who else really loves mindset ?

By Leo Babauta

At the beginning of every year, it’s like a blank slate: the year can be whatever you want it to be.

This is freeing, exhilarating, magical.

Take advantage of it, my friends.

Of course, we always have the magic of a fresh start available to us — in any day, any hour, any moment. Every morning is a beautiful fresh start! In fact, right this moment, you have the opportunity of a fresh start.

We should take advantage of these opportunities to see the freshness of the moment in front of us.

I recently was talking with my Zen teacher and admitted I hadn’t been studying as much as I’d committed to doing. She advised: “Start at one.” Basically, in basic breath meditation, where you might count your breaths, your mind will get distracted and wander. And then you can simply start at one.

Start at One — this is one of my mantras this year.

Let’s look at how to practice with this during each day, and a couple ways you can take advantage of Starting at One as we look at this beautiful year in front of us.

Practicing a Fresh Start in Each Day

Every morning, you get to ask yourself:

  • What would I like to do with this incredible day?
  • What would make today incredible for me?
  • What am I feeling called to do today? What’s most important?

You can wipe the slate clean of whatever happened the day before (no matter what it was), and just start anew.

And then you get a couple hours into it, and maybe you find yourself off course. You’ve gotten distracted, or caught up in busywork.

Start again.

Take a breath, and imagine this next moment is a blank slate. What is most important right now? What would you like to do with this incredible hour in front of you?

Start again. And find gratitude that you get to start again, over and over.

Practicing with the Blank Slate of the New Year

We’re about a week into the new year, and you might have already started to lose the freshness of this year. But we’re just starting out! We’re at the very beginning, and we can do whatever we like with this year.

What would make this an amazing year for you?

What is possible for you this year?

Who would you like to be?

Take a notebook and pen, and spend 30 minutes thinking about this fresh space, and writing out some notes.

Is this the year you finally write your book, launch something, create something? Grow your business to a new level, launch a new mission, help others in a big way? Tackle something hard and scary and meaningful?

Are there new habits you want to create?

This is your year, to use however you like. What magic can you create?

Putting It Into Action

Once you have an idea of what you’d like to do or create … it’s time to make it actually happen.

Write it down and commit to it. Tell others and promise to report to them weekly. Adjust your plan each week, with the blank slate of the new week. Do a review each month, and get yourself back on track with each fresh month.

One small step at a time, make it happen. One fresh start at a time.

I have two invitations for you:

  1. Sea Change Program: My habits program has been redesigned this year to get you good at the fundamentals of creating new habits. We’re starting with the mornings — the Beautiful Mornings Challenge is designed to help you start out a year of growth in the right way. Join Sea Change today to get started!
  2. Fearless Training Program: If you’d like to deepen into the uncertainty of your meaningful work, this is the training program for you. You’ll set ambitious goals, commit to them, and work with whatever obstacles get in the way. Join Fearless today.

I promise: if you commit to one of these programs, you’ll create a year of meaningful growth. Pick the one that’s suited for what you want to do with this year, and get the support you need to make it happen.

The post A New Year is a Beautiful Fresh Start appeared first on zen habits.

anyone else love self-improvement as much as i do

At the end of every year, I like to reflect on everything that’s happened over the past twelve months. Though 2020 was memorable for unfortunate reasons, I’ve already forgotten some of the smaller things that happened over the course of the year.

Remember when Tiger King and whipped coffee were all we talked about for a while? That feels like a lifetime ago. Sometimes changes in our lives are so subtle that we barely notice they’re happening. You might not have recognized the wins you had or the ways you’ve grown because there were other things fighting for your attention.

30 end of year journal prompts to close out this chapter and move into the new year with a fresh mindset

If you’re like me, the goals you set in January may no longer feel relevant. You might have put them on the back-burner because other things took priority. And that’s okay. Give yourself some credit for dealing with something that none of us have ever experienced before.

Sidenote on my goals: I did pay off half of my credit card debt and built up my emergency fund.

Whether you achieved your goals or not, it’s helpful to take a moment to process your experience of the past year. That way, you can let go of anything that’s weighing you down.

To help you reflect on the year, I’ve put together a list of 30 end of year journal prompts to close out this chapter and move into the new year with a fresh mindset.

