How To Meditate: A Beginners Guide

Learning how to add perspective when we need it the most

You were late to work today and your boss yelled at you. Your significant other is not responding to your text messages. You have not had a good night’s rest in weeks. Your credit card bill is due tomorrow. You’re stressed, you’re frustrated, and it feels like the world is out to get you.

What if I told you that you did not need to feel this way?

That there was a simple solution to all of the ailments currently plaguing you? That it was something that you already knew how to do and that you have already done unconsciously many times? That it could be summed up in one word: Meditation.

If you do not meditate, it is not what you think it is. You don’t have to be a yogi to meditate, or a hippy, or a new-age philosopher. You do not need to be anything other than yourself. Anybody can do it, and everyone should do it. Meditation is powerful and cultivates insightfulness, and most importantly, meditation is good for you — it is very, very good for you.

While there are many varieties of meditation out there (all of which I encourage you to research), my favorite type and the one that I have practiced for years is called Mindful Meditation.

Mindful Meditation is the process of bringing oneself fully into the present moment. It is about focusing your mind on something — your breath, a visualization, a mantra — in order to become aware of the world around you and your place in it. It is consciousness, it is awareness, it is recognizing that you are alive. It is choosing to acknowledge all of these things and appreciate them.

Most of all, meditation is about appreciating yourself and your place in the world.

One of the best things about Mindful Meditation is that it is simple to do. You need no previous training (though some is beneficial), and the only requirement is to sit down in a comfortable, relatively quiet spot. You can meditate sitting in a chair, on a pillow or even on the ground — wherever you would like, just don’t get so comfortable that you might fall asleep!

Once you are sitting in a relaxing position, place your hands on your thighs, palms up, thumb and pointer finger gently resting against one another. Some people prefer to have their hands in their lap with their thumbs resting against one another; others prefer their hands at their sides, on their knees, or against their belly. Do whatever feels best for you.

Next, close your eyes. Draw in a big, deep breath slowly through your nose — as much as you can possibly fill your lungs with. Then with your mouth slightly open slowly release that breath. That’s one cycle. Repeat this process.

That’s it. Meditation is really simple, right?

While you are first starting out, I would recommend trying this for five minutes at a time. Put a timer on your phone and just sit there and breathe for five minutes. Don’t try to “clear your head,” don’t try to “find inner peace,” don’t try to do anything but breathe. Just breathe. The rest will follow, I promise. Once you’re comfortable with five minutes move on to 10, 15, 20; go for however long you are comfortable.

While you’re sitting there you are going to be hit by a barrage of thoughts. You forgot to do something, you have this big project, there’s an itch on your neck. You might find yourself debating whether to order Chinese food or pizza for dinner. But don’t get discouraged; this is normal, and it happens to all of us. Whenever you notice that your mind has drifted somewhere else , just remember to bring yourself back to whatever you were focusing on — in this case, your breath. The more you practice, the less this happens and the easier it is to get focused. Be patient with it; you’ve got all the time in the world.

After you begin meditating, you start to notice that everything looks a little different. Your perspective changes and with it your brain. Seriously, there have been many studies on this. With continued meditation the amygdala — the part of your brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response — shrinks, while the pre-frontal cortex — the part of your brain responsible for higher-level thinking and awareness — grows. Crazy, right?

Maybe after meditating you will realize that your boss didn’t mean to yell at you and is under a lot of pressure as well, and you coming in late was what triggered that short fuse. That it was not personal, just a wrong-place-wrong-time kind of thing, and that it is water under the bridge by now. That your significant other is not ignoring you at all but had told you that they were meeting with an old friend last weekend and were probably too engrossed in catching up to check their phone. That you’re tired because you chose to stay up late last night watching Netflix, which can easily be remedied with an extra coffee and going to bed earlier tonight. That you can easily pay the minimum amount on your card while you wait for your check at the end of the week to clear off the rest of the payment.

That being overwhelmed and letting it get to you does nothing to remedy the situation, but looking at things from a different perspective greatly changes the way you feel.

You are able to do this because you meditate. You are able to do this because you can step back from the whirlwind of life that constantly surrounds you and instead focus on the present moment for a minute. The present moment, in which you are alive and can have a job that you like, a person that cares about you, technology that entertains you, things that you enjoy. You realize all of these things because you’re present and aware. You realize that life isn’t so bad. It’s actually pretty good, considering how hard it can be for others. You do this because you mediate, and that alone makes all the difference.

Much Love,

Steven

P.S. Did you like the article? Be sure to let me know in the comments! Or shoot me an email: Steve@stevencorrell.com I’d be more than happy to chat about it. 🙂

Are You Living In Full-Color or Black And White?

It’s time to change our perspective

Every once in a while, we all have days where we do not feel like getting out of bed. It feels like a vacuum has just sucked out all of our energy and willpower to do anything. The world is drained of color, we’re living in black and white. We lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, wondering what is wrong with us, desperately trying to figure out why we feel this way.

