Standards vs. Expectations

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Something that has been on my mind a lot lately is how to know when you are expecting too much versus how to realize when you are compromising your standards.  I feel that in the modern world of the internet, people tend to view the extravagant things that they see on social media as acceptable/common expectations for relationships, when what they really need to be focusing on is figuring out their personal standards.   The difference between the two may seem hard to grasp at first, but I feel there is one important distinction, which can be seen if we look at the definitions:

Standards: Those morals, ethics, habits, etc., established by authority, custom, or an individual as acceptable.

Expectation: Something expected; a thing looked forward to.

In other words, standards are broad, expectations are narrow.  In relationships, everyone should have certain standards that they establish for how they will or will not allow themselves to be treated.  However, it is unfair to your partner to have specific expectations in your mind for every little thing as this just sets them up for failure.

The one standard that everyone should have for their relationship is healthy communication.  If the relationship is going to ‘go the distance’, both parties need to be able to discuss their thoughts and feelings with the other person.  However, there should be very little expectations placed upon how honest and deep communication comes about.  For example, perhaps you expect your partner to be able to discuss what you are feeling whenever, wherever, but your partner feels the most comfortable discussing things in private after some time de-stressing from a day of work.  If you focus on the fact that your expectation is not being met, you are disregarding the reality that he or she is still honoring the standard of communication.  If, however, your partner refuses to communicate at all, you would be lowering your standards by staying in that relationship.

Another standard that should be, well, standard in a relationship is a certain level of affection and appreciation.  Both parties need to feel that the other person recognizes their value and is attracted to them physically and mentally.  This is where the 5 love languages come into play (read the book by Gary Chapman if you haven’t already).  If you have the expectation that you should be verbally thanked every time you do something nice, you may totally disregard when your partner does a kind action in return.  If you refuse to see how your partner gives and receives affection and appreciation, you will inevitably end up disappointed and angry.  However, if you focus on simply having a standard that you will only be with someone who appreciates you and finds you attractive, you will be opening yourself to the myriad of ways that others show their acknowledgement and interest.

A third standard that should not be compromised is similar life goals.  Each half of the relationship should desire complimentary things.  However, this is another aspect that can be ruined by specific expectations.  For example, if one of the focuses of your life is going to the gym and staying healthy, you would want someone who also values health.  However, if you expect that your partner be a gym rat as well, you may totally disregard someone who goes hiking and biking on a regular basis when they may be perfect for you in every other way.  Another instance might be someone who is ambitious and wants to become the top salesperson in their district discounting someone who does not want to rise to the top of their own field, when the person they passed over is actually quite motivated in other areas of their life.  So many times we create an image of who we expect our ideal partner to be to complete our personal picture of our future, yet completely ignore the simplicity of traveling in the same general direction in life.

Overall, every person deserves to have an optimal relationship that meets their standards, but no one deserves to be in a relationship where they are trapped by unrealistic expectations.  If your partner meets your standards for communication while showing you affection and appreciation in a way that you understand, they should not be expected to meet those standards in a certain cookie-cutter way.  Of course, everyone has particular things that they enjoy; these should be communicated with your partner, and they should be allowed to communicate their specific desires to you.  If you really love that person, you will WANT to know what makes them happy.  However, if you cling to certain expectations all of the time, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Initial human relationships are the most difficult and confusing things on the planet.  Don’t make them harder by having unreasonable assumptions of how things should be OR by accepting less than what you deserve.  In the end, though, if you find someone who is worth the hassle of riding out the inevitable turbulence, you’ll find that there is nothing more amazing than the rock-solid knowledge that you have someone who is always in your corner, no matter what.

What are you worth?

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I’ve been thinking about relationships quite a bit lately, and today has been a particularly contemplative day.  Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast on the value of time detailing, among other things, why certain people are justified in charging large amounts of money for their skill set (Forever Jobless, Season 2, Episode 49).  He gave an example of a plumber’s itemized bill for fixing a clog:

  • Hitting the pipe-$1.
  • Knowing where to hit the pipe-$199

The point he was trying to make is that people always balk at spending large amounts of money to get things corrected or streamlined, especially if afterwords it doesn’t seem like the fix took very long or needed any effort, but fail to realize the prior time and energy that went into gaining the knowledge necessary to make it that simple.  If someone has spent hours learning how to do something well and can provide you with a quality result, their asking price is ultimately worth more than your time spent muddling through trying to figure it out yourself.

