7 Tips For Improving Self-Awareness

Woman meditating about improving her self-awareness in a forest with a cat by her side.

If you’ve ever sat on plastic-covered furniture — in shorts, during the summer, in a house with no air-conditioning — you’ll relate. And if you haven’t (you don’t know what you’re missing), run the image past someone a generation or two older than you. Beneath the chuckle and eye-roll, believe it or not, is an analogy for improving self-awareness.

For those too young to relate, think of Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond. The only thing more outdated than her opinions and habits is her 70’s decor of harvest colors — including her plastic-covered sofa.

The absurdity and inappropriateness of her intrusiveness, self-righteousness, and shameless lack of boundaries are, of course, sitcom fodder. For Marie, the idea of improving self-awareness, even for the sake of improving her relationships, isn’t in her cosmos.

Tragically funny in sitcom life. Just plain tragic in real life.

And most of us know at least one person who seems devoid of all self-awareness — or at least complicit in their own arrested development. 

Can you believe her? Does she honestly have no idea? 

Does he ever look in the mirror? 

I can’t believe he still says racist things.

Does she not realize how rude her comments are sometimes?

Do they not realize we’re in the 21st century now?

For all the reasons that pique your suspicion of others’ self-awareness, one curiosity matters far more. Are you doing the work of improving self-awareness?

Ironically, your answer to that question is its own expression of self-awareness. Are you busy holding other people to a high standard instead of focusing on the work within yourself?

Is it possible to be too self-aware? Only if your awareness leads you to a hyper-self-vigilance and chronic evaluation with unrealistic expectations. 

Self-awareness isn’t about merciless self-scrutiny, but rather, recognition, learning, and growth. 

Can you be objective about your subjective self? And can you gauge the impression others have of you? 

Just as importantly, can you use that information, in conjunction with social norms and your own values and morals, to make constructive change when warranted?

Most of us could use some ongoing work in this area. And we could always benefit from helpful tips for improving self-awareness.

With that in mind, here are 7 to get you going.

  1. Meditate.

    Self-reflection is at the heart of self-awareness, and you don’t have to go on a meditation retreat to practice it. 

    Meditation is really about mindfulness, which is all about being “present” to where you are — physically, emotionally, spiritually — in the moment. You can just as effectively accomplish that by gardening or spending time in nature as you can “ohming” in the Lotus position. 

    The point is to center yourself in the moment and empty your mind of distractions so you can receive. 

    If you meditate as part of your faith, you may quiet yourself in order to “hear” the voice of Wisdom. 

    If you do it as a way to become grounded for the day, you may quiet your mind in order to receive guidance and clarity. 

    Whatever inspires you to practice a reflective discipline, you will be drawn inward. And that’s exactly where all the answers lie.

  2. Journal.

    You may feel so strapped for time that you can’t even make a grocery list, let alone write in a journal. But that can be your first (telling) journal entry: I always feel rushed and strapped for time. 

    Eight seemingly innocuous words that deliver a heavy dose of information. 

    What matters is that you create a discipline of “dumping” what’s whirling around backstage in your mind. Just write. Put your pen or keyboard on autopilot and corral the chaos of hidden feelings, racing thoughts, and observations. 

    Your subconscious mind is like “the great and mighty Oz.” It knows all. And it will happily tell all if you just ask it. 

    The other benefit of journaling is that it forges a positive habit through the discipline of self-examination and self-care. 

  3. Study The Twelve Steps.

    You don’t have to be an alcoholic, addict, or codependent to benefit from The Twelve Steps. As a matter of fact, the progressive nature of the steps — from awareness to admission to awakening — is all about improving self-awareness. 

    Making a “fearless inventory” of your wrongs, for example, isn’t easy. It takes inordinate courage and humility — two qualities that also show up in great leaders. 

    And the ability to make amends to those you have harmed throughout your life — again, the courage, humility, and fearless honesty! 

    Reaching the twelfth step is about recognizing your spiritual awakening and, from that awakening, helping others while continuing to apply the principles. 

    What could be a better testament to self-awareness as a practice and not a destination?

  4. Make a sincere apology.

    Whether you call it an “amends” or an “apology,” the ability and willingness to acknowledge your wrongs with contrition takes extraordinary self-awareness. 

    There’s a reason this 9th step of The Twelve Steps is so important to the recovery process. 

    Genuine regret requires more than “sorry.” It expects that the penitent recognizes the harm done and empathetically acknowledges its impact on the life of the one harmed. 

    The catch? You don’t know if the person receiving the apology will even care or accept it. 

    You also don’t know if you will be on the receiving end of forgiveness or a cauldron of anger and ill-will. 

    Your commitment has to be to clean your side of the street, no matter what the other person says or does. 

    How does self-awareness play into the moment? 

    Genuine remorse requires self-accountability with specificity. “Sorry for all the times I hurt you” doesn’t cut it. 

    When you hurt someone, you hurt them “with details” — details that get relived and felt, over and over. Your willingness to acknowledge those details and their damage demonstrates self-control and the grueling self-examination you did to get here. 

    Another reason this exercise is good for improving self-awareness is that you will inevitably have a lot of emotional and physical feelings. Recognizing them as they occur is the first step toward accepting and controlling them.

    And connecting those feelings to the context in which they occur will encourage you to change the behaviors that created that context in the first place. (This is the ultimate purpose of self-awareness: to use information gained to make positive change.)

    As you grow in self-awareness, you will notice that you make amends more quickly. And you will start catching yourself before you do something to hurt someone.

    The final step in this “drawing inward” is that you will change your thoughts, which will make apologies less necessary in the future. And that is the quintessential meaning of “cleaning up your act.”

  5. Ask a trusted friend for honest feedback.

    This can be a very positive exercise, even if you don’t like everything you hear. 

    Sometimes we are our own worst enemies, and we don’t always see the good that others see in us. 

    Of course, the same can be said for our faults. A little bit of pride and ego-protection can fuel a lot of denial. 

    We can easily (though unintentionally) lose our objective awareness of how others see us. 

    When seeking honest feedback on both your strengths and weaknesses, reach out to those who know you best and truly love you. 

    You don’t need flattery, you need friendship. And true friends always want you to have your best life…and be your best self.

  6. Do an inventory of your values and priorities.

    This isn’t a one-time exercise. It’s something you should do regularly — perhaps at New Year’s or on your birthday or even more frequently. 

    It’s also a wise thing to do when you have an experience that challenges the values you have always had. Life will do that. It’s constantly challenging us and keeping us in check. Do you really believe that? What about in this situation vs. that situation? What if it involves a stranger instead of someone you know and love? Why and how did you come to this conclusion? 

    Some people are afraid to give themselves permission to change their values or even “update” them. But growth is a form of change. And, as the saying goes, when you know better, you do better. Hopefully.

  7. Revisit your goals…and set new ones.

    In the same way that your values can change, so can your goals. 

    Your moral-compass values may undergo more “refinement” than all-out change. And the same can be said for your goals. 

