Wellegance

Cultivate a Life of Vitality, Pleasure, Passion and Purpose


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Slow Down and Maintain Your Summer “Mellow”

One of the things that I love the most about summer is that time seems to slow down. Perhaps it’s the heat that drives people to move slower, perhaps it’s the longer days, maybe it’s because there’s generally less to do…whatever the reason, it’s a feeling that I’m always loath to give up when summer winds to a close and September rolls around.

It seems that, as soon as the calendar page turns to August, my mind begins to fast forward, thinking ahead to ‘back to school’ and beginning to compile the lists (many lists!) of things to do, to make, to buy, etc. Most years, I feel as if I cheat myself out of several weeks of summer because of my inability to stay present and to keep myself in “summer mode” for the full duration of the month. Well, this year, I made a vow to do things differently.

I’ve thought long and hard about this and I believe that it is possible to slow down during these last couple of weeks, despite the fact that the media, technology, advertisements and seemingly everyone/everything else is trying to speed up and jump ahead. Here are the strategies that I believe will help us to maintain a sense of calm and ease at this busy time. And while I’ve been speaking specifically about summertime in this post, these practices are helpful at any time, during any season.

Because it’s really all about our thoughts. As we all know, nothing that we do is ever TRULY going to slow the passage of time. However, we most definitely can change our perception of time so that, rather than feeling rushed, stressed, anxious and harried in these last few weeks, we can continue to feel present, relaxed and joyful.

How to Slow Down and Maintain Your Summer “Mellow”

  1. Limit the items on your daily ‘To Do’ list. Do less and make the things you decide to do really count! I like to identify 3 things each day that I will get done. These are the things I deem most important. By limiting it to 3, I rarely have a day where I feel non-productive. While I may not complete everything I’d like to do, I almost always complete the 3 things that I’ve identified, and because I’m not spreading myself too thin, I do a better job on those 3 things. As with most things, it comes down to quality over quantity.
  2. Give up multi-tasking (if not long term, at least for the next few weeks). There is no greater myth than the one that tells us that we’ll get more done if we work on multiple things at one time. Our brains are simply not designed to concentrate on more than one thing at a time and, for this reason, multitasking (a) rarely produces as good a result as single-tasking and (b) is exhausting, as it requires quite a lot of mental energy. Stop doing it and you’ll likely be amazed at how much more productive you are and how much better you feel.
  3. Set limits/parameters around technology use. Technology (and, particularly, social media) can easily become a time-eater and create feelings of inadequacy. In an effort to slow down, seek to control what you feed your mind. The result will be more space and clarity rather than the feeling that we must hurry up and/or do more.
  4. Get your daily “nature fix.” Nature is a great metaphor for life. Whatever happens in nature happens on its own time and can not be rushed. Furthermore, being in nature encourages us to be present and experience what’s around us with our senses, rather than our intellect. This kind of presence and connection is a great way to slow down and savor our time.
  5. Truly listen to others. Often, conversations happen so fast and we’re so focused on getting things done that we fail to truly listen to the people we interact with. I’ve been frustrated by others who aren’t great listeners, yet I’ve also been guilty of doing this (many of us are, from time to time). One important way to slow down is to take our time when we’re in conversation. It not only shows the person with whom you’re speaking that you’re interested, attentive and considerate, but you’ll get more out of the conversation, as well.
  6. Pause throughout the day to take a breather. Literally! Stopping periodically to take a few deep, cleansing breaths will help to relieve stress/anxiety. Those pauses are also helpful when we find ourselves getting swept up in the momentum of what’s going on around us. Just a moment or two to close our eyes, breathe and refocus helps to slow our thoughts and maintain a sense of calm.
  7. Eat mindfully, sitting down. No wolfing the food down. No eating at the kitchen counter or, worse, on the run. In other words, slow down and savor your food. Consider mealtime as an opportunity to nourish yourself and allow it to be a moment of pleasure. After all, nothing seems to expand time more than the experience of pleasure.
  8. Make healthy food choices. Limit stimulants like caffeine and sugar. As we all know, what we put into our bodies makes a difference in how we feel. If we’re on a caffeine or sugar high, it stands to reason that we’ll be moving more quickly, probably jumping from task to task and, generally, feeling less of a sense of ease. And besides, with such wonderful, fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s not hard to satisfy ourselves with healthier alternatives.
  9. Incorporate simple pleasures into each day. Take a moment to buy yourself flowers or indulge in a piece of dark chocolate or make a call to that friend you’ve been thinking about. It may only take 5-10 minutes, but it will make the day seem a little longer (and so much sweeter!).

