ANNOUNCEMENT: We got a dog!

Announcements

*Currently writing this blog post with one hand because a puppy is nibbling on the other!*

Yes, it finally happened! Matt and I are officially dog parents and I’m so happy to introduce our furbaby, Nova, to you!

It’s so crazy being here now. Back when Matt and I were dating in college, we used to always dream about our future together. We’d talk about how amazing it would be to have our own home, how we would decorate, how we would spend our weekends, and the trips we would take. But above all, we talked about how much we wanted a dog.

There was nothing in the world we wanted more than a four-legged fur baby that we could snuggle up with together. For as long as we’ve known each other we’ve been saving photos of different dog breeds and brainstorming names. Were we a bit obsessed? Maybe. But who cares. We’re DOG PEOPLE.

Anyways, we talked about this FOREVER and tried our best to ignore all the haters who tried to ruin our dream by sharing all of the reasons why we “shouldn’t get a dog.” (Side note: no one ever tells you that you shouldn’t have a baby. Why do we do this to each other when someone says they want a puppy?)

BUT, we knew that whenever the day came when we had our own yard, a puppy would be in our very near future. And here she is, our ferocious little puppy, Nova Rutski who is currently having what I call “the zoomies” and running back and forth across the living room as fast as she possibly can. Welcome to the family, Nova.

Puppy Motherhood

We got Nova when she was just 6 weeks old and weighed just 4.9 pounds! Annnddd, now I have to go pull her away from the molding she’s chewing on. 

Today, Nova is 12 weeks old and having her for just 6 weeks has already been such an experience. The first 2 weeks were the toughest. Matt and I were both pretty nervous. For the first time in our lives, we had another life to be responsible for! I mean I used to be a pet sitter and a nanny for a few years, but I would say goodbye at the end of the night or the end of the week when the parents and owners would come home. Instead, we are now responsible for another life for over a decade! And now I have to take Nova outside because I can tell she’s about to have an accident, brb.

So to be honest, as excited as we were, we were also very on edge. On top of that, Matt had to leave on a week-long work trip the day after we got her! Let me tell you, I got zero sleep that week.

But I didn’t care. Instantly, I loved her so much. I loved her puppy breath, her spots, how her eyes are different from each other. And most of all, I loved the… and I left her alone for one minute and she destroyed the zipper on her crate.

Whelp, I was going in a certain direction with this blog post today, but I guess it’s time to scratch that. I am writing this blog post in real-time while Nova is bouncing back and forth between being the sweetest and most cuddly puppy in the world, to being a literal monster. Nova is what Matt described as a real-life Sour Patch Kid – first she’s sour and then she’s sweet.

So I guess that’s the point that I’m trying to make with this blog post today. I love this little puppy more than anything, but she drives me insane. She makes me feel so loved and yet sometimes I think she’s intentionally destroying the things that I care about on purpose. I just want to sleep in, yet I’m thankful for getting to wake up early and take care of her.

Thank goodness, now she’s napping. 

There are holes from her teeth in my favorite $110 Lululemon yoga pants, but so much love in my heart. My favorite rugs are chewed up in the corners and we have to move them into the garage, but I have a smile on my face whenever I look at her. I can’t leave the house and go anywhere, yet I also don’t want to. 

THIS is puppy motherhood.

Despite the constant biting, and gnawing, and chewing, and holes in every piece of clothing or sock she can find, I’ve never been so relaxed, happy, and anxiety-free. Matt and I noticed that after just 3 weeks of having her, our stress and anxiety level dropped so much. We weren’t constantly in our own heads and worrying about something. It was like having this new little life to take care of brought us more clarity, focus, and peace of mind. The routine and responsibility that comes with taking care of someone else along with that feeling of unconditional love when your puppy is so excited that you just came home are amazing.

Oh crap, she wasn’t actually sleeping. Oh well, it’s her lunchtime anyways.

Back to writing… nope, I have to take her out again.

Ok, now back to writing. Awwww, she’s being so cute playing with her ball right now. The ball just went under the couch and she went after it. All you can see are her little paws sticking out. It kind of looks like when the witch from the Wizard of Oz got a house dropped on her.

Now she’s out from under the couch and chewing on the Christmas tree. I give up. Welcome to the family Nova, I love you. 

Thanks for coming to Lost Online

I hope you enjoyed this chaotic blog post about the newest member of our little family! You’ll be seeing SO much more of our little sour patch puppy in the future. Please send us a prayer that we survive Nova’s puppyhood and leave some of your puppy training knowledge in the comments below! We could use it!

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that “+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

Health is a Vehicle, NOT a Destination

Health & Wellness

Through my studies at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I came across a quote from the school’s founder, Joshua Rosenthal, that has stuck with me ever since.

“Health is a vehicle, not a destination.”

I think this idea that Joshua has is so important to spread because today we live in a time where everyone is a know-it-all when it comes to health. You see articles and blogs every day that say things like “10 Steps to Better Health,” “45 Ways to Make Your Home Healthier,” “7 Superfoods to Add to Your Grocery List,” “5 Supplements to Take to Improve Your Health.” In reality, these people aren’t experts. Everyone is really just recommending their own specific formula of food, exercise, and supplementation that works for them. 

In all this confusion, new nutrition knowledge appears every year, new health products come onto the market, and new health advice is thrown into the mix. And here we are, just trying to make some sense out of it!

Plus with the thousands of content sources that show photoshopped images of fitness models, influencers, and bloggers out there it’s easy to get obsessed about what you need to do to be healthy. When you combine the crazy popularity of “lifestyle” articles and content in recent years, all of the nutrition confusion, and the constant barrage of ultra-toned models, there’s so much pressure to be “healthy.” Perfectly healthy, I might add.

But perfect health should not be the end goal. 

If you have any plans for the future – having kids, getting a new job, starting a business, getting married, traveling – you will need your health to get you there. But happiness and life fulfillment don’t fall into your lap once you walk through magical golden gates to the land of perfect health.

Health is very important, but we shouldn’t just stop there. Health is what allows us to be active in the world. However, the problem is that most people don’t think of health in this way. They don’t view their physical health as a vehicle to greater things in life. Instead, people tend to fall into one of two groups when it comes to how they approach their health and wellness.

Group One: Those who KNOW they need to make health a priority and don’t.

The first group of people that I’m going to talk about are the people who constantly say things like: 

  • “I should workout”
  • “I should eat better”
  • “I should take vitamins”
  • “I should go to the doctor”
  • “I should go to the dentist”
  • “I should drink more water”
  • “I should drink less alcohol”
  • “I should stop eating so much junk food”
  • “I should eat more fruits and veggies”

SHOULD is the keyword here.

These people aren’t completely happy with their bodies and constantly think about how they need to improve and what they “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing. Maybe they even feel guilty for it and it affects their self-confidence. 

This happens because while people understand what they have to do to improve their health, it’s another thing to actually do it. They get stuck in habits or stuck in a rut and can’t seem to pull themselves out of it. It can feel impossible to undo years worth of habits that were slowly created. So getting healthy again, losing weight, and changing nutrition feels as difficult as climbing Mount Everest.

This is not because some of these people are any weaker, but because they lack the motivation, accountability, and support that they need to make these changes. More importantly, they often lack the understanding of how to create small steps each week that will bring about the big results.

That’s why you can see people going all out for one week with healthy habits, and then dropping them as quickly as they started and falling back into old behaviors: fried chicken, excess alcohol, Netflix binging, smoking, junk food, etc. 

Group Two: Those who are constantly trying to be healthier and healthier.

Now group two is on the other side of the spectrum. These people are on a quest for perfect health! These people try to eat healthier, and healthier, and healthier, and healthier, and healthier!

I’m sure you know some of these people too:

  • The give up dairy, gluten, and soy
  • They might not drink
  • They swore off sugar and caffeine
  • They make smoothies and juices every morning
  • The go vegan
  • They take supplements
  • They constantly know random food facts
  • They buy organic
  • They only drink alternative milk

These people are going to die in perfect health if it’s the last thing they do. (Do you see the issue there?)

While these people are ultra health-conscious, this behavior isn’t much better. There’s a point where people can get too strict about being healthy to the point where it ruins the fun. Our food is incorporated so much into our primary foods like relationships, home environment, and joy, that it often holds people back by making their life less satisfying when they’re overly strict and concerned about diet.

This is why in recent years there’s been an entirely new eating disorder that came to light called orthorexia nervosa, which is characterized by an excessive preoccupation with eating healthy food.

Now, not everyone from group two is orthorexic! But, the point is that some people eat very healthy and are miserable. This way of thinking completely ignores the entire reason for being healthy in the first place. To think that there’s a correlation between perfect health and being happy is missing the entire point of why we take care of our physical body.

The goal isn’t to get perfectly healthy. You’re not suddenly going to be greeted by the Gods of Health as you’re making your smoothie in the morning to tell you that you’ve done everything right and you’re now part of a group of the elite, ultra-healthy people on the planet. Nor is life going to get better because you decided to be stricter with yourself by giving up sugar or gluten.

The Truth About Health

Not everyone falls into two specific groups like this, but many people do exist in these two groups – one of them ignoring their health and the other one being overly concerned about it. Neither one of these lifestyles is good for us. You can’t boycott healthy behavior because it seems difficult as much as you can’t swing the other way and let leading a “healthy” life control you. Both behaviors are UN-healthy.

Even if you’re at the 86th percentile of health, that’s wonderful! Work out several days a week and eat well 80% of the time, and you’re doing fantastic. Pat yourself on the back, because you’re doing a great job.

Health is extremely important but it’s not the end goal. Health a vehicle to everything else in life that you want: better relationships, financial freedom, happy memories, plenty of travel, a fulfilling career, and more. Health is what helps you get to all of those other places, it’s NOT the destination.

If you’re extremely sick and unhealthy if affects every single aspect of your life and puts a strain on you. If you’re overly strict about your diet, then it takes fun, joy, and spontaneity out of other areas of your life. However, if you’re in good health, it affects all of the other aspects of your life for the better!

You feel better, you look better, you can be more productive, you can have a fulfilling life, and you can feel well enough to work on your bucket list.

Think about it like this: Every day you get in your car and you drive to work, to the store, to coffee dates, to your chiropractor, etc. You’re in and out of your car all day long getting to your destination. And while you’re in your car, you don’t even think about your car! You’re thinking about other things, or where you’re going, or the rest of your day. Your mind is completely freed up while your vehicle effortlessly takes you to your destination.

Now, what if instead of your car effortlessly getting you to your destination, your tire popped or your engine wouldn’t start? What then?

You would be stuck! You wouldn’t be able to do anything that you set out to do that day, and all of your energy would be put toward dealing with your car so that you can get back to your intentions. 

Our health is just like that. Everything we do in life we do because our physical body is healthy, allowing us the freedom to do what we want. Once our health is taken away, we can’t do anything. We need our health for strength to get us to our true destinations.

By viewing our health as a vehicle to greater things in life, these two groups of people that millions of us exist in, can finally thrive and find a happy medium. They can learn to take care of their health–mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually–to achieve their goals and find their happiness.

Creating a Grassroots Movement 

However, this type of mentality is going to take a while to change, because as we all know, it’s going to come from doctors, or our government, or the food industry. It has to come from all of us, working together to better ourselves and supporting each other to do so.

No one is going to come to save us and force us to engage in healthy behavior. On top of that, we have companies making billions of dollars off of us being sick. One of my favorite quotes is by Wendell Berry and it illustrates this point perfectly:

“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.”

SO, we have to work together to make sure that we are taking the steps needed to live a happy and healthy life. Whether that’s by finally paying attention to our health OR by relaxing and not being overly strict with ourselves. 

How do we do this? By creating support, accountability, and motivation for each other.

Because not only do we have all of these additional challenges as I mentioned before, BUT health is often something that people have to deal with all on their own. Have you noticed that when you have a health concern, no one talks to you about it? No one monitors you or asks you how your health is, or if you’re ok, or if you need help. No one calls you up and asks you what your wellness goals are and supports you in that transition. No one checks in with you after making a new year’s resolution to see how you’re doing getting back to the gym or cutting out junk food.

That’s the problem! Health is such a private issue that we don’t talk about it and don’t receive any help with it. Yet we ALL struggle with it one way or another!

This needs to be changed above anything. We all need to find someone to talk to about our health concerns and keep us accountable to engage in healthy behavior. We shouldn’t be working at it completely alone. We’ve been doing that for years, and it hasn’t helped!

By doing this (one relationship at a time), it will create a grassroots movement around the world and slowly change the way we look at health and our entire food industry and health care system. It has the potential to change the world and put a stop to this global health crisis that we’re in. But only if enough of us do it.

How do we create a grassroots movement?

We can create this grassroots movement together, simply by connecting and making our health a priority together. Here’s how:

1. Health and Accountability Coaching

The first thing that I recommend is working with a holistic health and accountability coach like me.

It’s incredible how having one person there as your cheerleader and accountability buddy gives you the push to finally make the changes you’ve been talking about for so long. Because while many people know what they should be doing for their health and wellbeing, they are often overwhelmed by the amount of change they need to create in their lives and need assistance and accountability in implementing small lifestyle changes (one at a time) – that’s where I come in.

As a holistic health coach, I take a full-body approach to health and wellness. I understand that every single aspect of our lives nurtures us, from the food on our plates, to our finances and relationships, to the amount of joy we have in our lives. If even one aspect of our lives is out of whack, we’re off balance and unable to be our best selves. 

I provide that one-on-one connection, support, and encouragement that you need in meeting your personal wellness goals. I also guide you on how to gradually implement new habits so that they are sustainable. 

BOOK A FREE CONSULTATION WITH ME.

2. Accountability buddies 

The second way we can create a grassroots movement and improve health globally by working with an accountability buddy. As I mentioned above, one of the major flaws in the way we look at health is that it’s viewed as a private issue and that people are left to struggle with their health goals and alignments without any help. Eventually, they have no choice but to turn to doctors who only prescribe pills, ignore the root cause of the health concern, and look at the human body as separate parts.

A holistic health coach does help with this tremendously. Honestly, having a coach in any aspect of your life is highly beneficial. However, it’s important to have other people in your life act as your cheerleaders, support system and accountability buddies too. Because we shouldn’t always have to always pay for support, right? We want to create several personal relationships that fulfill us and push us to be better.

The more you can expand your network with health-minded people who want to help each other, the better you will feel and the faster you will see improvements in your life. For example, I have my own health coach, but I also have an accountability buddy for my nutrition school homework who is also an herbalist and DoTerra advocate. We help each other with school and she’s helping me heal my leaky gut. 