    So why bother making a new list if it’s going to be “generally the same”? 

    Because setting goals is really an expression of what matters to you. And what matters to you is an expression of your character — who you are at your core. 

    Revisiting your goals and even setting new ones require you to do an honest appraisal of how you want to spend your time. And how you spend your time is a statement of your values and character. 

    It’s realistic to expect that your goals will change as you age, for example. Physical and financial ambitions may gently surrender to less competitive and more altruistic desires. Even where you decide to travel can be a reflection of evolving and improving self-awareness.

There are countless ways to start improving self-awareness. By “being aware that you want to be more aware,” you will aware of the myriad opportunities and inspirations for growth that surround you every day.

And that’s an evolution — and journey — that should continue for your entire life.

(Just be sure to take the plastic off the furniture.)

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in increasing your self-awareness (and maybe get a few more journal prompts for increasing self-awareness) so you can become more you.

5 Finding-Happiness Quotes That Remind You Happiness Is Always Within Reach

Woman sitting and smiling as she reads finding-happiness quotes.

Are you happy? Is your answer an easy, genuine ‘yes,’ or does the question give you pause? It’s a loaded question, simple as it is. And, if you’re going through a rough patch in your life, you may be questioning your happiness. But a healthy dose of finding-happiness quotes can help reconnect you to that jewel of existence. Sometimes we all just need a little reminding….

Being happy is so rooted in our expectations for life that we sometimes have unrealistic expectations of it. Surely it requires a long search, a pile of gold, or mind-bending decoding, right?

Would it surprise you to know that, no matter what is happening in your life, happiness is always within reach? That, unlike so many other things in life, it is always within your control?

Yes, even in the middle of loss, pain, and grief, happiness is still possible. Sounds contrary, doesn’t it? Especially if your world is imploding and positivity is tough to come by.

But happiness isn’t about being giddy, unrealistic, or unfazed by suffering. It’s about holding onto a constancy of contentment, hope, and inner peace.

Here are 5 finding-happiness quotes to remind you that happiness is always within reach.

  1. The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things. — Henry Ward Beecher 

    Technology, for all the ways it has advanced our world and lives, has also been an accomplice to our unhappiness. Social media would have you believe you’re the only one who doesn’t have a six-figure income, a happy love life, and unlimited vacation time. 

    Even if you’re not trying to compare, you can’t help but juxtapose your own life against the extravagant lives of “everyone else.” 

    But not only is that a slippery slope into disillusionment and lack of gratitude, it can make you forget the happiness you actually have. 

    Reality, even for those who seem to “have it all,” exists in infinite shades of gray. It’s filled with mundane responsibilities – cleaning, cooking, commuting to work, changing diapers, paying bills. 

    If you wait for the big events, bigger houses, better jobs before being happy, you will end up waiting forever. 

    Happiness is found in the present — in the ordinary, routine, hand-me-down, grateful-for-what-you-have present. 

    It’s the undaunted, even quixotic, belief that the universe and all its benefactors hold you in their favor. 

    It’s the conviction that your child’s framed drawing from kindergarten is more valuable than any gallery masterpiece. 

    It’s feeling peaceful as you wash dishes and fold laundry with your favorite playlist keeping you company. 

    It’s a red cardinal showing up on your birdbath, a brief parting of clouds to reveal the sun, a hug from your child. 

    The point is, happiness is a choice of peaceful constancy, regardless of how common and non-Facebook-worthy the moment may seem.

  2. Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. — Denis Waitley

    I’ll be happy when I find a boyfriend..I’ll be happy when I make more money…I’ll be happy when I have (whatever)…I’ll be happy when I lose weight, get Botox, change my wardrobe…I’ll be happy when…after…if….

    And suddenly you wake up, look at the calendar, and realize your life is whizzing by, and you’re still waiting to be happy. 

    Perhaps you got the newest iPhone last year. But no sooner did you master the new camera than the next generation came out. 

    And your dream house that you spent years designing and building? Suddenly, according to HGTV, it’s all outdated. 

    If you wait to reach all your “dream destinations” before allowing yourself to be happy, you’ll miss the whole meaning and purpose of happiness. 

    Happiness is a gift waiting in every moment. It’s like unconditional love that is blinded to your imperfections. It’s an agreement your spirit makes to remain grounded in love, grace, and gratitude, no matter the circumstances.


  3. Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. — Buddha

    It’s an ageless spiritual truth that the surest way to happiness is to help someone else be happy. 

    Forgetting your gratitude? Give to someone who has nothing or has lost everything. Struggling to be successful? Help someone else find success. 

    The message? Start lighting other candles and watch your world get brighter. You will see your own joy reflected back to you in the light you have shared…and it will have cost you nothing.   

  4. Train your mind to see the good in everything. Positivity is a choice. The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. — Anonymous

    It’s easy to slack into the belief that happiness is something that befalls you, that it is conditioned upon forces outside you. 

    Likewise, it’s easy to believe that unhappiness befalls you, as well, and for the same reasons. You are either the lucky winner or the victim. 

    We all know people who look for the negative with knee-jerk speed. Say something completely innocuous, and they will jump in with judgment, criticism, or a solicitation to argue. Ick. It’s enough to make you want to shower off all the negativity…or just avoid them altogether (not a bad idea). 

    And then there are those people who have an amazing knack for instantly seeing the good in everything and everyone. They’re not phony or gratuitous. They have simply disciplined themselves — mentally, spiritually — to look for the good in life. 

    They automatically see possibility, hope, lessons, opportunity, enlightenment. 

    They’re the ones who lower the temperature in tense situations, help others consider a different viewpoint, and mediate reconciliations. 

    They’re the ones you want to be around because your spirit wants a big dose of what they have. 

    They think differently about the same things the rest of the world experiences. And it’s not by accident. They know their thoughts determine their happiness, and they work constantly to elevate them.

  5. When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. — Helen Keller 

    When it comes to finding-meaning and finding-happiness quotes, few people have given us more to think about than Helen Keller. 

    We all experience loss and disappointment, sometimes painfully or devastatingly so. And it can easily feel as if happiness gets buried with the loss. 

    But, if you devote your thoughts, beyond a healthy grieving process when warranted, to the door that was closed, you’ll miss the door that is opening. 

    And there is always a new door opening.

What’s your takeaway from this handful of finding-happiness quotes?

Hopefully it’s that happiness is not an elusive or temporary feeling, but a choice and commitment to positivity as the steady undercurrent of your life.

Still need inspiration and tips for a happy life? Click here.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can create a happy and healthy life for yourself.

Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.

5 Hopeful Moving-On-With-Life-After-Divorce Quotes

Woman sitting on the floor reading moving on with life after divorce quotes.

Sometimes being a champion in your own life needs more inspiration than what you can muster up on your own. After a traumatic experience like divorce, when your life needs a hero more than ever, self-motivation can be tough to generate. But take heart. The sages of life’s messy, confusing, spirit-stunting events have come up with a wellspring of moving-on-with-life-after-divorce quotes to re-energize your journey.