I recommend setting aside 30 minutes or so to let yourself journal and be in the moment. Create a comfy environment by making a cup of your favorite beverage, putting on a calming playlist, and lighting a candle. Savor this mindful ritual with yourself!

30 End of Year Journal Prompts for Self-Reflection


30 end of year journal prompts to close out this chapter and move into the new year with a fresh mindset

Click here to download the printable version

Challenges & Wins

  1. What were your biggest challenges from the year? What did you learn from them?
  2. What were your biggest wins from the year? What did you accomplish? What are you proud of yourself for?

Resources

  1. What helped you to get through this year? (e.g. routines, boundaries, relationships, resources)
  2. What were your favorite books, movies, shows, and songs from the past year?

Inner Self

  1. How would you describe the version of yourself from the past year? How have you changed since last year? In what ways have you grown this year?
  2. What kind of person do you want to become next year? How do you want to grow? How can you treat yourself with love, respect, and patience?

Wellness

  1. How well did you take care of yourself this year? Did you prioritize exercise, sleep, and nutrition?
  2. How will you commit to taking even better care of yourself next year?

Boundaries

  1. What kind of boundaries did you set for yourself and others this year? How did you uphold those boundaries? Where did you let them slide? 
  2. What do you want your boundaries to look like for next year? How will you prioritize them?

Routine

  1. What did your typical daily routine look like this year? How did you start and end your days? 
  2. What do you want your routine to look like for next year? What would be your ideal morning and evening routines?

Priorities

  1. What were your top three priorities this past year? (e.g. work, family, finances, self-care, mental health, etc)
  2. What are your top three priorities for next year? Why are they important to you?

Work

  1. How satisfied were you with your work this year? What did you enjoy and not enjoy?
  2. What changes could you make next year will help you feel fulfilled with your work?

Environment

  1. What role did your environment play in your life this year? (Think of your living space, community, workspace, nature, etc)
  2. Do you want to make any changes to your environment next year? What would your ideal environment look and feel like?

Emotions

  1. What emotions did you experience this past year? Did you allow yourself to feel or talk about them freely?
  2. What feelings do you want to embrace for next year? What intentions do you want to set?

Thoughts

  1. What was your mindset like this year? Did you overthink or overanalyze anything in particular?
  2. How can you improve your mindset in the next year? How will you commit to keeping a healthy mindset?

Connections

  1. Who did you connect with this year? Who made you feel the most supported?
  2. Who do you want to connect with next year? What kind of people do you want to surround yourself with?

Fun & Hobbies

  1. How did you relax and unwind this year? What were your favorite memories? Did you start any new hobbies or nurture old ones?
  2. What do you want to explore more of next year? What does fun look like to you?

Gratitude 

  1. Who are you most grateful for? What are you most grateful for? Write down why you are grateful for these people and things.
  2.  How can you express your gratitude more next year?

Goals & Growth

  1. What goals did you set for yourself at the beginning of the year? Did you achieve them? (Note: Remember to give yourself grace if you didn’t achieve your goals)
  2. What are your goals for next year? What do you want to learn or get better at? Think of work, health, finances, relationships, and home. What tools or resources will help you stay on track with your goals?

See you next year!

I hope these end of year journal prompts help you reflect on the past year and move into the new year with ease and intention. Feel free to leave a comment with some of your reflections from this list!

In the mood for some goal setting? Check out this post about how to create a vision plan for the future.

The post 30 Journal Prompts for End of the Year Reflection appeared first on The Blissful Mind.

Who else? <3mindset

%%sitename%% | The Self-Improvement Blog | Self-Esteem | Self Confidence

healthy weight loss

Many women have struggled with healthy weight loss, and comparing your own fitness journey to that of the men in your life can only make things feel more discouraging. And with so much complicated and confusing advice about weight loss floating around, figuring out how to maintain your health while dropping pounds can seem downright impossible.

Luckily, there are resources like The Self Improvement Blog, which can help you approach fitness and wellness in a whole new way. In addition, the following tips will help you understand why men and women have different experiences with weight loss, why disease prevention is just as important as losing weight, and how to modify your diet and fitness routines to improve your overall quality of life.