Time slows down to a crawl and we can feel every agonizing second slowly seeping our life force away. Hours go by like this. We feel terrible so we can’t get out of bed; we can’t get out of bed so we feel terrible. It’s a vicious cycle.

I believe that it is in our darkest moments, when we are stuck at the bottom of the well, swallowed in a pit of despair, that we can figure out the type of person we truly are.

We can find who we truly are in these situations because it is in these situations that we make a choice—and free will is the master of the universe.

We can choose to continue to lie there and feel sorry for ourselves.

Or we can choose to get up and do something about it.

It’s not going to be easy, trust me I know. I have had many days in my life when I did not want to get out of bed, where I could not bear the thought of going through another day—times when I was seriously depressed.

There were times when it felt like the entire world had fallen apart and had come crashing down on top of my chest.

But then I chose to take one, small, step forward. I did this because I am strong. I did this because the thought of dying in bed was much scarier to me than the darkness that was constantly swirling around me.

I took a step forward and a crazy thing happened. All of those doubts, all of those fears, and all of those what-ifs that shackled me to lethargy and depression started falling off.

It was by finally taking one step forward that I realized that no matter how bad things get right now, the sun will always rise again tomorrow.

Life is struggle. Life is pain. Life is beauty. Life is happiness.

Everything in life must be experienced to the fullest extent. Without the lows you can never experience the highs, without hate you can never experience love, without darkness you cannot experience light.

It may sound like I am speaking in parables right now but I am telling you a legitimate truth about life.

Think about a blind man for a moment. Someone that was born blind, they have never seen anything in their entire life.

Now try to describe what the color blue looks like to that person. Try and try and you will fail. Do you know why?

Trying to explain something that someone has never experienced is impossible.

Luckily, this is where metaphors and similes come in. The point of these literary devices is to help you understand something that you have never experienced before through the use of things that you have experienced before.

It’s about changing the perspective so that people who have never experienced it may understand it in their terms.

If you try to describe to a blind man what the color blue looks like you will fail. It is impossible for a blind man to understand what the color blue looks like because he has never seen anything in his life and he never will see anything in his life.

However, if you describe to a blind man what the color blue FEELS like—you have just opened the doors to another reality.

What does the color blue feel like?

Blue feels like raindrops sliding down a glass window.

Blue feels like your body submerged in a cold pool of water.

Blue feels like a heavy heart that wants to fall out of your chest.

What does the color blue sound like?

The color blue sounds like “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis.

By changing your perspective, you can teach a blind man what colors are.

By changing your perspective, you can stop thinking about what you are told and start feeling what you know.

By changing your perspective, you get to choose how you see the world.

At the end of the day, how we choose to see the world is all that we really have. We owe it to ourselves to paint the most vivid and true picture of how things really are for ourselves, and our surroundings.

This is how we learn who we really are. This is how we gather deeper knowledge and self-awareness about our lives.

What is it that you choose to see? What is it that you choose to feel? How do you choose to perceive the world and your place in it?

Are you living in black and white or are you living in full color?

You tell me.

Much Love,

Steven

Lessons I have Learned Thus Far

Insights and reflections of my journey

I have a confession to make.

I am not who you think I am. How I look on the outside is not a reflection of what I look like on the inside. Social media only portrays the favorable views that we want other people to see—the places I have been, the good times I have experienced, the happiness that I have felt. But those are the highlights; most of the time life does not pan out like that.

When I started this blog I had great aspirations for myself—most of us do when starting a new project. I wanted to write a blog piece every single week. Twice a week even! Thought provoking, emotionally powerful, empathetic pieces that would touch both your brain and soul. My blog was going to be a mass of perceptions that I have cultivated through living life that could perhaps help someone else who is struggling with a similar feeling or predicament.

My first article, How To Be Strong In Your Life, struck me like a lightning bolt. I wrote the rough draft in less than an hour and everything just seemed to click together. It felt like my soul was screaming out “FINALLY!” to me. Everything fit together nicely, the words flowed and the emotion stuck. It was one of those days that felt less like writing and more like channeling. I was in a trance—I wasn’t in control of my fingers anymore, my muse was. And just as fast as it had come, it vanished, leaving a beautiful piece laid out in front of me.

So here I was, with this great piece and a vision for the future. I was finally going to start my own blog.

I learned how to set up WordPress blogs during my one of my digital marketing internships back in college, so I set one up. I put up a simple, free theme and found a color combination that I liked. I edited the article and slated it to go out on April 19th, 2016. I told all of my friends about it and scheduled posts on my social media pages to promote it once it finally went live. The night before it went live was the worst. I was like a ball of tangled yarn. I was nervous, I was excited, I was anxious, and I was relieved. I did not know what was going to happen but I had forced myself into a corner where it was going to happen with or without me. I had told everyone that the new post would be up in the morning. There was no backing out now. All I had to do was wait.