To get to the point, I realized that this truth holds water for relationships as well.The only difference is, relationships and people are not bought with monetary funds (with certain exceptions, which is another conversation).

For the majority of people, relationships of one form or another are something that they desire.  Most of us eventually want to find a romantic partner to build our lives with; someone who supports us, enjoys life with us, and with whom we share similar interests and goals.  There are few relationships, however, that seem to truly embody this objective.  Which brings us to the question: If amazing relationships are something that everybody wants, why is it so hard to manifest?  Eventually, it all comes down to investment.

There are individuals in this world who have put time and energy into making themselves desirable by seeking out life experiences, actively working on themselves, and becoming well-versed in their field of choice.  These are people whose value quotient in a relationship is quite high.  Everyone wants to be with someone who is interesting, caring, and successful.  Not many people, however, do what it takes to make their own personal net worth skyrocket.

What does it take to partner with someone of high quality?  Valuable people are “bought” by those with similar merits who give honest effort.  You could have all the money in the world, but if you are not willing to spend $1000 to get your Lamborghini fixed, you are going to be driving a broken car and eventually spending a lot more buying a new one.  This is the same for relationships.  You could be a highly valuable person yourself, but if you’re not willing to put in the effort that it takes to procure and retain a person of similar character, you will have a crippled relationship and most likely will be finding yourself trying to find a new one fairly soon.

Value recognizes value.  This is why rich people are willing to pay for things to get done well.  They receive the advantage of spending their time elsewhere, and the labor bankrolls the appropriate monetary compensation for their skills.  Likewise, valuable people find themselves seeking out other people on their level because their worth is reciprocated.  Quality people recognize the effort that it takes to maintain a relationship with a fellow distinctive person, and they are willing to put in that complete energy because they recognize the benefit of the end result.

If I could get an excellent car repair job, high-end furniture, and organic food for dirt cheap or free, I would.  But smart people know that bargains aren’t really bargains, and it’s worth it in the long run to pony up the cash up front to ensure optimal results.  The only time a true bargain happens is when the person on the other end doesn’t know what their time or product is worth.

Again, this is the same for relationships.  There are so many people who have been convinced that what they have to offer isn’t worth what they are asking, and sadly, they lower their price.  And there are others on the opposite side of the coin who try to convince people that what they’re providing is much more valuable than what it actually is.  Either scenario results in unbalance, which eventually leads to unhappiness.  You should not be providing a 2017 Mercedes-Benz relationship if you are only being offered a 1998 Ford budget and you should not offer a Focus down payment on an E-class.

The key point is that you need to know your honest worth.  Some people truly won’t have the resources that allow them to ‘afford’ you.  Some people will have the capital but will be unwilling to invest it in what you have to offer.  And sometimes, you have to comb through your own emotional bank statements and realize that the problem lies with you.  Regardless, your return should match your contribution.  And if you’re not happy with your bottom line, perhaps it’s time for better investments.

 

 

Your Truth

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This morning I indulged in a bit of idiocy and engaged in a couple Facebook comment discussions about a highly controversial subject.  Normally, I stay far, far away from such interactions and scroll hastily past threads 27 comments deep with people spewing their self-righteous opinions fast and furiously.  Yet today, I felt the need to make my viewpoint heard for some (unknown to me) reason.

I will admit, after I posted my first comment, I sat with eager anticipation, watching my Facebook icon for a notification to pop up which would reveal ‘likes’ galore and others commenting on how I was “so right” and “had such great points”.   And when that first notification appeared?  It was someone pointing out what they felt was a flaw in my comment.  Woomp woomp.

This experience was serious food for thought.  Why do people have such deep-seated opinions?  What causes such emotional attachment to a certain idea?  Most importantly, how does someone actually change their opinion?  I know it’s possible to shift your life views because my perspective has changed so drastically over the years, and it no, it definitely wasn’t because I engaged in many a rigorous Myspace discussion.

In reality, your truth is based mostly on your personal experiences.  When I was younger, I was very against homosexuality because I was raised with conservative beliefs.  In high school, one of my friends came out to me as lesbian, and it caused some serious soul-searching for me.  Wait, she’s my friend!  She’s a good person!  But homosexuality is a sin!  Eventually I settled into my current acceptance, which was the beginning of my many shifts of consciousness throughout the last ten years.