But this doesn’t just go for health too, it’s the same for every single aspect of our lives. For example, I have a business coach who has helped me in so many ways. On top of that, I’m also in a business-centered book club and support group with other young, female entrepreneurs. I also have a friend who is my business accountability buddy! We now call each other every morning, Monday-Friday at 9 a.m. to share what our intentions and affirmations are for the day. Additionally, I now attend networking events around my area.

If we really want to improve ourselves and our communities, we can’t do it alone. Period. We must expand our network as much as possible and find people that we trust to provide us that one-on-one support and accountability. Talking with several people about your health is going to be much more helpful.

3. Support groups 

The next way we can change our mindset about health and create this grassroots movement is by setting up or attending support groups as I mentioned in the last point. It doesn’t matter what your health goals or concerns are, there’s a support group for that! If you’re struggling with a health concern, there’s a conference about it, a Facebook page about it, or a support group for it! And if you’re looking to improve your health in any way, there are tons of groups for it. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to lose weight, train for a marathon, quit drinking, practice yoga, etc. – There is a group for that!

A half an hour spent searching through all the Facebook groups in St. Petersburg, Fla., and I found several group dinners that people hold, vegan potlucks, running groups, and yoga meetups. Another half an hour scan on Eventbrite and I found tons of spiritual events, special interest and hobby groups, health and wellness-based workshops and more.

This is where you will find that support that you’re looking for, and by the way, they won’t always be labeled as “support groups.” The support group I’m in is called a “book club,” and honestly we hardly ever bring up the book! We spend the entire time venting, brainstorming, and helping each other.

Get out of your comfort zone and attend groups like this in your area, because that’s where you’re going to connect with people who have similar interests as you and form those strong bonds with each other. And if you can’t find one, make one.

Recently, I found myself being bummed out that I didn’t have people to talk about the Law of Attraction with and it’s such a big part of my life. I wished I could sit down and talk about it in-depth, but where the hell do you find a group that meets up and spends hours talking about manifestation? So, I made one. I made an event that’s being held in January called the Manifestation Meetup, and I plan on holding it once a month in the new year to bring people together who are interested in this topic. 

4. Wellness events 

The last piece of advice that I believe we can use to change our mindset about health and improve this global health crisis is by putting on and attending wellness events. This one is similar to the support groups, but not as intimate. This is on a larger scale.

By creating and attending large wellness events we can raise consciousness and spread the message of holistic health and balanced living on a larger scale. And possibly, spread this message with people wouldn’t typically hear about it.

What better way to create a grassroots movement than by getting thousands of people together to talk about holistic health and wellness, share stories, share products, and exchange information? 

Thanks for Coming to Lost Online!

I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog post about how health is a vehicle, not a destination and how we can create a grassroots movement to change our individual health, and understanding of health and wellness on a larger scale. 

These steps I shared with you will help all of us to vocalize our health concerns, our stumbling blocks, and wellness goals. And that freedom to finally talk to people openly about our health is what’s going to create that accountability and support needed to make lifestyle changes for real

I encourage you to get out of your bubble (starting right now, in this new year and new decade) and understand that you do not have to be alone when it comes to your health and wellness journey. 

DON’T stay stuck in those two groups I talked about! Set up a free health history consultation with me to talk about your goals and concerns, seek out accountability buddies, and attend local groups or wellness events to expand your network and find people who will push to be better.

BOOK A FREE CONSULTATION WITH ME.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Do you fall into group one or group two when it comes to your lifestyle behaviors? Why do you think that is? Have you viewed health as a destination up until this point? Do you agree that health is a vehicle? How else can we create a grassroots movement to change our behavior and misunderstandings about health?

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that “+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

Reflecting on 2019: 13 Journal Prompts and My Answers

Self-Help

If you’ve been a reader of mine since last year, then you’ll probably remember that I published a blog called “Reflecting on 2018: 13 Journal Prompts and My Answers.” It was a pivotal moment for me because that was the very first blog post that I ever created with my friend, photographer, and editor Ray Reyes. 

At the time, I was dealing with some major confusion in my life. I knew that more than anything in the world that I wanted to be a blogger, YouTuber, podcaster, writer, and business owner. BUT, I was in the 9-5 grind. I was unhappy and constantly wondering if I should really take the leap and spend the first year of my life out of college creating a foundation for my wildest dreams.

It was a very scary, stressful, and confusing time. But finally having Ray there to talk and to work with is what gave me the courage that I needed to start becoming the person I wanted to be. That was the very first blog post that we shot together. A year later, we’ve now created and published over 40 blog posts together!

I can’t help but reflect on this time last year. Not only was it the start of a wonderful friendship, but the start of a new year, and the start of my adult life after graduation and moving out of my parents’ house. So much has happened between now and then. So I wanted to do another New Years’ reflection post! I originally started writing these journal prompts just for myself, but I thought it would be a nice Lost Online tradition to publish a blog about my 2019 reflections since then.

So here it is! One year later. This is me Reflecting on 2019: 13 Journal Prompts and My Answers!

Make sure to get out a journal and reflect on your answers for this past year too! It’s such a fun tradition that helps you remember all of the growth that happened, set you up for a positive and productive new year, and think about which areas of your life you want to work on.

2019 was the year of…

Transformation. At the start of the year, I said that 2019 will be the year of creativity. I was in a place where all I wanted to do was make blog posts, take photos, and make online content. I also was really immersing myself in spirituality. In my free time, I was immersed in ayurveda, yoga, meditation, etc. But after the first month or two of 2019, my attention shifted. Sure the blogging and content creation was fun, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to create ebooks, and coach people one-on-one, and hold events. Slowly my attention shifted towards that. I decided that I didn’t just want to be a blogger, but a full-blown business owner. I wanted to lay the foundation for myself for a successful career in the health and wellness industry.

But the reason why I say that it ended up being the year of transformation was because so many things fell apart in 2019 and eventually new opportunities started to come together. Everything from my health, my job, my family life, my relationships, and my confidence was turned upside down. Everything seemed to go wrong and I became very, very depressed. I even decided to start seeing a therapist.

BUT, just after things started to fall apart, better things started to come into fruition. I became very business-focused and stopped pigeon-holing myself as just a blogger; I made connections with friends that light me up more than anything in the world; I started to get more motivated and see my mental state change. Everything was turned upside down, but if it wasn’t for all of that happening, I wouldn’t be HERE right now. I wouldn’t be launching my own business in the new year and FINALLY monetizing my passions.

What went well for me?

  • I got to work with an amazing photographer every week to take the most beautiful and creative photos for Lost Online Blog.
  • I had enough financial freedom to leave my job and pursue my dream.
  • I published over 40 blog posts, some of which deeply resonated with people and helped them.
  • I hit my first 100 blog subscribers.
  • I created a YouTube Channel.
  • I had wonderful one-on-one time with my grandma when I went to visit her. 
  • I started seeing a therapist for the first time in my life who has provided a safe space for me to open up about relationships and past traumas.
  • I found an herbalist and DoTerra Wellness Advocate who has supported me through several health concerns.
  • I finally got the rhinoplasty surgery I’ve been wanting for years and I finally feel comfortable when I look in a mirror.
  • I went on several trips including Zion National Park, Savannah, San Francisco, Cincinnati, and Niagara Falls.
  • I found a business coach which DRASTICALLY helped my mentality and productivity.
  • I finally started creating newsletters.
  • I ended up connecting with women who I love being around and now I’m finally starting to feel like I have support and community.
  • We bought the perfect little house for us.
  • We got a puppy!
  • I got over my fear-based mentality and self-sabotage and am finally launching my business.
  • I learned how to better manage my time.
  • I published several interviews that I’m proud of.
  • I started to build my email list.
  • I joined a book club which I’ve been wanting to do for years.  
  • I started to feel as if I have a community and a tribe of people who are actually interested in the same things as me like wellness, self-help, and self-development.

What did not go well for me?

  • My health and digestive problems got worse.
  • My dad and I lost our jobs on the same day.
  • My family was struggling for months dealing with the job loss and financial worries. 
  • I became super depressed, more than I have been in years.
  • I was in a new city with no friends and felt very alone until November.
  • I was isolating myself and staying home all day which made it harder.
  • I had tension in my relationship caused by a third party person.
  • I struggled with limiting beliefs, self-doubt, and self-sabotage up until very recently.
  • I had another massive hair loss which prompted me to need hair restoration. 
  • I didn’t make as much progress in my business and blog as I hoped because of the depression and isolation.
  • I had a falling out with a good friend.
  • I didn’t know how to manage my time for the better part of the year.
  • I never established a solid morning routine. 
  • I was being forced into buying a house when I wasn’t ready by a third party person.
  • I wasn’t respected in many close relationships which I needed a lot of therapy to get through.
  • I had to work at my kitchen counter and our couch up until October which did not help with productivity. 

How can I change those things that didn’t go well for me?

After looking back at this past year, I learned that a lot of the issues that I was dealing with were mostly emotional and mental because they revolved around being lonely, isolated, and not having friends. This affected my self-confidence like crazy and I became super depressed because I simply had no one to talk to or connect with about the things that I care about.

This caused so much stress and depression symptoms that made me feel like a loser and a failure up until very recently when I was lucky enough to connect with my business coach and a group of young female entrepreneurs that I became very close with. Since meeting them my world has completely changed because I’m no longer isolated and alone. 

I realized that the way I could change these emotional and mental issues I’ve been struggling with is to connect as much as possible by going to events, setting up coffee dates, reaching out to people over Instagram to have a REAL conversation, and joining groups in the community. In the next year, I plan on keeping up that change because it’s such a simple fix that makes me feel like an entirely different person.

What accomplishments did I have?

The biggest accomplishment that I had this past year was that I broke through many of the mental barriers that I had at the start of the year. That happened because I put myself out there and worked on what I care about, but also because I had a sense of community, and help from a business coach and a therapist.

Now, I feel like a changed person. I don’t feel like the “stupid teenager” anymore that I was always told I was when I was growing up. I actually feel confident about myself and my own path in life.

I feel like in the last year all of the ups and downs and all of the work on myself made me grow into the person that I needed to become to make all of my goals and dreams happen.

How did I improve my relationships?

This year I improved my relationships by 1) not forcing the ones that weren’t working out and 2) by connecting with people that were on the same level as me – as in other wellness-centered entrepreneurs. Surrounding myself with the people who were in a similar place as me made me feel understood and supported. And I finally had people to talk to about my interests, not just about drinking like most of the people my age. Also, it helped that I finally stopped forcing the relationships that weren’t working out because we have far different personalities or don’t have anything in common.

Also, now that I’m thinking about it, I realize that getting my own coaches and mentors in different aspects of my life helped me. I finally got professionals and mentors to help with the things that I was struggling with so that I wasn’t trying to force someone close to me to act as my mentor. Previously I would try to have my friends act as my business coach or health coach. I would constantly seek help from people who couldn’t help me with what I was struggling with which strained my relationships. 

What do I wish I had taken more time for?

This year I wish I would have taken more time to do my self-help practices like journaling, doing a daily gratitude practice, meditating, and visualizing. Those things are what refuels me and make me feel better. Unfortunately, living with a significant other, coming into adulthood, and focusing on business pulled my attention away from those things. 

What lessons did I learn in the last year?

The first lesson that comes to mind is the importance of community. Once I finally had a community of my own I realized how beneficial it is for our mental health and wellbeing. I can’t allow myself to be isolated and without that ever again. 

The second lesson that comes to mind is how to manage time. Although I should say how to manage it BETTER because I’m still working on it. With my business coach, I learned how to break down all of the tasks that I want to complete in small weekly steps, so that everything that I want to get done, WILL actually get done. This way I can see progress in my business every single week, instead of my ideas staying stuck in my head and not coming to light. Without learning time management, I would have NEVER seen any progress this year. The blogs, the newsletters, the progress in my ebooks, the IIN homework, and the website changes all got done because I finally learned how to time manage and break things into small steps, not just for my own clients, but for MYSELF!

The third lesson that comes to mind is that I need to stand up for myself and not let people bulldoze me. I’m an adult now and can’t allow random people to control my life. I can’t have people forcing me to buy a house, forcing me to open credit cards, forcing me to be their client, or forcing me to get a dog breed they approve of. In a way, I learned that I’m going to have to be kind of bitchy and assertive with people because some parts of this year have been hell all because I was trying to be polite, nice, and avoid confrontation.

2020 will be the year of …

I’ve decided that 2020 will be the year of fun, financial abundance, and professional growth.

I know that those are three separate things instead of just one word, but I have a reason for it. This past year I was in panic mode about how do I make money, how do I build my brand, and how do I get clients. Although I did have some accomplishments, I stressed myself out WAY too much and it wasn’t a fun experience. I stayed in a lot and isolated myself while I allowed myself to think of the worst possible scenarios. It wasn’t a very FUN year.

So, yes I plan on launching my business, taking on tons of new clients, and finally earning an income doing what I love. However, I plan on having fun at the same time. I plan on making it a point to enjoy myself even while accomplish my life long goals. Because what’s the point of reaching those goals if I have to make myself miserable to do it?

20 Things I want to do in 2020:

  1. Officially launch my business
  2. Take on health coaching clients
  3. Finish at least one ebook 
  4. Finish paperback book
  5. Host events
  6. Create a podcast 
  7. Get better with finances
  8. Journal weekly 
  9. Go to yoga regularly 
  10. Have a Yes Man month
  11. Put out a YouTube favorites video every month
  12. Use Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule
  13. Make IIN binders from all my course material 
  14. Finish 2020 booklist
  15. Get back into shape with the Apple Watch
  16. Wake up earlier
  17. Attend one event/group meetup/or coffee date each week
  18. Create a morning ritual 
  19. Put laundry away each weekend
  20. Heal my gut health

What do I want to manifest in 2020?

  • A total of 30 health coaching clients
  • An email list of over 1,000 people 
  • A finished and printed book
  • A 100th blog post party
  • Financial abundance
  • A healed gut and a full head of hair (my body is STILL recovery seven years later from going on birth control)
  • A trip to Salem, Massachusetts in the fall and a trip to the New Mexcio Hot Air Balloon Festival

This year will be the best year ever because…

I will finally be living the life that I’ve been dreaming I would live for years. I will finally be able to cross those major bucket list items off of like become a business owner, host a podcast, and write a book. AND I will be helping people while I do it! I will be able to support myself while doing what makes me happy!

I will show myself compassion in 2020 by …

Identifying when I’m in a negative thought pattern and being hard on myself and hypercritical of myself. Just identifying when I’m in that state and recognizing that it’s not me and these things aren’t true will greatly help my emotional well being. 

