30 Days of Gratitude (or…At Least A Few Days of Gratitude)

The last two posts were about a day without a negative aspect (complaining and judging) These were very enlightening experiments.  But now it’s time to focus more deeply on the positive side.  Previous posts have included the value of gratitude and appreciation, but lately I’ve become more aware of their incredible power.  And, more importantly, I’ve become more aware that I haven’t been doing them regularly!  Yea sure, I’ve been grateful for lots of stuff and I appreciate tons of things.  But honestly, it’s been kind of a hit or miss activity.  I do it when the mood strikes me or when I’m in pre-crisis mode and need it as an emotional emergency pick-me-up!

Noticing that I (still!) tend to focus a little on the what-is-lacking-in-my-life side, I decided to really get on the gratitude-appreciation bandwagon and see what happens.  There is a definite power in writing things down, like helping with focus and motivation.  And it also comes in handy for accountable reasons.  In other words, the ego can’t trick us by saying we already were thankful today, when we really weren’t (After looking on dated list: ‘Oh yea, that was yesterday…’).  So, I’ve got a piece of paper (a journal just sounds too formal and off-putting for now) and I’m writing down about 5 to 10 things every day that I am grateful for.  That’s it.  My aim is to do this for 30 days, but again, that sounds too formal.  I’m going to try it out for a few days (thus, the alternate title) and see how it goes.

Benefits of Gratitude and Appreciation

During the experiment I did some research about its possible benefits.  Studies have actually been done that show the beneficial effects of gratitude and appreciation.  People who consistently practice gratitude report feeling better physically, are less depressed, sleep better, are more understanding of others’ wrongdoings, have more self-worth, mental focus, and resilience.  Gratitude also helps us to stay in the present.  In other words, we spend less time worrying about future events.  When we are more focused on finding the good, we naturally spend less time in the negativity mindset.

Additionally, there is the law of attraction angle on gratitude and appreciate – what we focus on, we get more of.  To get more good stuff, appreciate what we already have.  Simple enough.

The Experiment

Back to the experiment!  After a couple of days, one of my first thoughts upon waking was that I couldn’t wait to write on my gratitude list.  That’s especially significant because, some mornings, I wake up dreading my day.  Having an initial feeling of excitement and joy is a major turn-around!

Shortly thereafter, I didn’t want to wait till the next day to write on it.  So, I wrote on it twice a day, then three times a day.  But under no pressure, only if I felt the urge.  I only “had” to write on it once a day.

Some neat things started to happen.  Nothing noticeable to an outsider, but small things that mattered a lot to me, like, less time with an irritating co-worker, getting well-priced deals, finding $1 and $10 on the ground, a small pay raise, life-changing insights, meaningful dreams, an overall more joyful feeling.

Another neat thing was that I had a dream about something to be grateful for that I hadn’t thought of in waking life.  This showed my waking self that the feeling and energy of gratitude was now in my subconscious, as well.  So even when I’m not actively thinking about gratitude, I’m thinking about gratitude.  This must be a good indicator!

Then, after several days of writing down heaps of material possessions, as well as, relationships and nature-type things –and even though it was certainly nowhere near all-encompassing– a shift in subject matter began to happen.  I shifted from obvious things for which to be grateful, to the people that had a part in assembling those things I was grateful for!  The factory workers that made my appliances, my car, my clothes, my electronic devices…pretty much every material thing I owned, somebody had a part in creating it.  Without their contribution, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy so many of my belongings.

Then there’s the people that came up with the ideas to invent something new or improved and those that started a business.  And gratitude for their courage to follow through with the ideas.  Then it extended to people that were providing a service, like the cleaning guy at work, trash collectors that come to my house every week, the postal carrier that nicely places oversized packages on my porch (extra appreciation since Amazon Prime!).  And then to authors, which I love and have been so inspired by, that had the strength and took the time to write, organize, and complete their books.  And then and then and then…so many people working for me, helping me.  Most of whom I do not even know.

I was recognizing that the Universe was supporting me, not hurting me or trying to make my life miserable.  This is a major shift in perception.

Amidst the gratitude, the ego chimed in and said, ‘That’s their jobs.  They aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.  They’re getting paid for it’.  Kaboom – my bubble burst.  But I quickly realized, their motives not need affect my gratitude.  And then got back to the experiment.