Of course, all of the usual anxiety stricken thoughts ran through my head continuously.

Would people like what I had written? Would people think I was dumb? Would nobody care? Why was I doing this? Did I actually want this? I poured my heart out, what if people reject me? Or make fun of me? What if this is a huge failure? Round and round the anxiety carousel went in my head.

In the morning the post went live and people liked it. To my astonishment people actually, legitimately, liked what I had written. People posted comments, shared it with their friends and family and showed me a lot of love and support. I was pretty baffled, but it felt great. It was a cool affirmation that I was walking down the right path.

Then something happened that I never could have predicted.

I got a message from an old friend I had not talked to since college. They told me that the post really resonated with them. That they too were going through a rough patch right now and that reading my words helped lift the weight off their shoulders a little bit. That they still had a ways to go but that my post had helped give them the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I think that I may have actually cried when they told me that. It was the one of the best compliments I have ever received in my life—my words were able to help someone else deal with a situation that they were currently struggling with in their life. It was an epiphany—this was the point of my blog.

The point of my blog is to help people. Its purpose is connecting people together through shared feelings or situations; cultivating empathy for a brighter tomorrow.

Invigorated with a new sense of meaning I struck out to write my next blog post. It was going to build off this momentum and really strike a cord with even more people next week. Unfortunately, that post did not come by the next week. Things were just not clicking like they had for the first post. I realize now that part of that was my problem. I was not writing enough. I would set aside 20 minutes to write every 2 or 3 days and would sit there in agony, painfully squeezing out every word on the page. The muse had checked out of the building and in its wake despair slowly crept up the stairs.

Maybe I was a one hit wonder?

“Beginners luck, as people often like to say. I wrote one good article, but I was tapped out. I was not a real writer. Real writers could pump out articles like these with their eyes closed. I should just let my blog fade into obscurity.” Thoughts like these continually plagued my mind. I tried to be strong, I tried to resist them, but saying that and doing that are usually miles apart. Over a week had gone by and still, no article.

I had failed my first goal for the site—to publish a new piece once a week.

It was demoralizing but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I re-read my rough drafts and I couldn’t figure out what I was missing. Why nothing was sticking like it did the first time. Then I thought about what I was feeling when I wrote my first article and it hit me. When I wrote my first article I wasn’t writing with my brain, I was writing with my heart. I was doing what my wonderful poetry professor taught me in college—I was digging deep down inside of myself, going into “The Cave” as she would put it, and pulling up whatever I found to the surface. If I was going to put out another piece, I needed to stop thinking about what I thought people would want me to write, or how I was going to top my first piece and instead write what my heart needed to get out.

So I wrote a post about the worst day of my life—the day my father died.

It was a story that I had never really told anyone before. The hectic morning that started with my mom bursting into my room and ended with me sitting on the pavement outside of the ER. While writing the article I started crying. I was sobbing uncontrollably onto my keyboard so much that the keys stopped working for a few minutes. Have you ever cried so hard over your laptop that it stopped working? My poor girlfriend had no idea what was going on. I had my headphones in and I was finally writing which was great, but I was sobbing as I was writing, which was bad. She ended up bringing me some cookies and tissues and let me continue without interrupting. She’s a keeper, that’s for sure.

Afterwards as I lay back in bed I was exhausted. I poured everything I had into that piece and the muse did not disappoint. It’s hard to explain but sometimes when I’m writing, when I really hit that vein, it’s like I’m in a trance. Athletes call it “being in the zone,” they make incredible catches, or insane shots one after another. That’s how it works with me when I’m writing. Every word fits perfectly, every sentence builds to a main point, every paragraph flows into the next one.

It’s the difference between writing from the heart and writing from the brain.

After my second post went live the feedback was even greater than before. I had people that I had not talked to in years, or only knew in passing—lauding my piece. People told me it made them cry. People told me that I put to words what they had always felt but never been able to convey to others. That my piece helped them figure out whatever trauma they had within themselves through sharing the experience that I had.

I was two for two and I felt great. I had missed my mark with how often I wanted to post, but I realized that was okay. It’s okay to take your time to write something as long as it matters.

As long as the meaning of the piece came from my heart, everything was going to work out okay.

But everything did not work out okay, because it took me nearly a month to write my 3rd article. Do you want to know the craziest part of it? I had written the article in 2 weeks and then I just sat on it for about 2 weeks. I did not know what was wrong with me. All that I had to do was talk to my friend that I had written a section of the article about, and once I had his approval, click publish and be done with it. But I couldn’t do it. Something was holding me back and I did not know what it was.

