How Much Do You Love Me?

I recently rescued a puppy and as dogs always do, she’s teaching me a lot about life. Dogs have countless lessons to teach us and I’ve written on this subject before, but puppies, I’m finding out, have even more!

As a rescue, I’m unaware of what life was like for my puppy before coming to me. She has a lot of trust and anxiety issues, as many rescue dogs do. I have another dog, who has been with me since he was born, and the three of us have been in constant negotiation since the new puppy’s arrival. It seems with every new experience, the dogs are working amongst themselves to figure out who’s the boss. Whether it’s a bed, chew toy, food, or my attention. They’ve spent the greater part of our first few weeks together determining which one of them gets what, and when. The puppy will even try to play this game with me. She wants to know who’s boss.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Elizabeth Gilbert.

“There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. ‘How much do you love me?’ And, ‘Who’s in charge?'” (Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love)

Raising a rescue puppy, or any animal for that matter, is confirmation of this truth. At our most basic and animalistic level, it really all boils down to this. 

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Exceptionally Creative People

I recently completed Dr. Keith Sawyer’s book, Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the subject or curious about how to enhance their own creativity. (Visit his blog at keithsawyer.wordpress.com) In Zig Zag, Dr. Sawyer outlines a variety of exercises and tactics to help you along the creative process. He also provides valuable insight into the nature of the creative process itself. In his book, I learned some surprising things that exceptionally creative people all have in common. Below I have listed 10 things that you (probably) didn’t know about exceptionally creative people.

exceptional creators

  1. Exceptional creators sleep more hours than the average person. (Harvard researcher Jeffrey Ellenbogen found that after sleep, people are 33% more creative!)
  2. Researchers have found that people who have lived in more than one country (multinationals, biculturals, immigrants ect.) are more creative.
  3. Exceptional creators aren’t born that way. Creativity is close to 80% learned and acquired (according to Hal Gregerson, a professor at INSEAD Business School).
  4. Successful creators are curious by nature. They ask questions and listen closely to the answers, even when the information has no obvious relationship to what they’re working on at the moment. In other words, exceptional creators are experts at “connecting the dots”.
  5. Exceptional creators are masters of the discipline of play, the ability to imagine and envision possible worlds and alternate realities.
  6. Most exceptional creators are working on multiple projects at a time. (They’re using these various areas of focus to make even more connections and thus advance their work!)
  7. Creative people are exceptionally self-aware. They are constantly reflecting on what they’re doing at any given moment and they’re constantly listening to themselves.
  8. Creative people work harder than most other people, usually at researching and acquiring new information. Paradoxically, they also take more time off.
  9. About 25% of the world’s most exceptional creators engaged in the creation of elaborate imaginary worlds as children. (So think twice next time you want to make fun of someone’s “imaginary friend”! 😉
  10. Exceptional creators make a conscious effort to introduce change into their lives, or to put themselves in situations in which they’re more likely to experience the unexpected.

My Top 10 Relationship Principles

I think it’s extremely important to have guiding principles in various areas of your life. Such principles keep you grounded and help you to see the bigger picture when it’s so much easier to get caught up in the small stuff. I decided to share with you my top 10 relationship principles. You can read them below. These relationship principles simply serve as grounding reference points in my day to day life. Also, one should note, they aren’t specific to romantic relationships. I try to implement these principles in all of my interactions, across a variety of relationships.

What are your relationship principles? Let me know in the comments section below!

  1. Be honest and direct in your communication. You’ll be amazed at how many problems you can avoid by being direct and honest in your communication.
  2. Show vulnerability. Don’t try to be perfect; it’s isolating.
  3. Be clear about what you need and ask for what you want. People aren’t mind readers, so don’t expect them to be.
  4. Be grateful. Appreciate how this person adds to your life. What if she/he were to disappear tomorrow?
  5. Remember that what the other person thinks, feels, and does isn’t any of your business. Your business is what you think, feel, and do as it pertains to him/her. 
  6. If there’s an elephant in the room, point it out. The sooner, the better.
  7. Keep your humor. Life’s not that serious.
  8. Listen more, talk less. Other people are our greatest teachers when we allow them to be. We weren’t given two ears and one mouth for nothing!
  9. Prioritize the relationship needs over your own. Don’t forget that there are three parties to every relationship. You, the other person, and the relationship itself!
  10. BE PRESENT! Probably the most important one of all. How can you experience the joy of true connection if your mind, body, and/or spirit is elsewhere?

What Distinguishes a Good Work of Art from a Work of Genius?

A good work of art, even a great one, speaks to people of a certain time.

However, a work of genius transcends temporal bounds. It is continuously rediscovered anew by successive generations. In other words, a work of genius isn’t static. It bends (and is bent by) each new audience that encounters it.

For example, the art of the Greeks and the Egyptians, is not art of the past. One could even argue that it is more alive today than ever before. As Pablo Picasso once said, “There is no past or future in art. If a work of art cannot live always in the present, it must not be considered art at all.”

Works of genius live in the now.

Embrace your Limitations

“Art always consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.” G.K. Chesterton.

framed art

Embrace your limitations.

