photo by ruby montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

It’s important to be good to others, but don’t forget to be good to yourself too

Be good to yourself. It’s a simple concept. It means treat yourself with love, consideration, and kindness. Be understanding and forgiving towards yourself.

The concept is simple, but not always easy.

What does it mean?

“Good people” are kind, supportive, considerate, and generous. They help us feel positive about ourselves and about life.

They’re like a warm blanket on a cold night or a bowl of chicken soup to ease a scratchy throat. 

But sometimes it feels more natural to be good to a stranger than to ourselves.

We tend to beat ourselves up, focus on our weaknesses, and criticize ourselves when we’re less than perfect. 

How can we lift ourselves up instead of putting ourselves down?

Be kind. Especially through difficult times, small acts of kindness go a long way. Take a few minutes out of a busy day to meditate, listen to uplifting music, or go for a walk.

Smile. Let your smile be your signature look. It can change your disposition and open your heart to self-love.

Be grateful. There’s an old saying that goes, “I cried that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” It doesn’t change your situation, but it may help you see it in a more positive light.

Forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful gift. It can take time to “get over” mistakes and imperfections, but it starts with a choice to forgive yourself.

Every day is a chance to be better than you were yesterday, to do better than you did yesterday. Make it a point to treat yourself with love, kindness, and compassion. Be good to yourself the same way you strive to be good to those you love.

Photo by ruby montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

3 Empowering messages to tell yourself when you feel doubtful

You're braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem, 
and smarter than you think. 

~ A.A. Milne

We’re often our own biggest obstacle. And we don’t even have to say a word or lift a finger to sabotage our own success.

All we have to do is play those old messages we keep in our heads, the ones that say we don’t know what we’re doing, we’re not good enough, we’ll never succeed, and our ideas are stupid.

Those negative messages that fill us with doubt and keep us from ever getting started.

They become our excuses to stay where we are and keep us from trying something new. Those messages keep us from doing what we’ve always dreamed of doing.

What does that mean for you?

What’s that thing you’ve dreamed of doing, but never tried because you think, “It’ll never happen.”

What would happen if you empowered yourself to move forward instead of shutting yourself down before you even start?

Replace those old, negative messages with these empowering truths:

You’re braver than you believe.

Bravery is not the absence of fear, it’s taking action despite being afraid. The unknown can be scary. It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t let fear keep you from taking steps toward your goals and dreams. Build yourself up instead of building up your fear.

You’re stronger than you seem.

What’s your idea of strength? If you consider a person you think is very strong, chances are she wouldn’t have chosen her course. She did what she had to do. Even she may not have imagined she could do what she did, but when the time came, she chose to persevere.

And when you pursue a goal because you want to do it, not because you have to, you may not realize the strength you posess. You think, “I could never do that.”

But you start anyway. And little by little you accomplish that goal you didn’t believe you were strong enough to accomplish, and you’re as surprised as anyone.

You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be.

You’re smarter than you think.

You have intuition that goes beyond knowledge. Intuition helps you sort through what you know and guides you in your best direction. You may not think of yourself as being very smart, but your intuition makes you smarter than you think.

And no one knows everything about everything. That’s okay. Ask questions and figure it out as you go along.


Your goals and aspirations are important. Don’t let self-doubt and fear can keep you from  them.

When you feel doubtful about your own abilities, remind yourself:

You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

photo courtesy of pixabay accessed on google commons published on strong-woman.com

How to know when it’s time to change your course

Life is a series of things running their course. Nothing stays the same forever. Things change. We accept that.

But what about when the change is coming from you? When what you’re doing doesn’t feel quite right for you anymore?

How do you know when it’s time to change your course?

When your mind is set on one thing, you may not want to give it up and start something new, especially when you’ve put loads of time, effort, money, and emotional stock toward that goal. But still, something about it doesn’t feel right. 

And it’s more than working through those daysphoto courtesy of public domain pictures accessed on google commons published on strong-woman.com when you have to do the crappy stuff. Nothing is fun all the time. Every job, relationship, venture has those times when it feels like you’re walking through the mud in the rain. You work through those times and the sun eventually shines again.

