Be Careful What You Wish For

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This weekend is the very last weekend of the summer *stifles sobs*.  On Monday, I will be greeted with 150 smiling faces in rotation, all filled with as much trepidation and anticipation as mine will be.

This year, it’s going to be different for me because I chose to move schools after the whole being laid off thing got taken back just as quick as a toddler grabs back a toy he’s offered to someone else after he’s changed his mind.  I had the choice to go back to my old school, but instead of sticking somewhere where I was well-known and had built my reputation as a good teacher, I decided to branch out and move to a high school a) because I’ve always wanted to teach high school and b) I felt like I had already reached the peak (or close enough to it) at my old school and I was ready for a new challenge.

Oofda.  Did I ever get a challenge.  Firstly, I discovered that I would be teaching 7th and 8th grade (not quite the high school experience I was envisioning) along with some 9th grade classes.  That’s right.  Three preps.  Considering that last year I taught 8th across the board, that in and of itself was enough to make me think that perhaps I should opted for comfort over novelty.

Secondly, not only will I have three preps, but the middle school classes are designed to prepare the students to enter the IB Diploma Programme in 11th and 12th grade that has just started at this high school, which means that they need to have TOP-NOTCH instruction in an inquiry based setting.

Now, in my previous schools, if you were able to get the kids to behave and respect you and also learn something along the way, that was enough to get you through (not to mention middle school is less rigorous than high school).  I have my relationship building tools with my kids down pat, but I have not yet had a chance to really test my actual TEACHING capabilities with kids who are, shocker, eager to learn.

Of course, I wouldn’t be teaching if I thought that my kids didn’t learn from me.  But my focus has always been on more of the social-emotional piece for my kids, because that’s where I saw the most need.  Now, on top of preparing for three different classes each day, I need to make sure that my lessons are interesting, high-level, and relevant.

ON TOP OF the academic side, there is the reality that I have no real support system at this school.  I chose this school specifically because my old principal worked there as well as several old coworkers who moved there during the last couple years, and because of the IB programme; being trained in that will be invaluable for my own skill set and my ability to move anywhere should I chose to ever leave California (doubtful, but possible).

However, all of my old coworkers have since formed new bonds or tighter bonds with their fellow middle school cohorts, and I left our first day of meetings feeling a bit adrift in the sea of it all.

Now, at this point, I could either curl up in a ball and wish my hardest to turn back time and go back to comfort and familiarity, OR I could narrow my eyes, set my shoulders, and prepare to knock this shit out of the park.

When it comes down to it, challenges are the spice of life.  Think about it.  Every single thing that is good is challenging at first.  Learning to walk?  There’s a reason diapers are so fluffy.  Marriage?  There’s a reason counselors make bank.  Parenting?  It’s a wonder that we’re still alive as a species.

Challenges make you grow.  They make you question things.  They make you stretch yourself in ways that you never thought possible and then stretch a little more.  You may chose your challenges or have your challenges thrust upon you, but the outcome is still the same: you get better.

An unchallenged life is truly an unlived life.  Think back on all the times you have grown and changed as a person.  Usually, it was the direct result of a challenge to your security, belief system, or familiarity with something, and when you look back you wouldn’t have it any other way.

The thing is, you WILL get what you ask for if the Universe knows you are ready (and sometimes even if it knows you’re not).  Most of the time we have no idea what we’re really asking for until it comes to us and then we realize that we have called something into reality that we aren’t quite sure we actually want, but by that time it’s too late.

Most of the time, however, these unexpected manifestations help us hone what we really want, and build up strength to get through the tough times of life.  I wanted nothing more than to get married young, and boy, did I get what I wished for even though it was quite possibly the worst decision of my entire life.

Yet, I’m thankful for this challenge that I overcame, because there have been so many times I’m able to share my experience with someone who is going through almost the exact same thing, and it is so gratifying to be able to see them relax and know that I truly understand what they’re going through.