In time, I have come to the realization that struggle is a necessity of life. We want what we don’t have, but we have what we struggle to acquire. Struggle is good because it shows us what we are willing to sacrifice. It teaches us through action.

What are you willing to battle in order to achieve your goals?

This article was not just about me anymore. It was about my friend and myself—a friend who had reached out to me for help—and I could not just hit publish on my own. What if I had given him bad advice? What if he didn’t like it? These were the thoughts that plagued me over and over.

After consistent prodding by my girlfriend to just talk to my friend about the piece, (like I said before, she’s a keeper) I finally did and he loved it. He was very honored that I would write about him and all I needed to do was make a few corrections and then everything would be good to go.

We always tend to make things much more insidious in our heads than they actually are in reality. Within the limitless expanses of our minds a pigeon looks like a dragon; a stream looks like a raging river; a tiny hill imitates Mount Everest. It took me over a week of worrying and fretting to build up the courage to tell my friend that I had written about him. But right after I walked up to the mountain and told him, I realized that the mountain was not made out of granite but instead it was made out of papier-mâchè and it quickly fell apart right before my very eyes. It is only by facing what we fear in our heads out in the real world that those fears can ever be overcome.

Most of the time, our biggest fear is actually the perception of fear itself.

I decided to publish the article on a Saturday morning, a time when everyone and their Mom are on social media. I thought it would be a great idea, right? Wrong. My third article, Believing in Yourself, was actually the lowest liked or shared or viewed of the three articles I had written. I was kind of floored because this was the article that I had slaved over the longest and it seemed like people liked my first article that I wrote in one hour much more than this one.

But then a curious thing happened. The people who actually read the article told me that this was their favorite article. This happened over and over again. I realized that because this article was not only about me, since my friend had just as much invested into the article as I did, people could relate with it more. It was my longest piece and the best received and most relatable to the people that read it.

It’s funny, every time I have assumed something about this blog, I have been wrong.

I thought people wouldn’t like what I wrote and I was wrong. I thought that I was a one hit wonder and I was wrong. None of the negative things that actually held me back ever came true. I spent so much time worrying in my head about what people would think I did not even listen to the actual people that were telling me that they loved what I was doing and to keep moving forward with it.

As I write this, it’s the end of September. I haven’t posted anything on my blog since that third article at the end of May. It’s been four months and people have forgotten all about this little project of mine. But I never have. I have thought about it and said I would start writing again so many times it’s incalculable. But I never actually did anything. For four months I didn’t really sit down and write. I didn’t try to connect with my heart. I didn’t do the one thing that I said I was going to. I didn’t try. I didn’t put one foot in front of the other. I was not strong. I let life take over and the negative voices in my head win.

But I’m not going to continue to let them win.

I have no idea what I’m going to continue writing about. I don’t know where this path will lead me. But I’m going to keep writing. I’m going to pick myself back up, brush the dirt off my shoulders and put one foot in front of the other.

I do this because I am strong. I do this because I want to help other people. I do this because this is exactly the type of person that I want to become in my life and if I can’t do this for myself, I have no business trying to help anyone else accomplish this in his or her life.

I do this for me. I do this for you. But most importantly, I do this for us.

Because together we can move mountains, together we are strong, and love is really all we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Thank you for deciding to join me on this journey.

 

Much love,

Steve

(P.S. I wrote this piece on September 21st, 2016 and let it collect dust on my computer for nearly a month. I never intended to publish this–it was merely the impetus for me to begin writing again. While this post was idle on my laptop, I did manage to write and come out with my fourth post on the site called: Indecision is a Decision.

However, when considering options about what to write about next I kept coming back to this piece. Initially I believed that this piece was not publishable because I viewed it as a brain-dump; a consolidation of all of my thoughts and feelings I had about the blog and my journey with it thus far.

After reading the rough draft to my girlfriend, (remember, she’s a keeper) she excitedly encouraged me to edit it and publish it out to all of you. Her reason was simple, this piece is authentic. This post details the struggles and anxieties and setbacks that occur for me on a daily basis. Struggles that she sees daily and that she helps me overcome. By posting it for you all to see, it strips away the veil that often gets placed over us on social media that blinds us to each other’s insecurities. On social media lately I can be seen as this globe-trotting, festival going, successful young professional whose life is constantly filled with sunshine and rainbows. When in reality, I am a flawed, insecure, emotional guy that often drives myself crazy over-analyzing situations and caring too much about things that I shouldn’t. But at the end of the day, this is the real me and it’s something I am happy to share with you all. Thanks again for reading.)

Indecision is a Decision

Whether we choose to see it or not

Sometimes when you wish for something hard enough it actually happens—and it’s nothing like you had anticipated. You’re left speechless and try to figure out where everything went wrong. Why was the situation nothing like you expected? What had happened? How had everything spiraled out of control?

