Meditation of the Week: Stillness

I’ve decided to focus each week of 2016 on a different topic/feeling/concept. This week is stillness. As an ESFJ, I am someone who is constantly flowing with passion, concerned with the wellbeing of others, and always trying to do things. Sitting idly with nothing to occupy my time terrifies me. I feel the need to text someone to see how they are doing, clean something, change the font and format of an essay I’m writing – anything to keep me busy. But a lot of these things I do are totally useless.

This week I am trying to embrace the feeling of simply existing and not pressuring myself to be busy.

It has been really hard for me because I feel lost when I don’t have structure to my day. If you know me, you know I like to schedule something for every hour of my day. But then I complain about it. Why? Why do I book myself up and then speak about it as if I wish I hadn’t? It isn’t just an annoying habit to me, it’s annoying for everyone around me.

Then I realized: being busy is my comfort zone. I am a worrier, and if I am constantly occupied, I don’t have time to worry. But the real issue here is learning to control my busy mind, my worries, so that stillness can be enjoyable and not stressful.

When I think back to one time in my life that I really had a good grip on being still, I think of when I was regularly attending yoga classes. Yoga teaches you the power of listening to your breath and quieting your mind. It teaches you that it is okay to be in tune with your body and not think about anything other than the movements you are making. While I didn’t get a yoga membership this semester to save money, I’ve found a similar outlet in dance class. Doing something physical allows you to put energy into something real and tangible, rather than into the busy thoughts in your mind.

What helps you to be still?

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Workspace

I am an absolute nerd when it comes to school supplies. My favorite part of back-to-school shopping is Staples, or Target, or wherever I happen to go. My last semester of college was a little bit different because I didn’t need a whole lot. So, I put a lot more thought into the items I selected.

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  • think happy be happy Notebook – I found this at Marshall’s while Christmas shopping over the holidays. This notebook is pretty thick and I’m planning to use it for all 4 of my classes. My online class shouldn’t be many handwritten notes, and I’ve found over the past semesters that I don’t usually fill up a notebook with just one class. My favorite part about this notebook is that the edges of the pages are gold-plated.
  • Marble Hard Shell Macbook Cover – I found this cute case on Amazon for only $20, and I am really impressed with the quality. The Apple logo even shines through the case, which looks really cool.
  • Staedtler Ballpoint Pen 10 Color Pack – These pens are my favorite because they don’t smudge, have a convenient case so I don’t lose them, and come in colors that aren’t too bright. I use these pens for my planner to make the pages more vibrant and happy.
  • Moleskine 2016 Weekly Notebook – I’ve been eyeing a Moleskine planner, and I finally decided to get this one because I like the layout of the pages. On the left are the days of the week, and on the right is a lined sheet of paper to take notes. I find this is especially handy for to-do lists or providing details about events that you note on the weekly view. It also has monthly calendars, a map, an address book, and a few other handy pages.
  • Solo 2 Beats By Dre (not pictured) – I got my first pair of Beats as a bonus when I purchased my Macbook Pro this year. I wasn’t really interested in them at first because I am not a fan of large headphones, but they have become a staple for studying or doing work. The best part about them (besides the great sound quality) is the noise-cancelling.

I’ll Never Move On

I think about Paris every day. I have a map of Paris on my wall, pictures of my time there above my bed, posters, mini eiffel towers, books, music, ticket stubs, scrapbooks.. I couldn’t avoid thinking of Paris even if I wanted to. I was only there for 6 weeks, but while I was there I didn’t leave except to visit Reims and Versailles – a day trip each.

Why? I didn’t want to sight-see. I thought I wanted to before I got to Paris, but once I was there I could not leave. So many parts of my soul connected when I was in Paris. Music I’d played on the piano since I was 7 was written there, artists I admired found their muse there, accordionists were a daily encounter, the language I’d fallen in love with was all around me, the food my mom had always cooked was born there, the style, the culture, the vibe – whatever the heck that means. It just felt right. It was the lifestyle I had always wanted to have but that didn’t quite fit inside of Raleigh or Chapel Hill.

My dear friend gave me the book How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are for my birthday and I finally got around to reading it over Christmas. As if I needed another reason to feel completely split in half, this was it. After each page I read, my mind was screaming “yes, yes, YES! Someone who gets me!”  

