January 11, 2014

How to do Everything Better: 10 Ways to be (More) Awesome.

I am a reformed half-ass—just ask my parents.

I was the kid who heaved sighs when I was asked to set the table for dinner—three minutes of labor compared to my mom’s two hours of cooking.

But I resented it! She was cutting into my TV time and I had  lot of What’s Happening re-runs to catch up on, duh.

Fortunately for everyone, I grew up and found out that being awesome is really just a matter of having the right attitude. That being said, I still have a bad attitude from time to time—okay, a lot; but now I don’t feel justified.

The cool thing is, acting like an adult seems harder, but actually makes everything much easier. Here’s how I do it, when I do it, and I’ll consider this a list of reminders for when I don’t, because lord knows I’m still just a big baby at the bottom of it all.

1) Be grateful, not grudging

I have a dear old friend who is a reformed crack addict, sober now for something like 20 years. His mantra is “Have an attitude of gratitude.”

When we feel grateful, everything seems to be a gift—even pain, and gratitude is not a mood, it’s a habit we can cultivate.

When we don’t feel grateful, everything seems to be a burden—even happiness (it will end soon, I don’t deserve it, I’m still not happy enough).

If we choose to find and acknowledge the things we are grateful for, we see that our lives are full of abundance. When we feel lavished with the abundance of the universe, we tend to do everything better.

2) Use your whole heart

When I’m doing things well, I’m not holding anything back.

If I’m listening to my son explain how his day went at school, I should not also checking my email or wondering what to make for dinner. I should be watching the light play off the tips of his blond eyelashes, hearing the note of pride hidden behind his nonchalance when he reports that he got an A on his math test, and seeing that he moves his hands just like his father, nervously rubbing the tip of his forefinger with the tip of his thumb.

When we immerse ourselves in the moment we will necessarily do everything better than if we don’t. Using your whole attention, your whole being, your whole heart is to tap into a deeply powerful source the extent of which many of us have never begun to explore.

3) Watch how other people do it

My husband always complains that “I don’t take direction well.” I can’t deny it. I’d rather magically know than be taught. Generally, if I feel like someone is telling me what to do or how to do it, I regress into the 13 year old gum cracking, eye rolling girl I used to be. But, unlike her, I realize that’s just my ego with the stale Dentine and the backwards eyes.

If I spit out the gum and straighten up my eyeballs, I remember that other people have a ton to teach me.

To do everything better, I become an observer. I watch how other people teach yoga, I read to see how other writers write, and I ask questions about how that potato kale soup was made.

4) But don’t be afraid to take your own approach

On the other hand, I also try and keep in mind that I have a unique perspective, and my version of the potato kale soup might be the best one after all. There is greatness in all of us, but it will never shine through if we don’t believe we have something wonderful and different to offer.

5) Take a walk

When all else fails and I can’t seem to do anything right, I stop doing everything and take a walk. By the time the walk is over my head is generally clear enough to start doing everything better again.

6) Be willing to share what you learn

I think this is so important; the more we teach, the more we learn. I wouldn’t take any pleasure in keeping that potato kale recipe to myself. Instead, if you ask me, I will give you detailed instructions down to the angle at which you should slice the potatoes so you can make the exact same soup.

There are two reasons for this; first, to withhold knowledge is to be grudging, and second, when I tell you how to make the soup, I inevitably learn something more about how to make the soup myself.

All sorts of things occur to me as I recite the recipe; I should try two bay leaves instead of one! What if I tossed in a mix of Yukon gold, russet and gem box potatoes instead of just plain bakers? Maybe instead of kale, I should be using chard, or nothing…and just have it be a celebration of potato-y goodness!!

The act of teaching and sharing, without exception, always makes me do everything much better.

7) But don’t give unsolicited advice

However, I do have to be careful not over-share or go around telling people their business like little Miss Suzy Cream Cheese (as my mom will sometimes inexplicably say).

It is decidedly not awesome to be a know-it-all, because then you’re getting back into ego territory again, and once the ego is running the show everything else tends to fall to pieces.

8) Think like a beginner

Beginners know they don’t know anything, and as such must pay close attention. As we develop our skills, whatever they may be, we tend to start taking things for granted.

There was a time when down dog didn’t interest me half as much as astravakrasana (eight angled pose), because I thought I’d moved beyond it and was ready for the tougher stuff. But I see now that down dog has as much, or more, to teach me as any razzle dazzle asana.

If I try to approach each dog as if it is my first one, it will never be boring because it is so darn amazing.

Thinking like a beginner kicks that pesky ego to the curb and lets us absorb all the available goodness swirling around us—and absorbing goodness helps us do everything much much better.

9) Believe you can

There is a leap of faith we all must make, even when faced with zero supporting evidence, that if we want something badly enough and work hard enough, the thing will be done.

As a writer, I’ve had a lifetime of people whispering in my ear about how I better get a “real” job, how impossible it is to get published, and maybe I should just think about going into advertising because I have such a knack for turning a phrase.

Despite these whispers, I’ve retained a deep and incomprehensible faith that I can be a successful writer—whatever that ends up meaning. That unshakable belief is one of the things I’ve come to trust, and one of the things I like most about me.

You can listen to naysayers all day long, but if you think you can do something, their voices won’t have the power to dissuade you, which leaves you free to do things a lot better.

10) Know when to move on

That being said, there are times when it’s okay to admit defeat and just move on. But remember, there’s a difference between moving on and giving up.

When we move on, we select a new bright green mountain to climb. When we give up, it’s like going back to bed with a bag of potato chips and a bunch of back issues of People magazine and thinking “this is as good as it gets”.

Doing everything better and being awesome boils down to this: hard work, self love, gratitude and kindness. If we nurture those qualities in ourselves, there will be no limit to the bright green mountains we can conquer.

Relephant Reads:

5 Ways to Love Your Body Better. 

Self-improvement: the End of the Road.

Self-Help is Bad For Us. 


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: elephant archives

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