Welcome to Bringing Back Awesome, where we hope to enrich your life every single day with a dash of excitement and a punch of awesomeness!

Four simple steps to setting small meaningful goals

Goals-and-Goal-Setting-255x164

One of the things we said we would address in our first annual #SummerOfAwesome is setting goals. Or more specifically, setting small, meaningful goals.

Goal setting.

Seems like such simple fare, and yet so few of us set goals and actually follow through with the steps to achieve those goals.

The time for that to end is right now.

Because today is the day to start identifying your dreams, setting goals, and moving ahead toward a most amazing future!

But first, where do we go wrong with goal setting?

mistake-in-goal-setting-smallAs the image above identifies, we often make big sweeping goals – sometimes more than one – and they’re not specific enough. Just a huge gesture. Such as, “By this time next year, I want to be in better shape physically.”

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with that goal. It’s an admirable goal, for sure. But how does one achieve that goal? Because that’s one big idea.

It’s the kind of goal that’s big and amorphous. And frankly easy to forget about on a day-to-day basis. Or to put off taking steps, just keeping the goal “in mind.” This is especially true if you don’t break it down into smaller, more manageable goals.

The first step is to set your overarching goal.

Let’s use my goal of being in better physical shape by this time next year as our example goal.

The second step to setting a goal is to break the larger, longer term goal into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Really small chunks. In other words, what you will do daily to reach that goal. In essence, a small daily goal.

I’ve decided that I am going to do some sort of physical activity every single day (barring illness).

So we’ve gone from this giant, amorphous blob of a goal – getting in better physical shape over the next year – to a specific daily requirement that I’m going to hold myself to.

While I am also going to implement an exercise plan and routine (as separate goals), the reason that I am committing to one form of physical activity every single day is so that I do at least something on days that I might have a genuine reason for missing the planned exercise – had to stay late at work, put my back out, running my kid around on errands for school or activities.

So by committing to do some activity each day, and layering that into a larger, more structured plan, I am not giving myself an out if timing is off for a day or two – on the days that life gets in the way. I must still uphold my commitment to myself, but I have more flexibility, like going for a quick walk around the block or doing some yoga stretches before bed.

While I’m using the example of exercise, this applies to other pursuits as well. If you want to write a book by this time next year, you can commit to writing something every day. You can also build an outline and a plan for how much ground you’d like to cover daily, but for those days when the well runs dry or if you’re very busy, committing to writing something, no matter how little, is better than losing a day entirely.

The next step…write it down.

And don’t just write it down and stuff your daily goal in a drawer somewhere. Nope.

Write it down and post it somewhere.

In fact, post it in 3 places in your home that you will see frequently.

Here’s what I wrote down for my small daily goal…

small daily goal 1…and I posted it in the 3 places I think I’ll hit with the most frequency while I’m home before and after work…the kitchen and 2 bathrooms! (That says a lot about me, I’m sure, but we really don’t need to go there…)

Now, every time I walk past the sign in the kitchen or when I look in the mirror in either of the bathrooms, I see my little reminder. And because I have a visual queue in several locations in my house, I am frequently reminded of my commitment to myself.

The final step is follow-through. And guess what? Posting the small daily goal reminders around my house is working. It’s prompting me to not only remember that I’ve set a goal for myself, but that reminder encourages me to follow through!

So, to recap, here is how to set a meaningful, achievable goal:

  1. Set an overarching goal.
  2. Break the larger goal into smaller, more manageable chunks.
  3. Write down your goal and post it in 3 places in your home.
  4. Follow through!

What kind of goals have you been putting off setting for yourself? Why not start following these steps today? You’ll be glad you did!

 

It’s ok to wonder why

you were given this lifeIt’s ok to wonder why. Why am I here? What’s it all about? What’s the point? When are things going to change?

Sometimes life is hard. Confusing. Scary. Lonely.

Some days maybe you just feel like you can’t handle it all.

