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

When leaving well enough alone is a good thing

It can be hard knowing when to leave well enough alone and even harder doing it.

It’s like having a tiny pimple on your nose, so small it’s almost unnoticeable. You ask people, “Do you see it?” and they have to squint and change angles until they see it. That’s how small it is.

But you know it’s there and it’s bugging the heck out of you that it’s there, so you start messing with it.

And it gets worse. Until the tiny blemish starts to ooze and it’s red and you ask your friend and she sees it right away without squinting.

The challenge

It can be challenging to know when to stop, and even more challenging to actually leave it alone.

“It’s all about finding the right note at the right place and knowing when to leave well enough alone. And that’s a lifelong quest.” ~ David Sanborn, musician

It’s true of music, but also of relationships, work, and life.

I wonder if Michelangelo struggled leaving his Statue of David alone or did he think, “It’s good, but I can make it better.”

When we’re determined to keep tweaking to make something that’s already pretty good even better, we run the risk of making it worse in a couple of ways.

First, we can have the whole thing collapse. Or, as in the case of the pimple, explode.

Second, we miss out on enjoying anything else because we’re obsessing about making this thing perfect.

Third, we can’t appreciate the amazingness and beauty of what we have when we’re focused on its flaws.

David Sanborn says, “knowing when to leave well enough alone” is a “lifelong quest.” I never thought about it that way, but I see what he means.

Especially if you have a tendency to fixate on things and get obsessed with an issue. It’s hard to let it go.

Getting away from it for a while can help. Get your mind off of it, look at something else, do something else. Go for a walk or run an errand. Start a new project.

The problem or flaw may not look as serious when you look at it again.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

Life, confusions, and clarity. It’s simple, but not easy.

You live out the confusions until they become clear. ~ Anaïs Nin

Have you ever found yourself in an unfamiliar role, like being a new mom or at a new job, and you realize you don’t know what you’re doing?

Like you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do,” at least once a day.

Or maybe you think/say the sister statement, “I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”

Okay, you’re confused. You’re unsure about what to do, but you still have to do it.

Confusion isn’t the end game

Doing something new is scary and can be confusing, but you live out the confusions until they become clear. You keep working, forge ahead, keep hanging on to the people you love, keep doing the work you love, and know in your heart that at the end of the day if you’ve done your best, if you’ve been kind and loving, and done your work with joy in your heart, it will all work out okay.

That’s what it’s about, I think.

The long haul

When my kids were young and especially through the teenage years, I was often confused. I would have moments where I felt like a horrible mom, wasn’t sure I was doing the right things for them, or had made mistakes and should have done more for them.

But life demands moving forward. Parenthood demands moving forward and doing your best even if it’s not clear what “the best” is.

It may make you want to throw your hands up and say, “I’m done!”, but don’t give up. Keep going. “Live out the confusions until they become clear.”

It’s okay to be in the learning stage

I’ve said to myself at least a hundred times in the past year of writing and publishing my first novel, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” And yet, I’m doing it.

If I wouldn’t have worked through the confusion and been okay with making mistakes, I wouldn’t have gotten very far.

I had to:

  • ask a lot of questions
  • learn all I could
  • make the best decision I could with what I knew at the time
  • overcome my fear of taking action
  • be okay with making mistakes
  • learn from my mistakes

It’s been a long and winding road, but I’ve learned so much and the whole process is becoming more clear to me now.

If you’re at a point of confusion and uncertainty, don’t despair. Keep moving forward. Learn all you can and strive for progress, not perfection.

Live and love the best you can and clarity will be your reward.

I believe that.

Photo by Mark Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

When the level of gratitude is over the top

There’s an old movie starring Joanne Woodward called “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Paul Zindel.

I watched the movie a long time ago, and don’t remember a lot about the plot, but one scene has always stood out in my memory.

It’s the scene where the mom, Joanne Woodward’s character, walks down the aisle of a near empty auditorium where her daughter’s just won the school science fair. (The daughter’s science project is where the name of the play comes from.)

And the mom calls out to her daughter, “My heart is full.” Her voice echoes and she repeats a couple of times, “My heart is full.” Then she turns and leaves.

Moments that stick

I might have been 10 years old when I saw that movie, but that scene has always stayed with me. In my mind it perfectly exemplifies that feeling of being overwhelmed with gratitude and love and absolute joy, when there are so many emotions all mixed up at once.

That’s how I felt last week at my Book Launch party for “A Song for Jessica”. My heart was full.

