Emotional Nudity

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Do you sometimes feel misunderstood by your partner?
Do you want to be seen and loved as you are?
So let me ask you a provocative question: do you really show yourselve as you are?

If we want real connection, we must allow ourselves to be really seen.
– Brené Brown

And have the courage to show ourselves fully and go all in.

To do this, we must first be aware of what is going on inside us – and then dare to express it. This is easy with good feelings, difficulties start, when we do not feell well. The feeling itself is uncomfortable – and now, weakened as we feel, we are supposed to show ourselves vulnerable? No way!

So we tend to lean into strategies which may look as if we tell about ourselves. But in fact, if we take a closer look, they help us distracting from our own discomfort. They are attractive, because they make us feel better in the short term. However, in the long term they emotionally separate us more and more.

One of these strategies is to objectify our feelings and communication. Instead of “I am unsure what this means” we say something like “the situation leaves many questions open”. I had halo moment the other day when I wanted to tell someone in a message how I am feeling. A friend read what I had written and said: “That sounds like a business letter. Why don’t you really write about what’s going on inside you – the way you feel, not so formal. Get naked!” First I didn’t get it at all. But when I read the message again, I suddenly realised what she was trying to tell me. The sentences were well thought out. Controlled language to the last word.
And when I started to rephrase, I felt the increasing discomfort. Interesting moment – and very valuable, because I became aware not only of what I was feeling – but also of what I was afraid of.

Another strategy is to wrap up our bad feeling in an accusation against the other. It is easier to blame the other person than to appear vulnerable. Not saying anything and expecting that the other person has to feel how you feel is also belongs to this strategy. Instead of “I miss that you ask questions” we say something like “I wish you would show more interest in me”. Without asking the other person, we have interpreted the lack of questions as disinterest. So it’s not surprising if our partner reacts defensively rather than empathically.

That it is not easy for us to open up is normal and can have different reasons:

  • The level of trust we have built up with our childhood caregivers
  • Our general level of trust and confidence in life
  • Our mindset towards other people
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of being hurt
  • Past experiences
  • ..

But it’s our choice whether we use these reasons as justifications to leave everything as it is or whether we dare to take the step into the unknown and learn.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. -Henry Ford

If you are looking for more clarity, bonding and empathy in your relationships, then it is worth taking a closer look at these three aspects:

  1. Emotional self-consciousness (clarity): Are you aware of what you feel? What you miss? Can you name it? Can you accept it?
  2. Courage to take risks: Do you have the courage to talk about it? And if so …
  3. Speak about yourself: How do you express it? Are you talking about yourself or are you falling into one of the strategies?

It’s true, opening up, “getting emotionally naked”, makes you afraid, makes you vulnerable, is a risk. But having the courage to do so also sends a singal of trust to your partner.
And it is this trust that creates real closeness and a real, deep connection.

I think it’s worth it.

Have a courageous week.

Yours, Birgit

Switching off

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Once upon a time we used to use it to make phone calls – now the mobile phone has become a smartphone. It is an alarm clock, book, notebook, calendar, torch, navigation system, daily newspaper … the list goes on and on.

It’s amazing what these little devices can do – and I admit I’m a big fan of our digital toys myself. Used properly, they can certainly save us time and increase our effectiveness. However, we also run the risk of them eating up our time. How many times have I caught myself picking up my mobile phone because I wanted to write something down – and four emails and six WhatsApp messages later I found myself on Facebook and thought: what did I want to do?

Especially in today’s world, where information from everywhere is coming at us, it is very important to oben the digi-umbrella from time to time to have self-determination over our time and to be able to decide more consciously what information we consume and when.

When, why and how often do you reach for your mobile phone?

Sometimes it is also very interesting to reflect in which situations we reach for our mobile phone and why.

Out of boredom?
Because we are looking for self-confirmation or fun? (e.g. when we wait and hope for answers to our messages)
Or is it distraction because we don’t like the situation we find ourselves in or would rather be somewhere else?

Experience more and more consciously without digital filters

Consciously going offline can therefore also strengthen our ability to accept unpleasant situations (no more distraction possible – at least not with a mobile phone …) Above all, it sharpens our perception because it is easier to focus on the here and now in the analogue world if we are not distracted by digital toys.

