Friday, August 23, 2013

Walking The Tightrope Between "self" And "Self"

Recently, a former student of mine (I'll call him J.R.) said, "I wanna be a waiter in NYC...that auditions for lowly theater companies. That is my dream life, and sadly, I can't muster the courage to follow it. Damn society and its confines!" And I thought, how incredibly sad--and angering--that such a young man, in preparing himself for the "real world," feels that he can not follow his passion because of the dictates of society. 

Here is a young life, overwhelmed with AP classes so he can be accepted to a prestigious university, overburdened by expectations to succeed in a reputable career, and over-scheduled by activities that drain him of his time and energy (and life!) so he can project and market the "right" image. 

Photo courtesy of Google Images
He's teetering on a tightrope between what's expected of him versus what he desires for himself. How many of us have been in a similar position?

Dreams can be big, or they can be as simple as J.R.'s. But, a dream is a dream, no matter the size. J.R. doesn't want to find a cure for cancer. He doesn't want to save the world. He wants to be himself -- not some copy of someone else. Some people may say that J.R. will be throwing his life away and wasting his intellect should he follow such a simple dream. I say his desire is a compass for direction in his life. 

He is yearning for expression. The person J.R. wants to be will always be with him, tugging at his shirttails in those quiet moments, nudging him to follow his passion and live his dream life. I don't know what he will decide. All I can do is encourage him in his decision-making process and hope he finds the courage to bloom into his authentic self, whoever and whatever that may be.

As we reach toward and re-claim our authentic selves, as we walk that tightrope from who we are expected to be to who we yearn to be, we find ourselves riddled with questions and haunted by self-doubt. The shakiness we feel is normal any time we find ourselves transitioning between self and Self. 

But. we can take comfort in knowing that Divine Wisdom underlies all events, and no transition fails to bring good. As we attune ourselves to the unfolding, we release those nagging questions and doubts to a higher hand. I will not tell J.R. what to do with his life or how to live it, but I will encourage him to be true to himself and to go into the direction that he believes will serve his highest good on the road to his authentic self. 

May we all rely on Divine Wisdom to guide us toward our happiness.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Practicing Self-Care

In his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life, Robert Maurer, Ph.D., writes "If you are trying to reach a specific goal, ask yourself every day: What is one small step I could take toward reaching my goal? Whether you ask your question aloud or in the privacy of your own thoughts, please take a kind tone with yourself, the same you’d use for a beloved friend.

How many times have you begun a project only to feel completely overwhelmed by the scope of it? Suddenly there are heart palpitations, stress sweat, tense muscles, confusion. You fidget. You're frustrated and agitated. Your breathing quickens. Your imagination runs wild. Before you know it, you're on the road to a full-blown anxiety attack. 

And you haven't even started the project yet!  

During my years of teaching high school English, whenever I assigned the research paper, the biggest project of the year, my students complained, groaned, and even cried at the thought of it. Before I could review the project, they panicked. But as I broke down the process into daily steps, they felt more confident and mastered the skills needed to complete the project. 

To quell their nervous energy, I would have them voice their concerns about the project, so I could diffuse their fears. I would lead them in a guided meditation to calm them, and then assign affirmations for them to repeat or write out for homework. But more importantly, I would tell them to relax into the experience and to practice self-care whenever they felt overwhelmed.

When we get caught up in big projects or challenges, we forget to take the same kind tone with ourselves as we do with our loved ones. Instead, we allow fear to control us; we call ourselves names, put ourselves down, and yell at ourselves, when all we have to do is step back, breathe, and take one step at a time so we can break the project down in smaller, more manageable parts. 

Rather than eat Cheetos and curl up in a ball, the first small step we can take toward any project, goal, or challenge is practicing self-care. It's also important to practice self-care during and after any big endeavor. Here are some things you can do to start.

