My Focus Words for This Season

season

Fall is upon us!  With September comes the changing of seasons.  For me, I am now fully in the season known as my sophomore year of college, and it has certainly been a transition!  I am sure many of you are entering new seasons of your own.  I’d like to share with you something that may make all of our transitions a bit easier.

This past summer I decided on two focus words.  One word I would be giving up, the other I would be incorporating into my life.  I knew that choosing these words didn’t mean an immediate change in my life.  I knew I would fail at times, but this was something I chose to go through with God.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”  -Romans 12:2

Changing our character is not something we can do by our own power.  God wants this to be about how He can change us into better versions of ourselves.  Choosing focus words for a season is simply a way to channel our thoughts and focus our actions toward something specific.

My Words For Last Season

This past summer I knew that God had to do some serious work on my heart if I was going to do my job as a Bible Camp counselor.  I was feeling completely drained from my last semester of college and I found it hard to invest in my relationship with God.  I didn’t feel like I was in a place to do God’s work.  My focus words were a way that I could reconnect with God.

Resentment

In a college setting, you are bound to run into people that you don’t understand.  No matter what you are studying, I guarantee that you will be running into people that you don’t get along with.  However, I thought that the resentment I was so ready to give out to others would suddenly go away once I got to camp.  The camp community is the best community I’ve been a part of, so surely I wouldn’t resent any of my coworkers, right?  Wrong.

If resentment is a problem for you, you must first realize that it is your problem and not anybody else’s.  This resentment I was harboring was poisoning the relationships I was building with my coworkers.  I grew continually concerned about how I was feeling towards.  The reason I found it easy to resent my coworkers was because I was used to resenting others.  I had allowed resentment to be a part of how I understood people, and that didn’t change just because I wasn’t at college anymore.

So resentment was the word I chose to give up to God this summer.  Every time I felt annoyed with someone, I would pray for God to take this resentment away from me.  Before long, I found that the familiar feeling of resentment was gone!  I can vividly see how God answered my prayers and changed my heart.

Spirit

Going into this season of my life, I remember believing that I was not someone that God spoke to very much.  This was false thinking on my part.  I now firmly believe that God speaks to everyone, we just have to learn to listen to him.  This summer I wanted to learn how to listen to God.

So I prayed to become closer with the Holy Spirit, and wouldn’t you know it, it worked!  I recently read that we should pray as though God has already answered our prayers.  This is especially true when it comes to knowing God more.  That is all He wants for us: to be continually pursuing Him!  While I experienced a lot of growth in my relationship with God this summer, it doesn’t mean I won’t stop praying for the Holy Spirit in this new season.  I am much more aware of how God talks to me now, and I can’t wait to see where we will go together!

season

My Words For This Season

Now I am in a very different season of life.  Every new season deserves a new focus.  For me, it seemed obvious that these are the words I am meant to focus on this season.  I know it won’t be easy, and I will definitely fail at times, but with God’s help, I know anything is possible!

Shame

I think this is a more prolific word for embarrassment, or in Delaney-terms, awkwardness.  I don’t want to be embarrassed about living out my faith.  The challenge is that I don’t really know what that looks like.  What does it look like to truly live a life without shame?  I am excited to see what God does this season as I surrender this word to Him.

Peace

I am so excited that this is the word I will be taking on this school year!  I have already witnessed a whirlwind of emotion and stress with me and my classmates, but I have chosen to focus on He who give us peace instead!  When I feel the weight of this world (or at least the weight of my classwork) I cling to this verse-

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” -John 14:27

I am so excited to see what God will do in this season of my life!  Is this something that you have ever done?  If so, I want to hear about what it was like for you to choose focus words for a season of your life!  What words have you chosen for this season?

season

Why Every Blogger Should Read “Big Magic”

why every blogger should read big magic inspirationWhen I was a new blogger I thought I would never run out of ideas.  I think that’s the reason why most of us start blogging- because we have ideas.  That’s great!  Whether you are inspired by fashion, food, finances, or fob watches, we are all lucky to have the opportunity to write about the things that excite us.  Feeling inspired is simply wonderful, but in case you haven’t figured it our yet, inspiration doesn’t happen all the time.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched bloggers bust out three posts a week while I’m still trying to think of a single idea.  The wealth of inspiration I thought I had soon dried up.  The ideas just weren’t coming.