The party was a celebration of the official publication of my first novel and to have worked on it for more than a year and told people “I’m writing a book,” and then little by little to have it formed into something real and tangible that I can share.

And then for people to be interested in it and to have it all come together and my family and friends show up on a steamy, Thursday night to help me celebrate the actual publication of a book I wrote and published.

It was just a very humbling experience and to say I’m grateful doesn’t quite get it. Yes, I feel incredibly grateful, but it’s like uber-gratitude, which doesn’t even sound right.

No. My heart is full. 

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

Gratitude’s a game-changer

I believe daily gratitude can change your life, but this mixture of love, gratitude, hope, and joy doesn’t feel like an everyday thing. It’s one of those moments I’ll always hold in my heart as an extraordinary gift.

Thanks to everyone who came and special shout out to my team ; ) — my husband, Mark, who’s always right there beside me, my sister, Lynda, who always comes through for me, and for my niece, Juliana, who was a popcorn-popping trooper. And to my friend, Gigi, owner of WT Cafe who provided cookies and muffins. It was a warm evening and we were very fortunate to have a nice evening breeze and smooth sounds by Frank, Kelso, and Kelly Ann Morales. Thanks ya’ll!

Thanks also to Marisol at The Koffee Kup Co. for offering to host and stay open late. You rock!

To all my family and friends who couldn’t be there in person but were there in spirit, thank you for sending love and good thoughts. I felt those, too.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay accessed via Google published on strong-woman.com

You’re never too old to set another goal

You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

~ C S Lewis


It’s such a positive message.

So often we hear the opposite:

You’re too old for that. You’re not a kid.

We can listen to people who say, “You’re too old to (fill in the blank).” We may even hear our own voice whispering similar discouragement, those messages that stem from our own fears or excuses that say, “Don’t be ridiculous. What are you thinking?”

photo by ruby montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

 

Or we can listen to C. S. Lewis and believe that as long as we have the dream in our heart and we’re still breathing, it’s not too late. As long as we have the desire, even though it may not be easy or without obstacles, we can still take steps toward new dreams and goals.

Thinking we’re too old is how we let ourselves off the hook.

Excuses?

We tend to look back with regret. We say, “If only I would’ve done (something different) 5 years ago. Or even 10 years ago, then everything would be different now.”

And the more time we spend looking back, regretting something in our past, the more time we spend not moving forward.

Photo courtesy of flickr.com accessed via Google published on strong-woman.com

We convince ourselves that it’s too late instead of getting out of our own way and getting to work.

Sure, people might think we’re wasting our time. They may think it’s pointless, that we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. And we may have moments where we agree with that thinking. 

We could let all that negative thinking stop us. Or we can believe what C. S. Lewis says, that we’re never too old.

While we’re able, before it really is too late, let’s dream a new dream, set a new goal.

Let’s get started, then keep going.

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Why bother trying so hard when no one notices?

What’s the point in trying so hard when no one seems to notice?

It can be discouraging when it feels like your work and effort don’t seem to matter to anyone. When you make sacrifices and work hard, but no one seems to notice or care.

I tend to look for distractions. Facebook, Yahoo and CNN headlines, dog videos.Graphic courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org published on strong-woman.com

Why? Not for inspiration.

Distraction.

That is all. A quick fix of something other than focusing on what I’ve committed to do. No other reason.

Can’t I just skip it?

Who’ll notice if I don’t do it?

Will anyone care?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. What gets me back on track is to remember what I know.

What I know is:

There’s value in the process.Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

Getting dressed for a workout means I’m physically preparing to work out even when I don’t feel like it. Sitting down at my computer to write means I’m more likely to write. The value is in the practice, learning, experience.

Deadlines motivate. 

A deadline is a commitment. For me, meeting a deadline (even an arbitrary one) is a commitment I make to myself. If I blow off a deadline once, I’m more likely to blow it off next time and the time after that. It’s true with other things too, like exercise. 

It’s the law of physics: a body in motion tends to stay in motion while a body at rest tends to stay at rest.Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

Getting it done is its own reward. 

Getting my work done gives me the satisfaction of completing the task. I can check it off my list. When it’s done, it counts. The reward is a sense of accomplishment rather than regret or dread for not getting it done.

(Sometimes you need to rest and there’s no reason for guilt or remorse at having opted to “be lazy”.)

But if you always want to get out of it, you may need an attitude check. Remind yourself why you started. Stay motivated. Or it might be time for a change in direction. You may need to do something different.Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

External gratification can’t be the goal.

