Tag Archives: China

Wise Words: The Mad To Live

This month’s featured amazing woman is Lauren Rains, from The Mad To Live!

An adventurer, entrepreneur, blogger, and all-around life enthusiast, Laur is one inspiring girl! She is on a mission to get people so freakin’ excited about their lives that they explode. Okay, maybe not explode, but live their lives to the fullest!

I gotta say, I love this girl. Her passionate love of life is so contagious, and visiting her blog always gets me excited about my life and everything in it.

So, please welcome this firecracker, and fellow China expat, to My Smiling Heart!

What encouraged you to start The Mad To Live?

Well, it sort of just happened. When I was living in Beijing I started a blog to keep my family updated and to just journal my thoughts while living abroad. After a few months I realized that I wasn’t really writing about travel, but more about things I found inspiring, dreams I wanted to pursue, people I’d met along my journey that had impacted me.

And that’s when I started to investigate the whole blogging, social media thing. Needless to say, I fell in love!

I fell in love with the community of people I’ve connected with that inspire me everyday to be a better person, I fell in love with writing and reading posts, I fell in love with the projects that stem from it. I can honestly say that starting The Mad To Live was one of the best things I’ve ever fallen into in my life.

Do you know what things you need to do on a regular basis in order to maintain your happiness? What are they?

A sense of “exploration” is absolutely key! That’s why I’m addicted to travel and passion projects. I love to experience things for the first time… I feel the most alive when that’s happening. So, I suppose you could say that on a regular basis I must see, experience, or try something… irregular!

What advice would you give to someone who is going through a challenging time?

I would tell them to dig deep within and find out the source and the root of whatever it is that’s creating this challenging time. Oftentimes on the outside it seems like we’re going through a tough time for countless reasons, but when it comes down to it it’s normally something very crucial that we haven’t yet faced.

I’d also tell them to gather a group of their closest friends and go out for a wild, crazy night on the town filled with laughs and ridiculousness. Sometimes a little break from a mental-block, bad mood, drama etc helps us to get out of our heads and remember that despite the challenges we can still enjoy life! Besides, who doesn’t love a few (too many!) glasses of wine with your closest friends?

Why do you think it is so important that we make our own paths in life rather than follow the paths of others?

There are so many reasons that it’s essential to follow your own path. But for me, what it comes down to is that if one isn’t following their true path in life then simply stated, they aren’t really living. They aren’t being who they are meant to be, doing what they’re meant to do, seeing what they’re meant to see. It is when we follow our own paths that we discover the unique talents and gifts we have to offer the world. And you know what? The world needs us to do that. The world needs people who are blazing their own trails, following their passion, finding happiness.

If you aren’t doing that… you aren’t really living. You’re just existing.

What has creating your own path in life taught you most?

It’s taught me the importance of true, authentic, hard work combined with being my true, authentic self. It’s been so clear to me based on my own experiences and watching the success of some of the amazing people I get to talk with everyday that if you put in 120% true, authentic effort you can achieve whatever you set out to do. And I mean that… 90% isn’t enough… you have to put in 120%. You have to really WANT it. You have to really DREAM it.

From where I sit today I can look back on the past year and say to myself that I lived in Beijing, China for a year where I worked for an adventure company doing all their web work and started a popular hiking club for Expats and locals. I’m now in the process of starting my own web design business so I can move abroad again and support myself 100%. Has any of this been a walk in the park? Hell no! I’ve worked my ass off! But it has been a blast! I have learned so much from both the great days and the worst days whether it have to do with culture shock or business shock.

If you give 120% you can follow whatever path in life your wildest imagination can dream of. 🙂

What wise words do you live by?

Okay, the best way I can explain this is the self-talk I give myself when I’m about to jump into a freezing cold pool or ocean. You see.. I hate cold water… loathe it! But I LOVE it after that first second of terrible pain. And so every time I’m about to jump in I say to myself something along the lines of, “Okay Lauren… this is it… you only live once and you just have to do it. You just have to jump in. And during that 1 second don’t think about the pain of it, but think about the fact that you’re alive and feeling it! I’m feeling, seeing, touching, BEING.” So then I jump, and I’m so happy and I stand up in the water and I feel really alive in that moment.

