Growth Opportunities (Alt. Title: F*CKING UP)

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Last week was a WEEK.  I had a mix-up with my car servicing on Tuesday, my car got broken into on Wednesday AND I got a parking ticket that same night, and to top it off I got a talking-to at work on Thursday.  Needless to say, I was pretty much a mess by the time Friday rolled around.

However, even though almost everything that happened to me cost me quite a bit of money, the thing that upset me the most was getting talked to at work.

A bit of backstory:  I transferred to my current school this year because I wanted to move up to a high school and I wanted to get IB trained.  I ended up getting assigned 7th, 8th, and 9th grade (not really the high school grade levels I was envisioning) and getting misinformation that I WAS going to be trained, but then ultimately being told that I was not.  While I have fallen in love with my kids, I have been pretty grumpy about not being trained in IB since I had made up my mind that that’s what I wanted to do, had asked (and been told yes) several times, and was watching one of my friends prepare to go to training even though I had asked to be put in her position initially.

Needless to say, I am not a quiet person, and so whenever the subject came up I tended to voice my disappointment.  This came across as negative to a member of my department, who discussed it with my AP, who then came and discussed it with me.

Now, I am the first to get pissed off when I am approached about something that I don’t feel is right.  However, the reason I got so upset is because I knew that this person was actually correct.  I HAD been negative.  I HAD been dwelling.  I HAD made my friend feel bad (who had had no hand in assigning training).  I was in the wrong.

This, my friends, is the absolute worst realization ever.  I was wrong.  I fucked up.  I deserved to get a talking-to.

I was a wreck for the rest of the day after that discussion.  The silver lining that came out of it was my kids were super concerned about me, and I even got a note from one of them telling me how awesome I was and how sorry she was that I was “in pain” (#thesweetest).

Unfortunately, I can’t go back in the past and unsay everything I said.  I can’t go into people’s brains and change whatever impression they may have of me now.  I can, however, look at this whole experience as a growth opportunity, and take steps to learn and apply as much as I can.

First, I need to change what I can change.  I cannot change the already spoken words, but I can definitely change my attitude and my words that I choose to release in the future.  I also already made sure that I apologized to my friend so that I could undo some of the damage my careless words caused.  Realizing when you’re wrong sucks SO BAD, but the more important thing is making sure that you go forward armed with the new knowledge and not burdened by it.

Second, I need to apply the lesson to other areas of my life.  In this particular instance, I was dwelling on something that I couldn’t change.  Are there other areas of my life in which I’m dwelling?  Do I know that something is hopeless or not really in the cards and yet I am still ruminating on it and keeping it in my mind?  If so, I know that the potential results of that are at the least not promising and the most, disastrous.

Finally, I need to be thankful for the fuckup.  This, for me, is the absolute hardest one out of the three.  I pride myself on my ability to navigate life with grace and wisdom.  And most of the time, I do a fairly decent job.  However, this means that rather than a myriad of little stumblings, I have a handful of epic whoppers that bring me to my knees.  And yet, these catastrophic episodes of tumbling to the ground teach me so. freaking. much.  I can’t waste too much time crying about them, because they are a virtual goldmine of information that I can use to twirl my way through the next span of time (until I once again crash to the ground).

In reality, not one of us will get through life without some sort of fuck-up.  And truthfully, the bigger the fuck-up, the more valuable the lesson AND the more likely it is that you are trying to do something great.  If you stay in your comfort zone, you will not make mistakes that often.  Which feels great-who doesn’t like to be the master of something?  But the longer you stay in your area of expertise, the less likely it is that you will keep accomplishing at the rate that you had been previously.

Now, I’m not advocating for you to go try to screw up royally on purpose.  But I AM encouraging you to spread your wings and take a risk or two.  Don’t beat yourself up when you fail–that is my lesson that I’m still learning.  I tell my students all the time that “It’s ok to fail, but it’s not ok not to try”.  Honestly, I need to take my own advice.

Try something difficult.  Try something new.  Try SOMETHING.  And when you fail (and you will fail), be grateful for the lesson that it brings.  Adjust.  Grow.  And then, TRY AGAIN.

