Have you ever walked by a tree that is branching out sideways out of a wall—baffling gravity in its existence?
Or seen a flower that is growing through cracks in the cement and marveled at its sheer stubborn will to show up and not only exist, but resiliently thrive?
This list is not about merely existing. This list is not about primitive-survival self care. You already know how much water to drink, that you feel better when you exercise and eat nutritiously and get eight hours of sleep.
This list is about that next part—expanding your existence from a place of fire by living, speaking and breathing from within your power. It’s a “take no shit” list for your well being. You are a vigorous being of worth—plant your feet, own your brilliance and show up to this world by being in service to yourself with these nine steps.
1. Learn the art of boundaries and how to say “No.”
Most people want to be liked. Most of us have, at some point in our lives, said yes when we truly desired to say no. I am guilty of walking in the shoes of being a people pleaser. I want to say yes all the time, to everyone. However, it is sometimes a disservice to ourselves and those around us to exist solely to please. Boundaries are healthy and necessary. Boundaries with our friends, lovers, family, strangers, teachers and most importantly ourselves.
If a man in the café lineup asks you to sit with him for coffee and you have zilch interest in getting to know him, gently tell him that although you appreciate him reaching out to connect that right now all you want is some time with you. His feelings might be hurt for a nanosecond but you’ll have saved his time and your energy in the long run.
When you feel it deep in your gut that you don’t want to do something—honor your intuition and yourself. Learn to say no gently—and use it to be in service to yourself. Accommodating you and your power is important.
Get To Know Your Purple Elephants
You know those moments where you possess an urge to sweep something uncomfortable under the rug, super glue the rug down and then disconnect the wires so the lights remain off of it forever?
I want you to rip that rug off so quickly it may make your system shriek in shock, stare it dead in the eye and talk to it till it’s black and blue and free to walk transparently.
I want you to dive into the ocean of uncomfortable, French kiss mystery and flash the world your beautiful vulnerability. The people in your life will only love you more by your ability to be transparent with them.
Talk about your shame, guilt, and fears—get naked and douse it with as much awareness, light and empathy you can possibly create. Your purple elephant won’t survive and you will grow tall.
3. Be the person you want to fall in love with
I decided this year that instead of dating the men who did things I admired that I would learn to do those things myself. As a good friend of mine and relationship coach Mark says, “Make a list of all the things you want in a partner and then be that list yourself.”
I now live in a log cabin in the woods, wear plaid, smell like smoke and taste like the sea. I learned to chop kindling with my teeth, use a chainsaw, caulk a sink, put a paintbrush to canvas and I went after what I love—writing, hard. Next up on my list is learning, “Ain’t no sunshine” on the guitar, learning Spanish, and buying a beginners motorcycle. I may never grow a beard but I figure I will leave something for my future partner to be good at.
Sweep your own a$$ off your feet. Be an asset to yourself by showing up in this world doing the things you admire and love.
Be mad about you. You’ll attract an even more bada$$ version of yourself by doing so.
4. Take Personal Growth Courses
We tune up our cars, renovate our houses, repair our clothes and shoes—why wouldn’t we invest the time to tune-up our souls?
People associate “self growth” with “self help” and immediately throw a wall up and remark, “There’s nothing wrong with me.”
Our belief systems are formed by the age of six.
The way we react to resistance, receive affection, give love, communicate—all of this is formed in the earliest stages of our lives. Some of your deepest roots may come from experiences you don’t even remember anymore—that’s reason enough to dive in.
If we have negative limiting beliefs about ourselves or the world we live in they will affect how we progress, grow, live and love. The only way to uproot them is to identify them and spend time looking that sucker in the eye and telling it, “You do not serve me.”
Spend less time glued to screens and more time living.
When we turn a TV on we turn off our brain—we check out and let someone autopilot our mind. It’s a great escapism—it can also be damaging. When you sit glued to the Internet, your phone or a TV you disconnect from the moment unraveling now. Our world is full of “smart phones and dumb people.”
Turn that shit off. Stimulate yourself out in the big beautiful, living, breathing world. Remember about ladybugs, lupins and stars.
6. Live Vicariously Through Yourself
It is not good enough to live our lives through anyone but ourselves—period. Reading a book about climbing Everest is not the same as climbing Everest. Looking at a friend’s photographs of snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, or jumping with Machu Picchu behind them is great—but it doesn’t cut it.
We need to live our own desires and wants.
We need feel first hand what the thinning of oxygen feels like at 15,000 feet and observe the world around us vanish into rocks and ice. We need to stand at base camp and marvel at the mean mother herself.
We need to strap on a weight belt, spit in our mask, and ascend into the ocean decompressing as we marvel at Nemos and a rainbow of coral at our fingertips. Elbow past the 20 million other people getting a photograph in Peru to create our own jumping phenomenon.
Create space to speak the experiences into existence you desire—now.
7. Learn To Receive support
Every single human being on this planet needs support. All of us.
We are not capable of carrying ourselves alone through life. It takes guts and courage to receive support. No one is taking away your power if you say yes to help. It does not mean you are unable or weak—it means you are human.
To receive is to give and to give is to receive.
By saying no to support you’re denying someone the gift of giving.
And if the entire time you are receiving you are planning of ways to reciprocate it, you aren’t honoring the other person’s gift. Accept with grace and just say yes.
8. Take time to do nothing.
The first time I flew to visit Greece, my motherland, I learned the art of spending time doing nothing. From 2-5pm in Crete all of the cities (even the biggest ones) close down their shops. Why? Well, to take naps, drink coffee and eat. It is possibly why their economy is in complete turmoil but that’s beside the point—these people know how to live. They will probably outlive us all.
Our bodies need rest. They need to decompress and to unravel.
The reason we get sick is because we go, go, go, go and don’t make space to rest. When we get sick it is our bodies way of slamming on the breaks and forcing us to rest. Your body essentially gives you a time out.
Take time to sit at a café and drink coffee. Take naps—for the love of god, take so many naps. Take some time to lay like a lizard in the sun and just Greek out, man. The world will wait.
9. Never stop learning.
The way to keep a truly juicy relationship with our partners and ourselves is to eat up all the knowledge we can, take a short digestive break and then seek more.
“We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.”
~ John Waters
I have a friend who told me the reason she loves her boyfriend so much is that he is constantly finding new hobbies: rock climbing, banjo playing, spear fishing, yoga, gardening, astrology, learning French, ice climbing.
Drink up knowledge like it is the sweetest nectar you have ever tasted. Expand your mind, keep your relationships exciting and build you in the meantime. Win-Win-Win.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photos: Markus Gann