This is different.

Now, it no longer feels right to keep the course. It’s time to make a change.

How do you make the switch to something new when the future is uncertain?

First of all, know that it’s okay to change course. This is no small point. It can feel like you’re quitting, like you’re giving up. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

It takes courage to make a switch.

It’s normal to be nervous and even fearful when you venture into the unknown. And it may get worse before it gets better. Follow your gut. Once you’ve decided, keep moving forward. Have a plan if you can, but be flexible.

Once you’ve made a decision and changed course, don’t look back. It’s tempting to doubt and wonder if you made the right choice, especially when a new course of action isn’t working out like you hoped it would. You can’t go back. Remember what got you to where you are, go with your gut, and then keep moving forward.

Staying on a course that’s no longer meant for you keeps you from better things, from doing what you’re meant to do. It takes courage to make a change, to take a leap. Believe you can and you will.

Crossroads photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com

Discover the Value of Your Intuition

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.”  Albert Einstein

We all have it. It’s that gut feeling when you know something’s true even if you can’t explain it.  That feeling when you’re faced with a decision and you know exactly and without a doubt what you must do; when you absolutely know the right course of action.

It’s more than a hunch.

Intuition is brilliant. A guiding force. Always present, right, and true.

Compass photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com
Intuition is always true.

The beautiful thing is that you don’t have to do anything to get it. You already have it. All you have to do is listen.

But listening can be so, so, so hard.

Listen and you go down one road. Don’t hear, not sure, or ignore your intuition and you go down a different road.

It’s been my experience that

  • it’s better to follow, even though it’s scary
  • there’s usually a price to pay for not listening
  • intuition doesn’t hold a grudge; she will always speak to you again.

It’s your guide, your North Star.

Yes, it’s scary. I know.

Crossroads photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com
Which will you choose?

Your head screams at you:

  • What if it doesn’t work out.
  • And what if _______ happens
  • What are people going to say
  • You’re going to look stupid
  • You don’t know how to do _______
  • Think about the people you’ll disappoint.

That’s fear of the unknown and the unknown can be scary.

Einstein says intuition is the “only real valuable thing”.

Even though it must have played a huge role in his life and in his body of work, he probably had to learn to follow just like everybody else. He probably had days when he doubted himself. Doesn’t everyone?

What would happen if you discovered the value in the simplicity of listening to your intuition.

Where would it lead? 

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons posted on strong-woman.com

Be the gatekeeper of your joy

When I get upset about someone else’s inconsiderate behavior, like cutting me off on the highway or going to the “15 items or Less” aisle with a cartload full of groceries, I’m giving someone else power over me. I’m giving up my joy.

I know I need to be the gatekeeper of my joy and not give it up over silly stuff that’s out of my control.  Photo courtesy of pixabay commons posted on strong-woman.com

It’s easier said than done

The other day I was at the grocery store. I was in a good mood. I’d just had a great visit with my sister, the music playing in the store was upbeat and happy, and my daughter had gotten engaged the day before.

I was in the parking lot putting my groceries in my car and I noticed a guy walking to the driver’s side of his truck. He looked at a piece of paper in his hand, probably a receipt, wadded it up, and tossed it on the ground. It didn’t even look like he thought about stuffing it in his pocket. He just tossed it on the ground.Photo courtesy of pixabay commons posted on strong-woman.com

I couldn’t believe it. In my mind, I was like, “You jerk! What the heck’s wrong with you?! Pick it up, loser!”

He didn’t look my way, but he must have felt me giving him the stink eye, because when he drove away, I was looking at him like, “You suck!” He kind of glanced my way while driving off.

I got in my car thinking, How can people do that? I mean, I understand when bits of paper get away from you or you drop something and litter without even knowing you’re littering, but to intentionally throw something to the ground?

Photo courtesy of Pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

He’s probably the kind of person who’d spit his chewed up gum out on the street so someone else can step right on it.