If your life is on autopilot, choose a challenge for yourself or open yourself up to the Universe providing one for you.  While the temptation to stay in the cocoon is quite strong, remember that no one looks twice at a brown lump hanging from a twig, yet a butterfly can capture the attention of even the most hardened of hearts.  You are that butterfly.  All you have to do is narrow your eyes, set your teeth, and never stop pushing until your wings are free.

And then, friends….you are free to FLY.

 

Health: Priority #1

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For the past week, I have been fighting off a common cold.  Yes, a stupid, annoying, nose-reddening, cough-inducing virus.  I cannot remember the last time I was sick, and the fact that this misery came the day of my promotion speech and immediately prior to two summer trips was, to say the least, cause for great frustration.

Thinking back, it’s no wonder I got sick: I was in charge of a million things, running around non-stop for the end-of-school madness, and still trying to maintain some semblance of progress towards my personal goals.

In other words, I ran myself into the ground, and I’m still trying to snort out the clumps of dirt that were shoved up my nose in the process.

It has made me wonder: how on earth do people who are chronically ill or always affected by various ailments do it?  I have had a mild cold for a week, and I feel like my abilities to perform at my peak have been SEVERELY diminished-and it drives me nuts.

Regardless of my state of suffering right now, it has reinforced several key lessons that I will keep firmly planted in the forefront of my mind (that are quite obvious, but good to review every once in a while).

If you don’t have health, your quality of life sucks.  I don’t care if you have ten million dollars in the bank; if you don’t have the ability to do what you want, when you want because of hangups with your health, you don’t have anything.  For some people, money is the barrier to their desires, but that can always be earned.  Once you lose your health (in a manner far more serious than a cold), you cannot buy it back.

Something as simple as not being able to breath through your nose can sharply decrease your enjoyment and productivity of everything you do.  How much more would this be amplified by not being able to walk five steps without resting, or feeling weak because of chemo, or simply feeling slightly ‘ugh’ every day because you have a shitty diet and are overweight?

You must, must, must make prevention a part of your life.  In my case, I should have slowed down a little bit and tried to take some more time for myself just to rest and relax to ease the stress that my body and mind were under.  I remember thinking that the only thing getting me through the two week whirlwind was the thought of summer vacation just around the corner.

But what if you don’t have a break shining in the horizon?  It would be even more imperative in that situation to put self-imposed boundaries and routines in place that allow you to be productive yet still take care of what makes you productive: you!  So many people make the excuse that they saving time by eating out, or getting more done by skipping their workouts, but in reality, they are simply burning through their potential at a faster rate.  Eventually, it will all catch up to them, and they will end up fat, sick, and unable to be useful to others or themselves.

Being healthy feels damn good.  With everything that I was dealing with for the last month of the school year (both personally and professionally), I started to slide on my diet, skip workouts, drink more on the weekends, and  overall ended up gaining a couple of lbs (and, obviously, getting sick).  Nothing to panic about, and nothing that anyone else would really notice, but there was a huge difference in the way that I felt both physically and mentally.  I no longer felt like I could do anything I wanted to do, I was unmotivated to work towards several goals I had set for myself, and I didn’t feel physically attractive.

All of those feelings boiled down to the fact that I wasn’t being healthy.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still way more health-conscious than 99% of the American population, but I had slipped below the level of awareness that my body and mind had become accustomed to.  Once you get used to the feeling of everything operating at an optimal level, it is incredibly hard to give that up.

Overall, being healthy is something that is taken for granted when we have it, and sorely missed when we don’t.  Sometimes, we are in the state of ailment long enough where we forget what it feels like to be strong and capable and trust our bodies implicitly.  If there is one thing that will dramatically increase the quality of your life no matter where you live, how much money you have, or who you are surrounded by, it is your health.

Everything stems from our physical body: it is where our mind has to reside, and if it doesn’t have a welcoming environment, it won’t operate at its peak.

Therefore, make sure that you are taking care of your physical being and that it is your number one priority at all times.  Eat the damn vegetables (and make sure they are organic, if possible).  Drag yourself to the gym (and make yourself do 12 reps instead of 10).  Get outside in nature (and deeply breath air that has been recycled by plants and not by air filters).  No matter how much you feel like these things are cutting into other important obligations, I promise you that they ARE the important things.