I know, I know… it sounds kind of strange… but that’s how I try to live my life. Whatever it may be… good or bad – I just like to jump in and enjoy, learn from, and recognize every tiny little aspect of it.

What is something you are really proud of?

I’m really proud to have the friends in my life that I do, and I’m so proud of the fact that I love them like they are my family. I’m proud that there are people in my life that I can’t live without and that complete me and they feel the same way about me.

It seems to me that some of us get so caught up in our lives that we forget about our friends… the very people that help to make us who we are, the ones that pull us up when we’re down, the one’s that give it to us straight when we’re being complete and utter morons, the ones that we can act like complete and utter morons with!

The value of friendship… it seems to me people put this one on the backburner too much as they get older. But I know that my personal growth would be impossible without these people, and I’m really proud to have friendship as one of my greatest values.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? Who gave it to you?

“Get out of your head, Lauren.”, said my oldest friend since 3rd grade Jaime. I had been going on and on and on about all these things that I’d been thinking about over and over again FOREVER. I had let all these things pile up and make me anxious, worried, stressed, and essentially depressed. And finally she laid down the law for me without sugar coating it and just told me to get out of my head.

It was at that moment that I realized I had been so caught up in my own self-talk that I had forgotten to enjoy life, to remember the bigger picture, to recognize there are thousands of positive things I could be thinking about instead of the 5 negatives.

The second you get out of your head is the second you’ve set yourself free to do whatever it is you’re meant to do.

What are you most grateful for?

I’m most grateful to my friends of course as I mentioned above. But in addition to that I’m most grateful for the people in my life believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I’m not sure if without their push and their encouragement I would have ever gotten out of the limbo I had been stuck in.

I’m also extremely grateful for warm summer nights + cold drinks + good music + great friends & good stories. I live for those nights… that’s when I’m most happy.

How do you want to inspire people?

I want to inspire people to truly, deeply LIVE. I guess that’s why I ultimately named my blog ‘The Mad To Live’. I want to see everyone around me feel ALIVE… not just being or doing or living… but BEING, DOING, LIVING. I know differentiating the two between caps and lowercase doesn’t say much but if you read between the lines there is such a big difference between the two.

I want to see people reach the age of 85 and look back on their life and say, “Damn… 85…. and I lived each of them with more life and passion than the last.”

What makes your heart smile?

Nothing makes my heart smile more than seeing someone doing something that brings them to life. My heart smiles when people tell me about the things they’re passionate about and suddenly their face is glowing, their talk is eager and excited, their aura is alive. I love that.. partially because I’m selfish… I find it contagious!

Also, beautiful websites make my heart smile, as well as cute boys (especially Spanish ones hehe), lemonade on a hot summer day, finding a book I love so much I read it in one weekend, seeing the skyline of the city I’m about to land in within a country I’ve never been to, and last but not least, long bike rides at sunset while I listen to music.

Check out Lauren’s site, The Mad To Live, and follow her on twitter and facebook.

Go smile at yourself,

Jen ♥

*A huge THANK YOU to everyone who has supported and donated to our 30 Days Of Beauty fundraiser – we have reached our goal of raising $300 for To Write Love On Her Arms! WOOHOO! 😀

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Wise Words: Three Lessons From Oprah

 

“Now I want to talk a little bit about failings, because nobody’s journey is seamless or smooth. We all stumble. We all have setbacks. If things go wrong, you hit a dead end—as you will—it’s just life’s way of saying time to change course. So, ask every failure—this is what I do with every failure, every crisis, every difficult time—I say, what is this here to teach me? And as soon as you get the lesson, you get to move on. If you really get the lesson, you pass and you don’t have to repeat the class. If you don’t get the lesson, it shows up wearing another pair of pants—or skirt—to give you some remedial work.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

The above quote comes from a commencement speech that Oprah gave at Stanford University in 2008.

I watched this video a lot last year, after we moved to China, and found these words to be so inspiring, especially after I was fired and fell ill. This video, and the above quote in particular, were key in my journey to turning my life around, reclaiming my power, and choosing happiness.

You can watch the video of Oprah’s speech here, or read the transcript here.

What have you been experiencing lately? What is it here to teach you?

Whatever happens, I hope you’re smiling 🙂

Jen ♥

On Love, Supermoons & Imperfections

 

This song is called ‘Say Hey! (I Love You)’, by Michael Franti and Spearhead, and I just LOVE it!

