December 9, 2014

Gratitude for the "Magic Moments"

I can't believe that I haven't blogged since Thanksgiving!! I just wanted to say, wherever you may be, and whatever you may be doing, I am so grateful that you had a chance to stop by here today!

(I'm sorry it's been so long since I last posted--life has been a rollercoaster this semester, but I am doing my best juggling everything. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who left comments on the last few posts. Your support means the world to me! Also, we are getting really close to the 100th ready for something exciting! But let's get into the actual interesting part of this post, shall we?)

What are you thankful for today? Your families, friends, lives? These are wonderful things to be grateful for, and I just wanted to talk a little bit about magic moments.

What do you consider to be a magic moment? Well, to me an example would be grabbing lunch with somebody that I haven't seen in a while. Sometimes, it is so easy to get caught up on focusing on the big things in life that we forget the little things that actually matter a whole lot too. We care a lot about the special people we've been blessed with--of course we do!--but I guess you can say that "magic moments" are the little things we encounter that make each day special and unique.

Did you know that writing down your blessings increases happiness, productivity, and health?

Well, in the spirit of the holiday spirit, I've developed a sort of gratitude journal template for you all, to cherish the moments and immortalize the memories. Feel free to use it in a sort of to help keep track of what you're grateful for each day, or to modify it to work with any current journaling habits. I will be using this template for two weeks to see how it goes (finding time to journal can be a bit rough with finals approaching, but that means that it'll help me more than ever if I can make that time), if you guys would like to join me in a little gratitude reflection adventure.

One interesting event that occurred today:

Two people I am thinking about today:

Three random acts of kindness I witnessed or performed:

Two things I learned today:

One thing I can do for a better tomorrow:

Other reflections/notes:
What do you think of this journaling idea? Do you keep a journal? What do you think is another way we can keep track of these magic moments? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Smile on,
Riley XO

November 5, 2014

Society's Serious Misconception of Pride

Good morning, everybody! Hope everything has been going well for you so far. I actually found this post in some old drafts and thought it'd be a good one to finish for today. In relation to the context I give about my life, it's a little bit outdated, but it is definitely one of those that I really want to finish. I hope you like it!


I don't know if any of you guys have seen my vlog channel (there's some embarrassing and what I like to believe is funny/entertaining stuff on there), but recently I started doing a 365-Day Bible Reading Plan, which is the highlight of the vlog below:

A special friend and I have started a Bible Reading Journal together to hold each other accountable and to also keep track of our discussions. Reading the Bible has become a part of my routine that I've started looking forward to a lot and I've been getting so much out of meditating on God's word. So if you've thought about reading the whole Bible but never got around to doing so, please check out the video above for a solid reading plan that's been keeping me on track so far!

Anyhow, my friend and I read a section in Isaiah that I just haven't been able to get out of my mind and heart:
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isaiah 5:20-21, New King James Version)
It's easy to look at these words and think, "Okay, this is sort of melodramatic and Bible-sounding" and go on reading, but if that was mild, the rest of that night's reading took a sharp turn for shocking intensity.

God says to Isaiah the prophet: "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed" (Isaiah 6:9-10).

Uhhhh, God say what?

This was something that we wrestled with because it shows a side of God that is ostensibly contradictory to what we know about him. But after a bit of research, we see that it's basically a prophecy that foreshadows what'll happen to the prideful.

I feel like this can often conflict with what we're taught in society these days. Society tells us to have pride in our work, pride in our actions, pride in our nation, pride in our kids, pride in our achievements. Especially while in college, as there is so much competition among peers, I've found myself taking pride in my own accomplishments, too.

But, pride is blinding.

If you are proud in your work, how will you be humble enough to try to improve? If you're proud in your achievements, what is truly the motivation behind your actions? If you're prideful in your nation, how do you know if problems are arising, or not being solved?

Pride makes our hearts dull. It closes our ears to that conscience, and shuts our eyes against what is right.

Swallowing that pride is what we need to do before we can truly wise and discerning.

There should be a distinction between pride and love. You can show love through what you do, and you can love doing what you do. 

When I contrast these two things, love is giving your talents to share with others, whereas pride is holding your talents for yourself. Love is everything that pride isn't: patient, kind, pure. Pride is blindness.

Have you ever been in an argument where you've been in the wrong? If you apologized, why did you? (And if you didn't apologize, why didn't you? Haha.) When you apologize, it is admitting that you did something wrong. Really, you're putting your pride aside because you are deciding that your relationship is more important. In a way, when you express apology and/or forgiveness, you're choosing love over pride.

So if you're harboring resentment against somebody, or if there is any tension, think about the causes. Has another person seriously harmed you. Is pride too big for forgiveness?

And I suppose that we can also consider our motivations for doing what we do. Is it to share our talents with others, or to only uplift ourselves? When we are prideful, what else in life are we missing?

Just a bit of food for thought for this week. Please let me know all your reactions and insights in the comments below!

Smile on,
-Riley XO

October 31, 2014

The Little Things Matter

Happy Halloween, everyone! What plans do you have for this weekend? I bet it's exciting! Let me know what you're up to in the comments below!

With my hectic college schedule this semester, it doesn't look like I'll be able to write consistently for Tuesday mornings, but I will do my best to at least keep posts coming weekly! I hope you all understand!

As of late, I've been so stressed out about life! Goodness, I don't even know what my deal has been. Sometimes, you just hit a wall and it can take a lot of motivation to keep it going, you know? Well, the past weekend was such a big challenge for me emotionally, but this morning, something about the day just really brightened my mood.

This is how I feel on the inside today. I wonder if that pumpkin spice latte had anything to do with it...
Which goes to say how valuable little things are. There was something that really helped me out--but it was so subtle that I'm not even sure what it was! Being a psychology major, I've been learning about how some subtle things can influence people's mood. On nice, sunny days, people are more likely to report a higher level of satisfaction in their lives. When it's rainy, though, people's self-evaluation of their lives are lower. (But when they make note of the weather before considering their own lives, their ratings are uninfluenced by the weather.)

Also, it's been found that people who bite a pencil to simulate a smile are happier than those who are glaring or frowning.

What a difference those little 26 muscles make!

I think that especially when you're young, it's so easy to get caught up in a lot of anxiety and stress because there is so much that is not set in stone. But, in the grand scheme of things, there's no use in worrying. Usually, things will work out on their own or you end up finding a way through.

Instead of thinking about the big things and worrying, learn to appreciate the little things and you can't go wrong! Try lifting your chin up and smiling even if you don't feel like doing it--I promise you'll have a good day if you do!

Smile on,
-Riley XO

October 23, 2014

TBC's Birthday Blog Party!

Hello everybody,

So I am part of a blogging community called Teenage Blogger Central (TBC), and we just celebrated the community's anniversary on Oct. 20 (sorry for being a bit belated--midterms X_X)!

 photo tbcbirthday_zpsca10e318.png

This is just a fun, quick little tag to do for the blog party. I enjoy doing tags because it's an easy way for me to connect with you guys by giving you glimpses of my history.

