living intuitively

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Posts tagged happiness
Decisions, decisions...




Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

There will be times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications, and just go for it.
— Judith McNaught

Do you typically make your decisions quickly, on instinct, or slowly?

I’m a big believer in balance being the key to life, including when it comes to decision-making. No matter which camp you generally identify with, this post offers insight on being an effective decider. Sexy stuff, I know, but you gotta admit - extremely useful.

As is often the case (at least with me), one of my strengths is also a complicating factor. In this case it’s my open-mindedness and ability to generate/consider multiple options. Awesome when you’re writing a report or devising a strategy, not so awesome when you’re just needing to buy some friggin’ shampoo.

I’m an analyst by profession and nature, so it’s my inclination to gather as much info as possible. I know all too well the feeling of paralysis by analysis. (But not with certain decisions like, you know… TATTOOS. I’ll walk into a tattoo joint and switfly decide on the spot what I’ll get permanently marked on my skin, whereas I’ve spent hours/days determining the best facial cleanser. Gotta love me.)

When I say hours/days spent researching, I’m not kidding. Down the rabbit hole I’d go. I’d look at different brand, study different types, compare various prices, weigh relevant factors. I’d scour reviews - only to emerge with my head spinning and my decision more elusive than when I started.

For the sake of time and sanity (mine and those around me!), I committed to becoming more decisive. I learned decisiveness is like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. And what makes it even easier and more effective is relaxing and learning to identify, access, and trust my intuition. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is an insightful book on this. Highly recommend.

I noticed - and later substantiated through reading works such as Blink - the more possibilities I had to consider, the more overwhelmed I became and the harder it was to decide. Sure, you want to have options, but at some point it becomes detrimental. As it often goes, moderation is key: not too few, not too many.

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Blink shares the story of a life-altering lesson learned at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital, where emergency room physicians suffered analysis paralysis when trying to diagnose patients with heart attack symptoms. Gladwell notes they discovered an algorithm containing a simple set of criteria had a higher success rate than the traditional treatment protocol Gladwell describes as “long and elaborate and -– worst of all –- maddeningly inconclusive.”

Sound familiar? Beyond a certain point, additional information, no matter how accurate or seemingly relevant it might be, can actually impede decision-making. Do less, succeed more. Or something like that. :)

We have come to confuse information with understanding. We are inundated with information, which can actually cloud our instincts and judgment. It’s good to be informed, but detrimental to be too informed. Paralysis by analysis. The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.


This Freud quote echoes Gladwell’s advice:

When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.
— Sigmund Freud

Powerful, right? Score another one for the importance of self reflection and awareness.

When faced with decisions in life, ask:  What’s your biggest goal/desire in life right now? Ask yourself which of the options (if any) align with that.

And it might take digging to distill it down into one main goal/desire.  It’s a matter of sitting with yourself, letting your distracting thoughts come and go, and leveling with yourself on a spiritual level - NOT an intellectual level - and facing your inner being and letting that guide you. I think one of the biggest points to remember is to identify your fears - and not let them drive your decision(s). So maybe that’d be a helpful place to start: identifying your fear(s) and seeing if/how they’re affecting your thoughts/decisions.

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Here are some concrete tips for optimal decision-making:

  • Know your unknowns + intelligence gaps

    • Know what you don’t know!

  • Consider varying perspectives/interpretations/options

    • To a point - set limits to avoid getting sucked into the abyss

  • Challenge assumptions

    • Your own and others’!

  • Rate your confidence level with each option

    • This can help you think about what you might be missing and choose the option you feel best about

  • Assess your immediate reaction to each option

    • Do you feel a sense of peace? Unease?

      • If you pick a difficult choice yet your heart feels at peace…that’s a good sign

  • Load up on the relevant info and then move on!

    • Distract yourself with other things. Let your subconscious handle it. Science shows this leads to superior decisions. Per Unconscious Thought Theory, your conscious mind is needed for decisions with strict rules, eg math calculations; but for decisions with large amounts of info that can be vague/conflicting,  your unconscious mind is the MVP.

  • Remove unnecessary pressure from yourself!

    • Make a decision and if it didn’t yield the desired results, go from there and make another decision

    • Consider the worst case scenario(s) and ask yourself: Why would that be so bad?

