Visualizing Your Best Self

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As I continue to shape and define the kind of site I want Morning Wellness to be, I’ve noticed an instinctual gravitation toward writing on topics related to finding ourselves (through vision boarding, values clarification exercises, and asking ourselves weird-sounding but research-supported therapeutic questions, to name a few).

rekitanicole.com
rekitanicole.com

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Today I want to share an exercise that’s not only related to defining our goals and desires, but also believing that we are capable of achieving them.

When you think about the big things that you want to do in your life, can you picture them happening? Are your dreams clear enough that you can envision them, and is your confidence strong enough that you believe they could happen?

In doing my own self-reflection, I realized that having goals doesn’t necessarily guarantee confidence that you can achieve them. And that sucks. If I have a professional or personal goal and my mindset is just, “Yeah, I think that I could possibly do that in a couple years if all goes okay,” then how am I going to go about working toward my goals? It’s not an attitude that encourages going the extra mile, taking risks, or making ourselves vulnerable. It encourages leaving everything up to fate and just hoping it ends up okay.

I found this Best Possible Self visualization exercise on the Greater Good in Action website, and I think it’s perfect for anyone looking to define what they want in life and build confidence that they can achieve it.

Visualizing Your Best Possible Self

Picture living the best possible life you can imagine. Reflect on different areas of your life – your career, friendships, family relationships, romantic relationships, health, habits, creative pursuits – and imagine them reaching their greatest potential.

For 15 minutes over the course of two weeks, write continuously about this best possible future. Get detailed – where are you? Who’s there? What specifically are you doing? Putting aside your anxieties and barriers, simply write about your best possible future, as if it’s the most possible thing in the world.

Researchers have found that people who completed this practice over the course of two weeks got a positive mood boost.

Why not give it a try? I’m going to! I know that I could use some help in clarifying what exactly I want to make of my life and build my self-confidence around my creative capabilities.

For more details on this exercise, be sure to check it out here.

I wrote Monday about valuing ordinary moments, and this post isn’t meant to discredit that. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of small moments, and I don’t want to ignore them in favor of extraordinary ones. I think there’s a way to balance appreciation for the ordinary moments with working hard to create extraordinary ones.

So, this week’s Morning Wellness reader (and writer) goal: be grateful for the ordinary moments while believing you will certainly live extraordinary ones too. 

Fighting For Our Dreams When It Just Ain’t Happening

This whole blogging experience has been super vulnerable for me, but today I am challenging myself to crank it up a notch and just be really honest about what’s been going on with me lately.

deathtothestockphoto.com
deathtothestockphoto.com

I moved to Los Angeles after finishing my Master’s Degree in Social Work in August.  I’ve really liked being here and am getting used to the California vibes, which are very real and very different from what I grew up with in Illinois. I’ve been held back from really feeling great here though, because of one huge problem: I cannot get a job.

And trust me, I’ve tried. My big barriers are that I don’t have a car yet (and lots of jobs require driving to clients’ houses) and that I am not bilingual, so sometimes it’s difficult to even find anything to apply to. Being in a new city, I also am limited by not really being familiar with the agencies in the area and not having any social work connections.

I have had small spots of hope: there was the agency that found my info and contacted me for an interview but was located way too far from me; the agency that called me to interview while I was home on holiday vacation and found a candidate before I got back to LA; and, most significantly, there was the agency I interviewed with last week that I was really excited about, until the very end of the interview when I was told the job required that the therapists own a vehicle. All of the small hopeful moments so far have ended with disappointment, which has been really hard on my heart.

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this post because I just want to be real with you guys. I want to remind you that, even though I write about mental health and positive living tips, I have serious struggles just like you do. Life can just feel unfair. I am so positive that I have the passion and skills needed to work at the places I’ve been applying, and I still haven’t gotten a job. These jobs require a car, but I can’t afford a car if I can’t find a job. It’s just this seriously frustrating, disheartening experience, and I’ve been living it over the past 6 months as I work a temporary job to make some money.

During this process, I’ve felt really, really hopeless at times. I’ve worried that I’d have to give up my dream of being a therapist. I’ve worried I’d be seen as a failure by my friends, my family, and yeah, even my blog readers. I’m still a little worried about that.