Weight Loss for Men and Women

As a woman, you may have realized that your male friends seem to drop pounds easily, while you could spend weeks at the gym without seeing noticeable results. Does this mean that you’re doing something wrong? No, not at all! In fact, it’s perfectly normal for men to lose weight faster than women, simply because of biology.

HealthGrades states that women tend to naturally have a higher percentage of body fat than men — this could be because women’s bodies use less fat for energy when they are resting. Therefore, losing weight more slowly than male fitness enthusiasts is nothing to worry about. Concentrating on your own personal goals will get you far.

Preventing Heart Disease

Weight loss isn’t just about feeling more confident in your own skin — it’s also about preserving your health for the sake of chronic disease prevention. Sadly, heart disease is quite common, but maintaining a healthy weight can help you avoid this diagnosis in the future. Plus, it’s important to understand how heart disease for women can differ from heart disease in men.

According to Healthline, women often report heart attack symptoms that go unnoticed, such as fatigue, anxiety, and even sleep disturbances. This is why women need to take steps to prevent heart disease early on as it is all too easy to delay treatment when the symptoms are not so obvious.

Understanding Diabetes

Heart disease isn’t the only serious health condition that often affects people as they get older — both women and men alike should be concerned about diabetes, as well. While men are more likely to develop diabetes, women often suffer from more serious symptoms if they get this diagnosis. Furthermore, women have a higher risk of mortality from diabetes. If you’re interested in weight loss, this is just one more reason to change your lifestyle.

Supporting Hormonal Health

Men and women should pay attention to their hormonal health. But for women, living a lifestyle that supports their hormonal health can be a bit more complicated. Before you begin your weight loss efforts, it’s a smart idea to read up on reproductive health.

As it turns out, some popular weight loss techniques like fasting can be riskier for women. This is because eating on an infrequent basis can lead to blood sugar swings and dramatic cortisol spikes. This is a recipe for anxiety and irritability, so eating balanced meals and reaching for healthy snacks throughout the day is key.

Working Out

If you want to lose weight, working out is essential, especially if you’re hoping to tone up and get stronger. Investing in a gym membership will give you access to all kinds of equipment and fun fitness classes.

But let’s face it — sometimes, joining a gym just isn’t possible. Maybe you live far away from the nearest gym, or you don’t have the money to shell out for a monthly membership fee. Thankfully, you don’t necessarily need to join a gym to stay motivated. For instance, you could reach out to a friend who is also trying to lose weight to discuss the possibility of working out together at your homes and keeping each other accountable.

Furthermore, you could commit to a fitness challenge that can be completed at home, like The Ladyboss Live 28-Day Challenge. Participating in this challenge can help you stay dedicated to making healthy food choices, working out on a regular basis, and overcoming obstacles. You may also want to invest in a fitness tracker — recording your progress can inspire you to keep pushing yourself.

Dietary Guidelines

Do you need to give up all of your favorite foods for weight loss? No! However, you can’t just rely on exercise to lose weight, so reducing your calories and swapping out unhealthy treats for more nutritious options is a smart choice. But the thought of dieting can seem discouraging — after all, isn’t it hard to stick to a diet in the long run? It all depends on how you approach these changes. With the right strategy, you can avoid many of the pitfalls that women often encounter while dieting.

If you want to make sure that you can commit to your new eating habits for the foreseeable future, you should avoid attempting crash diets that will leave you feeling hungry, cranky, and exhausted. Instead, try to eat lots of fiber, protein, and healthy fats to feel full. Focus on incorporating more flavorful ingredients into your meals, like fresh herbs, spices that pack a punch, and homemade dressings and sauces. You may want to keep a food diary to make sure that you’re getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. And every once in a while, treat yourself to some of your favorite desserts — dieting does not have mean deprivation.

If you’re a woman who is trying to lose weight, you know that it isn’t always easy to stay committed to this goal. But by following actionable, research-backed advice tailored for women, you’ll notice how much better you feel each day of your journey. Restructuring your routines and pursuing weight loss in a healthy fashion is well worth the effort, and once you begin seeing results, you’ll be glad you made these changes!

Looking to enhance your physical wellbeing, your relationships, and your mental health? Check out the self-improvement tools from The Self Improvement Blog today.

%%focuskw%% | 6 Essential Tips for Healthy Weight Loss for Women:

Nice thanks really love mindset

Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know *if* I wanted kids, much less *when* I was having them.

