Ask This Essential Design Question to Make Your Space Work for You

Have you ever felt dissatisfied with a space in your home, but aren’t quite sure why? You’d like to re-do it, but don’t know where to begin, because it isn’t clear exactly what’s wrong: is it the layout? The wall colors? The decorations? Whatever it is, it just isn’t working for you.

Before spending a load of money experimenting with throw pillows and new art, let alone expensive furniture or wall removal, there’s one essential design question to ask yourself.

What is the purpose of this space?

If you don’t know what you want the space to do for you, it’s hard to know how to make it work.

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How Do I Say No (and Not Feel Guilty about It)?

Is saying “no” difficult for you? I’ve always struggled with being a people-pleaser, so learning to say no has been a hard-won life-lesson for me. It’s much easier to say no when you know your yes. But this past year I have been learning to say no without feeling guilty about it, and it has been a life-changing.

Guilt can be useful when it alerts us to the fact that we have done something wrong: we want a child to feel guilty when he has punched his brother, for example. But people-pleasers struggle with a kind of false guilt that can accompany every instance of saying “no” – even when saying no is the right thing to do.

The difficulty is knowing when saying no is the right thing to do: especially when we are saying no to good things.

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Creativity and Productivity: Can We Have Both?

Have you ever thought about the difference between creativity and productivity? Or struggled with how to be both? It seems to be a theme that is popping up a lot – perhaps because January is simultaneously a season for nature being at rest, in preparation for the creative burst of spring, while the modern world is trying to be as productive as possible, implementing new habits, losing weight, and finally doing the things they had been procrastinating through Christmas.

On the one hand, pursuing creative work is a worthy goal. On the other hand, it’s hard to look at a day that looks like January — where not much happens with that lengthy to-do list — and say, well, at least I was creative, even though I have nothing to show for it.

Where is the balance? Every great writer seems to offer the same advice about creative work: it’s still work. You can’t just wait for a muse to strike you, you have to sit down at the keyboard every day. But is creativity the same as productivity?

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Want to Be Less Stressed? Try This One Simple Question

Today I found myself running late for an appointment. I hate hurrying, but it was my own fault. The trains were also running late, and those few minutes were probably going to cost me. As I rushed along in the cold, the times grew tighter and I found myself becoming more and more stressed.

Still, it was a beautiful morning, with the sun poking through the clouds after the bitter rains of the past few days. And in a moment of grace, it occurred to me that either I could spend the entire morning stressed out, or I could try to enjoy it, despite the pressures of time.

This realization felt like a hard-won victory. I’m prone to stress, to wanting to control everything, to having things be just the way I want them to be. But the last few years, it has occurred to me that choosing to be the kind of person who is driven by stress is just that – a choice. At least, in part. Continue Reading

Cultivating a Contemplative Approach

Do you enjoy going to museums, being immersed in a work of art? Or a symphony, where you are plunged into the music? Are you content to just be in nature, surrounded by beauty? Or, do you start to feel bored after a roomful of paintings? A bit anxious by the third movement of the piece? Ready to have phone signal only an hour into the hike?

I know I struggle to pay attention to these offerings of beauty in the world: and I’ve noticed that the more I’ve been on email, phone, social media or tech, the harder it is for me to be present to the world around me.

Art, nature, beauty – these things require a contemplative stance: our interior posture has to shift from activity to receptivity, from doing to being. We have to choose reflection over analysis, sitting-with rather than taking-on.

It doesn’t come easily for most of us. Continue Reading