I started recognizing good things about myself, my appearance, things I was good at, and my strengths.  Then I noticed things I did not necessarily like about myself but was grateful for anyhow.  For instance, I was grateful for my fear of sending a professional email to a stranger regarding an article submission (that I so badly wanted to work out).  I was grateful for my fear because it provided me with an opportunity to feel worthy and courageous by facing a fear.

With this in mind, I then intentionally thought of situations that weren’t so great and then appreciated them, as well.  (I have done this practice before but, again, in a haphazard fashion.)  For instance, I was grateful for a “bad” event because it was an opportunity for personal growth and to learn from mistakes and flaws.  I was even grateful that someone had wronged me because it helped me get better at honoring myself.  Could being grateful be helpful in increasing self-worth?  I don’t fully understand the why of this, but the answer seems to be, yes!

I then had a glimpse of knowing that current things that weren’t so great would be okay eventually.  So I was able to have gratitude for “bad” times before they got better.  This led to gratitude for things that I currently desired but did not yet have.  I was appreciating them ahead of time.  That’s some trust and faith right there!

And after that, I experienced nirvana!  (Yes, let’s be overly dramatic about this!)  It was just a fleeting moment, but for that jiffy, I truly did not care about my desires.  I honestly was happy, satisfied, and content in the moment right then and there as things currently were.  No guilt about my past, no worry about the future, not wanting anything different than how it was in that exact instant.

And then my heavenly state was gone.  But, I could tell what was happening over the course of this experiment – my gratitude was becoming unconditional.  In that, there is total freedom because I don’t need conditions to be a certain way to be grateful for them or…to be happy.  What I have figured out from this gratitude experiment is that gratitude helps us to focus our thoughts, our attention, our lives on finding the good – unconditionally, no matter what.  As the Dalai Lama says in The Art of Happiness, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”.  The power is within ourselves whether to be grateful and happy, or not.  This experiment surely is proof of that.

Disclaimer!!  I don’t want to give a false impression that I am now impeccably blissful and every time a challenge comes up I am grateful for it from the get-go.  I still have my daily issues and concerns.  But, there has been an undeniable shift.  Something is certainly different than before I did the gratitude experiment.  And that’s why I’m going to extend the experiment.  If a mere 30 days had this effect, then what will continuing on do?  I intend to find out!

Don’t take my word for all of this.  Start your own Gratitude List Experiment today and see what happens for you.  No need to feel overwhelmed or intimidated by needing to list the unconditional things.  Just start out with a few material objects you appreciate having in your life.  Your list will expand naturally on its own.  Happy Gratituding!

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Visualization and Imagery

Back in football season, I saw a playoff game where a field goal would have won the game for that team.  An ordinary field goal that the kicker had made many times.  It wasn’t like it was longer than what he was used to or had never done before.  Basically it was a run of the mill play for him.  However, he did not make it this time.  And it wasn’t because of a block from another player.  In other words, it was not missed due to any physical reason.  It was only missed because of his own thoughts.  Our thoughts can help us or hurt us.  It’s our choice.

One way we can utilize our thoughts to our benefit is through visualization.  This is the technique where we mentally visualize something that we want.  To continue with the sports theme, athletes have been using visualization for years.  In the 1980s, Russians studied Olympic athletes who mentally rehearsed (aka, visualized) their sport.  They found that the performance of those that included visualization exceeded those that did not include visualization as part of their practice.

Various other studies have compared three groups of people: those that lift weights, those that visualize lifting weights and those that do neither.  Of course, the weight lifters increased strength and the couch potatoes didn’t.  But the astonishing finding is that the visualizers also increased their muscle strength.  Actual muscle strength can be increased by only visualizing lifting weights.  By only visualizing it!

Further studies have shown that the autonomic nervous system is triggered by mental visualizations of the athletes’ sporting activities which then led to increased physical performance.  In other words, to the body, it doesn’t matter if it is real or imagined.  You’ve probably experienced this yourself:  Ever wake up from a nightmare with an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, or sweating?  It certainly wasn’t from your body physically moving.  It was only from your mind!

Professional athletes today are using imagery as opposed to visualization because it also has been found that using all the senses – not just visual – boost performance.  They say the more they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell the event, the more it improves their performance.  And the research shows that it only takes a few minutes a day to have an effect.