1.  Affirm that all things are working out. Repeat as often as necessary until you feel calm.
2.  Listen to your favorite music. Sing it! 
3.  Do something creative. Engaging in a creative activity allows energy to flow more freely. 
4.  Meditate. Pray. Contemplate. Daydream. Visualize success.
5.  Drink a cup of tea. Sip it slowly.
6.  Take a lavender epsom salt bath (Dr. Teal's is wonderful!). The scent of lavender calms the mind.
7.  Talk to someone you love and trust.
8.  Spend time with someone. Do quality things together.
9.  Spend time alone in nature. Observe what you see. Learn from it. Ask what it can teach you.
10. Get to bed at a reasonable hour. Sleep-deprivation will only zap your energy.
11. Keep a journal. Express yourself in any way that you want. Be daring! Write with fire!
12. Get a manicure, a pedicure, or a massage.
13. Do yoga. Stretch. Moving the body physically helps to remove unblocked energies.
14. B R E A T H E...
15. Read a couple of chapters of your favorite inspirational book.
16. Declutter your living or work environment. Energy gets trapped in clutter. Release it.
17. Turn off the news, and refrain from social media sites at least 30 minutes before bed.
18. Say no when you must. 
19. Eat healthy foods and snacks to give you energy. 
20. Choose your own method of self-care that is safe and healthy.

These are just some of the things that you can do to prepare for a big challenge or to calm yourself in the face of overwhelm. 

Be your own best friend. Treat yourself kindly. You wouldn't beat down a loved one in this situation; you'd build him or her up with support and love, so why treat yourself otherwise? 

Be good to yourself. Practice self-care. And things will fall into place. 

How do you practice self-care? Please share. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Babysitting and Bereavement

I am babysitting tonight. His name is Rocky Bedford McDaniel the Third. He is nearly 16 years old.

And he is my parents' dog.

He is a Jack Russell Terrier. My parents never go anywhere without him.

But tonight they are.

So, Big Sis is here to watch him while the parents party it up at their friends' BBQ and pool party. Dog-free. I hope they can handle themselves and their freedom, even if only temporary.

A very rare moment, indeed.  Too much tailgating
during football season at the University of
Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Rocky, like most terriers, is a high maintenance dog.

This dog...does...not...sit...still.

I've been watching him circle through the house. Counter-clockwise only. From the kitchen, he walks through the eat-in area, past the counter, through the living room, past the front door and dining room, past the pantry, then back through the kitchen. Again. And again. And again.

He's done more laps than a NASCAR driver. I'm exhausted watching him. No wonder my parents needed a break.

He gets under my feet, follows me around, and gets stuck in corners, without a clue as to how to back himself out. So, I put him back in the kitchen and sit down so he can continue his circular routine.

Poor Rock. He's losing his mind.

He's also deaf. Nearly blind. And arthritic. He has his good days and his bad days.

But his life is slowly coming to a close, and my parents are trying to make it as comfortable as possible for him (and for them). Their hope is that he dies naturally so they don't have to face the choice of putting him down.

I don't blame them. I've had to put down my two dogs after they got seriously ill with no chance of recovery.

Rock has provided companionship, emotional support, unconditional love and acceptance throughout the years, especially for my father after he retired. Rock has been his boating buddy, his walking buddy, his napping buddy, even his bath buddy when the two of them would come dragging in after a long day of fishing, and my stepmother would clothespin her nose, pointing to the tub before either of them would be allowed to climb into bed. Rock has been my father's partner in crime for a long time.

Boating on Torch Lake.
The Rock-Man is teaching us how to let go. His endless, tireless circling shows that letting go is not an easy journey, but it is one that we will each make, and there's nothing we can do to stop it.

He is also teaching us endurance. Because we can't stop the inevitable, we may as well keep going. We need to keep going, moving forward, living life until the end.

Rock's repetitive pacing is driving home the lesson of patience. It would be easy to grow impatient with his constant circling, but that will not stop or change what is happening to him. Instead, as we learn to accept his condition as the new normal, we learn to accept the changes and the patience required as transitioning occurs.

Through all of this, Rocky is teaching us compassion. Watching his condition begin to deteriorate tugs at the heart. There is only so much that can be done. All we can do is provide the best end-of-life care possible.

Rocky Bedford McDaniel the Third, aka "The Rock Man,"
"Rock," "Rock-A-Doodle," and "Rock Star."
One day his little body will shut down for good. It will be heartbreaking for my parents, since they have never dealt with the loss of a beloved pet. Because Rock has provided unconditional love without all the complications that come with human relationships, it's going to make the grieving process more intense than they can imagine. I feel their pain.

My parents have some tough decisions to make as they anticipate the loss of their furry little companion. They saw Rock come into the world, holding his tiny body in the palms of their hands. Letting go is not going to be easy, but they will come through it, and they will emerge as better people for having had Rocky in their lives.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Saving Sin


What images pop into your mind when you hear that word?