I hope that these strategies help you hang onto that summer vibe a bit longer and enjoy these last few weeks more fully. Summer is a gift that we’re blessed to receive – a beautiful, bountiful time of year when the rush of life subsides, if only for a while, inviting us to slow down and savor it. Let’s not to miss this golden opportunity!

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21 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” – Tony Robbins

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A year or so ago, when I first conceived of the idea of the Wellegance blog, I heard Tony Robbins say this and it struck a chord with me. At the time, I had already coined the term ‘Wellegance’ and was clear on what that term meant to me. Essentially, Wellegance is the joining of two concepts that I believe are at the heart of a well-lived life: wellness (body, mind and spirit) and elegance (valuing simplicity and quality over quantity in all areas of life). I began to consider the principles that one must live by in order to curate this ‘Wellegant life’ and I kept coming back to the idea that each of us must commit to getting to know ourselves. I mean REALLY getting to know ourselves. Excavating ourselves by chipping away all the layers of social conditioning, family expectations, gender roles, responsibilities, etc. and discovering the woman who exists underneath all of that.

How much do you know about yourself? Oh, sure, you can tell me your likes and dislikes, preferences, pet peeves, your hobbies, childhood best friend and your most embarrassing moment. But how often do you stop to examine the workings of your mind and the yearnings of your heart? The beliefs and desires that motivate you to do the things you do? Most of us lead such busy lives that we don’t stop to reflect nearly as often as we should.

You see, we’re each on our own unique “Heroine’s Journey” and the only way we make any real progress on our journey is when we come to know ourselves at the deepest level. How do we do that? By asking the very ‘quality questions’ that Tony Robbins is referring to in the above quote. And answering them with BRUTAL honesty (the more honest we get, the more powerful this process is).

Here are 21 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself

  1. Where in my life am I thriving?
  2. What am I hungry for?
  3. Do I enjoy my own company?
  4. How energized do I feel each day?
  5. Who and what inspires me?
  6. How much of what I speak is negative/complaining vs. positive/productive?
  7. What people or situations drain me?
  8. Does my personal style express who I am and what I find beautiful?
  9. Where in my life do I need support?
  10. What am I not saying that needs to be said?
  11. What is the next version of me?
  12. What messages my body is sending me?
  13. Am I saving/investing enough money in my future?
  14. Do I feel at home in my home?
  15. What new thing am I yearning to learn or try?
  16. Am I having enough fun?
  17. What is my ‘superpower’?
  18. Am I procrastinating something I want, waiting for ‘someday’?
  19. Is busy-ness helping me to avoid feeling something?
  20. What pattern(s) keeps showing up in my life?
  21. Have I made peace with the past?

 

If, in fact, Tony Robbins is correct in saying that “Quality questions create a quality life,” (and I wholeheartedly believe that he is), then I maintain that every woman should be asking herself these questions on a regular basis. Think your answers, write your answers, discuss them with a therapist, close friend, your pet or your houseplants…it matters not what you do with the answers. It only matters that you consider the questions and do your best to formulate an honest answer to each of them.

Those answers have the power to guide you toward peace, joy and wholeness. You’ll likely discover things about yourself that you’d never anticipated and when you get to know yourself at this level – your values, needs, desires, fears, habits, emotional triggers, etc. – that knowledge and awareness will empower you to make better choices and move toward the life you desire.

