Last week, I dropped my boyfriend off at work at 6 a.m. and took a long walk through the city. I watched the sun rise over the river and pondered the meaning of life. I sipped a coffee and brainstormed some story ideas as I smiled at strangers who passed me on the nearly empty streets. When I got home, I felt so simultaneously calm and inspired that I sat down on my bed and meditated for 10 minutes even though I’m not really sure how to meditate (I always think if my spirit doesn’t levitate over my body I’m doing it wrong). “I am so living my best life right now,” I thought between deep breaths. “I’m meditating before work! Dalai Lama status!”
After I finished kinda-meditating, I felt so energized and inspired that I thought, I’m going to write a super inspiring quote on the dry erase board in my office to keep riding this wave of spiritual enlightenment! So I walked out to my car to grab a dry erase marker I’d bought a few days earlier. On my way, I literally stopped to smell a flower. I felt so happy and calm, you guys. And then I went to go back inside to finish off my perfect morning, and the door knob wouldn’t turn. In my calm, spiritually centered haze, I had locked myself out of the house, 10 minutes before work. I was wearing my high school gym shorts, a transparent tank top, and no shoes. “Shit!” I said loud enough to be heard by the impressionable children at the daycare center two houses down. I no longer felt like the Dalai Lama at all.
As I drove to my boyfriend’s work to get a key from him and found myself stuck in a rush hour traffic jam, I thought about how whenever I feel like I’m on the road to becoming my best self, life gets in the way. As someone who’s pretty into self-growth and spirituality, I spend a lot of time imagining what best self looks like. My best self spends most of her time levitating above a dandelion field and having epiphanies that change the world. Unfortunately, my best self barely resembles my actual self, who is much more frazzled, disorganized, gossipy, and prone to anxiety attacks. My best self pretty much ceases to exist as soon I’m faced with rude people at the movies, unexpected credit card charges, or a door locked from the inside. This is why I’ve decided to let go of the idea of my “best self,” and instead aim for a slightly better version of myself. I don’t want to be perfect, I just want to be a little better. Care to join me in my quest? Here are 15 ways to get started…
1. Find something — anything — to be grateful for. It can be as simple as “pizza” or “not being homeless.” Just try to cultivate gratitude in little ways.
2. When someone cuts you off in traffic and you get the urge to flip them off, don’t.
3. For 15 minutes a day, turn off your cellphone and the TV and the computer and your iPad and just be.
4. That lady in front of you at Starbucks who is paying in nickels when you’re already late for work? Muster up a little compassion for her instead of sighing and rolling your eyes.
5. Balance out your mean gossip habit (hello, we all do it) by saying good things behind people’s backs too.
6. Instead of using the phrase, “I have to…”, try using “I get to…” You’d be surprised at how one word can change your entire outlook.
7. Don’t take people’s crappy behavior personally. When people are rude to me I imagine that they just got dumped an hour before our interaction and it helps me get over it.
8. Read books that challenge your intellect and make you question your preconceived beliefs.
9. When you find yourself on a negativity bender, stop and replace those thoughts with something more positive.
10. Listen to your body. Being super tired might not mean you need more coffee, it might mean you need a nap.
11. Try to be a positive force wherever you go. That might mean smiling at a stranger or lending a kind word to a co-worker who’s having a bad day.
12. Stay as calm as possible in the midst of a crisis. Offer support and solutions instead of adding panic and stress.
13. Instead of complaining or pointing out what’s annoying or irritating about a situation, look for the bright spots.
14. Give yourself permission to say “no.”
15. Be nicer to yourself. Our inner critics can be so, so mean. The more we can tweak our inner voices to sound like a sweet, supportive friend, the happier we’ll be.