I listen to it almost every day. When I say listen, I mean I sing along and dance around the apartment like a lunatic, of course. It’s just so irresistibly happy, and full of good vibes that flow through the Universe, all the way into my soul. It is happiness.

I’m so happy right now, just completely over the moon – or should I say, over the supermoon! Maybe it’s the energies brought about by that beautiful full moon, or maybe it’s just me, but I feel AWESOME.


My view of the Supermoon, so beautiful!

 

I am exploding with gratitude. So grateful for that one moment almost six months ago, in which I chose happiness over everything else. Grateful for everything I have created for myself since then, and for everything the Universe has brought me as a reward for that one decision to be happy.

I am a hurricane of love.

And I want to express that love more freely, so I am going to make an effort to express myself creatively even more-so than I do now.

I want to paint more, create more, write more, live more, laugh more and love more.

I want to paint portraits, I want to start an art journal, I want to write a book about my year in China, I want to build meaningful relationships with people all over the world, I want to meditate more, I want to start doing yoga, I want to empower, inspire and make hearts smile, I want to do whatever you need me to do to help you see how freakin’ AWESOME you are.

I don’t want to sell out, conform to only writing top ten list or how-to posts, give in to anxiety, or pretend like I’m some sort of self-development guru that has it all together and promises you true happiness all at the discounted price of $99.99 – because I’m not a guru, I don’t have it all together, and I can’t promise you happiness – your happiness is up to you.

What I can do is be here, now, to go on this journey with you. I can give you my perspective, share my thoughts, creations and inspirations with you, talk with you, laugh with you, cry with you. I can create things for you, as resources to help you focus on the positive, reminders of your AWESOMENESS, and make pretty things to hang on your walls. I can see your beauty, and help you to see it, too.

But at the end of the day, it’s up to you. And that’s okay, you can handle that. You are powerful… so much more than you realise.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even want or need all the answers. And that’s okay, too. I’m just doing the best that I can, moment to moment. Sometimes I freak out a little, and I doubt myself a lot. Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes to achieve my dreams.

Man, I love letting my vulnerabilities shine like this. It’s terrifying and liberating. It’s imperfect, and I love it.

I am letting go of my perfectionism when it comes to art, too. I will love what I create, even if it’s messy. I am moving forward with my creations, with my ebooks, ekits and hell, maybe even some ecourses. Because what I have to offer is worthy, valuable and amazing.

 

A messy painting I did yesterday

 

I love how this post was originally just meant to be a shout out of pure love, and it morphed into another soul-searching session.

How imperfect of me 😉

Well, thank you so much for ‘listening’ to my rants. I’m always here to listen to you, too. Whenever, wherever.

I’m going to spend the rest of the day walking in the park – the snow is almost completely melted and the weather today is beautiful enough for me to not have to wear my huge puffy George Costanza jacket, yay! Then I’ll be drinking wine and eating mooncakes with my soulmate.

I hope your day is full of double rainbows and flowers in bloom 🙂

So much LOVE,

Jen ♥

Wise Words: Standing Up.

Source.

 

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

~ Japanese Proverb


With everything that has been going on in our world recently, flooding, hurricanes, volcanoes, and now the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, it’s easy to fall. It’s easy fall, and it’s even easier to stay down.

A good thing about being a westerner in China is that I don’t watch television. I don’t see the news, the sensationalism, the fear based headlines or the warnings of armageddon.

I have a friend living in Japan at the moment, thankfully she is fine, but she is feeling a lot of  frustration with the sensationalism of the news being shown around the world, as it is only focussing on the worst case scenarios, causing her family so much worry and anxiety. Not to mention the fact that she herself doesn’t know what to believe, with conflicting stories and a lot of misinformation going around.

If I was back home in Australia while all this was going on, I would be sitting in front of the TV, frozen in fear and too overwhelmed to be of any use.

Even seeing all the tweets about what’s happening, and what people think of it, is way too much for me. All it does is bring me down. I can’t help anyone if I’m down.

My heart breaks for all the people who have lost their lives, and the survivors who have lost their homes and loved ones. I fear for my friends who live in Japan and for myself as I am so close to the destruction. I fear the future and what challenges mother nature will bring us next. I want to help as much as I can.

But focussing on the news, the pain, and the fear only serves to weaken us.