I will also show myself compassion in my weekly journaling session where I will share my wins from the week. This will help me get out of that negative, critical mindset and focus on the progress I’m making instead. 

BONUS: My 2020 Book List

  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. Covey
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
  • Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill
  • Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny, by Anthony Robbins
  • The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage, by Mel Robbins
  • 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing my Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris
  • The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron
  • Girl Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Are Meant To Be by Rachel Hollis
  • You Are the Placebo by Dr. Joe Dispenza
  • You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  • The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferries
  • Unfuck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life
  • The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
  • 13 Things Mentally Strong People Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success by Amy Morrin
  • Happiless Chokelist by Laura Juntunen
  • Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves
  • The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Mason
  • Super Attractor by Gabrielle Bernstein

Thanks for Coming to Lost Online!

Thanks for coming to Lost Online for my new little tradition of reflecting on the past year and setting my intentions for the new year. I hope you enjoyed this post. But above all, I hope that this inspired you to sit down and answer these journal prompts yourself.

I think that it’s extremely important to reflect on the past year and set your intentions for the future. These moments of transition into a new calendar year is the perfect time to start fresh and transform your life for the better.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Did this post inspire you to reflect on 2019? Did you do this same exercise yourself? Or did you come up with your own New Years Reflections? What are they? AND what are your New Year’s Resolutions?!?! I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW! (You guys know how obsessed with self-improvement I am!)

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that “+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online! 

Photo by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

Fear is a Compass: Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear

Self-Help

Fear. I know it all too well. And I’m willing to bet that you do too because every single one of us is terrified of something.

And it SUCKS, right? Don’t you just hate feeling scared? In my opinion, there’s nothing more unpleasant than the feeling of fear. Because when you’re afraid of something, your mind decides to play this little game where it comes up with a million possible outcomes of all of the different ways you’re going to fail, or suck, or disappoint, or even die! You get caught up in the perpetual loop of all the worst possible outcomes, and before you know it, there’s no possible outcome in your mind otherthan the worst-case scenario. 

The thought, “I want to quit my job to start a business,” turns into, “Oh my gosh, I’ll end up running out of money, I’ll be broke, I’ll end up homeless, my friends and family will disown me, I’ll have no one, I’ll be filled with regret for the rest of my life, I’ll get sick and die alone, no one will even remember that I was here, etc.”

Before you know it, a simple thought of quitting your job has turned into this loop that you’ve been stuck in with all of the possible, horrible outcomes that could end up happening to you.

In this blog post, I’m going to change your mind about fear for good. I’m going to convince you why fear is actually your best friend and why you should follow it as if it were a compass! Most importantly, I’m going to teach you how you can let go of fear’s hold on you so you can move forward and do the things that make you happy – without getting trapped in that fearful loop in your head.

Disclaimer: I just want to let you know that I’m not talking about rational fears. I’m not telling you to walk down an alley alone at night because the thought of doing so scares you. I’m not telling you to drive fast and furiously down the highway weaving through cars because it sounds scary. I don’t want anyone being reckless because of my blog posts.

Today, I’m talking about those icky, unpleasant fears that cause you anxiety as you’re going about your everyday life and hold you back from pursuing the things that make you happy. Things like starting a business or traveling the world. 

You know what I’m talking about, right? These fears:

  • “What will people think of me if I ___(insert your dream here)___?” 
  • “What if I fail?”
  • “What if I disappoint my parents?”
  • “What if I can’t get a job because I took a sabbatical and no one will ever want to hire me again?”
  • “What if I lose all my money?”
  • “What if this is a huge mistake?”
  • “What if I die alone?”
  • “What if I regret this decision?”
  • “What if they think I’m a fraud?”
  • “What if I don’t amount to anything?”

I’m talking about the fears that center around failure, rejection, and loneliness because those fears often require us to follow our hearts and go against what society or family tells us we’re “supposed to” do. I’m talking about the fears that we allow to control our day and the direction of our lives.

But first, Fear is Fabulous.

Now, because we ALLOW fear to control us and prevent us from moving forward, fear gets a bad rap. I hate it, you hate it, and it makes us feel terrible. BUT, fear is actually a fabulous thing for two reasons.

Reason Number One: It’s how our brain and biology keeps us safe from real danger.

When we are scared, everything that happens in our body occurs to keep us from getting hurt and keep us alive. The adrenal glands flood the body with adrenaline; the pupils dilate so we can take in more light and see more of our surroundings; our heart rate increases so that more blood gets to our muscles; we breathe faster to take in more oxygen; the blood flow decreases in our frontal lobe as adrenaline in the amygdala allows us to react purely on INSTINCT rather than through planning and logic.

It’s amazing when you break it down and think about how many things happen in the body in such a short moment to keep us from getting hurt when there’s a very real danger present. So really, fear is an incredible thing! We’re so lucky to have it! Fear serves a purpose and isn’t evil or bad in any way. If we didn’t have it, humans wouldn’t have made it this far in history. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post to you and you wouldn’t be reading it. So stop and take a moment to feel thankful that we even have this ability to feel fear.

Now, the reason why we tend to hate fear so much is that fewer PHYSICAL threats are happening to humans today. As we’ve evolved so many of the “threats” we encounter became more personal. That fear is still there, working in the exact same way, but now it comes up in times when we’re really not in danger. Like when we’re about to have a difficult conversation, when we’re able to speak in public, when our boss starts sending us passive-aggressive emails, or when we’re thinking of an approaching deadline.

That alone could be an entirely different blog post topic, but the reason why we’re here today is that fear also shows up to put the brakes on when it comes to pursuing our dreams… which brings me to my second reason.

Reason Number Two: Fear is like a compass pointing us in the direction of what we most want to (and have to) do in this lifetime.

The second reason why fear is fabulous is that it works like a compass, only instead of pointing north, it points you in the direction of what you want the most. Think about it for a moment – What terrifies you the most? I’m not asking what your worst nightmare is, here. I’m asking, what would scare you the most TO DO right now?

Many people think of things like starting their own business, writing a book, moving abroad, taking time off to travel, starting a project or hobby. It’s funny how the thing that we’re absolutely terrified of doing is actually the one thing that we want to do the most.

When I ask myself what I’m most terrified of, it’s pursuing my life-long dreams and everything that I’ve been wanting to do for as long as I could remember. Things like writing a book, starting a podcast, and starting my business. The things that I most want to do that would bring me the most joy, are simultaneously the things that scare the crap out of me and make me want to numb myself with a Netflix binge.

But this is again a GOOD thing. By noticing what scares you the most and causes you to get stuck in the fearful loop in your head, you’re able to clearly see what you want to do most and what you should be doing with your life. Once we learn to embrace that fear and use it as fuel, it allows us to move forward through uncertainty where we can truly grow. 

Everything You Want is on the Other Side of Fear

Moral of the story – fear isn’t a bad thing; allowing ourselves to be controlled by it is. But luckily for us, we have complete control over that. We can acknowledge the fear and move forward regardless of if it makes us uncomfortable. As difficult as that may be, it helps to remember all of the times when you stepped forward into fear throughout your life and did what you wanted to do anyway.

Haven’t you had some of those times? The times when you’ve taken a risk when you lost everything, where you pursued what you wanted to do over what felt comfortable? Think of some of them right now. Maybe it was the time back in high school where you pushed yourself to join the drama club even though it scared you. Maybe it was a time at your work where you asked to lead a project even though you were scared and doubted your capability. And aren’t you so freaking thankful that you did those things? They were pivotal moments in your life when you came into your own and took what you wanted in life. Your life changed for the better because of it.

You can do it again.

I believe that one of the reasons why people have so much stress and anxiety is because we’re not doing the things we want to do the most. We get trapped by our fear and bottle up our dreams year after year because we’re afraid they’ll lead us to rejection and failure if we pursued them. 

From my experience, stepping forward into fear to do what you love and pursue a dream is the best antidepressant in the world. Yes, there’s going to be uncertainty and there’s going to be confusion. But isn’t dealing with a little uncertainty worth it if you can be happy and have mental health?

If you allow fear to be a cage for you, rather than a compass, I promise you that your life is not going to be nearly as beautiful, enriching, and satisfying. And eventually, you’re going to look back filled with regret. 

So let me ask you a question from Mastin Kipp, the man who’s “Fear Fallacy” lecture inspired this blog post today…

“What if the quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with?”

-Mastin Kipp

I think this question sums everything up perfectly because the quality of our lives is directly related to how much uncertainty we have in it. It’s not about that ONE time that we choose to step out of our comfort zone, the real breakthrough happens when we learn to do this every day. When we learn to embrace uncertainty and risk and do the things that we want to anyways. It has to become a habit.

Think about this way: none of us really have CONTROL over anything. We can follow society’s and parents’ rules flawlessly, but what does that really do for us? Even if I did everything that I was “supposed to” do, I could still find out tomorrow that I have cancer and only have three months to live. The idea that we can control everything is make-believe. It doesn’t matter if you count your calories every day, wake up at 7 a.m. on the dot every morning, work out for exactly 40 minutes, spend your life slowly working up the corporate ladder, and always remember to send thank you notes after your birthday. Those things might make us FEEL in control, but in reality, we’re not.

So let’s embrace uncertainty anyways, and let go of this idea that if we stay inside our comfort zone life will be PERFECT. We’ll all be so much happier if we chose to embrace the uncertainty and step forward into fear because everything that we want is on the other side of it – a better relationship, a more fulfilling career, the vacation of our dreams, friends that are in alignment with us, and above all true HAPPINESS.

As I said on my “20 Facts About Me,” I’m a firm believer that the more you throw yourself outside of your comfort zone, the happier you will be.

Let go of fear’s hold on you

Now, you and I both know that me saying, “follow fear like a compass” or “throw yourself outside of your comfort zone,” is easier said than done. So, I’m going to share six tips with you that will help you to break the hold fear has over you.

Before we begin, you just have to get clear on what you’re most afraid of. Think about that thing that you really want to do, but you feel like if you do it people will be disappointed, or you’ll be unlovable, or you’ll be lost and confused. I know you have that one thing. Most of us have about five things. I’m sure you’ll have no difficulty in recalling what it is, but just in case this is something that you often fantasize about at work and stay up at night thinking about. 

Now, get out a notebook and write them down. Write down a bullet-pointed list of those 1-5 different things you’re scared to do. Then use the next six exercises to help you step forward into fear.

1. Ask yourself, what’s the worst possible thing that could happen?

One exercise that often helps is to imagine the absolute worst-case scenario and let it play out. But this time, instead of letting it play out in your head, say it OUT LOUD. I love this trick because when you let a terrible fantasy play out to completion and you actually SPEAK it out loud you realize just how far- fetched it is and just how unrealistic that worst-case scenario actually is.

It’s an exercise that my therapist had me do, and once I did it, I realized how ridiculous it was that me starting a blog and health coaching business would play out in my head until I would end up having to take a horrible job that I hated OR end up homeless. I literally felt as if me pursuing this dream was going to cause me to become homeless, and I believed it. UNTIL I shared all of this out loud. It suddenly occurred to me, the mind is SO DRAMATIC.

Because our mind tends to build things up. Every day, every week, and every year, we think about this thing until our minds turn it into a catastrophe. Eventually, we can’t even see just how distorted our perspective really is. We don’t even notice just how large we let this scenario become in our minds. Speaking the words brings it back into perspective. 

2. Ask yourself, is that really going to happen? 

Now ask yourself, “Ok, is that really going to happen?” No. Most of the things we spend our time worrying about NEVER happens.

I can confidently say that EVERY and ALL of the worst-case scenarios I’ve played out in my mind has never happened to me. Not once. 

Which reminds me, I was in a book club meeting one day at the yoga studio when one of the women told me that she calls worrying “borrowing trouble.” How true is that? Every day we let our minds go absolutely crazy with horrible things that could happen and all we’re doing is just borrowing trouble or borrowing anxiety from a future that’s not even going to play out.

Again, make sure to speak these words aloud to ground yourself in reality and get yourself out of that fearful loop in your mind. Tell yourself “No, ___(fill in the blank with worst-case scenario)___ is not actually going to happen.

“No, I’m not actually going to end up homeless.”

“No, the plane is not actually going to go down.”

“No, all of my friends and family won’t disown me.”

“No, I’m not going to lose all my money.”

3. Ask yourself, what will most likely happen if it doesn’t work out?

Now that you’ve made it clear that the worst-case scenario isn’t actually going to happen to you, ask yourself this question: “If things don’t go according to plan or don’t work out, what will most likely happen?”

When I asked myself this question, I realized that the answer was really simple. I was terrified that in starting a business, I would end up homeless, but what would most likely happen is that I would need extra money so I would get a part-time job. That’s not that bad! It’s simple. Life wouldn’t go according to plan, so I would simply come up with an easy fix to help me get through that early stage of having to find clients!

When you ask yourself this question, you’ll find that the real answer isn’t this dramatic, catastrophic event that’s going to turn your life upside down. It’s manageable. It’s not ideal, but it’s going to be ok.

4. When you find yourself reverting to the worst-case scenario, ask yourself this…

I know it’s really hard to break the habit of thinking about the worst-case scenario, so when you find yourself slipping, go through the first three exercises again OR ask yourself this hypothetical question:

Let’s just pretend that the terrible catastrophe actually DOES happen. What would be worse, the bad thing happening or dying with regret?

What would be worse for you? What would you rather happen? Personally, I would rather have something bad happen to me than not even try to live my life how I want to live it. When I first did this exercise with my therapist, I said that the worst-case scenario for me would be getting stuck in a job I’m miserable with because I failed as a business owner. But I would still take that outcome over having not even tried. 

5. Reflect on all of the times when you stepped forward into fear

For this exercise, I want you to do some more self-reflection. Get out that journal again or open up a document on your computer. Now, jot down all of the moments in your life when you were scared to do something, but you did it anyway because you knew it would help you grow and make you happy. 

Examples could be moving away to college, going on a retreat, traveling abroad, taking on a project you felt under-qualified for, asking the person you’re currently dating to go on a date, reaching out to your role model, starting a new hobby like skydiving, beekeeping, dancing, or pottery, getting out of a bad relationship, etc. 

When you’re done with the list, write a few sentences or bullet points about WHY you’re happy that you did each one of those things. Share about all of the personal growth that you made because you took the leap. Reflecting on similar instances will help you to put this new fear of yours into perspective.

Some of my own examples include taking a month-long trip through Europe with a group of strangers, asking for the account executive position on the Flagler College Smoke and Tobacco-Free campaign, and quitting my job to become a blogger and health coach. These things all scared the hell out of me at the time but have been some of the moments of my life that brought me the most personal growth and happiness.