Then I read “Big Magic” and everything changed.  I love a good inspirational book, but this book completely blew away my expectations.  I hadn’t even gotten to the 3rd page and I was already near tears.  Immediately I could see how this book would not only help me in theatre, but blogging as well.  In fact, I think this book could help everybody.

What is “Big Magic”?

Author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) describes Big Magic as the relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.  In other terms, it means creativity.  The book is divided into 7 brilliant sections: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity.  These chapters serve as a guide to creative living beyond fear, which is the ultimate goal for Elizabeth Gilbert and anyone who reads her book.

Liz (I always called her Liz when I was reading this book 🙂 ) fills the pages of Big Magic with stories of her own struggles and triumphs in her personal journey to creative living.  She has gathered a multitude of vivid examples in a stunning narrative that will leave everyone feeling inspired.  Big Magic is nothing if not empowering to the creative soul.  I could go on and on, but I think it’s best if I just tell you the most important things I took away from the book.

Top 5 Things I Learned

My perspective on inspiration has certainly shifted because of this book.  What I love most is that Big Magic doesn’t just give you inspiration, it teaches you how to use it.  I cannot express how full this book is of ideas, so I narrowed it down to the most impactful things that I took away from it.

1. Fear is not needed

Who among us does not have some degree of fear?  I believe that bloggers have their own special brand of fear.  Fear of not reaching our goals, fear of criticism, fear of taking a risk, or fear of investment.  However, living a creative life doesn’t leave any room for fear in our work.

“I also realized that my fear was boring because it was identical to everyone else’s fear.  I figured out that every one’s song of fear has exactly that same tedious lyric: ‘STOP, STOP, STOP,STOP!'”

We are tied down by fear.  It is the force that compels us to behave like everyone else and avoid taking creative risks.  The sooner you learn to let go of fear, the sooner you will feel more at ease and more pleased with the work you have done!

2. Education does not always equal creativity

I am pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, however, Liz allowed me to see that achieving my degree is not the key to my life as an artist.  Like many other creative souls, I enjoy studying something I love and I can see how it will benefit me.  However, I have now chosen not to let the weight of my future fall on the education I am getting now.

“…I worry that what students of the arts are often seeking in higher education is nothing more than proof of their own legitimacy- proof that they are for real a creative people, because their degree says so.”

I’m glad she said it because somebody had to!  I see people every day in my department that need to be reminded that school does not have the final say in their futures.

I think bloggers are an excellent testament to this idea.  I mean, have you ever heard of someone getting a degree in blogging?  No.  Yet people are continually succeeding in this field without a specific diploma.  Your past experiences and your creative vision are all the education you need.

3. You need to give yourself permission

If you think a diploma is the only thing that can give you permission to be creative, think again.  People like to look for permission from their family, their friends, their schedule, their career, or even their past experiences when the only person that can allow you to be creative is you.  The best way to write your own permission slip is to embrace the idea of creative entitlement.

“Creative entitlement doesn’t mean acting like a princess, or acting as though the world owes you anything whatsoever.  No, creative entitlement means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that -merely by being here- you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.”

I think creative entitlement is a struggle for most bloggers at some point in their career.  When you compare yourself with other bloggers who have been going at it for twice as long and seem to have 10x the traffic, your sense of belonging can be skewed.  Learning to find permission from creative entitlement means that you are content with expressing your own voice no matter how loud it may be.

Related: Why Everybody Should Be A Diva

4. Don’t make your creative works support you

I believe many bloggers share this focus!  Who doesn’t want to earn a little cash from all the work you pour into your blog?  As college students, it can be especially appealing to have your blog pay your rent.  I think we would all rather work at home than work in a cafeteria.  However, our dear friend Liz says to be cautious about this.