The way can be perceived (and remembered!) more consciously if we look for road signs and waypoints – and do not let ourselves be guided by the navigation system alone.
A conversation with my counterpart is so much more focused when I don’t have my mobile phone on the table.
The beauty and details of nature can be enjoyed and remembered much better with the naked eye and all the senses if there is no camera lens in between.
It is much easier to get in touch with people if you ask real people for directions – and not Google.

Planning to switch off consciously

Just give it a try.
You don’t have to give up the wonderful functionalities of your mobile phone completely. But how about planned and conscious offline times?

Place your mobile phone in a fixed location at home, for example. That way you can resist the temptation to look at it all the time. Put it there from a specific time in the evening to a specific time in the morning. (And this place should not be your bedroom.)
Or leave the mobile phone at home, e.g. when walking the dog.
If you don’t have a dog, make the decision to switch it off or put it aside for another occasion – e.g. when eating (also and especially when you are alone!)
And if you’re bold and curious, try not to use your mobile phone for a day or two on your next holiday – and be surprised how you feel and what happens.

If you’re switching off for a longer time, it’s a good idea to let people close to you know so that they don’t worry.
After all, we nowadays often expect an answer from the other person within at least 24 hours.

And now – switch off, relax and enjoy the freedom.
Because: switching off begins with switching off.

Yours,
Birgit

The Fly at the Window

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I love to leave the windows and doors open in summer. Fresh air floats the apartment, brings a little bit of nature into the rooms.

Unfortunately this also applies to all kinds of small animals that fly through my rooms during the day. The other day, when I watched a fly in my kitchen bounce off the slanted window again and again when trying to get out, even though the terrace door next to it was wide open, I felt caught out.

Don’t we sometimes do the same?
Completely convinced of something we get ourselves a bloody nose. This has got to work. He must understand me. It worked out this way the last time. And instead of pausing, thinking, learning, questioning, we make another attempt. Maybe it’ll work if we just hit harder. Or more often? Or more convinced?

Some flies don’t make it.
The morning after, they lie on my windowsill, died of exhaustion.
Not all flies suffer the same fate.
There are also successful ones.
They are usually the ones that manage to get away from the window and fly around the room. Often they fly right after that through the open door back outside.

Maybe it is coincidence.
But I like the thought that they succeed because they have managed to widen their view, to see the situation from a different perspective and to free themselves from their convictions.

Where do you still regularly get a bloody nose because of stuck beliefs?
Do you keep running into the same wall with a narrow gaze and overlook the fact that the open door is close by?

Let’s be fly 😉 and smarter than the flies on our window.
Here’s to a week of new perspectives!

Birgit

Threshold Fear

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And suddenly you feel it – this tightness, this stiffess. You don’t know where it’s coming from. In the middle of a wonderful experience, of complete enthusiasm, positive energy, storming to new shores with ease, confidence and full of strength – you suddenly notice that something is slowing you down, you notice how tense you are.
Doubts arise.
Fear is knocking on the door.

At this point we often and gladly snap back and think “Ok, if it feels so bad now, I must have been mistaken, I am wrong.”
We let our fear take over and return to familiar territory like a small child who has been “brought to his senses”. “Oh, yeah, it was a stupid idea, actually.”

There are many examples:

You don’t get it!…
You wanted this job, the perfect opportunity to develop yourself – and a great fit for your talents and experience. The best version of you mastered the application process, convinced that you have all it takes. You succeeded, you got the job – and now you are facing your first big project and you are getting weak in the knees, feeling overwhelmed. You start to ask yourself if you have overestimated yourself, if this is the right thing to do…

For years you have hoped that one day you would meet him or her – THE ONE person with whom you feel connected, with whom you want to go through life. And now he/she is standing in front of you and you can hardly believe it – it feels exactly like you always imagined it! It is indescribable, it is wonderful — and suddenly there is this panic. You don’t get it…

Fear is exciting, complex and important. In my opinion, we still do not make enough use of it.
It is one of the emotions we often try to avoid at all costs. And if don’t succeed avoiding it despite all the control, precautions and weighing up, we stare at like deer into the headlight. Completely paralyzed. We can hardly stand it (we don’t have that much practice in it either). We want this feeling to disappear. Fast.
But it will neither disappear quickly nor stay away.
It will keep coming back, until we learn to enter into dialogue with it.