Don’t rush this exercise. Reflect on it for as long as you need to take in just how beneficial those moments were for you. Remember, the quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with.

6. Try Mel Robbins Five Second Rule

So now you’ve reflected on what you’re most afraid to do and learned how and why to not let fear put you in a cage, but rather act as a COMPASS. But still, it’s hard to remember these things in your daily life, right? You can read every popular self-help book and journal every night but still find yourself holding back when you wake up in the morning and go about your day. What do you do then?

The answer is Mel Robbins, and her five-second rule. First of all, if you haven’t heard of Mel Robbins, you have to look her up. She’s an international best-selling author, motivational speaker with one of the top Ted Talks of all time, co-founder and CEO of 143 Studios, and now has her own talk show. She sets an incredible example for everyone on how you can step into fear, turn your life around, and become a success. And she did it all with a simple life hack, which she calls “The Five-Second Rule.”

The Five Second Rule works like this – “if you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds or your brain will kill it.” The moment you feel an instinct or a desire to act on a goal you have to commit and react immediately.

Whenever you feel yourself hesitating before doing something, whether it be applying for a job, booking your trip, going to the gym, waking up in the morning, count backward from five and them react immediately. Say to yourself, “5-4-3-2-1” and then GO.

Move toward action.

Why? Because as Mel Robbins describes it on her website, there is a window of time that exists between the moment you have an instinct to change and your mind killing it. That window is only about five seconds. 

If you don’t take action on your instinct to change within those five seconds you will stay stagnant, you won’t change, and your life will not transform in the way that you want it to. Because of that little fearful loop we talked about in the beginning. If you allow yourself time to hesitate, your brain will start to play that game where it comes up with all the terrible things that are going to happen to you and all of the worst-case scenarios. Because the brain wants to PROTECT you, and if you want something new that is foreign to your brain, it perceives it as a risk and immediately tries to stop you.

Like I said before, this instinct is amazing, it has kept us alive for thousands of years and we’re lucky to have it. However, we don’t need that fear holding us back when we’re applying for jobs, going on a trip, or starting a business – it’s not life or death here. 

But if you do that one simple trick by reacting immediately and not allowing that nightmare to begin playing out in your mind, you can prevent your mind from working against you and your personal goals. You can start the momentum before the mind starts to craft excuses.

This also helps because you’re NEVER going to feel like it. You’re never going to suddenly feel like doing all these things that are good for you or the things that terrify you. You have to make yourself do it, and make yourself do it QUICKLY. Otherwise, you won’t move forward. You’ll remain stuck in the cage of fear instead of allowing it to point you towards the next chapter of your life.

Takeaways

Before I head out and wrap up this post today, I wanted to leave you with a few takeaways to keep in mind.

1. Fear is normal, it’s OK to be afraid. It’s MORE than ok to be afraid. Don’t shame yourself for being scared of something. Being scared is the brain’s way of keeping you safe, and it’s a survival instinct that exists inside of ALL of us. It’s not unique to you and you’re not weak for having it.

2. However… don’t let fear CONTROL your life. Don’t let fear be the reason why you never __(fill in the blank)__. Because everything you want is one the other side of fear: better health, better relationships, a fulfilling career, happiness, life experience, memories you will cherish, personal growth, and more. 

3. Fear is a compass showing you where to go. The thing you are most terrified of is the thing that you want more than anything in the world. UNLESS you’re in mortal danger. You still need common sense! I’m not saying that if you’re walking around alone at night and the thought of walking down a dark, secluded alley scares you that you should do it. But the thing you’re most scared to do is the exact path that you need to take in your life.

4. The quality of your life is directly related to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with. The more you remain in your comfort zone, the less happy you will be. The more you throw yourself outside of your comfort zone, the more you are slowly becoming the version of yourself you always dreamed you could be.

5. Do the written and verbal exercises I’ve outlined above to get rid of the hold that fear has over you. By realizing that your worst-case scenario is NOT going to happen you’ll be able to relinquish the hold it has over you. You’ll realize it was all in your mind. Do it every day if you have to. You must regularly remind yourself of how dramatic your mind can be while you’re trying to pursue your dreams.

6. Use the five-second rule. Use it to get up in the morning, to go to the gym, to start your website, to write a blog, to make a call, to put together a media kit, to write a book, to cook dinner. Use it all the time, but especially when it comes to the things you’re scared of. It’s a simple trick that will help you to bypass that fearful loop in your head altogether.

7. When all is said and done, when you learn to step forward into fear, you’ll wonder why you waited so long. You’ll find yourself thinking, “Huh, that wasn’t that bad,” or “that wasn’t that scary.” It will give you the confidence to pursue more of what you want in the future and become the highest version of yourself. 

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

As always, thanks for coming to Lost Online. I hope that this post helped you to break the hold that fear has on you and FINALLY decide to live your life on your own terms. Without being held back by a barrage of negative thoughts, fears, and worst-case scenarios.

Remember to let me know your thoughts on the way out! What takeaways did you get from this post? Did you agree that fear is a compass? Is fear a compass for you, or is it currently a cage? Did you try these exercises I suggested? Which ones helped you get rid of the hold fear has on you and step FORWARD into fear? Are there any other suggestions that you would give to others to stop fear from controlling their lives? Let me know in the comments!

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that “+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online! 

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

15 Reasons To Travel While You’re Young + Thoughts on Traveling & Social Media

Travel

I got the travel bug from my grandmother, who has been to so many countries that she probably wouldn’t be able to count them if she tried. My grandma goes on at least one trip abroad a year and usually comes back with a very odd and very humorous souvenir for us. Every time I talked to my grandma when I was growing up, I was so amazed at how she would casually bring up some incredible trip she took.

I always wanted to be like her. She’s so well-traveled, cultured, and so interesting – and I’m not the only one who thinks that. She’s someone that everyone loves and is intrigued by the second they meet her. I remember after my friend Pat met her for the first time, he turned to me and said one of my favorite quotes of all time, “Heather, your grandma is dope!” She is a dope grandma indeed. 

She’s a lady who does whatever the hell she wants regardless of what other people think. One of my favorite things she’s ever said to me was, “I don’t think I want a boyfriend, that might cramp my style.” If there’s one person I want to be like when I grow up and one person I want to make proud of, it’s her. And one way I plan on doing that is by exploring as much of this miraculous planet as I can, just like her.

With no surprise, my grandma was incredibly supportive of my love for travel. Not only does she pass on her travel stories and experiences to me, but she’s funded several of my trips. She generously took me to Paris for two weeks for my Sweet Sixteen, paid for my month-long graduation trip through Europe, and took a spontaneous and impulsive trip with me to Niagara Falls this summer. 

Today, my grandma’s writing is tattooed on the side of my body. It reads, “A life full of travel and wonders of our planet.” It will remind me for the rest of my life to get out of my bubble and explore the world as much as I can.

Just like my grandma, I want to encourage others to explore too. To put their money towards a plane ticket instead of products. So here are the top reasons why I believe it’s important to travel while you’re young in hopes that I will inspire at least one person to buy a ticket!

1. Travel expands your mind

I know this is the very first thing that people usually say about travel, but you don’t realize how true it is until you’re sitting in some random spot on the other side of the planet having your mind blown. I remember watching an opera in Rome and seeing flamenco dancing in Spain. Those are two experiences that I will never forget because I was utterly amazed seeing this in person. All I could think of was, “WHAT?! This is a thing?! People actually do this?!” It’s incredible seeing someone who’s spent a lifetime perfecting some dance that you would have never even heard of before.

When you travel, especially for an extended period of time or with a group of strangers, you regularly have those moments where you’re shocked by what you’re seeing or how other people interact in different cultures. You experience and learn things that you wouldn’t have otherwise known until you went there yourself.

Sometimes it expands your mind to things that are unpleasant. On my graduation trip, I learned so much about the Holocaust and World War II after visiting Germany and seeing a concentration camp that I would have never have learned unless I had visited Germany and gone on local tours. It’s best to travel while you’re young for this reason because your brain is still developing so you’re still very impressionable. Expanding your worldview during this time is crucial because you’ll be more open-minded than you would be if you started traveling after retirement. It allows you to expand your world-view and shape new opinions before settling into your ways.

2. It gets you out of your comfort zone

When you go on a trip abroad, you encounter language barriers, you get lost, and you have awkward moments when you encounter customs that you aren’t familiar with. It makes you feel out of place and puts you far out of your comfort zone, which is a great thing!

Interestingly enough, something about traveling to a foreign country also makes you more willing to take risks and try things that you wouldn’t if you were at home. I remember what it was like going zip lining in Costa Rica with Matt or going on an ATV tour underneath a volcano. The Heather that lives in Florida and spends most of her time going to the same coffee shop to write every day would NEVER do those things. But whenever I go on a trip, I take advantage of experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t try or wouldn’t want to spend the money on. Travel makes you do things that you normally would hold yourself back from, but THOSE moments are the ones that you remember for the rest of your life and tell at parties (or on your Tinder dates, lol). 

3. You meet life-long friends 

Something about dropping everything and traveling to a foreign country with strangers makes you connect with them on a much deeper level. When you travel to a new country with someone, rely on each other to get around, experience new things together, and spend entire days making memories and opening up about your lives back home, you form a very powerful bond. 

It’s a connection that you wouldn’t have had with that person if you had just met at a coffee shop or a bar back home. You create life-long memories with that person, making you much closer together and creating a relationship that you’ll look back on for the rest of your life. For that reason, I know that whenever I reach out to the girls I went on my trip with that they will always be happy to hear from me and we’ll catch up as if no time had passed.

Case in point, I just got back from visiting Cincinnati last night and while I was there I got to see my Europe travel buddy, Emily. We were attached at the hip the entire time we were abroad and now I consider her to be one of the best friends I’ve ever had. She had just landed from New York City yesterday morning and raced to come visit me for the remaining hours I was still in Cincinnati. When we reunited we ran up to each other on the sidewalk, threw our arms around each other and hugged in the most dramatic, rom-com fashion.

4. Travel helps you discover what you really want

When I left for my month-long trip abroad, I was very unsure of what I wanted, but the week I came back, I could look at my life with such clarity. I’m not exactly sure why this happens. Maybe it’s because travel allows you to step away from your life’s problems and have some space so that you can look at things with fresh eyes when you come back. Or maybe it’s because travel changes you, so you come back a slightly different person than the one who left.

Whichever it is, all I know is that my questions and dilemmas I’d been struggling with for months had been resolved when I got back: Where should I live? What career should I pursue? What do I really want in life? What projects do I want to pursue?

I was also very surprised by the number of other people on my tour who were having some kind of life crisis or question that they were seeking the answer to while we were away. I wasn’t the only one who had been hoping to solve some problem or answer an important question. For example, I remember that a handful of people were very unsure about whether or not they wanted to stay with their significant other. They were trying to figure out if they saw themselves staying with this person long term after they returned home or if it was best to go their separate ways. The trip helped them answer their questions. I remember one of my friends even bought a journal so she could do stream of consciousness journaling about her relationship and that helped her gain so much clarity. If you’d like to learn more about stream of consciousness journaling, checkout my blog post, “Stream of Consciousness Journaling: The Benefits & How to Practice It.”

5. Traveling while you’re young allows you freedom before you get tied down 

Yeah you could travel when you’re older, but you also have to consider that you’ll have a full-time job, extra bills, a mortgage payment, a dog that needs to be cared for, a significant other that doesn’t feel like traveling to the same country as you, kids, etc. I could go on and on with other reasons, but the point is that it won’t be as easy to drop everything and backpack your way through South America when you’re 35 or 40. It’s much easier to travel while you’re young because you’re not tied down to anything, and because it will be so much easier to hop back into your normal life without much of a disruption. For example, coming back from an extended holiday when you’re in your teens or early 20’s will have little to no impact on your career because it’s not already established. It’s expected that you’re still traveling, learning about what you want, and changing during this time.

You also have to consider that if you travel while you’re young, you only have to pay for yourself, not an entire family. It’ll cost far less money and you’ll be FAR more likely to actually do it. Simply put, you’ll never feel as free as you do RIGHT NOW.

6. You won’t regret it

You know that moment when you decide it’s freaking time to clean out your closet? Your clothes are overflowing, you can’t find anything, and you realize it’s that time of year to make some donations? You know how whenever this happens you inevitably find clothes in your closet that still have the tags on them and think, “Uggghhhh, why did I buy this!? That was such a waste of money!” Yeah, that doesn’t happen with travel.

I’ve never heard of anyone having buyer’s remorse over taking a trip. You won’t look back at your photos and memories of your summer abroad and think, “Ugggghhh, why did I do that?” “Why did I move to Paris for three months and work at that bakery? How stupid of me.” That just doesn’t happen. Traveling is one of the very few things in life that people spend their money on that they don’t regret. Sure, you might end up going over budget on your trip and be a little bit annoyed at yourself for spending so much. However, the feeling of regret will never enter your mind.

7. Travel makes you humble

The other reason why you should travel, especially while you’re young, is because it makes you humble. You’ll see people all around the world who are living with less than you and realize what little you need to take care of yourself and to be happy. I learned this lesson on my trip to Costa Rica. After coming back I wrote a blog post about this called “A Lesson in Pura Vida.”

I wrote about how I had noticed that the people in Costa Rica lived in what I can only describe as shacks. Their houses were made of tin and they had very few possessions and modern-day luxuries and conveniences. But they were the happiest and nicest people I have ever met in my life. Seriously! It was like they were all enlightened. They walked around with a huge smile on their face and saying hello to everyone. I could tell that they were happy and relaxed – not chronically stressed out. At the time, I went to a private college, drove an expensive car, lived in a gated community, and nannied for families who made over six figures. Yet none of the people that I was surrounded with were happy to be alive. They were stressed out, bitter, and materialistic. They were driven more by possessions and promotions than by anything else (I’m not claiming to be above this). However, these people in Costa Rica had next to nothing, and they were HAPPY. Very, very happy. That trip was humbling and made me reflect more on what’s important in life. 

The second reason why travel makes you humble is that you realize that you’re not the center of the universe. You’re dropped off at the airport in what sometimes feels like an alternate universe. You don’t understand the language or the way people are interacting with each other. Even though you know intellectually that there’s a wide world out there, you typically don’t think much about the world other than your own small existence. Then in the middle of all of this, you’re attending local tours and learning from someone about their political problems or issues that they face in the community. In these moments, it will hit you just how large the world is and how closed off you had been because these issues weren’t on your radar. For example, I didn’t know anything about the poverty rate in Costa Rica as I was going about my daily life in St. Augustine, Fla. It never occurred to me.