Ok, then don’t. Just stop. Sit around and do nothing. Call off sick. Stay in bed. And don’t try to argue with me and say that you can’t stop spinning all of the plates or juggling all of the oranges because then there will just be twice as much to do tomorrow. Perhaps that is so. But perhaps you also just need a break today. And if you take that little break, that peaceful moment in time, maybe tomorrow you can spin the plates and juggle the oranges again just fine.

But always remember one thing. Even if you’re having a bad day, or a rough week, or even a hard couple of months, please remember that you really are strong enough to live the life you’ve been given. Dig deep and find that place of strength within yourself.

Doesn’t mean you won’t collapse in a heap. Doesn’t mean you won’t weep until your eyes are swollen.

But just dig deep.

I promise you that little place of respite exists quietly somewhere deep in your soul. It’s the place where sighs land and dreams begin.

And you’re strong enough to get there, darling.

Set your own standards

dontbeliketherestofthemIf there’s one thing that I’ve learned during this #SummerOfAwesome that’s worth sharing it’s how very important it is to set your own standards.

We say it all the time, to the point of becoming cliche. Live your own life. Be yourself. Do what makes you happy.

That’s all fine and dandy, until your way of being happy and living your own life and being yourself conflicts with someone around you. Until you’ve chosen to do something differently from the way that others around you would chose to do it if they were in the situation themselves.

Now that’s where it get’s tricky, isn’t it?

Because that’s the place where judgment and disdain, and maybe even secret jealousy and other quiet pettinesses come in. Sometimes even from the people closest to us whom we love dearly.

And that’s uncomfortable. Occasionally downright painful.

But.

You know what’s right for you.

Let me repeat that. You know what’s right for you.

Even if you’ve asked for advice and everyone around you thinks it’s better to do it a different way. And even if you initially agreed with them.

Then came that little whisper. That squeaky little voice coming from somewhere deep inside of you, with barely enough courage to be heard. But you heard it. And once you heard it, you couldn’t let it go. And maybe you even obsessed and did a fair amount of hand-wringing about what the right answer is.

And maybe it’s even a little risky what you’re thinking of doing. Maybe they might be wiser, but you just can’t let it go. Because there’s something inside you telling you that you’ve got to live your life the way you want to, doing what feels right to you.

So you forge ahead, risking judgment and maybe even disdain. Or even worse, silent judgment and ridicule behind your back.

Just remember this…you don’t owe your naysayers a goddamned thing.

But you do owe yourself a lot. In fact, you owe yourself everything. Everything you can possibly do in your lifetime. Everything that you can possibly aspire to and make happen.

So put their voices out of your head and stop letting them live your life for you. You know who you are and what you need. And so long as your intentions are good and your motives are pure, fucking go for it!

Set your own standards and live your own life!

Don’t be like the rest of them, darling…

Plus or minus

plus minus 2Sometimes when we see the good things in other people’s lives, it reminds us of what we don’t have in our life. You may look at their life and see something really great in this one snapshot in time. It highlights for us what we don’t have at this one point in time in our lives.

It’s not good or bad, it just is what it is.

So rather than feeling badly or letting it send you into a downward spiral, let’s focus on the pluses in our lives, not the minuses.

It’s human nature to feel a pang of envy when we see someone with something we don’t have in our lives that we feel is missing or is something we really want. And while it is human nature to feel that envy, the healthiest thing to do is to recognize it for what it is – a moment in time in their life that may or may not reflect the whole picture. And while they may have that one thing you’re hoping for, you may also have things that they would like to have in their life. And they may also have some minuses in their life that you might never want to deal with. Nothing is ever as simple as it may appear on the surface.

So once you’ve recognized that this is merely a snapshot,  a moment in time, take a look at the pluses in your life – the good things that you have in your life.

When we focus on the pluses rather than the minuses, it will help us to recognize the goodness and the beauty in our lives, even if we wish some other things could change.

And when we begin to appreciate and feel the joy of the pluses in our lives, it makes this big ordeal of life a whole lot more worth living.