There are many instances in my life when I wish that I had made a different choice. These are things that used to fill me with so much regret. I would regret the bad decision. I would regret the outcome of that decision. I would blame myself for not being smart enough, not being bold enough, not being strong enough. When really, it was none of the above.

The entire problem was with how I chose to view the situation. I chose to feel slighted by my actions instead of learning from them. I chose to wallow in self-pity about the things that I could not change, instead of learning from those decisions and pursuing a path more to my choosing.

It is when we decide to learn from our past mistakes that regret turns to wisdom—and wisdom builds character.

Many problems in my life can be traced back towards indecisiveness and inaction. I used to have a mantra that I lived my life by: “Go with the flow”. I figured that if I made no decision, neither in support or denial—that I could never be wrong. If I was never wrong—If I never invested myself in an outcome—then I could never be hurt. I would never fail. For to fail you must try, and by removing that option from the table I fooled myself into thinking that I was neutral and safe, cozy in the grey in-between.

It took me a long time to realize that indecision is a decision. It is a decision not to act. It is a decision to not take part. For every action (or inaction) there is an equal and opposite reaction, whether we choose to see it or not. Life doesn’t care—the world will keep spinning regardless.

Our life is made up of the stories that we tell ourselves. Most of the time these stories are all permutations of the perception of how others will see us. “I’m not skinny enough,” “I’m not smart enough,” “I’m not talented enough,” “I’m not rich enough.” We always look outward to explain our lives to us, without ever looking inward, without ever looking back.

What does your past tell you about yourself?

Imagine your past as an unrolled, tangled mess of yarn, with sections of string representing strands of experiences in your life. When sitting on the floor with your legs crossed and a mass of string in-between your fingers things can feel quite overwhelming. But there’s a big secret about how to unravel our lives. You start small. Everything is built upon something else.

What decisions did you make that did not pan out the way that you had planned? What strings were cut short? What strings did you think would lead you down a path of prosperity but instead lead you right to despair’s doorstep? Where did this happen? What did you choose? Why did you do it? Was it a decision based on logic or emotion? Was it pure chance or intentionally staged? Was there no reason at all?

By asking these questions about pivotal moments in our past a curious thing happens. Patterns begin to emerge; we learn more about ourselves. Maybe we are always looking for the next best thing. Perhaps we’re so preoccupied with what others think of us that we forego what is truly important to us. Maybe we overthink things. Maybe our emotions get the best of us. Maybe we take too many risks; maybe we don’t take enough.

Looking inward and looking back at my life—I realize that fear of missing out prevents me from doing so many things. I am so scared to waste my time traveling down the wrong path that I don’t choose any path at all; or I choose all of the paths that are available, often delaying an important decision until the last possible second. I will start a personal project with enthusiasm and fervor only to drop it two weeks later in want of some new shiny opportunity that has come my way.

What this reveals to me is that I need to learn how to say no. I need to learn consistency. I need to learn how to follow things through to the end even if it’s hard, even if a seemingly better opportunity is on the horizon. I need to learn how to trust myself. I need to learn how to accept others help. I need to learn how to figure out what it is that I want and what it is that others want from me and how to separate the two.

I need to always push myself to put one foot in front of the other—even when I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I need to stop blaming laziness as the cause for my inaction and instead yell the true reasons from the top of my lungs:

I AM SCARED TO FAIL!
I AM TERRIFIED OF WASTING MY TIME!
I DON’T KNOW WHO I AM!
I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT!

But I’m going to figure it out. And I invite you to join me on my journey.

Much Love,

Steven

Believing in Yourself

Perceive what you want

Life gets really hard sometimes. There will be days when you do not want to get out of bed. There will be days when you physically cannot get out of bed. We have all experienced days like these and when enough of these days string together we start saying and feeling like we are “in a slump”.

When weeks go by like this we get depressed. When months go by, we think about giving up.

This is normal; you are not alone in feeling this way. We all do sometimes—it’s natural. You can’t experience the highs of life without the lows. What’s important is to recognize that these feelings are temporary. What’s important is to focus on the hope that tomorrow can be a better day.

Sometimes tomorrow won’t be a better day. Sometimes tomorrow will be worse than today. But there is always the possibility that tomorrow can be a great day. That’s what we need to hold onto.

I’ve come to realize that perception is key. The most important thing is not what happens to you but how you perceive what happens to you. When you look back on your day, what do you think about? What do you remember? That smile on that cashiers face when you asked how their day was going? Or the anger and frustration of getting caught in traffic again?

How you choose to see the world is how you experience it. 