What feelings emerge?

If you are like most, you cringe at the word and feel some guilt. It's one of those "holy" words that strikes fear into you.

Sin is a word that has been greatly misinterpreted and misunderstood.

According to Christian teachings, we have been born into "original sin."

Some people would say, Well, what the heck does that mean? 

It's a phrase used to describe the collective state of humanity. In other words, the condition of humanity is not perfect. It has some flaws.

Let's examine this.

The word for "sin" in the ancient Greek (in which the New Testament was written) is "hamartia" (ἁμαρτία), which transliterated means "miss the mark."

Think of an archer aiming for the bullseye. Ready. Aim. Miss! What does the archer do? He grabs another bow, takes aim, and fires again. He keeps firing until he hits the mark. He perfects his technique until he is able to hit it accurately. Will there be times he misses? Sure. But as long as he keeps his eye on the mark, he'll hit it more often than not.

Over the centuries, the word sin has collected a lot of cultural and religious baggage. It was held over the heads of people to scare them into what churches (some, not all) and society considered "proper" behavior. It has been misused, abused, and taken out of context.

During the Dark Ages and Medieval times, most people were illiterate and uneducated; only priests and very wealthy people were educated, and because of this privilege, they were able to control (and manipulate) the masses for their purposes. And more often than not, they missed the mark by abusing their power by using statements like, If you don't do this or that in the name of God, you're a sinner! You'll be damned and go straight to hell!  You're made to feel guilty by others.

It's no wonder people began to fear the word (and God for that matter).

So, when we strip away all of the baggage and misinterpretations, we have a word with a simple definition that points toward an inherent condition. Because we are human, we are born with some abnormalities, some dysfunction if you will, thus the term "original sin." We are born into ignorance. And if we are not careful, others will capitalize on that ignorance to bring out the worst in us or to keep us under their thumbs...sneaky sneaky.

When we sin, we miss the mark. Missing the mark means to continue in ignorance. It means to suffer and to cause suffering because of continued ignorance. It means missing the point of human existence.

But that doesn't mean we have to remain in ignorance. We have the ability (and free will) to make choices to better ourselves so that we can live our lives more authentically. The biggest sin, therefore, is remaining ignorant and blind to your authentic self by letting your flaws (and others) hold you down.

We can take a lesson from the archer when it comes to sin. He doesn't feel guilty for not hitting his target; he doesn't beat himself up; instead, he tries again. And again. Until he gets it right. It takes practice, patience, and perseverance.

With practice, his aim gets better. With patience, he learns from his mistakes and makes corrections. With perseverance, he progresses toward his goal until he reaches it. He doesn't give up. He knows he has flaws, but he doesn't let those flaws define him, nor does he allow them to deny him what is his. He lives the life of an archer, true to himself because that is who he is designed to be.

Who are you designed to be? And what will it take for you to make your mark?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Breaking Bad - Living The Authentic Life

Albert Einstein said, "Well, I have considered myself to be very fortunate in that I have been able to do mostly only that which my inner self told me to do… I am also aware that I do receive much criticism from the outside world for what I do and some people actually get angry at me. But this does not really touch me because I feel that these people do not live in the same world as do I."

Amen, Uncle Al!

When we begin to live the authentic life, some seemingly unpleasant things start to happen around us.

First, there's shock. She's doing WHAT! I can't believe this!

Then the whispers start. Hey, did you hear about her? What does she think she's doing? Who does she think she is? Has she lost her mind?

For those who are not yet self-actualized, such comments are taken personally, spawning the need to defend oneself to those who are unwilling to change their minds about us.

Then, people with whom you've long associated yourself begin to caution and challenge you. You're making a big mistake! This is not like you! How can you do this! And worse yet, How can you do this to ME!

They challenge you because they don't understand why you would decide to make changes (and many times, changes that don't include them), after all this time.

They try to get you to second guess yourself. You'll never change. 

They hurl doubt and fear your way. You'll be sorry when this doesn't work out for you.

They also throw bolts of anger at you because you are "breaking bad" -- you no longer fit their definition of who you are supposed to be in their minds. You've broken away like it's a horrible thing.

The self-actualized person, the one who lives his or her life authentically, no matter what anyone says, isn't "touched" (as Uncle Al said) or fazed by such antics.