  1. What made you decide to take up blogging, and what inspires you to write 'til today? As some of you may already know, I started blogging all the way back in the middle school days. I did it because I enjoyed writing and wanted to connect with other people over the Internet. Now, I continue to write because I want to make a difference in individual people's lives, feel inspired, and share inspiration. 
  2. How did you find and register on TBC? Did you find it helpful and worth recommending to others? I found TBC about a year ago (can you believe it's been this long?) literally by Googling "Teenage Blogger Community" and registered because I wanted to be in a community for bloggers. I feel like teenage bloggers can at times have a bad reputation for being shallow, but I've found that a lot of TBC's members are inspiring, intellectual, and creative people--so, if you're a teenager and also happen to be a blogger, please join our community :)
  3. What awesome blogs have you found through TBC? I really love Envy's blog and Catalina's blog. Envy is an awesome blogger, and I think that what she writes is so genuine that it touches my heart whenever I read her blog. Check out her beautiful words and story by visiting Picking up the Pieces. Catalina's blog is so cool too! She started a series a while ago where she writes letters every week to somebody (a person--in her life, history, or fiction--of her choice), which I think is a really cool idea. And I also love the way she can just say what she wants to say. She has a huge variety of things on there, so please check out her blog too at The Emo Wolverine Writes.
  4. What do you like best about connecting with other bloggers that are your age? I love connecting with other bloggers that are in a similar age group because we're usually going through a lot of the same things. There's just kind of this bond of empathy when I read about others' trials and triumphs because I can often relate!
  5. What do you hope to achieve through your blog? Honestly, I think that if my words are able to encourage and inspire at least one person who reads Smiles No Matter, this blog's purpose will have been fulfilled. 
  6. How do you say "Happy Birthday Teenage Blogger Central!" in your language? Through virtual hugs everywhere! *hug* 
I also like giving my friends inspirational quotes for their birthdays, so here is one for you all today :)
That's all for today! Hope you are having a great week! 

Smile on,
Riley XO

P.S. Who else has been loving Taylor Swift's new album??

October 17, 2014

What it Means to Live in The Now

Good morning, everyone! I am so sorry for being MIA for quite a while--I got swamped with starting a new job and a wave of midterms in literally every class I had (I even had quizzes in my labs and recitations!). Pretty much just adjusting to a crazy schedule and also dealing with being sick and whatnot. How have you been lately? Hope you've been taking care of yourself and finding the blessings of every day!

Anyhow, while I was being super busy during the past weeks, I started thinking about how I live my life.

Has anyone ever asked you the question, "What would you do if today was your last day?" or something along those lines? How differently would you live your life if you knew when you were going to die?

Does it change your perspective? In some ways, it could. It kind of makes you appreciate life more, doesn't it? Well, my argument is going to take on a different perspective today: Why should dying make us appreciate things more?

Don't we know that life is a blessing? There is a tragic tone about dying young, but in all reality, wasn't it better that a person had the chances to experience the beauty of this world--tasting, seeing, running, loving--than never having the chance, ever? 

We are living in a society where things are becoming permanent. The little thoughts that you post on Facebook or Twitter--those are there forever. Technology is also making things more readily accessible to us. If you get a rip in your jacket, you don't have to worry about finding a patch and sewing it on. On the contrary, these days, it's probably easier to go buy an entirely new jacket. When have we had to worry about sustenance? How hard is it to get food? These days, you can even order food without leaving your house! 

Perhaps that's why it's so scary to think about death. There are so many things in our life that are handed to us, that make us feel permanent and secure--carefree. But the definition of life itself is the opposite of this. Life on this earth is temporary. And really, the best parts of life aren't what they show in the magazines or TV. Life isn't about who has the best beach body, who owns the most products from Michael Kors, what car so-and-so drives, or even how talented such-and-such is. It's not how much you'll be making in 20 years, or 10 years, or even 5 years. It's fun to think and talk about such ideas, but if that's all your life consists of, you may be missing the mark.

The best parts of life include: learning new ideas, sharing laughter with a loved one, feeling relieved that your mom's got your back no matter what, experiencing tragedy and triumph, knowing that he loves you back, the assurance that God is there, service to fellow men and women. Each of these is experienced in the now. It doesn't take any planning, experience, or really even skills.

When we realize this--and realize that these cherished parts come every day--how could the thought of dying tomorrow influence the gratitude we have or the choices we make when it really doesn't matter?

Instead of anticipating the future, focus on the now. The only thing that's constant about the now is that it's always changing. And that's what makes life so beautiful. 

Smile on,
-Riley XO

September 16, 2014

Spending Time Alone

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I feel like it's been ages since I last wrote to you. There have just been a lot of exciting things going on in my life, which I will probably share with you sometime in the future. Have you ever had one of those weeks? Let me know in the comments!

Today, I wanted to discuss something that has been on my heart and that is that, there is a lot of value in spending time with other people.

My friends may or may not agree, but I would personally consider myself to be introverted. I usually recharge by being on my own, am practically silent in new crowds, and prefer to listen to others' stories over sharing mine--but even I get caught up texting people all the time, running here and there to meet with different people, doing my best to make good first impressions... Living on a college campus kind of forces you to be extroverted to some extent. But as I thought about it further, I began to notice a sense of fear--anxiety--growing inside of me. This fear is of being alone. 

It's kind of scary to admit your own fears over the Internet, but yes. I've grown to be afraid of being alone. Of sitting alone at the dining hall for dinner, of standing in an elevator without looking like I have something to do or someone to text, of going to a community service event that nobody else will show up to, etc. Whatever it is, it's like there's this pressure to be with somebody all the time. 

Loneliness, especially among my generation, is starting to look like a really bad thing. A thing that must be avoided at all times, or else everybody will think of you as some sort of social misfit. 

What ever happened to solidarity? Meditation? 

Consider the Transcendentalists, Romantics, Jesuits, Monks! These guys would go on lone retreats to mountains, lakes, forests, deserts, and temples just to meditate, to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Being alone isn't something so bad--there are some true pleasures of being alone. 

You start realizing the beauty in everything. In nature, in your space, in other people, and (perhaps most importantly) in yourself. 

Enjoy spending some time resting and relaxing, even if it happens to only be for a couple minutes. Love yourself a bit! 

What are some benefits you see in spending time alone? Please do share in the comments!

Smile on,
-Riley XO

September 9, 2014

The 7 Real Wonders of the World

Happy Tuesday, everybody! Life has still been full of changes this time of year but whether you're feeling overwhelmed or relaxed, remember to appreciate all the blessings you have in your life!

Remember, you don't have to go anywhere incredibly extraordinary or spectacular to experience the true brilliance of life. In fact, you can take a bit of time to appreciate seven wonders of the world right now!

Louise Hay
That is all I really have today; I just really found this graphic to be inspiring and humbling. Hope your week is full of gratitude, love, and hope.

Smile on,
-Riley XO

September 2, 2014

Health in College Part 4: Exercise

Morning! Hope you had a fun time last week! I had my first week of school, so life has been busy and good to say the least.

