I sat in my car crying.
It was a bitter-cold afternoon in Buffalo last January, and I felt stuck. I was a TV news producer, but wasn’t fully passionate about it. I was making decisions based on what others thought of me. And at 24 years old, I still hadn’t kicked my lifelong habit of thinking negatively.
Three months later, I quit, moved to Lebanon and began building an online platform as a freelance journalist/blogger/YouTuber.
Wait, what? This was the girl who barely had the courage to post on social media -- let alone take such a risk. Where did the boldness come from?
It came from five habits I decided to adopt in 2017. Slowly but surely, these practices have helped me go from worrying about what others think to not caring; focusing on what could go wrong to focusing on what could go right; and realizing success comes from learning and growing, not just landing a big job.
Here are the five steps that have changed my mindset:
Got a life coach: When one of my friends got a life coach a few years ago, I thought it was weird. That is, until I started noticing him making huge strides in his career and becoming a happier person.
So last year, I went to that same coach -- Devin Martin. I wanted to be a reporter, but I didn’t love the idea of TV news or newspapers. I was hoping Devin could help me figure out what I wanted.
We spoke once a week for 12 weeks, and he tried to convince me I didn’t need to be a TV or newspaper reporter just because that’s what everyone else has done -- I could carve my own path.
But I fought him. I told him his ideas were crazy -- I couldn’t just buy a camera, do my own thing and put myself out there on the Internet. People would think I was weird!
He said I needed to look at life in a much more positive way. So he challenged me to start two habits that have been simple, yet life-changing: write gratitudes and meditate.
Write gratitudes: Every day, I jot down three things I’m grateful for: something about myself, another person, and a random thing -- like the weather. There’s just one rule: I can’t repeat.
The first few weeks were easy -- I started going down a list of decent qualities I have, the most important people in my life, and objects right in front of me. Then, I started running out of ideas.
So every day, I found myself searching for things to be grateful for -- wow, the mailman was really nice today. That embarrassing moment ended up teaching me a good lesson. And over time, I started to see the good in life more than the bad.
Meditate: The first time someone tried to get me to meditate, I said I can’t because I’m too stressed. Now, I realize people controlled by their thoughts need meditation the most (and no, you don’t have to be a Buddhist or hippie to do it).
In fact, some of the world’s most successful people meditate (i.e. Oprah Winfrey, Arnold Schwartzenager and Ariana Huffington). Sure, the practice makes you calmer. But it can also help you conquer your fears.
There’s a myth that meditating = turning your thoughts off. Actually, meditating is about having a ton of anxious and stressful thoughts and changing your relationship to them.
For example, I meditate with an app called Headspace, in which a nice British guy named Andy walks you through 10-minute sessions. When my mind wanders, Andy has simple advice: gently bring your attention back to the breath.
Whether I get a thought as deep as ‘what am I doing with my life?’ or as simple as, ‘what am I going to have for breakfast?’ Andy has made me realize they’re just thoughts. They’re not reality. Let them come, and then let them go.
The same applies to real life. Now, when I start getting anxiety, I let it happen, hang out in my brain for a bit, and then I let it go. I try not to let fearful or anxious thoughts stop me from going after anything.
Daily prayers: This list has a theme: it’s all about me. Praying has helped me realize there is a God much bigger than me, and He’s already blessed me with so much.
When I went to Lebanon in 2013, I met a nun who knew St. Rafqa -- one of Lebanon’s patron saints. She said St. Rafqa told her fellow sisters to pray five Our Father’s and five Hail Mary’s every day.
I’m not sure why, but from that day on I started doing the same. This past trip in Lebanon, I’d start my day with those prayers -- as well as asking God to protect and guide each of the people in my life. It’s helped begin my day on a grateful note.
Surround myself with positivity: They say you are the average of the five people you’re around most. But I think there’s a world of intelligent, driven and motivational people you can also find via books, podcasts and social media. Here are some of my favorites:
YouTube: In my opinion, Brian DeCosta is the Tony Robbins of our generation. In September 2016, he started a YouTube channel about fitness -- but gradually started opening up about other aspects of his life. Now, he's one of the most authentic influencers online, inspiring tens of thousands of people to step out of their comfort zones, both in fitness and their personal lives.
Instagram: ShutTheKaleUp is my favorite account on the gram, and not just because of her pretty food pictures. Jeanette Ogden shares photos of food, fitness and family from a place of love -- not weight loss. She shows how to live a healthy and holistic lifestyle versus going on a diet; nourishing your body versus depriving it; and valuing the people in your life over solely going after your fitness goals. It's refreshing and positive to follow.
Podcast: The Tim Ferriss Show pumps me up. Tim asks world-class performers from all industries about their tools, tactics and routines in day-to-day life. When you hear about what someone like Maria Sharapova has for breakfast, or how geniuses like Malcolm Gladwell sometimes can't get themselves to work hard, you realize these hugely successful people have problems just like us -- so we, too, are capable of greatness.
Book: There are a ton of self-help books out there, but Man’s Search For Meaning has moved me the most. Viktor Frankl, the author, was a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust. He was able to find meaning in life, even when everything was taken away from him. I won’t give away his secret, but if he could stay positive during that time, I guarantee you can, too.