Reasons to Embrace Being Single

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Whenever cocktails and girlfriends (or even just the latter) are in the same room, the conversation almost invariable makes a stop on the subject of men, or more accurately, boys.  Specifically, bemoaning the fact that we can’t find any good ones, causing us to be subjected to singledom for eternity (or so it feels).

Couples holding hands seem to pop up everywhere we go.  Pictures of engagement rings fill our Facebook feeds.  Movies like “The Notebook” and shows like “The Bachelor” get shoved in our face.  Everything couple-related becomes glaring reminders of the missing piece in our lives.

Being in a relationship, the right relationship, is an amazing thing.  However, as amazing as a relationship is, we have to remember that there are some damn good things about being single, too.

You can do whatever you want.  This is the most obvious and most touted perk of singles everywhere.  But I feel like very rarely do people actually take advantage of this freedom.  Think about it.  There are truly no limits.

Take travel, for instance.  Do you want to go overseas and experience the exoticism of Asia?  You can!  You have no one else’s schedule to worry about, no one else’s budget, no one else’s preferences for the trip.  If you want to have a super high-end luxury week with spa pampering and endless cocktails by the pool, you can make that happen.  If you want a three week trek through the jungle sleeping in a tent with the native people, you can do that too without worrying about what someone else would want to choose.

Even on a smaller, daily scale, this luxury shouldn’t be taken lightly.  You can eat takeout for dinner if you want.  You can make a four course meal every night.  You can meet up with an old friend at a moment’s notice.  You can stay in bed all day or go out and socialize all night.  It’s truly 100% up to you.

Being single in your 20’s and 30’s is really the only time that you can actually take advantage of this fully.  There are no academic obligations of high school and college.  There are no work obligations that you didn’t fully choose if you have a career you love.  There are no stigmas attached to anything that you might enjoy, because you are now surrounded by adults and not asshole teenagers.

So many people waste singlehood on Netflix and sweatpants on the couch.  There is SO MUCH LIFE to live, and it’s ridiculous to skip out on it because you don’t have someone to experience it with yet.

You can discover yourself.  This is another cliched mantra of the single ones, but it is so true.  In the past, I have been guilty of taking on my boyfriend’s interests and letting my own slide.  However, this really was because I hadn’t solidified my own interests before I got into a serious relationship.

Now that I’ve been on my own for a while, I’ve tried tons of different things and discovered what I love and what I can do without.  Just because something hasn’t been a part of your life up until this point does not mean that it can’t become a part of your life now.  For example, I played no sports in high school (sadly).  Now, I play beach football, turf football, and kickball.  I absolutely love it, and while I am not at the level of athleticism I would prefer to be at, I am getting better with each game that I play.  Had I not ventured out of my comfort zone, I would have never discovered that I actually like to play sports.

So many people don’t try things because they either ‘think’ they won’t like it or because they are simply too snobby to give something new a try because, surprise surprise, they are going to suck at it at first.  We have to stop getting so caught up in being perfect at things all the time.  It is only when we allow ourselves to embrace the possibility of falling that we will be able fly.

You can build yourself.  When you don’t have someone else constantly in your space, you tend to have a lot of time to think–if you don’t crowd out these valuable hours with mindless TV and/or social media and/or other various wastes of time.  If you spend some quiet moments alone reflecting on yourself as a person, both in and out of a relationship, you may come across some things that you don’t like.

This is hard to take.  We all like to think that we are just a little bit more perfect than those around us and if anybody needs to change, it’s the other guy.  But admitting that you have things to work on is arguably more admirable than swimming in self-denial and staying the same, even if you are a decent person to start out with.

In my reflections lately, I’ve noticed that I am a pretty selfish conversation participant.  Whenever someone has something to say, I immediately try to relate to to something similar that has happened in my life.  Not that trying to relate and find common ground is necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes letting that person have their moment in the conversational sun is the more kind and less egotistical choice.  While this is just a small example of something that I feel I need to change personally, there are many other things that we could allow ourselves to get better at if we just acknowledged that some maintenance needs to take place.

Beyond making  cosmetic adjustments to our temple, we can also build on whole new sections.  I have always admired my sisters for being able to play guitar, and a couple months ago I drug out my old acoustic and vowed to spend more time playing.   That lasted for a little while, but it has since faded away as it is not a fully solidified part of me yet.  However, I know that if I really put my mind to it, I can achieve success in that arena, and I plan to make a more concerted effort to make it happen since this is something that I do actually want to add into my life.

