Monday, November 7, 2011

You Are What You Learn

"You are what you learn. If all you know is how to be a gang member, that's what you'll be, at least until you learn something else. If you go to law school, you'll see the world as a competition. If you study engineering, you'll start to see the world as a complicated machine that needs tweaking. A person changes at a fundamental level as he or she merges with a particular field of knowledge. If you don’t like who you are, you have the option of learning until you become someone else. There's almost nothing you can't learn your way out of. Life is like a jail with an unlocked, heavy door. You're free the minute you realize the door will open if you simply lean into it."
- Scott Adams in

Learning something new is often a challenging ordeal filled with ups and downs. It's a scary place at first as we try to find comfort in our training wheels. It's exciting when we figure out we have the hang of it, and then feel proud once we master our chosen field. But what truly happens as we learn is the unlearning, the letting go of the past in order to grasp the future. In the unconscious space between the handle bars is where we truly develop and become someone new. I have learned my way out of irresponsibility, negative habits, and just about everything I have ever read in Cosmo as a teenage girl. Leaning in, as Scott Adams describes, to new information always exposes the old information to judgments. We are constantly evolving and reinventing ourselves by what we choose to learn, and as a result unlearn.

Henry David Thoreau once said that it is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to grow.  I hope we all learn, unlearn, and in that process get to truly know ourselves.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review: “ The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ”

Book Review: 
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
 by Steven Covey

By Guest Blogger - Marc Smith

I am not going to give you the schbeel you are used to hearing about how a book changed my life from being a miserable soul to a thriving billionaire. Did I ever think I would read this book? No. Does the title and language sound corny? Immensely. Does it seem like it is for suckers and losers; those pathetic people who can’t get their life together and need to resort to self help books in some pitiful attempt to fix things? Yes. Is it these things? Absolutely not. This book is not a quick fix technique to make all your problems go away. If used correctly, it can be an aid to help you replace old patterns of self-defeating behavior with new patterns and habits of accomplishment, happiness, and trust based relationships.

To change something in your life, you need 3 things: What, Want, and How. You need to know that there is something wrong and acknowledge that there is a trouble in your life – this is the What. Next, you need to Want to change the problem and not be complacent. Last, you need to know what actions and skills to employ that will effectively solve the problem – this is the How. To really reap all of the benefits of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, I believe you must already have the What and the Want, and this book will give you the HOW.

What you will need for this book to be of any value to you:

·      An open mind (to suppress the cynic in you)
·      Humility (to admit you are not above opening yourself up)
·      Patience
·      Persistence
·      The ability to step out of your comfort zone
·      A willingness to try new and unfamiliar things
·      The ability to be honest with yourself and make yourself vulnerable

What you can expect to get from it:

·      A clearer understanding of your deepest values and unique skills
·      A sense of inner-directedness
·      Self confidence
·      Full control over your life
·      Less anxiety and confusion
·      The ability to connect more deeply and effectively with the people in your life
·      The ability to define yourself from within rather than by other people’s opinions or comparing yourself with others

The most important thing to know about this book is that it will not give you short term, superficial, attitude/psych up techniques to solve predicaments you are facing. It is not a “get rich quick” scheme. It stresses focusing on your CHARACTER, not your PERSONALITY. Essentially, this means that using temporary, shallow, phony strategies to get what you want that may get you by in the short term have no permanent value for the long term, both for yourself and in relationships. Eventually, if there isn’t deep integrity and fundamental character strength, the challenges of life will cause true motives to surface and relationships will fail.

It doesn’t tell you specific things to do; rather it gives you a framework for how to think about the type of person you actually want to be and the types of relationships you genuinely desire and how to get there. To solve any problem, you need to focus on yourself, your character, your motives, and how you have been conditioned to think about and look at things. This book says that the way we see our problems is the problem. As Albert Einstein said “the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”.