Instead, the person who breaks bad in the eyes of others is actually breaking through to his or her authentic self. It means to break past barriers that once held you back. It means to break down old ways of thinking that once made you feel trapped. It means to break new ground within yourself.

Breaking bad is radical. It's going to shake up others' beliefs about you. They will see you in a much different light, and it won't always be favorable.

Breaking bad is revolutionary. It's going to stir others' emotions about you. They will feel uneasy around and unsure about you because you dare to defy and to break long-held expectations. Some will rise up against you to try to put you back in a place where they feel you belong, and others will rise up for and with you to help you move forward toward personal success.

Breaking bad is real. It's going to expose the true you to others who won't know how to handle the new you because you refuse to be defined by others for their convenient purposes.

And you will be empowered because there is nothing anyone can do to stop you from being you.

Regardless of the whispers, the accusations, the insults, the ridicule, and the taunts, the authentic person who breaks bad refuses to live a mundane life of mediocrity. S/He becomes a take-charge person, seizing every moment of life for meaning and purpose.

Confident. Daring. Inspirited. Bad-Ass. That's what it takes to live the authentic life.

What has it taken for you to break bad into the authentic life? And what have you experienced from others as you were breaking through?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Faith It 'Til You Make It

When there is an obstacle the size of a mountain on your path, what do you do?

Do you turn and run? Or do you stand and face it?  Do you fear it or do you "faith" it?

Confucius says, "The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones."

Jesus says that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we'd be able to move mountains.

Both spiritual leaders are telling us what steps to take to move mountainous obstacles from our paths.

Confucius says we must take action by starting small. Jesus tells us that we must have faith, even the smallest amount.

Our spiritual prescription is to use our faith as a verb, not as a noun.

As a noun, faith is an abstract concept. For some, it means the practice of following a certain religion like the Christian faith or Jewish faith, etc.

While grammatically not a verb, faith as a verb denotes action. When we act on something, we are doing something about it. We are not taking a passive approach. Even when we start with a small action, we are unleashing the power of faith for things to begin happening in our lives.

To strengthen our faith muscles, we must choose faith on a daily basis. Just that choice alone is action. Our choice activates faith.

As you make faith a daily habit, it's important to focus on how good it feels to believe that everything is working out for the highest good, especially in the face of challenges. Rather than run in fear, be honest and acknowledge any fear felt. Admit it. Bless it. Release it.

Then, declare that your faith is stronger than any fear, and declare it daily. Declare it over and over. Every time you do this, you strengthen your faith muscles. Soon you'll notice that despite the obstacles, you will feel a sense of being taken care of...this is the peace that passes all understanding. We come to "know" in our bones that all is working out for the best.

Faith will not magically prevent you from ever being worried again when challenges arise. But it will strengthen each time you choose it and give energy to it. Faith, as a concept, is just a concept...until we act upon it and make it a way to live every day.

When an obstacle appears, don't fear it. Faith it!

Faith it 'til you make it!

What words of wisdom do you have about faith? Please share!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Finding Your Focus

In our daily grind, we sometimes forget that we are divine creations. 

We forget our place. 

We forget who we are. 

We forget our purpose. 

We forget to take time out, even if only for five minutes, to reconnect ourselves to our spiritual batteries. 

Distractions can get the best of us, and before we know it, we get bogged down and find ourselves under stress as we are pulled into too many directions. 

We lose our focus. 

What can be done?

1.  Refresh yourself. Take a break. Get away from the energy of the situation and regroup your own scattered energy. Take a walk. Take a few deep breaths. Remove yourself to a quiet place for meditation or reflection. Your energy and vigor will return.

2.  Remain calm. Working yourself into a frenzy by worrying about things is an accelerant to more intensified worrying. Worrying leads to doubt; doubt leads to fear. Fear leads to shutdown. This is counteractive, counterproductive and counterintuitive to creativity. Instead, keep a positive attitude. The more negativity you generate, the more you'll attract. Likewise, the more positivity you generate, the more you'll attract.

3.  Regain control. When you are out of focus, it could be because you are taking on too many tasks at once. Concentrate on one task at a time. Write them down and cross them off your list as you complete them. Bigger tasks can be broken down into smaller tasks. 

4.  Review your priorities. Look at the big picture. Become aware of your workload and what should be done first. Some perspective of your "workscape" can save a lot of wasted time and effort.

5.  Reprioritize your priorities. Do the most important things first on your list. Then follow through from there. Stick to what's on your list; otherwise, you will spend too much time flitting from one distraction to another.