If we are going to get through this, we need to be strong. We need to be strong just as the people of Japan are being strong. They are showing us what we need to do.

They have fallen, but they are standing back up.

They are the people who are in the most danger, the people who are suffering the most, but they are also the people who are handling it the best. They are focussing on what’s most important, and they are getting things done.

Most of all, they aren’t losing hope. They are opening their hearts. And so are we.

I read an amazing post written by a woman named Anne, who is living in Sendai, a town that has been completely devastated. In this inspiring Letter From Sendai, Anne is full of love and gratitude for everything she has, and writes about the powerful change that is occurring in our world right now:

“Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide.

My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.”

If Anne can be right in the middle of the destruction, and still see the good that is shining through the rubble, and even feel how the world is evolving as a result, then surely we can too.

Focussing on the love, the kindness and the compassion that is being shared during this time is the only way we can get through this, and become stronger, wiser, more awakened people in the process.

It’s time to stand up.


“The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.”

~ Ivy Baker Priest

 

Good News:

 

A four month old baby was found amongst the rubble, alive and well, 72 hours after the quake and tsunami hit. Source.

 

More Good News:

Daily Good: Human Spirit Rises to Meet Japan’s Tsunami

 

How You Can Help:

 

If you are able to donate, Jen Fromal and I have set up a donation page for the American Red Cross Earthquake Relief on our fundraising page for our 30DaysOfBeauty Project.


Here are some other ways you can help:

Tonic Blog: How You Can Help

Roots Of She: Sending Out Love To Japan

Lady Gaga has designed a prayer bracelet to support Japan, with all proceeds going to earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

The image at the top of this post can be bought as a poster, with proceeds going to the Red Cross and Save The Children.

 

Stay safe, think peace, feel love.



Jen ♥


Peace Wherever You Go ♥

Admiring the Summer Palace, Beijing

It’s amazing how much travelling can put personal growth and self-discovery into warp-speed mode.

Being in a new place, whether it’s around the corner from your home or on the other side of the world, heightens your senses and forces you to live in the moment, taking in everything you possibly can.

I learnt a lot about myself recently when Mike and I spent a week in Beijing. Even though we’ve been living in China for seven months, this was our first real back packing adventure with just the two of us, and something we had wanted to do for years.

Even though I had an amazing time there and will always look back on it as one of my best adventures yet, I wasn’t really looking forward to it beforehand.

We had organised to stay in a hostel, something I’d never done before, and even though we had booked a private room, I was a bit anxious about it. I’m a pretty shy and quiet person, an introvert, so being in a place that constantly has such a huge social atmosphere is a little overwhelming.

The overnight train rides to and from Beijing had also been making me a bit anxious, as it requires being in a cabin with total strangers for twelve hours, spending most of your time trying not to invade each others’ space while you attempt to navigate the bunks or move around the halls.

The fact that I had been worrying about these little things for the days leading up to our Beijing adventure obviously didn’t help anything either, so I eventually found myself losing all excitement for it.

But, as usual, I soon discovered that my worries were complete fiction, a waste of time, complete an utter bull.

I have learnt, during my years overcoming anxiety, the only way to stop being afraid of something, is to just do it.

The anxious mind is a trickster, a heckler, and a brilliant illusionist. And, as with any other form of unnecessary and unconstructive criticism, the best way to handle it is to not let it stop you from living the life you want to live, to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’

And that is just what I did.

The train rides were actually pretty fun, and not at all as bad as my mind had made me believe it would be. The hostel, well, that was just plain AWESOME. The people we so cool and friendly, the room was great, the food was freaking delicious, and we were encouraged to grab some textas and write on the walls. That is every artists’ dream!

The 365 Inn, where we stayed.

The message Mike wrote on wall

It ended up being one of the best weeks of my entire life, full of adventure, risk-taking, meeting new people, seeing amazing places, and coming home with a thousand awesome memories and a new sense of confidence, accomplishment and self-awareness.

In a traditional Chinese dress.

At the Summer Palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A moment I know I will never forget occurred on Chinese New Year, Mike and I were standing on the rooftop of the hostel, counting down to midnight, and being completely surrounded by fireworks. Explosions of sound, colour, and cheers erupted again and again for almost an hour as families and friends throughout Beijing celebrated the new year.

