Anyone Can Be an Alchemist

I visited an agency about a year ago and met an insightful account executive who recommended Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist when I asked her for reading recommendations. I finally had time to read it during my time off from school and work during the holidays and I’m glad I did. Although it didn’t directly pertain to PR, it provided inspiration that easily applied to my career and life in general.

The Alchemist is a story of a young boy, Santiago, who embarks on a mission to find his treasure. Along the way, he falls into snares and consequences of naivety, makes immense sacrifices, finds and loses love, and learns life lessons from an infamous alchemist.

As I read The Alchemist, several major themes kept returning:

1. Find your Personal Legend

This book placed an emphasis on chasing after your dreams.  Santiago was on a mission to find his life’s purpose. As many others can relate, Santiago didn’t always know his personal legend and reason for life. If you don’t know, that’s okay. Part of the fun is discovering that one thing that makes you happy and makes you different from anyone else on earth. Are you hoping to discover your personal legend this year? The beauty of this concept is that making a decision is only the beginning of a lifelong journey that can be extraordinarily rewarding.

What are you most excited about in life?

2. Don’t fear the desert

In The Alchemist, Santiago took a journey through the Sahara Desert to go to the pyramids, where he believed the treasure was buried. This was an apprehensive time in his journey. The caravan through the desert was long and dangerous and at times Santiago was tempted to give up.

Sometimes your life’s calling will require you to take a detour. Instead of feeling inconvenienced by these perceived setbacks, see them as opportunities– even in the midst of suffering. You might be thinking, “That sounds a lot easier than it is.” Coelho cleverly wrote, “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself… No heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” You’re not alone in the desert and when you reach an oasis or your final destination you will be reminded of life’s blessings and be thankful for life in and of itself.

What are you most afraid of? Why?

“Immerse yourself in the desert. You don’t even have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a single grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.”

3. “Where your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” 

During Santiago’s journey, he finds a beautiful woman and falls in love. She tells Santiago to follow his heart and find his treasure, and then he can come back and they will be together. I admired this selfless aspect of love because she wanted him to pursue his dreams enough to let him go.

As Coehlo wrote, “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

How can you do a better job of loving your family, significant other or coworkers?

Life is Golden 

The alchemist book

Add this one to your booklist.

I admit… when I picked up this book I wasn’t really sure what an alchemist was, but now that I’ve finished this book I understand that life is less about a treasure hunt than transforming what you see as lead to gold.

Would you say your life is more like lead or gold?

Although life will never be perfect, it’s rewarding to follow after your personal legend even if it means you’ll have to travel through a desert for a while. You have everything you need right now to see your life as the sparkling gold it is.

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”- Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist

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Reflections on a Mason Jar of Memories

A Mason Jar of Memories from 2013

A Mason Jar of Memories from 2013

I don’t always play board games, but when I do…I typically can’t wait for someone to win so I can do something else.

Maybe I’m no fun, but something about the fact that most board games come with a million little pieces and a novel-sized book of instructions that people don’t read, but still manage to argue about the rules, makes them even less fun. I’d rather do something else, like have a conversation, bake or go outside like people used to do before televisions were invented.

On New Year’s Day I was with my boyfriend, some family and friends, and we started playing his favorite board game. I was reluctant at first, but since I was in the holiday spirit and figured it wouldn’t kill me, I went ahead and joined in. Seeing the delight on his face was something I wasn’t expecting. He was genuinely appreciative that I put aside my preferences and played his favorite game. Although it wasn’t a tremendous sacrifice on my part, it brought me joy in return and I started to think this would be a great continuation of my New Year’s resolution from last year.

Choosing Contentment

In 2013 I resolved to be more content and positive with my life the way it is. I have a perfectionist mindset, which often makes it hard to appreciate what is going right and focus on fixing what isn’t. To help me accomplish this new mindset I wrote down positive experiences and thoughts, and put them in a jar on my dresser. After ringing in the New Year, I read through all the little slips of paper. I remembered sweet conversations over mugs of coffee, thoughtful gifts I didn’t deserve from friends and family members, and the feeling of accomplishment that washed over me after seeing my work in print for the first time. Others included waking up to beautiful sunsets, volunteering at philanthropic community events and random acts of kindness.