“There is no dishonor in having a job.  What is dishonorable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence.”

Of course, making money off of your blog isn’t a bad goal to have.  You just can’t expect it to be a genie in a bottle that grants all your wishes.  The moment it becomes more of a job than a source for creativity, our inspiration suffers.

5. The back-door creative method

“Einstein called this tactic ‘combinatory play’ -the act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another.  This is why he would often play the violin when he was having diffuculty solving a mathematical puzzle; after a few hours of sonatas, he could usually find the answer he needed.”

This is perhaps the most impactful message I have taken away from this book.  Liz provides several examples of this “back-door-creative-method” as I like to call it.  Ulterior creative methods can range anywhere from gardening to painting to playing ukulele to soap making.  As bloggers, we cannot rely on our blogs as our only outlet for creativity.  If we do, our creativity will suffer.  Investing in other creative outlets has been nothing but a good experience for me and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to feel more creative!  For myself, I have taken up playing guitar, word art, and even a little bit of watercolor.  What I like best about these hobbies is that I haven’t put any pressure on myself to impress others.  I am simply playing.

inspiration

So Why Read It?

You are not a creative person because you are a blogger, you are a blogger because you are a creative person!  You will be most happy when you abandon fear and embrace the creative gifts you have been given.  Even if you are not a blogger, I would totally still recommend this book.  Why?  Because everybody can live a creative life in some way!  Personally, I found that this book was exactly what I needed to invite inspiration into my life and embrace my creativity.

I hope this was helpful and inspiring for you!  Have you read Big Magic?  If so, I want to hear what you thought about it!  What are some other inspirational books that you would recommend?  I am always looking for new suggestions. 🙂

The Art of Not Caring what People Think About You

the art of not caring what people think about you

I don’t really care what people think about me.

JK, I actually do.

Well, generally I think I am pretty good at being indifferent to the opinions of others, but I know that I fall short more often than I should.  I believe everybody has some concern over what others think about them, don’t you?  Haven’t you ever had to throw away something in class, but you refuse to get up and go to the trash because you don’t want people to look at you?  Precisely.  I would be willing to bet this happens to us all more that we realize, but of course there are those moments when you really don’t care.  For example: 14 year old me would never let me get away with this, but now I’ll go out in sweats and a t-shirt that are both grey!  Scandal!  I may think about it for a minute, but it doesn’t stop me from going out.

I have a totally different reaction about my reputation and past successes in theatre.  As this school year has gone on, I have become more and more self-conscious about my accomplishments.  I’ve even told people my acting resume is the most embarrassing thing about my life!  I try to take this with a bit of perspective, but it’s hard to go easy on yourself when you go to a school where it seems like everybody has played several lead roles and worked in professional theatres.

Comparison is the ultimate downfall to relieving yourself of others opinions.  I am super guilty of playing the comparison game, and that’s just not fair to myself.  Nevermind all the crazy standards portrayed in the media and movies; I know some really stellar people in real life that I wish I could be more like!  Being surrounded by people who embody all the characteristics you wish you had is pretty intimidating, how can you not compare yourself to people like that?

The key to overcoming comparison is to strive to be the best version of yourself.  Chances are the people you admire aren’t amazing because they are a carbon copy of one of their role models.  They are amazing because they are the only ones that play their part perfectly.  You can do the same!

Everything is so much easier when you aren’t concerned about what people are thinking about you.  Have you ever been on a trip away from home, and you just don’t care about how you look or act because you will probably never see any of these people again?  Well, it’s possible to live like that all the time.

The most important thing to remember is that you have something to offer this world.  Wherever you go and whatever you are doing, just be prepared to live your life honestly and play your character right.  You are smart, you know things, and that’s what people want to see.

Why is it so hard for us to let go of what others think about us?  Because not all opinions people bestow on us are bad ones.  Approval from others can be a very addictive thing to pursue, but being dependent on positive opinions of others doesn’t just work one way; you are ultimately affected by the bad ones too.