As you set off on this quest, know that I’m with you every step of the way!

xo,

Karen

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Tips to Develop a Journaling Practice

I’ve always loved the idea of a journal – the trusty companion who will allow me to celebrate my succcesses, vent my frustrations, organize my jumbled thoughts and serve as a safe place to ramble on about all of the nonsensical, obsessive and embarrassing things that nobody else would have the patience to listen to. I imagined myself sitting down each day with a cup of tea, writing my heart out (literally!). And with that fantasy in mind, I’ve purchased many beautiful journals over the years, enthusiastic about becoming one of those creative types who totes around her journal, full of emotion and inspiration, at all times.

The reality…My beautiful journals contain about 1-2 weeks worth of entries, mostly consisting of rants and complaints, before the pages go back to blank. There’s no sitting calmly with a cup of tea; writing time is 10 minutes, if I’m lucky, which I usually have to jam into a packed schedule. The process and the product never feel very good because the journal invariably becomes a receptacle for all of my various frustrations and anxieties. So much so, that I eventually toss the damn thing in the trash. A failed project.

You’d think, after all this time that I’d have given up on my journal writing goal, but as someone who loves to write and who sees the incredible value in this type of reflection (I AM an English teacher, after all!?), I’ve kept at it. I’ve read a bit about journaling, I’ve experimented with various techniques and approaches and, alas, I seem to have found one that works for me.

It doesn’t exactly resemble my fantasy but that’s ok. The practice has offered me a safe place to feel my feelings (both the positive and the negative ones), process the events of my life, acknowledge big and small victories, dream, plan, draw inspiration and find gratitude.

As is usually the case with these types of endeavors, I had to let go of the “rules” and figure out what works for me, given my unique preferences and lifestyle. If journaling appeals to you, I encourage you to do the same type of experimentation to find the journaling style that feels most comfortable. As you do, here are some things to consider:

Let go of the idea that you MUST write every day. Write whenever you feel called to, no matter how frequently or infrequently that is. The fewer rules you impose on yourself, the more comfortable the practice will be; the more comfortable the practice is, the more you’re likely to want to do it. And if you only look for your journal every once in a while and that’s what feels comfortable for you, so be it. This is all about finding what best supports you.

Suspend all judgement (of yourself and your writing). Resist the urge to edit and to make moral judgments about what you’re writing. This is for your eyes only and should be a place of total freedom.

Express yourself. This is a safe place to express emotions without fear of hurting/offending someone. It’s healthy and appropriate to let your full range of emotions out on the page.

Don’t hesitate to brag about yourself and celebrate your accomplishments (both big and little ones). Allow your journal to be a place where you can reflect on ALL of your emotions and experiences, not just the negative ones!

Ask questions. Sometimes it’s helpful to record questions, without feeling obligated to provide answers. Often we don’t have the answers, but the simple act of recording the questions might help us to sort through the tangle of thoughts and emotions. And this might move us closer to finding the answers we seek.

Respond to your own thoughts and questions. Occasionally, while writing, I find myself speaking TO myself (saying “you” and “your”) and, sometimes, offering advice/counsel. When this happens, I often feel as if my “higher consciousness” is speaking to me and offering insights. Whatever the reason, it’s an interesting technique that is likely to give you food for thought.

Record things that you find beautiful, things that inspire you and things you’re grateful for. When you do this regularly, it actually causes the brain to actively seek these things throughout the day. And our journal becomes a nice reminder of what’s going right and what we’d like to move toward.

Capture ideas. Before you forget them.

Set goals/intentions and make plans. This is where the journal becomes a sort of planner, allowing you to become clear about the direction you’re heading and the path you wish to take to get there. It’s also a wonderful way to track progress.

Lists are ok (even to-do lists!). I have lists of books I’d like to read, films I’d like to see, recipes to try, even things to remember when i go to the grocery store.

Record quotes that you love.

Reflect on patterns in your thoughts and behaviors. Both the act of writing in a journal and the act of reading past journal entries give us the opportunity to identify patterns in our lives, something that’s hard to do when we’re enmeshed in the day to day. By broadening our perspective in this way, we’re better able to examine our patterns and habits, enabling us to determine which ones are serving us and which ones are not.