For me, health--while not crucial--definitely helps contribute to happiness, so that's why we are continuing today with the fourth part of our series Health in College. We've talked about body image, sleep, and diet. As you may have guessed, I am a big fan of exercise--being active and moving around is a hobby that I enjoy so much!

Why is exercise so important? Well, it improves circulation and breathing, it provides stress release, it challenges the mind in a different way, it keeps your body strong, and it's fun! These are some of my favorite reasons to exercise, but even more can be found by clicking here.

Despite all of these benefits, researchers have found that younger generations aren't as strong or active as previous ones despite the fact that workouts are more accessible than ever. (There are millions of workouts on YouTube that you could do in your own home!)

I'm actually working in a health psychology lab now and wanted to share a possible recent finding. Researchers have found that if they compensate people for exercising with a certain amount of money, those people were more likely to continue exercising far into the future even after they are no longer paid. There are multiple hypotheses as to why this occurs, but one of the top ideas is that it is because while they are being paid, people realize that they are physically able to work out. What? That's a little weird. Please allow me to go further into depth.

Society seems to think of fitness as a hardcore thing. Like, you need to be a dedicated bodybuilder or athlete in order to frequent the gym. We hear about High Intensity Interval Training and Crossfit, and when you visit any fitness center of sorts, you see people in expensive workout clothes, sweating buckets, and benching at the very least seventy pounds or running ten miles. It's a lot to take in as a student, who just wants to scrape by with a C in the first hard semester of Calculus.

But that's where our perception can deceive us.

Exercise can be performed in a huge variety of ways, with a huge amount of varying commitments and intensities. You don't really even have to go to the gym in order to get good exercise--a brisk walk in the morning before lunch is still getting some circulation flow.

And although running a mile sounds intimidating at first, it really isn't that much when you realize that it's only ten minutes of very slow jogging.

So, when people try going to the gym for about two or three weeks just so they can get paid by the psychology researcher, they realize how capable they actually are of doing what is good for their bodies and then the habit sticks.

Unfortunately, I can't pay all of you $1 for every time you go work out to help motivate you for a month, but I hope that this post has helped you see that you don't have to be the "gym type" to be healthy.
Smile on,
-Riley XO

August 26, 2014

Health in College Part 3: Nutrition

Good morning! It has been a while, but last semester I started a mini-series called Health in College. I had completed two posts, one on body image and one on sleep, before I realized that it was almost the end of the school year and that the things I had to share wouldn't be as applicable! So to make things come out in a more timely manner, I put the mini-series on hold. Since we are on the verge of the end of summer and a lot of people are starting to make plans about moving back to school, it is time to reopen the series! So I bring you the third part, which will be all about nutrition!

Before we dive into today's post, I just wanted to throw in a quick recommendation for you to add something to your browser: Tab for a Cause. One of my Facebook friends suggested me to add it to Chrome, and basically it donates a cent to a charity every time you open a tab. These charities help supply education, water, and medical help to third-world countries, promote human rights, and help the environment. One cent doesn't sound like much, but I personally open up a lot of tabs throughout the day, and if everybody added this app it could make a big difference! If you are interested in adding Tab for a Cause to your browser or just learning more about it, please follow this link.

I am so excited for this part of the series because today we get to talk about one of my favorite topics in the whole wide world: FOOD!!!
School can be stressful, and when things get stressful, it is easy to fall into the habit of some sort of unhealthy eating habit--whether you tend to over-eat or under-eat. I personally tend to stress eat, so it can be a pretty rough day when I'm studying a ton and have my hand in a bag of chips the entire time. Do any of you guys have any bad habits too? If so, this is the post for you!

Nutrition is another thing that interests me (although not nearly as much as sleep does!). Your body is a complex system full of different chemicals, and what you eat affects the balance of chemicals. The balance of these chemicals in turn affect your metabolism, your energy levels, your cognitive abilities, and overall health. Kind of weird to think about it that way, no?

Anyhow, it's pretty easy to get caught up in unhealthy eating habits during college. There's unlimited food, there are a lot of dining options, and it is kind of like going to a buffet every day. Furthermore, it is tempting to eat more food during the year because, for a lot of people, eating is a social event. (To be honest, I don't think that the infamous "Freshman Fifteen" comes from living around so much food--it comes from those few occasions when you go home on holidays and splurge on delicious home cooking.)

Although it is easy to get into bad habits, why don't we start believing that it is also easy to get into good habits?

There has been a multitude of research on nutrition, but two of the best models for maintaining a balanced diet are the Healthy Eating Pyramid and the Healthy Eating Plate, which are shown below (click on the links in the captions to enlarge):
Both models are great, and each has their pros and cons, but for me the Healthy Eating Plate is especially easy to follow in the dining halls. 

I usually try to limit myself to one plate, dedicating half of it to a salad of sorts. Then on the other half, I'll get a bit of pasta or brown rice, and then a piece of chicken or fish. If there is already protein mixed in with the pasta or rice, then I just get a little more of that. I usually try to limit myself to one plate, but if I'm still feeling hungry after my meal, I'll drink some fat free milk or add some cottage cheese to the side.

My nutritional philosophy (if that's a thing) is that it is okay to eat a lot so long as you are putting good things into your body. Eating a giant salad with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and limited amount of dressing can be satisfying, and your body is able to process these things much more efficiently. But I also admit that I have a weakness for particular junk foods--namely ice cream and pizza. Giving up your favorite foods entirely sounds kind of extreme (and depressing) to me, so eating pizza once or twice a month during study sessions or friend times and getting some cake to treat yourself after a hard test is encouraged by me, too!

My nutritional plan has a couple holes, but I've found it pretty useful for staying in shape and getting everything I need in order to exercise daily and conduct all my activities with two meals a day. Reflecting on my health from last year, I would say that eating healthier definitely helped my body do everything I needed it to during the busy year despite the in general lack of sleep college students will get. 

Overall, it is also pretty easy--I came into college used to eating a plate that was not so balanced, but the transition was simple for me. So if you're looking for a quick, painless method for eating healthy, I definitely recommend splitting your plate between the main components.

Pacing oneself while eating also helps control portion size. It's best to eat slowly so that you can tell when you're full. I would start out with a plate of food, and if that isn't enough, go back for a little bit more at a time. Obviously, a football player weighing at least 200 pounds who exercises three or more hours a day will need a whole lot more food than me, a 115-pound taekwondo player. Even those seemingly minor characteristics, such as whether you are male or female, will affect how much food your body needs. Portion size really depends on your body and its needs, so listen to it! 