This is your only life.  Do you want to spend it with aching joints, increasingly larger pants sizes, and lungs that don’t quite expand to the proportion they need to?  Or do you want to have the mental and physical benefits of feeling strong, knowing you’re capable of anything, loving that you’re able to bounce out of bed sans coffee, and embracing the body that you were born into.  You can have the latter.  All it takes is dedication and desire.  No matter what level you are on, progress is possible.

Don’t wait until crisis mode to get your act together.  Get off your ass and make it happen!  Don’t worry….you got this.

Quilting Happiness

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Recently I had a conversation with someone where they helplessly said “I don’t know…I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m just not happy with anything in my life.”  Hearing that broke my heart; living unhappily is such a terrible existence.  And yet, so many people live the majority of their lives in a permanent state of misery.

Sometimes, this misery becomes so ingrained that it doesn’t even feel like misery.  I had no idea that I was living such a wretched existence until I separated from my ex-husband and felt little inklings of happiness stretch like tentative rays of sunshine after a storm.  While I certainly knew I wasn’t ecstatic, I had no idea how bad that life really was while I was in it.

In this moment, if you were to ask me if I was happy with my life, I would unequivocally answer “yes.”  This may seem strange if you know my present circumstances: recently laid off, freshly single, one million minor crisis’ happening at work on a daily basis.  And yet, overall, I am joyful.

This got me thinking: WHY am I so happy?  What is it that I, or anyone with a constantly positive state of mind, do or don’t do that contributes to this feeling of joyful contentment?  After some contemplation, I settled on several key factors:

Have a reliable, positive, and multi-leveled network.  This is such a big component because we as humans are wired to interact with others.  However, you cannot have all surface acquaintances or all deep bosom buddies; our connections need to be varied.  I have a couple of extremely close friends, several good friends, and lots and lots of positive shallower connections.  Going through my recent breakup, I lost one of the major keystone connections in my life, and had he been all that I had, I would have been completely at a loss.  However, with the help of my close and good friends as well as my continued positive interactions with everyone else, I have been able to stay afloat and keep my spirits up.

Putting in the time and effort to create and maintain these relationships may seem like a burden, but I firmly believe that if you do not have quality relationships in your life, it is impossible to be truly happy.  However, these relationships must be reciprocal; you cannot simply mooch off of someone else, and you should never allow someone to mooch off of you.  When both parties put in the same level of effort, that is when this piece of happiness falls into place.

Exercise.  As much as we like to deny the hard science of how our minds work, putting in some sweat equity on a daily basis is a serious piece of the happiness puzzle.  Although starting a workout is pretty much the worst thing ever, finishing it is one of the best feelings in the world.  Your endorphin’s are kicking, and anything that negatively effected you throughout the day simply fades away into a haze of “ahhhhhh that was awesome”.

And lets face it, it’s hard to be happy when you don’t like what you see in the mirror.  Presenting the best version of ourselves physically primes us to be the best version of ourselves mentally.  It’s difficult to be miserable when you reach for something and notice a little baby bicep flexing as you bring it back.  Hard work is hard freakin’ work, but it seriously boosts your mood to see results.

Work towards something specific.  Throughout my entire life, I have always had something to work towards.  First, it was my degree.  Then it was finding a job.  Then it was my Masters.  Now, I am working on getting my real estate license and have plans for an admin credential and possibly a life coach certification within the next ten years.  The point is, I am never resting on my laurels.

If you are working towards a specific goal, it is obvious if you have achieved it or not.  And working to get that accomplishment tucked under your belt gives you a sense of purpose, which contributes to happiness.  If you know you are on the road to achievement, you feel excited about getting up each day and have the gumption to persevere through the rocky patches.

Actively seek improvement.  I am constantly looking for ways to make myself a better person and teacher.  If I hear of an awesome teaching strategy, I try to implement it in my classroom.  Outside the confines of my work, I am constantly reading all different types of books and online articles as well as listening to podcasts on various topics.  I love getting into deep conversations about the world.  All in all, I am always trying to be better than I was before.