When you are younger, your parents shape your experiences. They will expose you to things that align with their version of the universe, and you come to accept it as your own.  It is a startling moment when you realize that your parents might not know everything.  The pillars of your life that have always provided you with righteous guidance suddenly fall under scrutiny as all of your values are tested in your mind.  This feels like the day your world collapses, and yet, it is actually the day you begin to find your way.  This is the day that you get to really decide who you are and what you believe.  This is when you find your truth.

But there is a catch.

You will never find your truth if you don’t expose yourself to the world.  I am so different from who I was because I have experienced things that vastly diverge from the microcosm I grew up in.  There have been experiences that have changed my perspective 180 degrees, and other experiences that have solidified my childhood norms.  The point is, I filtered the information I received and shaped myself in response.  You cannot change who you are if you always give yourself to the same input.

So with that said.

Travel.  Talk to strangers.  Sit alone.  Face a fear.  Read books.  Take the job across the country or overseas.  Play devil’s advocate.

Don’t be afraid of change at the most fundamental level.  After all of your experiences, you may very well find that your truth stays solidly the same.  Most likely, some of it will shift.  In the end, we make choices based on our truth.  These choices shape our world.  And while sharing your vision on a Facebook thread may not prove to be the most optimal way to shift anyone else’s paradigm, there is no greater satisfaction than knowing that you built your own truth and you own your life.

 

 

Making a Choice

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If you are a frequent social media user (and really, who isn’t these days), I’m sure you’ve seen the “Just Do It!” video put out by Shia Lebeouf over a year ago. While his gesticulations,  posturing, and total commitment to this piece invite a lot of humor, his overall message fits in nicely with my thoughts today.

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We as humans are masters of making terrible choices and of avoiding decisions whenever  possible.  Which, of course, is the opposite of what we should be doing.  Most people avoid making choices because a)they don’t know what they actually want, b)they don’t want to work hard, or c)they want to keep all options open as long as possible.  In order to get ahead in life, you need to Make. A. Choice., which means you need to have an awareness of the following things:

What do you actually, honestly, want?

There are few, if any people in the world who are true free agents.  Every person has obligations to someone, whether it be to a parent, a spouse, a child, a boss, or another established relationship in your life.  Before you make any choices, you need to think about how your options will affect those commitments, if at all.  Most of the time, we find that we have been using our responsibilities as an excuse to get out of making difficult decisions.  “I know I need to eat healthier, but my family won’t eat the healthy food I make” or “I know I need to work out but my boss demands so much of my time time” or “I want to stop drinking so much but my friends go out all the time”.  The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that you actually don’t want it that bad.

If you really, truly want something, there will be nothing that stands in your way.  I have a friend whose boyfriend drove an hour and a half, in traffic, every weekend in the beginning of the relationship because he valued her.  He actively CHOSE her, against all inconveniences and drawbacks, because he knew what he wanted.  I have another friend who uses his lunch break to work out so he can focus on other personal goals before and after work.  He actively CHOOSES to sacrifice sleep and social time because his aspirations are important to him.  I get up at 5am every weekday so that I can complete my cardio workout regardless of what might come up after work.  I actively CHOOSE to forfeit lazy mornings because I want to maintain my health.

Figure out what you wantMake that knowledge so ingrained in your mind that no one can make your focus waiver.  Then, make choices based on that solid foundation of desire.

What are your options? 

When people make a passive choice (something that they chose by their thoughtless actions rather than actively pursuing it with their mind) they are allowing themselves to believe that they don’t have any other option.  Passive choices come from not acknowledging that there are, in fact, two or more options, but instead simply falling into the easiest pattern of behavior.  “Ah, its after dinner, time to sit and watch TV” or “It’s Taco Tuesday-margaritas again!”  Stop.  Think. What are your actual options?  Which ones are going to lead you closer to where you want to be?

There are always alternatives.  Absolutely hate your current job?  Get a new one.  Sick and tired of constantly buying a bigger pants size?  Change your lifestyle.  Completely annoyed with your roommate?  Find a different living situation.  For every passive decision you have made, there were 2 or 3 other choices that may have led you down a better path.