Feed Yourself Well

Old-Faithful-geyser

“If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines and music, you will automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry period in my life because I feed myself well.” – Ray Bradbury

Always Do Your Best

It’s a guiding life principle with which we’re all familiar: Always do your best.

Of course, your best is a fluid concept. It will be different, for example, after a sleepless night than when you wake up refreshed and energized. The idea is to do your best every day, no matter the quality of it.

But this seems a somewhat daunting task, doesn’t it? I mean, to always do your best feels like an awful lot of pressure.

What if we starting looking at our life through the lens of moments, rather than days?

In this case, we need only do our best in this very moment. Now that doesn’t seem too hard, does it?

If we can commit to doing our best in this moment, that act alone will inherently put us in the best place for the next moment. And on it goes…

Four Agreements to Make With Yourself Today That Will Instantly Change Your Life

four agreementsDo you consider yourself to be open-minded? Are you willing to shatter personal illusions in pursuit of personal freedom? If you haven’t had a chance to read Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, I highly recommend it. It’s a quick read but packs a powerful punch. In fact, I read the whole thing while sitting at an AutoZone one day waiting for my tire to be fixed.

Don Miguel Ruiz is a shaman of the Toltec tradition. More a way of life than a religion, Toltec wisdom embraces the spirit and arises from the same essential unity of Truth as other sacred traditions. The simple yet profound agreements about which Ruiz writes are summarized below.

If you can take five minutes out of your day to read through these points, you’ll quickly be on your way to experiencing personal freedom like never before. Write them down, share them with friends, or put them on your refrigerator. Do whatever you can to embrace and live by these four agreements and I can assure you that your life will be infinitely better for it.

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word. As human beings, the word is the most powerful tool that we have, and the tongue our most powerful weapon. Words are things. They get on your walls, your upholstery, your clothes, and finally into you. Our word contains all of our creative power. Through our word, we think, express, communicate, and ultimately act, thereby creating the events of our lives. With such power at our disposal, we really ought to be more intentional with our word (even impeccable, as Ruiz suggests). What does it mean to be impeccable with your word? Speak with integrity and say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or others. Instead, direct the power of your word towards Truth and love. Truth is the most important part of being impeccable with your word. And impeccability of the word is the starting point on the pathway to personal freedom.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally. Your point of view is personal to you. It’s your version of the truth. In the same vain, what others say and do is a projection of their own reality. In other words, nothing other people say or do is because of you. If you can internalize this idea, you will become immune to the opinions and actions of others. When we begin to really see other people as they are, without taking it personally, we protect ourselves from needless suffering. We’re no longer hurt by what they say or do because we know it’s in no way related to us. Remember, we’re not responsible for other people’s decisions. We’re only responsible for our own. When we truly grasp this, it’s like a weight has been lifted and in its place is a deep, profound sense of inner peace.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions. Ask. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. All too often we make assumptions by our own accord and wrongfully believe them to be true. When the truth finally comes out, we realize that it was not at all what we thought. Find the courage to ask questions. Perhaps you need to gather more facts about a particular situation. Real love is accepting other people the way they are without trying to change them. If you don’t understand, ask for an explanation. How much sadness and drama could be avoided if we simply practiced communicating with others as clearly as possible without making assumptions?

4. Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment. It will be different when you’re healthy as opposed to sick. When you wake up refreshed and energized in the morning, your best will be better than when you are tired after a sleepless night. Under any circumstance and regardless of the quality, simply keep doing your best. By committing to this, you avoid the self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret that come from doing anything less.

Interpersonal Issues

relationship issues
It’s easy when we’re having interpersonal problems (and how often are our problems not interpersonal?!) to look for someone to blame.

Sometimes we blame ourselves and nearly drown in guilt that may or may not be warranted. Sometimes we blame the other person, searching for flaws, being quick to point out what we find, and often creating an even bigger issue than the original one.

But what if we took a new approach to our many interpersonal issues? What if we stopped brooding over them and instead began to praise God for them?

Interpersonal issues reveal our weak spots, as well as our strengths. They present an opportunity to pause in awe of the delicate patterns which God has woven into our very existence. They ask us to look with wonder at the detail with which each person is carefully crafted; differences, imperfections, all of it.

Rather than trying to “fix” each other, we can instead marvel at just how complicated a species we are, and praise God because He is good and gives us grace.

A New Approach to Valentine’s Day

lonely

For many people, Valentine’s Day comes with a lot of expectations and pressure. For others, it’s a dreaded day where we try to distract ourselves from the pervading sense of loneliness.

All in all, Valentine’s Day doesn’t seem to be working well. So why don’t we try a new approach to this national holiday?

Instead of worrying about who will shower us with love, what gifts we’ll give, and what we’ll receive, let’s love people where they are. Let’s love the people who are around us, whoever they may be and no matter our relationship to them. Even if the only person we see all day is a gas station attendant, let’s love that person.

One of my favorite passages from Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz explains why loving people where they are is so crucial.

“…to be in a relationship with God is to be loved purely and furiously. So a person who thinks himself unlovable cannot be in a relationship with God because he can’t accept who God is- a Being that is Love. We learn that we are lovable or unlovable from other people…that is why God tells us so many times to love each other.” – Donald Miller

Spread love.