I recently read a blog post that inspired me to take action almost immediately. That doesn’t happen to me that often. Things strike me or they make me think but it isn’t often that they compel me to bust out my own journal and take action immediately. But that’s exactly what happened after I read a recent post by Jill Coleman of JillFit. Almost instantly after reading it I was scribbling away on what was likely the smallest journal ever (hey, it was all I had).
Jill posted her 32 rules to live by in celebration of her 32nd birthday. As I was reading through them I couldn’t help but think to myself, hell you’re almost 30 maybe you should make some rules to live by. You see, I always have shit like this floating around in my head. But it isn’t until I actually write it down that I start to live it out in my life. So here is my attempt to define who I am and who I want to be.
I started with the questions that Jill encouraged readers to ask of themselves. What do I stand for? Who am I in this world? What “vibe” do I give off? How am I helping or making an impact? Am I making a difference or am I just being all about Heather? I was actually kind of shocked at how quickly things started flowing out of me. Turns out I kind of do have my shit together. Shocking…
Here’s the list of what I came up with and in the interest of full transparency a few of these I borrowed directly from Jill, there was no way I could have summed it up better myself (the * indicate items that I said a big ditto to).
1. Laughter can cure almost anything. This, I’ve been blessed to learn from my husband. We’ll be in the midst of an argument and he’ll crack a “that’s what she said” joke or say something totally off the wall that I can’t help but giggle at. I tend to find myself angry about the fact that he can make me laugh in those moments of anger, but in the grand scheme of things whatever we are fighting about is so small and probably insignificant. That laugher or smile changes the whole tone of the conversation and my mood entirely. Its a good reminder that sometimes we’re being ridiculous and its ok, scratch that, its necessary to just laugh at ourselves and the situation and move on. Its not “losing” when you laugh its freaking awesome because it reminds you to stop taking yourself so seriously.
2. Tell people you love them while they’re around to hear it. At almost 30 years old I’ve been to waaay to many funerals, particularly funerals of young people. We don’t know how much time we’ve got here on this earth so its best that everyone who you care about knows that you care, knows that you love them, knows that THEY MATTER to you. Its kind of shocking how much saying these things out loud to people brightens their day. You never know when someone needs to hear that they matter, that they are loved so speak up and tell them because sometimes your phone rings at 10:30 pm and you find out your spouse isn’t ever coming home again and then all of those opportunities to tell them how much they matter are gone and you can’t go back. I don’t mean to be a Debbie downer here but just trust me when I say that you don’t want to live with that.
3. We all need a little encouragement. The older I get the more I realize that everyone, no matter how they appear, walks around with some sort of insecurity. Maybe its about how they look, or they worry that people don’t like them or that they don’t have what it takes to survive in their business. Insecurity rears its ugly head in different ways for different people. You can’t fix that for them, but what you can do is notice things in people. Notice when they look good, or they say something funny, notice when they do something cool or even when you just feel gratitude for being their friend. Once you notice these things, then SAY SOMETHING. Sometimes a kind encouraging word from a friend can change our day or even our week. Don’t underestimate your power to improve someones life with a seemingly simple thing.
4. Remember people’s birthdays and anniversaries. Because they matter. Every year on my birthday I’m always so touched when people reach out to me to say hey, hope you’re having a good day. When my inboxes are filled with nuggets of love and random texts surprise me throughout the day I freakin love it. Every year after my own birthday I think to myself about how I’m going to be better about remembering other people’s birthdays and anniversaries going forward and then life happens and it goes by the wayside. I forgive myself for that, but this year I want to try harder to remember peoples birthdays and important days in their lives and reach out to them. Bonus points for actually picking up the phone and making a call or sending a card, no one does that anymore.
5. Treat animals with love. I love dogs. Like, more than kids and most people. I’ve always been a dog lover to the point that when I hear any kind of story of someone hurting a dog I generally cry. Sobbed like a school girl during Marley and Me. Don’t even get me started on that commercial where Sarah McGloghlin sings. So, one of my rules to live by is to remember to treat all animals with extreme love and kindness (even cats) and to remember to do my part to make their world a better place. I sit and cry when I hear stories of puppy mill busts or animal rescue leagues being overcrowded but I never do anything about it. I don’t help, I don’t volunteer or open my wallet and I could. I have the time and the money so this year its about stopping the waterworks and doing something about it. How can I not want to do more for faces like this?