Truly desiring to make yourself better requires a humble acceptance of yourself as you are right now.  However, acceptance does not mean stagnation.  Just because you have accepted that you have slid into the ditch does not mean that you stay in the ditch.  Seeing yourself grow and looking back to see how much you’ve changed for the better is a big piece of long-term happiness.

Love the majority of your day.  There are very few parts of my day that I dislike.  I love breakfast.  I love jamming to my tunes as I drive to work.  I love getting organized for the day.  I love interacting with my students.  I (usually) love the gym.  I love writing blog posts.   I’m ok with learning new real estate things (although I’m not going to lie, I’ll be pumped when it’s over).  The only things that I truly hate about my day are when I have some students act like a-holes, or when something goes awry that I did not forsee (usually traffic-traffic puts me in a TERRIBLE mood).

If you genuinely LIKE/LOVE 80% or more of your day, it is highly unlikely that you will be unhappy.  So many people tie themselves to jobs, people, or circumstances that they hate, and then wonder why they are miserable.  If you find yourself unhappy with something, make moves to change it.  Money, “security”, and comfort are NOT worth a constant state of misery.

Be ok with YOU.  You have to be ok with who you are as a person before you can truly settle into a state of contentment with your life.  I recently went through a period of time where I thought that my career goals and life aspirations were not good enough because I saw other people passionately pursuing other things that seemed ‘better’ or that might bring in more money.  My happiness severely diminished during that time.  When I mentally slapped myself and replanted my foot firmly on the soil of MY dreams, my joy returned.

You are a unique person.  It is impossible to accomplish the exact same thing that someone else has accomplished, so it is silly to even try.  You know what gives you joy, you know how you want to live your life, and you know what gives you a sense of purpose.  When you fully embrace what YOU want, not what the yoga masters, hardcore businessmen, or spiritual gurus tell you to want, THEN you can embrace your personal happiness.

Overall, your happiness is like an old, hand-pieced multicolored quilt that has been in your family for generations.  It blankets everything.  It is handmade.  No one else has one just like it.  Sometimes, a square or two might come loose, but if it’s a quality quilt, those squares aren’t completely lost and there are still enough squares to cover up with until the damage gets repaired.

If you find that you are unhappy with your life, take stock of all of the pieces.  Magnify those squares that give you joy.  Mend the squares that let in the draft.  Sometimes, an entire square might have to be replaced, and that’s ok.  Happiness IS something that you have complete control over, no matter how much we lie to ourselves and argue that we do not.  Take charge now; in the end, our money will be spent or given away and our possessions will break or change hands.  It is only the intangible-our relationships, our integrity, and our happiness-that we will get to keep for all time.

Choosing the First Domino

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For the last couple of days, I’ve been in mild panic mode over something most people would consider glorious: I have an interview every day for the next three days.

Now, most people in the California teaching world would be excited to get one interview, let alone three.  And don’t get me wrong, I am over the moon that three schools consider me a strong enough candidate to want to meet me in person.

So why am I not JUST excited?

If all goes spectacularly, having three interviews means three potential job offers.  However, I can only take one.  Which means I have to make a choice.

Having choices is slightly immobilizing.  Now granted, I don’t have the actual choice yet between these three schools, but I COULD, potentially.  And that makes me nervous because I want to choose the right one.

Many times, we are faced with choices that are not really choices.  For example, should I take this job 10 miles south that pays $X, or ten miles north that also pays $X.  Either way, it’s pretty clear that either choice is going to have the same outcome.

However, my three jobs prospects are in LA, Irvine, and Encinitas.  For those of you not in California, these jobs are essentially perfectly placed along the coast in a 150 mile radius from Los Angelos to San Diego.  Which means I have to decide where I want to live.  I also have to decide how much money weighs in versus location since all three schools have varying salaries.  To top it off, I may not even have to take a new job at all if my RIF notice is recalled, so I’d have to decide between the known and the unknown.

In a word….AHHH!