My connection with Paris is rivaled by no other human connection. I fell into a love so deep that the distance makes me grow fonder, and I don’t mind that I can’t be there all the time because I know that, in a way, I am still there. Like so many people before me, I went to Paris and I was changed forever.

Don’t believe me? There is a whole book of testimonials just like mine. You can ask artists, authors, actors, models, designers – anyone with an affinity for art, or even not. We have all had the same experience, and none of us will ever move on.

Five Things Your Competitors Can Teach You About Social

I know, I know – the last thing you want to do is add to your competitor’s follower count on Twitter, be one more view on their YouTube video, or admit that you stalk their Instagram. But here is a list of five things you can learn from your competitors’ social presences that make it worth it:

  1. The appropriate tone and voice for your industry. This first tip is especially key if you are just beginning to build your business’s social presence. Have you ever noticed how some brands Tweet like a playful human? I’m thinking of Pizza Hut and for this one. If you are also in the food industry, you can take a look at accounts like this one and see how people are responding to that type of voice. Do customers engage with it? Do they like it? Do they think it is appropriate? This can either give you the go-ahead to adopt a similar style on your social accounts, or tip you off that maybe staying more conservative is a good idea. Note: DO NOT plagiarize your competition. Being a copy cat is bad. Learning from others’ mistakes/successes is good. Social is a grey area that provides you with the opportunity to push boundaries and try new things – seeing others’ experimentation can help you brainstorm your own.

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    Retrieved from Twitter.
  2. Industry #hashtags. One way to increase your views and followers is to use hashtags in your social posts. Look to your competitors to see what hashtags are trending in your industry and join in the conversation. Don’t just let them do all the talking!
  3. What platforms are relevant to your consumers. If all of your competitors have a YouTube channel, you might want to get one too. This may be a sign that your customers are looking to find their information there.
  4. Competitors’ branding strategies. Social media is a platform that provides brands with the opportunity to creatively express who they are. When entering or expanding your reach within a market, it is important to see who is already there. How are competitors positioning themselves to reach the people you want to talk to? Aka – what seat at the table is already taken?  Being aware of others can help you build a unique brand persona that will diversify you.
  5. What customers actually think of your competition. One example that immediately comes to mind for this one is Zappos. Just by taking a quick glance at Zappos’ Facebook page, you can tell that customer service is their priority and that people think highly of the brand because of it. The example below is just one of the many conversations that Zappos has with customers on their Facebook page. They take the time to show that their customers are a priority, and clearly, this is paying off! This would tip you off that if Zappos is your competition, you better fight hard to win over their customers because they ain’t going easy. The inverse of this example is that if your competition is doing a poor job, people will make it known on their Yelp, Twitter, etc. Complaints can tell you a lot about what your audience is expecting out of a product/service, and you can use that information to meet their needs in ways that the competition currently isn’t.

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    Screen caption from Zappos.com’s Facebook.

Gratitude Instead of Fear

One thing I am working on is being grateful for what I have in the present, rather than being fearful that I will no longer have the same circumstances in the future.

For example: “I am thankful that I have this now,” rather than “I am afraid I will no longer have this tomorrow.”

Circumstances change and this is largely out of our control. We can work hard towards the things we desire, and we will be rewarded. But sometimes, try as we might to line our ducks up in a row, what we receive isn’t equal to what we believe we deserve.

I believe that adopting this perspective will lead me to a happier life because I’ll shorten the amount of time I spend worrying on any given thing. Yes, I will worry when worrying is due, but in the mean time, I can enjoy life the way it is.

2016 Goals

  • 500 followers on Twitter (@sltaylor94)
  • 200 followers on WordPress
  • Publish blog post 1x per week
  • Journal every day (no set length/topic)
  • Keep planner up to date using Bullet Journal technique (see here)
  • Read 1 book for enjoyment per month
  • Keep personal website (taylorsamantha.com) up to date
  • Personal finance with mint.com: adhere to a savings plan; monitor monthly spending;
  • Transfer all emails/contacts/listserv subscriptions from school email address to personal email address
  • The 52 Lists Project (see here)
  • Reduce items in closet by 30%; sell or donate accordingly
  • Play piano, guitar, sing, or write a song 1x per week
  • Declutter
  • Learn Spanish