So in this #SummerOfAwesome, let’s focus on the pluses in our lives.

Dive into summer 300x381

My Very Personal Story

I’m about to get personal here and share something like I never have before. And I’m a little scared. But I write this not for sympathy or pity. I write this because I need to and want to let others who may be feeling this way, it’s ok.

58612_113201948738359_888847_nIt’s August, 2014. And I can not figure out where the time went. In just a few more months we will be ringing in the new year, and that just blows my mind. For me, August arrives with some heavy anxiety, though.

As I write this, my hands are shaking, my chest feels like it is caving in, my breathing gets short, and the panic starts to slowly creep up on me. I have to talk myself out of it pretty quickly, or it will literally knock me on my ass…literally.

I had my first panic attack on September 5, 2010. The night prior, September 4th, my family and I arrived at my parent’s house. It was a long day of travel, we were tired (more like beyond exhausted), and the house was full of people. I just wanted everyone to go away so we could have some alone time.

On the 5th, my mother and I went to the mall. We had a few things we needed to buy for the week ahead, and I needed to get out of the house. Quite honestly, I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew I would need a pair of flats because of all the standing we were about to encounter in the next few days.

We stopped at the shoe department first. My mom was going one direction to look for a pair of shoes for herself, and I would go the other way. And it was right there that it hit me. It was like someone took a steel beam and swung it into my chest so hard, it knocked me down into the seat. I couldn’t breathe! I had no idea what was happening. When I glanced over at my mom, she was busy shopping. I certainly didn’t want her to know something was clearly wrong with me. So I took some deep breaths, got out of the chair, and carried on like nothing happened. But in the back of my head I was so scared. What the hell just happened? A panic attack is what just happened.

This happened quite a bit after that day. Sometimes daily. Sometimes so badly that I would have to sit down, no matter where I was, just to be able to get myself together so I could move on. One time it happened in the grocery store I had to squat down in the middle of the aisle because it was so debilitating, I couldn’t walk.

After some time, it tapered off. I would only have the attacks once a month, and even now they are less frequent and more manageable. I am able to recognize when it is happening, and take immediate action.

As we have entered August, though, the panic attacks are becoming more frequent, and seem a little stronger. You see, for me, August is a memory. This August 26th, my father would have been 75 years old. My father and I always shared the special bond that we had birthdays which landed on the 26th; his in August, mine in May. Five years ago on August 26th, we nearly lost my father to a faulty pacemaker, on the day I was supposed to travel back home to Phoenix. That was a horrible feeling and just a horrible day, having to leave not knowing if it was going to be the last time I’d ever see him again. And in 2010, a week after my father’s 71st birthday, he passed away from heart failure.

August is full of emotions. It also is a month of disbelief at times. As well as all the memories. It is a month that floods my mind and my heart beyond its capacity, I become overloaded.

Sometimes, I find myself just crying. Crying because I miss him, because he suffered, because he isn’t here to see all of his grandchildren, because he loved life and isn’t here to enjoy it anymore. There are times I don’t even know why I am crying, but I just do. I just let it out.

This month will come and go, and I will get through the panic attacks. They are a part of who I am now. So this month will require a lot of work mentally on my part. But I plan on embracing the feelings that are bound to take over this month.

And I plan on celebrating on August 26th with a cosmopolitan in memory of my father. I think he’d think that would be a pretty awesome way to celebrate his life!

Keep Showing Up

keep-showing-upEver feel like just rolling over in your bed when the alarm goes off? Skipping work or that dreaded conference call you have scheduled every two weeks at 6 AM? I’d wager most of us have felt that way at some time or another.

Today I wanted to skip my 6 AM conference call. No one would really miss me if I didn’t show up, and really, I only need to attend one more call to meet my quota for my course work, so what’s the big deal?

Well, the big deal is, every time I get on this call, it seems as though we are all experiencing the same thoughts or emotions. And every time I get on this call, I learn something from someone. And it’s comforting to know I am not alone.