But before you mark this post off as simply a self-indulgent, woe-is-me, first world problems post, let me get to the meat of what I’ve been thinking.

There is no right choice.

Each time you are faced with a decision, all of the options will lead you in a specific direction.  It does not necessarily mean that any of the choices will bring you to a better or worse place, it simply means that the destination will be slightly different.

Of course, there is always the exception, which is why this truth only applies to comparable options; if you are choosing between McDonalds and a corporate company with benefits, that really isn’t a choice.

So, then, what exactly IS a choice?

A choice is a decision between two or more outcomes that are equally valid.  This is what makes them so hard.  I’ve made decisions to move across the country and/or across state lines more than once in my life, but the option of staying seemed so ludicrous that I didn’t really ‘choose’ to leave; it was simply the way my life went.

You can only make decisions based on the information that you have now.  This is where really knowing what you want comes into play.  There are many stories of people who settled into the family life at 22, only to regret it in their 30’s and 40’s.  There are an equal amount of stories of people who put off relationships to become successful, only to end up jaded and lonely.  Of course, if you find the right person, you really can do both.

It all boils down to how you see your life going on a macro scale.  If you envision yourself traveling the world, why would you NOT accept a job offer where travel is a major component?  If you see yourself raising a family and cannot picture your life without children, why would you take a time-consuming, highly demanding job?  If you picture yourself enjoying fresh breezes all winter, why would you agree to take a long-term management position in your company in Iowa?

And honestly, once you figure out what you really want, the choice becomes as simple as the one between McDonalds and Goldman-Sachs.  Once you have lasered in on your true vision, you will gravitate towards the options that lead you closer to your end goal.

Our lives are simply a series of different elaborate domino set-ups.  One decision leads to the next, to the next, to the next.  When you take a step back, you can see the awesome pattern laid out before you, but when you’re in the trenches, straining to push over that first domino, it can feel like the most confusing and random scene ever.

And yet, if you don’t push that first domino, you will get none of the awe-inspiring affects that come with perfectly placed events cascading one after the other.  So if you are faced with a true, difficult choice in your life, take a step back. Breathe. Realize that either domino represents an adventure.  Take some time to get to the root of what you want your life to look like.  And when you figure that out?  Simply put your finger out and push.

 

Do YOU

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I have a million things on my mind that I want to blog about today.  And of course, knowing me, I am choosing the hardest one. But as I feel it is the most important one, here I go.

Last weekend it was pointed out to me that I have become less authentic to myself.  Not personality-wise; I am still the same positive, goofy, spontaneous, organizational freak that I always was, but I am in danger of applying other people’s ideas and life goals verbatim onto my own.  In other words, I am failing to take a step back and truly think about what I want for my life and unapologetically issue my personal stamp of approval.

Now, I feel that this happens quite a bit in life.  Parents are a big offender: Sarah wants to try to be an actress, but Mom and Dad want her to have a more stable life, so eventually Sarah takes on their thoughts and ideas as her own the more and more they preach about it, forgetting that she actually has a passion for the arts and not for inputting data.

I think the hardest culprit to discern, however, is the one that is the most subtle: the people around us whom we admire, with strong personalities and goals for their own lives who are charging full steam ahead.  Oftentimes, their belief in their personal project or path is so strong that they come across as looking down upon anyone not on that path without meaning to.

When you admire someone, you naturally want them to think highly of you.  And as the saying goes, imitation is the highest form of flattery.  But the thing is, if you are truly admiring the right people, they will want you to become the best version of yourself, not the second-best version of them.

It is only the secretly insincere individuals who crave followers; leaders want to surround themselves with leaders.

This realization that I had moved into fangirl territory was upsetting to me.  I pride myself on my strong personality, and I have always thought of myself as independent and able to carry my own torch.  The fact that I am in danger of losing my own personal vision for my life is heartbreaking.

This problem could be easily solved if I got rid of everyone in my life and had no outside people influencing me.  But that solution sucks, obviously.  No one wants to go through life alone, and it’s pretty much impossible to avoid outside forces unless you live out in the woods eating roots and berries and communing with nature.