6.  Remagnetize yourself.  Reconnect with your Inner Self, Inner Guidance System, God/Source, etc. Our spiritual batteries are always charged and ready for our use, but when we allow ourselves to be distracted, we become disconnected. We demagnetize ourselves, leaving ourselves open and vulnerable to negativity in various forms.  Imagine yourself as a powerful magnet, attracting everything you need to move forward.  

7.  Remind yourself of your purpose. You have been blessed with certain abilities; you are here to share your gifts and talents with others. As my friend and Law of Attraction coach Hemal says, "You have the whole universe inside of you," working for you, not against you. 

Remember: you are in control. Life may throw things at us from different directions in an attempt to distract us from ourselves and our mission, but we can control how we react by taking a proactive approach, one that allows us to step into our power, rather than out of it. 

How do you regain your focus? Do you have any tips to offer?

Thank you, Hemal Radia, for inspiring this post. 

For more on Hemal, please visit his website at and at

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Journal Your Way To Self & Success

Recently, I encouraged a young woman to start keeping a journal. I've listened to her complain and make excuses, even though she's adamant about making changes to her life. She has no clue who she is or what she wants. 

She said she wants to be happy, but she doesn't know how to go about making herself happy. She lives in fear of making decisions, in case those decisions are not "right." 

I describe her as a boxer constantly blocking hits but never throwing any punches of her own.  She's placed herself in the ring but then refuses to fight for herself.

Today, she told me, "I am worried that my successes that I write down aren't good enough."

After a lengthy discussion and much deflection on her part, she finally agreed to start a journal, in which she is to list her successes and accomplishments of each day, no matter how big or how small, and her feelings as she reaches her goals. Since she recently started an exercise program, she will use that as a starting point.

I've long been a proponent of keeping a journal. It is an excellent goal-setting tool. A journal helps you to figure out a direction for your life, and it will guide you where you want to go. It becomes a log of your successes, achievements, observations, musings, questions, problem-solving skills, and ideas that you can revisit again and again. It gives you a clearer picture of who you are as you begin embracing your authentic self.

Below are eight major benefits of journaling:

1.  Stress reduction! A journal is a place to release any pent-up thoughts and emotions. Rather than react to stressful situations and making them worse, you can channel that energy into writing. This allows you to disentangle your thoughts and ideas. It allows you to put things into perspective. And it empowers you because you are taking control rather than reacting irrationally.

2.  Healing. A journal is where you can be totally honest without being judged, rejected, or ridiculed. It will reveal and track patterns and cycles that you may not have been aware of previously. Harmony and balance are restored when you begin to see yourself as a larger, whole, connected being.

3.  Know yourself. A journal is an aid to self-discovery.  It helps you to create an awareness of beliefs and options so you can change them. It reveals your processes, how you think, learn, create, and intuit.

4.  Personal growth. A journal allows for self-expression. It helps you to focus and clarify your desires and needs. It helps you to measure and track what is important, and it enhances breakthroughs.

5.  Problem-solving. Journaling helps you to discover options and other perspectives and eases the decision-making process. It shows relationships and wholeness instead of separation, and helps you to bring things together.

6.  Flexible and easy. Journaling can be done at anytime or anywhere. There are no rules; you don't have to worry about misspellings, typos, or grammar. Once you start, you will find that it will supply its own energy.

7.  Enhances creativity and intuition. As you journal, your insights will sharpen. It will help you to direct your intentions and develop your power of discernment. You'll discover creative ideas and solutions as your inner voice is awakened.

8.  Captures your life story. Your journal is a reflection of who you are. It captures your personal stories to pass on to others.

Keeping a journal is a simple, flexible tool to use. As a spiritual practice, when done on a regular basis, your identity will emerge through your very own words. You write yourself into existence. Success comes from knowing who you are, knowing what you want, and having a plan to reach that success. Journaling can help you get there.

How has journaling helped you to grow and develop as a person?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Do You Know Your Ancestry?

Life is in the air! 

That's means love is in the air, too. 

You can't have one without the other. 

The Universe is in the business of creating, and the whole business of creation comes from the energy of love.

Look at your existence. Where do you think you came from? You didn't just spring from your mother's loins. Yes, biologically, you were created when egg and sperm met and merged. But your existence is more than a biological event. Much, much more.