      • Things are often not as dire as they seem. Asking yourself this question (repeatedly, if necessary) will guide you to your driving fear - so you can recognize and override it.

      • Especially when contemplating a minor decision such as an entrée or a new pair of shoes. If you end up regretting your purchase, you may be out some money and life may temporarily be sub ideal, but life will definitely go on.

  • Stay open and embrace uncertainty

    • Sometimes the easiest way to be wrong is to be certain you are right. Studies have found a strong correlation between astute decision-making and a willingness to recognize - even embrace - uncertainty. Low-ability individuals tend to overestimate their skills.

  • Try getting creative and innovative

    • Consider unconventional methods/solutions

      • Just because something is done a certain way doesn’t mean it always needs to be done a certain way. Progress is made through trailblazing and daring to differ

  • Practice on micro decisions. If you’re prone to soliciting advice on everything, practice deciding solo. If you tend to make rash judgments, try slowing down to weigh options and ask others’ perspectives.

Remember: You don’t need an answer to everything. That’s not how life works. We figure it all out by living and experiencing. By screwing up, by missing an opportunity, by seeking advice and not taking it, by taking advice wrong for us. We learn what’s important and what isn’t. Sometimes we have no clue what to do, and that’s okay. Always trust your gut and know everything will work out as it should. It always does. Relax. And love.

-w-


In the end...we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to pursue, and the decisions we waited too long to make.




P U R P O S E
Model Nicole Spinnler  Images + styling by Whitney Richardson Photography  Assisted by Cari Spinnler  MUA Hyun-Joo Rina Shin

Model Nicole Spinnler

Images + styling by Whitney Richardson Photography

Assisted by Cari Spinnler

MUA Hyun-Joo Rina Shin



So Whit, do you think our goal is comfort and happiness or to do epic shit? ‘Cause I don’t think you can do both.
— My badass amigo

Personally, I feel our collective purpose is to live and to grow, to be present and enjoy life.

That doesn’t mean life will be easy, and that we should avoid the hard stuff and resist the trials. It means we should find beauty and meaning and purpose in it all. We should celebrate. I think it’s about identifying and aligning with your purpose, and identifying what you personally need to grow, and to contribute the most value to the world. Not to your accomplishment record, but to the world.


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When we match compassion with purpose, we begin to change the world.
— Zachariah Thompson

Some people’s purposes require high-profile roles; some slower paced and more low key. I think aligning with your true purpose and talents and potential allows you to work smarter. It allows you to focus and leverage your talents and skills for maximum impact, which helps you feel fulfilled, motivated, engaged, and progressive.


Find the WHY in what you do and you will always be on the right path.

Everybody is different. We’re all on different places on the balance spectrum, and require different lifestyles to balance us. That’s why self awareness is key: We need to reflect and do our shadow work and level with ourselves, to know where to step it up + venture out (literally/figuratively) and where to pump the brakes and ease up.

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The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Ask yourself: What are my motivations (in life in general, and for denying/accepting individual opportunities)? Am I copping out and staying in my comfort zone because I’m scared? Am I staying busy to avoid facing something? Am I taking this opportunity because I feel pressured (by family/friends/society/others)? Am I chasing a certain lifestyle/income/status because society exalts it? Does this resonate with me?

I think that last question is key: opting only for what truly resonates with you. And a good gauge is choosing opportunities that scare you, or opportunities that light you on fire.

I’ve had multiple opportunities to move to DC to work. It’d be catalytic for my career, but I know it’s not ultimately where I belong. I wouldn’t be happy there. My money/time/energy would be better spent invested in a place and position aligned with my purpose and desires. At the end of the day, my career might be popping but my personal life and fulfillment would suffer. And isn’t that what matters most in the end? To what everyone seems to circle back, and ultimately discover? Isn’t that what people seem to realize after living certain lifestyles? And that’s not to say that specific lifestyle is sans value. For some, that fits their purpose/personal preference, and would leave them the happiest. It can be tough distinguishing between what you’re resisting because of fear, or because of intuition (ie sending it’s wrong for you).

