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Brainstorm Your 2013 Goals Before the Ball Drops

ResolutionsSo, the end of the year holidays are upon us, and I am left laying in bed or day-dreaming in my commute to work about next year. The year 2013, where we will all gain another year under our belt and hopefully work on our goals. Have you given any thought about the new year? If not, it’s time to start, before you’re left in January 1, 2013 wondering how to make your life not suck.

  • Start small. Most people fail at new year’s resolutions because they dream too big, and have unrealistic expectations of what can be accomplished in a year. Yes, you must challenge yourself out of the status quo — but do not start out too big or you will just stare out the window, too overwhelmed to begin. Think of your overall goal and pick one aspect, that is workable in your life for one year, and start there.
  • Write in the present. A great trick to shifting your attitude that YES, you CAN do this, is to write your goal as if you are already doing that thing. For example, don’t say, “I want to lose weight next year.” Instead, say, “I am 50 pounds thinner and I feel healthy and more able to do things I love with my children.” Reading the first sentence feels scary, because not only is it an undefined goal (how much weight? what is the deadline? why do you want to do this?, etc), but it doesn’t feel attainable at the moment. When you read the second sentence, you actually feel happy imagining your life through that sentence and can begin shifting your attitude to realizing that very goal. More important, the second sentence tells you non-physical reasons to lose that weight, to be healthier and to play with your children. You feel that motivation stirring you because you have identified WHY you want this goal.
  • Once you figure out the WHAT and the WHY, you can begin chunking your goal into smaller and smaller pieces. These will become action steps for you to work on in regular intervals from monthly tasks, to weekly tasks — as small as what you can do TOMORROW for your goal.
  • Don’t make resolutions. No one sticks to those past Valentine’s Day. Consider these contracts or promises to yourself that you must keep.
  • Find someone to keep you accountable. It can be anyone, even an online buddy from a forum. I love subreddits to find great support and to find lots of information about basically anything.
  • Reflect and re-evaluate every week. Not so good this week? Figure out now what you need to to and change, even if it’s just one thing you focus on each week. Soon, you will see yourself gradually making progress.
  • Accept that you’re going to slip up, fall off the wagon, or lose track altogether. The important part is when you realize it and get yourself back on track. That’s why you re-evaluate, weekly.
  • Be thankful for what you have, everyday. Being thankful for things changes your attitude from negative to positive, and makes you take a look at all the luxuries you possess. I’ll take a wild guess and assume you have: a place to live, a bed to sleep on, heat and/or ac or fan, food and a fridge, a stove to cook food, shoes, a coat, maybe a job, maybe a family, a cell phone, internet connection and computer, money to buy things you like, a car. You’d be amazed at how many people in this world do not even have clean water, let alone any of this stuff.
  • Spend time each week reading something that is somehow related to your goals or inspirational in some way. You do not have to purchase books, support your local library.
  • There’s an app for that. If you have a smartphone, I bet there is an app that can help you keep track of your goals. Try Mint for money-tracking, and My Fitness Pal app for calorie/meal and exercise tracking.

Here is a brief, work-in-progress list of my goals for 2013. Maybe we share the same goals?

  • Lose 50 pounds by June 4, my birthday, which is a teeny bit over 2 pounds per week: I will be 50 pounds lighter and will have established a healthy eating and exercise routine for lasting health. Figure out by January 5 my method of exercise (gym or home? walk around block etc). I will reward myself by buying a new outfit (jeans, shirt, shoes).
  • Promote self as freelance writer on Fiverr and Freelancer and find long-term work to provide me with enough money for rent each month: I will earn enough money for rent each month with my freelance writing.
  • Save at least 10% of all paychecks in savings account not to be touched.
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3 Ways to Immediately Live a More Fulfilling Life

westie painting leftoversHave you ever thought to yourself, “there must be more to this life?”

There is. You just have to figure out what it is.

Stop living your life absentmindedly, going through the motions, and self-medicating with food, alcohol, or illegal drugs. Stop hating your life each morning, swearing under your breath as you brush your teeth. Stop yelling at your spouse or kids because you are so stressed at work and stop being disgusted with yourself. The time to act is now. Grab a pen and piece of paper, and find out what you need in your life to be happier.

1. Do what you love. Stop what you don’t.

There’s no point wasting your time being miserable. Focus on what you enjoy in your life and make a strong effort to replace time-wasting activities with activities and hobbies that make you smile or lose track of time.

DO: Try drawing in a sketchpad, painting on a canvas, reading a good book, hand-writing in a pretty journal, taking pictures with a real camera (not your iphone), going outside and laying in the grass. What makes you happy? Munching on chips probably makes you (temporarily) happy, but choose a more spiritually rewarding or creative task. The key is to replace a negative aspect of your life (what is harming some aspect of your life in any way, big or small, literally, morally, spiritually, or mentally), with something constructive and positive.

