DESIGN YOUR LIFE carolyn of care.commit.change


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.

Choose Authenticity

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 loving—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.

Brené Brown, Ph.D.

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 no—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.

Be Creative


I can barely draw a stick figure—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.”

Unveil Imperfections

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 fiancé, 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 moments—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 life—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.

Be Honest

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 advice—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.

Be Grateful

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 dogma—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

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This Post Has 0 Comments

  1. Carrie

    What an excellent post, thank you so much for sharing Carolyn’s story with us, I am totally inspired!

  2. Wow, I’m impressed. She makes me feel lazy!

    I agree with her on simplify. I’m going to do everything I can this weekend to REALLY simplify my home, and my weekly routine. Thanks for the inspiration Jess, you have inspired me to do a MAKE UNDER!!! I’m even buying MUCH less because I don’t want to add clutter or waste!

  3. CB

    Oh my gosh, she is definitely one of my very favorites! 🙂 I really resonate with her philosophies! She is a good writer, too.

  4. Ben

    I may be a little bit biased, but Carolyn is one of the most motivated and inspiring people on this planet. She continuously surprises me every day with something new and amazing to contribute to this world. She is selfless, and I am lucky.

  5. mitch

    Carolyn is a terrific, inspiring young lady; we can all learn volumes about life from her and the pro bono work she does every minute of every day.

  6. Lauren Apaluccio

    What a wonderful story! It’s remarkable how much you have accomplished in such a short time, and what powerful lessons you have taken from your experiences. Thank you for sharing them with us!

    “This above all: to thine own self be true” -WS

  7. nicky

    All I can say is WOW! Carolyn is an amazing and very inspiring person.

    “Following the paths of others doesn’t allow you to create a new path for your own personal journey.” – these are words that everyone should live by.

    Thank you so much for sharing this 🙂

  8. cory

    It’s clear that “Perseverance” not only describes the strength of the children in her book, but is an appropriate title for Carolyn herself. Her lifelong commitment to putting others’ needs before her own is not only inspirational, but reminds the rest of us what it means to lead a truly successful life. I can’t wait to read the stories in her book, but in the meantime, I think we can all learn something from her own story and life philosophy.

  9. Great post. Love the ripple —- sending out goodness.
    She radiates light and beauty.

  10. Steve

    Great post. Carolyn, congrats on refocusing your life to feed yourself spiritually and emotionally! It can be a big challenge, if achievement is the center of your identity, but the rewards are immense.

  11. Stacy

    Loved reading this!! You’re the best Carolyn!! I miss not living with you and being inspired by your motivation and dedication to everything you are passionate about. You’re amazing. xo xo – Stacy

  12. Carolyn

    Jess, thank you so much for this opportunity! I want to frame this post — you made it so pretty :).

    If anyone has any questions, just post a comment and I’ll pop on over to answer (from what do I feed my dog to how do I manage time). And you’re always welcome (would love it actually) to stop by my blog and say hi! My 11th intention is to respond to comments on my blog in a more timely manner. I’m working on it! I spend so much time reading them that I don’t account for time to respond.

    I am so excited that people liked the post and were able to pull things from it that they can utilize and reflect upon within their own personal journeys.

    – – –
    @Carrie: Thank You!

    @OhBrooke: Isn’t simplifying so liberating! I love the process of making under and exfoliating. [And don’t feel lazy – I love your free time post today! I write everything in a notebook before I type it so scanning my notebook would save so much time!! I just need to work on my handwriting :).]

    @CB: Thank You! I think this may be the first time someone has said that I’m a good writer!

    @Ben: You got a whole paragraph and a picture. So no comment!

    @Mitch: I only know one Mitch, my dad. But I don’t think he knows about this post; however, the word “pro bono” leads me to believe it’s him. I’ll call and find out.
    If it’s not my dad, thank you to Mitch!

  13. Carolyn

    @Lauren Apaluccio, @Nicky, @Cory, @pve design, @Steve: Thank you for such kind words. I feel inspired by each of you. Jess has one incredible blog and it’s been so much fun to be a guest here!

    Now it’s time for all of us to do our weekly exfoliation!!

  14. Jess

    @ all: you are all so right, she is such an amazing person. Her story makes me reevaluate what is really possible to accomplish.

    @ Brooke: Yay! Sounds like a guest post? What do you say?

    @ Carolyn: Thank you so much for taking time out of your BUSY day to give us a peek into your intentions. 🙂

    @ Ben: What a great fiance!

  15. SDG

    I can’t even begin to express how important this particular post it for me. She has echoed every thought and feeling I’ve had in the past 30 days. Thanks so very much for this.

  16. Jess

    @ SDG: I’m glad you loved her post! She is quite an inspiration.

  17. Carolyn,
    Even though I work with you closely, I still manage to learn something new about you (and myself!) every time that I read your inspirational words of wisdom. I appreciate all of the wonderful things that you are doing for the world! (To learn more about Carolyn’s non-profit go to

  18. I wanted to jump on here (a bit late) & say how much I loved this post! I have gotten to know Carolyn through Twitter & our blogs, and I can honestly say she’s the only person who I’ve only virtually “met” & can still consider a good friend. So smart, so supportive, so positive & so sweet – I love reading her blog & find so much of it resonates with me, and this post encompassed all of that. I’ve been one of the lucky ones to get a hand-written card, and it lives above my desk because it meant so much to me! We should all aspire to go above & beyond & live authentically live Carolyn does.

  19. Betty Spoont Goodman

    Carolyn…You are amazing and I loved reading about you and what you are doing! I am very proud of you and are thrilled to be your soon to be “Aunt”!! Love you…Betty

  20. Alex

    I’m never disappointed by reading old posts from this blog.

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