Last year wasn’t perfect, but looking back on the positive things reminded me that everything doesn’t have to be perfect for a year to be productive in accomplishing my goals. The strange thing is, I really didn’t even make specific goals when I decided what I would focus on in 2013. In addition, I felt much more successful than I had in years before when I wrote out a ton of things I wanted to change about my life.

Redefining Resolutions

Instead of a resolution that limits your possibilities, why not choose a word instead?

As a former, overly obsessive resolutionist, I know that more resolutions are abandoned than achieved, and the most apparent reason for that is the fact that most resolutions are about the person making them. As I looked back through all of the positive moments from 2013, I was reminded that contentment, which is defined as “a state of happiness or satisfaction,” is the key to accepting what I have without longing for more or struggling to be someone else every time January rolls around. If I’m distracted by what I don’t have, I can’t see past my own failures and can’t possibly be in tune with meeting the needs of others. Contentment is an open door to freedom from greed, envy, selfishness and severe expectations. Although contentment can’t solve all of life’s problems, it’s a great place to start.

Contentment takes discipline and can be difficult in our world where we know little of actual need, but reading through each of the positive things that happened in 2013, I was reminded that the good far outweighs the bad.

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.                                    – Oprah Winfrey

Thankfulness

When contentment is achieved, thankfulness is the result. Thankfulness is a relational benefit of contentment, which is “expressive of thanks,” and “aware and appreciative of a benefit.” Oftentimes thankfulness obliges selflessness, which can lead to making sacrifices for the benefit of others. There are so many people and things to be thankful for and I sincerely hope that this year I will more effectively recognize what is lovely and worthy of gratitude (and even things that aren’t) and respond with self-sacrifice and love.

I would love to hear about the word you’ve chosen to focus on in 2014.

Wishing you a blessed New Year!

Is an #UNselfie mindset possible in a #selfie world?

Shouldn't every day be an #UNselfie day?

Shouldn’t every day be an #UNselfie day?

Forget chocolate. Selfies are society’s new guilty pleasure.

So what exactly is a selfie?

Oxford Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” for 2013 is defined as, “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” More than 90 million selfies have been posted across social media channels since the word was first used in an Australian forum in 2002. Since then, selfies have become widely popular among social media users, including celebrities, political figures and athletes.

It didn’t take long for technology to adapt to the trend by creating front-facing cameras and smartphones to accommodate selfie photographers. It’s no surprise that Facebook, Twitter and especially Instagram are loaded with them and that Instagram’s most used hash tag is #me.

Don’t you think it’s all a little narcissistic?

Unleashing the #UNselfie

This week was the second annual Giving Tuesday.

A number of what users are calling #UNselfie photos were posted featuring people holding signs supporting charities and advocating self-sacrifice.

This day of giving was initially launched by New York’s 92nd Street Y , the United Foundation and the Case Foundation and has since rallied thousands of nonprofits to reach out to prospective donors and share the importance of giving. The hope behind the campaign is inspiring similar fervor to that of Black Friday sales, according to Forbes.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen people camp out for days in advance and line up for blocks just to help others.

Comparison of #selfie posts and posts about giving

Comparison of #selfie posts and posts about giving

An Instagram hashtag search on Giving Tuesday pulled up more than 60 million photos tagged #selfie, but less than 600 thousand photos were tagged with the top five commonly used hashtags about giving: #giving, #givingback, #givingtuesday, #unselfie and #givingbacktothecommunity.

It’s heart-warming to see the reaction to the movement dedicated to giving through #UNselfies over social media and  I don’t want to discount the compassion behind anyone’s efforts to make a difference, but shouldn’t every day be a giving day?

In Conclusion…

Let’s face it; we’re all guilty of taking selfies and putting our wants above the needs of others at one time or another. Living in a #selfie culture makes it easy to forget that giving isn’t only something we should do during the holidays. Wouldn’t it be nice if we greeted every day with thanksgiving without a turkey dinner, gave without expecting anything in return and felt immense joy in the absence of a decorated tree or presents?