Divorce, even when necessary for the hope of happiness, leaves a lot of discontent in its wake. If you are going through or have gone through a divorce, you know how unpredictable, weighty, and defeating the aftermath can be.

But chances are you also know that people do get through it. And many end up happier than they have ever been.

So let’s recharge your positivity with these 5 moving-on-with-life-after-divorce quotes:

  1. “The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

    I’m starting with this reflection by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross for a couple reasons.

    First, Kübler-Ross encapsulates in one sentence the essence of the journey of divorce. There is the struggle. There is the loss – of dreams, of promises, of friendship, of marriage, of family.

    I’m starting with this reflection by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross for a couple reasons.

    First, Kübler-Ross encapsulates in one sentence the essence of the journey of divorce. There is the struggle. There is the loss – of dreams, of promises, of friendship, of marriage, of family. 

    And there is the resurrection, if you will. The turning skyward from the depths of pain and unknowing and ascending with focus, not only away from the darkness, but toward the light. 

    The other reason I am starting with this quotation is that Kübler-Ross is responsible for defining what we have all come to know as the five stages of grief

    Coaching someone through the functional and emotional stages of divorce would be incomplete without the incorporation of grief. It’s a journey that weaves its way through the entire experience of divorce. 

    And divorce grief is unlike bereavement or any other kind of grief

    The model of grief defined by Kübler-Ross runs parallel to the journey of divorce. There is the initial denial, then anger, bargaining, depression, and, eventually, acceptance. 

    The stages don’t necessarily flow linearly, but they do flow toward eventual acceptance. 

    What a beautiful expression of accepting your own struggles and losses and finding a way to transform them into something wonderful.
  1. “Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down.” – Roy T. Bennett 

    Divorce is the epitome of struggling through an undoing in an effort to rebuild your life…with wings. It is, in many ways, the consummate test of your determination against the weight of negativity, destruction, and loss. 

    If you’ve ever picked up an injured bird, you’ve probably marveled at how lightweight it was. Those wings that dance on air are finessed in their unique gift. 

    But they can’t be weighed down and still fly. 

    And so it is with your spirit and your life. 

    Whether or not you wanted your divorce, your determination to soar on clouds of happiness and success depends on unburdened wings. 

    Think of it as jettisoning heavy cargo from a plane in an emergency. Whatever doesn’t serve your highest good has to go.
  1. “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi

    There really is no moving on with life after any kind of loss without forgiveness.

    Interestingly, the heaviest weight that will keep you from flying is lack of forgiveness. 

    All the moving-on-with-life-after-divorce quotes in the world will sit in a holding pattern until you decide to forgive. Your ex. Yourself. Anyone who may have hurt or disappointed you. 

    Forgiveness in the context of divorce can be extremely difficult. No matter who has done what, both parties have contributed to what is now seen as a loss, failure, and devastation.

    The negative energy of divorce can weaken the spirit. But forgiveness infuses positivity, freedom, and hope. It makes room for what can be instead of tripping over the archives of what was.

    It takes incredible strength to stand up to harms of the past – especially those self-inflicted – and say, “You’re not the boss of me!”
  1. “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” – Toni Morrison

    So the process is over. The ugly battle over assets and custody, the blame, the packing, the standing on a precipice staring into a wall of fog. It’s all over. Legally, anyway.  

    Anyone who is awake through something so difficult knows the real work is just beginning. You may not have a spouse to answer to now, but you do have someone who has been waiting patiently for you. And, yes, it’s you. 

    Even if you have children to care for, you also have yourself to care for in a new, liberated way. What is your vision for this new self? How will you own your new self and the destiny you are now in charge of creating? 

    At the moment you decide to take ownership of yourself – divorced, forgiving, forgiven – the moving on will begin.
  1. “When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.” – Brené Brown 

    What a perfect place to close. 

    You are standing in a position of choice. What you deny or give away in the form of blame will remain out of your power and prerogative to change. And, ironically, it will continue to cling to you, like a barnacle that serves no purpose. 

    Your story, in a sense, will always own you

    But own your story with acceptance and responsibility? 

    Now it belongs to you. It’s yours to use as you will. 

    You can learn from it. Grow from it. Inspire and teach others because of it. And you can change the narrative for the sequel…and write the ending you have always dreamed of.

Coming full circle with these moving-on-with-life-after-divorce quotes, there is a sixth stage of grief that melds perfectly with the challenge of moving forward.

Finding meaning, as the culmination to the journey through grief, gives movement and momentum to acceptance.

Meaning isn’t always obvious. Most of the time it has to be created from a merging of experience and positive intention.

The magic of finding (or creating) meaning from your loss is that it extends an invitation. And it gives you something worthwhile to live into.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’re tired of struggling with life after divorce and would like some support, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me and together we can begin putting together a plan for the next best steps you can take to start feeling better.

Looking for more information about how to start over after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.

How To Improve A Miserable Marriage

Woman sitting on the floor next to her bed crying about her miserable marriage

When the sweetness of love turns sour and the freedom your heart once felt now feels like a cage, you have choices. Important choices. Life-defining choices. Do you throw in the towel and pray you get a second chance with someone new? Or do you learn how to improve a miserable marriage and pray you get a second chance with your spouse?

Being unhappy in your marriage is a subjective experience. There is no clear-cut definition for “just getting by” vs. “unhappy” vs. “miserable.”

But there are signs of an unhappy marriage — indications that can easily become a slowly swelling undercurrent of discontent.

Hindsight, of course, can be a bit arrogant in its omniscience. “I wish I had paid attention when (this) happened.” “I wish I had said something earlier about (that).”

Prevention is always preferred. But sometimes it takes a plunge into misery to realize what you’re missing and what you can have if you put in the sweat equity.

Whether your marriage is unhappy, unhealthy, or toxic (or some combination of the three), the time to take action is now.

Advice for how to improve a miserable marriage is, in many ways, the same advice for how to create and maintain a happy marriage. 

But there is one big difference — one action that has to happen if you’re going to end the misery.

Here are some tips for improving a miserable marriage, beginning with one non-negotiable:

  • Stop.

    Yes, stop. This is non-negotiable.It just makes sense that you can’t start heading in the right direction if you don’t stop going in the wrong direction.

    I know — it’s so common sense that it sounds ridiculous to say.

    But “common sense” doesn’t necessarily mean “easy.”

    Marriage always has its predictable stages of growth and change. And it also has its normal share of ebbs and flows.

    But getting to the point of being miserable happens incrementally, one offence, one omission at a time.

    And this is what has to stop. The criticism, resentment, coldness, avoidance, sarcasm, blame — it all just needs to stop.

    If you have to bite your tongue, bite your tongue. If you are tempted to blurt out an insult, take a deep breath and count to ten.

    If you feel you are being baited into an argument, stop yourself, regardless of what your spouse does.

    You can’t get out of debt if you keep spending money you don’t have.