You are probably saying at this point, ‘Fascinating, but I’m not an athlete so what’s this got to do with me?’  The point is that this research with athletes has proven the power of visualization and imagery to help us achieve things in the physical.  This is incredibly amazing and powerful data that can be extended from physical conditioning of our bodies to any physical object, event, or circumstance that we want.

How to Visualize

First of all, visualizing is not difficult.  Egos usually tell us, we aren’t able to do it.  But, it’s just not practiced.  It’s not something most of us do regularly so we think it is a tough task.  The more we practice it though, the easier – and more fun! – it becomes.

Imagine something, anything you can dream up.  Not as you think it should be or as others would want it to be. (Nobody will judge you because this is all you.  You don’t have to tell a soul what you are imagining.)  It can be what you believe is a far-fetched dream or something more plausible to you.  The subject could be anything from physical conditioning, health, relationship, a material object, feeling more meaning and purpose, to helping others.  When your ego comes in and offers negativity (‘that could never happen’ or ’that’s dumb’, etc.), gently dismiss it.  If it persists, then you know it is time to end the session.

For only 5-10 minutes every day or so, see, feel, taste, smell, and hear the details of your dream.  Be in it, rather than watching it like a movie.  Here’s some random examples:

A new car:  See the car.  See the color of it inside and out.  Smell that new car smell.  Hear the sound of the engine.  The feel of the seat as you sit down.  Hear the friend talking to you who is in the car with you, etc.

Running a mile or 10 miles or a marathon: See yourself in your workout clothes.  Imagine your route and every detail you know about it.  See where you cross a street, pass a particular building.  Feel your breathing becoming more labored and imagine taking a deep, helpful breath.  Smell your sweat (ha!).  See yourself finishing the route and feel the feeling of being so proud of yourself.

Getting the idea of this?  Note that we’re not trying to fix something in our visualizations.  For example, we’re not taking a relationship with problems and working to find solutions.  We’re not trying to solve a problem of the world.  Visualization time should be pure enjoyment and fun!

We also visualize what we want so that these things do not feel so foreign or unlikely.  It helps us get used to the idea of them.  The more we visualize and feel them in our minds, the more they will seem likely to us to happen in physical reality.  Remember, our minds do not know if we are just imagining something or doing it in the physical.  So the more we imagine something, the more it will seem like the next logical step in “real” life.  It will not be an out-of-the-blue, crazy idea, because you have been feeling like you were already doing it.

Be careful not to then feel bad in your “real” life when you look at what is or isn’t, compared to what you visualized.  Be patient with the manifestation of your desires; all in divine time.  Turning your focus to appreciation of the things you currently do have in your life is an excellent way to stop the frustration of seeing what is lacking. When you do start to see the desires manifesting, then acknowledge and be appreciative of them, as well.

Try it out and see what manifests for you!

Manifest Our Desires (aka, Get Things We Want)

Of course we can be joyful without any material object or relationship.  The ultimate goal is to be happy regardless of any external thing.  But…we want things!  And that is perfectly normal and natural.  We are in this world of physicality.  Let’s embrace and enjoy material things, always mindful that we don’t need them to be happy.  But that it is more than okay to have fun with and enjoy things.

So how do we get things we want?  A lot of hard work and physical effort?  Wrong!  But it seems that is what most people believe.  From the Puritan Work Ethic, conservative religion, governments, etc. trying to control the masses, whatever the origin, this is what has been ingrained in most people’s minds in our society.  But it simply is not true.

The work hard motto has definitely been ingrained in my mind.  But by playing around with, testing out and doing some experiments for fun, I’ve seen, first-hand, what can be manifested by not putting in that 110% physical effort.  At least not in the typical way.  It all has to do with focusing our thoughts.  Manifesting physical things all begins with what we think and how we feel emotionally.

The way we feel is the indicator of what we are thinking and what vibration we are.  Feeling good means we are thinking good thoughts (joy, happiness, appreciation, fun, enthusiasm, love) and indicates we are at a high vibration.  Feeling bad means we’ve mostly had negative thoughts going on (worry, sad, angry, jealous, bored, guilt, confused, fear) and means we are at a low vibration.