“But wait”-you’re thinking-“It’s not that easy!”  Of course it’s not easy.  If it was easy, you would have already done it.  We are more than water falling down a hill-we should not always take the path of least resistance.  Honestly look at all of your options, and choose the one that leads you closer to where you want to be, whether it is one big decision or many small cumulative choices.

What aspects about that choice are going to be tough for you?

If you already have a set pattern of behavior, making a choice that directly conflicts with your established system will be difficult.  But what’s even more difficult is looking back ten years down the road and realizing that your life could have been so much different (i.e. better).  Yet you are also not doing yourself any favors if you blithely make a decision and skip off towards your goal without actually considering where you may stumble.

Take measures to be successful.  I know that if I come home from work absolutely starving, it’s going to be extremely hard to wait for my healthy meal to cook without devouring everything in the kitchen beforehand.  Therefore, I cook everything a day in advance so that I don’t have to wait and tempt myself.  If you know that you cannot say no to cookies in the break room, don’t go into the break room.  If you know that being alone with a certain person may cause you to be unfaithful to the man or women in your life, don’t be alone with that person.  If you know that you won’t go to the gym if you stop home beforehand, don’t go home until your workout is complete.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can will yourself through any and all temptation that comes your way when you are first starting out.  Believe me, I’ve told myself that “I got this” for many a social gathering, and then the next day I wonder how the hell I let myself get so out of control.  By anticipating your weak moments in advance, you can make sure you have barriers in place that prevent total collapse.

What do you have to sacrifice?

For some choices that we decide to make, there will be nothing to sacrifice.  However, for most life-changing or hard decisions, there will usually be something that has to be given up.  If you want to lose weight/get in shape, you have to give up unhealthy foods and sitting on your butt all day.  If you want to start a business, you have to give up time spent on happy hours and Sunday Football.  If you want to initiate a new relationship, you have to sacrifice one night stands and going out on weekends prowling for the opposite sex.

However, most of the time our ‘sacrifice’ is not really a loss.  Once you start eating good food, you feel amazing and can’t believe you ever ate crap to begin with.  Once your business gets off the ground, you realize that most of the hours you ‘gave up’ would have actually just been wasted existing rather than growing.  Once your relationship is established, you appreciate the steady love of someone who supports and complements you more than the momentary excitement of a new conquest.

If you truly want what you are choosing, the things you are giving up will not feel like losses.  And when all is said and done, you may realize that your sacrifice actually ended up being a blessing in disguise.


In the end, our most defining feature will be our choices.  Don’t let fear, other people, or routine make your decisions for you.  Don’t make half-choices where you waffle back and forth between two or three different things because you don’t have the cajones to take a stand.  Decide who you want to be and focus your selections based on that conception.  Once you start narrowing your vision and making strides towards your optimal life, you will find whole other planes of existence opening up to you.

You control your future.  You control your present.  You control you.  If you really sit down to think about that, its a terrifying reality yet an amazing opportunity.  Decide what choices will get you to where you want be and Just DO IT!

Optimal Connections

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Tonight’s thoughts have been about our day-to-day connections; specifically, what it takes to create optimal relationships.  These thoughts were spurred by a small act of kindness that I received this morning:

I had 3 minutes to go until my first period class started, and the copier was acting like a spoiled brat.  Since I have a slight flair for the dramatic, I was making quite the comic scene of frustration and horror as my coworkers passed by.  After some (well-deserved) eye-rolling and snickering, one of my colleagues said “Here, give it to me, I’ve got kids that can help during this period” and proceeded to troubleshoot the copier, make me two different sets of copies, and deliver it them before first period finished.  I was relieved and amazed by my stroke of luck.

And then I started thinking.  Is it really just luck that caused me to stumble into having awesome alliances at work?  Maybe…but I feel like the answer really lies in the value I place on all my relationships and the steps I take to maintain them.

If you want to receive, first you have to give.  This is true for everything in life, but especially for relationships.  In today’s world, there is so much emphasis on what others can do for you.  What can YOU contribute to MY life?  People rarely ask themselves how they are contributing back.  Based on my personal experiences, I feel that there are at least five things that you need to do in order to create valuable connections with quality people in your life.