As hard as it was doing that interview last week and finding out at the last minute that the job required a car, I learned something. I learned from my responses in that interview that I am still, despite all of this struggle, so, so passionate about my future work. 

I had to cry a little (a lot) and heal a bit, but the next day, I was thinking about me, and about any of you that might have a dream that just isn’t happening right now. And I just think that when we are so motivated, and so passionate, and we can just envision ourselves in our dream role so vividly that it absolutely must happen…we’ll be okay. I have to intentionally remind myself:

My passion will lead me to where I want to be.

I am loved by my family and friends unconditionally.

I am more than giving up.

I’m writing this for the reader who can’t find a job, who is worried about the future, who wants something so bad she can taste it but it just isn’t happening.

We can’t stop trying. We’re in the middle of a valley right now, but there will be mountains. We’ll keep up our hustle, but we’ll relax when we need it. We’re in this together.

If anyone’s going through something similar and wants to talk about it, my email is morningwellnessblog@gmail.com. Sometimes companionship can be really healing. I wish the best for you, and thank you, readers, for letting me feel comfortable in my vulnerability.

Let’s stay strong & do this.

Beating the Boring & Finding Excitement in the Routine

So…it’s Wednesday.
Sigh.

ashleyelladesign.com
ashleyelladesign.com

Wednesdays are boring. Winter is boring. January is boring. Life is boring?

Okay, it isn’t. I really don’t think it is. But on some days…some January Winter Wednesdays…it’s hard to remember that.

When nothing particularly exciting is happening (or has happened) for a few weeks, things can start to feel…blah. You get up. You go to work. You come home. You make dinner. You watch TV. You sleep. You repeat.

It can feel a bit mindless. We fall into our routines so simply and easily, to the point where we might start to just live life on automatic. This really doesn’t help the ever-famous quarter-life crisis. When we fall too hard into our routines, we start to feel bored, and that makes us question our choices — am I in the right job? The right city? With the right friends? Could I make changes in my life so that things don’t feel so dull? These questions then incite panic. What if I’ve been living my life wrong this whole time? Am I wasting it?

Here’s what I think: I think that even your role models (you know, the ones with the exciting careers, inspiring creative opportunities, and perfect families, all somehow steadily documented on Instagram?) get bored with life sometimes.

One of the reasons Exposure Therapy (the intervention in which you face your crippling fears head on with the help of a therapist) works is because the feeling of panic isn’t sustainable — you can be in the same room as the thing you fear for 3 hours, but you will not spend every minute of all 3 of those hours being at Level 10 panic and fear.

I think excitement in life is kind of the same. Life’s going to (hopefully) last us like, 85 years. It’s probably unrealistic that we will spend all 31,025 of those days super excited (yes! I did math). So I think there’s some level of “accepting the boringness” involved, but also…we are mental wellness warriors over here. We are not the kind of girls to let our lives slip away.

I’ve got two ideas for Beating the Boring out of your day:

#1: Purposefully and intentionally integrate something new and exciting into your routine. This is for the go-getters out there who really want to experience the most they can out of life. The approach is simple — just be mindful of how you feel on a daily basis, and when things start to get boring, don’t let yourself sink into it. Instead, make an easy change that can feel exciting. For me, reading can really transport me to a different place and time, so start reading a juicy, for-fun book (I recommend The Girl on the Train if you like a quick, thrilling mystery).

Make little challenges for yourself daily; for instance, on Monday, challenge yourself to start up a conversation with someone new at work, and on Tuesday, challenge yourself to go check out that gallery down the street you’ve always been curious about. This approach is for people who want to take action. I don’t think our lives get boring because we run out of ideas of things to do — they get boring because we stop challenging ourselves to do them.

And, approach #2: Fall in love with your routines. This approach is for when you feel good about settling into a life of routine and stability, but don’t want your days to become mundane because of it. This is all about falling in love with the little things. My favorite example of this comes from my previous resistance to washing my face at night. Two years ago I hated doing it, and often didn’t, even though I knew it would be better for my skin to keep it clean. One day I decided to look up different kinds of face cleansers and buy a new one to replace the $4 drugstore one I had. This simple step sparked in me a total obsession with skincare! Taking the time to research this part of my nightly routine and invest in a product that excited me took things to a whole other level, and now my nightly skincare routine is my ultimate self-care.