Whoa.  What the heck is vibration?  This is where the science comes in.  Yep, that’s right…science.

I’m definitely not a scientist nor completely understand science.  (And please pardon me if I have some slight errors in explaining the science.)  But I think it is worth it to take some time to ponder the quantum world.  Not just for the sake of expanding our minds, but to fully realize that we shape our reality whether we are aware of it or not.

Science proves the existence of vibration.  Quantum physics has shown that everything is made up of energy.  And all energy is moving, or, in other words, vibrating.  Everything is made up of millions of subatomic particles that are vibrating.  Everything vibrates at different rates or frequencies.  Including us.  (Also including our thoughts. But, we’ll get to that in a minute.) Envision everything as masses of vibrating energy, rather than as what we can see and touch.  This is not just theory but proven scientific discoveries by esteemed scientists like, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Max Planck (names to google, if you desire).

Einstein’s famous equation, which most of us have at least heard of, from the 1920s, E=MC2, states that matter (physical objects) and energy can be converted into each other and thus are essentially the same!  Energy – something we cannot see – and matter – that which we can see – are the same things in different forms.  He theorized, through mathematical equations, that everything is made of atoms and that all atoms consist of sub-atomic particles which consist of pure energy at their most basic level.  Even things that appear to be very different.  At their basic level, everything is made up of this same energy.

It was just Einstein’s theory; for there was no way to prove it at the time.  But it has now been proven over and over again by highly regarded scientists.  In other words, it is not just some out of the blue, airy-fairy idea.  (Although this is where I do not fully understand the science behind it and cannot seem to wrap my head around these experiments!  This is where I trust the scientists and move beyond to where this fact can actually benefit my life.)

Then came the Copenhagen Interpretation by Niels Bohr, also from the 1920s.  This says that a particle doesn’t exist in one state or another (energy or physical) but in all possible states simultaneously.  It’s not until we observe it that it chooses its state.  Quantum physics has proven that the same atom can be a solid physical particle or a non-physical wave of energy depending on what the observer is expecting.

So what this means in practical terms is that our thoughts create physical things!  Everything that was created was a thought first.  Again, this is not a self-help or new age-y idea.  This is scientifically proven and accepted as fact in the professional scientific community for almost one hundred years.

The idea of Quantum Entanglement began in the 1930s in a paper by scientists Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen, which was later proven in multiple experiments.  In these experiments (which continue through the modern day), subatomic particles of energy were split in half.  It was found that each half affected the other half regardless of how physically far apart they were and the effect was received instantly.  It did not matter if the halves were close to each other or across the globe.  Regardless of physical distance, interacting with one half always had a simultaneous effect on the other half.  Because the effect was instantaneous – did not take time to travel through space – this means each half is still connected with the other.  If the Big Bang theory is correct (note that Einstein’s theories, and many other esteemed scientists of the time, could not be proven at the time until technology advanced to provide ways to test the theories), then everything in the world was “entangled” at the start, so that means everything has an effect on everything else.

Our Thoughts are Energy

How do we know our thoughts are made of this same energy?  It seems like thoughts could be an exception (says the ego).  But consider this: Our brains generate an electrical field which these days can be measured by ordinary medical equipment, such as, electroencephalogram (EEG).  An EEG works by measuring the fluctuations in voltage within the brain.  Voltage is defined on dictionary.com as electromotive force.  In other words, energy!  So that is confirmed – our thoughts are energy.  The same energy that Einstein stated made up everything.

So that then means the same principles that are proven for quantum physics (above) also apply to our thoughts:  Matter and energy can be converted into each other; All possibilities exist simultaneously and our observation or expectation determines state; Everything has an effect on everything else regardless of distance.

These “strange” phenomena happen not only in lab experiments with particles, but in our everyday lives!

The difference between our thoughts and particles is that we have free will over our thoughts.  We can think whatever we choose.  (See previous post.) We can direct and focus our thoughts and thus affect our environment and everything in it.  In other words, we can get things we want by thinking about them.