Seeing him throw his paper on the ground, intentionally littering, really got me mad. I went from happy and singing to just pissed off.

Stay on guard

But why was I so upset?

Was it just the audacity of the guy and his apparent attitude of “It’s not my problem. What do I care?”

I realized I was letting that guy spoil my good mood. I was letting him get the better of me.

And so I get back to the original idea about what I know. Don’t give away my joy. I was giving away my joy. To a stranger who litters. That’s just stupid.

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons posted on strong-woman.com

What were my choices?

Confront him. Tell him to pick up his paper. (Parking lot rage)

Pick up the paper and throw it away myself.

Walk away.

Say a prayer for him.

Give him the evil eye.

Blow it off.

What did I do? Nothing helpful. I got in my car and drove away, still angry about what he did even though he was long gone.

I didn’t handle myself very well.

It reminded me that:

We make choices in all our interactions every day. What we say or do. How we react.

Each of us is the gatekeeper of our joy

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons posted on strong-woman.com

Next time you let someone annoy and irritate you, remember that you’re handing over your joy. On a platter.

Then decide if it’s worth really that important to you. 

Remember that you can’t make people do, think, or feel the way you do about things. The only person each of us can ever hope to control is ourselves.

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

Where you look is where you’ll go

A few years back I took a bad spill from my mountain bike. The crash left me with bruised and bloody knees. It hurt, but while it wasn’t a pleasant experience, it helped me realize something important: Where you look is where you’ll go. 

Cycling baggage

I’ve never been very good at things on wheels. Skateboards, bicycles, skates. I tend to fall for some reason. I’ve had my share of memorable falls. I once fell off my bike when it wasn’t even moving.

So getting on a mountain bike presented a mental challenge for me because I had to let go of memories of skinned knees and painful falls. I had to expect to stay on the bike.

It was a beautiful day for a ride.

I started out fine. My husband and I were cycling on a smooth, easy trail (my favorite) in a scenic state park. 

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

The easy trail turned into a gravel trail and then a little further along we wound up in an even more difficult trail in a rocky creek bed. 

I was trying to stay positive and confident, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, “I don’t want to fall. It’ll hurt if I fall.” 

Up ahead there was a large rock, probably about the size of a football and I kept thinking to myself, “Don’t hit the rock. Don’t hit the rock.”

Well, sure enough, my front tire hit the big rock and I went flying off my bike. I skidded on the rocks before coming to a stop.

Blood ran down my legs. My knees and hands burned. I screamed a few choice words and cried like a small child. I was right. It did hurt.

What happened? I was doing so well!

Where you look is where you’ll go. 

I was so focused on the rock, I didn’t see anything but the rock. I was saying, “Don’t hit the rock.” Of course I hit the rock.

The mind is powerful. Where I focus my thoughts and attention is the direction I’ll go, even if it’s not where I want to go. 

It’s a reminder to be aware of how your thoughts direct you. What you focus on is an indicator of where you’re going.

How many times does it happen that the one thing you decide you don’t want to do is what you end up doing? The one thing you don’t want to happen is what happens?

Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com
Where you look is where you’ll go.

Avoid focusing on what you don’t want. Focus on where you want to go and on what you want to do, because where you look is where you’ll go.

Fun extra: Here’s another illustration of the principle that where you look is where you’ll go. It’s from Bob’s Burgers when Tina learns to drive a car.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com

Choose the Opportunity of Now

My husband introduced me to a website wolframalpha.com “an engine for computing answers and providing knowledge”. The website provides facts – quantifiable facts. It doesn’t provide opinions or recommendations.

Interesting information

Type in Chicago, Illinois and you’ll get Chicago’s population statistics, current weather and time, income statistics, demographics, and more.Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Put in today’s date and you’ll get information about observances and holidays, moon phase, sunrise and sunset times, and more.

Type in a specific date and year, like your birthday, and you’ll get the day of the week it was and how many days have passed since that date.