When I keep showing up, I learn something new, and that propels me into a new thought process, a different way of thinking, a better mindset. Heck, I even had something to offer today that helped others, and that was pretty amazing. If we just stayed in bed and never showed up, we’d be stagnant. How boring is that?

So starting today, I encourage you all to shake the desire and thoughts entering your mind, convincing you to not go. Just keep showing up. Even when you don’t want to, make your presence. You never know what you will learn, or who you will be inspiring.

Make it an awesome day today!

#SummerofAwesome

Dive into summer 500x635

What do I have that’s good?

life is goodEvery now and again, especially if I’m feeling exhausted or hungry or a combination of the two, I sometimes lose my focus on what’s good in life. Perhaps even start to feel sorry for myself for the things that I don’t have in my life. And by things, I don’t mean material “stuff,” but rather the more meaningful things, and I might even begin to compare my life and things that I feel are lacking to what other people appear to have that’s better.

It happens to the best of us.

Then I have to remind myself to keep my eyes on my own paper.

It happened to me today. After traveling to Indiana for a fun-filled weekend with family and friends, full of music and dancing and laughter, I was feeling exhausted. And hungry. A bad combination for me, because that leads to feeling down. But this time I circumvented that feeling by thinking about the things in my life that I have that others might look at me and say that I’m blessed with a lot of goodness in my life. (Plus I ate dinner, so I was no longer “hangry!”)

Here are some of the things that I thought of that make my life so very good…

  • Two amazing, funny, smart, and healthy children
  • A fun extended family with whom I can always connect and have a hearty (and maybe even hysterical) laugh with
  • Some very good close friends who are there for the laughter and the tears
  • A growing circle of friends whom I enjoy
  • A rich cultural heritage
  • A beautiful home
  • A good job

This, of course, is just the short list, but is by no means a small or meaningless list. It’s a powerful list of very good things.

Yet, if one were to be negative, it would be possible to say that every item on that list could have a down side.

True.

There is a yin and yang to everything. But the amazing rewards that I’ve gathered from just this short list have made my life and my world a much more joyful place. And for that I am so grateful.

So when you’re beginning to slide into a slump, try to consider all the good you have in your life.

It just might dispel the notion that things are looking down.

What time is it?

time

A couple of months ago I noticed that I was reflexively checking the time throughout the day, then making assessments about how quickly or slowly my day was going. Allowing anxiety to grow based on what I still had to do or hadn’t accomplished. Not being present.

So I decided to stop wearing my watch.

Seems like a simplistic approach right? And it is. Yet it worked.

I noticed I stopped focusing on the time on my watch and began living more in the moment and focusing on what I was doing. Of course it’s not like I was ever far from a clock – my phone, my computer, my calendar with meeting reminders – but those are not sitting on my wrist, tempting me to check the time moment after moment.

Sometimes the simplest solutions produce meaningful results.

Is it time for you to take off your watch?

Bucket list update

bucket list

So I thought it was time for a bucket list update since I checked off another item -Yahtzee!

  • Take a car out on the open road and drive 100 mph – CHECK! – it was exhilarating and awesome (and probably a little foolish, but what the hell)!
  • Go target shooting – check!
  • Travel to Serbia and Croatia to the villages where my family is from
  • Spend a summer in Scandinavia, the land of the midnight sun, and sleep when I’m tired and eat when I’m hungry and see what happens to the entire rhythm of my life
  • Go tubing on the Guadalupe River in Texas
  • Go to New Orleans with my best friend
  • Drive to Alaska – I’ve been told that driving to Alaska is not the best plan because the roads are so bad, so that part may have to change, but Alaska is still on the list. Preferably in summer. See the summer in Scandinavia above for the rationale.
  • Go skeet shooting – perhaps it’s because I grew up watching The Love Boat!
  • Visit the Parnassus bookstore in Nashville
  • Visit Oklahoma City and meet Sweet Brown – this is one of the silly ones, but she just seems like a wonderful lady!
  • Learn to fly fish
  • Hold a zombie prom
  • Send floating lanterns into the sky, preferably at a wedding (maybe even at my own some day)
  • Get a free-sailing boat (mini sailboat) and take it out on the water
  • Travel to Scotland – maybe even live there