Lastly, if you’re traveling while you’re young you’ll most likely be staying in cheap accommodations, eating less expensive food, and finding experiences within your budget. You’re not rolling into your trip to the south of France in first-class seats, sipping champagne, eating caviar, and staying at 5-star hotels. You haven’t hit that age in life where you think, “Alright, I’m going on a trip. It must be luxurious.” No. You stay in hostels, you share bathrooms, you eat at places that are cheaper to accommodate everyone in your group, and you share cramped spaces on trains, planes, and automobiles. Having to be so accommodating with other people and share space is a humbling experience. 

I think that this is an important lesson to learn and it should be learned as SOON as possible. It’s better to become humble when you’re 20 rather than when you’re 45. It makes you a better person.

8. You’re in great shape

Some people decide that having a career and a family are the first priority to them and that travel is something that can wait until retirement, but I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. Because while you do want to make retirement fun and enjoyable, you also have to consider that you won’t be in as good of shape as you’re in when you’re a teenager or in your 20’s.

Your body can handle walking for miles to sightsee all day, hiking up mountains, getting less sleep, carrying a backpack all day, lugging your suitcase around, etc. The physicality of traveling alone just makes more sense to do while you’re young. And you never know what sort of health problems or limitations you might have in old age. 

9. Traveling empowers you

Before I left for my month-long trip to Europe, I was nervous as all hell. It also didn’t help that every person I talked to said something along the lines of, “Oh my God! Four weeks is SO long! I would never be able to do that. You’re crazy. You’re gonna want to come home by week two!”

I remember the night before I left I sat across from my boyfriend fighting off a panic attack for serval hours and drinking wine trying to calm myself down. The next day I was bawling while I was saying goodbye to Matt outside the airport! I. was. a. mess.

But when I landed in Florida after that month, I came back and thought “Oh my gosh! I freaking did it! That was awesome!” It’s a very powerful thing to see yourself doing something that you once considered to be scary. It helps you realize how much you’re capable of and gives you the confidence to take on new challenges or aspirations. Before I left for my trip, I thought a month would feel like forever and I might want to come home, but when I came home I realized that a month was nothing. I could easily take a trip for two, three, four, or even six months at a time. I realized that the fear that I had was all in my head. I set this limitation for myself that I now realize was completely ridiculous. 

10. You can handle cheap accommodations

I’ve noticed that as you get older, the accommodations that you feel you deserve continue to increase in cost. I know that I was going on a trip to a foreign country right now, I would be perfectly ok in cheaper hotels that my older family members wouldn’t even consider staying in. I don’t feel as if I’m somehow deserving of first-class tickets, 5-star hotels, and a luxurious mattress to sleep on. Those things would be fabulous and I would be appreciative of it, but I feel perfectly ok with slumming it a bit to check countries off of my bucket list.

However, it’s not just that as you get older you feel entitled to better accommodations, your body also needs them. I’m 24 now, and I know that my body can handle sleeping on crappy mattresses and taking a 10-hour plane ride in super small airplane seats. But if I was 70 years old right now, that wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t be able to bounce back as well as I can right now. That’s something you also have to keep in mind.

11. You’ll come back with TONS of stories 

The best part of spending your money on traveling is that you come back with tons of stories and memories that stay with you forever. Half the time they’re stories of something wonderful and exciting that you experienced – like when I learned how to make homemade pasta while I tasted wines in Rome (it was Amazing with a capital A). Or sometimes they’re stories of something bad or scary that happened on your trip – like when two of my friends Martha and Emily had a near-death experience during the riots in Paris after the World Cup Final. But even the “bad” memories end up turning into hilarious stories that you get to share and laugh about when you get back home.

It’s been over a year since I went on my tour and I still find myself saying, “That reminds me! When I was on my trip…” I didn’t even realize how many interesting things happened until I came back and would have conversations with people and it would remind me of some experience that I had in Amsterdam, France, or London. I still love telling the story of what it was like experiencing the World Cup Final while I was in Paris or celebrating my sixteenth birthday in Paris which coincidentally is the same day as the French Independence Day. 

12. You’ll have help

One of the added benefits of traveling while you’re young is that you’ll most likely be able to convince mom and dad or grandma and grandma to help you fund your trip. That’s one of the best parts of traveling while your young because you’re family members are eager to help you out financially so that you can make some memories and have a good time. I’m now past the point where my family is jumping up and down to help me pay for a trip, so take advantage of the help while you can!

On top of that there are tons of tours that are cheaper and cater to teens and young adults with a smaller budget but still want to see as many sights as they possibly can. I personally am in love with the tour company EF Tours. I’ve been on two of their trips so far and have loved every minute of it. They get you to all of the attractions, book your flights and hotels for you, hire a tour guide to take you from place to place, and plan fun excursions. They’re also relatively cheap because they use the same hotels, hostels, tour companies, and local business so frequently that they are able to get everything cheaper than it would be if you went on your own. 

You also have the benefits of student discounts, so remember to bring your ID with you and ask if you can use it wherever you go! These perks make traveling while you’re young much easier because the total cost of the trip will be significantly less than you would pay in the future if you decide to take the same trip. 

13. It makes you more independent 

When you’re younger, if you’re anything like me, you may a bit timid and shy. This means that having to get around for the day in a foreign country by yourself can be a bit nerve-wracking, but those moments of travel are good for you, even if they’re a bit unsettling.

I remember there was one day when I was in Paris and everyone that I was friends with on my tour decided that they wanted to spend the day at Chipotle and relaxing in the hostel. I thought this was absolutely crazy. “We’re in PARIS guys! You can have a burrito bowl when you get home!” So I had no choice but to go off by myself if I wanted to do anything interesting. At first I was completely terrified and scared of being alone. What if I got lost and couldn’t find my way back?! But I ended up walking all around Paris and seeing the entire city. I saw the major attractions and went to places like the oldest bookstore in the city to buy a book and tried the best hot chocolate in Paris. I got pictures EVERYWHERE, ate as many macaroons as I could get my hands on, and ended the night watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle. It ended up working out perfectly because I was able to do so much more that day than I would have done if I was with a group of 5 or 6 girls. And I realized that I’m much more independent and capable than I thought. I was so proud of myself by the end of the day and so fulfilled by getting around a foreign city all by myself that it became one of the most memorable days of the tour. 

14. Travel makes you more accepting of others

Another reason why I believe that it’s vitally important to travel while you’re young is because it makes you much more accepting of other people.

I feel that today, we need this lesson more than ever. There’s been so much hatred in America fueled by the media in recent years. Mostly because media channels learned that they can make money by pinning people against each other and because this last presidential election was “harrible.” Hugely, “biggly,” and catastrophicly “harrible.”

Because of this we’ve become accustomed to getting offended if someone has a different opinion or experience than us and rejecting them. Our country has been in a place where all people do is fight and hate people who are different. It’s especially toxic for all of the younger generations who are impressionable and mimic the behavior they see while growing up. And I’m not just talking about children. I’m talking about the teens and college students (like myself) that watched all the adult figures in their lives turn against each other for a solid year because of this last poisonous election.

My concern is that if THIS is how people feel about other American citizens than what is our perspective of the rest of the world’s population? If we can’t even learn to live in harmony with our neighbors, how do plan on having successful international relations? Today more than ever, I feel it’s important for people to get outside of their own inner circle and learn about the rest of the world. To learn about different cultures and different views, but most importantly learn that we can all be accepting and COEXIST.

I can hear my grandma in my head right now saying her famous line, “Haven’t people ever heard of the word HUMAN?! We’re all HUMAN!”

15. “Life is short and the world is wide.” – Simon Raven

Last but not least on my list of why it’s important to travel while you’re young is that there’s a HUGE world out there and life is short. Not to end on a morbid note, but a long life is not guaranteed to any of us. You have no idea what could happen in the future. I would love it if the universe would grant each and every one of us a long, healthy, and happy life, but it doesn’t work that way. People get sick and accidents happen. It’s best to fill your life with the experiences that you dream of while you can instead of putting things off for a perpetual “someday.” “Someday I’ll rent an RV and travel around the country.” “Someday I’ll see the seven wonders of the world.” “Someday I’ll go to Thailand.”

Someday is not set in stone. Someday is not promised. 

Traveling & Social Media 

Before I wrap up this post, I didn’t feel as if I could close up this week’s blog post without mentioning social media (particularly Instagram) and traveling. It felt irresponsible to share this post without addressing the problem of people traveling solely for getting attention and become famous online.

One of my favorite travel bloggers and Instagram influencers is Aggie, better known as “Travel In Her Shoes.” She’s someone who became very famous for her love of travel. She would travel for months and months at a time before she even was on Instagram and would take photos just for herself. She lived a very traditional life as most of us do for a while. She went to college, graduated, got a corporate job and was MISERABLE. So Aggie and her boyfriend at the time decided that they wanted to live a life of adventure and passion. They bought an old sailboat online, sold all of their possessions, fixed up the boat, and set sail from Mexico to Australia. Their story got picked up and since that day she’s made a career of her traveling and living the life that many of us can only dream of.

But Aggie recently opened up in a social media post this week about a topic that I believe needs to be talked about. Her Instagram post was inspired by a recent Ted Talk given by Joseph Gordon-Levitt on “paying attention” vs. “getting attention.” The talk is called “How Craving Attention Makes You Less Creative.” The Ted Talk is amazing and I HIGHLY recommend watching it as soon as you can. He talks about how (as a result of social media) most people today now view their creativity as a means to GET attention rather than paying attention, enjoying yourself, and collaborating with other creatives.

Aggie shared that traveling used to be very much about paying attention. It was a way to get out of your small little bubble, disconnect with family and friends, find yourself, and fall in love with another country. She admits that now, due to social media and influencers like herself, traveling has become a way to GET attention. “[People] sign up for a sort of their own Truman Show,” as she puts it. They get addicted to waking up each day and getting attention from their followers as they post gorgeous travel photos and share their stories. Because of that, they’re afraid to go back to their normal lives. They’re afraid that if they do, they will be forgotten and won’t receive praise from their online following. And that’s exactly what happened to her. The addiction to keep showing up, traveling, and getting attention is what caused her a falling out with the man she was in love with, getting extremely sick this year, losing her hair, and falling into a depression. Since then, she’s taken a step back and slowed down on traveling and focused on herself more.

I want to talk about this issue because the sad truth is that many people today travel just as a way to get likes and followers. People sign up for trips, buy expensive clothes for their photos, and spend their entire vacation staring at their phone. I can’t say that I’m above this myself. I will admit, my motto was “do it for the gram” for several years there, and my travels were a part of that too. But that’s NOT what travel is about. Travel should be about the reasons I listed above, not to become the next big travel blogger or YouTuber! It defeats the entire purpose of travel. So if you are going to book your next flight, remember that exploring the world is about the reasons I listed above, not about the social media posts that will come as a result. Travel is about PAYING attention, not GETTING attention.

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

As always, thank you for coming to Lost Online! I hope that this post was entertaining and I hope that it inspired someone out there to go on an adventure. If it does, PLEASE reach out to me!

A special shout out to one of my Gram (who is somewhere in Morocco right now living her best life) for being my role model, for passing on her travel bug to me, and helping me to come up with ONE more reason for traveling while you’re young (just because I liked the sound of “15 Reasons” more than “14 Reasons).” Not only is she the source of inspiration for this week’s blog post, but she’s also my #1 supporter and reader. Hi Gram (: I love you very much.

Lastly, please send your thoughts and prayers to my incredible friend and photographer Ray Reyes and his family who lost his father, Edd Reyes, very suddenly last week. You can read Ray’s most amazing, tear jerking words about his father’s life in his Facebook post here. And thank you for your patience as there’s been a delay in getting blog posts published at this time. But as we all know, family is more important.

“Time is the most precious commodity we can share with our loved ones. With time, you can do all you need to do and say all you need to say. But you can’t wait forever, because time has already passed, the time is absolutely now and we have no idea how much time we have in our futures.” – Ray Reyes

Remember to comment your thoughts below. I love hearing from you! Can you think of any other reasons why Lost Online readers should prioritize traveling while they’re young? What are they? Did you have a favorite reason on this list? What was it? Do you have a travel bug too? Where’s your next adventure going to take you? Did this post inspire you to take a trip anytime soon? Do you have a family member that has been influential in your travels too?

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto and Allen Fajardo @alewafeni.

This Day Could Have Gone Much Differently: A School Shooting During My Therapy Session

Lifestyle

On Wednesday, Aug. 21, I had a really busy day. I was working on things from home and was jam-packed with tons of projects for my website and YouTube Channel. So much that I had hardly eaten all day and I still wanted to go to the gym that evening. My boyfriend Matt suggested, “Why don’t you go out and get a smoothie? You can walk down to RawkStar, get a smoothie, and walk back. It’ll be nice.” So I decided that was a great idea. I put on my shoes, grabbed my bag and was about to walk out the door when I realized my phone was about to die. I stopped for a second and thought about leaving it behind while I walked down the street to grab a smoothie. I would just be down the road and would only be without it for about 20 minutes. But I didn’t want to do that. I put my phone on the charger and sat back down on the couch with my computer ready to work some more.

Now, you might be thinking it’s because I’m a sad millennial that can’t stand the thought of being separated from my phone for more than 5 minutes. But that’s not why I didn’t leave. I didn’t leave without my phone because I was worried that if a shooting would happen, I would be without my phone and unable to call for help.

Later that evening I told Matt about that and laughed it off, thinking to myself I’m just paranoid. I waited until my phone was charged and then went out for my smoothie before going to the gym. Then, later that night as I was trying to fall asleep, I thought about the very real possibility that a shooting could happen. Last year there were more shootings than days in the year. I thought about how scary it is that we live in a country where we have to fear this in our everyday lives and I remembered how in my last two years of college, I was terrified to be in the library. Whenever I was in the library to work (which was almost every day) I would plan where I would run and hide if a shooter walked in. Those were some of the last thoughts I had before falling asleep.

The Next Day

The next day I woke up and went about my day as usual, not thinking about any of those grim thoughts I had the day before. I got up, had my coffee, worked from home, edited some videos, and then started getting ready for my therapy appointment. It was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and it was getting closer to that time. I got dressed and got myself ready and stood in the kitchen contemplating leaving early to go to therapy. I thought how nice and sunny and beautiful it was outside and thought about how I could pass the half hour before my appointment sitting outside on a bench or in my car in the parking lot listening to my podcast.

But I decided against it. I decided to just wait until it got closer to the appointment to leave. When I finally did make it to the building for my therapy appointment, I was surprised and extremely confused by what I saw. Cop cars had circled a building, which is actually a church, preschool, and counseling center in one. Police started to fill the parking lot and the pastor was outside talking to the police and visibly nervous. 