Letting go/transitions. The journal can become a wonderful vehicle for sorting through the tangle of emotions and finding closure during endings and transitions. It allows you to be present with whatever comes up and to deepen your relationship with yourself.

Look for lessons and opportunities for growth. When we can find meaning in our life experiences, we are better able to appreciate the positive ones and to reframe the negative ones so that we may heal and grow. The journal can assist us in doing that, as it gives us a place to process things, tease out the lessons and “silver linings” and consider how we wish to proceed. Rather than feeling swept up in our circumstances, this kind of reflection allows us to take our power back and make more conscious choices, as we move forward.

Feel free to draw or paste images into your journal. Sometimes a picture captures things that can be hard to express. Or your journal can serve as a place to keep images of fashion, garden, home decor and other inspirations.

As you can see, the practice of journaling offers many benefits. If you have the desire to explore it, my best advice is to do so with a sense of play – try several of the above techniques (and there are many others) to see what feels right. This kind of self-reflections almost always yields interesting insights, but when we can take pleasure in the process and the journey to those insights, that’s where the real magic happens.

Enjoy your journaling journey and have a wonderful, Wellegant weekend!

xo,

Karen

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Astrology as a Powerful Life Tool: Interview with Author/Astrologer Eric Meyers

Have I got a treat for you! Author and Astrologer Eric Meyers chats with me and demystifies the study of astrology and explains his unique approach, which merges the science of astrology with psychology and spirituality.

He shares tips for using astrology as a tool in one’s life, understanding our “karmic patterns”, sun and moon signs and the various cycles we experience throughout our lifetime.

Eric also views the current state of the world through this unique lens and offers some advice about how we can best navigate this interesting time. It’s a fascinating discussion that is sure to provide some “a-ha” moments. Make sure to listen in!

Notes:

Eric has written several books exploring various aspects of astrology. Read more about his books on his author page at amazon.com.

Eric also provides astrological consultations and may be reached at

eric@soulvisionconsulting.com – or – at his website:

www.soulvisionconsulting.com

Enjoy this very special interview!

Karen

DID YOU GET YOUR GIFT YET ?  CLICK HERE to Grab your (FREE) guide –

Wellegant™ Mind, Body, Life: Nourish Your Body and Feed Your Soul

It contains my best healthy living tips, recipes and other resources to help you live your most Wellegant life. Enjoy!


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When Going on ‘Autopilot’ is a Good Thing

We live during a time of many distractions. Life moves quickly, technology has made us almost constantly accessible to others, there are more and more demands placed on our time and energy, leisure activities have been edged out of most people’s lives and, in most areas of life, quantity is valued above quality.

Not surprisingly, people (especially, women) experience a great deal of anxiety and, as a means of coping with stress, tend to go on ‘autopilot’ – when our minds are overwhelmed, we become so engrossed in our own thoughts that we complete certain tasks without any conscious effort or attention. At some point, we’ve probably all had the experience of driving somewhere, arriving at our destination and not recalling any part of the trip. We were so consumed with our thoughts that our body seemingly drove the car by itself. We were on autopilot.

While this is not a state that we want to be in most of the time (and, certainly, not while driving!), there are times when autopilot can actually be useful. Now, I know what you’re thinking…

Why in the world would I, someone who regularly promotes mindfulness and awareness find autopilot useful? How can someone who believes in the power of conscious choice and action recommend going on autopilot and, in effect, eliminating conscious action??

Because I believe that there is a healthy way to do it.

The autopilot feature on an airplane is defined as “a system used to control the trajectory of an aircraft without constant ‘hands-on’ control by a human operator being required. Autopilots do not replace a human operator, but assist them in controlling the aircraft, allowing them to focus on broader aspects of operation, such as monitoring the trajectory, weather and systems.” (Source)

Since we ARE so bombarded with choices and distractions, why not alleviate some of our stress by reducing the number of choices we must make on a daily basis? Why not create some (healthy) habits and rituals that we can easily revert to, without the need to expend time and/or energy thinking about it? Much like pilots do, we can use autopilot to assist us in managing our time and energy, allowing us to concentrate on the “broader aspects” of our lives.

