Category Archives: Outside the Box

A Meaningful Life: A Few Resources


Here are a few books I’ve come across that may help you think about what would make your life meaningful and how to go about designing it.

I’ve listed the books in alphabetical order by title:

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Designing Your Life:  How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

I found this book to be very interesting because the authors show you how to use a design mindset rather than an engineering mindset when creating a life full of meaning—your dream life.

The authors explain the difference between design thinking and engineering thinking as the difference between thinking to create (design) and thinking to build (engineering).  With engineering thinking, you are building something, say, a house or a bridge.  There are templates, formulas, similar things that others have already built.  You may have to use a little design thinking—for instance, the terrain may pose challenges that haven’t really been solved before so you and your team have to be creative—but for the most part, you’re working with a number of “knowns”.

In design thinking, you’re basically making stuff up and trying it out, tweaking it or making more stuff up, trying that out, tweaking…etc..  You know what you want to achieve, but there are no templates, formulas, or “knowns” to work with.  You have to get creative, brainstorm, try out all sorts of things, refine and remake, try out things again…etc..

The authors point out that these are two different types of thinking.  One is not superior to the other, in fact, both types of thinking are needed to live in the world.  It’s helpful to have a clear understanding of these types of thinking because if (when!) you get stuck, it could be that you’re bringing the wrong type of thinking to the situation.

The book focuses mainly on design type thinking with explanations, examples, anecdotes, and “homework”.


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Everything Happens for a Reason:  Finding the True Meaning of Events in Our Lives by Mira Kirshenbaum

According to Mira Kirshenbaum’s research and observations, the events in our lives fall into at least one of the categories of meanings.  The categories are:

~to help you feel at home in the world;

~to help you totally accept yourself;

~to show you that you can let go of fear;

~to bring you to the place where you can feel forgiveness;

~to help you uncover your true hidden talent;

~to give you what you need to find true love;

~to help you become stronger;

~to help you discover the play in life;

~to show you how to live with a sense of mission;

~and to help you become truly a good person.

In the book, she explains each of the categories and includes examples and anecdotes.  This can be helpful in making sense of something that may have happened years ago and is still negatively impacting your life.  It can help you find, understand, and accept the gift.  Then it can help you let it go so you can move closer to a life full of meaning—your dream life.


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The Power of Meaning:  Crafting a Life that Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith

In this book, Emily Esfahani Smith includes examples and anecdotes, but she also adds some of the current research on meaning, what it is, and how to go about adding meaning to your life.  Don’t let the fact that it does contain the results of research deter you from picking up this book!  The author has a very engaging style and a talent for making the information easily understandable.

She distinguishes between a life aim of being happy versus a life aim of having your life matter.  Aiming for happiness can lead to striving for ease and a life with few problems and challenges.  There’s nothing wrong with this, however, it probably won’t satisfy that deeper *something* that you may be longing for or craving.  This is because your focus is primarily on yourself and your life, and looking to the outside for help and solutions.

Emily Esfahani Smith states that a life of meaning—a life that matters—on the other hand will usually NOT be easy and most likely will present you with MORE challenges, obstacles, and problems.  This is because your focus will be on how you—with your talents, your skills, your knowledge, your know-how, your abilities, your uniqueness—can contribute to the greater whole of the world—even if it’s “only” in your tiny community or neighborhood.  Your focus is on something much larger than yourself, and you’re looking within for the help and solutions—reaching deep within yourself to uncover and discover the gold and treasures within to then share with others.

She also makes other distinctions—perhaps they’re better called definitions—such as what Purpose means and how it doesn’t have to be a Big Thing like solving world hunger.


In my opinion, all of these books bring excellent thoughts to the topic of creating a meaningful life.  I recommend that you at least take a look at them.  Feel free to let me know what you think of them.

I am still in the process of digesting all the good stuff in these books.  I’ll definitely get back to you with other nuggets and tips that I glean from them!

Do you have some resources that you use?  Feel free to share in the comments below.  Thanks!

Your Friend and Pep Pal,


PLEASE NOTE:  The links to these books on are NOT affiliate links.  I do NOT make any money on whether or not you click on the link and I do NOT make any money on whether or not you purchase any of these books.


A Meaningful Life: What Does That Mean?!


As I mentioned in my first ever video (!!) , this week we’re going to be talking about A Meaningful Life.

You might remember a few months ago we talked about self-actualization as described by Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need. According to Maslow, humans have needs that can be pictured as a pyramid with the wide bottom level being concerned with fulfilling survival needs such as adequate shelter and enough food to eat, and the top level being all about self-actualization.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit and, while I didn’t do any kind of scientific study, my observations have indicated that no matter how successful we are or are not, no matter how old or young, and no matter where we live in the world, everyone is always interested in self-actualization. I’ve come to believe that we’re hard-wired to self-actualize regardless of our life situation, condition, or location. It seems to me that this urge is part and parcel of our survival instinct, which makes it just as important to us as finding enough food to eat, having adequate shelter, and keeping ourselves warm and safe.

All of us, from the moment we’re born until the time we leave this earth, want to live life on our own terms. We want to be individuals—unique, one-of-a-kind, and irreplaceable. When we’re young, we feel ourselves brimming with untapped potential and each one of us wants to go to our grave totally spent—our gifts and talents completely used up—but, oh the experiences…the memories! The depth and richness of them will last us through eternity.

With our ever-present drive to self-actualize, I’ve wondered why Maslow put it at the top of the pyramid. Perhaps he did so because once the “lower” instincts are reasonably satisfied, we don’t have any distractions from this urge. Especially when we get to “a certain age”, typically once we enter the empty nest years, this need becomes nearly a force of nature—we can’t stop ourselves from thinking about it and striving for it, at least on some level. & Artisan Workshop Designs & Artisan Workshop Designs

This is why it’s so important that we figure out what self-actualization, being purpose-driven, and living a meaningful life signifies to us.

As I said at the beginning of this post—and in my first ever video!—this is what we’ll be talking about all week. Come back and join the conversation!

As always, feel free to pass this post along to a friend. Thanks!

Your Friend and Pep Pal,


Quotes from Outside of the Box that’ll Make You LOL!


I came across these quotes that were clever, humorous, and thought-provoking.  They made me laugh while they were making me see things from a slightly different angle.



When nothing is going right, go left. ~Anonymous

I like this quote because sometimes you have to be totally zany and try that crazy thing.  I’ve found that sometimes that outrageous thing helps to solve the problem.  Even if it doesn’t, it shakes things up enough that you can take a different step that’s the beginning of he solution to the problem.


At the end of the day life should ask us “Are you sure you want to save the changes?” ~Anonymous

This is good and so is the related question to ask at the end of the day:  “Are you sure you want to save making no changes whatsoever?”  We must make changes in order to get ourselves out of the fix we’ve gotten into.  And we must make changes if we’re serious about moving forward in our lives.  So, if we didn’t make any changes that particular day, it’s good to stop and ask why.


If you don’t like me, remember it’s mind over matter. I don’t mind and you don’t matter. ~Anonymous

Very true as I talked about in yesterday’s post.  Not only are toxic people, well, toxic to us, but not everyone “gets it” about what we’re striving to do in our lives—and these can sometimes be the people who truly have our best interest at heart and want us to achieve our dreams.  While it’s good to hear advice that others offer, when it’s all said and done, it’s still our life, not theirs.  We take the ideas and suggestions that are good and we leave the rest behind.  People who care about us will understand.


I eat cake because it’s someone’s birthday somewhere today. ~Anonymous

I like this one because it’s always good to celebrate, even if it seems as if there’s nothing to celebrate.  Life can be dreary enough at times and we should do everything we can to brighten it up for ourselves and others.


Ironing boards are surf boards that quit before achieving their dream. Don’t be an ironing board. ~Anonymous

This one is so good!  ‘Nuff said!!  🙂


Be careful when you follow the masses. Sometimes the M is silent. ~Anonymous

Another gem!  ‘Nuff said!  🙂


I hope you enjoyed these.  I hope, too, that you’ve found at least one quote that you really like.  Keep it handy and refer to it often.  Let me know in the comments section which quote is your favorite.  Thanks!

Please pass this post along to a friend.  Thanks!

Your Friend and Pep Pal,


Year End Reflections: After Holidays Blues—One More Thought


Sometimes we get a gift that’s a definite klunker.  We’re tempted to feel insulted because how could that person have gotten us so wrong that they thought we’d like/appreciate the particular gift?!

Yeah.  It’s happened to me, too:  my cousin gave me a Chia pet (really?!), the co-worker who gave me after shave (ummm…not a man…but maybe you missed the company-wide memo…), the loved one who gave me something from a flea market….

But then, I heard a story that made me think of this situation in a little different light. 

It was about a woman who wasn’t looking forward to the holidays because it seemed that her whole family didn’t know her and always got her gifts that, to her, were off base.  But, one holiday, her attitude drastically.

She unwrapped a gift from her college-aged son.  It was a blouse in a color and style that was all wrong for her.  Just as she was going to disappointedly put it to the side, she caught the look on her son’s face:  he was smiling with the warmth of love in his eyes.  At that moment, she realized he saw her as someone who was stylish and confident enough to wear the color.  It turned out that the style and color of the blouse actually looked stunning on her.

So, in my own case, I realized my cousin enjoyed my sense of humor and thought I’d get a kick out of the Chia pet; I appreciated how my co-worker tends to be quirky and think out of the box and is not limited by gender/race/creed, etc.; and the flea market gift, I understood that my loved one had hit a rough patch and was doing the best they could to give me a good gift.

So, those gifts–you know the ones–if you look under the surface, perhaps they really aren’t klunkers after all.

Your Friend and Pep Pal,


Quotes about Moving Forward


Sometimes, the only thing you can do is to move forward. Here are a few quotes that encourage us to do just that:


Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer. ~Denis Waitley

Looking back isn’t going to help you. Moving forward is the thing you have to do. ~Mckayla Maroney

You can tell when something’s not moving forward anymore. When the doubts you have about it don’t go away. ~Jeffrey Eugenides

With each step I take, I see that my ability to perform gets a little better. So until it starts getting worse, I’m going to keep moving forward. ~Rivers Cuomo 

There’s some real dark days where you just feel like the story is falling apart in every one. Just keep moving forward, even when you are bluffing, even when you don’t quite know what is going to happen next. ~Dan Scanlon

You just keep moving forward and doing what you do and hope that it resonates with people. And if it doesn’t, you just keep moving on until you find a project that does. ~Octavia Spencer


Keep taking the next step, keep putting one foot in front of the other. You can do it, I know you can!

Your Friend and Pep Pal,


Learning from Problems



Yesterday’s post was a collection of a few quotes about problems and my reasons for having chosen them–why they helped me.

In light of this, I came across this blog post by Michael Hyatt about how to learn from problems and failures and I thought he made some great points and I thought you’d be interested in them, too.

Michael makes six points:

  1.  Acknowledge the Failure

This is important because too often we bang our heads against the wall continually trying to achieve results but always coming up short. We need to stop and take a look at the situation and admit that our way of doing it probably isn’t right.  We need to admit that maybe there’s a much more effective way of doing things.  Yes, we may have failed with these attempts to achieve our dreams, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up our dreams.  It just means that the way we’ve been doing things is not right for this dream at this time and in this place. Admit it isn’t working so step out of “the box” and out of our comfort zones and try something radically different.


  1. Take Full Responsibility

This one is a tough one. Our natural inclination is to look outside ourselves for the reason things aren’t working.  It’s a way of soothing the disappointment, worry, and anger we may be feeling.  It might be true that others didn’t hold up their end of the bargain and it may be true that events beyond our control created a bad situation.  But we can’t focus on that.  As Michael Hyatt points out, we don’t have control over others and we certainly can’t control events and situations. The only thing we can control is ourselves, particularly how we think and the actions we take as a result of that thinking.
  1. Mourn the Failure

To me, this is probably the most important aspect of processing problems and failures. Speaking for myself, I don’t always take the time to grieve about things not going the way I’d planned and things not at all working out even remotely close to the way I’d hoped. Without wallowing and getting stuck, we need to allow ourselves to think and feel our way through it.


  1. Learn from the Experience

I love Michael Hyatt’s take on this where he urges us to, instead of thinking about what went wrong which can lead down the path of blame, think about the problem and failure as what was missing. As Michael points out, thinking in terms of what was missing helps us look at our part in it–what we have control over–and starts us thinking about how we can improve next time around.


  1. Change Your Behavior

After processing problems and failures using this positive and constructive method, it becomes clearer how we can improve, including what we need to let go of and move on from.
  1. Enter Wholeheartedly into the Next Project

Following these steps will naturally cause our enthusiasm and energy to return. As we’re processing, grieving, and evaluating ourselves and the situation, we’ll naturally have new ideas and new inspirations.  Sometimes they’ll be things we’ve never thought of before–and that’s a very good thing!   Before we know it, our energy and enthusiasm will return.


The important thing is to allow yourself time to process and evaluate and feel. As Michael Hyatt shares about his experience, it can take weeks–sometimes longer–and it can’t be rushed.

You aren’t wasting time or losing ground by pausing to do these steps. In the long run, you’ll come out much stronger because of a deeper understanding and appreciation of yourself.

You can do it!

Your Friend and Pep Pal,


Quotes about Problems


Every day we all have problems. Usually they are minor annoyances that we quickly forget about.  Some, however, are tougher and can turn into rough patches.  Below are a few quotes I found that might help you think of problems in a new way.


If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.  ~Abraham Maslow

This quote reminds me to step outside my habitual way of responding to unexpected things that happen. It reminds me to pause, take a breathe, and keep my emotions at arms length as I evaluate what’s happened.

Stop looking for solutions to problems and start looking for the right path. — Andy Stanley

To me, this quote is advising us to stop looking at the door that’s closed, barred, and locked and instead start looking for the window that’s open.


Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions. — Edward R. Murrow

Sayings and slogans shouldn’t be used to distract ourselves or anesthetize us or make us feel that the problem will go away or be taken care of all on it’s own. Sayings and slogans can help us calm ourselves, give us hope in better days ahead, and to help us get our feet back underneath us so that we can take action and get through the rough patch.


I hope these quotes, and my explanations of why I shared them with you, have helped you. Which ones did you like?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

Keep these quotes handy–especially the ones that have resonated with you–and refer to them often when you need a boost.

Your Friend and Pep Pal,