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This is why it’s important to learn to tune into yourself. Get to know yourself. Identify your thought patterns, particularly those based in fear. Understand why you do what you do and think what you think, to help you recognize when you’re being led by fear/trauma, and when you’re being led by intuition/wisdom. Practice separating from your thoughts, your mental narrative. Get comfortable dialing into your core, your true self, your inner wisdom. You know what you need. You always have, and you always will. It’s simply a matter of you holding space for yourself to acknowledge and honor your inner guidance.


The real joy in life comes from finding your true purpose and aligning it with what you do every single day.
— Tony Robbins

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This I know for sure: You can live a meaningful and fulfilling life wherever you are. It’s not the outer climate that matters, it’s your inner climate. You can have a profound impact on people whether you’re living in a small town or a booming metropolis, whether you’re a globe-trotting activist or stay-at-home parent, whether you’re a high-powered broker or a hometown hero. This is ever more true, with technology shrinking our world and allowing more connections than ever.

The goal: do you, and be happy doing it.

xx,

-w-


Every human being has a gift of genius and a personal calling encoded in them from birth. It is up to you to discover it, to develop it, to own it, and to share this gift with the world. This is your life’s purpose.
— Oprah Winfrey






ebb and F L O W
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Life is a repeated cycle of getting lost and then finding yourself again. There are many smaller cycles within that cycle where you get lost to a smaller degree and then remember yourself again. Sometimes you do it to yourself on purpose, consciously or unconsciously. Every time you get lost it is so that you can learn something or experience something from a different perspective.
— Jay Woodman

Tell me if you relate to this:

I’ve been going through a funk. I feel…off. Out of touch with others and myself. Not [as] connected to others or myself. Things don’t flow like they usually do.

This isn’t the first funk and it won’t be the last. And that right there…that’s a life lesson I’m continually learning: that life is cyclic. In every way: physically, emotionally, spiritually, biologically, professionally…all of it. There are ebbs and flows in all things. Flow is an operative word in multiple senses. It’s key to remember to go with the flow of life, and not resist it.

Easier said than done, right??

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I may get a few “ME TOOs” from the following statement: I derive much of my value and worth from my accomplishments. Not just the big achievements (awards, degrees, etc) but also my daily doings. I measure the success of my day by my productivity. Not healthy, and something I acknowledge and work on daily.


We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of time and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible in life, as in love, is in growth, in fluidity - in freedom.
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Discipline is my default. As I keep learning throughout life, too much discipline can be as detrimental as too little. It’s about BALANCE: physically, mentally, emotionally…all of it. Going 100% all the time ain’t sustainable and ain’t healthy. I consider my drive/discipline my biggest strength(s) and my biggest downfall(s). Being driven + disciplined generates my accomplishments but also causes my issues (physical/spiritual/emotional).

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Let’s take fitness and nutrition for an example (or exampleS, I guess, since they are two areas? You get what I mean!). It’s naturally much easier for me to restrict myself and push myself than it is for me to indulge/relax myself. And before your eyes roll out of the back of your head like, “Gag me! Get over yourself” let me note: This isn’t a humble brag, trust me. Your body needs ebbs and flows to thrive and operate optimally. It doesn’t do well when you’re stuck in one speed, whether that’s fast or slow - or even moderate. My go-to gear is turbo.

Not only that, but I go on kicks with certain foods that last for YEARS, y’all. I shit you not. My body craves the same dang thing(s) day in and out, multiple times a day. For example, I’ve been eating the same salad daily since 2016 (only breaking when I travel - and even then, if I have a kitchen, I grab ingredients to make it). I would have it for every meal (and occasionally do). My body legit craaaaves it. Yes, i’m a weirdo, but I have theories for why I crave it repeatedly: 1. The nutrients are what my body has shown to be deficient in/what my body needs to sustain my current lifestyle; 2. My palate prefers fresh, plant-based ingredients. Before this prompts another eye roll, here’s why: This is partly because I grew up eating healthy, wholesome foods, and partly because I focus on giving my body what it truly needs/wants, allowing me to eat intuitively. It just makes me FEEL better. This may sound obnoxious - I get it. But look: We all have our superpowers. Some can belt it like Beyonce, some can move it like Michael…I genuinely love eating like a bunny. It is what it is.