Here are nine examples of what I’m referring to:

  1. Meals: I tend to eat one of two different breakfasts every day. In addition, I almost always make enough food for dinner, so that I have leftovers for lunch. This ensures that (a) I’ll have meals that are healthy and (b) I won’t have to scramble around in the morning, trying to figure out what I’ll eat throughout the day. To the extent that you can, “automating” meals will support your health and create more ease.
  2. Shopping: for the most part, I do my food shopping at the same places and at roughly the same time each week (Saturday or Sunday mornings). Furthermore, I use the same basic shopping list each week, as I buy a lot of the same staple items from one week to the next. I typed up a list of these items and printed off a bunch of copies. Each week, I grab it and add or subtract any items, as needed. This saves me time and ensures that I’ll remember to buy the things that I need for the week.
  3. Food Preparation: I tend to spend some time on Sundays prepping food for the week. Sometimes, I simply slice raw veggies; sometimes I make a soup that I can eat for lunch during the week; other times I roast a bunch of sweet potatoes or make a batch of brown rice. I find that if I get ahead of food prep and have some healthy things on hand, it’s far easier to eat well throughout the week.
  4. Skincare: This is one of my very favorite rituals. I have certain products that I use in the morning and others that I use at night. My products are organized and easily accessible and, because I move through the same steps each day, it doesn’t take long at all to care for my skin. It also adds a bit of self-care and pampering to my day, which is never a bad thing!
  5. Fitness: Whether you prefer to take a fitness class, lift weights at the gym or go for a walk/run, try to do it on roughly the same days and at roughly the same times each week. That way, you won’t have to figure out when to squeeze it in. It’ll be easy to plan around it and it’s far more likely that you’ll actually go.
  6. Social Media: It’s WAY too easy to waste time scrolling through social media feeds and losing precious time during the day (not to mention the fact that it’s  well documented that too much time spent on social media actually INCREASES stress and anxiety!?). Set aside a fixed period of time to spend on social media, preferably at the end of the day when important tasks have already been completed. Knowing that you only have, say, 30 minutes to scroll makes you more likely to skip past posts that don’t really interest you. You’ll become much more selective about what you give your time and attention to.
  7. Supplements: This is a big one for me because, of whatever reason, it’s always hard for me to remember to take my supplements. I take a number of them, so I’ve come to divide them, taking some with lunch and some with dinner. I portion them out ahead of time (usually in the morning) so that they’re all ready for me. I also leave them out on the counter, visible, which serves as a reminder.
  8. Mornings: I’ve mentioned in previous posts just how important I believe a morning routine is (you can read more about it here). The way we start our day really sets the tone for how the day progresses. Start the day in a pleasant, peaceful way and you’re likely to continue to feel those things throughout the day; start off feeling overwhelmed and scattered and those anxious feelings tend to persist throughout the day. That being the case, creating a morning routine that grounds and supports us, one that is consistent and automatic, is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves. It doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. Maybe you like to start the day with a hot lemon water, then do a few stretches. Perhaps, like me, you prefer to begin the day with a short meditation. You may wish to spend a few minutes reading something inspirational or journaling a bit. Whatever you like, make it automatic and not something that you have to think about. It’ll be that much easier to stick to it.
  9. Evenings: The same idea applies to our evening rituals. It might be a walk with your dog after dinner. Do you enjoy reading with a cup of chamomile tea before turning in for the night? Taking a hot Epsom salt bath (link)? Maybe you like to meditate at night, as a way to calm the mind. Over time, this kind of evening ritual will signal to the body that it’s time to wind down from the day and prepare for a restful night’s sleep. And a good, restorative sleep pattern is something we can all benefit from!