6. Lean into joy. THIS is a big one. I’ve realized that I don’t let myself feel much joy. Step into my head with me and see if this sounds at all familiar. I’ll be having a great day, thinking to myself gosh my marriage is going so well, we are connecting, we’re laughing, we are just GOOD. My parents are healthy and aren’t driving me crazy, the dog is behaving, our finances are in order, life is awesome. But then before I can even get the word awesome out in my head a voice loudly and rudely interrupts my happy thoughts and says DON’T SAY IT, DON’T SAY THINGS ARE AWESOME THEN SOMETHING BAD WILL HAPPEN. The other shoe will drop, someone will get hurt, someone will die, if you just don’t acknowledge how good things are then you won’t be disappointment when something bad happens. WHAT a crock of shit. You see what I’ve very recently realized is that I have no control of if and when something tragic or awful could happen in my life. And me stopping myself from feeling joy in any given moment does not prevent me from feeling pain in the future if something bad happens. If I don’t feel joy when my husband and I are having a fantastic day does that mean it will hurt less if he suddenly dies tomorrow? Um no. If I choose to not let myself get too excited when my baby kicks inside of me does that mean it will hurt less if God forbid a cord gets wrapped around her neck and she doesn’t get to live the life I dream for her? No that would be absolutely awful whether I allow myself to experience joy today or not. So why not lean into the joy when you’re feeling it? You can’t prevent things from hurting you in the future, stop trying.
7. Listen to People, like really listen. Listening is a lost art. How often do we sit there while someone talks and think about what we want to say next? That isn’t listening thats just two people talking at each other. There is no connection there. Instead what if we sat there while someone talked and put ourself in their shoes. Thought about how it would feel to be experiencing what they are experiencing? Instead of trying to fix them or tell them a story about something similar that you went through, we just heard where they were coming from and made it clear that I hear you and I’m here for you. Ask questions, let them get out their feelings, be a better friend. Personally, I’m getting better at this, going through life coach training helps, but again its something I have to be consistently aware of in every conversation I enter into.
8. Be present. We live in a world of Facebook, I don’t know about you but I often catching myself thinking in Facebook status’s or thinking about how I need to tell all my “friends” about the funny thing that just happened. Its hard to just experience the moment without wanting to share it with the world instantly. The thing is though, at least for me, that when I am quick to post something on Facebook I’m often not fully experiencing the thing that is happening right in front of me. For example, taking tons of photos and videos during a concert and then posting them immediately to Facebook so all my friends know where I am, what I’m doing and envy me instead of snapping a pic or 2, putting my phone back in my purse and then experiencing the concert AS IT IS HAPPENING. My friends can see the view from my sweet ass seats later. It will still be cool then. I’m seeing that I can’t experience the joy of the moment if I’m too busy sharing the moment with others rather than living it myself.
9. Make people’s jobs easier. Many of us (myself included at times) are big A-holes to service based employees. We leave our tables at a restaurant a complete disaster because someone else will clean it up, we throw clothes on the floor of the dressing room and walk out rather than spend the 2 minutes picking them up, we don’t say thank you, we sit on our phones while we are paying at Target rather than smile at the cashier and ask how their day is. We can be dicks and I personally don’t want to be anymore. I know the argument can be made well it is a busboy’s job to clean up our table and that is true, but do you really need to leave the table looking like a bomb went off? If your kid throws french fries on the floor would it kill you to pick them up? Remember, it could be you working in the service industry, how would you want to be treated?
10. Compliment People, but only if you really mean it. There are days when I feel like a hot mess. Like my hair is a mess, I’m not sure if my outfit looks good, heck I’m not sure if I remembered to wash my hair and I just in general feel like shit about myself. But then a random stranger says wow that scarf is so cute, or I just love your outfit and it completely changes my mood. I go from all mopey to like yea I look good today, that random stranger said so. See I find myself thinking quite often that I love the boots I see a girl wearing, or that someone’s hair is so gorgeous, but I never say anything to them. Why? I don’t know. I don’t think I’m a dick, but maybe I have been. So I’ve decided that I’m not going to compliment people just to compliment them, BUT when I genuinely mean it I’m going to share my compliments more often. Never know when it could change a random strangers day.
11. Express Gratitude- Not only is it important to tell other people that you’re grateful for them, but its important to make expressing gratitude a part of your daily life. You see when you focus more on the things you do have and less on the things you don’t have it makes it a lot easier to enjoy life. So take time every day to acknowledge (by either writing it down or just creating a list in your mind) of things you’re grateful to have in your life. And if you’re not feeling particularly excited about this exercise or particularly grateful for anything then its extra important to do this in those moments. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it.
12. Recognize that if something is a struggle or challenging then its causing growth. In our moments of pain its hard to see that we are growing. This “thing” that is making us super uncomfortable is challenging us, its stretching what we thought possible for ourself, and it is most definitely improving us in some way. Is it fun? Nope, not usually. But looking back every shitty thing I went through in my life has made me who I am today. The pain has blessed me with an incredible life that I probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate it without the struggles that I had to endure along the way.
13. You can love & accept yourself as you are even though you still want to grow in certain areas. This is a tough one for me. You see I’ve always felt like if I’m kind to myself and I love myself than I am saying I’ve done all the growing I need to do and I’m ok just the way I am, I don’t need to improve on anything. Here’s the thing though. I am ok just the way I am, I do deserve love and an awesome life today. I don’t have to wait until I achieve a certain goal to be worthy of love from others and love for myself. I can still set goals and be working to improve certain areas of my life, but that doesn’t’ mean I have to be tough on myself during the journey to get to where I want to be. In fact, I will probably achieve my goals faster if I treat myself a little nicer and give myself a little grace along the way.