Something similar happened with my daily showers; instead of treating them as an annoying necessity, as I had my whole life, I stopped to really feel the shower when I take it, and how relaxing and comforting it feels. I started to view it as a way to cleanse me of my stresses and worries. Just shifting my mindset made this part of my routine much more enjoyable. This can be done with all of our “annoying” routines – dishes, laundry, picking up clothes. Find one little thing you might kind of like about it. Shift your focus to be on that — on how great you feel when your home is decluttered, and how comfortingly simple it is to scrub a bowl and focus on nothing else but that. Be in the present, and realize how truly grateful you are to be there, boring or not. 

How do you keep life exciting during its lulls? Comment below!

Beating the Boring & Finding Excitement in the Routine

So…it’s Wednesday.

Sigh.

ashleyelladesign.com5.jpg
ashleyelladesign.com

Wednesdays are boring. Winter is boring. January is boring. Life is boring?

Okay, it isn’t. I really don’t think it is. But on some days…some January Winter Wednesdays…it’s hard to remember that.

When nothing particularly exciting is happening (or has happened) for a few weeks, things can start to feel…blah. You get up. You go to work. You come home. You make dinner. You watch TV. You sleep. You repeat.

It can feel a bit mindless. We fall into our routines so simply and easily, to the point where we might start to just live life on automatic. This really doesn’t help the ever-famous quarter-life crisis. When we fall too hard into our routines, we start to feel bored, and that makes us question our choices — am I in the right job? The right city? With the right friends? Could I make changes in my life so that things don’t feel so dull? These questions then incite panic. What if I’ve been living my life wrong this whole time? Am I wasting it?

Here’s what I think: I think that even your role models (you know, the ones with the exciting careers, inspiring creative opportunities, and perfect families, all somehow steadily documented on Instagram?) get bored with life sometimes. One of the reasons Exposure Therapy (the intervention in which you face your crippling fears head on with the help of a therapist) works is because the feeling of panic isn’t sustainable — you can be in the same room as the thing you fear for 3 hours, but you will not spend every minute of all 3 of those hours being at Level 10 panic and fear.

I think excitement in life is kind of the same. Life’s going to (hopefully) last us like, 85 years. It’s probably unrealistic that we will spend all 31,025 of those days super excited (yes! I did math). So I think there’s some level of “accepting the boringness” involved, but also…we are mental wellness warriors over here. We are not the kind of girls to let our lives slip away.

I’ve got two ideas for Beating the Boring out of your day:

#1: Purposefully and intentionally integrate something new and exciting into your routine. This is for the go-getters out there who really want to experience the most they can out of life. The approach is simple — just be mindful of how you feel on a daily basis, and when things start to get boring, don’t let yourself sink into it. Instead, make an easy change that can feel exciting. For me, reading can really transport me to a different place and time, so start reading a juicy, for-fun book (I recommend The Girl on the Train if you like a quick, thrilling mystery).

Make little challenges for yourself daily; for instance, on Monday, challenge yourself to start up a conversation with someone new at work, and on Tuesday, challenge yourself to go check out that gallery down the street you’ve always been curious about. This approach is for people who want to take action. I don’t think our lives get boring because we run out of ideas of things to do — they get boring because we stop challenging ourselves to do them.

And, approach #2: Fall in love with your routines. This approach is for when you feel good about settling into a life of routine and stability, but don’t want your days to become mundane because of it. This is all about falling in love with the little things. My favorite example of this comes from my previous resistance to washing my face at night. Two years ago I hated doing it, and often didn’t, even though I knew it would be better for my skin to keep it clean. One day I decided to look up different kinds of face cleansers and buy a new one to replace the $4 drugstore one I had. This simple step sparked in me a total obsession with skincare! Taking the time to research this part of my nightly routine and invest in a product that excited me took things to a whole other level, and now my nightly skincare routine is my ultimate self-care.

Something similar happened with my daily showers; instead of treating them as an annoying necessity, as I had my whole life, I stopped to really feel the shower when I take it, and how relaxing and comforting it feels. I started to view it as a way to cleanse me of my stresses and worries. Just shifting my mindset made this part of my routine much more enjoyable. This can be done with all of our “annoying” routines – dishes, laundry, picking up clothes. Find one little thing you might kind of like about it. Shift your focus to be on that — on how great you feel when your home is decluttered, and how comfortingly simple it is to scrub a bowl and focus on nothing else but that. Be in the present, and realize how truly grateful you are to be there, boring or not. 