I must also emphasize the value of water. You may have already heard this, but a lot of times when we feel hungry, we are actually thirsty. Water is important for circulation, regulating the biochemistry occurring in your body, and getting rid of toxins. I personally drank about two liters of water a day and that was plenty for me. I would enjoy have a cup of tea every morning (contrary to what experts said, I skipped breakfast last year), and if I brought a water bottle along with me to class it was enough to sustain me until lunchtime.
Now, this post was pretty informal and was based mostly on personal experience in the dining halls, so for more factual information and advice on general nutrition, please take a look at Harvard's article on what you should really eat.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day! To close, I just wanted to share this video--it's just some good food for thought:

Smile on,
-Riley XO

August 22, 2014

The TMI Award

Hello, hello! It feels like it has been ages since I last wrote you guys, but what can I say--packing and moving is time-consuming, and I've been enjoying precious time with family and friends. Since a lot of my energy has been spent focusing on preparing for school and a whole new crazy schedule, I just wanted to do a fun little post to get back into blogging mode early this morning. I was nominated for the TMI Award by Whimsical Youngster, and some of these questions looked like a lot of fun to answer. I also like doing these award/tag posts so that you guys can get a better idea of who I am, how I think...that sort of deal. I hope you enjoy!

  1. What are you wearing? I am wearing a teal T-shirt, a college-themed sports jacket, and pajama bottoms. Keeping it classy as ever this late night! 
  2. Ever been in love? Yes. I fell head-over-heels for my first boyfriend. It was naive but beautiful at the same time.
  3. Ever had a terrible breakup? Yes. We had a bad falling out and I don't want to talk about it online because I think his perspective may be different from mine. 
  4. How tall are you? About 5'4".
  5. How much do you weigh? I average 115 pounds during the school year when I'm working out, but last time I weighed myself I was 110! The little muscle mass I'd had disappeared this summer!
  6. Any tattoos? No, but I think that if I did have one, it would be my Confirmation verse (1 Corinthians 6:20) written around my ankle or on the bottom of my foot. It would be a painful process, but for some reason I just think it would be so cool to have a foot tattoo.
  7. Any earrings? My jewelry has sentimental value, and the earrings I wear are little flowers (silver filaments and golden petals) that I received from my aunt the last time I visited my family overseas. I also sometimes wear an ear cuff that has a golden feather dangling from it.
  8. OTP? Oh my goodness, I feel so behind the times because I had to look up what "OTP" means! I would have to say Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from my favorite Disney movie, Tangled.
  9. Favorite shows? I enjoy watching anime and am particularly fond of Rurouni Kenshin. Out of American shows, I was hooked on How I Met You Mother and had the craziest Netflix binge for that show.
  10. Favorite bands? Guys, I like K-Pop. Judge me all you want! But lately I've been a big fan of G.NA, Trouble Maker, and B1A4. Spotify suggested this song to me and it's so beautiful that I could listen to it on repeat for hours:

  11. Something you miss? I'm a transfer student and although I'm loving my new school, I really miss this one feature of my previous school called "Late Night," where you could get food starting at 10:00pm - 1:00am. It was so much fun getting giant cookies for study breaks in the middle of the night! I miss those giant cookies.
  12. Favorite song? I'm into the main theme from the Miyazaki film Howl's Moving Castle. It has this mystical, romantic tone. And when the strings come in--I am such a sucker for great string features.
  13. When is your birthday? June 16.
  14. Zodiac sign? Gemini.
  15. Quality you look for in a partner? The main thing is his heart. Pure intentions, and genuine love for life and God. There are also other standards, like the existence of a good sense of humor and preferably above-basic competence, but the most important thing is his heart.
  16. Favorite quote? "Life is more than just how many breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away."
  17. Favorite actor? I like the roles that Logan Lerman has played. He's not as well known, but I think his work is precious.
  18. Favorite color? It changes on a daily basis, but right now I am fond of maroon.
  19. Loud music or soft? I like soft music because I usually use music as background noise to write or work. When it comes to road trips, on the other hand, loud music in the car is fun too--as long as people are belting the songs out on the top of their lungs too. Yep, my friends and I are "those people."
  20. Where do you go when you're sad? Somewhere private. Either my bed or the bathroom where I can hide for a bit and cry.
  21. How long does it take you to shower? About 15-20 minutes. 
  22. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? An hour. My morning routine during the school year consists of some exercises, reading, tea, and bathroom/girl stuff. On lazy days, though, I have been known to get ready in five minutes. 
  23. Ever been in a physical fight? Well, I have practiced martial arts... 
  24. Turn on? Genuine acts of kindness. Seeing a guy go out of his way to help people who need it is so inspiring and makes me want to get to know him better. I am also a romantic at heart, so I like well-thought-out gifts and adventures as well.
  25. Turn off? Arrogance and self-righteousness. 
  26. The reason you joined Blogger? To be honest, I was in middle school when I joined Blogger. I discovered it while logging into Gmail and started a blog before truly knowing what I wanted to blog about. These days, I blog with the hope that something I write will inspire someone, out there in the world.
  27. Fears? I'm afraid of losing the people I love. 
  28. Last thing that made you cry? So I re-watched Tangled the other day... The climax gets me every time!
  29. Last time you said you loved someone? About half an hour ago to my mom.
  30. Meaning behind your Blogger name? I write under this pseudonym, Riley Sinclair, so that I would focus more on the blog posts themselves as opposed to myself. It helps remind me to focus on being here for you  guys, really, because this blog doesn't bring any glory to my own name. And to be honest, I chose Riley because it's a name that could be for any gender, and it rhymes with "smiley." Sinclair was just a random surname that I thought sounded good with Riley. 
  31. Last book you read? The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. 
  32. The book you're currently reading? I'm reading The Bible this year, but I am not reading anything for leisure right now.
  33. The last show you watched? I watched an episode of Big Bang Theory with my dad before moving out of the house.
  34. The last person you talked to? I'm working the graveyard shift at a residence hall desk right now (nothing of interest has happened for the past two hours!), so the last person I talked to was a resident. 
  35. The relationship between you and the last person you texted? My mom woke up in the middle of the night, remembered me, and then texted me. It was sweet of her and I hope she's sound asleep now.
  36. Favorite food? I like a lot of food. I typically say my mom's adobo is my favorite, but I recently ate some salt and pepper squid from a Chinese restaurant and that is another dish that is up there.
  37. Place you want to visit? Bali seems absolutely gorgeous.
  38. Last place you were? In bed. And I can't wait to go back after my shift, hehe. The last "exciting" place I was, however, was hanging out by the Taekwondo booth that was recruiting new members.
  39. Do you have a crush? Yep :)
  40. Last time you kissed someone? A while ago?
  41. Last time you were insulted? I can't really remember. I think I'm pretty good at shooting insults down or ignoring them..or maybe I just don't realize when I'm being insulted.
  42. Favorite flavor of sweet? Ice cream! Probably classic vanilla with some sort of chocolate sauce.
  43. What instruments do you play? I play the violin. I used to play piano when I was a little tot, but when I started learning violin, I quit piano lessons to focus more on Shamrock (yes, that is the name of my violin).
  44. Favorite piece of jewelry? Like I said, all of my jewelry has some sort of sentimental value. But I really like the ring I wear on my right forefinger. It was a high school ring that was customized and has a violin and a martial artist engraved into the sides. 2013, my graduating class, also came out to be a significant year of my life when it comes to changes and personal growth.
  45. Last sport you played? Yoga. 
  46. Last song you sang? I was singing along to Taylor Swift the other day and I've been humming "The Story of Us" a lot for some reason.
  47. Favorite chat up? "Did you fart? Because you just blew me away."
  48. Have you ever used it? No, and I'm still waiting for someone to use it on me too.
  49. Last time you hung out with anyone? I spent some time with the Taekwondo team at the booth earlier. I also met my new roommate for this year and we had fun walking around campus, too!
  50. Who should answer these questions next? The person who's reading this, of course! 
I am tagging all of you guys who read this post. If you decide to take on these fifty questions, please post the URLs of your responses to the TMI Award in the comments below so that I can read them all! 