There are so many things that I want to do in my life. I want to travel the world, start my own company, get married, have kids, be happy, achieve financial independence, go into space, play around in virtual reality, and make the world a better place. We all have these lists, our dreams, our goals, our aspirations of what the “perfect life” will entail. Maybe you have not thought about yours in a while, maybe you just crossed one major thing off your list last week, maybe you are completely content with your life, maybe you have given up. Whichever way you think about your dreams, you are right. How you choose to see things is a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

A friend of mine recently reached out to me and told me that he had been going through a rough time lately. He told me that he has been feeling depressed, is having trouble getting out of bed every morning and feels like a complete failure. After I asked him a few questions regarding why he is feeling this way I found the root cause. He got a lot lower score on his MCAT test then he knew he was capable of—and just like that, his self-worth crumbled away.

Imagine seeing your dreams get crushed right before your very eyes and it being entirely your fault.

Ever since he was a child he has wanted to become a doctor. He has volunteered in hospitals and worked his ass off. He went to an Ivy League school and graduated with a 3.9 GPA in its Pre-Med program. He was on-track and he was doing great and all that he needed to do next was to prepare for the MCAT and ace that—just like he had been doing throughout his entire college career—but this time he fell short. This time he failed.

Failing something that is very important to us really sucks. I would rank it as one of the worst things you can experience right behind the death of a loved one and/or betrayal by someone you trust. Maybe it’s because when you fail at something important all of those insecurities that we have in our head get a free pass to run rampant for a little while:

“You’re never going to amount to anything in your life.”

“Why even bother putting yourself out-there, nobody wants to hear what you have to say.”

“Everyone is just going to laugh at you.”

“You’re ugly. You’re stupid. Why would anyone want to be friends with you?”

No matter who you are you are going to have to fight these voices in your head that bombard you with negativity. We all do—it’s a part of being human. However, the important thing is to resist listening to these voices. That despite whatever the demons in your head might be telling you, you take it with a grain of salt. You do this because you are strong.

You do this because you believe in yourself. 

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Believing in yourself does not mean that you are not self-critical. It does not mean that you think that you are perfect and that everything you do is right. It does not mean that you are ignorant to the world; it does not mean that you are delusional.

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Believing in yourself means that you are your number 1 fan. Believing in yourself means that you appreciate yourself. Believing in yourself means that no matter what happens, you will pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and tell yourself that you’ll do better next time.

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My friend did not believe in himself. He did not feel bad because of the low score on his exam; he felt bad because he attributed his low score to his self-worth. This made him spiral into a hapless situation where instead of picking himself back up he pushed himself further into the dirt. He would skip out on review sessions. He would delay taking the test again. He would go to bars when his peers were in the library. He would listen to the negative voices in his head that told him that he was not good enough; that he could never do it; that he was actually less of a person than he thought he was; that he did not have the power to ever turn things around; that things were destined to be this way forever; that he was a failure.

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After my friend told me how bad he was feeling I told him to try and view his life from a different perspective.

He lives in New York City. Not only did he go to and graduate from college—something that over 90% of the world population does not do—he graduated Summa Cum Laude from an Ivy League University. Education-wise his accomplishments rank somewhere in the top 1% of the entire world, all by the ripe young age of 22. He’s applying to medical school, where the average age of a first-year student is 26 years old. He has overcome a plethora of challenges, obstacles, and difficulties that many people would be honored to have done. Yet despite all of that, the only thing that he sees is his current failure, without acknowledging any of his past successes.

This is something that we all do. We forget the positives and harp on the negatives. Instead of congratulating ourselves on what we have accomplished, we demoralize ourselves about what we have failed. We don’t believe in ourselves.

I once heard something about regret that has stuck with me ever since. You should not regret anything in your life because regret is only useful for figuring out the things that you never want to happen again. Once you know the things that you never want to happen again then that regret is turned into wisdom, and wisdom build character. 

We are all so quick to regret our failures without ever learning from them. We are so quick to forget our accomplishments and harp on the negatives without putting our lives into perspective. You are not your mistakes. You can do better. You will do better. You are better than you give yourself credit for.

It’s time to open your eyes to your own greatness. Grab those rose-colored glasses that you use to view everyone else around you and look in the mirror. You are the acclimation of a unique universe of experiences and events, of successes and failures, of thoughts and feelings, of love. You are beautiful and amazing because you are you; there is no one else in the world like it. It’s time for you to realize that.

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It’s time for you to realize that believing in yourself is a choice.

It took me a long time to believe in myself. It took me a long time to love myself. I, like Holden Caulfield—could only see phonies all around me. Everyone was not who they said they were; everything was a sham. I was a phony. I smiled when I was not happy. I laughed when I was not amused. I said I cared when I really didn’t. I thought that the world was out to get me and that nobody understood how I felt. 

Then I realized that the problem wasn’t with the world around me. I realized that the problem was with myself. I did not care about myself. I did not love myself. I did not believe in myself. I relied upon the affirmations of others to recognize when I should be proud. When I should be happy. When I should be ashamed. I spent so much time focusing on what everyone else thought and wanted me to be that I never paused to think about what I wanted. About who I was.