    You can’t start a healthy eating program if you reach for a candy bar every time a craving hits.

    And you can’t improve a miserable marriage if you keep doing the things that make you miserable.

  • Start.

    So what do you do with all that time and energy that used to be spent on behaviors you’ve now stopped?

    Turning a big ship around is a gradual process of pointing it in the desired direction and making incremental changes. It’s the same with behavior.

    Have you or your spouse been avoiding or withholding affection?

    If all you can think about is how unhappy you are, you may not realize how or when the affection stopped. And sex is probably the last thing on your mind.

    Start small. A hand on her lower back as you pass through the room. A kiss on his cheek while he works at the computer. A touch on the shoulder, a foot rub, a hug before leaving for the day.

    Whether “what’s missing” is physical affection or kindness in speech or contributions to chores at home, just start adding to the plus column

  • Get help early.

    If you knew how to do it all right, you wouldn’t be struggling to figure out how to improve a miserable marriage, right?

    This isn’t the time to lead with your pride. It’s the time to be wise and seek guidance that can help you both get to the root of your unhappiness.

    Counseling, coaching, marriage retreats — you have countless choices at your disposal. What matters is that you get help as soon as possible. Don’t be one of the average couples who wait six years before getting help

  • Take divorce off the table.

    You can’t work on growing closer if you’re keeping an exit strategy in your back pocket.

    Unless the thought of divorce is in response to things like abuse, addiction, criminal behavior, or serial infidelity, stop entertaining it.

    Life can always look greener on the other side of the fence, especially if you haven’t seen green in a long time.

    But you’re either going to learn how to improve a miserable marriage…or you’re going to use your misery as an excuse to leave.

    Until you have done everything in your power to save and revitalize your marriage, divorce shouldn’t be on the table.

  • Take a long look in the mirror.

    Nothing is more difficult when you’re angry, disappointed, and unhappy than taking personal responsibility for your contribution to the negativity.

    It’s so much easier to wait for the other person to take a positive step and/or apologize.

    But this single initiative — to examine your own role in the misery of your marriage — is a game-changer.

    If all you start with is one behavior that you know doesn’t reflect well on your character or love, change will happen.

    Are you critical? defensive? controlling? fiscally irresponsible? emotionally dismissive?

    Do you blame your spouse for everything? call your spouse names? yell? intimidate? ignore your spouse when they talk?

    Do you try to escape the misery of your relationship by drinking, gambling, fantasizing, working late?

    Marriage takes two — for the good and the bad. And you know what comes next: The only person you can control and change is yourself.

  • Add love back into the equation.

    You may feel like hostile roommates at the moment. But what that means is that both of you are hurting and not getting your needs met.

    Being in a miserable marriage implies that very little love is being expressed between you. And how sad is that, especially when you remember the love that started your marriage?

    What makes your spouse feel loved? valued? respected? appreciated? relaxed? special?

    Again, start small. A loving touch, a kind validation or expression of praise, a small but meaningful gift, an offer to do a chore so your spouse can rest.

    You can’t make a wrong choice if your intention is rooted in love.

  • Do something together on behalf of your marriage.

    Even if you are going to counseling together, you still need time together just being a couple.

    If you’re just not “feelin’ it” yet, schedule one night a week to put all negativity aside and just do something enjoyable. A movie, concert, sporting event.

    Volunteering together can be a positive, constructive way to step outside yourselves on behalf of others in need. And you just might come to realize that you make a great team that can accomplish great things together.

Love is such a precious commodity. And marriage is an extraordinary, exclusive way in which to express it.

But love doesn’t guarantee healthy communication. And how you communicate (or don’t) on all levels can mask the love that made you choose one another in the first place.

Learning how to improve a miserable marriage — and then conscientiously doing the work — can reveal the love that was always there. 

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach. I help people, just like you, who are struggling with an unhappy or even miserable marriage. For immediate help, you can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know.” And if you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.

Looking for more ideas for what to do about your unhappy marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.

50 Inspiring Journal Prompts For Self-Awareness & Growth

Man with pen poised to write, pauses to consider a journal prompt for self-awareness.

Wherever you are on your journey toward a “better you,” you know that change and growth aren’t easy. Sometimes just knowing where to start is the toughest part. Something as simple as inspiring journal prompts for self-awareness can make all the difference between staying stuck and making progress.

Working on yourself is a lifetime effort and commitment. But there always seems to be that chapter of life that could be subtitled “Self-Help.” 

You may delve into the reading, journaling, meditation, therapy, and support groups after a major loss or life-changing event. 

Or you may immerse yourself in the effort without realizing it, inspired by self-curiosity and a hunger for growth.

You may love the work. You may dread it. And you may even wonder if there’s an end to the self-help advice and lingo that follow you wherever you go. 

And you would be right in line with all the reasons that self-awareness is a practice, not a destination.

But even a practice needs a starting point.

Journaling, for example, is central to self-discovery. Writing has a way of translating your subconscious to a conscious form that confronts you with otherwise hidden truths.

It’s a ritual that adds discipline to your life while giving you time with your thoughts.

And yet, despite so much to write about, even journalists get writer’s block.

Fortunately, you aren’t the first person to embark on the search for self. And you aren’t the first to wonder where to start.

When your mind can’t nail down an idea or thought to explore, it helps to have journal prompts for self-awareness on hand.

Here are 50 to get you started:

  1. What are 10 things for which I’m grateful?

  2. Who are 5 people I admire and why?

  3. What are 5 things I think I’m good at?

  4. What are 5 things I think other people think I’m good at? Do the two lists match?

  5. What physical fears do I have (heights, tight spaces, airplanes, certain animals, crowds)?

  6. What fears about life do I have (health, talking in public, not being good enough, not having enough money, not finding love)?

  7. How are my fears holding me back? What things would I do if I weren’t afraid to?

  8. Where and when did I start having these fears? Did something specific happen to cause them?

  9. What is the most courageous thing I have ever done? How did I feel afterward? And how did it change my life?

  10. What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me?

  11. What is the kindest thing I have ever done for someone else?

  12. Am I taking good care of my body? If not, what are 5 specific things I can do to take better care of it?

  13. What 5 things/people/animals do I love most in this world? How do I feel in and out of their presence?

  14. What habits do I have that don’t serve me well? When and why did I develop them?

  15. How would my life look if I stopped 3 of my worst habits and replaced them with good habits?

  16. What negative mindsets do I need to release?

  17. What is one thing I deeply regret? And what have I learned from it?

  18. To whom do I still owe an apology or amends? What is holding me back?

  19. Who do I believe owes me an apology or amends? Am I still holding a grudge?

  20. Twenty years ago, how did I imagine my life today would look? Is my life better, worse, or just different than I had imagined? How so?

