We’re always on the search for signs. In every part of our lives—work, relationships, wellness—we try to suss out situations before they materialize. Sometimes, this work is deliberate, but more often it’s subconscious. When personal green flags make themselves known, we feel an energy shift. Our wants, dreams, and hopes for ourselves begin to align—and our lives start to flow with a greater sense of ease.

It’s one of the key tenets of creating a vision board. By gathering and curating images, words, and materials that represent your dream life, you’re building a road map for yourself. After all, how can you get where you want to go without a clear destination in mind?

What are personal green flags?

Personal green flags serve as a reminder that we’re on the right track. (PSA: That track looks different for everyone.) They’re an opportunity to take stock of how we’re growing and evolving. What’s more, they help us cut through the noise of our inner critic. In a world that’s constantly demanding we be “better” at the risk of compromising our health and happiness, it’s so easy to default to a negative dialogue. Instead, by celebrating our wins—both big and small—along the way, we build a level of self-awareness oriented toward our growth. And as the adage holds true, the more we focus on the good, the more good we receive.

Roti Brown outside

6 Personal Green Flags to Pay Attention To

All of these efforts come together in the continuing journey of realizing your highest self. They’re a reminder of what makes you feel like the most authentic version of yourself. Not only that but the happiest and most at peace. Ahead, discover the personal green flags that prove: all that work on yourself? It’s always worth it.

1. You Prioritize Rest and Self-Compassion

If you’ve ridden the (ubiquitous, all-consuming) hustle culture train, you know just how exhausting it can be. As someone who was also once fooled into believing that toxic productivity was the key to getting ahead, I’ve experienced the freedom of adapting to a gentler approach. It’s related to our proclivity toward perfectionism: a fear-driven phenomenon leading us to believe that we can’t achieve success—or lean into its associated happiness—without controlling every element of our lives to a tee.

Allowing yourself consistent, ample time for rest is not only an act of self-love but also trust. It communicates that the work can be done (and perhaps even done better) by building restorative pauses into your day. Add to that self-compassion—our ability to express kindness to ourselves in moments of perceived inadequacy or even failure—and the result is strengthened resilience.

Think about it: how does your motivation differ in situations where you beat yourself down (“I’m so stupid! How could I make that mistake?”) versus those when you’re more forgiving and empathetic (“It’s okay, I did the best I could with the resources I had.”)? Prioritizing rest and responding to ourselves with self-compassion are two key personal green flags pointing toward your growth.

Vase of peonies.

2. You Set and Practice Healthy Boundaries

People pleasers of the past or present, unite! Boundaries are notoriously difficult to set—and taking that further, enforce. It’s easy to think that saying yes to everything will help others see you in a positive light, and in turn, build your self-esteem. But boundaries are the foundation for healthy relationships, both with others as well as with yourself.

Boundaries also strengthen your sense of integrity. By saying no to the invitations, additional work tasks, or simply whatever doesn’t serve you, you’re infusing your “yes’” with more trust and value. At their core, healthy and strong boundaries are meant to keep you safe, happy, and feeling respected. If you have a hard time setting them, remember that saying no to what you don’t want opens up opportunities to embrace what truly aligns.

3. You Have a Clear Picture of What Doesn’t Serve You

Building on boundaries, it’s important to understand what does and doesn’t support your best self. In the past, I would stretch myself thin with personal and professional commitments without pausing for a moment whether or not these choices served me. It was like I was living on auto-pilot and riding the current of other people’s desires.

As we evolve into our highest selves, a key learning is sitting in the truth that only you know what serves you best. This spans the entire spectrum of your life. From your morning routine to how you eat to every other choice you make, only you can determine what works and what doesn’t.

I get it: with all the noise out there across the internet and social media, it can be hard to determine what resonates. Journaling, meditation, and yes, your vision board, are all great strategies to help you get quiet with yourself and learn the truth of what you really need.

Mary Ralph Biking

4. You Embrace the Uncomfortable

Oof—I’d give everything for a magic tool that could wish away every awkward, uncomfortable moment of my life. I seize up when anything gives me the ick, and as such, try to avoid these situations and feelings at every cost.

But… growth comes from those moments when we’re challenged and stretched to our limits. Our comfort zone is a cozy place to be, but it’s not where expansion—professionally, personally, and in our relationships—takes place. Especially as women, we can get used to playing it small. It may seem that doing a simple cost-benefit analysis of any risk confirms that potential failure is not worth the potential win.

Rejection, however, is an inevitability of life. It teaches us what paths to pursue and what possible directions we can choose not to waste our energy on. Now, whenever I feel uncomfortable, I understand the feeling as information. But rather than blindly pursuing it, I’m mindful to pause before moving forward. When you notice feeling uncomfortable about a choice, ask yourself: What choice can I make that’s aligned with how I want to grow? From there, boldly take that next step.

5. You Don’t Dwell on the Past

Say it with me: I. Cannot. Change. The. Past. It’s an affirmation I like to practice daily, reminding me that while I can learn from the past, I have no power to alter it. The best I can do is simply allow it to inform how I choose to show up every day. Easier said than done though, right? Trust me, I’ve had to work at it consistently over the years to be able to positively shift my relationship to the past.

Alongside practicing this affirmation, regularly tapping into gratitude helps me be mindful of how the past has impacted my present. This exercise is particularly helpful with those moments I may have wished I could change. By practicing gratitude for it all, I’m able to zoom out on my life, seeing everything with a wider lens and understanding that the good, the bad—all of it—has resulted in where I am today. And that’s something to be endlessly grateful for.

6. You Allow Yourself to Feel All Your Emotions

Of all the personal green flags I could list out, I want this to be your biggest takeaway. Collectively, we’re beginning to understand that all emotions signify a state of being. Rather than categorizing feelings as inherently good or bad, they point to how we’re experiencing life at any given moment. Happiness is a beautiful thing. Sadness is a beautiful thing. Boredom is a beautiful thing. Rather than trying to push away an emotion or grasp onto it, try being present for it and leaning into its experience.

Emotions tell us what we need and how we can best take care of ourselves. Boredom can signify a need for creative output, while sadness can express an absence of connection. Our feelings remind us to prioritize listening to ourselves. So the next time you’re tempted to drown out anxiety or push away your pain, get quiet. Lean into these emotions and let your body and mind tell you the best way to proceed.

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