Overall, being single is a chance to mold yourself into the person that your future partner will jump at the chance to be with.  So often we admire qualities in other people and desire them in our relationships, but forget we cannot expect roses if we are offering dandelions.

Embrace the freedom.  Embrace the challenge.  Embrace the endless opportunities.  Our years of singlehood will be far less than our years of partnership, so squeeze every last drop out of awesomeness from your solo ventures, and don’t be sad if it takes you a while to find The One.  In fact, take some time to be thankful that they haven’t materialized yet, because you just get a little longer to date yourself.  And lucky for you, you’ll always get the rose.

Loving Life

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This morning before joining my team on the beach for our playoff game (we lost *sniff*), I went on a walk down the pier and just simply looked at the ocean.  It was a cloudy day, and the stratocumulous and stratus streaks in the sky created a beautifully dappled water view that was complimented by the occasional peak of golden sun dancing across the lazy waves.

Headphones in, I simply sat and admired the view for a long moment before walking back down the pier with slow steps and a small, just-for-me smile.  It was such a simple, small, insignificant-in-the-scheme-of-things moment, yet it was perfect.

Lately, I’ve been having quite a bit of those moments.  I’ve felt a lot happier and more carefree for the past week or so than I have felt for a long time.  While I am not at the point of complete Hakuna Matata, upon reflection, there are several things that I feel have contributed to this carefree newfound happiness.

Settling in.  I have now been at my new work site for 12 weeks.  At the beginning, it was a super rough start because of teaching three different grade levels, not knowing anyone, and putting my foot in my mouth seemingly every time I tried to make a move at the school.  Now, however, I have a pretty good handle on what I’m teaching, I have made several friends, and I’ve become more accustomed to the odd politics that swirl around the staff.  In short, I’m not longer wearing sunglasses in a dark alleyway.

Entering a new situation, whether it be a move, a job, a relationship, or what have you, is always stressful in the beginning.  If you are an A type personality like me, it can be excruciatingly painful to flounder around in the shallows when you are used to swiftly beelining in the deep end.  However, I am a firm believer in putting myself in uncomfortable situations for the purpose of growth.  There is no way to improve your game past a certain point if the playing field and the players never changes.  Therefore, discomfort is a necessity.

Acceptance.  I have been in a constant struggle with my body for years.  Not that I am overweight by any stretch of the imagination, but like any female who lives in a state with 365 days of beach season, I have a very specific image of what I want to look like when I slip on my itsy bitsy bikini, and 99.9% of the time, I fall short of this picture.  There have been several times when I have reached a point where I am aaaaalmost there, but inevitably something will happen that causes a huge wave of stress in my life, which causes the tremulous hope of achieving said specific look to come crashing down.

Obviously, this sucks.  However, lately I have been giving myself more of break.  In comparison to a fitness model, I am not 1/10th as impressive or in shape.  However, compared to anybody else, I am doing pretty well.  Obviously, I don’t want to set the bar super low just to make myself feel better, but for the past couple of weeks I have stopped beating myself up for every little slip up.  Usually, if eat more than I should or have a drink when I should just pass it up, I mentally pummel myself about it and feel like a giant failure.  Now, I simply acknowledge that that probably wasn’t the best choice, and then simply… let it go.  Oddly enough, I think it has helped me start to get closer to my ideal shape.

When we beat ourselves up for every little failure, we can hardly even enjoy the victories we do have because we are focusing on how far we still have to go rather than how far we’ve come.  I am in no way saying that we should settle into a life of contentment with average and pat ourselves on the back for every mundane “accomplishment”.  However, there is sometimes something to be said for making the journey towards your goal the focus rather than the shining, ever-so-far-away end target.

Release from self-imposed obligation.  I have a lot of goals that I want to accomplish, but if I am honest with myself, some of them are goals that I FEEL I should strive for and not my actual personal ambitions.  This leads to me put certain things on my to do list because I feel obligated to do them, not out of actual enjoyment or because of some true deeper desire to fully hit that target.  Usually, I end up not doing these things and then I get down on myself for not hustling hard enough, or not putting in enough effort, or for doing other things with my time rather than shoving my nose to the grindstone.