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Okay, back to cycles and balance regarding fitness and nutrition: My go-to gear is hard and fast (that’s what she said. I HAD TO. I’m sorry. Yes, I’m secretly a 12-year-old boy). I get a high from powering through an insane workout and only eating a certain amount. Part of it is a control issue, sure - that’s a whole other conversation (if I feel frustrated/powerless in other areas of my life, I focus on the areas I can control, blah blah blah). But also: My body and mind both like routine. It'’s easy, it’s energy efficient, and it’s proven in the past to be effective. But just because something was previously effective doesn’t mean it will continue to be effective - and this is true for SO MANY ASPECTS of our lives, including eating and exercising.

If you haven’t been seeing/feeling the results you want, this next part may be your missing key:

Finding one approach and sticking with it ‘til the end of time is not only boring, it’s ineffective. Unrealistic. Life is not static, it’s dynamic, and requires us to be so as well (if we want to thrive and step into our power).

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Nature itself is cyclic (eg seasons), and so therefore are our bodies. I mean, our sleep has cycles, so why wouldn’t our metabolism? No day is truly the same, with our energy input/output, hormone/stress levels, etc. Our energy intake/expenditure must keep pace accordingly. And moreover, our bodies are fascinatingly intelligent. It’ll soon realize it’s receiving a certain number of calories and adjust accordingly. For example, if it’s only getting 1000, it’ll slow down to accommodate. That’s why it’s important to change it up and keep it dynamic and guessing, regarding both content and amount. Same with our fitness regimen, on a macro and micro level. Sure, steady-state cardio (SSC) has its place (walking, for example, can be restorative in multiple ways) but HIIT workouts kick SSC’s booty when it comes to efficacy and efficiency.

Not only that: intense SSC - especially prolonged (for an hour+ without any breaks) - can actually be detrimental! As in it will actually do your body (metabolism) more harm than good. This is good news for your sanity, your size, and your schedule! Sure, movement is the most important thing, but a 15-minute HIIT/Tabata workout will yield faster and better results than going for an hour run at the same pace. Plus it’s more FUN. Way easier to stay engaged. And doing the same workout over and over (even if it’s an interval workout) ain’t good either. Gotta switch up the type, duration, and intensity of workouts. Fitness queen Chalene Johnson covers this on her podcast, The Chalene Johnson Show (Episode #403 Calorie Myths: The Problem with Eating Less and Moving More and Episode 414 Cross-Training Your Nutrition and Getting Honest About The Fitness Industry).

it’s important to work with our bodies and their natural flow. Same goes for our lives. Some of you are good at this. Some - like me - must learn this.

Play and downtime are JUST AS IMPORTANT as go time. Science is continually and progressively proving this. To be at the top of our game in any area, we require recovery. This is the same for our minds and muscles! A truly fit person knows this, and prioritizes recovery. There’s no glory in going hard 24/7 with no breaks. I used to be one of those who took pride in never “needing” a rest day and having a hard time relaxing - whether regarding my workout or my work. But now I know this indicates faulty thinking and unhealed areas. It’s working twice as hard for half the results. NO THANKS.

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Relaxing our mind and body allows our body to restore itself. Letting our imagination run free sparks inspiration and innovation. It’s important to embrace - not resist - the fluctuations. When you’re feeling drained, just allow it. Don’t fight it. Defying it will just make you spin your wheels and delay your recovery. Sure, it can be tricky to know when to nudge yourself and when to back off, but keep at it. Eventually you’ll dial in and know what you need and when you need it.

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One of my tricks is to just remove the pressure from myself. I stop telling myself I HAVE to do something, and tell myself I don’t have to do anything. I get to do what I want. I grant myself grace. And magically, somehow, whenever i remove that impetus, I usually reclaim my motivation. Not always, and when I don’t - that’s when I know I truly need rest.

And you may again get lost in the noise and need to recalibrate, and relearn this lesson of going with the flow. But c’est la vie. This only proves the point that life is cyclic, and we often revisit past lessons, and will continually do so.

Just remember:

For a truly balanced and fulfilled life, the lows are as important as the highs.

xx,

-w-







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F I E S T A like there's NO MANAÑA
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Life should not only be lived, it should be celebrated.
— Osho

I love celebrating. Celebrating people. Events. Ideas. Progress. Being alive. Tacos.