  21. How do I imagine my life looking 5 years from now? Ten years?

  22. If money weren’t an issue, what things would I do?

  23. If time weren’t an issue, what things would I do?

  24. What talent do I wish I had that I don’t?

  25. What talent do I have but not use to the best of my ability?

  26. Looking back, what advice would I give to myself on my high school graduation day?

  27. If I could change one thing about how I acted in an important relationship, what would it be?

  28. In what ways do I feel misunderstood by the world? What 3 things do I wish people understood about me?

  29. What causes me the greatest heartache?

  30. How would I most like to change the world?

  31. What do I love most about my home?

  32. What qualities do I look for in a friend?

  33. Do I like being around people?

  34. Do I need time to myself after work or being around a lot of people?

  35. How do I feel right now? How does my body feel? Do I recognize connections between what’s going on in my thoughts and what’s going on in my body?

  36. If I could talk to myself in the third person, what kind, validating, compassionate things would I say?

  37. What would the perfect day look like for me?

  38. What are 10 things I need to be happy?

  39. Am I comfortable asking for help?

  40. Do I believe I am a good person?

  41. If I were someone other than myself, would I want to be friends with me? Why or why not?

  42. How do I think other people see me?

  43. In what ways have I turned out “just like my mother/father”? In what ways am I different? What do I think of those similarities and differences?

  44. What hurt from my childhood has never been healed?

  45. Which of my responsibilities do I find distractions for? What feelings or outcomes am I trying to avoid?

  46. How do I handle conflict?

  47. What triggers me into arguments/conflict?

  48. What would help me feel less stressed on a daily basis?

  49. Do I like myself? Love myself? Enjoy time to myself?

  50. What makes me smile? What small thing can I do today to make someone else smile?

Somewhere near the top of this list of journal prompts for self-awareness you may have started making your own list. And that’s great! That’s the purpose of a prompt – to crack open the door so the light can flood in.

Journaling is just one of the ways that self-awareness can be developed. It’s intended to be liberating, without the guardrails of self-editing and critique.

(If you want or need journaling prompts in a guided-yet-freeing format, check out any of the colorful, fun, insightful books by SARK. Below’s a picture of 3 I have on my bookshelf.)

Self-awareness is a process, a practice, a journey of discoveries and choices based on those discoveries. 

As it deepens, it grows. And the journey, if you choose, lasts a lifetime.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in increasing your self-awareness (and maybe get a few more journal prompts for increasing self-awareness) so you can become more you.

Looking for more information about how you better know and accept yourself? You’ll find what you’re looking for in How To Be More Self-Aware.

How To Find Reasons To Be Happy

Happy woman standing with her face to the sun enjoying its warmth.

For all the reasons to be happy in this life, there are times when everyone struggles to find them. Personal losses, relationship changes, even too much status quo — they can all put a fog over an otherwise sunny disposition. 

We’ve all watched the human-interest stories at the end of the nightly news. You know, the ones that make you feel humbled by the ability of people who, in the face of tragedy, manage to stay happy.

The ones that make you want to be a better person and work on your own attitude because of someone else’s inspiring attitude.

The ones that make you remember your own childhood and the fact that children are inherently happy, even in poor countries

And every Christmas we are reminded by the Whos in Whoville that material possessions are just bonus to genuine happiness. They aren’t the reason for it.

What is essential can’t be taken — even by a grumpy Grinch — without our permission.

So what are you supposed to do when you find yourself overwhelmed by negative circumstances and emotions? Is it possible to be happy in the midst of loss, grief, injustice, and insecurity?

Sometimes the best way to start something is to stop something. When you don’t know exactly how to find reasons to be happy, stop doing the things that prevent happiness.

Living in the past, especially with regret; holding onto grudges and not forgiving; always striving for perfection. These are just a few of the ways that you can sabotage your own quest for happiness.

These negative mindsets can also blind you to the happiness that has already been present in your life.

The short-answer, fortune cookie wisdom to the search for reasons to be happy is that happiness is a choice. It’s a perspective that you choose as a constant in a life full of unpredictability and loss.

While there are many ways to go about building a happy life, there is a common thread that, in one way or another, underlies them all.

Gratitude.

While not considered a virtue in the biblical sense, gratitude is considered the highest of virtues in the moral sense. The Roman philosopher Cicero even called it the “parent of all other virtues.”

To be in a state of gratitude is to be in a state of awareness and celebration of the gifts of the present

To choose gratitude is to choose to seek what is good, positive, and possible in every moment, every circumstance, every person.

And, in the same way that two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time, two thoughts can’t occupy the same brain space at the same time.

You can’t be busy looking for the good in the world and simultaneously stewing in anger or fear.  

Gratitude helps you find reasons to be happy because it’s a mindset of recognizing sources of happiness.

It’s what makes you slow down and consider the gifts of the moment. The breeze that just swept through your hair. The ladybug on a flower. A warm day in winter.

The stranger who smiled and waved. The just-because card in your mailbox. The forgiveness from someone whose feelings you had hurt.

The simple meal you made for dinner. The exhausting workout you had. The pound you lost. 

One more day of sobriety. Two bags of clothes cleared out of your closet. Three grandchildren coming to visit.

The reason gratitude is directly linked to happiness is that it puts a positive spin on the past, present, and future. 

Of all the things you could focus on in your past, gratitude will draw to mind all the ways you have been blessed. It will remind you that you have always been provided for, even against the odds.

And isn’t it amazing that you can, from where you stand today, transform the power of your memories of the past?

In the present, gratitude opens your heart and prepares it to see all that is good. It sets your radar on high alert for the infinite reasons for happiness.

Even when you find yourself confronted by negativity or injustice from other people, you will find the kernel of goodness. 

You will seek to learn something from those with different opinions and beliefs. 

And you will marvel at your own ability to allow love and respect to rise above the need to “be right” or win an argument.

All because your heart is aware of goodness. And your heart’s awareness becomes your mind’s attitude.

Gratitude can even shape your future by giving you hope and trust that good things will come. You have already conditioned yourself to know that you will find goodness because you always look for it.

I’m sure you want to know how to create a happy and healthy life for yourself. Who doesn’t?

But did you know that gratitude is directly linked to health, in part because it motivates you to do healthful things?

So, all those happiness-inducing activities like exercising, getting out into nature, and eating well are all rooted in gratitude.

The realization that life is a fragile gift not to be taken for granted is inspiration to take care of it. 

Happy people are more active and take better care of themselves. They feel better. Their pain tolerance is higher. They don’t become entrenched in little irritants.

Exercise, for example, releases endorphins. Endorphins make you feel happy. Feeling happy within yourself makes you want the world to feel happy, too.

via GIPHY

And, as is always the case with doing good things for yourself or others, goodness begets goodness. 

Wanting others to be happy and healthy energizes you to reach outside yourself to help them. It also requires that you want yourself to be happy and healthy too.

And, no surprise here, being generous and volunteering your time and resources eventually circle back to increase your own happiness.

Finding reasons to be happy doesn’t have to be an epic search for the Holy Grail. It’s a mindset, not a quest.

And nowhere is happiness more powerful than in the most mundane activities that make up the majority of life.