STOP: Get rid of mindless web surfing, bad television show-watching, sitting on the couch, sleeping in, toxic friends, smoking, over-consumption of alcohol or indulging in high-caloric food, social media….and anything else that bring no worth to your pleasure or career, things that give you anxiety or are tedious, and things that are not critical to your life and have no sense being in it.

Consciously remove yourself from that negative situation (caught yourself in front of daytime TV again?). If you cannot leave the room or environment (you hate your job, but you need to pay bills? See number two), use some quick relaxation exercises to calm yourself down and bring yourself in the present moment mentally. Stop shutting out your emotions and realize what behaviors or feelings are bringing you to desire this harmful activity.

Example: I mindlessly surf Facebook when I am bored.
What is at the root of this activity? What am I feeling? Boredom.
Why do I feel bored? Because I have no one to talk to, and I feel lonely. Because I can’t sleep, so I’ve logged onto the computer to waste time and distract myself.
What am I distracting myself from? My current financial situation.

This example shows how to write out and get to the root of your stress/worries that is causing the negative behavior. Free-write uninterrupted until you hit the gold-mine.

The next step, of course, is to figure out proactive ways to solve your problems. But first:

  • Remove yourself from the situation.
  • Calm yourself down and get back in the present. Realize why you are doing this behavior.
  • Physically get up, change gears, and begin doing the activity you’d rather be doing — the one that brings you joy, is productive and creative, and more fulfilling to your life.
  • Keep consciously changing gears until you replace the bad habit completely.
  • Feel infinitely better and more creative.

2. Get a job you love – the smart way.

It is easy for self-help books and blogs to say, “if you don’t like your job, QUIT.” But seriously, we all need to pay the bills. Sometimes the only job out there is one that is mind-numbing, below your pay rate or skill levels, or has a horrible and stressful work environment or co-workers. The smart way to do this is to look for your dream job — on the side. Keep your job for the necessities in life: utilities, rent/mortgage payments, car payments, gas, food, clothes, and insurance. But when you’re out of work, fill an hour or so per week hunting down that job. Update your resume, make an account on Linked In or SnagaJob, search Indeed or Monster for open positions, practice job interview questions. Glassdoor is a great resource for getting the inside scoop on job interviews, salary levels, and workplace satisfaction. Discover companies in your area and contact them.

Make a deadline for when you would like to quit. If you find it hard to work without pressure, type your letter of resignation now, and seal it in an envelope addressed to your manager. Bring it to your manager in the two weeks before your previously chosen last day.

Note: you may be tempted to find a job and rush in there, tell off your boss and stick up the middle finger and waltz out the door. DON’T. Remain professional and civil, and you will keep a reference for your future jobs. Also, most managers will not provide a positive reference to your employers if you do not provide the two-weeks-notice or more; please see your employee handbook for specific information for your job. Do not lose out on your reference, especially if you’ve been at the job for more than six months. Consider this a stepping stone to your true job.

If your employment relationship includes either an explicit or implied contract that says you must give two weeks notice of resignation and you don’t, your employer might have the right to take punitive action. For example, your employer might legally have the right to deny you termination benefits, such as accrued vacation pay. (source)

You may consider taking this hour or so every week to contribute your time to starting the business you’ve always dreamed of (see youngentrepreneur.com), starting a website to monetize/sell products/blog, or advertise for handy man work or cleaning positions on your local Craigslist. These side endeavors, with some hard work, and time/money investments (dependent on the nature of the project), will lead to a decent side income or may even a replacement to your paid-per-hour or salary job position. (See SmartPassiveIncome.com)

3. Be a constant learner.

A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study.
~Chinese Proverb

One of the greatest joys of life is that there is much to be learned — everyday. Seek out opportunities to learn something. Whether it’s a new word (like this one), a new language (great list of free language learning tools and sites), a program (like Photoshop), or something extremely out of your element (for me, it’s politics), the most fulfilling life is one that is full of constant learning. Here are just a few amazing online free resources.

  • Khan Academy – online courses/videos.
  • W3Schools – learn HTML, Javascript, CSS, ASP, PHP, etc.
  • Codecademy – interactive code-learning program for beginners.
  • Reddit.com – millions of amazing subreddits with opportunities to learn everyday with user-uploaded content and interesting debates like r/psychology, r/science, or this question/answer format r/IAmA (posters claim they are some interesting person, prove it, and answer reader’s questions). You can literally search anything and they will most likely have a reddit for it.
  • Tell me why? – random tidbits of knowledge and facts in a blog format.
  • DumbLittleMan has this great list of free online resources for learning something new everyday.
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Don’t Chase Your Dreams, Tackle Them into the Ground

dreamEveryone has at least one dream. Whether it’s to be a rock star, to own a huge mansion, to be the best author in the world, or to look hot — having dreams almost defines what makes us human. Fido over there doesn’t dream about losing five or ten pounds or finding the perfect doggie mate. (This of course, is different from dreaming at night when sleeping – quite a sight to see my dog “running” while laying down dead asleep.) Anyway, I digress.