Have you checked off anything on your bucket list lately? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Dive into summer 300x381

7.5 questions :: Steven R. O’Brien

Steven R O'Brien

Steven R. O’Brien is an artist (a writer and actor) and an energetic healer – a man who is fiercely committed to helping people who are willing to help themselves. He does this through art, the power of honesty, and guiding people to the powerful intuitive force that exists within us all.

I discovered Steven and his honest, soulful writings at Rebelle Society, and have been captivated by his work ever since. Steven was kind enough to answer our 7.5 questions for our #SummerOfAwesome, and he really hit it out of the ballpark with his deep and impassioned responses. Enjoy!

1. Who do you think is awesome and why?

To me, the most awesome people are the ones who have the courage to acknowledge and confront their innermost fears so they may follow the calling of their magnificent heart.

We live in a society and culture that puts a premium on excelling and on the quality of courage, yet forgets that without fear there would be no such thing as courage. The awesome people of this world are the ones who can say out loud that they are afraid without shame. They say it to let go of the power it has over them so they can move confidently in the direction of their dreams and highest calling.

We are all afraid. The awesome ones to me do not allow that fear to build up in them silently and strangle their authentic voices. They have the fortitude to be honest to their fears, release them, and find what is most meaningful to them and to live only for that. I find this so uplifting and inspiring.

2. Do you believe in the power of positive thinking and how do you apply it in your everyday life?

Thoughts to me are like the many branches and leaves on a tree. The roots of the tree are what keep the branches and leaves healthy, vibrant, and flourishing. So I like to place my focus on the roots of my life which to me are my beliefs, my values, and my subsequent feelings.

If I am feeling negative, it is an indication that I am afraid. I follow the fear and invariably it leads me to a negative belief I am harboring that is causing a negative reaction in me.

Once I identify it, I ask for the willingness to release it and I turn it over to the universe. This immediately creates an opening in me that is very positive, as well as a feeling of freedom that now has the ability to flow through me organically, instead of constantly attempting to monitor myself and create a positive environment within. It is akin to falling in love with someone.

When you are in love, you don’t have to force yourself to think positively about the other person. It just is there naturally. I do my best to do the same with my inner being and my life. The more I focus on going after what I truly love, the less I have to worry about being positive. This is true freedom to me. It is the foundation from which I want every aspect of my life to flow.

So I guess the short answer is I believe in positive feeling and clearing away any blockage that prohibits that natural flow in all areas of my life.

3. If money and time were no object, what one thing would you love to do?

I recently completed my first feature film called One Night. I wrote it as well as co-starred in it. It took three and a half years to complete, and although the budget was miniscule, my partners and I financed it ourselves so it was very expensive for me.

So far we have not secured distribution for the film and if we do not we will completely lose our financial investment. I am having a hard time completing my second screenplay as a result. I intend on producing it independently yet again and this one has a much bigger budget (relatively speaking) and would require me raising funds on top of the normal timetable of producing a film. So if I had access to unlimited money and time, it would alleviate so many problems I am facing. I would be completely free to write and produce any film my heart and imagination could conceive of without any limitations of budget or shooting days. This would be absolute heaven and any filmmaker’s dream.

So much energy and time is spent on things that are not “creative” but necessary that the joy of creating something because you simply wish for it to exist in the world gets lost. I would love to be able to sit before an empty page and allow my spirit to write a story I want to tell and be able to shoot it completely without financial limitations. That would truly be a joy.