  1. Be Positive.  Nobody likes to be around someone who is constantly sighing and moaning about this or that problem or this or that person.  Constant negativity can shut down a budding relationship or sever an established bond.  While I definitely have my moments, the majority of the time I am happy and giving off positive vibes by smiling, waving, and goofing around.  Being upbeat makes quality people want to be around you, giving you an opportunity to establish firm connections.
  2. Be Earnest.  Sincerity has become a luxury today, and people tend to gravitate towards someone who is being honest, whether they completely agree with their statements or not.  I am able to create great relationships with my students, even during times when I am grumpy, simply by being honest and open with them on a daily basis.  I rarely put up a “teacher front” and I make sure I verbalize both the positive and negative things that I see in the classroom.  This has created an atmosphere of trust and accessibility, and even if my students don’t always like what I say, they never respond in a disrespectful way because they know that I am genuine.  If you trust quality people with your true, honest feelings, they will reciprocate in kind.
  3. Inconvenience Yourself.  Being selfish has its place in making sure that you are taken care of and healthy.  However, there are times when the duties that come with relationships are inopportune and annoying.  Do those things anyway.  Recently I had a friend’s housewarming party scheduled for the same day as I had planned on going down to San Diego.  The kicker?  The party was an hour in the opposite direction.  I had already committed to both, so, I did both.  Later, she sent me a text thanking me for being a such a good friend and coming to her party even though it wasn’t convenient for me.  Quality people will notice the sacrifices you make, and will make sacrifices in return.  I am not advocating that you completely neglect what you need in order to please everyone around you, but if the relationship matters to you, little inconveniences are a small price to pay.
  4. Communicate.  There are few things more frustrating for both parties than finding out you mistakenly took something someone said, did, or texted completely the wrong way.  Always try to convey your message clearly, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you are tempted to get offended by something.  Quality people will not be afraid to work through any issues that may arise.   As I have gotten older, I have become more straightforward with asking people what they mean with this comment or that text, and it has saved me a lot of hurt feelings and wasted time sulking.
  5. Make an Effort.  If a puppy is not fed, it dies.  If a flower is not watered, it withers away.  If a house is not maintained, it falls into disrepair.  This is analogous to our relationships.  Many times we get so engrossed in our own lives that we can go for months without speaking to a friend or a colleague.  Take the time to keep your relationships alive.  My best friend lives in South Carolina and we see each other once a year.  But we always make time for phone calls, texts, and the occasional Skype session.  Every time I pass a coworker in the hall, I purposefully say at LEAST ‘hi’, if not have a slight exchange in passing.  Making an effort does not always have to mean dedicating hours and hours-it can be as simple as shooting off a text or picking up someone’s favorite food while you’re at the grocery store.  Any effort you give is a gift that quality people will appreciate and return.

None of the five things that I have listed are easy.  But as I’m discovering more and more, nothing worth having in life is easyOptimal relationships with quality people are 100% worth the extra time and effort they take to establish and maintain because those people make you become a better person.

Take the time to observe the people you choose to surround yourself with.  Are they people of high caliber?  Would they inconvenience themselves for you?  Do they raise you up with positive energy?  If the answer to these questions is no, turn your focus towards yourself.  If you are not attracting quality people, chances are you lack the traits that make you attractive to people of such character.

Everyone is capable of creating relationships that are optimal.  Hardly anyone is willing to do what it takes.  Trust me when I say this, however, the effort is worth it.

 

Discipline

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As I sit here after my final weekend of holiday break, my thoughts keep going back to the importance of discipline.  My last Friday and Saturday of freedom were filled with friends, food, and alcohol.  This makes for great memories and satisfied taste buds, but stepping on the scale this morning sent me right back into the harsh realm of reality and spurred my current contemplation.

This weekend was not a weekend where I practiced discipline at all. In fact, I may even go so far as to say that I ran gleefully into the arms of sloth and then maniacally danced a jig with gluttony.  But why should I care?  I had fun, right?  I spent time with old friends and made new friends, right?  I got to eat delicious food and indulge in all the wine I wanted, right?

Right.

But here’s the thing.  My weekend may have been a “fun” weekend, but for the majority of the time, I felt like shit.  I woke up exhausted on Saturday, and severely hungover on Sunday.  I didn’t do anything productive the entire weekend (minus my workout on Saturday).  I severely torpedoed my diet, and I’ll have to work my ass off this week just to undo the damage before I can actually start making progress again.

Had I just evoked even the slightest bit of discipline into my weekend, I could have saved myself a lot of headache.

