t believe in absolutes – I believe in moderation. Everything is a possibility in moderation. Chocolate? Definitely. Financial stability? Working on it. A little bit at a time, and everything will get done.

But an ending is a time for reflection. Take a look back. Look at the good, the lessons learned, the things we wish we’d done differently. 

And if there’s an ending, it follows that a beginning follows. I like the idea of a fresh start. Clean slate. 

Be smart and plan

An ending is a time for reflection - and highlighters are tools for the next step - looking forward.
Highlighters are great tools for categorizing my brain dump.

But to ensure that my year starts the way I want it to, I have to be smart and plan for what I want to achieve. So I start with a brain dump. This can take me a while, because I have many, many thoughts flitting around my brain. They’re the ones that keep me up at night. Get everything I have to do, want to do, or think I might need to do, down on paper. I find that actual paper and pen (or pencil) is most useful for this exercise. Sometimes taking a walk around the house can spark a reminder. There are no filters with this – get everything down so there are no stray thoughts in your brain. Now I classify everything. Business-related, personal, dogs, or anything else. Colored highlighters are helpful with this.

Now for every classification, prioritize. Things that are urgent, necessary at some point, and the “It would be nice” priorities.

Look at the big picture

Take a couple of days for this. Make sure you take into consideration the things that you really want to accomplish in the coming year, or quarter, or month. Because you can do this exercise whenever you need to. Any given Wednesday is fine, or at the end of a semester, or the start of a week. It could be that you decide to take a different route in your business or things happen in your life that change your direction. No matter – you’re not tied to a specific date.

An endings is a time for reflection, and a time to look forward.