44 Ways To Keep Sh*t Real

After my forty-fourth birthday, I decided to challenge myself to write down forty- four ways that I’ve learned to keep it real, stay grounded, and focus on what’s most important. I have an entire chapter in Everyday Chic called "Keeping Sh*t Real" because I wanted to offer some advice to all of you on keeping things in perspective.

Because life, and especially life with a family, is not about perfection or even aiming for it. Life, on the other hand, is about priorities— sifting through the endless clutter and chaos that this world throws at us and keeping our priorities in sight and our heads on straight. Life is about sucking the marrow out of it. Living it. And loving it. It’s about knowing what you can physically do and letting go of the rest. Life isn’t about being perfect. Perfect is a unicorn, people. It doesn’t exist. Life is about keeping sh*t real.

44 Ways To Keep Sh*t Real Photography: Erica Hampton

1. IT’S OKAY TO BE STRONG, IT’S OKAY TO BE WEAK. Our society praises people, women and men, who are strong, bold, brave, and enduring. While this can be positive, sometimes the effort it takes to “act” strong is simply too much and eventually breaks us more. It’s okay to admit vulnerability, too. Being vulnerable allows us to be true to ourselves, honest with others— and to be all that we are.

2. SHOW PEOPLE YOU ARE GRATEFUL. Thank your friends, thank your family, thank your babysitter, thank your coach— thank people whenever you have the opportunity. Don’t let good deeds go unnoticed— you have no idea how valued those two simple words are.

3. CHALLENGE FIXED PERCEPTIONS. Try to see the other side of situations before you seek to defend your point of view. Yes, step outside your box and look around. You might see something you’ve been missing.

4. LEAVE THINGS BETTER THAN YOU FOUND THEM. This is a lesson I teach my children daily, and I promise you, it doesn’t always go well. But I don’t give up on it. We didn’t have a lot growing up when I was young, so I was taught to take care of my things— all my things. I am teaching my children the same. And not to just treat their things with respect but also to treat other’s things with respect. When they have a playdate at a friend’s house, they know they have to clean up their toys and leave them just the way they found them— or even nicer than before!

5. GIVE WHAT YOU CAN GIVE. Some people can give money. Some people can give time. Some can give their talent. Every single one of us has something we can give. And giving releases natural endorphins in the body, creating what’s known as the “helper’s high.”

44 Ways To Keep Sh*t Real Photography: Gia Canali

6. BE THE BIGGER PERSON. When they go low, we go high. Famous words from former first lady Michelle Obama. It’s true. Ditch the drama, float above the fray, and seek solutions rather than seeking to stir the pot.

7. TAKE TIME OUT. We are definitely overstimulated, and science tells us this. Stop rushing around. Occasionally slow things down. Take deep breaths.

8. LEAD WITH LOVE. I saw Dwayne Johnson (aka the Rock) interviewed on Oprah’s Master Class, and he said something that was so moving. Talking about his daughters and what he wanted to teach them, he said he wanted them to learn to “lead with love.” It’s so easy to lead with fear, to be afraid and to teach your kids to be afraid, but he said that he tries not to do that. Instead, give your children the confidence to love, to trust, to try, to go for it, and to be brave.

9. KEEP LEARNING. I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish— and now I finally am. Keep your inner fires alive by continuing to feed them.

10. ENJOY MORE, WORRY LESS. I went to a coffee shop the other day and taped to the packaging around my sandwich was the message:

Enjoy more. Worry less.” For a mother of three, that’s easier said than done. But as the Dutch World War II activist Corrie ten Boom writes, “Worrying today does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but empties today of its strength.” Worry is an empty emotion that accomplishes nothing.

11. FIND YOUR FREEDOM. When can you live and feel free? Is it when you sneak away to read a book? When you paint? When you write? When you dance or when you sing? Sometimes we get disconnected from the things that make us feel free. It’s important to reconnect with these freedoms and let yourself simply be.

12. ASK BETTER QUESTIONS. Ask yourself what you have rather than what you don’t have. Ask yourself what you can learn from an experience rather than asking “why me?” Ask yourself how you can improve a situation rather than dwelling on the dilemma. Improving our lives often lies in editing our own personal Q&A.

13. COMMAND RESPECT, DON’T DEMAND RESPECT. The way you treat yourself and others sets the standard for how others will naturally treat you. If you respect yourself and you respect others, respect will be given in return.

14. CHALLENGE YOUR OWN SELF- LIMITING BELIEFS. “I’m not smart.” “I’m not adventurous.” “I’m not [fill in the blank].” Whatever it is that you constantly tell yourself, challenge it. You can be anyone you want to be, but that starts with challenging your fixed mind- set.

15. SAY BUH- BYE, BAE. There are times when a romantic relationship, a friendship, or a job has overstayed its welcome in your life or in your heart. Maybe someone did you wrong. Like really, really wrong. Or maybe you did yourself wrong. Cut the cord, say adios, and set yourself free.

16. ESTABLISH YOUR PRIORITIES. Have them, identify them— write them down— and focus on them. The other stuff doesn’t matter.

17. GOTTA HAVE FAITH. George Michael sang it best. Faith is essential to life. Before anything will happen, you must believe it can happen.

18. POLICE YOUR PATTERNS. We have positive ones . . . and bad, crappy ones. Patterns are just programs we have set with ourselves. Break the pattern and reprogram. Take inventory of your bad habits, write them down, and replace them with better ones. Your habits eventually add up to your life— how you spend your time and what you do.