To avoid this dependency, we have to find our value in something much more stable.  In the grand scheme of things, no one is qualified to pass judgement on anyone else, so don’t worry about it!  We also have to accept that everyone is an individual and we are all on our own walks of life.  Overcoming the opinions of others isn’t easy, but it can really save you some stress.  Don’t you have enough things to worry about?

I am calling this practice of overcoming the opinions of others an “art” instead of a “how to guide”.  Art is something that can always be improved and is never really finished.  Learning to let go of other people’s opinions of you is something to work on constantly.  We are likely to fail many times, but there is also great joy to be found in this practice.  Therefore, it is an art. 🙂

The thing is this: no one ever got anywhere by playing it safe.  We should not be afraid to embrace our individuality just because others who are equally as flawed call us out on it.  Our world would lack so much color if everyone lived in fear of other’s opinions.  Nearly everyone who has made a name for themselves had to ignore some haters at one point in time.

Do you know what the real secret is to being successful as an actor?  You have to be yourself.  Offering the world of theatre something that they have never seen before is the best way to get noticed, and ultimately someone will appreciate your individuality.  However, this goes for every single thing that we face as humans.  The secret to success is being yourself, and that’s what your are automatically best at.

I hope these few words were encouraging to you.  If this is something you struggle with, just remember that it’s perfectly natural, and perfectly in your control.  🙂

10 Ways to be More Productive Right Now

productive

You know, there just aren’t enough hours in the day sometimes.  Or is there?  Personally, I am super busy this semester, and on top of all the things I have to do, there are plenty of things I want to do like watch Netflix and run this blog.  Whether you are a college student like me, or you live a completely different life, there are always ways to increase your productivity so you can get to the things you actually want to do.  What’s that saying?  You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé. 🙂

Without further ado, here are 10 ways to be more productive right now!

Write a list

Literally, anybody will tell you this is the first thing you need to do if you want to accomplish more, and that’s because it works!  Humans are very visual creatures, and seeing something in writing makes more of an impression on us.  Not only that, it always feels good to cross something off of your to-do list.

Small Victories

Small victories fuel larger victories.  Whether or not you realize it, little accomplishments boost your moral!  Just take one minute right now to clean up something or throw something out.  Boom.  Victory.  You are that much closer to conquering the day!

Listen to Music

Personally, I can barely breathe unless I’m listening to music.  Not only does music provide motivation and boost productivity, it drowns out distracting noises.  Music can help you focus too.  In fact, the only time I’m not listening to music while working is when I’m proof-reading something; otherwise, I would be bored out of my skull.  Plus, I can have mini dance sessions to break up my study time. 🙂

Find a Sanctuary

If you have some serious work to do, you might want to consider removing yourself from your natural habitat.  It’s likely that your home or usual hangout will have a lot of distractions that are particularly compelling to you.  Also, seeking a new environment to do your work is a specific action dedicated to your productivity: it changes the way you think and makes you more focused.  So try going to a park, library, or coffee shop to really get some work done.

Inspire Yourself

Chances are you are reading this because you needed a little inspiration to get stuff done.  Who doesn’t?  However, you are just as capable of inspiring yourself as anyone else.  You are a powerhouse!  You owe it to yourself to work hard and accomplish your goals, so look at yourself in the mirror, and tell yourself that you’ve got this!

Competition

A little friendly competition never hurt anybody, right?  If you are studying for a class, talk to your classmates about it and encourage them to work hard too.  Being around other people who are focused on the same task can increase your motivation for doing well.  If no one else is sharing your workload, then be competitive with yourself!  See if you can’t be faster, more detailed, more organized, and more productive than you’ve been in the past.

Reward Yourself

I’m not kidding about taking dance breaks.  That’s often my reward for completing another paragraph on whatever essay I’m working on.  Food is always good too, just try to be healthy.  Sometimes I allow myself to go on Pinterest or Facebook for a few minutes, although it is easy to get carried away on social media, so be careful.