I got out of the car, confused, and wondering if I should just turn around and go home, but I didn’t. I turned off my car, got out and walked up to the police and the pastor to ask what happened. Right where we were standing, a man fired a shot into the windows of the preschool just minutes before I had arrived. Shock is the only way I could think to describe what I felt right at that moment. 

They assured me that the children were safe and had been evacuated into the church. I asked if they caught the shooter yet, to which they responded, “No.” I froze for a moment and looked around in circles, knowing that just minutes before I arrived, a shooter had been standing right where I was. What if he was still here now?

The pastor and the police kept talking and finally I had to interrupt because I quickly realized that they thought I was a concerned parent waiting to pick up their child. I shared with them that I had a therapy session at 3:30 and the pastor told me that he would get me through a side door. I followed him, looking around behind me to make sure we were safe and walked in. 

Two minutes later, my very happy, bubbly therapist greeted me with a big smile and asked how I was. I could tell right away she had no idea what was happening. “Do you know what’s happening right now?” I asked her. Her eyebrows furrowed and she said, “No, what’s going on?” “A shot was just fired at the preschool, the building is surrounded by police.”

Right then, a not so pleasant woman came around the corner and yelled at me to get into the room so she could talk to my therapist privately, and proceeded to tell her what I just said. She told her that we could continue with our session and they wouldn’t interrupt us, or we could leave. My therapist walked back inside and I could tell she was just as shocked as I was. 

We decided together that this was not the right day to proceed with the session and we should both just reschedule and go home. She then proceeded to tell me how she attends service in the church and was just there this past Sunday. She told me that she had been sitting in the very back row by the door, and was distracted throughout the entire service because it had occurred to her that if there was a shooting inside the church that she was in the most vulnerable position. Here we were less than a week later. 

She also told me that she doesn’t believe this was random. Apparently, the church has a sign out front that says “Dear God, please help our elected officials stand up to the NRA.”

We both rescheduled for next week and I walked outside to get into my car and go home, only to discover that the police had blocked off the parking lot and I was unable to leave. Here I was again outside in open air, standing where the shooter had stood, and not able to leave. The police huddled together in one area and were discussing how they needed someone to get the video footage of the area. Finally, I found a police officer and walked up to her telling her that I was supposed to see my therapist but we decided to leave given the circumstances. I asked her if she would be able to move, but it turns out she had to then get permission for me to leave. I waited in the parking lot, shaking, looking around me hoping that this person wouldn’t return. All I could think about was if the shooter was still in the area, they might decide to target the police and anyone else standing in the parking lot. The police officer then came back, looked at my ID, took down my information and said that I could leave.

That evening, I was in shock for several hours. I occurred to me that had I left even just a few minutes sooner this day could have gone far differently. I could have been in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time. If I had left any earlier, I would have shown up at the same time as the shooter, possibly witnessed the shooting, and possibly been killed just for being the only other person in this empty parking lot.

Once I calmed down and came out of shock I started crying because I realized that we’re no longer safe anywhere. This building is a CHURCH, a PRESCHOOL, and a place where people go to for therapy. This place, out of all places, should particularly be one where people should feel safe and comfortable. 

This problem seems harder to wrap your mind around when it’s on TV. But when you’re standing there in my position, surrounded by cops and hearing people frantically try to find video footage and make sure the little kids are safe, it doesn’t seem so complicated. 

This SHOULDN’T be a problem. 

This needs to be changed.

America has proven time and time again that we are NOT capable of having guns. How many school shootings have to happen for us to realize that?

Takeaways

Now that I’ve had some time to think and process what happened, I thought of a few takeaways: things that I really want you to come away with after reading about my experience. 

1. DO Something

Stop posting on social media and take real action. There is nothing that makes me more angry on social media than when people are posting about how “😩😭😔” they are about an issue but don’t do anything to address the problem. It seems like nothing but a cry for attention online and to show how deep they are. If people actually cared, they would stop sharing their feelings on social media and take real action to address the problem. Sure you might have reshared a post about gun violence, women’s rights, or the Fair Oaks Farm calf abuse, but did you actually do anything about the issue? Being #sad about something isn’t going to change the state of our country. 

After this happened, I didn’t want to just be another mindless person sharing their feelings and sad emojis on social media for their friends to see. I went searching for things that I can do to help with gun control. In my search, I found this article on “30 Gun Control Actions You Can Take Now.” Once I’m done writing this post for you today, I’m going to do several of these myself. 

For now, I have signed up to join the Woman Against Gun Violence. By becoming a member of WAGV, they will notify me about upcoming events, what’s happening with gun legislation, and simple things that I can do to help reduce gun violence in our country. It could be something as simple as making a phone call or writing an email or attending a rally. 

2. Trust Your Intuition

The day before this happened I thought about the possibility of being in the wrong place at the wrong time of a shooting on two different occasions. I had no reason to start thinking about this. I didn’t see a post about gun violence online recently and I no longer watch the news. Nothing was making me think about this subject, I just did. And less than 24 hours later I show up minutes after a shooting. Even my therapist was worried about a shooting before it happened and opened up about her own fears of the reality of becoming yet another victim of gun violence.

We all must learn to tune into these feelings that show up and trust our intuition. I’m sharing this with you not because I have it figured out, this is one thing that I really need to work on. I always doubt myself so much that if my gut tells me to turn right, I’ll turn left, and I end up regretting it EVERY time because my intuition has never been wrong. Unfortunately, we live in a time and culture where we’re taught to think only with our heads. Things like gut instinct, intuition, or a “hunch” are seen as being ridiculous and “wooh-y.” If you tell someone you have a bad feeling, they’ll most likely laugh and make jokes about you’re a psychic.

But your gut is like a second brain and is usually MUCH smarter than our other brain. It gives us that knot in our stomachs when something is wrong to keep us safe and point us in the right direction. Collectively and individually we need to learn to trust that again. There are some things that we might not be able to see, explain, and prove, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

3. Nothing is a Coincidence 

Just like I shared in my last couple posts, the universe has your back. Since yesterday I keep telling myself thank goodness I didn’t show up any sooner! Thank goodness my therapist was already inside the building in her office and not walking in at that time. Thank goodness I decided to stay home instead of leaving early like I sometimes do. Otherwise, I would have been right there. 

I want you to take some time to really think about this and reflect on your own experience. Most people haven’t just missed a shooting by minutes, but many of us have had some moment in our lives just like this. Where we realized we got SO lucky because we ran a few minutes late, or decided to go somewhere else, or decided to stay in one night. You must have a moment like that buried somewhere in your memory. 

Take some time and think about that today. Search your memory for a time when this happened to you and don’t brush it off as a random coincidence. Remember that we have a greater power looking out for us.

Take time to feel grateful for those moments because the sad fact is that not every single person was that lucky.

4. Gun Control

One of my all-time favorite comedians is Jim Jefferies, who created this bit for a comedy show that blew up and went viral. It became such a sensation that it was even referenced on the news several times. What started out a simple comedy sketch blew up into a sensation that helped people understand the flawed logic that many Americans have when it comes to their precious guns. 

Now you might be thinking, “Who the hell is the random comedian, and why is he talking about gun control?” But I think Jim Jefferies is the perfect person to talk about this topic. Here’s why: 

  • He talks about this subject in a way that is super funny and relatable, meaning that this message has been able to reach millions simply by the humorous way that it was delivered.
  • He’s from Australia, where he shares they had 11 massacres and finally the government decided to take away guns which put an end to gun violence.
  • Jim Jefferies had a home invasion where he was tied up and cut while the invaders threatened to rape his girlfriend. He shares that owning a gun wouldn’t have helped him in the moment. How would he have known as he was naked in his house that two guys would randomly bust in with weapons? It’s not like he was “ready” and had a holster on him. 

The reason why I absolutely love this video is because he addresses all of our flawed views of guns including, “I need it for protection,” “I’m a responsible gun owner,” “If gun control were to happen only the criminals would have guns,” and “The answer to gun violence is more guns.”

There’s one argument that I think is the most important thing that we need to take away in these conversations about gun violence. Jim Jefferies explains that every American should be able to have a gun. Yep. Everyone. Everyone and their mother who is a “responsible gun owner” should be able to have a gun. But guess what…that’s not how society works! We have to play to the 1% of people who are going to use it for bad reasons. As he says, “We have to walk as slow as our slowest person to keep society moving.” 

Sure, maybe the majority of people who have guns would be “responsible” with guns should be allowed to have them. But there are too many people who feel the need to walk into a preschool and murder a bunch of 4-year-olds with an assault rifle. There are too many kids who will pick up a gun thinking its toy and shoot their brother or sister in the stomach. And there are too many people who have the worst days of their lives who have too many drinks and remember they have a gun in the house, and how easy it would be to end it. There’s also too much domestic violence as it is. You have an abusive, drunken husband in the house who gets mad at his wife over something stupid, do you really want to know what happens when there are guns in the house?

This argument that gun lovers share over and over again is, “Why should I have my guns taken away? I’m not crazy. I’m responsible.” It just doesn’t work. Because as Jefferies says so eloquently, “That’s the thing about crazy people, they don’t know they’re crazy. That’s what makes them crazy.”

You should also be able to drive as fast as you want to all the time. But guess what. We can’t. That’s not how society works. 

We need gun control because unfortunately, we live in a country where this is not the first shooting at a PRESCHOOL. We can’t attend church, or send our 3- and 4-year-olds to preschool, or go to therapy, or go get a f*cking smoothie before a workout without living in fear of being shot. When are all of us going to get on the same page and finally come together and admit that WE NEED GUN CONTROL? How many children have to die? How many shootings have to happen?

Now, I realize that there are plenty of pro-gun people who would rather die than hear someone even mention the idea of gun control in America, but you’re reading a post from a girl who just missed a shooting by a few minutes yesterday and who knows THREE other locations that I used to go to that all had shootings. This is a very real issue that finally needs to be fixed.

I can also think back to middle school and high school and remember three separate conversations I overheard from other students where they shared that their fathers had a gun collection and gun safes. In each conversation I heard, the students shared that they knew how to use a gun, they knew the safe combination, and if they REALLY wanted to, they could bring the guns into school and murder people. This is America.

On that note, if you’d like to take a look and end this story with a much-needed laugh, you can watch it HERE: Part 1 & Part 2. I know this post is very different than what I typically write about, but this felt like something too big to not write about. And if you know me personally, then you probably understand at this point that writing about my experiences helps me to re-frame things more positively in my mind and process my experience. 

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

The Broken Window Theory & How to Create Massive Change in Your Life

Self-Help

Can you believe that it’s already the end of summer? How freaking quickly is the year flying by? It seems like just yesterday I was writing down my New Year’s resolutions and determined to create a better me in 2019. Well, if you’re anything like me, then you’re probably nowhere near checking off those resolutions and wondering “Who the hell did I think I would be in 2019? Superwoman?”

I’m not the only one who’s made this mistake over and over, and it doesn’t just happen during the new year. We’re all interested in improving ourselves in some way, whether it’s getting in shape, learning a language, learning how to cook, deepening our yoga practice, reading more, etc. But in our good intentions and excitement from a sudden wave of inspiration, we try to do too much and we set ourselves up for failure. We want to change, but often try to create a drastic change in such a short period of time which inevitably only leaves us feeling guilty and disappointed.

This happens with both the bad habits we’re trying to break and the good ones that we want to adopt. A very popular example would be trying to quit smoking cold-turkey. We all know someone (or maybe we are that someone) who’s always “trying to quit.” Don’t worry, there’s no judgment from me!

One of my latest examples was that I wanted to start keeping my apartment cleaner so Matt would be happier to come home to a clean space and our home would look lovely all the time. I decided that each and every day I would have the dishes done, the laundry done, the counters spotless, fresh flowers in the kitchen, the floors vacuumed, the bed made, and the bathroom cleaned – 24/7. I decided this randomly one evening after a surge of inspiration to tidy up the house. Well, it’s now weeks later, and how beautiful do you think the apartment is looking right now? It’s NOT.

My clothes and piles of laundry are scattered all over the apartment, and there’s no sign of my resolution to keep the house clean. The clothes have taken over yet again. If I ever go missing, you just might find me trapped under a pile of clothes in our bedroom. 

As a self-help and self-improvement junkie, I understand more than anyone that desire to improve oneself and feel that sense of personal accomplishment when your goals are met, the house is cleaned, you’ve eaten healthy, and you’ve worked out that day. There’s nothing better than that feeling of being proud of yourself. But too often, we get so excited about that potential to create drastic change and become a better person, that we try to create massive change in our lives overnight. We try to lose 20 pounds immediately, we try to read five books in a month, or we try to go vegan in a weekend. But ultimately those changes don’t last. Changing one’s lifestyle and behaviors takes time and learning.

The Broken Window Theory

This blog post was inspired by a podcast by The Minimalists who I’ve referenced many times before. If you haven’t heard of The Minimalists, they’re best friends Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus who became popular after releasing their documentary “Minimalism” on Netflix. They’re authors, podcasters, filmmakers, and public speakers who spend their lives sharing how living with less helped them find happiness, freedom, and fulfillment that money and possessions can’t give us.

In one of their “Quickie” podcast episodes, called “How Small Changes Make Big Progress,”Joshua and Ryan discussed how small everyday changes in our lives helps us move toward sustainability because those radical changes just don’t stick. Radical changes are like crash diets – it’s not feasible to keep that going all the time. However, making small healthy changes, one meal or snack at a time is what gives people the results that they want. Over time, those small changes eventually start to multiply. 

In this podcast episode, Ryan talked about an example of this that he witnessed when he was visiting Tokyo. He noticed that the city was so immaculate and clean that whenever he would see a piece of trash on the ground, it motivated him to pick it up! The city looked so clean and perfect that he felt the need to keep it that way. I think that’s really saying something, because how often do we go out of our way to pick up trash when we’re walking around? 

Joshua gave his example that resonated with me so much that it was the part that inspired this post today. He shared that this phenomenon is often called “The Wildfire Theory,” but he thinks of it as “The Broken Window Theory.”

He explains how in the 1990s in New York City, people were trying to make the city nicer and over time the urban planners realized something interesting in their efforts to turn the city around. They noticed that if there was ever a broken window in one building and they FIXED it, other buildings nearby start fixing their broken windows too. However, the areas that they didn’t fix ended up getting more broken windows and eventually would attract graffiti and other vandalism. Of course, they also noticed that whenever there was a little bit of graffiti, this lead to MORE graffiti. This realization prompted urban planners to not only fix windows all over the city but to create a 24-hour graffiti removal service. All you had to do was call the hotline, and someone would be there to remove the graffiti within 24 hours!