I challenge you to give this Christmas season, but to also continue giving long after the tree and lights are packed away. Do your part to make your life a walking #UNselfie. As many have said before, it’s much better to give than to receive.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we greeted every day with thanksgiving without a turkey dinner, gave without expecting anything in return and felt immense joy in the absence of a decorated tree or presents?

Living A Glass-Half-Full Life

Screen shot 2013-03-31 at 4.52.27 PMMy resolution for 2013 was to be more positive and it’s been an insightful journey, filled with ups and downs. However, I’ve been learning a few things about myself and the power of positive thinking.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:

1. Balance is key. 

It’s really hard to think positively when you don’t get enough sleep or eat poorly. Exercising, eating right and getting a full night’s rest is one of the easiest way to control emotions and to think more clearly.

 2. Think outside the box.

It’s easy to get in the habit of wanting only one thing and developing expectations. For example, if I make plans to get together with a friend, it’s easy to get discouraged when plans change. Instead, think of alternatives. If this doesn’t work, then I’ll have more time for _______________ instead. Thinking outside your expectations helps ease disappointment if the original plans don’t work. It reverses the situation into a win-win.

3. Q-TIP (Quit Taking It Personally).

Criticism is hard to take, especially when it’s not asked for. Understand, first of all, that what they might’ve said might be a product of a bad day that had nothing to do with you. However, be able to retract truth in their words. Maybe there’s something you’re doing to hurt others. Regardless of what they said or how they said it, think about what you’ll do differently and get past the hurt you might be feeling.

 4. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

One of the best ways to think more positively is to guard what you see and what you say. Our culture can influence the way we think, so it’s important to be careful what you take in. It’s equally as important to think before you speak. Just as we are easily influenced by our culture, others are influenced by our words. Think back to the last few times you’ve posted on your favorite social media platform. Was it positive? The more you speak positively, the more you’ll think positively.

5.  Stop worrying about things you can’t change.

Sometimes in life there will be things you cannot change. Rather than obsessing over them or constantly worrying, think about the many things there are to be thankful for.

6. Cut out the comparisons.

I tend to be a competitive person from time to time. Always remember that comparison will rob you of all joy.  Your life should never be about keeping up with the Jones’ because someone will always be worse than you and better that you at something. Don’t let those distinctions ruin it for you. Rather, focus on doing the best you can do in every area and stop worrying about who might be ahead or behind you.

 7. Kindness goes a long way.

Can you remember a time when someone said something that brightened your day? It feels good to help others feel good. Acknowledge others and make them feel appreciated through random acts of kindness, hand-written notes and positive affirmations. Always try to look for the good in others rather in the bad and it will lighten your mood.

“Welcome every morning with a smile. Look on the new day as another special gift from your Creator, another golden opportunity to complete what you were unable to finish yesterday. Be a self-starter. Let your first hour set the theme of success and positive action that is certain to echo through your entire day. Today will never happen again. Don’t waste it with a false start or no start at all. You were not born to fail.” ~ Og Mandino

New Year, Happier Me

Screen shot 2013-02-08 at 7.38.44 AMNew Years Eve was always the time of year I’d compile a novel of resolutions that would make me a better me. I’d vow to make a 4.0, lose weight, or try a new hobby and stick to it faithfully for about a month, but by the time February rolled around, I’d be back to the same lifestyle I had the year before.

This year, tired of the endless cycle of discontentment, I wanted to try something different. I made one resolution. (Not 100. Just one.)

The resolution I made was to be more content with my life the way it is and to be more aware of the little things that make each special and unique. January has come and gone a lot less stressful than the Januarys before, where I’d scramble from one thing to another, trying to make time to fit in everything I wanted to accomplish.

Don’t get me wrong… I still run around frantically, signing up for way too many things and I still take delight in making goals to help me be a more well-rounded person, but I’ve realized that being a better me is not about spending more time at the gym, studying more or winning an award. Those things are great, but constantly trying to change who I am isn’t helping anyone.

This year I’m striving to think more positively without letting little imperfections weigh me down. I will never be resolution Lauren or the perfect embodiment of the prestigious list I composed every year on New Years Eve. This year I’m just going to be a more content and appreciative me.