So how do you keep those strong, admirable individuals in your life yet still stay true to your personal vision?

You have to have a personal vision.  Lately I have come to realize that thus far, I have had a vague sense of direction of where I want to go, but I have not taken the time to sit down and specifically map out what I want out of life.  As I have discussed in other posts, this is dangerous; a ship without a compass is pretty much just a bathroom toy subject to the whims of any giant two-year old splashing around in the tub.  You need to have a sense of direction, and a sense of direction only comes when you have a sense of purpose.

You need to be in tune with yourself.  People avoid actually getting to know themselves.  Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Orange is the New Black, and millions of other ways to entertain ourselves are waiting to be utilized at the snap of a finger.  Entertainment in and of itself is hardly a bad thing, but when it is used to avoid introspection and examining your life, it becomes a convenient set of blinders rather than a small moment of fun.  It is critical that you spend some time alone; not alone with your music or your books, but really, truly alone with nothing but your thoughts.  Who is this person you only slightly know as yourself?

You need to stop living in fear.  We are social beings.  We want to be liked.  And that makes us shy away from anything that may potentially end up in us being put in the outer circle of society.  But in all honesty, if you are true to YOU, people who are really true to themselves will recognize that and appreciate it, even if it is different from their truth.  If someone doesn’t care for your vision, fuck ’em.  People who don’t value an honest and true expression of intent aren’t the type of people who are worth keeping.  And it all honesty, it becomes so much easier to shed people you don’t want and attract people you do when you simply commit to your truth.

When we are not fully focused and committed to what WE want to do, we project other people’s judgement onto our lives before they even have a chance to, and for some reason allow this mythical judgement to influence us.

The cliche of ‘dancing in the mirror’ has come to represent freedom, self-expression, and self-acceptance.  It sounds hokey, but when you try it, you realize how much of yourself you are hiding from yourself.  Back in the day, I couldn’t even watch myself dancing for two seconds without being embarrassed and thinking omg, I look SO dumb and stopping–and I was alone.  There was no one to judge but me.  Why the hell did I care how dumb I looked?  I was looking at myself from an outside perspective, and I found lack because I had not embraced my inner truth that I just wanted to freakin’ dance.

When you take the time to get to know who YOU are, you become dissatisfied with becoming anything that doesn’t align with your desires for your life.  Take  the time to get to know yourself; at the end of the day, you go to your grave wrapped in solitude, and eternity is a hell of a long time to spend with a stranger.

 

Master the Forge

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While I was being productive browsing Instagram the other day, I scrolled past the following quote:

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking.

-William B. Sprague

I absolutely love this.  In other words…

Don’t wait for the skill, create the skill.  For much of my life, I avoided putting in large amounts of effort into anything in which I wasn’t already relatively skilled.  This meant I got really good at writing essays, and stayed mediocre at band, choir, and drama (my activities of choice in high school).  Last summer, I went out of my comfort zone and joined a flag football league just to try it out (I had never played a sport in my life).  I sucked.  Pretty badly.  But I stuck with it, and this past Tuesday night I played an awesome defensive game, good enough that the other team was commenting on how many flags I pulled.  While this was, to be fair, a bit of an anomaly, I nevertheless would have missed out on so much if I had shied away just because I never developed the coordination to make me excel at sports.

There are so many times where people don’t even try because they know they are going to be terrible at something.  Those are the people that are going to stay terrible.  However, if you accept that you are a beginner, no matter what age you are, you can open up so many different and awesome avenues for yourself simply by taking the time to build up the skill, no matter how painful it might be.

Don’t wait for the time, make the time.  This September, I finished my Masters degree in Teaching and Learning.  It took me six months since I took two classes at at time (I had also received credits for another program I had completed).  The kicker was I started it in March while teaching full-time.  I could have put it off and completed it over the period of a couple summers while I had time off, but I decided to put my nose to the grindstone and get it done.  There were many, many nights when I would be mentally exhausted from teaching all day and have to come home, open my laptop, and write papers and discussion posts until bedtime.  The thing is, I did it.  I could have made the argument to myself that I did not have the time with a full teaching load and working out and having a social life.  But I carved out the arduous hours that it took, and now I have a higher degree and a nice pay raise to go along with it.