I hope to have a new blog post up on Tuesday to get back into the regular posting schedule. In the meantime, please have a wonderful weekend and smile on!
-Riley XO

August 14, 2014

How to Commit to a New Habit

Good morning, all! How are you today? I apologize for missing last week's post. I had wanted to write about the things I'd learned while working in food service, but unfortunately I was having trouble finding the right words. So I'm going to think that post over a little more before publishing it.

Today, I want to talk about taking chances--stepping out of your comfort zone. I don't know if it's just that I've had a lot of spare time this summer that I've been inspired to try all sorts of new things or if I'm inspired because the new school year is about to begin. Maybe part of it is that since this summer's series was more reflective side, it's time for a bit of a change to take up a challenge to do something spontaneous!

Sometimes, when I tell people, "Yeah, I do [insert whatever hobby here]," they say "I've always wanted to do that." I don't know if that's another way of saying that [whatever hobby] is super cool, but when I hear those words, I just want to ask: "Well, why don't you?"

There are also times when I think of something that I've always wanted to do but then have to ask myself, "Well, what's been holding you back?"

Some of these things for me include reading the Bible consistently and vlogging. For me, it usually isn't that hard to step out of my comfort zone and try learning something new. Starting things is pretty simple, as is outlined in a previous post "Take This Summer to Learn Something New." But sticking to those things would be the greater part of the challenge.

Did you guys know that I have a vlog channel? Last week, I posted a vlog briefly describing the 365-Day Bible Reading Plan that I've started, and I thought that my experiences trying to get into reading the Bible would be applicable to today's discussion.

(Here is a link to the reading plan that I've been using, and it's been absolutely great: Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.)

I'm on my 19th day so far and I've found that every time is still fresh and interesting; this reading plan is certainly a helpful guide for getting into a good habit of exploring the Bible.

But, here's a question I had to ask myself: Why is this time around going so much better than all the previous times I'd attempted? Surely it isn't just the simple reading guide--as great as it may be--that's doing all the work!

So immediately, my thoughts went to something that I'd changed this time around. What helps the most is that I've been journaling with a special friend through Google Docs. On it, we write down our comments, highlights, and questions, and respond to each other's notes. It's been a great way to hold ourselves accountable--plus, sharing insights with each other makes the experience more exciting. We also gain each other's insights, which is very valuable to me.

And then, that made me realize that journaling and collaborating on a resolution with friends or family is a great way to stick to forming a new habit. Journaling if valuable because it holds you accountable to yourself. Writing will often make an abstract idea more concrete, so it will help organize thoughts and remind you of how much progress you've made.

Working with others is also beneficial because of reasons listed above--fresh perspectives, another level of accountability, and external sources of inspiration. Why not combine these two effective ways of sticking to a new habit?

The nice thing is that with Internet access, it's so easy to work with others to form healthy habits and try new things together that you don't even have to communicate face-to-face!

There are several methods for journaling collaboratively. I think that the easiest and neatest method would be sharing a Google Doc. Another good way would be to start a blog or vlog if you would like to share your progress with more people.

So next time you want to establish a new, healthy habit or rid yourself of a destructive old one, start by getting a couple friends involved and remember to write things down!

Good luck, and smile on,
-Riley XO

July 29, 2014

Summer 2014

Good morning, everyone! It seems kind of crazy to be thinking about the end of summer already, but it's come to the point where next week is my last week of work and I'm already making plans to move into my new home. This summer has been sort of a transitional period in my life, and although I didn't picture it to have gone this way, I am grateful for the peace I've been gaining as a result of it. Today I just wanted to share my summer experiences (and plans for the school year) and hearing all about yours. Please let me know all about the highlights of your summer or exciting plans in the comments below!

From wacky sleep cycles, to making money, to getting ready for the new school year, to Skyping with a special friend, to learning yoga, to consuming way too much sugar, it's been a lazy schedule overall. I think that when I'm living at home, I tend to enter some sort of state of hibernation. I learned the other night that when you don't get enough sleep on a night, you start to accumulate sleep debt, which can be made up for by sleeping a little longer within the next few nights. Considering my sleep schedule (or lack of it) during the year, I shudder to think about how much sleep debt I probably have. But the good news is that I've been paying off the deficit gradually.

Speaking of debts, I did my best to work a whole lot to help minimize that student debt. Last week I worked 38 hours, which is the most I've ever done. This week, I'll just have 28 hours which will be pretty nice. I surprisingly have a lot of expenditures: club fees, taekwondo competitions, plane flights (I'm hoping to visit my uncle sometime this year), and of course going out to movies and meals with friends. I recently started tracking my budget through, and I was utterly astounded at how much food I bought. People with mortgages will probably laugh at me, but I spent so much money on food this summer! I was quite impressed with myself. Anyhow, this summer it dawned on me that living can get pretty expensive. So, I went on to apply for two jobs and managed to land both of them.

The first job is probably the one that you'll care more about (I'll explain why): working the front desk at the residence hall I'll be living in. I've got the graveyard shift, guys. There won't be very much to do during these wee hours of the night, so I'll probably be writing to you during these times! I can't make any promises, but we might step it up from one post a week to two posts a week. I guess we'll see how it goes! My semester is going to be a lot busier because I'll also be working as a tutor and also got a position as a research assistant in a health psychology lab. I am definitely excited to be busy this semester after a relaxed spring semester fresh from transferring and the lazy pace of this summer.

Some of my friends found it hard to believe when I told them, but I haven't practiced any taekwondo this summer! There were just too many conflicts with my work schedule and personal things going on too. I try to console myself by saying that I've been doing yoga. Don't get me wrong--the meditative style of yoga has helped with my flexibility and is great fun. It's a form of exercise that I'm hoping to incorporate into my morning routines during the school year because I do enjoy it, but I missed taekwondo quite a lot. Anyhow, these are two of my favorite yoga classes by Ali Kamenova that I've found to be awesome for beginners and have been trying to master lately:

Other than that, I had a wonderful experience going on a cruise around Scandinavia and Northern Europe earlier this summer! We ate lots of delicious food, met many incredible people, and saw lovely sights. It was an absolute pleasure and I am grateful for that family time.

Well, those are my highlights. What are some of yours? And what are you most looking forward to for the year? Let me know in the comments! Next week, I'll be writing a post on what working in the food industry has taught me, so don't forget to subscribe!

Smile on,
-Riley XO

July 22, 2014

10 Ways to Increase Happiness and Self Confidence

Happy Tuesday! Do you have any fun plans for this week and/or upcoming weekend? Let me know in the comments below. I will personally be working a lot and will also be looking forward to some exciting plans for Friday. It should be a great time!