Because like all emotions, fear is an important indicator with various functions.
Its main function is probably to protect us, to prevent us from doing something that could harm us. Listening to it can sometimes be life-saving.
In principle, its words of welcome are usually: “We’ve already been through this, leave it, hurt last time it hurt.” or: “Attention! We are entering unknown territory. No experience. This is new, I can’t help you! Risk!”
I would like to invite you to listen beyond this greeting. To welcome your fear, to ask questions. It has so much to say!
Let it in – if you ignore it, its outrage will make it stronger and louder.
Embrace is, stand it, listen – but do not put it in the driver’s seat. And consider the possibility that it might be exaggerating a little here and there in its descriptions. At the end it’s a little drama queen who just wants to protect you.

And then be happy – because if it is there it also means: You have reached a threshold!
End of the comfort zone.
There is a possibility to develop yourself further. There is a way to overcome old prejudices or to add new experiences to your pool of knowledge – if you succeed in gaining clarity about why your fear is there and where your stiffness comes from.

Maybe a picture to close:
I ride a motorcycle. The coolest thing about riding a motorcycle are the curves. And if you don’t know the track, every turn is a new experience – but of course it also involves a certain amount of risk.
If you’re lucky, there are signs or curve markings in front of the it that give you hints on how the curve might develop. But they are only hints. The signs are always the same – and cannot at all reflect the diversity of the curves out there!
Sometimes a got on the breaks before curves because of the signs – only to think in the middle of the curve “Why did they put up this sign?” While the other time I drove into others, the cold sweat on my forehead, thinking: “A sign before this one would have been a good idea!”
Your fear is like that traffic sign: it says nothing about the upcoming situation – only about your past!
Recognize is – but don’t stop in front of it. Take it seriously, take a breath, stay relaxed, keep driving and turn your attention to the road, to reality as it lies at your feet – and be open to come to a different conclution than your warning sign.
Only in this way will you be able to enjoy the variety of curves – and experiences in life – in the future.

Have a good trip!

Your Birgit

Let’s be (un-)reasonable

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It’s weird.
When designing trainings or seminars on being creative, the biggest task is first of all to get our brain into a “crazy” state — so that unconventional thoughts and ideas have space to emerge.
And I regularly discover how much we have packed our free spirit into a corset of reasonability and convention. Sometimes we can’t even find the button to open it!
Parents know about the magic of seeing the world through children’s eyes. Naive, curious, playful, crazy – fascinated by things that we later can’t perceive any more because we have analysed, dissected and explained them. End of fascination.
Because we are told how the world works and what “you do and what you don’t do.”
If we don’t manage to break out of this framework from time to time, we will always try to solve the same problems with the same solutions — unsuccessfully. no matter how hard we try.
Because effort or “more of the same” is often not the solution.
Especially in crazy times like these we will not get anywhere with “stencil thinking”.
Why not preserving a little childish craziness?
Cultivating it?
Enjoying it?
Not only does this deliver new ideas, but also makes you happy and feeling alive.

When was the last time you felt life running through your venes? Flooded by it – with all the consequences?
When was the last time you truly relaxed?
Did something you felt like you have to do it – no matter if it is reasonable?
When did you let your feelings run free (are you still in contact with them?) – and let go?

It’s not about doing your thing ruthlessly, going crazy all the time or wanting to do things differently on principle (as well a “stencil” …).
It is about a pinch of high spirits and exuberance in the soup of life.

Yes, eat with your fingers.
Or do the gardening without gloves, feel the earth, smell it.
Let out a loud cry of joy, jump, dance, sing! (In public of course :-))
Simply do something good for strangers spontaneously – leave two more euros at the bakery, for example – for the next customer.
Or put music on your ears and sing along loudly.
Put on two different pairs of shoes or socks – simply because you couldn’t decide – or walk barefoot.
Occupy the swings in the children’s playground, leave the umbrella at home when it rains …
I’m sure you can think of many more things.
Listen to yourself.
Be spontaneous.
And then watch out what’s happeing to you.