I felt so blessed to be there to witness it, and I knew in that moment that I had come so, so far… too far to ever go back to the person I used to be. I felt a wave of relief as I realised then that my fears would never get in the way of me living my life ever again.

I was reminded of that rooftop moment just the other night. I was walking through the snow on my way to meet Mike for dinner, when fireworks started exploding right in front of me, continuing the 15 day celebrations for Spring Festival.

Fireworks in Daqing

As I looked up at the amazing colours falling from the sky, and felt the sweet kisses of snowflakes as they touched my skin, I realised I was, in that moment, proving to myself that I can do anything.

You see, a year ago, I was too afraid to open my front door when the doorbell rang. Too anxious to walk down our short driveway just to check the mail. I even avoided going into the backyard alone, in case I was seen by a neighbour and forced into a potentially uncomfortable or awkward conversation.

I would never have admitted it then, in fact I wouldn’t have admitted it even six months ago, but I was so trapped by my own fears that I just avoided them altogether, until I couldn’t leave the house unless I was with someone.

So, imagine my pride when I suddenly realise that I am walking through the streets of a foreign city, in a foreign country, at night, completely alone, and with a freaking huge smile on my face! Thousands of miles away from my comfort zone, and not a single worry or fear on my mind.

That’s what travel can do for you.

Not long after that amazing moment on a rooftop in Beijing, but before that amazing moment in the snow, I was walking through some markets and found a stall that sold rings. I noticed one with four Chinese characters on it, and asked the woman working there what it meant.

“It mean… Peace… When you leave and when come back. Peace wherever you go.”

Peace wherever you go.

I wrote that on the wall of the 365 Inn, so that others can be inspired by it just as I was.

I’m wearing that ring now, as I write this. And I will always wear it, as a reminder of how far I’ve come, and how much I’ve overcome, in order to find my own peace, peace within myself, peace with my fears, and peace within the world.

Take some time now to look back and notice how far you have come, and what you have overcome in the process. Be proud of everything you have achieved, and how much you’ve grown! And be grateful for all the lessons you have learnt in between.

Go smile at yourself,

Jen ♥

Written on the second floor staircase of the 365 Inn, Beijing.

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Wise Words: Long Way Round

Hello beautiful people!

Are you AWESOME today? I certainly hope so 🙂

Well, I’m back from a seriously amazing week in Beijing, which I will write about soon, but for now here is another edition of Wise Words. Enjoy!

“We’ve come this far, & people’s faces have changed & people’s houses have changed, & people’s beliefs may have changed, but ultimately we’re not any different from one another, you know? We all love our kids, we all need somewhere to sleep, we all need some food… We’re not all that different.”

~ Ewan McGregor


The very handsome & charming Ewan McGregor (whose name is so fun to say in a Scottish accent. Go on.. say it 🙂 ) said these wise words during an episode of his awesome series ‘Long Way Round’, which is my latest obsession.

In the show (which is also now a book & another series), Ewan & his best mate, Charley, ride their motorbikes from London to New York, travelling through countries such as France, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, & Russia.

I have to admit, at first I was really only watching it because I have a tiny crush on Mr McGregor (who doesn’t?) & I love seeing actors being so raw & discovering what they’re like without a script. But I’ve completely fallen in love with everything about the show, from learning about places like Kazakhstan & Russia to the hilarity & complete honesty of Ewan & Charley’s friendship.

One of my favourite funny moments includes the guys fixing one of their bikes on the side of a road, a car stops to see what’s going on & Ewan (aka Obi Wan) says ‘These are not the bikes you’re looking for’. Love it! 😀

It is so awesome to see two mates leaving everything behind for a few months & embarking on such an amazing adventure. The challenges they face are overwhelming, yet they never once give up or lose sight of their goal of getting to New York.

Their positive attitudes throughout the whole experience, & the awareness they have of themselves & how their mindsets affect their experiences, is an inspiration. Ewan in particular is very thoughtful in his reflections of the experiences they have, recognising the challenges as ‘tests’ that will make them stronger & make their memories of their travels that much sweeter.

Even though I’ve only travelled to a few places, mostly in Australia, then the USA when I was 17, & more recently, China, I can still really relate to this quote.

With all of the differences that set me apart from the 1.3 billion people in this country, at our core, we are all the same. We all need to eat, we all need somewhere to sleep at night, & we all need to feel love, & we all just want to be healthy & happy.