Today, we'll be discussing self confidence. Do you struggle with insecurity? I think that a lot of young people do, and I would actually have to say that I also have a hard time with this, too. These days, we live in a culture that basks in a sense of competition and hierarchy. We tend to compare ourselves with other people with the visual of a ladder. She's better than me at this, I'm better than him at that. This group needs to improve on one thing, and I want to beat so-and-so at this other thing. Personally, I experience the most competition as a pre-med student. How do I stand as opposed to my competition when it comes to grades? Internships? Research? Extracurricular activities? Test scores? Community service hours? 

When you're constantly finding your spot on the ladder based on where everyone else is, how do you not start feeling that self confidence level take a hit?
Well, here are ten tips for trying to help boost that self esteem (and happiness overall!). I hope you find these helpful and inspiring as you go about your week! 

#10: Think about your long-term goals frequently. Do you want to travel? Take up a new hobby? Have a successful career? Run a marathon? Become financially stable? Start a family? Make new friends? Grow in your faith and spirituality? Well, you could have all of these goals or even others, but I am a firm believer that long-term goals add purpose to life. And I think that having some sort of external purpose outside of solely existing is important. It gives your life meaning, and it also holds you accountable to yourself. These goals are what you want to achieve, so it's up to you to make them happen. As you come closer to reaching these and start setting new ones, you'll also come to appreciate how much you are capable of!

#9: Work toward your short-term goals. It's no good to just think about your long-term goals and then do nothing about them. It's best to plan out some of the steps you want to take in order to reach that long-term goal, kind of like having stops along the route in a road trip. Smaller journeys within a long one. Goals within goals. Achievement doesn't happen overnight, you have to work toward it every day. Doing this will increase your sense of self efficacy, and perhaps your self confidence will follow.

#8: Have fun with friends. Kicking back and letting loose can really work wonders, guys. Since I'm more of a Type-A(sian) personality, I don't really know if I believe in the "work hard, play harder" mentality because I tend to find a lot of value in the work I do. But, what is the point of working hard if you can't spend your life doing anything fun with the people around you? When you're having fun, it takes your mind off the stress that can cause insecurity and improve your perspective on the people around you--and yourself. Make some new memories, and enjoy life!

#7: Think laterally. I've addressed this in previous posts, but one's perspective on life can really transform when you think of everybody on a plain as opposed to a ladder. It ultimately comes down to accepting that every person has strengths and weaknesses, and the combinations of these strengths and weaknesses are unique to each person. Learn to embrace the people you come across as individuals. Think about yourself as an individual who has his/her own special place in the world. Find some self-acceptance, and then start building that self confidence.

#6: Eat healthy and be fit. We tend to have a more holistic approach to happiness, spirituality, and self esteem here at Smiles No Matter, and I would definitely say that although your physical appearance doesn't necessarily make you more confident, how you feel physically can make a huge impact. A lot of people don't think that they're the "exercising type" or the "healthy type." Although going to the gym every day or only eating salads sounds intense, these aren't the only ways to be healthy. People who spend 3-7 hours a week are already doing themselves a favor with little cost. And it's okay to still eat a lot as long as you're putting good foods into your body (it might even be better). Start with small steps. Instead of that bag of potato chips, try some carrot sticks or an apple. Instead of a Big Mac for lunch, try a grilled chicken sandwich. Go for a 20-minute walk after dinner. Drink a glass of water or tea every morning. These are just a few little ways to start moving toward a healthier lifestyle. When your body starts feeling better, you will too!

#5: Clean your space. This again goes into a more holistic perspective. Maintaining a clean and tidy desk, bedroom, and kitchen helps make work less stressful, rest more refreshing, and cooking more enjoyable. Take care of your home! 

#4: Do something kind for somebody else. There's a lot of talk about "survival of the fittest" these days, but one way a species stays fit is through altruism, which is a sense of self-sacrifice for the sake of another individual in the population. Why compete against someone if you can help her/him? Remember that you have the power to make a difference in another's life, and this can be a beautiful thing.

#3: Step out of your comfort zone. How do you expect to grow if you don't push yourself to try new things, take on different challenges, and experience life?

#2: Accept that bad things happen. Are you somebody who has a hard time getting over mistakes and bad times? I can say that I am definitely one of these people. When I see injustice or if I do something that hurts somebody else, I feel guilt for not having done more, and become filled with remorse for not having lived up to a standard or expectation that I'd held for myself. If you're like this too, I know what you're going through! Unfortunately, dwelling on the negative is harmful because it means that we're not focusing on the positive, and this can really tear down that self esteem. Instead of reliving the pain or guilt, accept it and find a way to move on. Whether this means making an apology, granting forgiveness, or addressing whatever needs to be fixed, do it as soon as possible. And when things blow up (and they will, because that's how life is), don't just learn to forgive others. Learn to forgive yourself, too.

#1: Remember the difference between self confidence and arrogance. It is possible to have self confidence and be happy while still maintaining humility. Self confidence is about accepting and loving yourself as a person--there is a lot of room to put others' needs ahead of your own while you have self confidence. 

So those are ten simple ways to increase your self confidence (and overall happiness too)! 

What's one thing you have done to help yourself? Any fun stories about stepping outside your comfort zone? Let me know in the comments below! 

I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day! 

Smile on,
-Riley XO

July 18, 2014

Sunshine Award!

Hello, world! I hope life has been bringing you great adventures and wonder.

A dear reader and talented blogger, Envy, nominated me for the Sunshine Award last week. I actually nominated her for the Liebster Award a while ago, and one of my upcoming posts was also inspired by one of her comments, so this nomination truly means a lot to me.

Thank you so much, Envy!
The rules for the Sunshine Award are pretty simple:
  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Answer their questions.
  • Nominate other bloggers.
  • Contact them to let them know that they've been nominated.
  • Put the award badge on your blog. 
So without further ado, here are my answers to Envy's questions!
  1. What is your favorite book and why? My favorite book has got to be The Princess Bride by William Golding. It is just written so whimsically and describes love and friendship that lasts through many terrors, and it is the only book aside from The Bible that I can stand to read over and over again. It's just one of those books that inspires me every time I think about it. 
  2. Do you have any hobbies that your friends think are ridiculous, but that you totally like? One weird hobby for me is probably being addicted to watching BubzBeauty and Bubzvlogz on YouTube. Bubz is an Asian beauty guru who grew up in Ireland and she's currently pregnant, so a lot of my friends kind of raise an eyebrow when they catch me watching (or if I make them watch with me) a pregnancy vlog or two. Anyhow, I started watching her videos while I was going through a breakup and stumbled upon her video "Secrets of Truly Happy People." It just warmed my heart to see such a genuinely happy person, and now she's the only YouTuber that I watch regularly.
  3. What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you? This is a tough question for me because I don't really feel particularly "embarrassed" since I'm pretty awkward overall 24-7. But I remember one instance during Taekwondo when I was sparring with one of my friends. I saw that he was going to do a back kick (his back kicks are wickedly fast), so I faked and moved out of the way. For some reason, my brain froze and I suddenly didn't know what to do, so I just screamed and charged at him into a clinch. He looked pretty confused, and my teammates and coach all giggled. My bestie teased sarcastically, "That's a great technique. Next time you don't know what to do while you're sparring, just tackle the other guy and hope for the best."
  4. What would you miss most about blogging if you had to stop? I would miss you guys, of course! I love sharing my thoughts and inspirations, and I love that you're reading Smiles No Matter and that it is still growing. If I quit blogging, it would be like quitting on a part of my heart. 
  5. Who's your biggest inspiration? There is only one person under the "People Who Inspire Me" section of Facebook, and that is Jesus. No man who has or ever will walk this Earth will come close to experiencing and showing the amount of love that Jesus did. His life, death, and wisdom inspire me daily to try to love with my whole heart and to have faith in his plans.
Today, I'm nominating:
I have been following each of these blogs for quite a while now, and it is an honor for me to nominate them. 