These are just a few suggestions. I’m sure that you’ll find many others that support you. The important thing is that we understand how and when going on autopilot will serve us well and free up some of our valuable time and energy throughout the day. Very likely, you’ll continue to tweak these routines and rituals as life unfolds and your needs change. The idea is to conserve our mental resources and create more ease and space in our life.

I hope that these ideas serve you and I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on this topic. Please feel free to comment below and have a wonderful, Wellegant weekend!

xo,

Karen

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It contains my best healthy living tips, recipes and other resources to help you live your most Wellegant life. Enjoy!


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What is Creative Living?

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For years, I completely misunderstood the concept of creative living (which probably explains why I struggled so much with it). If you would have asked me this question ten years ago I would have explained that someone who lives creatively expresses him/herself through some artistic medium – writing, painting, drawing, music, cooking, needlework, flower arranging, etc. Blah, blah, blah.

It might sound good on the surface, but this definition is way too narrow and just kind of misses the mark. For one thing, it excludes the vast majority of people (myself included) who haven’t devoted our lives to the arts because we’re working a full time job, raising children or juggling any of the other balls we might have in the air at any given moment. It often frustrated me to think that I had missed my chance and that a creative life was off-limits to me because of some of the choices I’d made.

My big “aha” moment came recently, when I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic (which I HIGHLY recommend!). Gilbert has an entire chapter which explores this question of what does it mean to live a creative life? She states: “…when I refer to ‘creative living’ I am speaking more broadly. I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear…A creative life is an amplified life.”

YES!!!!

What I love about Gilbert’s definition is that it makes creative living available to all of us – even those of us who are not actively, professionally or exclusively devoted to the arts. It, essentially, tells us that if we want to live a creative life, all we need to do is manage our fear and allow our curiosities and desires to guide our choices. That is a tall order, to be sure, but it’s far more empowering than the belief that creative living is limited only to those who (1) possess some sort of innate artistic talent and (2) actively utilize that talent in their everyday lives.

Gilbert goes on to explain that “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living.”

Now, there’s the blessing and the challenge – the blessing is that yes, we are ALL born with gifts to share, but the challenge is having the courage and commitment to live our life in a way that allows us to find and explore those gifts. In other words, we must “shush” our fears (some of us must do this, practically, on a minute by minute basis!?) and follow that small voice within us that says, “What if?” or “That looks fun!” or “Maybe I can.”

How do we know if we’re on the right track and getting closer to uncovering one of our ‘jewels’? Quite simply, it feels good. It brings us pleasure. We want more. When we experience that feeling, we must remind ourselves to lean into it and continue doing whatever we’re doing. When what we’re doing doesn’t feel good and bring us pleasure, let it go and explore something else. It’s that simple. And THAT, according to Elizabeth Gilbert, is creative living!

So, I offer you a little Wellegant assignment this week: Do one thing that satisfies a curiosity of yours and brings you pleasure, even if fear is telling you to “stop” or that “you can’t.” Wear the bright red lipstick. Cook the Boeuf Bourguignon. Buy the bikini. Sign up for salsa dancing classes. Commit to making just one choice this week that is guided by your curiosity and not your fears. My belief is that this one courageous choice will lead you to another and another and another, setting you on the path to your most creative, most Wellegant life.

Knock ‘em dead! And please post a comment below so that we can all celebrate your success with you!

Have a beautiful weekend, my friends!
Karen

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Struggling to Find Your Purpose? Try This Instead…

For many years, when somebody in the media or in the personal development world spoke about “finding your life’s purpose,” I could actually feel my cortisol level rise!? While I liked many things, I didn’t have the feeling that any one of them was my “reason for being.” In fact, any time I attempted to focus on and commit to one of my jobs/interests more fervidly than the others, I ended up bored and frustrated, feeling like the only way to figure it out was to go on a long, arduous, soul-searching, Eat Pray Love- type journey to “find myself”.  The search for my purpose seemed to be a rabbit hole that, quite frankly, I just didn’t have the time (or money!) to go down.

At the same time, I recognized the importance of having a strong sense of purpose in my life.

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