Connections. Female friends having fun on the sea shore.

Connections

The connections we make to people throughout our lives are our doors into the world.

Depending on the nature of our connections, we can have many doors leading to interesting and exciting places, or we can have only a few doors, but all leading to places where we love to be and where we want to spend our time.

As we live our lives we will always interact with people. We make friends in school, we talk to neighbors, we work with people, and we develop relationships. Some of those relationships are perfunctory or just a matter of convenience; others are deep and long lasting.

Connections can be developed and maintained in an ad hoc way, or they can be based on our needs and desires. Do you find yourself spending time with people because of obligations or because these people make you happy? How we define our connections to people can help us get the most out of our relationships. And like any of the factors that define our lives, the more we understand our connections, the better we will be at making and maintaining those connections that are meaningful and helpful.

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Grace. Running Cheetahs.

Grace

When you think about the word “graceful,” what comes to mind? Maybe a dancer like Fred Astaire, or an athlete like Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio’s playing was described as “elegant,” and it was said he “glided” around the outfield with the “grace” of a cat. These are not words that you often find in the sports page, but when people saw DiMaggio play, those were the words that fit.

Where does grace come from? Are people born with it? When you see someone who is clumsy or awkward, do you think they are just like that, or they just aren’t paying attention? For the body, there is two-way communication. Listen to your body and compel your body to listen to you. This comes down to awareness. A simple idea, but one on which few really act.

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Criticism. Woman hearing criticism from another.

Criticism

It’s never pleasant to be criticized—even if the person criticizing you has the best of intentions. But being open to criticism, even if you disagree with it, can potentially improve your path in life.

The path of self-improvement should be continuous. Part of this journey is a healthy and honest self-assessment, but we should also be open to the opinions of others. This doesn’t mean that you have to accept, agree with, or incorporate others’ criticism, but it never hurts to consider it. Sometimes someone else’s opinion is not meant with the best of intentions, and although we should be aware of their motives, that doesn’t mean that what they’re saying is wrong. Consider the motives of those criticizing you, but even if they’re hurtful or harmful, don’t let that get in the way if their criticisms are valid.

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Confidence. Girl practicing karate

Confidence

Where does confidence come from?

Why do some people have great confidence while others don’t?

Confidence can be complicated, as it is related to so many other emotions. Courage, happiness, excitement, and other positive emotions can feed confidence, while negative emotions can negate, or decrease confidence.

Confidence is a critical factor in many aspects of our lives. In our professional lives, every time we have the opportunity to advance or take on something that is new to us, we have to feel that we can handle it. We have to have the confidence in our romantic lives to believe that we are a person who is worthy of affection and that we can complement our spouse and make her or him happy.

When I was in my 20s, I had the kind of confidence that comes with youth (read: arrogance). This kind of confidence might actually be a defense mechanism when we don’t have confidence. I think this was probably true with me, especially in my job. When I started as an environmental economist, I didn’t have any experience, so I didn’t know what my strengths were. I was sometimes timid about specific parts of my job (like public speaking). Eventually, I discovered my strengths and learned to play to those strengths with confidence.

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Atone. Young man feeling regret.

Atone

Whoopsie!!

We all make mistakes. Some of us (probably most of us) have made some doozies in our day. Sometimes we may feel that there’s no way to recover—no way we can move on with our lives.

It’s true that bad stuff happens when we make mistakes; they can have serious consequences. They may result in people getting hurt or being otherwise impacted. When this happens, it can affect the way we feel about ourselves. We may feel guilty or ashamed. We’ve not only harmed the person or people that had to suffer the consequences of our mistakes, we’ve also harmed ourselves.

When we make mistakes, sometimes our knee-jerk reactions are more harmful than helpful. We may try to hide from what we’ve done. We may try to deny that it happened, deny that there were consequences, or deny our complicity. We not only are failing to own up to what we did and the consequences of that action (or inaction), we are also being dishonest. And that dishonesty can become part of who we are, and ultimately add on to our guilt and shame.

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