I just wanted to take this opportunity again to thank you guys for your readership and support. It is my prayer every day that Smiles No Matter will bring somebody else as much joy as it brings to me. The lovely comments you leave are so kind and inspiring. And this is why I'm nominating all of your for the Sunshine Award today too! 

Here are my questions for you all:
  1. What is your favorite quotation?
  2. Name one song that you listen to when you need to relax!
  3. What are your feelings about Snapchat?
  4. Describe a person who has picked you up while you were feeling down. How did this person bring you comfort or condolence? 
  5. What is an activity you love doing with your friends?
  6. What is your preferred mode of communication?
  7. Do you believe in love at first sight?
  8. What is one thing you wish you did more?
  9. How has your summer been going so far?
If you accept my nomination, please link your blog in the comments or send the URL to my email at so that I can see your answers! 

Also, I've been thinking of changing up the look of my blog this summer while I have a bit of spare time on my hands, but I would really value your input. I added a poll Sunday night on the right sidebar, but if you haven't seen it yet, please give me your honest opinion and feedback. You can also let me know your thoughts on the blog's look in the comments or my email as well. If I were to change it, I would probably change it to have a more modern, clean look.

Much love to you all.
Smile on,
-Riley XO

July 15, 2014

What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

Good morning, world! How are you today? I'm doing okay overall. I had a job interview last week and am anxious for the results. I hope that I will be able to get this job as a chemistry tutor this coming fall, but I'm trying to tell myself that God will provide.

This morning's discussion is longer than usual because it's all about purpose--finding the right purpose in your life. A while ago, I had a conversation with a special friend about life. We touched a little bit on purpose, which kind of got the wheels in my head turning. Do you feel like you have purpose in your life?

It's basically the long-term debate in philosophy: looking for the right purpose. Aristotle said our purpose is to live a flourishing life in study. Epictetus believed that our purpose is to live a happy life by caring only about the things that truly matter (which are the things we influence). Mill thought that our purpose is to increase the overall happiness level in the world as much as possible, and reduce the amount of pain. (I often think of Mill as the mathematician of philosophers.)

We have books overflowing with arguments and ideas about how to live life, and these books fill the shelves of thousands of bookstores across the nation.

And yet, there have been times I hit that rut where I don't really know what to do. What is my purpose in life? When are some of the moments in your life when you've asked yourself this question?
Here, I'm going to share with you my tips on what to do during these times, and also what I believe is my purpose. I pray that what you read will bring you inspiration and optimism as you think about your life.

Firstly, know that it's okay to not be okay. We recently finished a seven-part series studying a book called Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn. An overarching theme in the book is that although winning is lots of fun, many of the most powerful moments in life come from losing. Losing and feeling empty can be precursors to growing and maturing. Life can be represented with a yin-yang. There is the good, the warmth, the happiness, the health. And in that very same symbol, there is the evil, the cold, the pain, the sickness. Both exist together, within each other. The yin cannot exist without the yang. If you accept the wins of life, you must learn to accept the losses too.
I think that the modern society puts a lot of value in having purpose, in being happy. Society tells us to always answer "good" when we're asked how we are. Naturally, when we don't feel like we have purpose, we tend to feel ashamed, abnormal. But you know what? There's nothing wrong with having a bad day, week, month, or even year! There are many good ones to come. Remember to take the good with the bad.

Secondly, document your thoughts. I have personally experienced so many instances where I suddenly felt overwhelmed by absolutely everything. About a year ago, my cousin gave me this journal. At the time, I was pretty lame at journaling, so I made it my New Year's resolution to write something in it each day. This last January, I purchased another journal because it has been such a helpful tool for me to keep track of the daily thoughts, worries, praises, and events. In journaling, I've improved my time management, and sort of experience this sense of peace as I reflect. I do believe that part of our purpose is to enjoy every day that we're blessed with. One way to start appreciating every day is to write them down.

Thirdly, surround yourself with love. From my experience, the nuclear family has a powerful bond that you can rely on when everything else fails. However, while you can't choose your family, you can choose your friends. There are some people who will encourage you to do things that are against your morals or standards, and when you stumble upon people like this, run away in the opposite direction! Stay with the people who encourage you in the hard times, rejoice with you in your successes, and respect you even during your lowest points in life. Be with people who are also searching for and pursuing their own purposes. What's that saying again? "Birds of a feather flock together."

Fourthly, practice gratitude. Take some time every day to give thanks. While not every day may not be good, there is still good in every day. Find the good in every day.


And now we arrive at the second part of this post, which is where I will be sharing what I believe my purpose is. As it is evident through this blog, I believe that my purpose is to help people find happiness in their lives. But this purpose is part of a greater purpose. I have come to learn that life's purpose is to love.

I'll have to admit that until about a year ago, I was a half-hearted Christian. I talked the Word, and I thought I knew all about what it meant to be a Christian, but now I realize how wrong I was. The Church says a whole lot about "Believing to get to Heaven." Now, I'm not saying that believing isn't important. It's just that I wasn't guided to know what to believe in.

I was taught that if you believe that Jesus died and rose for you, it was like getting this one-way ticket to Heaven.

While it was acceptable as a child, as I grew older, I had trouble seeing what the point was. To me, it sounded like, "Believe in this story, and this simple story will allow you to escape a hellish void that mankind deserves to remain in after this life." So what if I believed that this guy died for me? People die for people all the time.

Last year, I went through some of the worst experiences in my life. The one person that I thought I could count on didn't just let me down, but came back to make sure that he'd beaten me to the ground. I was later forced to leave my beloved home due to a set of unfortunate circumstances. Christianity as I had known it could get me far, but not through this.

Although the most painful events of my life (so far) happened that year, so did some of the most important lessons.

I learned in a whole new way that God is love. God is also an abstraction. For instance, think of your best friend's name. Now try describing your best friend. Do you notice, that as you continue to describe this person more, there only becomes more information that you left out? Each person that you know is so complex. As you think you start developing relationships with people, the more about these people you discover. Well, the same is true with God. But God is so much greater than people, the abstraction indefinitely more complex. As I learned more about God, the more I realized that God is so much more than a noun describing the omniscient, omnipotent presence that created the world. God is an action. God is love.
Let's look at the life of Jesus.  A lot that my church did was talk about how much he showed up the Pharisees and the disciples with his wisdom and insight. "How wrong they were. How right he is."