Plan Mini-Plans

Usually, I know exactly what order I’m going to get ready in the morning before I even get out of bed.  I also know what to wear based on my schedule, the weather, and any physical activity I have that day.  Being strategic with your schedule can save you loads of time, not to mention reduce stress.  I plan out my routes to class early and I know exactly what I’m going to do during my breaks in order to be more efficient.  Blocking out an hour between classes to accomplish several small tasks can do wonders to increase your productivity.

Eliminate Distractions

When ignoring distractions isn’t enough, get rid of them.  Put your phone on airplane mode if you have to, or turn it off completely.  Put your cat or dog in a different room for a little while if they are really distracting you (#me).  Clear off your desk to hide your distracting do-dads.  This is why finding a sanctuary is effective, it automatically gets you away from those distractions.

Strategic Procrastination

If you absolutely have to procrastinate on something, why not do something productive?  Read up on something educational, clean up your room, stretch or go for a run, answer some emails, or hey, read about ways that you can be more productive!

I hope that these tips were helpful for you and that you will find it easier to get business done now.  The best part of increasing your productivity is all the free time you get at the end of it all!  So, even though not all the work we have to do is very fun, you will hopefully get done faster and feel better about your accomplishments.  How do you stay productive?  Let me know!

Let’s get stuff done!

You Can Still Learn When You’re Tired

This week has been the most exhausting week of my college career thus far.  So far, I’ve been handling my first 18 credit semester pretty well; all I can do is take it one day at a time.  However, yesterday I woke up with no energy to make it through the day, on top of that, Fridays are my busiest day by far.  At the end of my four classes yesterday I went to my voice lesson of the week, where I learned some very valuable things that may help us all.

You can still learn whe you're tired- laughswithoutfear.com

Shout out to my cat for being today’s model.

I’ve been taking private voice lessons for about 4 years now.  Even if you are not trying to make a career out of singing, voice lessons are a good way to learn about yourself and have fun.  Even professional actors with thriving careers still get vocal coaching, there is always something to learn.

To those of you who aren’t singers, it may surprise you to learn that singing requires your entire body.  Likewise, whatever state your body is in will affect how you sing.  So you can imagine that at the end of an exhausting week, I wouldn’t have much energy left within me to belt out some show tunes.  Of course my voice teacher recognized this right away, and luckily she knew just how to use my exhaustion as a learning experience.

I like to push myself in all areas of my life.  This is a big no, no when it comes to singing.  That is a sure way to damage your voice.  Actually, I suppose that can go for many things…  During my voice lesson I really took the time to slow down and listen to my voice.  Was it damaged?  Was it dry?  Was it just tired?  Then I realized that I hadn’t been listening to my voice at all recently (I mean, this this is supposed to be my money-maker!).  I guess being aware of my voice is one good thing that came from being tired.

Point 1

-Being tired can force you to listen to yourself.  How are you doing?

Well, I thought I sounded awful.  But at least I stopped to listen.  However, I couldn’t find the energy within me to produce the sound I knew I could.  So, my voice instructor told me to understate everything I sang.  You know, not everything can a huge Broadway-belt moment.  It just can’t.  That’s where a lot of the story in every song is: in the quiet moments.

Point 2

-There is good in the quiet moments.  We need quiet to process our thoughts.

So I sang through a song.  If you really want to know, it was “Fly, Fly Away” from Catch Me If You Can.  I sang it horribly, of course.  I didn’t really sound like myself.  I knew this sound wasn’t anything I could present to the faculty at the end of the term.  I didn’t sweat it though, and I certainly didn’t push myself to sound better.

Point 3

-You can’t produce your best work when you’re tired, so don’t put that pressure of yourself.

I’ve never had any belt training.  (You know, that big Broadway sound?  I have no idea how people do that…)  So I asked my teacher how on earth singers achieve that.  With some technical work, I was soon belting out a wave of sound that I had never experienced before!  I got shivers, like I just had a huge breakthrough in my education.

Point 4

-Just because you’re tired doesn’t mean you’re useless.

The most amazing thing I learned was that you can still learn when you’re tired.  It’s just a matter of learning how to learn when you’re tired.  Because, let’s face it: we are going to be tired for most of the time we’re in college.  Let’s not let that time go to waste. 🙂