But, what exactly is discipline?  Websters online dictionary defines it several different ways:

1:  punishment

 

2 obsolete :  instruction

 

3 :  a field of study

 

4 :  training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character

 

5    a :  control gained by enforcing obedience or order

 

       b :  orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior

 

       c :  self-control

 

6 :  a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity

 

The definitions I feel are most applicable are numbers 4 and 5.  If you re-read those definitions, you should notice a couple of things: one, there is a big emphasis on control, and two, the application of these definitions is not fun.

It is not “fun” to correct your personal thoughts and admit that you are wrong.  It is not “fun” to enforce self-obedience to a gym routine.  It is not “fun” to tie yourself down to a set behavior pattern for work and productivity.  And it is definitely not “fun” to say no to a  moist, fudgy, warm piece of chocolate cake.

BUT, discipline gives you things a lot more valuable than “fun”.

Discipline gives you self-respect.  I have been a card-carrying member of the Weekend Regret club more times than I can count.  However, the weekends where I have allowed myself some slight indulgences but largely practiced discipline with my time and diet turn into Mondays where I feel amazing.  The momentum from the weekend propels me forward rather than pulls me back, and the resulting feeling of pride gives me the extra oomph I need to completely dominate the week.  There is no replacement for self-respect, and practicing discipline is a essential piece that must be in place for this to manifest.

Discipline gives you opportunities.  Having discipline in the workplace, the gym, or with your relationships is rare and will not go unnoticed.  If you have the discipline to knock out the little, annoying stuff successfully at work, this gives off the message that you can be trusted with the bigger, more important projects.  If you have the discipline to make it to the gym on a daily basis, you will connect with people who can give you invaluable knowledge and motivation towards your fitness goals.  If you have the discipline to not compromise on your values, improve yourself constantly, and be loyal to your friends and romantic partner, you will find that people with these same qualities will be attracted to you.

Discipline gives you quality of life.  While it seems counter-intuitive, there is nothing that sabotages your overall happiness  faster than giving in to your every whim.  If I ate a donut every time I craved one, bought a shirt every time I saw a cute one, and kissed a boy every time I saw a hot one, I would be fat, broke, and very single with a tarnished reputation.  Self-denial gives you the stamina and resources necessary to build a life that is enviable.

Discipline gives you hunger for more.  Everyone knows someone who wastes their life eating McDonald’s, playing video games, and working a minimum wage job all while swigging  cases of Mountain Dew and heaving themselves off the couch only when absolutely necessary.  These individuals completely lack discipline, and as a result, they don’t have any desire to do better.  When you start disciplining yourself, the bare minimum is no longer an option.  With every goal you reach, your desire to do more and be more burns hotter.

And most importantly, discipline gives you results.  The weeks where I am completely on point with my diet and gym routine are the weeks that I can see dramatic improvements in my physicality.  The days where I don’t allow myself to get distracted or off-task are the days when I get more done than I had planned on.  When I don’t grant myself permission to step onto the slippery slope of self-indulgence, I am able to keep climbing up the ladder to success rather than constantly pass by the same three rungs in an endless cycle of desire vs failure.

It is human nature to resist discipline.  Our brains work on a very strong ‘immediate rewards’ based system, and in a world where we can access almost anything we want with a click of a button, the ability to delay gratification and train our minds to focus on rewards that manifest in months, not minutes, is sorely lacking.  In order to truly optimize your life, discipline needs to be one of your top priorities.  As with anything worth having in life, there are simply no quick-fixes or substitutions.  You have to work for it, you have to want it, and you have to tell yourself ‘no’.

My own self-discipline comes and goes in waves and it is something that I need to hone in on and perfect.  However, I also know that the more I practice, the easier it becomes.  This weekend made me take a step back and refocus on the plethora of benefits of discipline that my inner two-year old would rather deny.  Going forward, my Optimization Operation will capitalize on my areas of discipline that are already strong while simultaneously targeting areas of weakness because at the end of the day, I have no excuses and I will reach my goals.

Optimization=Personalization

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As I have been setting up my foundation for 2017, I keep coming back to the question “HOW will I make my life optimal?”  I already know WHY I want to make it the best it can be, but what does that actually look like?

There are some people who cannot wait to ditch their 9-5 job and enjoy life through alternative sources of income.  There are some people who cannot wait to climb the corporate ladder at their company and enter into the top-level executive world.  There are some people who can’t wait until they have their first child so they can leave the working world behind for good.