Yeah, most probably people will stare at you, so what?
If you put your heart and soul into it, there’s a good chance that you’ll inspire others to revive as well 🙂

And if you notice that you have lost contact to your emotions because of being too controlled, sensible and socially conformist, try this:
Pause briefly several times a day and feel inside yourself. Try to describe how you feel, what you feel. Label it.
And if it is an unpleasant feeling, accept it, name what you would like to feel instead.
That is a beginning.

Don’t wait to feel life, to enjoy living. It has been proven that most people say on their deathbed that they do not regret what they did – but what they did not do.

Wouldn’t it be a shame if we stopped living before we were dead?e crazy week for you – enjoy it !

Wishing you a lively crazy week!

Two Sisters

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Dear Reader,
this week’s article is of a different nature. It’s been a while since I wrote my last story – I felt, it’s time again.
Enjoy reading and being inspired.
Birgit

One morning, two sisters woke, looked out of the window and rejoiced in the bright sunshine, the blue sky and the mild, early summer wind blowing into the room.
They looked at each other and knew: a perfect day to go outside!
While one of them disappeared into the bathroom for a moment, then threw on her summer dress and closed the front door behind her, the other was still standing in front of the wardrobe.
What to wear?
What temperatures were to expect?
She took her mobile phone and checked the weather app. Looked good.
But what if they were wrong again? What if it started raining?
Rather closed shoes then.
If she was walking on forest paths, better anyway.
But if she was going eat at a restaurant, some more elegant shoes would be better.
And maybe a sweater in case temperatures would go down after the rain?
Umbrella or raincoat?
And sunscreen in case it doesn’t rain.

She began to collect everything and arranged it on the bed.
Maybe adding a bottle of water and a little snack?
You never know!
She went down into the basement to look for a matching bag.
Some time had already passed.
When she came back up to the apartment and looked out of the window, the rain had started.
Great, she thought, all for nothing! – and started to put the whole equipment away again.

On the way back from the basement, she ran into her sister in the staircase, completely soaked, and she said: “You poor thing! Did you get caught in the rain? How was it?”

And her sister answered:

“It was wonderful! I laid in the sun on the meadow, enjoyed the wind on my skin, walked barefoot over forest soil, picked berries and discovered a spring, stretched my feet in the lake and danced in the warm summer rain on the way back!
What are we doing tonight?”

How much do you really need?

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We are so blessed.
We have pretty much everything and at our fingertips.
Not just things that are essential to life, like water and food. Also everything else. And if the store around the corner doesn’t have it, just order it on the Internet.
And mostly there is more than one version of what I need.
Just the other day I was standing in front of the refrigerator of a big supermarket and only wanted to buy one liter of milk – and had to choose between 8 different versions.
If you don’t know what you want from the beginning, you spend more time buying one liter of milk than it took to milk it . 😉

So is more always better?

More choices ask for more decisions.
Good decisions ask for more information.
Getting more information asks for investing more time.
(Of course I can also just grab one or follow the consumer advice – marketing would love me ;-))

Having more things often has similar consequences.
Having more means taking care for more.
More cleaning, more maintenance, more care.
Having a beautiful garden is wonderful. But it also means regular gardening.
Or to need even more – namely a gardener.
Then I don’t have to look after the garden, but I have to make sure I am able to pay the gardener – and maybe I will have less time to sit in the garden?
The more I want to afford, the more I have to perform.

Does having a lot really mean more freedom?
I have recently moved.
When you move, everything you have usually passes through your hands again.
I thought I didn’t have a lot of “stuff” – but I was surprised how often I asked myself the questions “do I still need this?” and “should this move with me?” And I was proud of myself, how often I answered those questions with a No.
True, the moment of letting go is strange – but afterwards I felt so much lighter.
Same applies to the furniture in my new apartment. Not everything is furnished yet and I now ask myself the question: how much furniture do I really need?
What if I just leave more space?

To my opinion, space and time is today’s luxury.
So, let’s make sure that we give our lives more space and time.
Simplicity on the outside also clears the mind.
No masterpiece has yet been created on a canvas that has been scribbled all over.

Where in your apartment (or your life) could you clean out or part with something to feel lighter? To create space?
Isn’t there that shelf in the basement…?
Or books from your studies …?
Or the “maybe-I-need-this-again”- closet”?
By the way, you can also let go of habits, thoughts or people that are not good for you.