19. POINT YOURSELF IN A DIRECTION. Even if you don’t know where you are going, still point yourself somewhere. We often don’t really face a direction but rather we sit cross- legged waiting for something to happen. Point yourself in a direction; any direction is always better than forever running in place.

20. DIRECT YOURSELF, DON’T DISTRACT YOURSELF. Today more than ever, there are endless time suckers. Identify them and get rid of them. They are just in the way of what you really want.

21. ACT, DON’T OVERREACT. This is something that I have really had to work on. In the past, when Scott and I disagreed on something, we massively disagreed. So I have been working on cultivating calmness and self- control.

22. COOPERATE, DON’T COMPETE. Sharing yourself with others does not diminish you. In fact, cooperation and social bonding is in our DNA— we are programmed to feel good after cooperating.

23. SPEAK UP, DON’T SHRINK UP. We women are notorious shrinkeruppers! We so often don’t speak up for ourselves— whether it is at work or wherever. Take back your power and learn to stand firm in your passions and to confidently advocate for yourself as much as you advocate for others.

24. TRAIN YOUR BRAIN. A great book explores this: Change Your Brain, Change Your Body. Cravings can be controlled in the mind. Motivation can be controlled in the mind. And simple mental exercises can encourage a positive mind- set. Let’s train our brain in good habits rather than bad.

25. DON’T USE YOUR KIDS (OR ANYTHING ELSE) AS AN EXCUSE. For those of us who have children, you know your kids are always your back pocket excuse for getting out of things and often for the way you act: “I’m sorry I haven’t called, I’ve been so busy with the kids.” While sometimes they are a legit excuse, often they are just your cheat for not doing something you promised you’d do.

26. BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE. Do what you want to do. If you want to be a painter, paint. If you want to be a writer, you must write. If you want to be a pilot, take flying lessons. There is no magic pill or secret formula much beyond this. Start now.

27. YOUR POTENTIAL IS ONLY AS LIMITED AS YOUR VISION. Envision what you really want because you just might get it. There is no reason to sell yourself short just because you think it’s easier to reach.

28. WILL IS STRONGER THAN SKILL. Ghandi said, “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will.” I was never the smartest, but if I want to do something, I will bear down to do it! Capability is in the mind of the beholder.

29. NOTHING BEATS A PEACEFUL HEART. Believe it or not, being a good person, standing up for yourself, and living your life with integrity and honor is the best sleeping pill you’ll ever take.

30. TEACH EMPATHY. Around the holidays, we clean out the kids’ old toys and set them aside for children who don’t have anything. We talk about it with them and teach them about giving it back. We make it a conversation at the dinner table.

31. ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES. You cannot control everything. There are times when the outcome will not match your desires. When we stiffen up and don’t go with the flow, the punch lands that much deeper.

32. BE ABLE TO ACCEPT CRITICISM. Take a breath and listen to what people are saying. Be less defensive and more discerning. If a criticism is useful to you, take it in, apply it, and improve. If it isn’t useful, let it go. Don’t let it fester.

33. SPEAK UP BEFORE YOU BLOW UP. Have a conversation regarding a difference of opinion before it turns into a collision.

34. REVIEW AND REVISE. Aka “the debriefing.” Sometimes we have to have a debriefing with ourselves. We have to take a look at our day, our week, or something that happened, maybe that we weren’t proud of, and think about how we could have handled that differently. We also need to do it in a positive way. Review things that went well and maybe even pat ourselves on the back!

35. DEADLINES ARE A DO. Deadlines will make you more productive. Sometimes I have to set deadlines for even the simplest of to- dos. Give yourself deadlines, big and small, and especially for those hard- to- reach tasks that you simply can’t bring yourself to do.

36. LEARN TO DELEGATE. Ask for help and learn to assign responsibility to your family and those around you. Use modern technology to help you too.

37. GO THE EXTRA MILE. Don’t half- a** anything that matters. Period.

38. ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING. We truly don’t know what is going to come our way— good, bad, or otherwise. We don’t have control over a lot of things in our lives. But we do have control over how we react and our attitudes toward our experiences.

44 Ways To Keep Sh*t Real Photography: Gia Canali

39. BE YOUR OWN BESTIE. Get out of your own way. Instead of being your own worst enemy . . . why not be your own best friend?

40. LOOK PEOPLE IN THE EYE. Look children, grandparents, friends, lovers— the cashier at the grocery store— in the eye. It’s a sign of respect, presence, and equality. It matters and it means they matter and you matter. We all matter.

41. IT’S WHAT YOU DO, NOT WHAT YOU SAY. This is always a good reminder. Actions speak so much louder than words.

42. STICK WITH SOMETHING. ANYTHING! Find one thing you love to do and give it your all. Whether that is yoga, martial arts, learning an instrument— there is a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride when know how to do even just one thing well.

43. BE CONSISTENT. If you want to people to trust you, believe in you, help you, and respect you, don’t be all over the place. Be consistent. Be someone they can count on. Be able to count on yourself.

44. GO ON A SH*T- FREE DIET. Advice courtesy of writer and essayist Anne Lamott: Stop taking sh*t from people. If you don’t want to do something, stop telling yourself you should, feeling guilty, and then doing it anyway. Just don’t do it. I’ve been on a million and one diets in my life, but it wasn’t until I got to this age that I actually tried this one. Stop taking sh*t from people and wasting your physical time and your spiritual energy.

This is just one excerpt from Everyday Chic... if you'd like to read more, you can purchase my book here. In the "Keeping Sh*t Real" chapter I dive deeper into my soul goals, aging, body image and more! I hope you all enjoy it.