Decide that you don’t need anyone else to tell you what a good job you’re doing or how wonderful you are. Sure, it’s nice to hear positive comments from people, especially when you go out of your way to do something special for someone you love and they don’t acknowledge your effort. Do it because you want to, without expecting anything in return.

Once you’ve figured out what you want, (See “What do you want and how bad do you want it” if you’re having trouble figuring out what you want.) stay motivated to keep working toward your goals even when it feels like no one cares whether you do or not.

I have to remind myself of these things all the time.

 

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Are you getting what you expect?

The mind is powerful. Do your mental expectations determine how far you’ll go? If you “get it in your head” that you’re going to do something, does it mean you will?Downloaded from Pixabay published on strong-woman.com

I had an experience recently that got me thinking about this idea.

I’m training for a half-marathon and had a long run the other day. Seven miles. That’s further than I’ve run in a while.

I planned to go out 3.5 miles, then turn around and run back to where I started.

At the 3.25 mile marker, I thought, “I feel really good. I could go further.”

But when I got to the 3.5 mile marker, where I had expected to turn around, I was ready to turn around. In that last quarter mile, I went from feeling enthusiastic and energetic one minute to feeling ready to be done the next minute.

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

How could my disposition and mindset have shifted so quickly? Almost from one minute to the next?

I had set myself up mentally. It was a 7 mile run. I go to the 3.5 mile marker. That’s it. It’s like my brain told my body, “It’s time to turn around. You’ve gone far enough. You need to head back.”

It got me thinking about the power of expectation, about how when you get something in your head, that’s where you’ll go.

How often do we limit ourselves by thinking small when we could go big? By setting the bar too low? 

In what areas of your life could you shoot higher?

In what areas are you doing (and getting) less because you expect less? Are you holding yourself back by limiting your expectations?

If there’s something to the idea that you get what you expect, why not expect bigger and better than you have before?

Set the bar high. Expect good things for yourself. Prep your mind to accomplish more than you think you can. Get it in your head that you’re going to go further. You’re going to do more.

Because you get what you expect. 

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

What to do when doubt gets in your head

What do you do when doubt creeps in? It can spoil your confidence and sour your mood.

Where does it come from?Photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

Doubt can creep up from inside of you. It may start small like a hint of something that causes you to second-guess yourself. A word from someone you don’t even know could trigger it. Maybe it’s a re-play of a recording of negative messages that you’ve heard over and over your whole life.

Whatever the source, you’re not alone.

Doubt happens. 

It happens to everyone. At work and in relationships. Even as a parent. Here you are doing your best, and then something happens, and then you’re like, “Oh my God. I’m a terrible mom. I don’t know what I’m doing.” You’re just filled doubt.photo courtesy of pixabay commons published on strong-woman.com

How can you keep doubt from beating you down?

Let go of perfection. It’s okay if you’re not perfect.

As long as you’re doing the best you can, just keep doing it.

You may need to tweak a few things. Who doesn’t? It’s okay.

Tweaking is part of the process. But whatever you do, don’t trash your project. Don’t think you’re no good or that whatever you’re working on is crap. 

Recognize doubt, be okay with it, and let it pass.

Re-group. Nurture yourself. Encourage yourself. (Click here to read a previous post about giving and receiving encouragement.)

Learn more if you need to. Do research on the subject. Read about it. There’s always more to learn. We get into trouble when we think we know it all.

Talk it out with someone you trust. Don’t keep it to yourself. Sometimes it helps to hear you’re not alone.

Don’t get stuck in the dark tunnel of doubt where you can’t see where you’re going and the immediate future seems uncertain. Just keep moving. You’ll get to through the darkness as long as you keep moving forward.

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

photo courtesy of wikicommons published on strong-woman.com

What can you do when current events make you feel awful?

Tragic events happen every day and sometimes their effects seep into our collective consciousness. That’s what the events in Charlottesville, VA on August 12th have done. It’s raised issues beyond a man slamming his car into a group of people. It’s more complicated, deeper, and long-lasting.photo courtesy of wikicommons published on strong-woman.com

Trying to make sense of a horrible situation

I admit I didn’t understand how the planned removal of a statue incited the outbreak of violence. I had a lot of questions.

Not just about the rally, but the white-supremacist ideology, the protesters, our First Amendment rights, and the Confederate statues – what they represent and what local governments should do about them.

After talking about these things with my husband over a quiet lunch, I felt heavy-hearted and discouraged. I wondered, What can regular people hundreds of miles away do to improve this situation? 

We may not make a direct impact, but we can do small things to keep us from sinking into negativity and hopelessness.

