A woman I know recently signed up to participate in a year-long photography challenge. The premise: take a photo of something beautiful every day.  She started the project feeling excited, but has since run out of steam, complaining that she’s always in the same office, in the same stores, driving the same roads. She’s run out of picture-perfect beauty sightings, she said.

I can totally relate. My own blog started the same way nearly six years ago, as a personal challenge to photograph and write about something beautiful every day for a year. At first, it was fairly easy; it seemed there were plenty of flowers, trees and clouds to photograph in those first weeks. But eventually, I felt like a broken record, taking pictures of the same types of things over and over.

If I was going to get through a whole year feeling engaged and energized by the project, I realized I needed to expand my definition of beauty. So, I started to look beyond the flowers and trees, and challenged myself to find something extraordinary in the ordinary. It took practice and a serious mind-stretch, but I began to find magic and miracles in things I’d never noticed before: sunlight streaming through the window, evidence of kids at play, a ladybug camped out on a gas station pump, a pot of homemade soup on my grandma’s stove.

I redefined beauty for myself as anything that makes my heart skip a beat with its goodness. With that as my litmus test, I was suddenly taking countless pictures a day, in awe of my surroundings – and feeling happier with every click of the shutter. I realized I’d been walking through life with blinders on, conditioned to appreciate only the brand of beauty we find in travel brochures and master gardens. Expanding my view, I believe, expanded my heart and transformed my life.

So, the other day, I encouraged my friend to re-engage in her photography challenge by expecting to find magic in her everyday surroundings and look deeper than before. As an example, I pointed out the pretty fabric pattern on the restaurant booth behind her. When she turned around, you would have thought she’d just discovered the sun! Her eyes were wide and her mouth fell open as she saw beauty where she had not seen it before. What a treat to witness her childlike wonder and watch beauty reveal itself!

As Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” So true, right? And so completely beautiful.