Sometimes happiness is as simple as singing a Disney song while doing the dishes, or feeling indulged by clean sheets on the bed.

And it is always as simple as prioritizing the happiness of someone else.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can create a happy and healthy life for yourself.

Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.

How To Survive An Unhealthy Marriage While Working To Make It Better

Sad man sitting in the dark contemplating how to survive his unhealthy marriage.

What do you do when it’s all falling apart and you feel as if trying to save your marriage is an uphill climb? What if you’re not fighting just the blues or boredom, but something more inherently problematic? Do you know how to survive an unhealthy marriage while also working to make it better?

Every couple wants the sizzle to last, even though they know that a certain amount of monotony will sneak in. That’s just the nature of familiarity and the price of being with one person for the rest of your life. 

All those crazy, sleep-depriving, romance-obsessed hormones have done their job. And, predictably, they eventually take leave and give way to sustainability. (Thank God!)

Before diving into tips for how to survive an unhealthy marriage, a few distinctions are in order

Just as with photography, the gray scale can make transitions in relationships so nuanced that you barely notice them. Even black and white have degrees of intensity, often noticeable only in direct comparison.

So, what’s the point of applying the science of art to the science (and art) of marriage?

If you’re going to work on making your marriage better, it’s important to recognize what needs work…and why

You don’t need to know exactly what the final edition will look like, as even that will constantly evolve.

You don’t even need to know all the details of how your marriage got to where it is.

But you do need to know where you are at this moment.

Recognizing and acknowledging your own feelings, behaviors, reactions, and choices will help you zero in on that gray scale.

Are you unhappy? Bored? Tired? Frustrated? 

Have you and your spouse stopped talking about anything but kids, work, and weather?

Do you exhale a big sigh of relief when one of you has to go on a business trip?

Do you and your spouse bicker, fuss, criticize, blame, and fight instead of cooperating and collaborating on mutual goals?

Has sex fallen into a bygone era?

Are any of the three Toxic A’s — affairs, addiction, excessive anger — present?

These are important questions that will help you determine if your marriage is unhealthy or toxic — or simply needing some spring cleaning and TLC.

Telling you how to survive an unhealthy marriage while also working to make it better is going to focus on (no surprise) you.

Click your heels together three times and repeat after me: “The only person I can control is myself. The only person I can control is myself….”

Does that mean you can’t talk about all those maddening, hurtful, selfish things your spouse does that are (obviously) at the root of all your problems?

Hell no.

What it does mean is that how you talk about them matters. 

And, more importantly, what you recognize in yourself — and how you change what needs to be changed — matters most of all.

This is about “survival,” right? And survival is about getting from point A to point A-½ with more hope than you had half a step ago.

It’s also about getting down to essentials: knowing what to let go of, what to keep, and what to seek.

And the easiest place to start is with “stop.” Stop anything that’s destructive, inflammatory, unkind, sarcastic, avoidant, aggressive (even passively), critical.

Behave as if everything you do is about how to survive an unhealthy marriage…even if you don’t stay married. 

Your goal may be to survive with your marriage intact, but, again, all you can control is yourself. 

So how do you want you to look/feel/behave as a relationship partner? If you were designing your ideal relationship, what would your contribution look like, regardless of your partner’s contribution?

Think back to when you were falling in love with your spouse.

How did you communicate? It was probably pretty easy and gratifying, wasn’t it?

You listened attentively. You weren’t threatened by a difference of opinion/feeling/need, but instead reflected upon the different viewpoint.

You likely accepted responsibility — both for initiating kind and loving gestures and for assuming responsibility when you were wrong.

You infused your relationship with far more positive than negative feelings and interactions.

You made time for your partner, even when it wasn’t convenient, because you wanted to be together. You also knew that quality time together was essential to the strength of your relationship.

You sought cooperative solutions. You intuitively recognized when your partner’s happiness or well-being was more important than having your own way. And you knew that compromise usually got you far more than what you wanted in the first place.

You probably also took good care of yourself, knowing that how you presented yourself was a gift to both your partner and yourself.

Before you assume that surviving your unhealthy marriage is all about you…well, you would be right.

And your spouse’s survival is all about him or her.

The point is, you have a choice at every juncture in your life. Every interaction is a fork in the road — a point of decision about what kind of person you are going to be. How do you want to feel about yourself and the power of your own choices to influence the quality of your life?

Only when you are holding up your own end of the deal will you be able to discern the salvageability of any relationship. 

And the big takeaway in that message is how incredibly powerful you are. You can effect change for the better, just as you can affect your marriage for the worse.

By committing to your own self-awareness and -improvement and communicating your concerns in a healthy way with your spouse, survival becomes possible.

And, assuming your spouse also wants to restore your marriage, survival goes from possible to probable. You can, believe it or not, fix an unhealthy marriage and get that loving feeling back.

The days of first falling in love may be over. Children, grandchildren, mortgages, losses, seeing one another at your worst — the challenges and mundane of life aren’t very infatuating.

But falling in love again — in a renewed, mature, sustainable way — is both possible and necessary. And, in the long run, it’s the key for how to survive an unhealthy marriage together.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach who helps people, just like you, who are struggling with an unhappy marriage. For immediate help, you can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know.” And if you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.

Looking for more ideas for what to do about your unhappy marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.

Is It Possible To Be Too Self-Aware?

Dog with his head tilted to the side in a questioning manner.

Surely the world would be a kinder, gentler, happier place if more people worked on their self-awareness. And yet, for those already well-versed in the attribute, their struggle isn’t about being self-aware. It’s about being too self-aware.

Sounds implausible, doesn’t it? Like having too much money, intelligence…or chocolate. How can too much of a good thing be a not-so-good thing?

Let’s start with the basics: What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is an ongoing process of recognizing, acknowledging, and understanding yourself, both internally and externally. 

Internal self-awareness is a bit like sliding down the rabbit hole and observing your own inner thoughts and feelings. You become an objective observer of your subjective self.

“Wow! Two years ago I wouldn’t have had that opinion.” 

“I feel nauseous and weak every time I reach for the phone to call (whomever).” 

“Why am I judging this person whom I don’t even know?”

“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have my same political beliefs.”

Internal self-awareness, in and of itself, bears no judgment. It recognizes, collects information, and pauses to acknowledge physical, mental, and emotional messages.

It then uses that information to shape or refine thoughts and behaviors.

External self-awareness, on the other hand, is like sitting in your own audience and observing yourself. 

It’s the awareness that compels you to adhere to social norms. It says, in essence, 

“I’m not the only person in the world, or even in this room.”

“My thoughts and opinions aren’t the only ones that exist.”

“I’m in church, so I need to be quiet and reverent.”

*I wonder what others see in me when I am around them.”

“I wonder if the audience can tell how nervous I am.”

*I need to mind my manners at this party.”

External self-awareness can lead you to soften the expression of harsh thoughts when you’re in the company of mixed viewpoints.

It can also guide you to choose your wardrobe according to the setting and guest list of a venue.