Less is more.
Go for it.
And afterwards enjoy the ease and the room you’ve created for new things.

Just like a dear friend of mine said to me the other day:
“If there is no room to grow, nothing can flourish.”

Have a light Sunday,

Birgit

The Power of Silence

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This week, I don’t want to spend too many words.
Sometimes silence is the better choice.
Silence creates room to unfold.
We experience it far too rarely. Our world is loud, busy and characterized by continuous media input.

Those who speak cannot listen.

Yet silence is so important.
If we really want to learn something – about others and about ourselves – we have to learn to create moments of silence – and to learn to stand them.
Only stillness leads to proper listening.
Listening to your conversation partner and listening to yourself.
And I don’t only mean silence by shutting your mouth but also inner silence.
How often do our thoughts already create and answer to or interpretation of what the other one is saying – even before he or she has finished speaking?
How often do we listen in order to answer – and less in order to really understand?

Not everyone has the same pace. Some people only thaw out, only dare to reveal more when they are given time and space.
So, just wait and don’t say anything.

It is similar with our body and our mind.
Who doesn’t know the phenomenon that physical pain only becomes apparent when we come to rest? Have a holiday?
They were there before – only we didn’t hear them or didn’t want to hear them.
And there is a lot going on in our head, too.
We think an average of 60,000-70,000 thoughts per day.
Most of them are subconscious, but there is this constant mental chatter – which often motivates us to act – just as unconsciously and automatically. And this chatterbox inside is constantly being fired up by stimuli from the outside – and changes the subject faster than you recognize.
The true inner voice rarely or never gets a chance to talk.
In Buddhism there is a beautiful metaphor:
Our soul is like a deep water. If it is constantly in motion and the waves whirl up the sand, we won’t be able to see the ground clearly.
So, just look for a quiet place, no input, bear silence and be curious what happens (and be curious how long you can stand it ;-))

I wish you a powerful and quiet week!

Your Birgit

Having to want

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During the last few moths, we all had to want a lot. Sound crazy?
Seriously, isn’t it amazing what we are capable of doing once we need to want it?
When we suddenly find ourselves in situations that change everything that has slowed us down from meaningful to irrelevant?
When instead of “I should-but” we say “now!” and “if-then” becomes “when?”

  • How many companies had tried for months to introduce home office or teleworking. And then with Covid19 – woosh, it was done in four weeks.
  • Every year you set out to eat a healthier diet – with moderate success. And then your doctor discusses with you the results of your last examination and the health consequences if you don’t change anything – and woosh… more healthy food on the menu.
  • For months you plan to visit your family more regularly – but when? And then there’s this person passing away – and woosh, suddenly there’s time.

So why not acting directly before the “I should” becomes an “I should have”? This creates clarity, saves energy and precious life-time. (Because should-haves really pulls us down).

But what slows us down, why is it so hard before it has to be easy?

  • We don’t really want it. In truth, it is not important enough for us – often because something else is even more important. Sometimes we are not immediately aware of this, maybe we don’t even want to admit it … that we find e.g. sociability and meeting friends more valuable than the morning run. So? Stand by it and turn the “actually I should go running” into “now my friends are important.”
  • We think we have to. And not because of ourselves, but because we think we’re expected to. There’s this “norm”, this NORMal, the social standard. When you hear yourself saying sentences like “this is what you do/do not do” then ask yourself, who is this “you”? It is your decision – do you want to live a somebody else’s life and maybe find yourself in a situation you never wanted to be or do you want to live YOUR life? (This is, by the way, the one with the least few “if I had only” sentences at the end).
  • We have concerns. Open or hidden ones. Hidden concerns sometimes appear as prejudices – to stay with the sports example, you might subconsciously be convinced that all the sports freaks are really unrelaxed = “When I do sports, I become such an unrelaxed fellow”. Realizing these thoughts is already a good step in the right direction. Then, park your concerns and just do it. With open end. Be brave (without carelessness) – maybe you will become the very first totally relaxed sporty fellow? 😉
  • We want to do it right or don’t do it at all. Also called perfectionism. We think we have to take everything into consideration, be prepared for every little details. I can only think of two clever sayings here: 1. control is an illusion and 2. start before your are ready. The lighter your luggage is when at your start, the more space there is to pack it with valuable experiences and insights on the way!