I would not try to force anyone to read this book because it is impossible to convince someone else to change that doesn’t believe they have anything to fix. If you want to make your life better, you are willing and ready to make an effort to live the life that you truly want, and you have the What and Want for change, I challenge you to open yourself up and try the How presented in this book. It just might make all the difference.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Growth: Making a Diamond out of Coal

I am certainly not in a good mood all the time. I'm not positive in every situation. It's a pure struggle some days to come up with one positive phrase. I find myself rolling my eyes at inspirational quotes, and even at my own positive spin on situations. Yes, I roll my eyes at myself. This news might put me in the loony bin, guilty as charged. I only admit this because I feel that if your going to start anywhere the truth is the best place. I want my writing to be my truth.

I often ask the universe for help. I ask for growth. What I forget is that all the enlightened attributes and situations I ask for mean change. These situations call for me to feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortable is among the words I would use to describe times of growth, but gut wrenching agony and deep anxiety feel more like the ticket. Agony? Anxiety? Yes! Sign me up for some growth! Growth is a painful lesson not yet learned, deep issues that float to the surface, and the feeling of being undoubtedly challenged (I understand there is peaceful growth as well). The universe is unapologetic in support of your growth.

A lot of people are into growth. In fact growth is cool. We want to grow our careers, our businesses, our relationships. We want them to thrive, to keep reaching new heights. What culture leaves out is that growth equals change. It is surprising how conditional we are to behavioral changes as adults. We can acquire new knowledge, we can grow older with age, we can even try new experiences. We have no problem acquiring, we have a problem letting go. We have problems letting go of beliefs, letting go of behaviors, letting go of relationships, ultimately letting go of the past. We feel as though If we let this go we have less. We cling so hard that the universe eventually understands it must bombard us for our own good. We must feel pain to understand the need to let go. This works constructively as well. We must feel the struggle to understand what we have, to stick to our dreams, to keep trying, to save ourselves from our own neurosis, to save our relationships from our egos. When we know whats worth the struggle in the long run, that right there is truth. The only thing we should keep is the truth.

Of course we make mistakes. Change is much easier said than done. It is much easier understood than executed. It's nice on paper, not nice up against an arsenal of negative perceptions and fears stored inside our own minds. The hardest parts for me are the areas I feel that growth should not touch, they are too personal for fresh air, they are buried deep, and for the universe to creep up that far into my mental cavities freaks me out. So I pucker my lips, I rave and I rant, I walk around rolling my eyes at my own positivity. I am essentially freaking out. I have no answer on how to rid this negative reaction to growth. I am just hopeful the pharmaceutical industry will launch a new drug to counteract these side effects at some point in the near future.

They say characters are made or broken during hard times. If you ask me, I want to be made and broken. I want to break away from what does not serve me and be made new by what does. Growth is certainly the path less traveled gracefully, but it's a path we must all take. We will change kicking and screaming. We will change gracefully at times. We will be pressured, broken, thrown into the fire, and rubbed in every which way. But in the end we will be polished rocks.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Power of Words; Reflections on Maya Angelou's Thoughts

This video is a snippet of Maya Angelou's Master Class with Oprah Winfrey

I believe in the power of words. Words can uplift us and words can tear us apart. I remember when I first  experienced that power. As a youth I experienced the love from the words that rolled out of my mothers tongue. As an adult I experienced the pain that words like good enough, pretty enough, and thin enough evoke, not just in myself, but in countless women I encounter. Words are the internal monologue that guide our lives. The words we say to ourselves are constantly serenading our spirit, our mood, and our perspective. Repeat to yourself you are unworthy, and the words manifest themselves in your actions.  The words we use to communicate with others are powerful enough to heal someones fear. Tell a person consistently she/he is intelligent and they believe. 

Belief is a powerful thing. If we are to grow into the beautiful people we truly are, our words are to be used for healing the people around us. Words that carry love with them allow people to bloom. Words of encouragement and support are much more effective for your own healing than those based on negative and deconstructive ideas. I recently explained to my friend over lunch that we are cruel to ourselves. We are critical and we pick ourselves apart. We wouldn't allow another person to speak to us the way we speak to ourselves. Words are powerful enough that they can seep into our subconscious, as water into soil. 