It provides facts. Facts alone aren’t disputable. It’s what you do with the information that can make a difference. For me, the information it provided spurred more questions and judgement.

Facts made personal

For example, I put in my birthday. I was born more than 20 thousands days ago. That’s more than 2800 weeks. That’s really a long time. I had to ask: Have I done enough? It makes me wonder about how many more days will I have and how will I do everything I want to do?Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

It’s easy to get discouraged about the time that’s passed, to feel sad about getting older.

Most of us struggle with that at one point or another.

But I realize it’s better to get excited about right now and living each day being as happy and productive as I can. Not so much to live each day as if it were my last, but to not waste it regretting the past. It’s much better to be motivated about the opportunity of now.

Almost exactly a year ago, that’s 365 days, I quit my job as a school librarian and decided I wanted to do something different, that what I really want to do is write. I finished my 1st draft of my 1st novel on March 15 of this year. As of this blogpost, that’s just over 80 days ago.

I’m on the 3rd draft of revisions.

Here are some of the questions I ask myself:

Isn’t it a little late to start a new career? Maybe.

What could I have done if I’d started when I was in my 20’s. A lot more than starting in my 50’s.

Would I be a better writer now? Almost certainly.photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

And yet, I know it’s pointless to re-visit past career choices and wonder if I’ve made good use of my 20 thousand days.

The more important question is “What now?” Better to move forward grateful for every day and the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do.

It’s not just about living in the present. It’s also about looking forward to the future.

We all know our time is limited. That reality can be either depressing or motivating. Each of us has to decide for ourselves which it will be.

Choose to be motivated by the opportunity of now.

Photo credit Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com

5 Ways to Get Past Regret

What would you do differently if you had a do-over?

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.comSomething you said, something you did?

Everyone messes up sometimes. It’s normal to look back with regret.

And that awful, terrible feeling of regret can stick around for a while.

But regret keeps you in the past and youPhoto courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com:

wish you’d have done/said/acted differently.

think/talk about it.

keep thinking/talking about it.

feel remorseful/sad/angry about it.

know you can’t change it, but you can’t get it out of your head, even though you know what’s done is done.

How can you get past it?

Try these 5 tips to get past regret:

1. Remember, you can’t change the past.

It would be great to be like Superman and be able to turn back time. But our reality is that what’s done can’t be un-photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.comdone.

Wishing it were different is a waste of time and energy. Even so, we have to do it sometimes. There’s an old saying, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” It’s okay to cry a little. It might help you feel a little better about the situation. But crying won’t clean it up. So cry a little if you want, but then decide your next course of action, and move on.

2. Be accountable for your actions.

Whether you ask others for forgiveness, offer restitution, or whatever you decide to do to try to right a wrong, accept responsibility for your actions. It may turn out that it’s not as big an issue as you made it out to be and you worried and feared the worst unnecessarily.

3. Forgive yourself and others.

Forgiveness is liberating. It acknowledges imperfection and helps give us the ability to move on. Ask some one you’ve hurt for forgiveness, without expectation. Forgive yourself and others.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com4. Learn from past mistakes.

Ask yourself: What would you do differently and how would that make it better or worse? You may discover that you made the best choice with the information available at the time. And everyone makes mistakes. Use them as a learning experience so you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes over and over.

5. Live in the present.

When you dwell on the past, it’s impossible to live fully in the present. You can’t trip over what’s behind you. Remember, no do-overs.

We can’t change our past but we can change our future.

Regret keeps us stuck in the past. It pulls us back and keeps us there.

Every minute of every day is an opportunity to be better. If you’re stuck regretting the past, you won’t be ready for the opportunities that lie ahead. Instead, be ready by getting past regret.

Note: Sometimes, regret can be the source of deep and long-lasting pain, such as forgiving an assailant who harmed you or a loved one, or forgiving yourself for unknowingly harming some one, such as in an accident. Seek professional help if you find yourself unable to get past the feeling of regret.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com

Don’t Let Self-Doubt Kill Your Dream. Keep At It!