Being here for exactly seven months now, I’ve become quite accustomed to all the differences, the oddities, & the things that I once found so frustrating.

Now, I can recognise myself in everyone that I see, in the tired eyes of the workers on the street, the curiosity of the taxi drivers & the smiling faces of the children. In fact, what I’ve noticed most recently since being here in China, isn’t the spitting or the pushing or anything negative, it’s the smiling.

It started because we get stared at a lot here, & my natural reaction to anyone staring at me is to smile, & straight away they smile back. From the ancient & hunchbacked old man that lives in our building to people in the shopping malls & all the children we see every day, they all smile back.

It doesn’t matter that my skin is lighter than theirs, that I speak a different language or that I do things differently, when we smile at each other, there are no differences.

A smile is all it takes to know we are all the same.

And people are almost always willing to help us. Being in a foreign country, we often get confused or a bit lost, but there has always been someone there who has gone out of their way to try to talk to us & help us find our way again. And as I watched Ewan & Charley travel through 12 different countries, my heart smiled to see that there are people like that all over the world.

So, the moral of this story is one that seems to pop up a lot on this blog: smiling can change the world.

Smile at yourself, & you have a happy heart; smile at a stranger, & you have given someone else a happy heart.

Who have you smiled at today?

While we are on the subject of Ewan McGregor, here’s another quote of his that I love:

“I fight cynicism. It’s too easy. It’s really boring. It’s much harder to be positive and see the wonder of everything. Cynicism is a bunch of people who aren’t as talented as other people, knocking them because they make them feel even more untalented.”

Awesome!

Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

Wise Words: Being Bold

This week’s Wise Words post is a bit different. Recently, I was interviewed by the lovely Tess Marshall from The Bold Life, & it has just been published!

For anyone unfamiliar with The Bold Life, it’s an amazingly inspirational self-development blog that always provides wise insights & encourages everyone to live boldly & speak their truth. I was absolutely thrilled to be interviewed for such an awesome blog & am so excited to share this great news with you all!

The questions I was asked for the interview were so challenging, they really made me think a lot more about who I am & how I could still live a much bolder life. If you are feeling particularly bold yourself today, I encourage you to take a look at some of the questions I was asked & take some time to think about what your own answers might be. You might be surprised!

So, head over to The Bold Life & check out ‘A Bold Artist With A Smiling Heart‘ 🙂

Feel free to comment on it after, I’d love to know what you think!

In other news, I’ve been working on a few little goodies for you guys, hopefully to be posted over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out! 😀

Go smile at yourself,

Jen ♥

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011! :D

“Cheers to a new year and another chance

for us to get it right.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

At the beginning of 2010, I had two major goals; sell one of my paintings; & travel overseas.

In April, I achieved & my first goal. In fact, not only did I sell a painting, ten of my original pieces were featured in my first ever art exhibit.

That whole experience was so much fun, from creating a theme that promoted women empowerment & self-love, & spending the first few months of the year doing nothing but painting every day, to sending out the invites & the excitement of opening day.

It was AWESOME & it felt so right that I know I will be doing it again in the future.

At my first art exhibit

Next to one of my paintings

Three months later, I achieved my second goal of 2010, when I moved overseas for a year. This goal wasn’t just a 2010 goal; it was a goal I had dreamt of achieving for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I’ve actually done it!

On our way to China!

Arriving at Beijing Airport

Exploring Daqing

Outside of a Buddhist temple in Hailar, Inner Mongolia

I’ve crossed off a few other things from my life goals list this year too; getting engaged; using my artistic skills to help raise money for charity; & experiencing a white Christmas.

Just after Mike proposed ♥

Nonprofit campaign promo I designed

My first 'snowing' experience!

White Christmas!

Then there’s just the bonus experiences & moments that were completely unplanned but will always be great achievements in themselves. Things like white water rafting in the mountains of far north China, walking through the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, where I also explored underground Japanese tunnels from before WWII, & most recently, starting this blog & being published on Tiny Buddha.

Rafting

Inner Mongolian Grasslands

Underground Japanese tunnels

My Tiny Buddha Guest Post!

I am so grateful for everything I have accomplished, experienced, seen & learned this year. I know I have come a long way, & traveled on a path with many highs & lows & even some u-turns, but I couldn’t be happier with where it has all lead me.