Let the words you use heal. Lets use our words to improve the world. Lets use our words to build beautiful relationships. Give way to the power of words that carry love instead of fear. Let us spread good news and allow others to spread their good news freely. Don't stand idly aside listening to negative ideas, stop them. The world is not in its current state because of bad people, but because of people that allow negative ideas and actions to bloom.

"But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think. " —Lord Byron

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Feeling Right: The Life That's Right For You

"Feeling right is about living the life that's right for you."
-Gretchen Rubin

I never understood where I was going until I found myself deep into where I knew I did not want to be. At that point I understood that this, whatever and wherever it may be, was not right for me. It was an itch deep in my chest I couldn’t scratch. I found myself rolling as tumbleweed through barren land, and that land was an aspect of my life. It is the feeling that you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing, or going in a path that is unnatural.

There is no doubt in my mind that living the right life for you is the centerpiece of your emotional table. Living right is living the life of your childhood dreams, or some variation of that dream. What is right for you is not what you see around you, it is everything you have ever wanted to create and every activity that brings you joy. If you are creative why spend the majority of your week suppressing that creativity? If you love math why spend your days in a career that does not incorporate that passion? The right life is the life that has balance. It incorporates your passions, your curiosity, and your potential. Feeling right has more to do with duty, a duty to be true to you.

I have always loved art. Art is a broad word, but what is important is that I have always been interested in participating in the creation of something. For a long time before I could even pick up a book on art, or write, or paint, or even think creatively I would be discouraged by my own mind. I would hear the words of my parents “you are the smart one, get good grades, leave the painting for your siblings”. I would enforce upon myself a title “smart”. The problem with titles is that they limit, they hurt, and titles put you in a pebble. Many people have this same experience.

Feeling right for me is not giving myself a title. Feeling right for me is creating, nourishing, and supporting the positive. I concentrated on a certain subject in college for the sake of keeping that title. And although I was interested in what I studied I wasn’t passionate. If I cant incorporate passion I rather not build my life around a career out of balance with my natural self.

I have to shed every single imprint of a life that encouraged me to suppress my interest for what others valued. I phrase it as “have to” because it is a never-ending transformation. It is a metamorphosis. I want to become a butterfly, and the moth cocoon the world enforced on me cannot contain the wings I imagine for myself.
Photograph by Dorota Oleszczuk
Aristotle wrote extensively on the subject of happiness. He explained that happiness is not a great dinner, or a fun time, or even those summer trips to the shore. Happiness is fulfilling your duty to yourself, and striving towards your goal. Aristotle explained that as you live the right life for you, you automatically bloom into the best version of yourself. Your best self is happy.

The world needs the best version of you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Respect The Happy: Nourish a Happy Person Near You

I respect the happy people. I admire and praise them, and I surely will dump my chronically unhappy friend if my happy friend is in need. Harsh? No. Happiness to me is a product of living in a accordance with your own values, positive thinking, an open disposition, and the optimistic resilience that these traits create. Furthermore, I know it when I see it. It is important to note that the opposite of happiness is not depression, but unhappiness (depression is a state beyond the subject of this post, and people suffering a trauma should always be nurtured with love). There is so much to learn and enjoy from the more upbeat individual, incredibly our attention is regularly allocated to the glum.

Unhappiness can become comfortable. The gloomy seem to criticize everything and nurture close to nothing. They are never too impressed and superficially hardly hurt. They defend the constant dissatisfaction in their lives, but judge the changes made by others. There are people who support unhappiness as a sign of depth to some extent. Ultimately they prefer to see that life is cruel, specifically to them. Happiness is a feeling, and depth can be found in whichever perspective you take. Fundamentally we all know this person. If we are honest enough, we, at some point have been this person. Then we can see that happiness is a choice. A choice between being heavy and being light. Happiness is real, achievable and it is foremost a product of your actions and thoughts.

