What Makes a City Happier? by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Drew Coffman

When we’re happy, we’re happy where we live.
— Melody Warnick

In Shreveport, my hometown, there has always been a significant portion of the population that doesn't like living here. But in the past few years, there has been a big dialogue about who we are as a city and who we want to be. Citizens are asking themselves about how we can become a better place to live. 

I love that we are asking these kinds of questions regularly now. This new awareness, unfortunately, often only leads to conversations about all of the things that aren't working. People get frustrated before they even get started. But if we as individuals aren't doing anything to solve a problem, is it reasonable to expect anyone else to?

We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.
— Carl Sagan

The more useful questions for us to ask ourselves are:

·         What can I do to make myself happier in this city?

o   What am I interested in? What issues or causes do I care about? What do I want to see, learn, and do? What type of people do I want to meet or get to know better? 

·         What can I do to make myself happier in my life?

o   How can I take good care of myself and make more time for friends/family? What do I want more of? How am I working toward my personal goals?

When more people in our community take the time to answer these types of questions for themselves, the more satisfied we'll collectively be with our lives here. But until that happens, what anyone else does or doesn't do won't really matter because this is something you can fix for yourself now. The more invested you become in your city and your own life, the more you'll enjoy living there.

There are many people I admire in our community who have the passion and determination to help us fix problems through all of the official channels. They collaborate with the various systems in place and take the time to understand complex issues well enough to actually solve them. But as individuals, we all have a role to play. 

Even if we’re not ready to be the ones making the fun stuff happen in our town, we can show up for the people who are. Go to the festival. Buy tickets for the play. Throw a buck in the busker’s guitar case. Notice the little things that make your town vibrant and support them. Like the right community brand, it can change your perception of where you live.
— Melody Warnick

We will always have less time, money, resources, and patience than we wish we had to improve the world around us. But we don't have to make huge commitments or overextend ourselves. We can get clear about what we want and find small, inexpensive, and quick ways to add value to our communities. We can show up. 

Why Curiosity Is More Realistic Than Clarity by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Zorah Olivia

Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.
— Tony Schwartz

In school we were taught to get the correct answers, fill in blanks, and follow checklists. But, in real life, success rarely comes in a straight line. Attempting to affect positive change in the world around us or our own lives can be frustrating when you don’t know where to start.

Many of us waste too much time searching for the next step to appear on a pre-defined path to get us where we want to go. I remember moving back to Shreveport and thinking that there was a group of people like me hanging out somewhere. Finding those friends was my key to loving this city. I was wrong. Getting involved with what was already happening here, creating what I wished existed, and showing up to events even when I was uncomfortable was how I found like-minded friends. They were definitely not all in one place. And I enjoy having lots of different friends more than one group anyway.

We look for rigid absolutes where there aren’t any. When change is constant, you have to use whatever you’ve got in front of you. That tool might not look like a clear answer but a resource, a problem, or a question instead.

Living the Questions

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

Questions bring us to the edge of what we know. But they can make everyone uncomfortable. We often have a hard time sitting with uncertainty.  

Most of my ideas or breakthroughs start with questions. This blog started with the question, “What does it look like to live a big life in a small city?”  People ask me in a variety of ways to answer the above question with certainty. But there is not one right way to thrive where you are.  Thriving is a mindset and something to explore every day.

A Shift Toward Curiosity

Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times- a distant tower of flame, accessible only to geniuses, and to those who are specially touched by God. But curiosity is available to everyone.
— Elizabeth Gilbert

When you get rid of prescriptive solutions to problems, you need a new framework to stay grounded and move forward. More than expertise or passion, curiosity is a virtue worth cultivating.

Curiosity gives you permission to create, explore, and learn as you go. You can be enthusiastic and try things that might not work.  Diving into a problem is not only empowering but more effective.

Ideas are only perfect in your head. When you have experiences and real information, you are much closer to succeeding at your goal.

This high school teacher, Ramsey Musallam, does a wonderful job making Chemistry compelling to his students. But he didn’t always teach like this. He made a conscious choice to keep class interesting.

Asking questions, noticing the world around us, and experimenting with our ideas are wonderful learning opportunities. We can transform our daily lives by staying curious.

What are some small ways you cultivate curiousity?

8 Questions to Get Refocused and Re-energized by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by  Khánh Hmoong

CC photo by Khánh Hmoong

My own heros are the dreamers, those men and women who tried to make the world a better place than when they found it, whether in small ways or great ones. Some succeeded, some failed, most had mixed results…but it is the effort that’s heroic, as I see it. Win or lose, I admire those who fight the good fight.
— George R.R. Martin

I’ve committed to writing one blog post a week. But, last week it didn’t happen.  Even when we start off with the best intentions, sometimes we fall short.  

How we handle these minor set backs is extremely important. You can either let it derail you or choose to keep trying.

 As frustrating as it is to lose focus or make mistakes, this is what the process of personal change often looks like. We try something, fail, and have to start again. Deciding not to give up is always more important than perfection.

Any motivation about New Year’s resolutions has probably tapered off by now. But, there is so much time left in the year to achieve goals and establish healthy habits. Maybe it is a good time to revist some of those big ideas for the new year?

If you’re feeling a little discouraged or overwhelmed, here are a few questions to consider for getting inspired and refocused:

When was the last time I took a break? From technology, busy-ness, or worrying.

A lot of us have a tendency to want to finish the work and relax later. But, often times we are more effective when we’re not so exhausted. Take a break now.

Ask yourself why?

Why is this goal, habit, or project important to me?

Staying motivated often depends on not only on finishing tasks but seeing where they fit into the big picture.

What am I grateful for?

What is working? How can I make more of that happen?

How do I want to feel? What can I do to feel that way?

Feelings are great indicators of what you want. They intuitively keep you motivated and going in the right direction.

What can I do differently next time?

There are usually patterns to the setbacks we face in achieving goals. If you can anticipate a potential problem ahead of time and come up with an approach to handle that situation, you are much less likely to make the same mistakes over and over again.

We’ve all got strengths and weaknesses. Know what yours are. But, don’t let them define you. This guy, Steven Claunch, is a great example of how to not let a setback become an excuse: 

How can I simplify?

What is a shorter way to get from here to there? What can I say no to? Cut out anything that isn’t necessary or helpful.

Who is on my team?

Make time to connect with the people who support you. Helping others instead of focusing on your problems can be an excellent way to re-energize as well.

How can I take action right now?

Break goals into specific, smaller steps. Get clear on what progress looks like and measure it.

Failing over and over again doesn’t really matter as long as you keep trying, work harder, and learn from your mistakes. So don’t give up.  

How do you stay motivated toward achieving your goals? Let me know in the comments.