Lately, though, I’ve let myself fully enjoy the things that I like doing and not really care when I don’t get everything in that I planned out.  I’ve noticed that ever since I’ve let myself off the hook with a lot of things, I am gravitating more towards actually doing them.  In other words, when it’s not a big scary duty, it’s actually something I want to do.  Who woulda thought?

Overall, if you are striving to become better every day, allowing yourself to indulge in what truly makes you happy, keeping your mind and body healthy, and taking the time to wash yourself in the small, beautiful moments that pop up in your life, there is no way that you can’t be truly happy.  Our life is so, so short, yet we tend to live like we have endless amounts of time to squander on beating ourselves down and wallowing in misery.

I say, take steps towards your ideal but leave the shackles of useless obligations and constant regret behind.  Life is a journey, and in order to smell the roses you are going to have to deal with the thorns.  You could try to eliminate all spikes before diving in, but that is both impossible and impractical.  Deal with the pricks but put your main focus on indulging in the deep, rich, floral scent and feeling the smooth velvet against your skin.  In the end, everyone’s last petal will fall, and only you will know if you spent the time basking in your moments of being a prince or wallowing in the few beast-like junctures you may have come across.

From now on, I chose to focus on royalty.

 

 

Taking Back the Spirit of Halloween

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Tonight is, for the majority of ‘of-age’ America, the night where the Halloween celebrations go down.  Parties, bar crawls, shenanigans, pranks, all performed with the extra spice of some creative, hilarious, and/or slutty costume.

From the outside, Halloween is simply another excuse for adults to get drunk and for kids to get hyper.  Let’s be honest, pretty much every American holiday looks that way from the outside.  But for me as an adult, growing up in a family that didn’t celebrate Halloween, it has always been about getting to show off my creative side both in ideas and in manifestation.

While most of my friends are quite content to be sexy cops, sexy maids, or the infamous sexy cat, I refuse to touch such cliches with a ten-foot pole.  Not that there is anything wrong with sexy cat, I just have thus far fiercely clung to my ideals of originality and home-made ensembles, and I don’t see myself changing that anytime soon.

Last year, I was quite proud of my American Beauty idea, and made a costume that was simple yet pretty awesome in my humble opinion (pictured above).

This year, I sit with 12 hours between me and the time when I step out into the world to display my creation, and I have nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.

Considering that I was always ready for Halloween pretty early in the past, I find myself wondering what the change is.  Why am I not ready for this?

Part of it is the fact that I don’t feel like my body is something to show off right now, and sexy female costumes are the bread and butter of this holiday, which certainly puts a damper on things.  But mostly, as I look back on the past weeks and months, I have simply not been putting a priority on creativity.

Instead, I’ve been focusing on work, working out, sloooowwwwly reading my real estate books along with other self-improvement literature, and running around like a chicken with my head cut off to this appointment or that scheduled event.  Creating a Halloween costume has not been on the top list of my priorities.

All of this focus on productivity has been good, but it also has taken a toll.  My face has decided to sprout some ‘friends’, my extra lbs are stubbornly clinging to the areas I most certainly do not want them to cling, and to top everything off I caught a cold last week (getting sick is a rare, sad occasion for me).

What would happen, I wonder, if I simply embraced the spirit of Halloween more in everyday life?  What if, instead of worrying about spending ALL of my time in productive mode, I allowed myself a bit of creative time, just because?

Maybe taking some time to stop and paint the roses wouldn’t actually be holding me back.  Maybe, just maybe, it might actually spur more of the productivity that I want to see.

Let me give you some examples.

I have been wanting to make a vision board for quite a while, but because it’s not immediately productive, I keep putting it off.  Yet, whenever I hear successful people talk, they always refer to their vision board and how it keeps them on track.

What if I allowed myself an afternoon of unfettered cutting and gluing, of humming along to some Lana Del Rey or Angels and Airwaves, and really thinking about what I want to put on my vision board and how I want the final product to look.  How powerful would it be to have my dreams be on display in color every single day?

When you look at it that way, it seems incredibly silly to have waited this long.

Or how about the fact that I want to write several different books and perhaps even some screenplays, yet I never allow myself to indulge in a good fiction book binge-sesh, opting instead for more non-fiction reading that encourages self-reflection and hopefully spurs mental growth.  All great reads, by the way.