It all comes down to one simple truth: everyone’s optimal life is unique to them.

When I first started thinking about the Optimization Operation, I felt pressured to emulate the dreams of those around me.  Frantic thoughts of which business I should start or how I could climb the schoolyard ladder at my site ran through my head, but didn’t end fruitfully.  After much contemplation, I made peace with the fact that I do not have to imitate anyone else’s plan for success, but instead concentrate on formulating my own.

Therefore, these are the building blocks I will focus on to contribute to the optimization of my life:

  1. A steady source of income.  This is currently being fulfilled with my job as a teacher.  I am lucky because I actually like my career, and I don’t feel the need to escape it by formulating some other source of life funds. I have recently batted other ideas around  including tutoring, consulting, and product invention, but I have come to the conclusion that I am perfectly happy with where I’m at for now.
  2. Small life experiences.  Our life is a patchwork of big, memorable occasions that are stitched together with the small, everyday moments that make up the entire fabric of our existence.  These are instants that may not be remembered a week or a year later, but they contribute so much to our overall happiness.  Things like taking a walk and deeply breathing in the fresh air, pausing to look deep into our partner’s eyes while saying nothing, or caressing our baby’s tiny fingers as she sleeps.  I want to concentrate on filling my life with an abundance of small, forgettable, yet oh so important day-to-day moments that will provide an unshakeable foundation for the bigger milestones I will steadily experience.
  3. Big life experiences.  Equally or more important than the mundane is the extraordinary. These are the moments that you will recount to friends and family throughout the years, the moments that you are proud of, and the moments that define you.  Some will be negative, and some will be positive.  I have had my fair share of big life experiences thus far: marriage, divorce, moving across the country on my own, and working my way up from a temporary hire to a tenured teacher.  Each leg of my journey has taught me something new.  Going forward, I want to expand my opportunities for life stimulation through travel, seizing and creating opportunities for adventure, and putting myself out there in every way possible.
  4. A small circle of friends. As I have matured throughout the years, I have come to realize the value of true friendship.  When I was younger, I dreamed about having scads of girlfriends who would always want to go on adventures and have sleepovers and show off our tight-knit group to the world.  I never managed to attain such a crew, but I have something much better: two extremely close friends that I would do anything for and vice versa.  True friendship does not consist of empty conversations and dime a dozen parties.  It does not consist of taking selfies together to throw on social media.  It does not consist of helping that person only when it is convenient for you.  True friendship is discussing your boring day and actually caring  to hear about theirs in return.  True friendship is building each other up when it’s just too hard to do it on your own.  True friendship is knowing that no matter how much distance or time separates you, you’ve got each others’ back when it counts.  This year, I want to focus on optimizing the relationships that I have, building our already strong bond into an unbreakable chain of support and love.
  5. Tight family bonds. Family is something that I have come to value more and more the older that I get.  I am the only person from my immediate family who has moved out of my home state of Minnesota, and I have no extended family here in California.  Even though I absolutely love the life I have created for myself, having some distance from my family has made me appreciate them in a way that I simply did not when I was living at home.  You cannot choose your family, and I am so different than my parents and siblings in more ways that I can even count.  Yet, even with differing viewpoints and lifestyles, I know that I would drop everything and fly home in a heartbeat if there was a situation in which I was needed.  Family is not always convenient, but they are yours.
  6. A life partner. I was recently accused by someone of wanting a relationship ‘just to have a relationship.’  In the moment, I disagreed with him, and now after several days of contemplation, I still strongly disagree.  Yes, my optimal life includes finding a partner: one who shares my joy and laughter, who makes me a better person, and one who is a solid rock and outstanding example for our future children.  But for me, finding someone to build a life with is not about finding any random peg just to fit into the hole.  I have had too many relationships that tore me down rather than built me up, and I would rather live my life happily alone than to have the ‘security’ of a relationship that is wrong for me.  This year I want to focus on becoming the best version of myself so that if when I meet someone who adds value to my life, I can give them that same value right back.

Optimization is not something that happens overnight.  It takes focus, dedication, and a lot of soul-searching.  Take the time right now to jot down what an ideal life looks like for you.  What are the building blocks of your Optimization Operation?  Once it is down on paper, you can formulate a plan to make it happen.  If nothing else, the act of truly trying will do more for you than all of your nights sitting on the sidelines combined.