Most importantly, external self-awareness is built on your curiosity about how others see you, while internal self-awareness is about how you see you.

How then, is it possible to be too self-aware if awareness is such a good thing? After all, we all know people who seem to have no sense of themselves or their effect on others, and it can be maddening.

Again, another distinction….

Enter evaluation.

Self-evaluation is often confused with self-awareness.

While self-awareness is about attention to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, self-evaluation assigns value and judgment to them. 

For example, you might feel embarrassed about a mistake you made.

If you’re practicing self-awareness, you acknowledge your mistake and take action to correct it. “Ahh, lesson learned. I have some apologies — and then some corrections — to make. Glad I found out now.”

If you’re being self-evaluative, you might do one or more of the following:

  • Call yourself derogatory names.
  • Lie about the mistake.
  • Avoid anyone who knows about your mistake.

You may even become less willing to take risks out of fear of making another mistake.

Whether the context is internal or external, micromanaging your self-awareness under a microscope of evaluative scrutiny can be counter-productive.

Being “too self-aware” internally can lead to stress and anxiety.

Your mind ends up spinning itself into a downward spiral of self-criticism, insecurity, self-doubt, and disapproval. You question everything you think and feel against a backdrop of unworthiness and inferiority.

Locked inside the vault of your own mind, you can imagine how carried away that process can become.

Being “too self-aware” externally can lead to social anxiety and such lack of confidence in public that you isolate or appear socially awkward.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also called social phobia, takes external self-awareness to an extreme. The sufferer has so much anxiety over everyday interactions — so much fear of being embarrassed or judged — that they withdraw from life.

How tragic.

Somewhere in the process of gaining perceptions, perspective gets lost.

When babies begin to develop internal self-awareness — “I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m tired, I want…” they are developing survival skills. They are recognizing themselves as thinking, feeling, interactive entities in a larger context of influence.

As they mature, their thoughts evolve from “survival” to more complex, relational, and abstract. 

Some people never examine the connection between their thoughts and feelings and the behaviors and consequences that come from them and their expression.

Having too little self-awareness is not only damaging, but potentially dangerous.

But having too much self-awareness, if that is even possible, can rob you of a healthy life. 

It’s the self-consciousness that reflects unrealistic truths about your interior life and external presence. You assume inferiority and extreme scrutiny and judgment, so the world becomes a hostile place — even in your own mind.

The part of self-awareness that is missing in these extreme cases is acceptance.

Acceptance is the difference between “I made a mistake” and “I am a mistake.”

It’s what empowers you to process your awareness into better behavior.

It’s what makes you use all those “notes to self” as a catalyst to living a more enlightened, productive, socially- (and self-) responsible life.

And it’s what helps you construct enough boundaries to be able to say, “It’s none of my business what other people think of me.”

Self-awareness is a perpetual personal journey and exploration of who you are, why you do the things you do, and how you can become more of who you truly want to be. 

In that sense, you can’t be “too self-aware.”

What matters is whether and how you use what you learn to become the highest fulfillment of yourself. 

Awareness, even when difficult, exists to propel you forward. Embrace it as the messenger it is.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in increasing self-awareness and becoming more you despite all that’s happening in your life right now.

Looking for more information about how you better know and accept yourself? You’ll find what you’re looking for in How To Be More Self-Aware.

What To Do If You’re Struggling With Life After Divorce

Man sitting with his hands covering his eyes as he struggles with life after divorce.

Divorce is rarely easy. It marks the end of something you thought would last forever – through thick and thin. And when your dreams are destroyed, moving forward from the destruction can be really, really hard. What you need to know first is you’re not alone. Struggling with life after divorce is pretty common.

If fact, at least 50% of everyone who divorces struggles with moving on with their lives. I know this because there’s usually one spouse who decides divorce is the answer while the other wants to work on the marriage. And, as you know, it only takes one to make the decision to divorce.

However, not everyone who decides divorce is the answer to the problems in their marriage finds it easy to move on with their life. Many of the deciders struggle with life after divorce too.

So, if you’re struggling with your life after divorce, you also need to know that you can get through it. You can create a new life for yourself that feels good. And, yes, you can be genuinely happy again.

Here are 7 steps for you to take that can make your life after divorce better:

  1. Cut yourself some slack.

    When I got divorced, I wanted to be able to move on with my life ASAP. I felt frustrated that I was struggling with my life after divorce. As a result, I wasn’t patient with myself. I kept pushing and tried to force myself to feel better.

    As you’ve probably guessed, that was a recipe for prolonged misery.

    What I learned (and what I teach my clients now) is that you can’t force your emotions to just change. But what you can do is make different choices about how you perceive and work through them.

    For instance, if you feel a wave of anxiety because you’re struggling with something, you can take a deep breath (or several) and choose to look at what’s the fear behind the anxiety. And once you understand the fear you can figure out what action you can take to address the concern.

    It may seem counterintuitive, but by taking appropriate action, you are actually cutting yourself some slack. Instead of beating yourself up for feeling a certain way, you’re first understanding your emotions and then being proactive about dealing with them.

  2. Allow yourself the time you need to grieve.

    Grief is a normal part of divorce. You’ve lost a way of life.

    It’s important that you allow yourself the time you need to grieve. And the time you need will be COMPLETELY different from the time your former spouse needs.

    One of the most common mistakes I see people make when it comes to grief is they compare themselves to their former spouse. They believe that if their ex is feeling better, then they should too. Then there are others who believe that if their ex is feeling bad, then they should too.

    I was one of those people who struggled with my ex feeling bad – at first. And then I struggled with him feeling better.

    Everyone heals at their own rate. And, frankly, it can take some time.

    (However, there is such a thing as getting stuck in your grief. This is called complicated grief. If you’re concerned that you’re dealing with complicated grief, you’ll want to reach out to a therapist for diagnosis and support.)

  3. Nurture yourself.

    One of the things that can often fall by the wayside when you’re struggling with life after divorce is simply taking care of and being kind to yourself. It can seem as if there’s just too much going on as you figure out how to create a new life for yourself. Yet it’s critical that you nurture yourself, so you can have the energy – physically and emotionally – to do all you want and need to do.

    Nurturing looks different for everyone. You may like massages or long walks or binge-watching a TV series or napping or exercising or spending time with friends or reading or ….

    It’s not so important what it is that you find rejuvenating. What’s important is that you regularly take the time to care for yourself.

  4. Begin to dream a little.

    Many people get so caught up struggling with life after divorce that they forget to think about the future and how wonderful it can be. Yet, if you allow yourself to anticipate something good that you’re looking forward to – big or little – you’ll find that the positive flow of emotions can actually help pull you through the tough stuff and toward the good stuff.

    What’s a dream you’re looking forward to becoming a reality?

  5. Become curious.

    When you’re focused on the struggle of life after divorce, it can be really hard to recognize anything good about it. Yet there is good – even if the only good you can see right at this moment is that you woke up this morning.

