Written by Rachel Ruff

“The most beautiful thing in this whole world is not made up of particles. It’s the strength of a person who has seen the collapse of their world, yet every morning, they wake up and build their life, all over again.”

These past six months have been anything but “normal”. What is normal anyway? Normal was not even applicable to my life before COVID-19 and I now realize that is ever-changing. Normal life means different things to different people worldwide. I propose we start reframing what the word normal means. One could individualize this for each person to do in their own lives, in response to what best serves them and their specific needs. Let “normal” define a lifestyle that best serves YOU and your specific needs. Normal should represent a life that allows you to be productive and authentically happy in a way that best suits you and your routine. 

Almost all facets of my life have been disrupted in some way over the past several months. Most of these have been completely out of my control. Control and order have always been a strong part of my daily routine—I thrive off of organizing, planning, and scheduling my entire life. For any of you reading who can agree with me on this, this pandemic has been especially difficult, just in this specific aspect of losing complete control—financially, emotionally, and physically. Each week since mid-March this year has brought new challenges, introducing me to different coping mechanisms. I found myself frequently forgetting which day of the week it was or feeling extremely off-center mentally and emotionally. I have learned that that is OKAY and healthy. I believe each of us has discovered something new about ourselves and that may be a silver lining to all of this. I cannot simplify or deny the additional weight this pandemic has put on our backs, but I can easily expand on all of the things it has taught me about myself. The stress of the uncertainty of this pandemic has given many the opportunity to turn inwards and adapt to a journey of self-discovery that is new for some. Additionally, this pandemic has showcased the flaws and successes of our society that otherwise wouldn’t have been highlighted. It has been a learning experience for us all and there is no way anyone could have prepared our country for a catastrophe quite like this one. 

As seasons are changing, so are schedules and routines. For me, school is right around the corner and I am getting ready to prepare myself for my last semester of undergraduate. Although this semester is going to look a lot different than previous years, I am choosing to go into this fall with an open mindset and accept change as a positive thing. I am a visual learner in so many aspects, so for me that vision of cyclical change of a new season represents a “reset” button. A notion of quite literally turning a new leaf and expanding my mindset to my new routine and new responsibilities. I am also using this change of seasons as a symbol of welcoming all of my incoming challenges as learning lessons. As we all know, these times are so unprecedented and unpredictable. I challenge you all to try and interpret any challenges that come your way in these next few months as an opportunity to learn and grow. When faced with a problem or unsettlement, try to remind yourself that—“Everything is happening is FOR you, NOT to you.” It can be difficult to not take things personally, I know, but the more you are able to remind yourself that everything that enters your life is an opportunity for growth, you may be able to handle challenges in a way that can help you learn and grow. 

A tool I frequently use when starting a new “chapter” of my life is reflection. This can be a beneficial tool for many facets of life and allows you to be very intentional about what brought you to where you are today and how that journey has positively and negatively affected you. Take some time to sit down and be alone with your thoughts. You can possibly journal or create art that reflects how you’re feeling. By physically expressing how you feel may help you notice a shift in your thought patterns. How has this past summer benefitted you? How have you grown from the challenges of this past summer? What have you learned about yourself or your community? What worked for you and what didn’t? By reflecting on our past experiences allows us to better understand the present moment and creates a better understanding of our inner self as well. 

After taking time to reflect on these past few months of summer, create some time this week to sit down and set simple guidelines for what you want to accomplish by the end of this year. We are four months away from 2021. Yes, that is crazy, but it just means you have four months to ultimately create a reality that best serves you and your goals for yourself. I am not a person who waits for January 1st to set goals for myself. It is a silly social construct that honestly restricts people from being accountable for their life. Why wait for a specific date to “life your best life”? Why not wake up each day with that mindset? I challenge you to dismantle the idea that you have to wait for a certain date to change your habits, goals, or dreams. Why not start now? I understand with unprecedented times like now that many of our habits and goals have shifted out of our control. Luckily, I have some good news for you. You are able to change and focus on things you CAN control. While taking time to set some goals for yourself during this next season, brainstorm things that are in your control and expand on how those things can help create a stable routine as we shift into a new season of the year. 

With the hostile environment around us, it can be so easy to collapse at any moment from the heavy stress life pushes onto us. We may not be in control of what our outer world may manifest into, but we can unlock our inner world of peace and contentment. You and only you hold the key to that. Be intentional about your priorities these next few months, because that is a simple way to stay consistent with your habits and also allows you to break old habits that may no longer serve you. Try to frequently ask yourself “Does this support the life I am trying to create?” 

Lastly, be forgiving to yourself and all that you embody. It is so liberating to commit to a life of wholeness instead of perfection. Self-forgiveness gives access to a mindset that is more compassionate and I believe we could all use a little more empathy for ourselves. As the leaves start to fall and the weather starts the change, become intentional about what you want to accomplish in the new season. Your mindset is the key to your success. Below I have added an intention setting worksheet to help put your thoughts onto paper and dreams into action. Here’s to a fresh start and new beginnings! 

Be sure to checkout this month’s corresponding 3-day video challenge in our private facebook group, Elevate! + LBL, with our founder Ivy Kaminsky. She speaks on different tools that can take your goal setting and planning to the next level! 

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