To me, life is meant to be celebrated.

And as you can see from my examples, I’m an equal opportunity celebrator. Life itself is a celebratable moment. Celebrate the small and big wins

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Celebrate getting out of bed in the morning. Celebrate choosing water over soda. Celebrate your decision to choose love over judgment (toward yourself/others). Celebrate overcoming fear. Celebrate your promotion, your new commitment to a life of health + purpose. Celebrate a perfect record of overcoming everything life has thrown at you. Celebrate being ALIVE.

I truly feel this is one of the keys to a truly happy life.


The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.
— Oprah Winfrey

And I believe people are meant to be celebrated. That’s why I love birthdays so much. Birthdays are an opportunity to celebrate that person’s existence, and their latest trip around the sun.

Celebrating is a way to show our gratitude for what we have. A way to express our appreciation for our blessings in life. A way to say thank you to yourself, to others, to the universe/higher power. And gratitude is ESSENTIAL in life.

Sure, it’s important to exercise discipline, and work hard. As with everything else in life, it’s about balance. But to achieve true balance, we should regularly acknowledge our wins. Not be so consumed by our ambitions that we fail to recognize our accomplishments, and what has gone well in our lives. It’s easy to be consumed by the daily minutiae, or our major objectives. Celebrate the steps you’ve taken, the hills you’ve climbed, the obstacles you’ve overcome on your way to that peak. Don’t wait until you’ve summited to high five yourself/others.

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Small celebrations sustain us along the way. Because guess what’s happening along the way? Life. Life is happening as we’re working toward our goal(s). And life is meant to be celebrated.

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Celebrations can take many forms. They don’t have to come in the form of huge bash with confetti (though those are fun too!). Here are some others ways you can celebrate:

  • Send your friend a thoughtful, appreciative note/text

  • Take a luxurious bubble bath

  • Eat your favorite meal

  • Treat yourself to a massage

  • Buy someone a thoughtful gift

  • Allow yourself extra alone time

  • Booking a photo shoot to show your progress

The options are endless!

Celebrate others. Celebrate life. Celebrate YOU.

xx,

-w-

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Eating vs. Getting Bread
Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography  Color edited by me

Images by Abbey Armstrong Photography

Color edited by me


Success is not counted by how high you have climbed, but by how many people you have brought with you.
— Dr. Will Rose

You know how drive + hustle are glorified? We’re told to strive for more: more money, more recognition, more ______.

I personally take issue with that. Why?

Because we are all different, with different dreams, different definitions of success, different ideas of happiness.


Success. There is no one definition. Everyone’s success is different. You can’t compare your success to someone else’s.

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For some, happiness means a simple, stable, routine life: working, hanging with family/friends, etc. Who are we to say that’s unacceptable? Who are we to define happiness for others?

Sure, it’s important to ensure you’re not merely seduced into complacency by your fear/comfort zone. And I don’t think a non-hustling life releases anyone from striving to be the best person they can be - that’s a human responsibility, independent of lifestyle choice.

But let’s live and let live! Happiness is different for everybody. Values vary.


It is not success if you’re unhappy.

What a CEO considers a successful life may not match a schoolteacher’s idea of such. To some, success means total financial independence with a sizable savings account. To others, success may mean freedom to travel the world and try new endeavors. To still others, success may be leaving a profound legacy of improvement and change.

Cool, man! It takes all kinds to make (and balance!) a world. It would be too chaotic if we were all overachievers. Dare to live your truth, “motivational” quotes be damned. We all have roles to play, and contributions to make. We all have value to add.

So decide for YOU and ask yourself: What is my definition of success? What does happiness look like for me? By what standards will I measure myself?

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And don’t forget this important part: Be okay with and detached from others’ standards they may try to apply to you. Stand solid if they attempt to recruit you to their way of life. Smile if they try to nudge you in a certain direction. Realize we’re all on our own journey, trying to figure life out and orient ourselves in the world. Not everybody will accept you and get you, and THAT’S OK. It really is. It’s wildly liberating once you realize that.

People should determine their personal definition nof success and release others’ definitions of success.

Know you. Do you. Love you.

-w-

Try not to be a person of success, but a person of value.
— Albert Einstein