How do you keep life exciting during its lulls? Comment below!

Making Decisions, Accepting Sacrifice, and Finding Your Values

Last Monday I flew from my hometown in the Chicago suburbs back to Los Angeles, and I’ve gotta say…it’s always harder than I think it will be.

deathtothestockphoto.com
deathtothestockphoto.com

My family is really important to me. They’re loud and they’re crazy and they’re definitely not perfect, but they are more fun than anyone I know. My decision to move to Los Angeles was fueled by my career, my love, and my need to get out there and live somewhere greater than the suburbs of Chicago. But when I hug my mom goodbye at the airport….I start to doubt if any of that is worth it.

The whole thing had me thinking about the after-effects of making a big decision.

I knew that I wanted to move to Los Angeles. I love the warm weather and the constant sunshine. I love the bustling people and the feeling that everyone is trying to do something and to be somebody. I can feel the creative energy in the air here, and it’s inspiring.

And then there’s always that nagging feeling – what if I made the wrong choice?

I realized coming back from this trip that there is always going to be some sacrifice involved in making a huge decision. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever feel 100% certain about anything. It feels a little vulnerable to say that, because I think media portrayals of motivated women want you to believe that true dedication to anything requires 100% confidence in career moves, relationships, and relocation.

But life isn’t perfect and no big choice we make is going to have 100% positive results. I moved to Los Angeles and have to sacrifice seeing my family as much as I’d like. But if I didn’t move to Los Angeles, I’d be giving in to a “stuck in the suburbs” lifestyle that I know isn’t a good fit for me. There’s always going to be a little sacrifice involved.

So it’s like this: big decisions need to be made, and with each choice will come a bit of a sacrifice. So how do we know which sacrifice is worth making?

To me, this comes down to finding your values. What is your priority right now? Depending on where you’re at, it could be a lot of things: family, career, romance, friendship, self-care, fitness, money, travel, exploration. Sometimes it’s super clear what you want to prioritize – and sometimes it isn’t.

My professor gave us a Values Clarification exercise in my Field and Practice class when I was getting my Master’s degree in Social Work. The fill-in-the-blanks worksheet allows you to complete sentences like, “To be happy with my job, I must have ___________ and ___________,” and “The path to success in life begins with ______________ and ends with ____________.” You’re instructed not to think too hard about it, but to just answer with what first comes to your mind.

I love this exercise because it helps put your values into context. All you have to do is answer honestly and then read over your responses when you’re done and see if you notice a pattern. You might see that most of your answers reflect a commitment to traveling or to love or to career success. Your answers, then, can help teach you about your priorities and give you a hint about which big decision to make. We can easily say that first and foremost we value family, but when we fill in the blanks in tough, thought-provoking sentences, we can see whether our answers really do reflect that value the most.

If you’re in the middle of a big decision or if you just want to explore what you want for yourself, try filling out the worksheet here!

*PS – I have no idea where this exercise came from – my professor didn’t cite a source! If anyone has it, please let me know and I will edit to give credit 🙂

Making Decisions, Accepting Sacrifice, and Finding Your Values

Last Monday I flew from my hometown in the Chicago suburbs back to Los Angeles, and I’ve gotta say…it’s always harder than I think it will be.

Death_to_stock_above_9.JPG
deathtothestockphoto.com

My family is really important to me. They’re loud and they’re crazy and they’re definitely not perfect, but they are more fun than anyone I know. My decision to move to Los Angeles was fueled by my career, my love, and my need to get out there and live somewhere greater than the suburbs of Chicago. But when I hug my mom goodbye at the airport….I start to doubt if any of that is worth it.

The whole thing had me thinking about the after-effects of making a big decision.

I knew that I wanted to move to Los Angeles. I love the warm weather and the constant sunshine. I love the bustling people and the feeling that everyone is trying to do something and to be somebody. I can feel the creative energy in the air here, and it’s inspiring.

And then there’s always that nagging feeling – what if I made the wrong choice?