If the case is still not made that our thoughts create reality (my ego is very stubborn!), perhaps some more science will settle it.  Experiments starting in the 1970s at Princeton University showed that thoughts affected a random event generator (REG).  A random event generator is a device that produces completely random and unpredictable series of numbers.  When a person intentionally tried to direct the numbers, the sequences shifted and were significantly proven to not be by chance.  They also did experiments in various field settings (outside the lab) with activities comprised of large groups of people.  They found that the output generated by the REGs shifted based on events such as touchdowns in football games and peak moments in performances.  Thus, unintentional, as well as intentional, thoughts both affected the REGs.  This is a really neat experiment that shows the effect of our thoughts.

In Hidden Messages in Water, scientist Masaru Emoto wrote about the effects of words and thoughts on water.  When water is frozen, crystals form.  He found again and again that positive thoughts and words made the ice form beautiful crystals; negative ones made deformed crystals or no crystals at all.  (Check out the Water Crystal Photo Gallery for some fascinating pictures: masaru-emoto.net/english/water-crystal.html).  Not only does this support our case about our thoughts affecting our reality, but it also shows that thoughts affect our bodies because our bodies are 70% water!

Try some experiments for yourself to really seal the deal to your doubting ego.  I love the book, E-squared, by Pam Grout.  She’s got nine DIY energy/thought experiments that are not only convincing but fun!

How fascinating are quantum physics and these experiments!  In a nutshell, science says that our thoughts create material things and everything is possible.  The quantum physicist Niels Bohr said, “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.”  Even the genius Einstein deemed quantum entanglement theory as “spooky”.

Please share your ideas and comments about quantum science and creating your reality.  Or even better, examples of what you intentionally created with your thoughts!  Next post, we’ll talk specifically about our thoughts in terms of visualization and imagery.

Law of Attraction and Joy

I haven’t written much in the Keys to Joy blog about the Law of Attraction.  Possibly because it may rub some people the wrong way.  But I’m okay with that now; to each their own.  Also, because it was quite pervasive for awhile.  It seemed like everywhere you turned, the buzz phrase, “Law of Attraction”, was written or said.  I think it got “old” fast and not fully understood.  Regardless, Law of Attraction is a very important part of my life and belief system.  Although it is only recently that I fully realized the high level of its importance.

Firstly, the definition of Law of Attraction is “like attracts like”.  We attract things into our lives with our thoughts and feelings, whatever is a match comes to us.  This is an oversimplified definition as there are many factors to consider such as, ego (limited perspective), intentions, past lives, everything is energy, the overall (rather than specific) vibration (energy) of things, etc.  Please read anything by Esther and Jerry Hicks (Abraham) for very in-depth information.  But this definition will suffice for what I’d like to get across in this post.

I was in a slump.  Thing after thing was bad and getting worse.  It started with being slightly annoyed with someone.  Rather than work through this by figuring out what it was reflecting in myself or focusing on something else, I let it bring me down emotionally.  My annoyance turned to anger.  From there, I fumed and fumed.  Thoughts about all things I didn’t like in my life seemed to percolate in my mind. Then I felt hopeless and full of despair.  Then the “real” evidence began to appear.  I got swamped with work I did not like, co-workers were not respecting me, my body had new aches and pains.  Fortunately, I had been doing inner work long enough to stop and ask what was going on with me, rather than simply blaming others and circumstances.  I used the affirmation – Only good will come from this.  And then asked, what was the good?

That’s when I realized the good was seeing how the Law of Attraction works in a real life example.  It also helped me to fully understand that the crap I was experiencing wasn’t because I was bad or unworthy of good.  It’s simply the Law of Attraction.  Abraham (Esther Hicks) says Law of Attraction is a very fair friend.  It always gives you exactly what you are a vibrational match to.  This can be a harsh point to face when our lives aren’t as we want them to be. But, Law of Attraction is responding to our feelings and energy, not what we say we want.

If we say we want a million dollars but most of the time we complain about not having enough money or wonder how we are going to pay a bill or be bitter or jealous towards those with a lot of money, the Law of Attraction is “hearing” our overall feeling of complaining, jealousy and distrust.  Those feelings are not a match to abundance.  We may be saying or even thinking we want a million dollars but then we feel otherwise.  And those feelings are much stronger than our words.  Consider this, we may be saying one thing, but deep down we are actually feeling the opposite.  And remember Law of Attraction is responding to what underlies our words, not the words themselves.