The point is, you know what your dreams are, don’t you? When you’re bored surfing Facebook, trying to pay attention in class, or surviving a long work day, those dreams fade in and out of your mind. Sometimes you catch a mental image of that dream, such as being on the beach making passive income instead of slaving over at work for 60 hours a week. What is your image? Is it difficult to picture your dream? Search around for visuals of your dream online or in magazines. You can even cut out these pictures and glue them on a poster board and make a dream collage. You can have multiple dreams, maybe they even intersect.

So tell me: what are your dreams?

It is nice to dream, but dreaming gets you nowhere in life. Soon enough you wake up and face reality. Ouch. So how do you get yourself out of the mediocrity of your current situation? How do you use those dreams to your advantage? The key is to change these dreams, these fleeting images of happiness (what you deem happiness is, of course), into hardcore, no-fucking-around goals.

How do you do that? It’s quiet easy. You can use two popular models to help you:

First, do you want a S.M.A.R.T. goal? Just make them:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Now make your goals G.R.O.W. with these tips:

  • Goal – be specific (be S.M.A.R.T)
  • Reality – what is your current situation?
  • Options – what are your choices
  • Will – what will you do now? Commit to a choice from your options.
I’ll lead you with an example to help you get familiar with these great models.  My goal is to lose weight. Losing weight is at the top of everyone’s new year’s resolution lists, but it’s a terrible goal. It’s too vague, and it doesn’t tell you anything about how or why or when you know you’ve reached it. Here is how to make this goal S.M.A.R.T.
  • Specific – Say I want to lose 50 pounds. Losing 2 lbs a week is a healthy average, and a good goal to shoot for, so I want to achieve this goal in 25 weeks from the starting date. So if I start on August 1, 2011, my deadline would be 25 weeks from that – January 23, 2012. So I’ll say “I want to lose 50 pounds by January 23, 2012.”
  • Measureable – I will weigh myself once a week until I lose 50 pounds. The goal is 2 pounds a week to reach this goal by the deadline, so now I even have short-term weekly goals, which are easier to work on than a big goal like 50 pounds.
  • Attainable – I am overweight and I know being overweight sucks. So I know the urgency of wanting to lose weight for health and personal reasons. Know the reasons why you want to lose weight. You don’t have to list why in your goal, but it is helpful to think why you really want this goal in the first place. If you don’t really want it, what’s the point of reaching for it? This is where your dreams come into play – what will make you happy?
  • Realistic- Since I know a 2-lb a week weight loss is attainable and healthy, I know this is a realistic goal to shoot for. It’s not too within my reach like 10 pounds in 25 weeks, or overwhelming like 100 pounds in 25 weeks. Knowing what is attainable or not for your goal takes a bit of research.
  • Time-bound – The 25-week deadline is my element of urgency. If there’s no urgency, why bother doing it? Ever notice how you can slack off all semester for a term paper, but as soon as the day before it’s due comes, you’re working like a madperson to get it done – even sacrificing sleep and friends to finish writing that paper? Even better if the deadline is meaningful, maybe a big milestone birthday is coming up, or it’s March and you want to save up money for a very nice vacation this summer – Create urgency in your goal, and you’ll feel motivated to work harder for it.
To recap, my goal is: “I will lose 50 pounds at a rate of 2 pounds per week starting August 1 and ending January 23.”
Now that I’ve got a S.M.A.R.T. goal, let’s work on G.R.O.W.:
  • Goal – Just reiterating the S.M.A.R.T. goal I wrote above.
  • Reality – I eat too much, I don’t exercise, and I’m unhappy. (note: this is not entirely true, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s keep it like this.)
  • Options – I could lower my calorie intake by 500 per day. I could exercise and burn 500 calories per day. I could do both. I could be more active – park in further spots, walk during lunch break, go on hikes, play tennis.  (tons more to put here, but again, this is just for examples.)
  • Will – I decided to lose 50 pounds by eating 500 calories less per day and exercise daily, burning at least 500-750 calories per day. I could go on even further and explain how I will workout, (cardio or weight training or both, what programs, what weight amounts), and what time of the day (mornings, evenings, whenever I get out of work). The countdown of 25 weeks starts on August 1. But you should start tomorrow.
There you have it, so stop chasing your dreams – tackle them and start making goals with them.

Before something happens in the world, it must happen in your mind.
– Anthony Robbins

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Where are your keys?

Keys.I want you to spend the next 10 or so minutes thinking about one thing. Not the bills due, or the kids or the spouse, or college or term papers. Not friends’ drama, or what’s on the news, or Facebook. I want you to think about yourself. Answer these questions, even better if you answer them on paper:

What do you want out of life?

What are your goals?

Are you happy or unhappy? Why?

What will make you even more happy?

What can you do this month to move your goals forward? This week? Tomorrow?

It is time to stop mulling it over. It is time to stop brooding and thinking and wishing and hoping. It is time to start doing. To grab your keys – and go.

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