I realized coming back from this trip that there is always going to be some sacrifice involved in making a huge decision. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever feel 100% certain about anything. It feels a little vulnerable to say that, because I think media portrayals of motivated women want you to believe that true dedication to anything requires 100% confidence in career moves, relationships, and relocation.

But life isn’t perfect and no big choice we make is going to have 100% positive results. I moved to Los Angeles and have to sacrifice seeing my family as much as I’d like. But if I didn’t move to Los Angeles, I’d be giving in to a “stuck in the suburbs” lifestyle that I know isn’t a good fit for me. There’s always going to be a little sacrifice involved.

So it’s like this: big decisions need to be made, and with each choice will come a bit of a sacrifice. So how do we know which sacrifice is worth making?

To me, this comes down to finding your values. What is your priority right now? Depending on where you’re at, it could be a lot of things: family, career, romance, friendship, self-care, fitness, money, travel, exploration. Sometimes it’s super clear what you want to prioritize – and sometimes it isn’t.

My professor gave us a Values Clarification exercise in my Field and Practice class when I was getting my Master’s degree in Social Work. The fill-in-the-blanks worksheet allows you to complete sentences like, “To be happy with my job, I must have ___________ and ___________,” and “The path to success in life begins with ______________ and ends with ____________.” You’re instructed not to think too hard about it, but to just answer with what first comes to your mind.

I love this exercise because it helps put your values into context. All you have to do is answer honestly and then read over your responses when you’re done and see if you notice a pattern. You might see that most of your answers reflect a commitment to traveling or to love or to career success. Your answers, then, can help teach you about your priorities and give you a hint about which big decision to make. We can easily say that first and foremost we value family, but when we fill in the blanks in tough, thought-provoking sentences, we can see whether our answers really do reflect that value the most.

If you’re in the middle of a big decision or if you just want to explore what you want for yourself, try filling out the worksheet here!

*PS – I have no idea where this exercise came from – my professor didn’t cite a source! If anyone has it, please let me know and I will edit to give credit 🙂

Making a Vision Board

I’m a predictable girl, really, and I can be attracted to online blog posts or Oprah magazine articles with just the simplest honey: use of buzzwords like DREAMS, GOALS, CREATIVITY, and SKINCARE SALE AT SEPHORA. Making a vision board appeals to three of these passions, and I’ve become dedicated to sharing their magic with others in blog posts of my own.

Creating a vision board is fun and inspiring, and it requires no talent beyond the ability to use a pair of scissors. You’ll need a huge pile of old magazines (either lying around your house or cheaply purchased at a thrift store like Goodwill), a glue stick, a pair of scissors, and a poster board. I’d suggest a small to medium sized board, since your goal is to cover the entire board with images.

To curate content for your vision board, simply explore the magazines, look at the images, read the bolded headlines, and see what speaks to you. I love this because there are no rules. Anything can speak to you. That random photo of a bowl of oatmeal caught your eye? Cut it out! Why not? Initially, don’t think too hard about why you were attracted to the image. Just put it in your pile of clippings. Once it’s clipped, think about it: what does this image mean to me? An image of a bowl of oatmeal might be your way of telling yourself that you want to commit to eating better. Eating breakfast. Having time in the morning to relax and make a meal. Avoiding the morning rush.

The magazine-clipping process takes a while, so make yourself comfortable. Put on music, sip some hot chocolate, and wear your fuzziest socks. After a while, you’ll have a stack of clippings that you have chosen because they motivate you, inspire you, and reflect the dreams that you have for yourself. The final step is simply gluing the clippings onto your board in a way that makes you happy.

I have made two vision boards and felt completely inspired after each time. The process allowed me to reflect on my values. How do the images I chose represent the things I want in my life? Reflect on the themes of your vision board. If half of your board is filled up with photos related to career aspirations, then you are clearly ready to become a girlboss. Hang your vision board in your room, somewhere it can be easily seen, and you’ll be reminded daily of your desire for a successful career. Your goal, then, is often on your mind, and I believe you’ll start to naturally make choices that lead you in the direction of achieving that goal.

Try making a vision board with a friend! It creates such inspiring conversation around your 2016 goals. Ask your friend why she chose certain photos and tell her why you chose yours. Sephora sales have their perks, but bonding with another girl over hopes, creativity, and daydreams is priceless.