This week’s DESIGN YOUR LIFE featured person is an intentional powerhouse. Carolyn founder of Care Commit Change (or CCC) and author of Perseverance started following her passion at the tender age of 14(!!) by starting a program pairing children with cancer with non-cancer pen pals. As she grew up, so did her non-profit. After graudating from Duke in 2007 and while currently attending Harvard for a PhD in Clinical Psychology (!!), CCC has begun to address the growing need for cancer survivor college scholarships.
And in all her ‘free’ time, she managed to get engaged, own a puppy named Lila Rose, blog, and write a book(!!). Talk about intentional and inspirational. After reading her intentions it’s pretty easy to see how she has so much under her belt at this point in her life.
All I can say is that this girl sure must eat her Wheaties.
Refocus My Personal Journey
This intention enabled me to create my own intentions. Until a year or two ago, I lived my life for others. I felt guilty spending time on myself, even if that time was spent just reflecting on my own personal journey. My day-to-day life was consumed by giving everything to childhood and young adult cancer survivors. I couldn’t justify spending time doing something “frivolous.” Remarkably, it was these incredible individuals who inspired me to wake up and start living again. Now, I’m like a kid in a candy store! I’m continuously amazed by all that I’m learning about myself. But at the same time, I’ve noticed how much more I can give to others because I’m focused on nurturing myself and my well-being.
Create a Beautiful Ripple Effect
When we focus our energy towards constructing a passionate, meaningful life, we are tossing a pebble into the world, creating a beautiful ripple effect of inspiration. When one person follows a dream, tries something new or takes a daring leap, everyone nearby feels that energy, and before too long they are making their own daring leaps and inspiring yet another circle.
– Christine Mason Miller
Christine Mason Miller’s words really resonate with me. Her powerful message inspired me to create my own blog in December 2008. Through my blog, A Beautiful Ripple Effect, I have connected with individuals who are spreading that remarkable effect across the globe. In fact, it’s one of the most meaningful projects I have ever taken part in. It reminds me daily of just how much passion exists in our world. After all, it is all too easy to magnify the negative and lose sight of the positive aspects of our lives.
Authenticity is a daily practice. Living authentically means cultivating the courage to be emotionally honest, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of light and darkness, strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we let go of who we are supposed to be and embrace who we are. Authenticity demands wholehearted living and lovingâ€”even when it’s hard, even when it hurts, and especially when we are wrestling with the shame and fear of “not being enough.” Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.
When I first read this quote, I remember feeling as if someone was inside my head and knew exactly which words I needed to hear at that very moment. I had read about being authentic and about the concept of authenticity countless times as a psychology student, but it never really seemed to click. I related to this quote, and it became a guidepost along my journey of self-discovery.
How do I choose authenticity? Some examples…
I am learning to say noâ€”both literally and figuratively. I stand up for myself, even if that means the consequences may not be so great.
I hold the key to my dreams and my life. No one else can decide how my life should be lived.
I choose to protect my character rather than my image. I can’t control how others view me, but I can control how I view myself.
I can barely draw a stick figureâ€”seriously. And so I believed most of my life that I just wasn’t born with that elusive and magical creative gene. It wasn’t until I was able to value the process of creating rather than concentrate on its outcome that I realized no such gene exists. I admit that I haven’t been making time for this intention recently, and I’ve definitely noticed that the distance has had an impact on my overall mood and energy. Still, that realization reinforces the importance of those moments during which we allow our minds to be free of expectations and focus solely on the “now.”
When I first started my blog, I kept it very private (i.e., I didn’t tell many people about it). In fact, I am just beginning to talk with my family and friends about it. The blog has been my “private” space to practice unraveling the various layers of my identity. I was like a police detective at the beginning! I made sure never to mention anything that could possibly end up on Google, and I was careful that nothing was tagged with my name or any of the organizations related to me. I’m still careful, just not as stringent.
There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when I thought everything had to be perfect. Both offline and online, we are exposed constantly to individuals who appear to “have it all.” These are the people whom we believe demonstrate apparently effortless perfection, and do so relentlessly. Yet I know that utilizing these personas to define success is a one-way ticket to Doomsville. You may end up with a “perfect” life on the outside, but you’ll sacrifice yourself in the process. Yes, you’ll have a life, but you won’t be living it.
When I realized that I was falling into that trap, I decided to become proactive. So while I smile a lot and strive to achieve my dreams, I am still a regular person with myriad flaws, bad days, and a (surprisingly) long list of people who dislike me. When I have children, I want them to see the whole me, not just the positive milestones I’ve set along my path.
Focus on My Family and Friends
I have the most wonderful family and friends, too wonderful in fact. They have graciously allowed me to focus too much attention on personal endeavors and as a result, I neglected to dedicate enough of my time to them. I live far away from most of my family and friends, but even those friends who live nearby haven’t seen me in months. This eats me up inside, and it is something I certainly want to work on. I could continue to sit under the all too large umbrella of guilt, but that won’t do me any good. So, it’s time I take action and create change.
Whenever I refer to my family and friends, my fiancÃ©, Ben, seems to get left out. In fact, I don’t think I have ever thanked Ben publicly for all he does to help me. We’ve been together almost seven years, and I am more in love with him each and every day. He has been by my side through incredible moments and through horrible momentsâ€”he’s been with me for them all. He pushes me to chase my dreams, even when all the lights of hope have been turned off. I am grateful to have found my one and only soul mate.
Just the word, simplify, makes me feel calm and joyful. Yet I can’t take credit for this intention. I began working with Aby Garvey from Simplify 101 a while ago, and she has really helped me simplify my lifeâ€”and get more done at the same time. The most important lesson I’ve learned thus far is to prioritize. It’s an ongoing process, which is much more valuable than just “organizing stuff.” As Jess emphasizes on MakeUnderMyLife, it’s important to get into the habit of exfoliating the unnecessary from our lives. I am going to make a public intention to which Jess can hold me accountable: I plan to exfoliate at least four items each month. I will donate as many of these items as I can to benefit my nonprofit organization (through eBay Giving Works). Item one for exfoliation: a gorgeous, small storage basket that can’t seem to find a home in my little apartment.
When it comes to intentions related to my current endeavors, it is very important for me to remain honest (both to myself and to others). I want to provide real adviceâ€”the advice I wish I had received! I won’t sugarcoat the experiences, but I won’t downplay the positives, either. There are pros and cons to everything in life, and I wish more people were willing to share both sides rather than focus exclusively on the pros or solely on the cons. I will admit the mistakes I have made, and I have made lots of them. Still, they remain my most valuable teachers.
Gratitude is a major component of my life. It is so important to acknowledge individuals who do something positive, even if it was for someone else. I’m now obsessed with two simple words: “thank you.” I am a bit old-fashioned and love to write handwritten thank-you notes for pretty much everything. In all of 2008, I probably received fewer than 10 handwritten thank-you notes (really about 5 if you subtract the formal thank-you notes). I keep these notes and make an effort to go above and beyond to support these individuals. A handwritten note is a powerful way to tell someone that they have made a difference in your life.
Be grateful for this moment. Don’t put dreams off for tomorrow.
Create a New Path
Use passion as a rulebook. Rules and lessons on how to achieve have been created by others, yet they can be very limiting. Following the paths of others doesn’t allow you to create a new path for your own personal journey.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogmaâ€”which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
– Steve Jobs
Click here to see more DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews.