Designing Home Landscapes – Tradition and Styles of Landscape Design

Informal & formal characteristics of landscape design reach back to the beginnings of civilizations in China and Egypt. Gardens developed gradually within China, beginning about 2000BC, with practice of the naturalistic and graceful principles that harmonized so well with the varied richness of its land. Botanists speculate that the north China plain at this time had trees, shrubs and herbaceous vegetation from almost every plant family. So, the initial gardens surrounding hunting lodges of the early Chinese emperors were nothing more than simple spontaneous enclosures around this lush fertility. As a result, what we now label “informal gardens” were created.

Meanwhile in Egypt, about 3000-2000BC, order and places of utility and beauty were being produced from the desert and the River Nile. Here, straight-edged and architectural standards attuned to the ancient Egyptian principles of ma’at – order, balance, harmony – were implemented.

Ancient Egyptian gardens were cool, shady havens of order. They were symmetrical and precisely planned around canals or square reservoirs filled with fish for eating and the sacred lotus. Fruit trees sensibly planted in straight rows that followed the lines of the canals also offered shade. While these gardens celebrated the harmonious and ordered lives of the Egyptians, they also originated the axial patterns, the straight lines, and the formality of all Mediterranean-inspired gardens.

Moving forward to more recent times, from the late 18th century and onwards, emphasis in design and gardening laid more on plants for their own sake than on the design itself. Exploration brought previously unknown plants into the lives of gardeners and designers while by the end of the 19th century technology advancement allowed designing and use of apparatus such as glasshouses and lawnmowers. The Victorian belief was that plants were made for man. Some commentators feel that at this point the methods and craft of gardening, as opposed to its design and passion, had reached a high point.

Despite the “chop and change” approach of the late 18th and then 19th centuries, the basic principles of formal landscape design are defined even today as:

  1. Man dominating his landscape with perfect symmetry;
  2. Geometry, balance and proportion are all part of this style;
  3. And, the axial plan – everything along a straight central line.

By tracing the evolution of several national styles it’s simple to see how these principles have historically been applied and how we might use them in our own garden designs. Through careful consideration, it’s also easy to see where and how the principles have been misused to the detriment of garden design.

Most formal-style western gardening has its origins in Persian / Mediterranean style gardens which were probably copied from the Egyptians. The Persian-style pleasure garden stretched eastward to India and westward to Spain with the spread of Islam.

The Romans also adapted Egyptian-style gardening, which spread throughout the Roman Empire. The first to make gardens in Britain were Romans and apparently the earliest monastery gardens were made in a simple, utilitarian but similar Roman style. Simple castle gardens, when there were any, followed the medieval monastic style as did the significantly more ample gardens of the Tudor monarchs.

Slowly but surely, new ideas and variations in architecture and art were picked up and adapted by the Italians from Roman designs and developed into a distinct and at times grandiose style of garden design. Beginning in the 14th century, this fashion moved steadily east and westward from Italy and by the 17th century had spread throughout most of Europe. The French and Dutch followed these trends with variations of their own and the most notable were, of course, for royalty. The most prominent French garden of the time was Versailles, fashioned by Andre Le Notre, gardener to Louis XIV. It followed that every European monarch of any self-importance had to have his or her own Versailles although admittedly in a reduced fashion.

The Dutch, like many others, imitated the French. However, in the course of copying their ideas, a distinctly Dutch style of cozy and elaborate gardens with canals for drainage emerged. The recently refurbished Het Loo Palace and Gardens, originally fashioned toward the end the 17th century for the Stadtholder-King William III and Queen Mary II in the woodlands of Apeldoorn, as well as many of the smaller Dutch gardens in and around Amsterdam, show these fashions.

A modern Dutch interpretation of a formal garden.

Design of the formal English gardens “borrowed” from the French and Dutch, with French designers working in England and English designers visiting France. The ascendancy of the Dutch William III and his English Queen Mary II in 1689, after their invitation to rule England, brought Dutch garden fashions to England full-force.

Hampton Court, although often identified with Henry VIII, was influenced just as much if not more by William and Mary. Although Mary never lived to see or make use of it, the recently restored Royal Privy Garden is a superior example of an English Dutch garden. The English National Trust also maintains a Dutch-style English garden at Westbury Court.

The basic principles of informal landscape design are a little more imprecise but can be characterized as:

  1. Simplicity and sensitivity to “organic” or natural appearing growth;
  2. Curves and gentle lines
  3. Naturalistic arrangements of planting.

A modern intimate spring garden based on informal design principles. The setting could be Paris, London, Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco or Boston.

Once more, although somewhat less precisely than with formal styles, we can trace the evolution of informal design principles through several national style developments. The Chinese, as population increased and cities became larger, kept for the most part to their original naturalistic ideas, but scaled them down to “Lake and Island Gardens,” nature in miniature. The Japanese, emulating the Chinese, developed very structured and controlled gardens of romantic naturalism.

The wonderful highly architectural and tightly controlled Italian Renaissance gardens were literally let go in the 17th century. They began to be overshadowed by areas of wild wood and the naturalistic grottoes that were all the rage.

By the middle of the 18th century, ideas were drifting into France from Asia where nothing in a garden was symmetrical, and from England where gardens were being remodeled on naturalistic lines. However, after the French Revolution, the style that can be termed Anglo-chinois hit France with force. No mingling of styles was too bizarre. The English style, le jardin anglais, has co-existed, for better or worse, with the French style ever since.

Meanwhile, in England, the Landscape Gardening Movement was gathering force and in about 1730, William Kent figuratively “leaped the fence.” The point of view was that there was neither beginning nor end to a garden; it was all to be idealized as an earthly paradise with flowing lines and a strong appreciation to what should appear to be the natural landscape. This technique was then overlaid with strong classical suggestions. As a result, a fairly simple formula was worked out to mold the English countryside to this ideal, the most famous of these gardens is Stourhead in Wiltshire.

Lancelot “Capability” Brown worked at Stourhead with Kent and began his career in 1751. The list of his works includes half of the great country houses of England, and he has been ostracized as a destroyer both during his time and now. Interestingly, Brown’s vision of the English parkland is now accepted as natural and right.

Brown’s successor Henry Repton “allowed” terraces and flowers to edge into the foreground from which Brown had banished them. His writings on design theory, The Art of Landscape Gardening (1807), are still among the best. However, in the before and after paintings Repton executed for prospective customers, Victorian romanticism appears to be creeping in.

William Robinson, along with the partnership of Gertrude Jekyll and architect Edwin Lutyens with their “not-so-grand” late 19th century approaches, have probably influenced more modern gardeners and garden designers than any other writers and practitioners of the garden arts. With the Jekyll-Robinson Tradition we see the epitome of the rustic English-cottage-garden-style and plantings in a naturalistic manner. With all that this era offered to practioners of the garden arts, love of plants and their almost compartmentalized use was the key of the Jekyll-Robinson philosophy.

How does this discussion of formal versus informal affect you, the homeowner or designer of residential landscapes? These explanations and their expansions will hopefully allow you to look closely and define the characterization of your property and your house style. You should begin to think about what kind of a scheme and basic principles might be suitable for your situation. Once you’ve chosen a scheme, stick to it! No scheme when correctly chosen is ever humdrum, but mixing schemes creates chaos. Remember, that for the most part gardening in the 19th century in gardening was a time of muddle. No matter how small property was, no opportunity for display was lost. In that era, like the present time, there was so much garden material to choose from that excess rather than thoughtful moderation was the rule.

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you need professional tree planting services for your house yard or garden, be sure to check out Portland TT with professional staff and years of experience.a-modern-custom-built-luxury-home-in-a-residential-neighborhood

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Yard and Garden Planning – Landscaping with Shrubs

green-sunny-and-tropical-garden-with-palm-treePlants which have foliage from the ground up are good for screen duty. Shrubs grouped closely can block a view or bring your attention to a focal point, and they provide privacy as well as warmth to your landscape. They can be used as a screen, as an hedges or for many other uses.

Many shrubs are suitable for planting on slopes and banks. They have invasive root systems which will root where they make contact with the ground, which prevents erosion. You should choose hardy shrubs for these conditions.

In order to provide privacy, hedges should be thick and full. The shearing that hedges require makes them difficult to maintain. Some hedges need to be clipped 2 to 4 times a year to maintain a manicured appearance. A hedge gains 1 to 2 inches of growth with every trimming. Trimming also prevents the bottom of the hedge from becoming exposed. The ones that are deciduous can be revived by cutting back at a few inches of the ground. Obviously, a shearing tolerant shrub is what you should select for an hedge. Clipping after late summer is not recommended. Depending on the plant you use, the spacing of individual plants will vary according to width requirements. To trim your hedges in a straight line, stretch a string along the hedge at the desired height, to serve as a guide.

Shrubs can keep passersby off your lawn and landscaping. However, in the front yard, your shrubs should not obstruct driver views of the street. A low shrubs along a walkway can prohibit pedestrians from walking on the grass. For an impassable fence, the use of thorned plants is generally successful. But consider the possibility of harm from them, they can be dangerous around children. Plan for future possibilities, consider the pruning, maintaining, and removing or planting a thorned shrub; barrier shrubs must not be invasive. Chose very carefully the species you will use, they can spread rapidly and be difficult to get rid of.

Big trees are popular ornamentals but may create a lawn problem by blocking the sunlight to grass and plants below. Planting shade tolerant shrubs adjacent to the trees will help the appearance, as well as protecting the tree trunk from injury. Grouping them ties them together visually and works best if the shrubs are close. Some shrubs thrive and bloom in shady areas. They may not need shade, but adapt to it more easily than other shrubs do. (Many shade tolerant shrubs grow better when given more light.)

To mask the foundation of a house or building, you do not have to plant in a solid row ; in fact, a couple of carefully selected and placed shrubs can be more efficient. Finding a shrub that will grow to fit the designated space isn’t hard with all the documentation available at your local nursery or from gardening books.

Many shrubs can be used as ground covers, particularly the low, ground hugging varieties. As usual, ground cover shrubs should suit the exposure and water requirements for the zone in which they are planted.

To make a screen, choose shrubs that will attain the desired height and width and have dense foliage. Reject the ones with a tendency to form large clumps of suckers. If your screen is getting bare at the bottom, cut down the plants to within a few inches of the ground to revitalise it. Screens need no trimming, and so look more natural than hedges and require less maintenance.

Are you interested in enhancing the appearance of your yard with the addition of trees and shrubs? Portland TT service specialists are here to help you do just that.

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Lead your website to success

As your Web site grows, you may feel you’re gradually losing control of what was once a small, easy-to-manage, easy-to-comprehend site.

At this point, your brand’s personality is at risk. That risk increases every day.

I compare brands with real people. Strong brands have strong personalities, like confident people. They’re known for their actions, attitude, taste, and quality. Some brands maintain a benign profile, such as M&M;’s. The candy adopts innocuous characters to communicate the brand personality. Others dare to push the boundaries of political correctness. Benetton is infamous for selling clothes through controversy. Regardless of the extremes, your brand must always reflect its own personality.

People you like, admire, even adore are people you believe have unique personalities. You like them for their humor, temperament, actions, opinions — you name it. You like them because you see who they are. They have personality traits that make them distinct from others.

What happens when a Web site grows? When not 1 person or even 5 are in charge of the site, but 10 or even 100? Sure, you have a Webmaster. Does that Webmaster control all content uploaded to the site? Does the Webmaster ensure the tone of each piece of copy, the style of each graphic, the arguments in each article reflect the brand’s core values? I doubt it! The result is a weak personality, ergo, a weak brand.

Just as distinctive people and our friends are indelible, unique Web sites are prominent in our minds. Sites that are distinctive or consistently reflect recognizable core values remain at the forefront of our everyday, operational consciousness. We read and understand them.

What happens when dozens of people are in charge of a site? Brand personality, which once may have shone through the copy, graphics, design, audio, tone, and so on, runs a significant risk of being diluted or drowned out altogether by a wash of non collaborative input. Visitors to the site will feel the brand becoming impotent, becoming a blend of the many hands that are spoiling the broth. The brand will whither before their very eyes until it lies gasping on a soulless Web page, stripped of opinions, without any punch and devoid of personality.

How does your growing site avoid blandness?

  • Control its management. Make sure only a chosen few uploading data. 
  • Develop a brand profile. Describe it as if it were a person. Tell the story of how your brand lives, what it eats, things it enjoys in life. Consider its gender. Is it a boy? A girl? Use this profile as your content contributors’ benchmark. This is the “who” people uploading data should write about. If you want help with your online branding process, you might want to contact Student Marketing Agency for a great work at a fair price. 
  • Develop copy guidelines. Identifying “branded” phrases your brand uses frequently. Define your brand’s tone of voice by examining the language it speaks, the expressions it uses. Use this benchmark to remind yourself “who” does the talking: your brand. 
  • An in-house copywriter, someone intimately acquainted with your brand, its voice, and its personality, should check every copy element. Same for graphics: Your art director should create a library of approved images that consistently convey your brand’s values.

These suggestions may sound simple and obvious, but they’re based on rigorous analysis and strict management. Without them, you cannot achieve brand consistency across your site.

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Teeth Whitening: What Is Teeth Whitening?


A teeth whitening process is a systematic procedure through which an individual’s teeth are provided with wholesome cleansing. We all possess teeth which need to be looked after and like all other routine hygiene procedures, teeth whitening is also considered to be important and imperative part of our daily lives. In order to understand the benefits and the aftereffects of sparkling white teeth, let us first understand the problem and then analyze a suitable solution.

Teeth Whitening And Stains

We all have an unhealthy habit which we indulge in on a daily basis. Well, I am referring to our daily habit of drinking tea, coffee, colas and related, aerated drinks. If you thought that such drinks have an adverse affect on your digestive system only, then you need to think twice, for the first point of contact for any food item is the mouth. Hence, your teeth are at a grave risk of getting stained in the act. Besides loosing their original color, your teeth may also be running the risk of getting infected by germicides. The germicides are passed on by colas and aerated drinks. If you do not cleanse your teeth on a regular basis, you are bound to suffer from the wrath of cavities on a regular basis.

Plaque Tartar And Poor Gums

 Have you ever wondered why your teeth often get stained and suffer from various diseases while your neighbor is always proud of his/her crowning glory? Well, the answer is fairly simple. Unless and until you cleanse your teeth on a regular basis, you cannot hope to remove the unwanted layer of plaque buildup. Likewise, you can also develop a fine layer of tartar, which if neglected, can easily grow and become irksome. Last but not the least, a simple toothpaste and toothbrush combination cannot possibly combat tartar and plaque buildup and it is also not completely competent to safeguard your gums from unnecessary decay. 

Home Teeth Whitening-The Ultimate Solution

Home teeth whitening, through gels, strips and cleansing swabs, is the ultimate solution to all your oral health drawbacks. May it be plaque, tartar, poor gums, stains and tooth aches, home teeth whitening solutions are often the best, the cheapest and the most effective means of maintaining your oral hygiene.

If you want to know more about teeth whitening, click here and discover the best ways to keep your teeth shining white.



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Keep a Career Headed in the Right Direction

Make Sure to Learn Something New Every Day

It just might be that because of the economy a lot of employees are looking at their career path through a whole different set of eyes. Instead of thinking about how to get ahead, they’re just concerned with how to hang on.

However, even when times are tough it is important to keep an eye on the future when it comes to a career. After all, the labor market won’t always be like this. And proactivity is generally considered a good quality to find in employees. That’s why it is important for employees to consider what they can do to keep themselves on the right career path, even if their pace has slowed down a bit.

The Benefit of Do-it-Yourself Education

Naturally, what someone learns and how will depend on individual choice. However, one of the best methods of learning is through self education. Taking the initiative and time to brush up on the latest business, market and industry trends shows self-discipline and motivation.

Typically that means doing research and reading. What someone reads will depend on their personal interests and career aspirations. Topics like general business news, industry publications, and trade magazines help to keep employees on top of what is happening in the world of business and how it might affect their industry or employer.

Secondly, reading self-improvement, career-related and business books can also go far in shaping a career and the individual. Learning new techniques or understanding how others have found ways to work through issues is beneficial in providing employees with new tools that can help them be successful.

Finally, learn by teaching others. Sometimes when employees take the time to share their information and knowledge they can gain insight into themselves. Others may show them another angle or point out faulty thinking.

Taking the Time to Learn from Others

Since most people have a limit on their ability to teach themselves it makes sense to take advantage of what others have to offer. Generally this comes through listening and observation.

First, start by believing that everyone has something to offer. Take every opportunity to listen with an open mind. Even if an employee later on decides that the information is invalid, it is important to give it full consideration.

Next, participate. The only way to learn new things is to become involved. That may mean attending a meeting in another department to see how they do it. Or joining a cross-functional team working on a company-wide project where employees can benefit from understanding the impact of other departments on the business operations. Employees can participate by joining professional associations either related to their specfic industry (i.e. insurance) or to their particular career (i.e. accountant). Or consider finding a mentor who can offer coaching and guidance.

Finally, it is important to observe. What are other people doing that works or doesn’t work? Who are the most admired employees in the company and why? One of the best ways to advance a career is to follow those who are already successful.

What it comes down to is that the best way to keep a career going in the right direction is to never give up. That means learning something new everyday.

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Self Awareness for Life Balance

Manage Time & Learn to Say No Positively

There are five life skills that are important tools in keeping work/life balance. This article focuses on three of those skills: Self Awareness, Setting Boundaries, and Time Management. Positive Thinking for Life Balance described the remaining two skills of Positive Thinking and Using your Unique Strengths.

Self Awareness

Self awareness is the skill of being able to watch yourself as if from a distance while simultaneously carrying on your normal daily activities and interactions. Did you ever think back about an interaction you had with someone and feel regret at the words or tone you used? Perhaps you entered that interaction with some overhead, such as an earlier situation still in mind affecting your interaction.

Self awareness will help you prevent this situation by enabling you to correct your behavior in real time.

Many of our routine behaviors and reactions to outside events and circumstances result – almost automatically – from fundamental beliefs we hold about the topic or situation. These beliefs are brought forward from childhood, carrying the imprint of parents, teachers, religious leaders, and other influences.

Building greater skill in self awareness will help you identify the source of your subconscious responses, allowing you to examine and choose a reaction based on your adult knowledge and experience.

Set and Enforce Boundaries

A lack of skill and ability to set and enforce boundaries is often a source of life imbalance. Helpful people are especially susceptible to boundary violations because they have difficulty saying no.

Self Awareness to Identify Boundaries

There are two important steps to master. The first is to identify important boundaries using self awareness.To identify your own personal important boundaries be aware of how you feel, especially when asked to do something, go somewhere, or join something.

When you feel very uncomfortable about a situation it is often because a boundary is being violated or is in danger of being violated. Reflect on past situations where you’ve been very uncomfortable, perhaps even resentful. These are potential boundary situations.

Enforcing Boundaries

Once a boundary is known, the second step is enforcement. Enforcing a boundary uses the art of saying no. The difficulty most people have with saying no is a reluctance to disappoint or offend. However, agreeing to do something under these circumstances often leads to resentment and inner anger.

It is possible to say no in a positive and helpful way, avoiding offending or disappointing others while feeling good about oneself.

William Ury, in The Power of a Positive No, suggests a three-part process for saying no.

  1. First, examine your reason for saying no, linking it to a value that would be affected by the request.
  2. Second, construct a no response that is respectful but still firm and informs the requesting person of the value you feel you must honor. For example, “I’m so sorry, but that conflicts with my son’s soccer game, and attending his activities is very important to me.”
  3. Third, suggest an alternative, such as “However, I could attend the next week if you’d provide a summary of what I missed this week.”

Time Management

Every person has 24 hours a day to accomplish their goals and aspirations. Time Management might better be described as Time Utilization. How you decide to utilize your 24 hours will determine your success in accomplishing your goals and your satisfaction with your work/life balance.

Skill at time utilization begins with awareness. To assure you understand where you’re spending your time, keep a time utilization journal for a week or two. Note your daily activities, accounting for all 24 hours, using categories representing the major activities of your life, such as work, sleep, parenting, food shopping and preparation, play, personal, TV/Entertainment, etc.

At the end of the week add up the hours in each category. Are you utilizing your time in ways that promote your goals and aspirations and keep life balanced?

Five Skills for Life Balance

Mastering the three skills described here, Self Awareness, Setting Boundaries, and Time Management, when combined with Positive Thinking and Using Your Strengths will support your journey toward a balanced life.

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What is Strength, More Than Special Abilities?

Personal Strength Development Enhances Personal Growth

One of the most practical results of positive psychology’s research studies into human well-being has been the findings about personal strengths.

Termed “signature strengths” by positive psychologists, the use of personal strengths is linked to many aspects of well-being, such as happiness, creativity, and productivity.

What Is Strength?

A personal strength, or signature strength, is a special ability or skill with which one excels. Alex Linley, noted positive psychologist and author of Average to A+, describes a personal strength as “a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development, and performance.”

A personal strength is unique in that it has apparently been pre-wired into the neural network. It can be recognized as something a person has been very good at since early childhood. People can fail to recognize a personal strength as such because it is an integral part of who they are. Since it comes easily to them and has been with them since childhood, personal strengths are often taken for granted, discounted as nothing special, unique, or valuable.

Positive psychologists regard personal strengths as a powerful human asset. According to Linley, “using strengths more is associated with significantly higher levels of happiness, well-being, and fulfillment, as well as a greater degree of authenticity and personal integration.”

Personal Strength Test

It is relatively easy to identify one’s personal strengths by filling out the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire. Though not actually a strength test, this free questionnaire examines responses to questions in twenty-four areas of potential personal strength. The report, which is generated immediately, highlights the top five or six as signature strengths.

Though this questionnaire has been taken by over one million people across many cultures, and with high validity, one should always verify the signature strengths for themselves by reviewing them with close friends and family.

Strength Training for Personal Growth

Although personal strengths can’t be learned, they can be improved. As with muscle strength training, personal strength training involves frequent use of these special skills and abilities. Whereas strength training for muscles often involves some discomfort—no pain, no gain—expanding one’s use of personal strengths brings greater happiness and satisfaction.

One of positive psychology’s recommended happiness-increasing exercises is to regularly find ways to use personal strengths in brand new ways.

Personal Growth Using Strengths

A personal strength is a special skill, ability, or way of thinking that is somehow hard-wired into a person. Recognizing and fully utilizing one’s personal strengths can lead to greater happiness, fulfillment, and enhanced performance. The free VIA Questionnaire from the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology web site is an easy way to identify one’s personal strengths.

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Find Life Purpose in a Personal Development Plan

Self Growth Program Includes the Purposeful, Driven Life

Common among all people is the drive to find life purpose. Every personal development plan should include activities designed to uncover and clarify life purpose.

The purpose driven life is worth seeking, as research studies show that those with meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, more productive, healthier, and live longer than those whose lives lack purpose (A Primer in Positive Psychology, Oxford Press, 2006).

For more information about personal growth programs and an example personal development plan, read Personal Development Program – Building Awareness.

Finding Life Purpose

There are many approaches to finding life purpose. All approaches, however, involve serious and honest self reflection and assessment. Life purpose is truly an inside job, a do-it-yourself project of utmost importance to life happiness.

The seeker of purpose in life will want to begin with what is known, asking and reflecting on the question, “What is my life purpose?” This reflection can include a meditation session or the conscious exercise of writing responses to the question. This online Meaning in Life Questionnaire may also be a helpful self-assessment.

What is Life Purpose?

In approaching the question of purpose in life, the personal growth planner may want to take a step back to consider the qualities or characteristics of life purpose. Though many people focus on social or employment activities when thinking of purpose, greater clarity will arise from understanding that life purpose is composed of a set of personal qualities that characterize a person at her best.

These qualities, or states of being, are present and in the forefront of a person fulfilling life purpose. Life purpose is primarily about whom a person is being while involved in life activities; activities that foster and support the person in utilizing the qualities that characterize purpose.

Life Purpose is Being Not Doing

States of being are the qualities one is displaying or feeling while engaged in activities. States of being are closely aligned with values and characteristics.

Examples are generosity, compassion, adventurous, curiosity, helpfulness, competitive, which are just a few of the hundreds of possible descriptors.

The Fail-safe Indicator of Life Purpose

Though life purpose is different for every person, there is one fail-safe indicator that everyone can depend upon to signal they are aligned with purpose. That indicator is positive emotion, the positive feelings one has when living a purposeful life.

Positive emotions always accompany life purpose. So self awareness of emotions is an important requirement for the personal development advocate seeking to find life purpose.

How to Practice Awareness

Self awareness is an important asset and skill for the personal development planner. Self awareness is the ability to observe oneself while carrying on normal daily activities. The self observation should include recognition of the emotions being felt, the qualities of personality being displayed, and the activities undertaken.

For example, when talking with a friend who is whining and complaining about her job, one might observe some tension and annoyance, some unspoken criticisms and advice, along with a spoken mild acknowledgment and half-hearted support one often gives when trying to move the conversation on to other topics.

Activities and Exercises for Finding Life Purpose

Though the core of life purpose is composed of qualities or characteristics of being, people experience meaning and purpose in life through activities. The following exercises are designed to provide insight into the activities currently well-aligned with purpose which will help identify the characteristics or qualities that comprise purpose.

  • Qualities Admired in Others – Think of two people you greatly admire. What qualities of these people do you admire? These same qualities are aspects of your life purpose.
  • Activities Bringing Joy – What activities bring you joy? Reflect on the qualities of personality you’re displaying while in these activities. These are components of your life purpose.
  • Lottery Winner – Imagine you won a huge lottery one year ago and have bought everything you ever wanted. Now, with more money than you’ll ever be able to spend, consider what you’ll do with the rest of your life. What qualities are you displaying when that occurs?
  • Writing Exercise – Finish this sentence: “My life purpose is…” Repeat this over and over until reaching a moment of great clarity, perhaps accompanied by strong emotions.

Putting Life Purpose in a Personal Development Plan

With greater clarity around life purpose, the personal growth planner will work to incorporate aspects of life purpose into daily activities. This may involve changing activities, modifying them, or adopting a different perspective toward existing life activities.

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Mindfulness Training for Personal Awareness

Personal Growth with Jon Kabat-Zinn Emotional and Self Awareness

An important skill for the personal growth enthusiast is the ability to self regulate thinking and behaviors using personal and emotional awareness and mindfulness. Personal growth can be a satisfying and fulfilling goal when pursued as part of a conscious plan of self improvement.

For the reader following the example personal development plan of Personal Development Program –Building Awareness, this article relates to week #6, self awareness.

Mindfulness Self Awareness

Self awareness is one aspect of mindfulness, which stems from the Buddhism practice of conscious self awareness and acceptance. In Western culture, mindfulness is often ascribed to Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose bestselling book, Wherever You Go There You Are, popularized the processes of becoming personally and emotionally self aware.

Think of self awareness as a feedback system, a way of seeing your behaviors and even your thoughts from the perspective of another, but with immediate feedback. If you’ve ever experienced regret at something you did or said, or even a thought process you held, later wishing you had thought, said, or did something differently, you’ll recognize the immediate benefit of self awareness and mindfulness.

Rather than attempting to reverse the effects of something that has already occurred, self awareness allows for self regulation – correcting the thoughts, words, or deeds before they are completed.

To begin being more self aware, picture a small friend, perhaps your conscience — think Jiminy Cricket — sitting on your shoulder, silently and invisibly whispering corrections whenever your thoughts, words, or behaviors stray from those that best serve whom you wish to be.

If you have a personal development vision — a goal for growth of skills, abilities, and consciousness — use this model of self awareness to continuously regulate your thoughts, words, and behaviors, keeping them aligned with the vision.

Emotional Awareness

A person’s emotions are fail-safe indicators of alignment with the authentic self and life purpose. Emotional awareness helps you self-regulate thoughts, words, and behaviors to keep them aligned not only with your plans, but also with the true you, your authentic self.

Mindfulness Training

In his best selling book, Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn suggests engaging mindfulness training by reminding yourself to shift from doing to being. He suggests watching the present moment, carefully observing it in detail without attempting to evaluate or change it.

Kabat-Zinn advises, “The easiest way to relax is to stop trying to make things different. Struggle comes from not accepting what is present.”

Additional Benefits of Mindfulness Training

Training yourself to be more mindful, with greater emotional and self awareness, will help you stay on track with your self improvement and personal growth goals.

According to Jenny Stamos Kovacs, writing on WebMD in “Blissing Out: 10 Relaxation Techniques To Reduce Stress On-the-Spot,” a valuable additional benefit is that mindfulness practices are found to be effective techniques in reducing stress and anxiety.

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How to Make Successful Changes in Your Life

Transitions to New Jobs, Homes, Partners Can be Stress-free

Follow these simple guidelines and take charge of your change.

Breathe Deeply into Your Change

When an upcoming change creates anxiety for you, breathing and clear thinking go hand in hand out the door, and the anxiety cycle begins spinning with a vengeance. So don’t tighten up. Take 3 slow, long, deep belly breaths while relaxing into your desired change – you should see or feel your belly moving up and down. This means oxygen is getting to the bottom of your lungs, creating ease. If you begin to feel lightheaded, go back to your normal breathing immediately. Take another deep belly breath when you feel anxiety again. Humans often forget to breath deeply; when you nourish your body with oxygen, the world looks much better.

Meditate and Transition Smoothly

To increase the clarifying power of deep belly breathing, meditate quietly on your breath. Even a few seconds of meditation can have a profound effect. When you find your mind wandering back into thought, which it will, just return focus to your breath going in and out. It doesn’t take long to feel yourself back in your body and able to make functional decisions. Your change will proceed more smoothly the more you meditate. Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said that he meditated for an hour every day and when he was really busy, he meditated for two hours. You can meditate while driving, walking, sitting in boring meetings and washing dishes, and especially when drifting off to sleep. And remember to listen carefully to what emerges from your meditation. This will help you to make your highest choices.

Now Begin with Your Successful End in Mind (Stephen Covey)

Using your imagination, the most powerful change tool you have, will speed you on your way to a remarkable outcome. Imagine that the change you choose has already happened, so there’s nothing left to do – relax. Breathe, and imagine with every sense you possess that you’re in the midst of your successful new situation. Everything has turned out according to your heart’s desire, and you’re enjoying the feeling immensely. The enjoyment is integral to this process. What and who do you see around you? Who and what do you hear? What scents do you smell? What textures do you feel? What do you taste? Do you truly love what you’ve imagined? When you do, write it all down in detail. Not only is this lots of fun and satisfying to your soul — it’s the best way to bring your choices into being. Pablo Picasso said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” If you want your reality to be lovely, create it with love.

Think Success, Not Catastrophe

When on the verge of change, you may find that subconscious fears from childhood arise and negative self-talk increases. “Who do I think I am?” “I won’t be able to do that.” “I’m not smart enough to pull this off.” Have faith. Return to your meditation and imagination, regain your enthusiasm, and see the fear for what it is – just an old thought that you have allowed to sabotage you for too long. Write the fears down, and then rewrite them into their positive opposites. “I’m not smart” becomes “I’m smart enough to have this, and I have friends to help me.” Use your heart again on this one.

Give Change to Yourself Like it’s a Present

Remember, you have more power than you have given yourself credit for in the past. Use these techniques to support yourself now and in the future, and you’ll change your life in ways you’ve only begun to imagine.

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