So, I wave goodbye to 2010, with a big, cheesy smile & a heart full gratitude for everything it brought me.

Now, it’s time to say ‘Hello!’ to 2011, I welcome this new year with open arms & another big, cheesy smile.

My major goals for 2011 are:

  • Walk along the Great Wall of China
  • Go to the Hong Kong Disneyland
  • Return home to Melbourne
  • Marry the love of my life

Mike & I at the Melbourne Botanical Gardens

♥ Mikey & Me ♥

I have a few other goals that I’m already working on, such as finding more ways to use my blog & art to inspire others, collaborate with amazing women to make something awesome, & learn Mandarin.

Another goal of mine is to post to this blog at least once a week in 2011, so I signed up to do the WordPress Post Challenge. Part of signing up means I have to mention it in a blog, so:

‘I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.’

Most of all, I just want to take a lot of action in 2011. I’ve been trying to decide whether ACTION should be my word for 2011 (I mentioned this to someone who commented here recently), it’s either going to be ACTION or INSPIRE. Then there’s always the option of combining them to make INSPIRED ACTION. Yes, I think that’s it.

2011 is my year to take inspired action.

By the end of 2011, I want to be a better version of myself. I want to be stronger, wiser, much more confident & independent, & I want to have achieved a lot & have really made a positive impact on the world.

So, my goals are set, my hopes are high & I’m ready for the AWESOMENESS of 2011! 😀

As you say goodbye to 2010 & welcome 2011, think of how far you’ve come over the past twelve months.

Remember the good times & how much happiness you felt, & consider the not-so-good-times & the lessons they brought you.

Think of all those special moments that you will always treasure, & take note of all the things & people you are grateful for from 2010.

Now, imagine how amazing 2011 is going to be. Think of all those positive things & people that made 2010 so great, & imagine all of that & more being a part of 2011.

Last week I wrote a post about how we have the power to choose the kind of day we have; imagine the possibilities if we apply that knowledge & power to an entire year! As long as we remember to enjoy the great times & learn from the challenges we face, there’s no stopping us!

Let’s make this our best year yet!

Here’s to 2011! 😀

Jen ♥

Goals & Gifts – #reverb10 :)

December 28 – Achieve What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today. (Author: Tara Mohr)

Today, when I looked at all my goals, hopes & dreams for the next year, I noticed a pattern begin to form. They all involve personal growth, inspiring others, & experiencing all that life & the world has to offer.

As I connected them even further, I realized that my most desired goal for 2011 is to end it with even more love, happiness, health, & purpose than I am ending 2010 with.

If, a year from now, I can look back on 2011 feeling like the best version of myself I have ever been & knowing that I gave it 100%, I will be satisfied & proud.

I’ve decided to go with the ‘10 thoughts’ option in order to experience those feelings of confidence, accomplishment, joy, love, purpose, satisfaction & pride today, because what you think about, you bring about.

(While these aren’t really ‘new’ thoughts, they are definitely ones I could think more often!)

1. Take action.

“When you don’t know what to do, do the thing in front of you.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot. Another good quote for this thought is: “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” ~ Will Rogers

2. Yes, I can.

“My motto is; If a person can do it, I can do it.” ~ Geena Davis

3. Live with purpose.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

4. Anything is possible.

“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

~ Napoleon Hill

5. Stay focused.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”  ~ Henry Ford

6. Dream big.

“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” ~ Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) in ‘Back to the Future’.

Another good quote for this thought is: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” ~ Les Brown

7. Be wild.

“Why sit in the bleachers, timid & afraid? When you could be the whole parade!” ~ Hairspray – Big, Blonde, & Beautiful

8. Think, do, be, positive.

“I crossed the street to walk in the sunshine.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert in ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’

9. Share the love.

“Freedom lies at the heart of my willingness to love everything.” ~ Alanis Morissette

10. Follow your bliss.

“If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.” ~ Joseph Campbell

December 29 – Defining Moment Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year. (Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)

The defining moment for me this year would have to be the moment we decided to move to China.

As I described in my Tiny Buddha guest post, there have been so many ups & downs & lessons learned through a whole series of events that all lead back to that one decisive moment.