Caught off guard, I replied matter-of-factly, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who put off having children until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving for various reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on producing babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant questions around “When are you having kids?” from relatives and random people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t. The people who previously tried to tell you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. It seems like this questioning process never ends.

The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”

I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is *the* way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer to what is really a personal question.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) There are many different paths to happiness

Firstly, everyone has their own path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden. At the end of the day, having kids isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid, and for some people, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it may simply be better to remain childless, rather than having kids just to fit in or to fit societal expectations, and then set their lives up for unhappiness. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because you think that having kids is great and important, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.

For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, but has instead dedicated herself to her personal life purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including some people who choose to have kids.

There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.

  • Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[2][3]
  • Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.[4]
  • Ashley Judd is an actress and politican activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.[5]

And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei (the actress for Peter Parker’s aunt in Tom Holland’s Spider Man film series), Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.

Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting this narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and people need to realize that.

2) You may well cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[6]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[7]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[8]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[9] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[10]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[6]

3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

Important Info !

One day, when my brother was 18, he waltzed into the living room and proudly announced to my mother and me that one day he was going to be a senator. My mom probably gave him the “That’s nice, dear,” treatment while I’m sure I was distracted by a bowl of Cheerios or something.

But for fifteen years, this purpose informed all of my brother’s life decisions: what he studied in school, where he chose to live, who he connected with, and even what he did with many of his vacations and weekends.

After almost half a lifetime of work later, he’s the chairman of a major political party and a judge. He also ran for state congress in his 30s and barely lost.

Don’t get me wrong. My brother is a freak. This basically never happens.

Most of us have no clue what we want to do with our lives. Even after we finish school. Even after we get a job. Even after we’re making money. Between ages 18 and 25, I changed career aspirations more often than I changed my underwear. And even after I had a business, it took another four years to clearly define what I wanted for my life.

Chances are you’re more like me and have no clue what you want to do. It’s a struggle almost every adult goes through. “What do I want to do with my life?” “What am I passionate about?” “What do I not suck at?” I often receive emails from people in their 40s and 50s who still have no clue what they want to do with themselves.

The Problem With Looking for a “Life Purpose”

Part of the problem is the concept of “life purpose” itself. The idea that we were each born for some higher purpose and it’s now our cosmic mission to find it. This is the same kind of shitty logic used to justify things like spirit crystals or that your lucky number is 34 (but only on Tuesdays or during full moons).

Here’s the truth. We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time.

So when people say, “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my life purpose?” what they’re actually asking is: “What can I do with my time that is important?”

This is an infinitely better question to ask. It’s far more manageable and it doesn’t have all of the ridiculous baggage that the “life purpose” question does. There’s no reason for you to be contemplating the cosmic significance of your life while sitting on your couch all day eating Doritos. Rather, you should be getting off your ass and discovering what feels important to you.

One of the most common email questions I get is people asking me what they should do with their lives, what their “life purpose” is. This is an impossible question for me to answer. After all, for all I know, this person is really into knitting sweaters for kittens or filming gay bondage porn in their basement. I have no clue. Who am I to say what’s right or what’s important to them?

But after some research, I have put together a series of questions to help you figure out for yourself what is important to you and what can add more meaning to your life.

These questions are by no means exhaustive or definitive. In fact, they’re a little bit ridiculous. But I made them that way because discovering purpose in our lives should be something that’s fun and interesting, not a chore.

So whether you’re looking for your dream job, thinking about starting a second career, or you just don’t want to spend your entire life wondering “what if…”, hopefully you find some meaningful answers to these ridiculous—but kind of thought-provoking—questions.

What’s Your Favorite Flavor of Shit Sandwich and Does It Come With an Olive?

What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because eventually, we all get served one.

Mark Manson

Ah, yes. The all-important question. What flavor of shit sandwich would you like to eat? Because here’s the sticky little truth about life that they don’t tell you at high school pep rallies:

Everything sucks, some of the time.

Now, that probably sounds incredibly pessimistic. And you may be thinking, “Hey Mr. Manson, turn that frown upside down.” But I actually think this is a liberating idea.

Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So, the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.