The happy are neglected. No one seems to check up on you if you are a generally upbeat individual, and hardly anyone seems to care too much about your feelings. Happy people are not praised enough. It takes courage, selflessness, discipline, and resilience to be happy. Would you like those traits to rub off on you? Spend time with a happy person, we all know attitudes are contagious.

Happier folks make it a better place for all of us. I love a warm hearted enthusiastic person. Happiness may be a feeling but, often It's medicine for others. When I'm around happy people I feel more enthused, energetic, involved, and present. It is no surprise that happy people have been proven to be more social, helpful, and more likely to donate to a cause than gloomier folks. Studies show that happier people are more involved in community affairs, they are better at work, and have better sex lives. This makes happiness a selfless act. A happier person makes for a better world, making your happiness a priority is the greatest gift you can give to everyone around you.
The Happiness Affect
Courage is something you don't notice about people with sunny dispositions. Deciding to be happy leads to change and change is scary for most of us. The ability to find satisfaction is strengthened by your openness to change. Change encourages us to question our beliefs, our values, and truly be honest with ourselves. The truth about our unhealthy actions and beliefs are hard facts to swallow. Discipline is key for happiness, because the ability to stay upbeat and positive in times of inner instability (questioning) can only be achieved through practice. Eventually the answer to some of these questions emerge. This courage and discipline enable happy people to stand by their choices, even at the threat of criticism. Happier people are not only more likely to stand their own ground, they can also help you stand on yours.

I feel we must all encourage what we want to see more of, I want to see more happy people. We are part of a collective whole, the happiness of one soon sprinkles to another. Let a positive person know you appreciate them today. Most importantly cultivate your own happiness. You will be making the world a better place, becoming a better friend, family member, coworker, and random stranger on the train. In particular, you will be making me happier.

Monday, April 11, 2011

10 Poems That Could Change Your Life

Song of Myself (part17)
by Walt Whitman
These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me,
 If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing, 
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.
This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is, This is the common air that bathes the globe.

I found myself in the aisles of my local bookstore engulfed in my usual undefined research project. I find bookstores to be a place of peace, a treasure chest in the middle of the deep ocean of chaos that is Manhattan. The browsing was the usual. I scavenger through the recipe books, collect personal finance and inspirational works, and I pick up a couple of gossip magazines for good measure. I claimed a seat on the carpeted floor of a cozy aisle labeled POETRY.

I love poetry's ability to transform language into something much more, something music can convey with ease, a certain calling of the soul. Poetry has always been my kind of music. During my browsing at the bookstore, I came across an interesting title, Poems To Change Your Life. I believe literature can change your life, it can certainly open that door. I started to think of all the beautiful poems that had inspired me, poems that made me feel alive, and poems that cradled me with understanding during dark times. I immediately began to recall poems that have taken hold of my emotions and translated them into beautiful strands of words. I think of those poems that explained things in the way only God could and made my heart ache with a sense of pure liberation. But besides the deeper aspects of poetry, I just love the truth wrapped in a pretty package.

I have chosen these 10 poems because I believe they hold undeniable truth. These poems could change your life, as anything in this world can, if you let them.

Wild Geese
By Mary Oliver 

You do not have to be good. 

You do not have to walk on your knees 
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 
Meanwhile the world goes on. 

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain 
are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees, 
the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, 
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 

the world offers itself to your imagination, 
calls to you like the wild geese, 
harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

By William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me, 
Black as the Pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
For my unconquerable soul. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance 
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
looms but the Horror of the shade, 

And yet the menace of the years 
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gate, 
How charged with punishments the scroll. 

I am the master of my fate: 
I am the captain of my soul.

Song of Myself (part 18)
by Walt Whitman
With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only,
I play marches for conquer'd and slain persons.
Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.
I beat and pound for the dead,
I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.
Vivas to those who have fail'd! And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!
And to those themselves who sank in the sea! 
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!