I would drink a 12-pack by myself because people thought it was cool. I would come in first in a race to hear someone tell me “good job”. I would smoke weed to numb myself to the emptiness that I felt inside of me. I was tired all of the time. I was late to school everyday. I would sleep until 3 pm on the weekends. I felt like I was an actor in my own body. I had a mask for every situation. I told people what they wanted to hear. My parents were so proud of me. My friends loved me. I cried myself to sleep sometimes.

I could never understand what was wrong with me. I felt like I was condemned to live a life of misery. I did great in school. I had amazing friends that would go to the ends of the earth for me. I had an awesome and beautiful girlfriend that would knead out all of the petty stresses and frustrations of my life like a master masseuse. Then I would blow up on her for not paying attention to me. I would yell at her for the tiniest indiscretion—like messing up the directions on Google maps. I would take out the frustrations of my life and how bad I felt on everything around me. I would be so quick to blame the world for my problems without ever looking within myself first.

It wasn’t until college that I started to understand what it meant to really love myself. What it meant to believe in myself. How to view my life from a 3rd party perspective like I always viewed everyone else’s from. How to be proud of my accomplishments, to not sweat the small stuff, to live life in the present moment, to recognize that the past is in the past and the future does not exist yet.

That how I choose to view the past is what gives it power. That humans are terrible at predicting the future—if I did not know what I was going to eat for breakfast the next morning how could I possibly know what the next month, year, or decade had in store for me. I realized that the past was there to learn from and that the future was there to look forward to.

I learned that by living life in the present moment the way that I wanted to, that was happy and fulfilling, that was productive, where I surrounded myself with people that I loved and admired—that life got a whole lot better. 

I was excited to get out of bed and learn something new. I was excited to meet new people and put myself out there. I actively searched for new opportunities that I found interesting. I smiled a lot more. I was happy. I believed in myself. 

Believing in yourself does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of time and patience and wherewithal. It takes strength, the kind where you keep putting one foot in front of the other even when you are not sure if your body will listen.

But most of all it takes conscious effort. It takes you proclaiming that you are going to decide from now on how you are going to see the world. How you are going to choose to perceive what matters and what doesn’t. How you are going to do everything in your power to ensure that you live each day to the fullest. That if you are happy with whom you are today, everything will eventually fall into place even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

That despite your past and despite whatever you may have thought about yourself yesterday—today is a new day and today you will choose to believe in yourself, and that alone will make all the difference.

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Much Love,

Steve 

(P.S. Before posting this article, I spoke with my friend that I mention in it and I asked him if it was okay for me to post this. We had this conversation a while ago and I wanted to be sure that he would not feel uncomfortable for me bringing this up in a public spotlight. I also wanted to correct anything that I may have misinterpreted.

He really liked the article and was happy to be a part of it; he did however have a few things that he wanted to clear up. Namely, that it was not the test that affected him so much, it was the way in which he let the negative emotions he felt about himself to take over. Having been in similar situations, I completely agree that they can become quite paralyzing.

However—things are different now. I am ecstatic to report that he is doing much better. He told me that he has gotten back on track and is doing everything he can to bring himself to a better place. He’s not there yet, but as long as he keeps putting one foot in front of the other he will be there before he knows it and I’m so excited to see what it’s like when he does.)

The Sun Will Rise Tomorrow

Even when it feels like the world has just fallen apart

The worst day of my life happened on June 20th, 2015—Father’s Day. It started like any good nightmare should, with me being violently woken in my own bed, my mother having just crashed into my room. Tears were streaming down her face. “IT’S DAD, STEVE. HE’S NOT BREATHING! YOU NEED TO DO SOMETHING!” she screamed. “Please…help.”

I immediately knew what I had to do.

Before my brain could defog from the cloudless dreams it had just been floating in I was pulling on my jeans and dragging my shirt over my head. I walked past my grieving mother leaning against the doorframe and out into the hallway.

As I entered my parent’s room time slowed down. I saw my dad lying in his usual spot, his eyes tightly shut—his body convulsed. I walked to his side of the bed and calmly told my mom to call 9-1-1 as she followed me in. My lifeguarding instincts took over—I was poolside and a patron needed me.

“Dad, are you okay?” I said. “Dad, are you okay?” I repeated, shaking his shoulders as I did so. He didn’t respond—this was normal—they never responded in training either. My hands ran up his chest and tilted his head back, my pointer and middle fingers resting on his jugular as my ear brushed his open mouth.

He was not breathing; I did not feel a pulse. I never did in training either.

I put my mouth to his and blew in. His chest rose with my breath. 1…2…3…4, I counted; time for his second rescue breath.

My Mom was back—thrusting the phone into my hands—her voice too hysterical to talk. The 911 operator asked where I was, “My address, Huntington, NY”, I calmly replied twice.