    And I’ll bet there’s more that’s good about your life right now. One of the best ways to find it is by shifting your perspective. And curiosity is one of the best ways to shift perspective and focus.

    When I was going through my divorce, I felt incredibly alone, unloved, and unlovable. And I kept focusing on that. And the more I focused on that the more alone, unloved, and unlovable I felt.

    However, I had family and friends who continued to volunteer to help me. When I started asking myself why they were doing this, I was able to shift my perspective and recognize they were doing this because they loved me.

    The change in my experience was pretty dramatic. I stopped feeling sorry for myself because I now had “proof” that I was indeed loved and lovable and could choose not to be alone.

  6. Develop new friendships.

    Another way many people struggle with life after divorce is feeling they don’t fit in with their friends any longer. This often happens if most of your friends are married.

    The experience of being single is different than being married. And you may find it uncomfortable only having married friends because you feel like a third wheel.

    That was definitely my experience. I loved all of my married friends and yet there were some things about my life that they just couldn’t relate to – like dating or not having another adult in the house.

    And so, I decided to take a divorce recovery workshop. In it I met lots of people – women and men – who were having the same types of struggles I was. In fact, a couple of the women in that class became very dear friends. (And, yes, I did go out on first dates with 2 of the men.)

  7. Ask for help.

    Finally, when you’re struggling with life after divorce, it can be challenging to remember that you don’t have to do everything on your own. When you were married it was probably fairly simple to ask your spouse for help. However, when you divorce you know you don’t have access to their support as you once did. You can feel all alone as a result.

    Yet there are plenty of people who can help. Chances are your family and friends will be happy to help if you simply ask. You can also hire people to do the chores that you just don’t have the time or the skills or desire to do.

    And if the struggles you’re facing feel like too much to handle, you can work with a helping professional, like a divorce coach, to support you in getting back on track.

Initially, life after divorce is a struggle for most people. However, by following the 7 steps above, you can find your way to living a life you love again.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’re tired of struggling with life after divorce and would like some support, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me and together we can begin putting together a plan for the next best steps you can take to start feeling better.

Looking for more information about how to start over after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.

If You Want To Live A Happy Life, Stop Doing These 7 Things

Man smiling and enjoying his happy life while leaning on a railing with NYC in the background.

Somewhere in a one-in-a-million fortune cookie is written all you need to know if you want to live a happy life. (And on the flip side of that pearl of wisdom are your guaranteed winning numbers for the upcoming Lotto.)

You and I both know, of course, that winning a jackpot won’t guarantee a happy life. Genuine, lifelong happiness is more complex — and, ironically, simpler — than that.

And, while Confucius may tell you the key to being happy, we know it’s not that simple.

Ultimately, if you want to live a happy life, you’re going to have to journey inside yourself. 

There are always things you can do to open the channels to happiness

But there are also things you would do well not to do if you’re seeking the Holy Grail of bliss.

So today we’re turning the mirror onto things you might be doing to stand in the way of your own happiness.

Here are 7 things to stop doing if you want to live a happy life.

  1. Living in the past.

    You can’t change it. You may have regrets and choices you wish you could change. But languishing in them only serves to perpetuate them.

    More importantly, living in the past robs you of today. And today — this hour, this moment — is where life is.

    ”But I was my happiest when I (fill in the blank)….But I can’t get over (fill in the blank).”

    If these roadblocks keep detouring you from the scenic view of your life, ask them what they want to teach you.

    Do you have amends to make with people? Make them.

    Are there things you need to simply accept? Accept them.

    Do you have things you loved doing but gave up? Resurrect them. Reinvent them. Discover new passions.

    Whatever you do, thank the past for its contribution to your life and leave it in the rear-view mirror.
  2. Living in the future.

    If you want to live a happy life, living anywhere but in the present will rob you of that treasure.

    Yes, even living in the future.

    ”But what about my dreams and goals? Those are about the future.”

    Absolutely. And you should never give them up. Dreams inspire, motivate, energize. And they are actually a component of a happy life.

    However, if you dangle them before your life as a condition for being happy now, you are living in the future.
  3. Not listening to your inner voice.

    It’s there for a reason. Your inner voice, intuition, gut feeling — it’s your God-given compass.

    Your inner voice not only warns you when something isn’t safe or right. It also tugs at your heart when something is right.

    It is just as easy to ignore your calling as it is to ignore a warning.

    Whether fear of failure or lack of trust in yourself causes you to ignore your inner voice, your happiness needs you to step up and listen. As Rumi wrote, “Respond to anything that excites your spirit.”
  4. Holding onto grudges.

    You don’t have to go to church to be reminded that forgiveness is for the one forgiving.

    Holding onto grudges and refusing to forgive places a weight on your shoulders. It forces you to keep the wound open and the memory of injury alive.

    There is nothing about forgiveness that expects forgetting. Refusing to hold onto grudges is simply a way of releasing others to their own lessons and journeys.

    It’s also a reminder to yourself that happiness is light, and grudges are heavy.

    Let go of what doesn’t serve you and feel the immediate lift.
  5. Trying to fix other people.

    It really is so much easier to focus corrective energy on others rather than on yourself, isn’t it?

    After all, you know what’s right, best, and proper, and those who don’t subscribe to your program need your intervention.

    Getting the rest of the world in line makes your world make more sense, helps you feel in control of your life.

    But falling into this trap only serves to narrow your life and prevent your genuine happiness. It leads you toward unacceptance, intolerance, and self-righteousness.

    Consider shifting your fix-it focus to a philanthropic heart. Helping others in need has a beautiful way of expanding the heart and mindset.

    By focusing on improving someone’s circumstances, you forget about trying to fix the person.
  6. Seeking perfection.

    Striving for excellence in the various areas of your life is an admirable quality.

    But expecting perfection as a condition for love and happiness is an unhealthy (and learned) mindset.

    Perfectionists are often locked in a pattern they learned in childhood. “If I make a mistake, I get punished. If I don’t do this perfectly, I’m not lovable.”

    If taking a risk that leaves the door wide open to mistakes makes you uneasy, then you’re probably where you need to be.

    We’re all here to learn and grow. And, if it gives you a boost of confidence, just think of all the amazing inventions that were born out of mistakes!
  7. Comparing yourself to others.

    Be you. Do you. Express gratitude for your life, your journey, your uniqueness.

    There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition in the right context. But comparing yourself to others as a gauge for your right to happiness will always leave you wanting more.

    So be you. Share your unique gifts with the world that greatly needs them. 

    After all, you know the saying: “Everyone else is taken.”

Finally, there is one “must-do” to top off this list of “don’ts” if you want to live a happy life.

Smile. Curl those corners upward and feel your spirits follow suit.

Smiling actually causes a release of dopamine and serotonin. It’s like tricking your brain into happiness.

Call it putting the cart before the horse or faking it ‘til you make it. But a smile tells the world — and yourself — exactly how you intend to live your life.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can create a happy and healthy life for yourself.

Looking for more information about how to live a happy and healthy life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.