If you want to be a brilliant tech entrepreneur, but you can’t handle failure, then you’re not going to make it far. If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the 80-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.

Finding your life purpose involves eating a shit sandwich or twoWhat unpleasant experiences are you able to handle? Are you able to stay up all night coding? Are you able to put off starting a family for 10 years? Are you able to have people laugh you off the stage over and over again until you get it right?

What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because we all get served one eventually.

And your favorite shit sandwich is your competitive advantage. By definition, anything that you’re willing to do (that you enjoy doing) that most people are not willing to do gives you a huge leg-up.

So, find your favorite shit sandwich. And you might as well pick one with an olive.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What struggles you are willing to tolerate to get what you want
  • What you will likely be better than other people at

What’s True About You Today That Would Make Your 8-Year-Old Self Cry?

Something about the social pressures of adolescence and professional pressures of young adulthood squeezes the passion out of us. We’re taught that the only reason to do something is if we’re somehow rewarded for it. And the transactional nature of the world inevitably stifles us and makes us feel lost or stuck.

Mark Manson

When I was a child, I used to write stories. I used to sit in my room for hours by myself, writing away, about aliens, about superheroes, about great warriors, about my friends and family. Not because I wanted anyone to read it. Not because I wanted to impress my parents or teachers. But for the sheer joy of it.

And then, for some reason, I stopped. And I don’t remember why.

We all have a tendency to lose touch with what we loved as a child. Something about the social pressures of adolescence and professional pressures of young adulthood squeezes the passion out of us. We’re taught that the only reason to do something is if we’re somehow rewarded for it. And the transactional nature of the world inevitably stifles us and makes us feel lost or stuck.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I rediscovered how much I loved writing. And it wasn’t until I started my business that I remembered how much I enjoyed building websites—something I did in my early teens, just for fun.

The funny thing though, is that if my 8-year-old self asked my 20-year-old self, “Why don’t you write anymore?” and I replied, “Because I’m not good at it,” or “Because nobody would read what I write,” or “Because you can’t make money doing that,” not only would I have been completely wrong, but that eight-year-old-boy version of me would have probably started crying. That eight-year-old boy didn’t care about Google traffic or social media virality or book advances. He just wanted to play. And that’s where passion always begins: with a sense of play.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What childhood passion you lost to adulthood
  • What activity you should revisit, just for the fun of it

What Makes You Forget to Eat and Poop?

Look at the activities that keep you up all night, but look at the cognitive principles behind those activities that enthrall you. Because they can easily be applied elsewhere.

Mark Manson

We’ve all had that experience where we get so wrapped up in something that minutes turn into hours and hours turn into “Holy crap, I forgot to have dinner.”

Supposedly, in his prime, Isaac Newton’s mother had to regularly come in and remind him to eat because he would spend entire days so absorbed in his work that he would forget.

I used to be like that with video games. This probably wasn’t a good thing. In fact, for many years it was kind of a problem. I would sit and play video games instead of doing more important things like studying for an exam, or showering regularly, or speaking to other humans face-to-face.

It wasn’t until I gave up the games that I realized my passion wasn’t for the games themselves (although I do love them). My passion is for improvement, being good at something and then trying to get better. The games themselves—the graphics, the stories—they were cool, but I can easily live without them. It’s the competition with others and with myself that I thrive on.

And when I applied that obsessiveness for self-improvement and competition to my own business and to my writing, well, things took off in a big way.

Maybe for you, it’s something else. Maybe it’s organizing things efficiently, or getting lost in a fantasy world, or teaching somebody something, or solving technical problems. Whatever it is, don’t just look at the activities that keep you up all night, but look at the cognitive principles behind those activities that enthrall you. Because they can easily be applied elsewhere.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What you truly enjoy doing
  • What other activities to check out that you might also enjoy

How Can You Better Embarrass Yourself?

Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it.

Mark Manson

Before you are able to be good at something and do something important, you must first suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing. That’s pretty obvious. And in order to suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing, you must embarrass yourself in some shape or form, often repeatedly. And most people try to avoid embarrassing themselves, namely because it sucks.

Ergo, due to the transitive property of awesomeness, if you avoid anything that could potentially embarrass you, then you will never end up doing something that feels important.

Yes, it seems that once again, it all comes back to vulnerability.