Fortunately, we have the ability to focus our attention.  It is absolutely, 100% our decision what we focus our thoughts on (it may seem difficult, especially in certain situations, but it is just one of those things where practice is key).  The Universe “hears” whatever we are focused on.  Even if we say we do not want something.  In our negation, we are focused on it and so it comes to us.  Just like an internet search – suppose you type in, “not polar bears”.  What that search will yield is tons of information about polar bears.  It’s not going to bring up everything not about polar bears.  And so it is with your thoughts and the universe. If you’re saying not polar bears, you actually are thinking about polar bears even though you don’t want them in your life, and polar bears is what you will get.

But how do we not think about what we don’t want?  It is very difficult, if not impossible, to make ourselves full-on stop thinking about something we are already thinking.  But by giving more attention to what we do want, we naturally flood out those unwanted thoughts.

We can also commit to paying more attention to what we are thinking. When we become more aware of our thoughts rather than just letting them fly haphazardly, we have the control to divert their direction.  To get started, put a reminder note – What am I thinking? – somewhere that you see often, or ask a friend to remind you every day, or ask the question during a routine activity so you link it to that daily activity, like showering, brushing your teeth, or eating dinner.

We can designate a specific time of day or activity where we focus on something specific we want.  First thing when we open our eyes, at noon, driving to work, waiting in line, during (muted) tv commercials are all opportunistic times to deliberately focus our minds on what we desire.

It has also been shown that those who practice meditation have an easier time focusing their thoughts.  Research has shown that the more we practice thinking a certain way, our neural pathways actually change.  So meditating will actually help us later to focus on what we want.  A couple of deep breaths with our attention on the breath is a type of meditation.  So no ego-excuses about not being able nor having time to meditate!

Remember to keep it fun! Or at least not a chore.  If focusing on what we want becomes chore-like, then our root feeling is negative which then cancels the entire focused thought process.

What fun, creative ways have you discovered that help you to keep focused on what you want?

Next post we’ll talk more about manifesting specific desires and the science behind it!

The List of Already Manifested Things

I have noticed, in the past, that when I didn’t get things that I wanted, there was a part of me that felt it was because I didn’t deserve them.  My somewhat subconscious thinking often went along the lines of, I didn’t get x, so I must not have deserved it.  On the other hand, when I did get things I wanted, I felt that I got them because I did deserve them.  Of course, this is all hogwash and I have wised up from this type of worthy vs. unworthy thinking.  But it did get me thinking.  Could there be some value in recalling things that we wanted and have already manifested?

Often after we get something we wanted, we take it for granted – at least we take for granted how badly we wanted it and how difficult it may have been to get it.  We get it and then we almost directly move on to the next wanted thing, probably already feeling dismal about not having it and becoming discouraged, antsy or even angered about not receiving it.  Rather than keep repeating this energy-draining cycle over and over by focusing on the next thing and the next thing, we can turn it around by putting our attention on what we have wanted and have already received.

This is another way to use our thoughts to increase our joy.  In doing this, it focuses our minds positively, rather than lamenting about what we want and have not yet received.  Remember, if our minds are left untended to, the ego will think negative, unworthy, incapable thoughts.

When we focus on and ponder a list of already manifested things (material, mental, emotional and spiritual things) we not only appreciate what we received, but we also feel the empowerment of our thoughts and actions.  In reminding ourselves that we did indeed get things we wanted, we are uplifted and empowered.  Just as we increased our self-worth by thinking good, kind thoughts about ourselves (click here for a review), this is another way to affirm our worth.  It is a way for us to see our strengths, capabilities and talents in action!

Then we can take and apply this hopefulness and empowerment to what we currently want.  We tell ourselves, ‘I did/received this, this, this, and this, surely I can do/receive this new thing, as well.’  We remind ourselves that we sometimes (or maybe every time) felt daunted or discouraged, at the start, when we wanted something. But it did not prevent the manifestation (although it may have held it up a bit!).  And so this time, rather than feeling overwhelmed or disheartened, we optimistically and enthusiastically anticipate the manifestation, remembering and being grateful for what we have already wanted and received.  Most importantly we remember and revel in our capabilities and worthiness along the way.

What have you wanted and already manifested?   Feel and know your power and worthiness as you recall everything on that list.  What new things do you want?  Remember your power and worth during the process as they make their way to you!