“What is going on?” the operator asked.

I gave my report. “My father is not breathing, he does not have a pulse; I am a trained lifeguard, shall I start CPR?”

“Stay on the line, help is on its way. The ambulance will be there in less than 5 minutes. Tell me again exactly what happened.” The operator said.

I reiterated my morning so far, “Should I start CPR now?” I asked.

I heard loud footsteps in the hallway as my mom ushered a police officer into the room. We quickly explained the situation to him. After telling him that I know CPR, he told me to help get my dad off the bed and then begin.

We lowered my dad onto the floor. I started my compressions while the officer ran to his car to get his defibrillator.

The world fell away. Everyone was gone; it was just my dad, the floor, and me.

I felt my dad’s ribs snap under the weight of my palms. I felt his life force dripping between my fingers. “This is why you need to push down until you hear the click, it doesn’t work until you hear the click”, I heard my instructor say in my head.

The ambulance had arrived and the paramedics began their procedures. I found myself sitting on the bed—crisscross-apple-sauce—looking down at them. I felt like I was floating. Then I realized that I was pinching my forearm and I pulled my fingers away—a black and blue mark in the shape of my thumb and pointer finger was left in their wake.

After the ambulance left I grabbed the car keys, put on my shoes and drove my mom and myself to Huntington Hospital. I pulled into the parking spot next to the emergency room. We got out of the car and walked past the ambulance my dad had just been in; the doors flung open, sheets hanging out of the back of it.

Inside the hospital we had to sign some forms and tell them who we were. They ushered us inside and we saw the doctors and nurses scrambling to do everything that they could. I heard them yell, “clear” before feeling electromagnetic pulses throughout my body. My mom was crying and holding onto my arm. I was a rock.

The doctor came out and told us to follow him. He took us into a room and told us about something called the “golden hour”. How after an hour of someone having a heart attack their chance of being revived drops by over 90%. That he was going to keep trying but that we should prepare ourselves for the worst.

Not long afterward they called his time of death. 6:08 AM. The doctor came out and told us that he was so sorry. We walked inside. I saw the body that used to be my Dad. The body that used to laugh and tell jokes all the time. The man that was always there for me when I fell down. The man that devoted his entire life to making sure that his family had one better than he ever did.

I realized that I would never get to see his smile again. I would never get to hear his terrible jokes. I would never again hear him say, “I love you, pup.” He was gone.

My dad was dead.

I couldn’t handle being inside anymore. I walked out to the unloading area in front of the ER. I sat down on the curb of the sidewalk. I cried for the first time that day. The street was soaked. I tried to not fall over.

It felt like the world had broken apart. It felt like a piece of me was gone and I was never going to get it back. It felt like it was the end of the world.

Sitting there was darkest moment of my life. It was when everything that had happened that morning broke through the floodgates. It was when I realized the enormity of the situation. My dad was gone and he was never coming back.

Then I looked up.

I looked up and saw bright blue. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was a beautiful day. The world hadn’t fallen apart—It just felt like it did. It wasn’t the end of the world. It was the end of a world—one with my father in it—but not the end of the entire world, or mine.

I realized something at that moment that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. That even in our darkest hours, even past the point of no return, even when it feels like the world has just fallen apart and so have we…

The sun will rise tomorrow.

That no matter what happens to me in my life or to anyone else in their lives, the sun will always be there waiting for us the next morning; all that we have to do is make sure that we’re there to see it.

Being strong doesn’t mean that we are impervious to pain. It means that in spite of that pain we keep putting one foot in front of the other. We keep pushing forward even if we don’t know where that path may lead. We continue on because even if everything else falls away—the darkest moment is always right before the dawn—and the sun will rise tomorrow. We just need to be there to meet it.

That no matter what challenges life may throw at you, no matter how many times it may beat you down, no matter how many times you want to give up, no matter how many times you want to quit: there is always hope.

The hope that tomorrow can be a better day. The hope that you will overcome whatever obstacles lay ahead. The hope that one day you will be who you want to be, where you want to be, doing what makes you happy; filled with all the love and happiness that you deserve.

That sense of hope for a brighter tomorrow is what helped me put one foot in front of the other, especially in the days and weeks that followed.

After breaking the news to friends and family I would tell myself “the sun will rise tomorrow.”

After spending all day making funeral arrangements I would tell myself “the sun will rise tomorrow.”

After finding myself curled into a ball crying into my pillow because I didn’t want anyone to hear me I would tell myself “the sun will rise tomorrow.”

Reminding myself that “the sun will rise tomorrow” gave me hope. It reiterated to me that whatever was happening to me at that present-moment was temporary and if that given enough time it would work itself out. The fact that however dark and stormy things may get—there was always the hope that tomorrow could be a better day.

All I needed to do was make sure that I was there to see it.