Right now, there’s something you want to do, something you think about doing, something you fantasize about doing, yet you don’t do it. You have your reasons, no doubt. And you repeat these reasons to yourself ad infinitum.

But what are those reasons? Because I can tell you right now that if those reasons are based on what others would think, then you’re screwing yourself over big time.

If your reasons are something like, “I can’t start a business because spending time with my kids is more important to me,” or “Playing Starcraft all day would probably interfere with my music, and music is more important to me,” then OK. Sounds good.

But if your reasons are, “My parents would hate it,” or “My friends would make fun of me,” or “If I failed, I’d look like an idiot,” then chances are, you’re actually avoiding something you truly care about because caring about that thing is what scares the shit out of you, not what mom thinks or what Timmy next door says.

Great things are, by their very nature, unique and unconventional. Therefore, to achieve them, we must go against the herd mentality. And to do that is scary.

Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What scares the shit out of you… for good reason
  • That you should stop making lousy excuses for and start doing

How Are You Going to Save the World?

You’re not going to fix the world’s problems by yourself. But you can contribute and make a difference. And that feeling of making a difference is ultimately what’s most important for your own happiness and fulfillment.

Mark Manson

In case you haven’t seen the news lately, the world has a few problems. And by “a few problems,” what I really mean is, “everything is fucked and we’re all going to die.”

I’ve harped on this before, and the research also bears it out, but to live a happy and healthy life, we must hold on to values that are greater than our own pleasure or satisfaction.1

So pick a problem and start saving the world. There are plenty to choose from. Our screwed up education systems, economic development, domestic violence, mental health care, governmental corruption. Hell, I just saw an article this morning on sex trafficking in the US and it got me all riled up and wishing I could do something. It also ruined my breakfast.

Find a problem you care about and start solving it. Obviously, you’re not going to fix the world’s problems by yourself. But you can contribute and make a difference. And that feeling of making a difference is ultimately what’s most important for your own happiness and fulfillment. And importance equals purpose.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Gee Mark, I read all of this horrible stuff and I get all pissed off too, but that doesn’t translate to action, much less a new career path.”

Glad you asked…

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What problem you care about that’s larger than you
  • How you can make a difference

Gun to Your Head, If You Had to Leave the House All Day, Every Day, Where Would You Go and What Would You Do?

Discovering what you’re passionate about in life and what matters to you is a full-contact sport, a trial-by-fire process. None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity until we actually do the activity.

Mark Manson

For many of us, the enemy is just old-fashioned complacency. We get into our routines. We distract ourselves. The couch is comfortable. The Doritos are cheesy. And nothing new happens.

This is a problem.

What most people don’t understand is that passion is the result of action, not the cause of it.2, 3

Discovering what you’re passionate about in life and what matters to you is a full-contact sport, a trial-by-fire process. None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity until we actually do the activity.

So ask yourself, if someone put a gun to your head and forced you to leave your house every day for everything except for sleep, how would you choose to occupy yourself? And no, you can’t just go sit in a coffee shop and browse Facebook. You probably already do that. Let’s pretend there are no useless websites, no video games, no TV. Take yourself back to the 90’s when Facebook, Instagram, all this social media clusterfuck most of us spend half our lives on had yet to be invented. You have to be outside of the house all day every day actively doing something until it’s time to go to bed—where would you go and what would you do?

Sign up for a dance class? Join a book club? Go get another degree? Invent a new form of irrigation system that can save the thousands of children’s lives in rural Africa? Learn to hang glide?

What would you do with all of that time? What activity would you choose above all others? We all have only 24 hours in a day, and so we’re back to the all-important question that we all should be asking ourselves:

“What can I do with my time that is important?”

If it strikes your fancy, write down a few answers and then, you know, go out and actually do them. Bonus points if it involves embarrassing yourself.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What you were passionate about all along
  • How you should spend your time

If You Knew You Were Going to Die One Year From Today, What Would You Do and How Would You Want to Be Remembered?

Ultimately, death is the only thing that gives us perspective on the value of our lives. Because it’s only by imagining your non-existence that you can get a sense of what is most important about your existence.

Mark Manson

Most of us don’t like thinking about death. It freaks us out. But thinking about our own death surprisingly has a lot of practical advantages. One of those advantages is that it forces us to zero in on what’s actually important in our lives and what’s just frivolous and distracting.