Ask questions.photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com

As my husband and I discussed these issues, I wondered about white nationalists. What’s their platform? Who are they? What do they want? I found some answers at CNN.com: “Who are white nationalists and what do they want?” Asking questions and getting your questions answered helps you understand the issues. 

Look at the big picture.

It’s easy to let the initial shock and frenzy of the moment linger, especially if you can’t pull away from the news coverage. When I read the answers to some of my questions I thought, How could people believe this stuff? I don’t know, but they do. And that’s out of my area of influence. All I can do is be a force for something positive in whatever ways I can.

Sharpen your critical thinking skills. 

Ask questions about what you see and hear. Dig deeper. Don’t rely on sound bytes and headlines for the whole story. If you watch or read the news, find different sources. Just because it’s on the web doesn’t mean it’s true. And certainly, just because you see it on social media doesn’t mean it’s true. 

Decide where you stand.

Peter Marshall, a Scottish clergyman once said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” When you have a clear sense of your own values and beliefs, you’re better able to stand up for what you believe.


It takes courage to speak out for what you believe. Check out this inteview of a 24-year old pastor who’s name is at the heart of the current controversy taking a stand: Robert E. Lee’s Descendant On Confederate Statues


Align your actions with your beliefs.

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

There’s so much out of our control. What difference can one person make? We can only control ourselves and we can choose to act out of love and compassion.

In a Time magazine commentary, John Grisham: ‘Silence Is Not An Option’ published August 17, John Grisham describes Charlottesville as a quiet and peaceful place that was the center of the firestorm. White nationalists came from all over the country because of the scheduled removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Grisham says Charlottesville was violated. He asks, “Who were these people? And why our town?…Charlottesville has proved that in the face of intimidation and hate, silence is not an option.” 

Don’t give up hope.

When you look for the good in people, you’ll find it. But those stories don’t normally make the news. When current events make you feel awful, look for something good, something that you’re thankful for. 


"Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness." 

~Desmond Tutu

Disconnect.

Get away from the media overload. Find a balance between staying informed and constantly checking the latest headlines. Put away the devices. Change the channel. Connect with friends and loved ones instead. Focus on the people right in front of you.


When the news and current events leave you feeling discouraged, try these small things to help you stay positive so you can continue to take care of yourself and do what you can to positively impact the people in your circle of influence.

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

5 Ways to stay motivated to finish what you start

It’s hard to get to the finish line sometimes. You get super-charged about doing something big, like starting a business, going back to school, losing weight, or getting out of debt.

Then the novelty wears off. Your motivation wanes and you wonder if you can finish what you set out to do. You’re not alone. It happens to everyone. 

If you’ve managed to get started, but can’t seem to finish,

Here are 5 ways to help you stay motivated and finish what you started:

1. Do something.

It’s great to have a plan of action, but when you plan and plan for days or years, and never do anything, you may have a case of “analysis paralysis”. Stop thinking, analyzing, and projecting. Start doing. Even small actions every day will help you keep momentum to get you closer to your goals. Remember the law of physics. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. So don’t stop moving forward. When you have a project in progress, doing something every day will help you stay committed to the end.

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

2. Give yourself a deadline.

“Some day” never comes. Most people are “deadline motivated”. Look where you want to go. You set your course according to your focus. For more information about this idea, see Where you look is where you’ll go.

3. Be okay with imperfection.

You have to start somewhere. If you expect perfection out of the gate, you’ll be disappointed and not even want to play anymore. Remember that everyone was a beginner at one time. Be patient with yourself. Don’t make your expectation of perfection an excuse to never get started. Read previous post about being okay with being a beginner: You have to start somewhere 

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

4. Schedule your work.

If it helps to write out your daily plans, get a calendar and write them. Set it on your phone and remind yourself that you have an appointment to do whatever, like meditate, journal, read, etc.

Take care of yourself by prioritizing published on strong-woman.com
5. Stay focused by minimizing distractions.

Don’t allow things to keep you from what you want to do. Potential distractions are everywhere, technology and otherwise. I didn’t realize smartphone addiction is a thing until I read Time Magazine’s article about smartphone addiction and how to get past it: Here’s How to Battle Your Smartphone Addiction. What an eye-opener.

Stay motivated by keeping your goal in mind and make it a point to:

  • do something every day
  • set deadlines
  • be okay with imperfection
  • schedule your work
  • stay focused by minimizing distractions

Remember why you started and be ready to keep yourself going with a daily dose of motivation.


Napoleon Hill says, “Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which pulsates everything.” See last week’s post Success starts with desire