I love this example that Joshua gives because it’s safe to say that the majority of us have noticed this with our own eyes, and I think that it’s much easier to grasp the broken window theory than to picturing a wildfire. The other reason why I love this example is that the same is true for our everyday lives. As Joshua says, “We all have our own broken windows.” They take the form of past traumas, household clutter, toxic relationships, financial stress, smoking cigarettes, unhealthy eating, and weight gain. They’re the things in life that we want so badly to fix, but we can’t. Why? Because that’s A LOT of freaking changes.

And the broken windows are often so subtle that we don’t notice them as the start of a much bigger issue. They show up as the pajamas we throw on the ground in the morning; the laundry that piles that we don’t put away; the “to-do” list that keeps growing; the appointments that have to be made; the dishes that stack up in the sink; the Oreos that we ate last night; the toxic emotions we’ve bottled up since childhood. We don’t make the effort to fix the problem soon enough, or maybe even notice it happening, so it creates more and more chaos.

Then when we decide to make a change, we try to take on too much at once. We try to turn over the entire city of New York in one week; we try to clean our entire apartment in one night; and we try to knock out a to-do list that’s been growing since we rang in the New Year. The reality is that these broken windows have to be fixed the same way they were created: gradually. 

The added challenge that we have to take into consideration is that those “broken windows” are years of habits that have become so ingrained in us that we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. It all becomes automatic. We get up in the morning and we throw our pajamas on the ground; we eat dinner and we leave the dish in the sink; we do laundry but we never put it away. So how on earth could we change all of those things at once? I don’t know this for sure, but I’m pretty sure it’s impossible.

How to Create Massive Change in Your Life?

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna leave you on THAT note – by saying it’s impossible, that nothing can be done. So I put together a list of seven ways that you can fix your broken windows in a way that’s gradual AND reasonable, and that have the potential to actually stick long-term. I recommend trying all of them and then picking the one that you find the easiest to incorporate in your life. 

1. Fix one broken window at a time

My first piece of advice is to fix one broken window at a time. If you want to get in shape and focus on your health, maybe don’t declare to the world that you’re going to do P90X every day for the next 90 days, give up all the foods that you love, and stop drinking. Side note: I saw someone do this before and he looked MISERABLE… and also went back to his bad habits once he was done. Just as quickly as he got a six-pack, he lost it. 

Instead make the decision to exercise for an hour 3-4 days a week, or to run a 5k, or get 10,000 steps in. Then, after you’ve made one change and adapted to it, make one dietary change every couple of weeks. Maybe give up that one thing you eat WAY too much of. I met a woman once who lost 25 pounds because she gave up Pepsi! PEPSI! That’s all she did!She didn’t throw in an entire exercise regime and dietary changes all at once. She worked on ONE broken window: her soda addiction. I met her after she had lost all that weight and she talked to me about what her next healthy change would be. She was in the process of trying to decide how she would incorporate exercise next.

So pick one “broken window” and do something that is actually going to work for you in your everyday life. Fixing that window will help you gradually fix the other windows, and in the end, it will last.

2. Set the bar low 

If you find yourself not being able to accomplish those big things you set out to do, set goals that are so ridiculously small, that it would be impossible to NOT do them. Set the bar extremely low! Don’t put pressure on yourself to quit smoking immediately, instead, say I’m not going to smoke after ___ pm. Or I’m not going to smoke more than ___ amount of cigarettes a day. Or I’m only going to get ___ packs a week. Set the bar low and give yourself a chance to adjust.

Here’s another example: You know how much it sucks to unpack after a trip? You know how you have to unpack that suitcase, but it sits there on the freaking floor for days, sometimes weeks, overflowing with clothes that you never want to put away? Ok, maybe it’s just me. I REALLY hate laundry in case you couldn’t tell. Whenever I catch myself doing this… which is anytime I go anywhere, I make the decision to put away ONE item in the suitcase every time I walk by it. Once I decide that I’m able to tackle the suitcase in no time, but if I tried to do it all at once, it wouldn’t happen. 

Set the bar so stupidly low, that you have no reason and no excuse to not follow through. If you want to accomplish something BIGGER, like a bigger goal or lifelong dream, not just unpacking a suitcase, plan out each of the steps that you’re going to be taking. Decide each low bar that you would have to set for yourself in order to finally actualize that dream. Decide to enroll in a course tomorrow, or research your target market, or write one page of your business plan, or finally register as a business, or write ONE page of your book. Write down each low bar you have to set for yourself and accomplishing the bigger things in life. It will make it far less scary, far more reasonable, and it will finally get you moving in the right direction.

3. Gretchen Rubin’s One Minute Rule

If it’s a matter of the little things accumulating and getting out of hand, try using a trick that I learned from happiness expert, author, blogger, and podcaster Gretchen Rubin. She came up with this “One Minute Rule” that’s become incredibly popular with her audience. The idea is that if you can do something in one minute or less, you should do it right away.

This trick helps to tackle countless broken windows throughout the day and prevent them from spiraling into a bigger issue. For example, a plate can be rinsed off and put in the dishwasher in about 5-10 seconds, so you should do it right away. It gets little tasks out of the way and keeps them from boiling up. For that reason, it takes you a few seconds to do something, rather than letting dozens of simple tasks get out of hand. At that point, it would take you an hour, or even several hours of running around trying to do so many things at once. We’ve all been there when we’re trying to clean up a room that we let get messier and messier for the last month, which means that we have to spend the next half a day cleaning to get everything done. It takes so much more time and energy to tackle all of it than it would to chip away one task at a time.

It’s a great trick to adopt as far cleaning and putting clothes away if you’re like me, but it could also be used in everyday life. Because I’m writing this post right now and was reminded of this rule, it finally prompted me to call someone back that I’ve been putting off for two days, even though I knew it would only take me 60 seconds. If you have to do anything that takes a minute or less, like write a quick email, then write the damn email! Otherwise, all it does is add to the collection of broken windows you have going and weigh on your mind. 

4. Set a power hour

This next tip is also one that I learned from Gretchen Rubin. (I really love her in case you couldn’t tell). The idea is that if you have a lot of tasks stacking up – maybe they take a minute or maybe they require a little bit more time and energy – you should set an hour aside each week to tackle them.

You know those tasks that aren’t necessarily hard or difficult, but it requires you to do a few steps, or make a couple of calls, or research something first, or dig through your filing cabinet, so you just keep not doing it? The thought of spending those next 10-15 minutes working on this random annoying task that you don’t want to have to do, keeps you procrastinating and not doing this thing for weeks. I do this to myself whenever I have to go looking for a new doctor. For example, when I decided that I wanted to see a therapist, it took me several weeks to finally start making calls and searching for someone because I knew I’d have to spend at least 20 minutes, researching places in the area, calling people, repeating my insurance information, setting up appointments, and then going to consultations with different therapists.

This task wasn’t hard, but it felt annoying and inconvenient. It took more time and mental energy than putting away some dirty dishes, so I continued to put it off. I’m sure you have some task like that you really don’t want to do! For things like these, it’s a good idea to select a day of the week and set aside one hour to power through these random tasks that you’ve been setting aside. It forces you to finally get it done and make some progress, and it finally eliminates that task that’s been weighing on you and making you unhappy and anxious.

5. Decide 1-3 things you want to focus on the next day

One way to tackle your broken windows, eliminate bad habits, or even accomplish larger goals, is to decide the night before what you will focus your energy on tomorrow. I like to incorporate this whenever I feel myself losing focus on my work and getting stressed out. Each night before bed, get out a notebook or a post-it note and reflect on what you would like to focus your energy on the next day. Remember to only pick one to three items.

I find that this works because otherwise, it’s easy to look at the mountain of tasks that you need to get done in order to be successful or reach a goal, and think to yourself, “Where the f*ck do I even start?” For example, sometimes my list looks something like: 1) Create welcome email 2) Edit new video 3) Start ____ post. Or 1) Publish post 2) Choose quotes for Pinterest graphics 3) Brainstorm ebook ideas. It’s a short list of goals that you know you can reasonably get done the next day and provide some direction and support so you stay on track.

You can use this trick with work, with getting in shape, or with breaking bad habits. It’s even been helpful for me in the areas of spirituality and self-improvement. If you’re trying to lose weight, your list might look something like: 1) Go to the gym for 20 minutes 2) Make dinner at home 3) No snacking after 9 pm. Or maybe 1) Look up ab workout ideas 2) Get some healthy snacks at the grocery store 3) No chips. The beauty of this list is that it varies every day, so you don’t make the same mistake of making a drastic decision or lifestyle changes at once. 

6. Say no

I felt the need to mention saying no on this list as well because too many people try to take on more than they can handle. Not only is it a way that we self-sabotage, but it’s also a reflection of our culture now. It’s a culture where we treat each other like computers that are meant to be productive, to perform, and to function all day long, rather than connect, love, and LIVE.

It’s a culture where high school students feel as if their self-worth is defined by how many AP classes they’re in and if we’re not making six figures, we’re not good enough. I believe that we won’t be able to create massive change in our lives and fix our broken windows unless we learn to first slow down and cut back. Otherwise, our physical and mental energy is drained, while more windows break in an effort to keep all the balls in the air. But here’s the thing, while we desperately need to learn to say no to other people, we especially need to learn to say no to OURSELVES.

We’re our own worst critic and nobody expects more from ourselves than we do. Which is when I get 10 new ideas for blog posts, I expect myself to be able to do all of them. When I have an idea for a video, an email, a graphic, a book, I think that every idea I have to say yes to in order to be the superhero version of myself I want to be. I do this with collabs, with my website, with challenges I make up for myself, and with classes and programs that I learn about. It’s the reason why Matt is always having to have an intervention with me at our kitchen counter and say, “You’re trying to do too much. You’re gonna stress yourself out. You can’t do it all.” While we may have thousands of epic and wonderful ideas, it’s impossible to say yes to all of them. By saying yes to every idea, you’re not even able to see one through completely. So learn to slow down, and say no. Say no to family members who demand too much from you, say no to friends who treat you more like an assistant than a friend, say no to coworkers that try to pass off their responsibilities onto you, and above all, say no to yourself. You can’t do it all. 

7. Remind yourself that it’s going to take time

Last but not least, when it comes to creating massive change in our lives, it’s important to remind yourself that it’s going to take time. I’m so guilty of this because I want everything done, perfect, and completed right away. I’ve very impatient when it comes to my progress and I have to remind myself of this almost daily. And I know I’m not the one human being in the world who does this to themselves. I see it in my friends and family too.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and create expectations that we would never expect from anyone else. And we expect that we should be able to get things done immediately. We go to one CrossFit class and immediately think we’re weak and bad at it because we can’t deadlift 200 lbs. Or we take one yoga class a year and get frustrated with ourselves because we can’t do a headstand right away. When it comes to ourselves, we think we should make progress far faster than is reasonable, which is why it’s so important to remind yourself that things take time. All you can do is to try your best, and eventually, you’ll get there. 

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

I hope this post was helpful for you by highlighting the biggest pitfall that millions of us make every January – we expect to make a massive change in our lives overnight. When it comes to accomplishing lifelong goals, breaking bad habits, or creating healthy change in our lives, for some reason, we feel as if we should do it instantaneously. The problem is that many of us have our own little “broken windows” that have to be fixed before we can do that. Like sleeping in too late, eating unhealthy, holding ourselves back, or staying in toxic relationships. But if you take small steps, and make one change at the time, that effort begins to spread like wildfire.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Have you noticed that you’ve made this mistake before? Or maybe are making it right now? What are some examples where you’ve done this to yourself? Have you thought of any of your own broken windows? How do you think you could create massive changes by using some of these tips I mentioned? Do you have any other suggestions that you think might help people create massive change in their lives? Let me know in the comments!

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

How To Recognize Universal Signs

Spirituality

I came across a funny meme the other day on social media that said: “When you’re waiting to hear back from the universe about that big request you just made…” With a bunch of pictures of a guy not doing anything and staring blankly into the distance while sitting at his kitchen table, on a bench, or standing on the street. I’m not really one for memes anymore, but this one had me dying of laughter the moment I saw it. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve prayed and asked for something and sat around twirling my thumbs waiting for the universe to bless me instantaneously. But of course, it doesn’t work like that!

As you already know from my recent blog post, “How I Transformed my Life with the Law of Attraction: My 8 Powerful Manifestation Techniques and What I Learned From It,” I’m a HUGE believer in the Law of Attraction. I’ve used it to manifest trips, money, material possessions, my partner and the work that I’m doing now.

However, many people have NOT had this same experience. Why? Because we live in a time of instant gratification. We can heat up our food in 45 seconds, summon our favorite TV show with the click of a button, tweet our thoughts out to the entire world whenever the mood strikes. We’ve become so freaking spoiled and so used to getting WHATEVER we want IMMEDIATELY when we want it. Which means that when many people are trying to manifest their dream life with prayers and visualization, they expect even those things to happen immediately too. (Trust me, I’m not above this myself.)

We expect our magical and mysterious universe to have “freaky fast delivery” as if it’s a damn Jimmy Johns restaurant chain. The biggest mistake that people make is they give up on their dreams before they even have a chance to manifest because we’ve become so ridiculously impatient – and that is where recognizing universal signs comes into play.

If you’re a spiritual person just like I am, and you’re trying to manifest something or have a prayer answered, you’re going to want to get used to noticing the signs that the universe is giving you. Not only will it give you hope that everything you ask for is coming your way so you don’t lose faith, but it also helps you find peace in the meantime. That way, you won’t end up like that meme.

Even though the universe might not answer our prayers in 45 seconds, it does always stay in touch with us. In fact, universal signs, synchronicities and coincidences are around us everywhere we look. They’re surrounding us constantly, to the point that we don’t even notice them. Because we’re surrounded by the magic of the universe throughout our entire lives that you could say we’re like fish in water. A fish doesn’t know that it’s in water, because water is ALL that it knows. 

Although it’s impossible to recognize every single sign, and every single action the universe is putting into motion to help us evolve, it is possible to exercise your ability to recognize signs and get better at it. I will say that I’m no expert on the universe because I don’t believe that any of us are. However, I have exercised that muscle over the last six years and have learned to spot little moments in the day that show me that the universe is on my side and everything is working out in my favor. 

Here are the top TEN universal signs that I’ve learned to spot and how you can recognize them in your life too! And if you have any signs that you’ve discovered in your life be sure to comment below and let me know what they are!

1. Meaningful coincidences

The number one universal sign that I’ve learned to spot is meaningful coincidences.