When I was in college, I used to walk around and ask people, “If you had a year to live, what would you do?” As you can imagine, I was a huge hit at parties. A lot of people gave vague and boring answers. A few drinks were nearly spat on me. But it did cause people to really think about their lives in a different way and re-evaluate what their priorities were.

Ultimately, death is the only thing that gives us perspective on the value of our lives. Because it’s only by imagining your non-existence that you can get a sense of what is most important about your existence. What is your legacy going to be? What are the stories people are going to tell when you’re gone? What is your obituary going to say? Is there anything to say at all? If not, what would you like it to say? How can you start working towards that today?

And again, if you fantasize about your obituary saying a bunch of badass shit that impresses a bunch of random other people, then again, you’re failing here.

When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it’s because they don’t know what’s important to them, they don’t know what their values are.

And when you don’t know what your values are, then you’re essentially taking on other people’s values and living other people’s priorities instead of your own. This is a one-way ticket to unhealthy relationships and eventual misery.

Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you, values that will determine your priorities and guide your actions. It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time well. And to do that you must get off your couch and act, and take the time to think beyond yourself, to think greater than yourself, and paradoxically, to imagine a world without yourself.

The Answer to This Question Will Tell You:

  • What is most important to you
  • What values should guide your actions
Footnotes

  1. Sagiv, L., & Schwartz, S. H. (2000). Value priorities and subjective well-being: direct relations and congruity effects. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30(2), 177–198.
  2. Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31(1), 21–33.
  3. Newport, C. (2012). So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. Business Plus.

Interesting post so much really great

By Leo Babauta

At the beginning of every year, it’s like a blank slate: the year can be whatever you want it to be.

This is freeing, exhilarating, magical.

Take advantage of it, my friends.

Of course, we always have the magic of a fresh start available to us — in any day, any hour, any moment. Every morning is a beautiful fresh start! In fact, right this moment, you have the opportunity of a fresh start.

We should take advantage of these opportunities to see the freshness of the moment in front of us.

I recently was talking with my Zen teacher and admitted I hadn’t been studying as much as I’d committed to doing. She advised: “Start at one.” Basically, in basic breath meditation, where you might count your breaths, your mind will get distracted and wander. And then you can simply start at one.

Start at One — this is one of my mantras this year.

Let’s look at how to practice with this during each day, and a couple ways you can take advantage of Starting at One as we look at this beautiful year in front of us.

Practicing a Fresh Start in Each Day

Every morning, you get to ask yourself:

  • What would I like to do with this incredible day?
  • What would make today incredible for me?
  • What am I feeling called to do today? What’s most important?

You can wipe the slate clean of whatever happened the day before (no matter what it was), and just start anew.

And then you get a couple hours into it, and maybe you find yourself off course. You’ve gotten distracted, or caught up in busywork.

Start again.

Take a breath, and imagine this next moment is a blank slate. What is most important right now? What would you like to do with this incredible hour in front of you?

Start again. And find gratitude that you get to start again, over and over.

Practicing with the Blank Slate of the New Year

We’re about a week into the new year, and you might have already started to lose the freshness of this year. But we’re just starting out! We’re at the very beginning, and we can do whatever we like with this year.

What would make this an amazing year for you?

What is possible for you this year?

Who would you like to be?

Take a notebook and pen, and spend 30 minutes thinking about this fresh space, and writing out some notes.

Is this the year you finally write your book, launch something, create something? Grow your business to a new level, launch a new mission, help others in a big way? Tackle something hard and scary and meaningful?

Are there new habits you want to create?

This is your year, to use however you like. What magic can you create?

Putting It Into Action

Once you have an idea of what you’d like to do or create … it’s time to make it actually happen.

Write it down and commit to it. Tell others and promise to report to them weekly. Adjust your plan each week, with the blank slate of the new week. Do a review each month, and get yourself back on track with each fresh month.

One small step at a time, make it happen. One fresh start at a time.