God Says Yes To Me
by Kaylin Haught
I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic 
she said yes

I asked her if it was okay to be short
 and she said it sure is

I asked her if I could wear nail polish
 or not wear nail polish

and she said honey

she calls me that sometimes 

she said you can do just exactl 
 what you want to

Thanks God I said

And is it even okay if I don't paragraph
 my letters

Sweetcakes God said

who knows where she picked that up

what I'm telling you is

Yes Yes Yes

Life's Meaning
by Fra Giovanni Giocondo
Life is so full of meaning and purpose,
so full of beauty beneath its covering,
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage then to claim it; that is all!
But courage you have, and the knowledge
that we are pilgrims together,
wending through unknown country home.

It Is Your Turn Now
By Rumi
It is your turn now, you waited, you were patient.
The time has come, for us to polish you.
We will transform your inner pearl into a house of fire.
You're a gold mine.
Did you know that, hidden in the dirt of the earth?
It is your turn now, to be placed in fire.
Let us cremate your impurities.

All the Hemispheres

By Hafiz
Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.
Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
And love.
Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness and giving
Upon our intimate assembly.
Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.
Greet Yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home.
All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire chatting
While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of

The time Before Death
By Kabir
Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think... and think... while you are alive.
What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death
If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,
do you think ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will rejoin with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten--
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the
City of Death.
if you make love with the divine now, in the next
life you will have the face of satisfied desire.
So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
Believe in the Great Sound!
Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for,
it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that
does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.

Love After Love
By Derek Walcott
The time will come when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving at your own door,
in your own mirror and each will smile at the other's welcome,  
and say, sit here. 

You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

By Marilyn Maciel



those people
wouldn’t it be lovely if one could 
in a constant state
 of we?
some of the most
words can be some of the biggest
what if there was
 no they ? 
what if there
 was only 
us ?

if words could be seen as they floated out of our mouths would we feel no
as they passed beyond 
our lips?
if we were to string
 our words 
on a communal clothesline 
would we feel proud
 as our thoughts
 flapped in the 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One Year of Thinking Bigger

Photograph by Dorota Oleszczuk

One longs to say something. Facebook and twitter can testify to that.

When I started this blog one year ago, it was to figure out what exactly I longed to say. I took it upon myself to wake up out of a coma. We inhabit ourselves without valuing ourselves, in a constant rush into next week, and next year. We go to work, to go back home, we were never really there. I started this blog to wake up, to notice. Once we notice something we can never go back to not noticing. Once we have seen, we can no longer not see. I wanted to see what I was not seeing, about myself and about the world. I wanted to discover who I was, by studying what I had to say.

Hesitation came easy. To embark into a new way of expression, a public one at that, is always challenging. The public aspect, nerve wrecking. I asked myself, who would even care or read? Was my great inner and outer revolution of interest to anyone? But particularly important to note is that no great change ever receives official endorsement, this is true with individual as it is with societal change. Revolutions towards the positive, towards a peaceful life aren't easy nor are they supported by your fears. This blog has allowed me to put my fears to the test, to challenge my cool. It has shown me the patterns of my mistakes. Patterns are there, wether you choose to see them or not. That rut you always fall into. That negative attitude you carry. Those opinions you don't notice that transcend into your actions. Those are all patterns that keep us stuck in a place we rather not be, a comfortable unhappiness, a mediocre life. It is clear after a year of blogging that we can recognize our way out of patterns, to break them so that new worlds can emerge.

I started out with my happiness project. A project aimed at concentrating on a specific resolution each month, with the goal of making me a happier individual. Although I did not accomplished all my resolutions as planned, I feel a better person for having tried. (Please click the Happiness Project tags on the right to read more). My List project turned into my bucket list, and although I was less successful at documenting my adventures during 2010, this year looks promising.

Happy Birthday Think Big Blog!

I want to keep writing, I want to be the author and authority of my own life.
I have a better picture now of what I long to say. It has always gone a little like this:

My dear reader, I appreciate you if you feel no one else does. Fund your own revolution. Find the change you can make and make it. Go for it, I am with you. Tell your truth and live it too.

"To be a person is to have a story to tell." - Isak Dinesen

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