A lot can be said about Christ's theological knowledge. But so much more can be written, studied, and shared about the way he lived. He lived with the people everyone else hated. He shared meals with the poor--and not just volunteered at a soup kitchen--he actually sat down and ate with them, like they'd been friends forever.

A man asked Jesus, "What is the greatest commandment?" And Jesus answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12).

He calmed the storms of people's hearts, healed the dying, comforted the weary. His life was so full of love as he lived the greatest commandments.

And then his death.

I cannot imagine a stronger example of true love than Christ's death.

It's the innocent sacrifice in exchange for the tainted, the lamb to the slaughterhouse. His death was pure. But as I thought about it, I came to realize that Christ did not die only for the people who would eventually come to believe in him a couple thousand years later. He died for all mankind. Even the sinners. Even the people who hated him. Even the people who killed him. He suffered knowing that from these people who tortured and crucified him, he would gain nothing in return. And yet--he still suffered for them.

When I look at Jesus' life, death, and ascension, I see purpose that is not only worth living for, but dying for. And that is why I am inspired by the Word to seek love, and to share it with others.

The beautiful thing about love is that it is shown through small gestures and huge, grand ones. Although I don't think I am capable of doing great things alone, I know that I can do small things with great love. This is how I want to live. Love is what I'll hold on to.

Smile on,
-Riley XO

July 11, 2014

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn Conclusion

Hi there, everybody! I'm going to start this post off with a big thank you to everybody who's been reading this series and commenting on the posts. It has meant so much to me! And I also thank John C. Maxwell for his inspiring words and stories in his book Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn.

Visit John C. Maxwell's leadership blog here.
This was the first time I've done a little "book journey" on Smiles No Matter, and reading Maxwell's book was a good start to hopefully do more book journeys in the future with you guys. I've learned a lot and have started thinking about my worth as an individual and what I want to take out of life on a wider scale. Also, doing this has allowed me see a new perspective on life and happiness, so I have many new ideas for the future!

Thinking about life can get pretty heavy for some, but as we come to a state of maturity, it isn't all that bad anymore. Instead of seeing failures, pain, and sorrow, we also are able to see the lessons that come with them. I also think that going through hard times leads us to appreciate the good things that we would otherwise take for granted.

Let's have a brief glance over the topics we've covered in this series:

  1. Humility: The Spirit of Learning
  2. Reality: The Foundation of Learning
  3. Responsibility: The first Step of Learning
  4. Improvement: The Focus of Learning
  5. Hope: The Motivation of Learning
  6. Teachability: The Pathway of Learning
  7. Adversity: The Catalyst for Learning
  8. Problems: Opportunities for Learning
  9. Bad Experiences: The Perspective for Learning
  10. Change: The Price of Learning
  11. Maturity: The Value of Learning
Now with the entire series done, here are some questions I have: 
  • What was your favorite part about learning about learning? 
  • In Maxwell's final chapter, he says that life isn't about winning, but about learning. Would you agree with his statement? Why or why not?
  • Of these past weeks, have you experienced any growth from self-reflection and thinking about the challenges you've faced in life?
Please let me know your answers in the comments below!

As for myself, reading this book has inspired me to learn to appreciate more in life. I personally went through a series of unfortunate experiences last year, and reading this and reflecting upon it has helped me learn to live with the pain and move on. It's also helped me find more patience and poise when dealing with myself. 

I wouldn't say that this is the best book in the world, or that I would never have found what I did without reading it--but it is a handy guide and an easy read for anyone looking for a bit of light self-improvement. It's pretty basic, so it's a good place to start. 

Thank you again for joining me on this journey, and please comment and subscribe for future updates!

Smile on,
-Riley XO

July 8, 2014

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn (VI)

Hello, everybody! Since I was busy celebrating the Fourth of July last Friday, I am posting my reflection on the eleventh and twelfth chapters from John C. Maxwell's Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn today. This week, we are looking at change, the price of learning, and maturity, the value of learning.
Quote of the week: "One of life's important questions is 'Who am I?' But even more important is 'Who am I becoming?'" (John Maxwell).
I had to appreciate Maxwell's chapter on change because I discussed it a bit on last week's post on dealing with stress (funny how a lot of things can tie in together). Change comes in different forms, but as I read through his words, I thought a lot about change of heart and attitude.

There is a quotation by Charles R. Swindoll that says, "We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude."

This is one major theme that comes up in philosophy. I actually wrote on change of attitude a while ago in the post "Finding the Good in Every Day." Change is a difficult subject to write about because it is often triggered by something, and it is also often unexpected. So, how do we conscientiously change ourselves to become better people?

Well, a lot of this comes with everything we have been talking about so far in the series. It's about being open-minded and aware, embracing your life (whether you're in a good part or bad), accepting that you're not perfect, and resolving to grow stronger with every step you take. It's about looking for feedback. What could you do to be a better friend, co-worker, student, boss, sister, parent? It's never losing sight of hope, and remembering that although your situations may be bleak, you still have the choice to keep going--to keep pursuing happiness, love, and joy.

I often associate a positive change in attitude with finding peace in one's heart. For me, a person who has found peace carries a sense of dignity in his or herself. S/he accepts both the good and the bad with grace and esteem, like a warrior who is prepared for anything and everything at all times.

Maxwell focuses on change in the more general sense. What changes must we make in our lives? Change yourself; change your attitude; change your nongrowing friends; determine to live differently than average people; and unlearn what you know so you can learn what you don't know (189-194). Basically, be in an environment that fosters growth, innovation, and sincere desire to make the world a better place. It all starts in your own heart.

As change occurs, maturity is reached. Maxwell says to keep in mind the following truths if you long to gain the true value of learning (199-208):

  1. Maturity is the result of finding the benefit in the loss.
  2. Maturity is the result of learning to feed the right emotions. I personally think about my high school Geography teacher whenever this idea comes up. I was pretty shy my freshman year, and before I had to present to the class, she told me not to let it get in my way. Even if you're having a bad day, you just need to put on a smile, and sometimes force yourself to be positive and do the right thing. Even if it meant faking it for the time being, these actions would come to define character. Sometimes, you need to work backwards to find happiness.
  3. Maturity is the result of learning to develop good habits. What are some of the habits you've established to reach your goals?
  4. Maturity is the result of learning to sacrifice today to succeed tomorrow. (Sacrifice is a pretty scary word for us these days, but it's a must. I'll discuss this in a future post!)
  5. Maturity is the result of learning to earn respect for yourself and others. (I'm also planning to discuss this in the future, so stay tuned!)
So look at yourself, and compare who you are now to the model of maturity. What are you going to change today?

Smile on,
-Riley XO

Thank you for reading! The last post for the series Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn will be out on Friday at the usual time. Please don't forget to comment and subscribe! I look forward to seeing you again and have a great day!
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