Starting a new venture can be overwhelming. When you set out to do something new, you make yourself vulnerable. You put yourself out there. Your confidence ebbs and flows and you start asking yourself, “Can I really do this?”Photo from Flickr.com the commons project published on strong-woman.com

Maybe it’s something you’ve put off doing for a while because you know it’s going to be tough, like finding a new job, quitting smoking, starting a business, losing weight, training for a sporting event, or learning to play an instrument.

You decide to go for it. You’re committed.

Things move slowly at first. Maybe so slowly it feels like you’re not moving at all. Doubt sets in:  “What was I thinking? Why did I ever commit to this? I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. Is this even worth it? Why am I putting myself through this?”

Shake off the doubt. Remember why you started, why you wanted it. Re-commit.

And then keep at it. Keep moving forward, little by little.

One step at a time

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.comIt takes a while to gain momentum.

There’s so much to learn, so many setbacks, and things rarely go as smoothly as you’d like. Just when you’ve leaped one hurdle you find another one waiting for you.

“Why bother?” your inner voice says. “There’s no way I can do this!”

You’re not alone

Everyone battles doubt, even people who seem to get everything so easily.Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com

When you’re attempting to do something different that gets you out of your regular routine and puts you at risk of failure, it’s normal to doubt yourself.

Steven Pressfield calls it “Resistance” in his book The War of Art.

He writes, “Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.”

Doubt is Resistance

Resistance is anything that makes you want to quit in the face of challenge. Doubt is resistance. Most resistance falls under the umbrella of fear.

Take care of yourself with a quiet commute published on strong-woman.com

Fear of failure, alienation, change, pain, the unknown.

When it’s tempting to quit, remember why you started. Look at how far you’ve come instead of how far you have to go.

Whatever the challenge, whatever the obstacle, keep at it. Keep moving forward, little by little.

Photo from Flickr.com the commons project published on strong-woman.com

See the Beauty of Failure

Failure Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com published on strong-woman.comcan feel awful.

So awful that it’s easy to be paralyzed by fear of failure, so that any new venture, undertaking, or adventure is off limits unless it’s almost 100% safe.

What would life be like if we could the see beauty in failure instead of the terror of it? How can we do that?

How can failure be a beautiful thing?

We learn in Biology 101 that one of the signs of life is growth, and one of the signs of growth is change. If you’re not changing, you’re now growing.Photo from Flickr.com the commons project published on strong-woman.com

Failure means you’ve tried learning or doing something new and different, even if success is not guaranteed.

But it’s scary! I don’t want to fail!

Thomas Edison once said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

In the movie Edison, The Man, there’s a pivotal scene in the story. Edison is close to giving up on his pursuit of creating the electric light bulb. He’s discouraged and worn out from years of finding “ways that won’t work”. He’s tired of fighting all the forces against him. Then something happens to set him back on course.

He has a dream that reminds him of why he started and wakes up renewed and determined to continue, no matter what.

Failure’s a great teacher.Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

It takes time and effort to figure things out. If we take Thomas Edison’s approach, discovering a way that won’t work is still a discovery. There’s no failure. What you’ve tried hasn’t worked? Try something else. Tweak a little here and there. Make adjustments. 

What could we do if we were more like Edison and not give up when what we’ve tried doesn’t work?

It’s a pretty big question.

What would the world be like if we were taught to look at failure as a beautiful thing instead of a source of shame?

The founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, says dinner conversations with her father centered around failure. He wanted to know what she had tried and failed.

In an interview with CNBC last year, she talked about how those conversations helped her:  The gift he was giving me is that failure is (when you are) not trying versus the outcome. It’s really allowed me to be much freer in trying things and spreading my wings in life.”

She had her share of ways that didn’t work and people telling her no. She kept at it. Spanx made her the first woman self-made billionaire ever.

The beauty of failurePhoto from Flickr.com the commons project published on strong-woman.com

Failure means you’re trying – you have a dream, a desire. It means you’re working toward a goal.

When you look at it that way, failure’s a beautiful thing.

What will you fail at today?