Psychologist Carl Jung was the first person who introduced this concept calling these occurrences “synchronicities,” “meaningful coincidences,” or “a-causal parallelism.” However, this phenomenon has actually been known for thousands of years by our ancestors before modern science came around and we all became skeptics who couldn’t believe something unless we could see it, feel it, study it and prove it. 

Jung introduced this concept in the 1920’s and then went on to write books and papers about the subject, describing it as “the underlying cosmic intelligence that synchronizes people, places and events into a meaningful order,” and “the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer.”

This concept also gained popularity thanks to one of my all-time favorite books, “The Celestine Prophecy.” This book is a New Age spirituality book, where the main character goes through an epic adventure and journey through Peru to discover and understand nine spiritual insights required to reach enlightenment which all stems from a moment in his life when he starts to recognize instances of synchronicity. 

“Have you ever had a hunch or intuition concerning something you wanted to do? Some course you wanted to take in your life? And wondered how it might happen? And then, after you had half forgotten about it and focused on other things, you suddenly met someone or read something or went somewhere that led to the very opportunity you envisioned?”

-James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy

Everyone has these experiences. However, highly sensitive people are more likely to experience such coincidences since we are more tuned to and aware of what’s going on around us. I’ve been noticing this happen to me ever since I was in middle school. I’ll be thinking of someone when suddenly they’ll call me, or I’ll be thinking of a movie and then turn to the TV and it’s on, or I’ll be going around working through the day to suddenly realize that someone else has been making the same stops to all the businesses that I have. 

If you’re hoping to start picking up on universal signs, start with this one. Become more aware of your environment, the people, the conversations you have. Then, begin by opening up a note on your phone or carrying a small notebook with you and jotting down the coincidences you see happening. Devoting your attention to that moment enough to write about it and remember it will strengthen your ability to notice synchronicity wherever you go. 

2. Familiar faces and names 

This next one is also mentioned in “The Celestine Prophecy” as well and is considered to be another meaningful coincidence. Have you ever been walking around and noticed someone that looked extremely familiar to you or had the same name as a close friend? When the universe is sending you signs, you might start to notice that everyone walking around in public has a familiarity to them, even if you’ve never seen them before in your entire life.

When I started picking up universal signs I saw this constantly. Walking around, everyone seemed to resemble someone that I knew. There were countless times where I would meet someone new and they seemed so familiar to me as if I had met them before. It was a feeling of deja vu, but it was always with other people. I wouldn’t experience deja vu at any other point, but when I would see random people walking around, I would feel it. At one point, I even went to a book club meeting to discover that three of the women there were named Kelly (my mom’s name), Penny (my grandma’s name on my mother’s side), and Joanne (my grandma’s name on my father’s side). 

If you’re waiting for a “sign” from the universe, you’re trying to manifest something, or you’re in a transition period of your life, you’ll most likely notice this in the people in your environment. You’ll hear the same names, see the same faces and recognize people with the same body language of someone you love.

I personally believe that this happens because when you’re in the right vibrational frequency to manifest and you’re connected to the higher power (whatever that is for you) you start to pick up on the fact that we are all one. We are all connected on a cosmic level and everywhere you go, people will feel like a long-lost friend. 

3. Messages through song

If you’re super lucky, you’ll experience messages through song, which is one of my favorite universal signs because it’s so clear and unambiguous. You’ll be thinking about something that you want to do or maybe something that’s worrying you, and suddenly a song will come on with the exact messages you needed to hear. 

I will never forget one day in the car when I was thinking about something that I wanted to do, and a song came on that answered every doubt and every worry that I had, and was so accurate to my situation that it was like I was having a conversation with someone about what I was thinking.

Many people would choose to ignore when this is happening, but when you’re waiting for something to happen or asking for a sign from the universe, it will answer you through your environment and music is one of the easiest ways to communicate that to you because you’re already listening. If this does happen to you, make sure to listen carefully to the lyrics and replay the song to make sure you clearly comprehended the message. 

4. Your inner dialog

The next way the universe will send you signs and try to guide you is through your own voice. You know that voice inside your head that tells you you have to do laundry, or go to the bank, or pick up more toothpaste, or talks non stop when you’re trying to figure out what to wear in the morning? That’s the voice I’m talking about. We all have that inner voice and that inner monologue, BUT sometimes it’s not exactly ours.

If you take the time to meditate, get still, and silence your mind, you may be lucky enough to hear a message in your voice. Some people call this their higher self, the universe, God, or spirit guides. It’s how we channel messages from a higher power when we need a sense of direction. Many people have experienced this voice tell them to take some action and some have even said that it’s predicted their future.

When this happens, we’re simply channeling information from something outside of ourselves. If you’re new to this, I wouldn’t think too much about it though. Come into meditation for several minutes and ask a question out loud or in your head that you want the answer to. If you’re like me, your brain might want to start thinking about the answer or the solution, but don’t allow your thoughts to wander. Focus on your breath or do a full-body scan, and eventually, you may notice little words of wisdom, advice, or insights suddenly popping into your mind. They’re different for everyone, but I find that the messages are often very short, maybe only a few words in length, and they won’t be thought out. There will be no reasoning behind them, and they will simply appear in your head. 

You may also notice this happening even when you’re not trying to channel it through meditation. Sometimes that voice pops in your head as you’re going about your day, or maybe when you’re going through a difficult time, or in a state of flow. It’s often hard to recognize as a download because it comes to you in your own voice, but those messages are important to pay attention to. 

5. Your visualizations appearing

Another universal sign to look out for is your visualizations appearing in front of you. This one is really similar to manifestation, which we associate with getting something that you want in life. However, for this universal sign, you will notice visualizations that you’ve been thinking about appearing in your surrounding environment. Maybe you keep having this vivid visualization of a park, or the sky, or a tree, or a body of water and suddenly, you’ll notice that exact same image you’ve been seeing in your head actually show up in your environment.

The first time this has ever happened to me it was so surprising because I was thinking about this same image for weeks and thinking that I wanted to make it a book cover someday. Suddenly, I saw the image I’d been holding in my mind in real life. Also at this exact same moment, that’s when I was receiving a message through song that I’ve mentioned before.

If you’re looking for comfort and universal signs, make sure to look beyond yourself and pay close attention to the nature that surrounds you. 

6. A feeling of home

Another universal sign that you’ll find when you’re in alignment is a feeling of being home, being complete, being content, or at peace. It’s so incredibly comforting and relaxing because it’s a feeling of being exactly where you need to be. Your mind isn’t racing, you’re not anxious and you feel relaxed. You may feel this way when walking through nature, or walking through the halls of a business you’re interviewing at, or on a plane going somewhere, or after you’ve done your spiritual practice. That feeling of being at home, even when you’re NOT actually at home, is the feeling of being in alignment and being at the right vibrational frequency to receive.

When you do have this feeling, it’s often accompanied by coincidence and synchronicities surrounding you. Let’s say you have this feeling when you first walk into a coffee shop. You may start to notice that someone else in that coffee shop has the same breed of dog that you do, there’s a picture on the wall of something that relates to your childhood, and the barista has the same name as your mom. Or maybe your favorite song will come on or the person sitting at a table is reading a book that you’re read before or have been meaning to read.

Whenever that happens to me, I always feel so at peace and happy and overwhelmed with the possibilities and the mystery of the universe. Make sure to savor each of those feelings that you’re having and each one of those coincidences and use that as an opportunity to practice gratitude or visualization. At that moment, you are in the exact right frequency you need to be in and the universe is showing you through every aspect of your environment that you’re in alignment and you’re exactly where you need to be.

7. Timing

Timing is one universal sign that we all LOVE given how impatient we’ve become because it’s when things are happening to us in a way that’s so convenient. It’s when things are flowing so effortlessly and naturally without us trying to make it happen. It’s just like when you get in your car to go to an appointment and magically catch every single green light between your house and your doctor’s office. This could happen to you throughout the day in a bunch of little ways, or it could happen to you around big life events.

Let’s say you meet someone at a coffee shop who’s looking for a person just like you to fill an open position, you two get to talking, and by the following week, you’ve landed a position at a dream job. It wasn’t forced in any way. You didn’t have to fight for the employer’s attention. You simply met someone, acted like yourself, went on an interview and found that there was such compatibility between you and the employer. It all worked out flawlessly. Even people who don’t believe in universal signs and a magical universe that has our backs will find themselves chatting everyone up about how “everything happens for a reason.” You’ll notice the universal sign of timing when everything is flowing naturally without resistance. Even if you don’t exactly have what you want YET, the universe is clearly setting things up in your favor.

8. Your personal signs

Once you have strengthened your ability to recognize universal signs, you’ll start to see signs that are unique to you. We all have own very own symbols that keep showing up especially when we are more enlightened and connected to the higher power. That’s the universe sending you your very own message.

It took me a few years before I figured out what my signs are and before that, I didn’t even notice that we could have signs unique to us that continue to show up throughout our lives. Eventually, after years of practicing the law of attraction and spirituality, I started to notice that I would always see yellow butterflies, hawks, shooting stars, and cardinals whenever I was in alignment and before I started to receive the things that I wanted. I would notice this especially after I did my spiritual practice and visualization. When I was outside, or even if I just looked out my window, I would see all of these things. I also noticed that if I put myself in a state of flow and used my creativity more than normal, I see shooting stars constantly. 

You may also notice difference animals appearing in front of you regularly. Maybe you’ve never seen a woodpecker and now you see one all the time. Whenever you see something in your environment out of the ordinary that sticks out to you, take the time to reflect on it, and maybe even look up the meaning of certain symbols that you’re seeing. 

9. Repeating numbers 

The most common universal sign that people talk about is repeating numbers, particularly sets of three repeating numbers. Many people call these angel numbers and believe it’s their guardian angels trying to communicate with them. I like to think that it’s the universe or my higher self. Whatever you call it, seeing repeating numbers follow you around is a good thing. It’s how a higher power that often sends us warnings, comfort, and hope. 

Seeing repeating numbers could have a unique meaning to you, but generally, meanings already apply to each number. The more repeating numbers you see in your environment, the more the universe wants you to hear the message. Similarly, the more numbers you see repeating together means the stronger it is. For example, seeing the number 7777777, is a stronger and more powerful message than 77 or 777. Also, seeing two numbers that repeat together, such as 4141, also have their own unique meaning. You can often look at the meaning behind each of the two numbers and combine them to determine what the larger message is. Here are the general meanings of repeating numbers below:

  • 111 – Your intentions are manifesting quickly.
  • 222 – Relax and trust that you’re on the right path. This number also represents partnerships or connections and could mean that you’ve found your soulmate. 
  • 333 – You’re being helped with something that you’re working on.
  • 444 – You’re being guided through whatever you’re focusing on. You’re protected.
  • 555 – Huge changes are coming your way. A major transition is coming, the more 5’s the more impactful it is.
  • 666 – Your thoughts need refocusing. Don’t be dragged too far into the worldly illusion and focusing too much on material things.
  • 777 – Luck is on your side. The universe is congratulating you for your right choices. 
  • 888 – Financial abundance is coming. You’re progressing well. You’re coming into your power.
  • 999 – You’re being nudged to finish something that you have yet to complete.
  • 1111 – You’re on the right path. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re becoming enlightened
  • 000 – Represents a fresh start and new beginnings. It’s also a reminder that you create your own destiny.

Looking at the meaning of different numbers now makes a lot of sense. I remember when I decided to leave my full-time job to pursue content creation, I was seeing 11:11, 222, 7777, and 555 everywhere I went, even though I didn’t understand what those numbers meant. Now, I can see that I was receiving the message that I was on the right path, I should relax and trust that path. The universe was also congratulating me on taking that step and letting me know that major changes awaited me. 

Pay close attention too if you’re driving around or going about your day and suddenly you start to see 1111 or 222 everywhere you go. Seeing a number regularly means that you have to pay attention to it. It’s not a coincidence seeing your bill at a cafe was $5.55, you looked at your clock when it was 5:55 pm, you have to take exit 55, and you go to a friends house where the address is 55. 

You’re meant to infer a message from it. Different numbers also mean different things to everyone, so 222 might be something different for me than it does for you, and that’s ok. The important thing is that you’re paying attention. 

10. Things falling apart

This last one is a little bit bigger and not nearly as comforting as the other signs, but I absolutely HAD to mention this one because it’s so important – things falling apart or “bad” things happening to you. I saved this one for last because it’s the one universal sign that I’ve noticed that isn’t fun at all, however, it’s so necessary and it mustn’t be passed off as a sh*tty day. 

If you’re a spiritual person, then you probably react the same way that I do when something bad happens to me. I think, “How on earth could THIS be happening to ME? I’m a good person, I’m spiritual, I try my best, I’m pursuing a dream even though it’s hard as all hell. Why would this terrible thing be happening to ME? I listen to the universe and follow my dharma and THIS is how it repays me?” I immediately fall into a victim mentality. But after this happened to me for pretty much all of 2019, I’ve finally learned to understand that even the sh*tty things that happen to us are universal signs. They’re the universe playing tough love on us and working in our favor.

Why? Because we can’t expand, fulfill our purpose, or become our highest selves if everything is going well and if everything was EASY. We can’t continue to improve and learn important lessons if everything is rainbows and unicorns all the time. We’d be way too comfortable. And if there’s one thing that I know in this world, it’s that you can’t grow inside your comfort zone. 

Challenges happen because it’s the universe pushing you to level up. This happened to me a few different times this year. Something really bad had to happen to me to push me to do something that I’ve been talking about since I was a teenager! I kept talking and talking and talking about how I was going to do these THREE different things for a very long time. And it took something “bad” happening to me and something falling apart in my life to finally push me to take action. It showed me that things fall apart to make room for something better. 

Think about it, hasn’t there been a time when you felt so horrible and devastated that something happened (like breaking up with an ex, but years later you look back on it and think “Thank God that happened to me! I needed that to happen in order to __(fill in the blank)__.” Things have to dissolve, breakaway, and fall apart in order for something new to come into fruition. Just like how there couldn’t be life without death. So while those other nine signs might be easy and fun to spot, remember to keep this last one in mind. 

Thank you for coming to Lost Online!

I really hope this post was helpful and allows you to spot universal signs in your life with a little bit more ease. Don’t get too distracted by spotting the signs or spend all day waiting for them to show up and give you that inner comfort, but do pay attention to your surroundings. Know that there’s something bigger beyond all of us that is carefully working to bring us closer to accomplishing what we came into this lifetime to create. Have faith. 

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Have you spotted these universal signs in your life too? What are some examples? Do you have any other universal signs that you’ve recognized that I didn’t include on this list? What are they? What did you learn from them?

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Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.