14. Treat yo’self. The occasional cookie or handful of skittles isn’t going to kill you. Allow yourself 1 treat a day and make good choices the rest of the day. Also, you aren’t going to become a total fat ass if you miss 1 workout so cut yourself a little slack here too.
15. Don’t be like everyone else. You can’t use the justification well that’s what everyone else does. AKA everyone else is eating cookies, so its ok that I am too. Or none of my friends are working out today so I don’t need to either. You can’t live an extraordinary life yet make decisions like the “average” person.
16. Sometimes you need to do things that you don’t want to do. Have you ever regretted going to workout? How about having a salad instead of pizza for lunch? Sometimes I don’t feel like going to church, but that is always when the best messages happen. There are certain situations where it make sense to dig deep and get your ass off the couch in order to do something that is good for you, even if you don’t feel like it.
17. Have sex, its the foundation of a healthy marriage. So my mom is probably going to be reading this post, which makes it weird for me to talk about having sex. However considering the fact that I’m 9 months pregnant she has probably figured out by now that I do that occasionally…. Anyway back to my point. Sex matters. Its an incredible way to build and maintain that sense of connection in a relationship. When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time sometimes things get a little boring, but make it your job to spice things up a bit. If you’re bored in bed then its your responsibility to do something about it. And seriously, there is a little thing called Google that can give you plenty of ideas if need be.
18. Take care of your body, you only get one. Workout, drink green smoothies, get pedicures, manicures, massages, and spray tans (yes I realize spray tans don’t technically constitute as taking care of yourself, but hey they are better then laying in the sun). If there are certain things that help you to feel more beautiful then you should do them. Sometimes it just takes a spray tan to boost your self confidence and self confidence is sexy.
19. Take time for yourself in the morning. Drink some tea, reflect, read something inspirational, pray. My best and most productive days happen after I’ve spent 30 minutes or so in the morning not worrying about what has to get done, but instead easing into my day and becoming intentional about things. Sometimes its focusing on what I’m grateful for, sometimes its immersing myself in a book that provides me with motivation I might be lacking for the day. It doesn’t really matter the specifics its more about slowing down for me.
20. Pray more. Thank God for what he has given you and ask for what you need. Pray for others. It matters and it makes a difference.
21. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who come alive.”** -Howard Thurman. Amen, that’s all I have to say about that.
22. Trust yourself. I don’t like making decisions. I like other people, specifically my husband, to tell me what to do. I tell myself its because it doesn’t really matter to me one way or the other, but really its because I struggle to trust myself. The thing is though that I know what to do and I can make any decision that comes my way. I don’t need to ask 100 people for advice, dig deep and find the answer inside of you. Its there, I just have have to shut up long enough to hear what is being said.
23. When you help others you help yourself*. Whenever I do something to bless others it inevitably blesses me just as much as it blesses them. Funny how that works. So what stops me from reaching out more and getting my hands dirty? I don’t know, but my guess is that I just haven’t made it a priority yet.
The awesome family that we got to bless with Christmas presents last year. THEY blessed us way more than we blessed them.
24. Get focused. If you are everywhere then you’re nowhere*. Pick something you want to accomplish then use your effort, resources, and skills to get you there. I am so guilty of having a good idea, running with it for a day or a week and then getting bored and thinking of a new idea. Following through is not my strong suit and I like to be everything to everyone all the time. The thing is though that when I’m trying to please everyone, I’m pleasing no one. BUT when I’m intentional about who I want to help or a particular thing that I want to do then I end up making a way bigger impact on a select group of people than I was making on the general population.
25. Read more*. Both fiction and non-fiction. Its relaxing, plus you learn something. Reading a trashy book every once and awhile doesn’t make you a trashy person.
26. Eliminate the negativity. Mean girls, gossiping, cutting people down all of that crap might be the way of life for some, but that shit has to stop in my life. It sucks you in & brings you down to that level of ugliness. Don’t partake in it.
27. Don’t take things personal*. Recoginize that most people’s criticism of you or negativity towards you & your dreams is based on their own fears & insecurities. Keep doing what you know in your heart is right for you and your family and screw everyone else.
28. Who cares how slowly you go as long as you’re going forward. Most dreams are accomplished by one small step at a time. Over time those small accomplishments add up to something big, its just hard to see it along the way.
29. Stop comparing yourself to others. You don’t know all the pain & handwork it took them to get where they are today. Plus you don’t need to be anyone else but you. Better to be a first rate version of yourself (flaws and all) than a second rate version of someone else.
30. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Note: almost all of it is small stuff. In a year not much of it will matter anymore.