So, which “I should” sentences are on your list? Which one would you like to turn into a “now!” the next days?

Yours, Birgit

PS: If you have a bucket list (= a list of things you really want to do before you kick the bucket) — this is a good start!

How an Attitude of Gratitude Can Help Happiness

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I am pleased to bring you another article by Dr. Haley Perlus, Ph.D. Sports & Exercise Psychology and certified fitness expert. I had the opportunity to meet Haley personally last year and can confirm – she walks the talk.
Haley is an expert in principles and strategies that lead top athletes to top results. Her portfolio ranges from mental training to personal energy management. Most strategies can be seamlessly transferred to other areas of life – and thus to all of our daily lives.
Today’s article is about appreciating the 5 big L for happiness: love, labor, learn, laughter, let go.
Have fun reading, and many thanks to Dr. Haley Perlus!

The truth is it doesn’t matter how educated you are about the dos and don’ts of healthy living if you don’t have the mindset to follow through on your intentions. Mental toughness, specifically an attitude of gratitude, is an important part of health, wellness, and overall happiness.
The best way to explain what it means to have an attitude of gratitude is to focus on the Gratitude Five: Love, Labor, Learn, Laughter, and Let Go.

Love.
For happiness, one of the greatest shifts in perceptions is moving from an attitude of what do I have to do to what do I get to do. Although you may have begun healthy living for extrinsic motives such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease, when you pay attention to the strength, enthusiasm, courage, and confidence you experience, you can develop a deep love for your healthy behaviors and, even more important, a profound love for yourself.

One way to shift your perception is to replace old damaging thoughts with new, empowering, and loving thoughts that can help keep you in an attitude of gratitude and enhance positive emotions. For example, replace “My body was not meant for Yoga” with “Yoga challenges my mind and body to experience amazing things!” And replace “I hate spinach but I have to eat it” by “Eating spinach makes me feel good!”

Labor.
Any worthwhile goal requires you to fight for it. Top performers understand that to experience ultimate pleasure, they often endure some discomfort. What helps them to cope with the pain is acknowledging it exists, accepting that it’s part of the process, and being grateful for it because it is a sign they are on the right path to personal excellence.
A good friend once told me that, in every training session, he experiences a moment of struggle. It’s in this moment when he says to himself, “why am I putting myself through this?” He then reminds himself of his performance goals and immediately shifts his perception to one of gratitude for the struggle. It’s the struggle of that last pull up, mile run, or five more second hold, that can make your goals a reality. Take this lesson into every aspect of your life that requires some discomfort, but eventual peace and happiness.

Learn.
Many of my clients explain to me that learning about healthy living is overwhelming and confusing. They want someone who will tell them what to eat and how to exercise. How about you? Would it be easier if someone just gave you a set menu each day, told you how to move to exert the most calories, and sent you on your way? Although I understand the desire, I also know that, without a clear understanding of why you eat and exercise a certain way, the behavior of simply following someone else’s instructions will not help you to get results that last.
Every day, you can learn new information about all aspects of health. I recommend setting a goal to sift through the content and pick one tip to experiment with. Focusing on one tip to implement can help eliminate feeling overwhelmed and make room to truly appreciate what you just learned and how it can help you to be your best self.

Laughter.
I know that your health and performance is serious stuff. That said, when you do make a mistake, appreciating the experience and using laughter to move through it can help you to bounce back quickly. Humor is a main ingredient for health, happiness, and resilience. The next time you find yourself feeling awkward in a new yoga pose, tripping on your trail run, or burning a new recipe in the oven, do your best to be grateful for what that experience has taught you. Laugh at yourself to make the moment less intense. Then, you’ll be able to not just move forward quickly, but also with a fun story to share with others.

Let Go.
Professional athletes are obsessed with their performance, but most are equally grateful for the time off the field. Your goals are important – as they should be. When it’s time to eat and exercise, exert maximum effort towards your goals. Then, leave them “on the field” and carry out the rest of your day with equal enthusiasm, dedication, and gratitude.

The Gratitude Five provide a great overview of what it means to have an attitude of gratitude that can help your be your best self. Experiment with one today and observe how it can influence your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and ultimately help your ability to achieve optimal results!