I am so grateful for that moment & everything I have experienced since, & I am 100% certain that I would not be who I am today without it.

December 30 – Gift Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)

The two most memorable gifts I have received this year, aren’t special to me because of their monetary value, one of them didn’t even cost a thing. These gifts are special to me because of their meaning, & what they symbolize in my life.

The first, I received back in April; an engagement ring from my soulmate. And while I do think it’s totally romantic & awesome that it boasts diamonds, my birth stone, & was designed by Mike especially for me, I get the most joy out of what it symbolizes.

It’s not just a ring, it’s a symbol of Mike’s love for me, & his commitment & desire to spend the rest of his life with me. It represents our friendship, our love, our past & our wonderful future together.

The second gift I received only last week; a link to a YouTube video from my brother.

It may not seem like much, but it is one of the sweetest, most meaningful & comforting gifts I have ever received.

The video is of British comedian Tim Minchin, singing a song he wrote about Christmas called ‘White Wine in the Sun.’

For most of it, I just thought it was really cool that this guy had summed up all my feelings about Christmas in a song, from consumerism to family.

In fact, the chorus could be about my family at Christmas:

“I’ll be seeing my dad

My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum

They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun

I’ll be seeing my dad

My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum

They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun”

Towards the end of the song, he sings to his daughter:

“And if, my baby girl

When you’re twenty-one or thirty-one

And Christmas comes around

And you find yourself nine thousand miles from home

You’ll know what ever comes

Your brother and sisters and me and your Mum

Will be waiting for you in the sun

Whenever you come

Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles

Your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum

We’ll be waiting for you in the sun

Drinking white wine in the sun

Darling, when Christmas comes

We’ll be waiting for you in the sun

Drinking white wine in the sun

Waiting for you in the sun

Waiting for you…

Waiting…”

This is when I started to cry like a baby.

This is when I realized that my brother wasn’t just sending me a video about Christmas, he was sending me a message. He was letting me know that he misses me.

He was letting me know that, even though I’m ‘nine thousand miles from home’, my family – Mum, Dad, him, my other brother & sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins & my Nana, were spending their Australian Christmas in the sun, & missing me, thinking of me, & waiting for me.

It makes me tear up even writing about it. But I love it so much, & it means more to me than almost any other gift I’ve ever received. I’ll never forget it.

(More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/t/tim_minchin/#share)

Stay tuned for a couple more posts over the next day or so, one of which I made especially for all of you! 🙂

Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

Wise Words Wednesday: Rising Above.

“One resolution I have made,

and try always to keep, is this:

To rise above the little things.”

~ John Burroughs

At a time when everyone is remembering 2010 & eagerly awaiting 2011, a few things have come to light in my life that make me see just how much I’ve matured since leaving home this year.

Very recently, I’ve discovered that there are some people in my life who aren’t being truthful with me, & even though I’m literally thousands of miles away, I’ve found myself suddenly wedged in the middle of a game of ‘he-said-she-said’.

Six months ago, I would have dived head first into this mess & drowned myself in all the details, asking for direct quotes of everything that so-and-so said about me, & spending hours discussing how I’d been ‘wronged’ & ‘betrayed’.

Yesterday, when I discovered things had been said about me & lies had been told, I had no interest in requesting a word for word dialogue or stewing over the details. Someone else’s lies & perception of me is none of my business, & it says more about who they are than it does about who I am.

While it did sting a little bit to find out I’ve been lied to & gossiped about, I’m not angry or vengeful. It’s not the first time it’s happened, & it won’t be the last. In fact, I’m thankful for this experience; it has shown me just how far I’ve come & how different I am from the person I used to be earlier this year.

Six months ago, something like discovering false friends would have been devastating for me. Now, after everything I’ve overcome here in China, it seems pretty simple:

Phoniness, dishonesty & any other useless noise, has no place in my life, & I won’t let it distract me from what’s really important.

There’s a whole world out there, & we’ve only got one life to live, so…

I’m rising above.

I’m only interested in authentic, considerate people who love life & who are secure enough within themselves that they can support my growth instead of feeling threatened by it. I’m grateful that I already have quite a few people in my life who fit that description.

Those are the people who will be coming with me into 2011 🙂

We have the power & the potential to make this next year as AWESOME as we want it to be, all we need to do is stay focused on the positive & remember what really matters.

Everything else is just noise.

Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