4. What’s the biggest struggle you’ve dealt with and how did you overcome it?

My biggest struggle has been in letting go of harboring a victim mentality and accepting complete responsibility for every single aspect of my life. This has been an immense challenge. I have suffered abuse and trauma in my life (haven’t we all on some level?) and it has been very difficult to drop the word blame from my vocabulary. It is so easy to point the finger and say, “If so and so had not done this and that to me, my life would be great and I would have no problems,” which simply is not true.

It has taken a tremendous amount of self-examination and spiritual work to begin to acknowledge that I have a part in everything that happens to me. Pointing the finger and blaming others and circumstances has only kept me enslaved to my past and to others. Ironically, it is by seeing my part in every thing that has finally set me free.

5. What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

This thought – I have traveled from all that is, the great creator, to take this specific form, so I must have made that journey for a reason, right? I must have come all this way and taken human form so as to accomplish something, yes? I mean, I didn’t just come here to pay rent, work a job that I don’t really much care for, buy some stuff, and then die, did I? I truly don’t think so.

So I really, really want to fulfill the reason I took the time to manifest into living breathing flesh. I want to know in every pore of my being what I came here to do and do only that with every ounce of myself. It has taken me 46 years to discover what that is and to finally have the courage to begin to do it. This and a very hot cup of coffee gets me up and at ‘em in the AM.

6. What is the best compliment you have ever received?

I was talking with my friend Nadia once, sharing some painful truths I had uncovered about myself. She suddenly put her hand to her heart as tears jumped into her eyes and said, “You are such a good person with such a good heart.” She said it so simply and with such truth, it really, really affected me deeply. It stopped the negative self-talk and self-hatred I was experiencing in the moment and really helped open a door inside me to start believing that this is indeed true. Sometimes we need to have our authentic selves reflected back to us by others in order to see ourselves clearly. I don’t think there is a better compliment any of us could ever receive than that.

7. What is your best summer memory?

There was a lake that my friends and I would go to every summer in our teens and early 20’s. We would load up the car with beer and our barbeque and leave at 6 AM and spend the whole day into early evening there. It was a magical place. We never did much of anything there beyond the usual stuff like volleyball and swim, but there was such a peace there. We all felt it. We related to each other with such ease there. We allowed our shells to crack open and let ourselves and our spirits take a deep breath. It was a tangible thing that we all experienced.

I look back on those days as some of the best days of my life, me with my friends being my true self with their true selves. For some mysterious reason, that lake was the enchanted elixir that allowed us to drop our macho Queens, NY tough guy armor, and allow us to drink in the sun and each other, if only for a little while. I will always be grateful to it.

7.5. When it comes to hijinks, instigator or implementer?

I am a known menace and troublemaker/rabble-rouser in my circle of friends. I love to have a laugh and am not beyond acting the fool or sometimes saying things bordering on inappropriate to get everyone going. I am a kook and I love people who have that aspect in them as well, so I surround myself with as many deep and spiritual people who are also as cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs as can be.

So rest assured if I’m not stirring the pot, one of my cronies is, so I suppose the short answer is all I need do is show up and madness is bound to occur, either because I am starting it or fielding it.

Here is a poem I wrote about the crazy ones and how I do love them all…

I have always had an affinity for the crazy ones of this life

Crazy friends

Crazy women

even

Crazy pets

I love the crazy ones

The ones that life has driven interminably Mad

Mad because they are too

Sane or

Too smart or

Too vulnerable or

Too sensitive for this fucking world

yes

I have always loved the crazy ones

The ones who refuse to bend so they ultimately break

Break apart and become beautiful because of it

Lion like

Roaming the tundra of their desolate lives

Searching for a Pride

A Pride to claim as their own

Yes I love them

They make life tolerable and make every night feel like the 4th of July

as they light up and run streaking through the night

And illuminate the darkness

If only for a moment

A brief moment

for

the rest

of

Us.

Thank you so very much, Steven, for offering such thoughtful, touching responses to our 7.5 questions and for sharing one of your beautiful poems with us. May you continue to let the gloriousness of your soul bubble up through your writings!