Let's go through an interesting exercise. A part of you came from your mother, and a part of you came from your father. This means you existed in both of your parents before you were physically born. You existed in a different energy form in two different people.

Let's take this a step further. Before you were born and before your parents were born, you and your parents existed in your parents' parents (your grandparents to you).

Going further, before you were born, before your parents were born and before your grandparents were born, all of you existed inside your great-grandparents. See where this is going? And if you do the math, you have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great grandparents, thirty-two great-great-great grandparents, sixty-four great-great-great-great grandparents, and so on. That's a lot of great-greats in your family tree, isn't it?

Now, let this blow your mind. Consider all of your (ready?) great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great (yes, that's 25 "greats") grandparents. If you do the math, that's 134,227,728 of them. Before you were born you were "scattered" energy, inside all of your ancestors. A piece of you existed in each one of them. All of this has filtered down to you. Pretty amazing stuff.

The Universe created all of those people in order to create you at this point in time. You've existed all this time through other beings. You came through all of those ancestors just to be here today. You are not some random biological event. The Universe had you in mind since the beginning, long before your physical incarnation. If the Universe didn't love you, you would have never existed in the first place.

That's a whole lot of loving that's been done in your name. Wow. Mind definitely blown.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Knowing Who You Are Determines What You Want

"I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can't find anybody who can tell me what they want," says Mark Twain.

Mr. Twain, thank you. You've expressed my sentiments exactly.

How does a person not know what s/he wants?

To know what you want means to know who you are, first and foremost. If you don't know who you are, how can you possibly know what you want?

When we don't know who we are or what we want, we slip into depression and anxiety. And since we don't know who we are or what we want, we find ourselves being influenced by other people's goals and desires and then in our struggle to work toward those goals that we think others want for us, our misery magnifies as our self-esteem plummets because we know deep inside that their goals and desires are not what we want for ourselves.

So, how do you find out who you are and how do you discover what you want?

By making a conscious effort to listen to yourself. This means going within yourself and taking a self-inventory to find out what kinds of things you like doing. This is where you will discover your gifts and talents. These gifts and talents are the spiritual pointers of the direction you are to take in life, regardless of what society or others may tell you.

When I first started college, I majored in chemical engineering, not because it was what I wanted but because that was expected of me. I thought I had no choice since my father was paying for my education. But halfway through the semester, I began suffering debilitating migraines that landed me in the hospital at times. I grew more miserable with each passing day. I knew I had to do something or the stress was going to kill me.

So, I quit.

I enrolled in another school. I started taking classes that interested me. I worked three different jobs to pay my way.  And though it was challenging, I was happy because I was doing what I wanted to do, not what I was expected to do. The migraines stopped.

I learned some valuable lessons, and hopefully you will find these helpful in figuring out who you are and what you want:

1.  It's your life, not anyone else's. You have to live with yourself. If you make choices based on other people's goals and desires, you put yourself in serious jeopardy. Realize that you have needs and wants and that they are important to your self-expression.

2.  Listen to your body. You may not know what you want intellectually, but your body will know, and it will react physically when you are not in alignment with something. Practice self-care and self-love. Do things that make you feel good. Your thoughts will become less erratic and you will feel a lot calmer so that you can face any challenges.

3. Let go of expectations. This is key. What other people expect of you does not matter. What matters is that you live in harmony with who you are.  You are here to live your dreams, not someone else's. When I learned that I didn't have to live up to someone else's expectations, I was freed.

4.  You do not have to justify your worth. Don't get caught in the trap of thinking, "If I do this, then I am worthy of that." Such conditional thinking is destructive because it presumes that there is some kind of hierarchy of people's worth. You are who you are and you want what you want; there is no need to defend that to anyone.

5.  Try different things to figure out what you enjoy. Take classes that interest you. This will provide you with greater insight into what you really enjoy. Plus you will have some fun along the way.

6.  Don't try to fit in. Instead be yourself. Sometimes it seems that belonging to a certain group is the most important thing. I have found that I am unique without being connected to a certain group, and the few close friends that I have love me for my unique qualities, not for my "role" within a group.

7.  See life as full of opportunities to grow and expand. I could have easily looked at myself as a failure for not pursing chemical engineering as a career, but taking those classes showed me what I didn't like. Knowing what I didn't like helped (and pushed) me to discover what I did like.

What tips can you offer to help others figure out who they are and discover what they want?