I have two invitations for you:

  1. Sea Change Program: My habits program has been redesigned this year to get you good at the fundamentals of creating new habits. We’re starting with the mornings — the Beautiful Mornings Challenge is designed to help you start out a year of growth in the right way. Join Sea Change today to get started!
  2. Fearless Training Program: If you’d like to deepen into the uncertainty of your meaningful work, this is the training program for you. You’ll set ambitious goals, commit to them, and work with whatever obstacles get in the way. Join Fearless today.

I promise: if you commit to one of these programs, you’ll create a year of meaningful growth. Pick the one that’s suited for what you want to do with this year, and get the support you need to make it happen.

The post A New Year is a Beautiful Fresh Start appeared first on zen habits.

Worlds best self-improvement fan right here

The Opportunity in Adversity

By Eckhart Tolle

Life unfolds between the polarities of order and chaos. It is important at this time to recognize these two fundamental opposites, without which the world could not even be. Another word for disorder is “adversity.” When it becomes more extreme, we might call it “chaos.”

We would prefer, of course, to have order in our lives, which means to have things going well. We would like relative harmony in our lives. Yet, that very often is marred by the eruption of some form of disorder. And, usually, we resent that—we get angry, or despondent, or sad.

Disorder comes in many, many forms, big and small. When disorder comes it usually creates a kind of havoc in our lives, accompanied by strong underlying beliefs. “There’s something very wrong, this should not be happening, maybe God is against me,” and so on. Again, we need to understand that disorder, or adversity, is inevitable and is an essential part of a higher order.

 From a higher perspective, a higher level, the existence of order and disorder, or order and chaos, is a necessary part of the evolution of life.

 Many people have found that they experience a deepening, or a deeper sense of self or beingness, immediately after and as a result of having endured a period of disorder or chaos. This is sometimes called “the dark night of the soul,” a term from medieval Christianity used to describe the mental breakdown that many mystics experienced prior to awakening spiritually. There was an eruption of disorder, of destruction. Then, out of that, a deeper realization arose.

 And although that can be very painful, the strange thing is, it’s precisely there that many humans experience a transcendence. A strange fact is that it almost never happens that people awaken spiritually while they’re in their comfort zone. Or that they become deeper as human beings, which would be a partial awakening. It almost never happens. The place where the evolutionary shift happens, or the evolutionary leap, is usually the experience of disorder in a person’s life.

And so your life then moves between order and disorder. You have both, and they’re both necessary. There’s no guarantee that when disorder erupts this will bring about an awakening or a deepening, but there’s always the possibility. It is an opportunity, but often, it is missed.

 So here we are at this time, and our mission is the same: to align with the present moment, with whatever is happening here and now. The upheaval that we’re experiencing at the present time probably will not be the last upheaval that’s going to come on a collective level. However, it is an opportunity—because although this is a time for upheavals, it is also a time for awakening. The two go together. Just as in an individual life, you need adversity to awaken. It’s an opportunity but not a guarantee. And so what looks tragic and unpleasant on a conventional level is actually perfectly fine and as it should be on a higher level; it would not be happening otherwise. It’s all part of the awakening of human beings and of planetary awakening.

To learn more about Eckhart’s teachings on Conscious Manifestation, click here.

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The post The Opportunity in Adversity appeared first on Eckhart Tolle | Official Site – Spiritual Teachings and Tools For Personal Growth and Happiness.

More posts on self-improvement ok? like = agree

Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know *if* I wanted kids, much less *when* I was having them.

Caught off guard, I replied matter-of-factly, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who put off having children until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving for various reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on producing babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant questions around “When are you having kids?” from relatives and random people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t. The people who previously tried to tell you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. It seems like this questioning process never ends.

The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”

I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is *the* way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer to what is really a personal question.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) There are many different paths to happiness

Firstly, everyone has their own path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden. At the end of the day, having kids isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid, and for some people, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it may simply be better to remain childless, rather than having kids just to fit in or to fit societal expectations, and then set their lives up for unhappiness. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because you think that having kids is great and important, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.

For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, but has instead dedicated herself to her personal life purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including some people who choose to have kids.

There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.

  • Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[2][3]
  • Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.[4]
  • Ashley Judd is an actress and politican activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.[5]

And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei (the actress for Peter Parker’s aunt in Tom Holland’s Spider Man film series), Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.

Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting this narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and people need to realize that.

2) You may well cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[6]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[7]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[8]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[9] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[10]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[6]

3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