There will never, ever be enough time to leisurely fit in every activity that you want to do.  We always claim to be too busy, yet somehow, there is always enough time for Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.  Time is the only thing that is distributed equally to everyone every. single. day.  If you really want something, you will find a way to make it happen.  Somehow, everything unimportant takes care of itself or fades away, and everything that is important finds its own niche in the 168 hours we are freely given each week.

Don’t wait for the money, create the money.  The universe is quite unfair in that, for most of us, there are so many ways that our money can be spent, and only a few avenues where money can be made.  I saw how my parents struggled while I was growing up, and I subconsciously knew that I never wanted to have that conflict in my life.  I took the traditional college route, and my income now supports me comfortably in a way that I never experienced as a child.  Now that I have established this standard for my life, I have realized I have even bigger dreams.  While I haven’t worked out the details just yet, I know myself well enough to be confident that sooner or later, I will accomplish them.

Most of us allow our money flow (or lack thereof) to dictate our life when really, we should be trying to devise any way possible to achieve our ideal vision.  Our lives are finite, and our existence is but a blip on the radar of the cosmos.  This alone should make us crave an experience so rich that it defies the gravity of mediocrity.  This conception is unique to each person, but majoritively, life experiences cost money.  If you have always wanted to travel the world, but are off put by the steep price tag, don’t wait for this experience to miraculously manifest: find a way to make it happen.

Don’t wait for friends, create the friends.  I have always been envious of people who have large groups of friends that are always doing fun, cool events together.  When I moved to California, I was in a relationship and therefore didn’t establish a friend group.  When we broke up, I found myself adrift with no one to remotely consider a chum save my coworkers.  Rather than sit at home alone, I did everything I would normally do with a buddy alone, including going out to the bars, eating out, and attending various events.  Fast forward a year and a half later, I am living with one of my best friends (whom I met at a bar, mind you) and I have a whole other group of friends from work and flag football.

The moral of the story is, don’t be afraid to do things alone.  Nine times out of ten, people label things as weird because they are too afraid to do it themselves.  Doing public things alone requires confidence, and people gravitate towards confidence over all other attractive qualities.  If you don’t want to spend time with you, why would anyone else?  If you want to have friends that love the beach, go to the beach.  If you want to have friends that motivate you in the gym, go to the gym.   If you want to have friends that are spiritual, go to a church or other arena of spirituality.  The point is, you are in control.  Make yourself available, and you’ll be surprised how many awesome connections you can make.

Don’t wait for the perfect love, create the perfect love.  I was married at age 19, and divorced at 23.  Those four years were the most miserable years of my life because I tried to force love between two people who simply were not compatible with each other in any way.  As with any type of pain, however, it has bestowed upon me so much knowledge about myself, my desires, and who my future spouse needs to be.

You will never find someone who completely fits your vision of a perfect partner.  That is a burden of expectation that no one should be forced to bear.  I do know, however, that you can find someone who fits your standards, gives you secret butterflies, and makes you feel like Rachel McAdams or Ryan Gosling in your own personal romantic comedy.  The mistake that so many people make is letting that person go when it gets hard.  A perfect love is only made perfect by both parties’ belief in its perfection.  Once the focus shifts from the flawless movie-screen moments to the inevitable rocky off-set interactions, the sparkle fades.  The difference between a life-long love and a fond memory is the elbow grease that both people put in to keep the iridescence radiating, time after time after time.

Everything that you want in life is within your grasp.  Sometimes, however, people treat their life like it’s controlled by a remote that’s over on the other side of the couch; we all know how many times the channel simply stays the same.  Don’t wait for the ideal time to make your visions come to life.  The ideal time will never, ever come.  Get off the couch.  Create your own channel.  Inspire others to do the same.  Become the ruler of your own forge, and let the resulting sparks ignite your life into a full blaze of masterful existence.

 

 

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!