Yet, what if I picked up a book at the bookstore, gave myself an evening to dig in, and discovered that the way that author writes is amazing, and it turbo-charges my desire to create my own kick-ass protagonist?  AKA, actually push my ideas into fruition. Why the hell haven’t I been doing this on a regular basis?

Creativity is literally the fountain of life.  We as humans are created out of two people’s love for one another (or should be in an ideal world).  We are born of creation, and therefore we are born to create.

Why, then, do I and so many others inadvertently spurn the soft fields of creativity and hail the cold concrete of production?  We are in essence cutting off our nose to spite our face.

When it comes to Christmas time, everyone agrees that we should have more of the spirit of Christmas in our hearts year round—giving, loving, caring about our fellow man.  And I agree.  But I also vote that we should have the spirit of Halloween year-round, too—fun and creativity.

If we embraced those traits in our daily lives, all of us would be happier.  And just think of everything cool that would come from those hours embodying fun and creativity!  All things amazing and awe-inspiring and and epic originally came from an idea-an idea that was given the space and light to germinate, unfurl, and finally blossom.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I now have 11 hours left to put together the perfect blend of innovation and sex appeal…and I now know just what I’m going to do.

I’m putting creativity back on the priority list.  I suggest you do the same.

Happy innovating!

What To Do When you F*ck Up

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Yesterday….yesterday was a lesson in humility.

A couple of days ago, my former students’ mother had called me to ask if I could have a chat with said student just to see how she was doing—she is a high level student and likes to be the best at everything she does, which is awesome but also leads to quite a bit of stress.  Based on her request, I made plans to pick my former student up for dinner before her big homecoming game where she was part of the homecoming court.  She had a narrow window of time, but we decided to make it work.

As fate would have it, my memory failed me and I ended up going to the wrong high school to pick her up.  This would have been fine, except it was 4:15 on a Friday in the middle of an overpopulated city, and her ACTUAL high school was allllllllllllll the way across town.

Cue me cursing other drivers, alternating slamming on the brakes and the gas, and finally breaking down in tears in the car as traffic sloooooooowlyyy crawled along the nine impossible miles.

I almost reached her high school when she called and asked if I’d like to meet at Subway down the road instead as her mom had come to pick her up and it would save time.

Burning with humiliation, I agreed.  And, in the manner that usually happens when things are going wrong, my GPS showed some unclear directions which added at least five minutes onto my commute in the opposite direction of my original trajectory.  Eventually, it was decided that we would meet on the following Wednesday as she was already late to her next commitment.

I died inside.

I had fucked up. Royally.  And even though my friends told me things like “it was an honest mistake” and “oh well, those things happen”, I couldn’t help but internally scream that these things don’t happen to ME.

Two glasses of wine later, I was feeling a bit better about the situation (helped in no small part by a generous pour from the sympathetic bartender), but still burning inside from the knowledge that my mistake didn’t affect just me, but had screwed up her day, and her mother (who had entrusted me to be there for her daughter) was a witness to my screw-up.

So, burning humiliation aside, how could this have been prevented?  How can we minimize those moments in our lives where we (hopefully only figuratively) screw the pooch?

Always double check the details, even when you think you know.  My mistake happened simply because I got the wrong high school in my head, and never once confirmed where I was supposed to meet her, specifically.  Making 100% sure of whatever critical details are pertinent to the situation at hand goes a long way in preventing those major collisions that result from not confirming the seemingly inconsequential details.

Conform to a standard of excellence.  The reason why this incident had me so shaken up yesterday is because this sort of thing is a very, very rare occurrence in my life.  I am very rarely late, much less completely at the wrong location.  I make it a point to deliver on any promise that I set forth, and I always make up for it when I fail to do so.  If you hold yourself to a high level of commitment no matter what task is set before you, you can almost ensure the complete or nearly complete lack of “ahhhhh FUCK” moments in your life.

Allow the moments of failure to spur you towards higher levels.  I could react to this incident by telling myself that it’s no use, I’m going to keep screwing up, so I might as well embrace it and not give it a second thought.  Or, I could realize that I am going to keep screwing up if I don’t take action, so I need to double down on my efforts to make those mistakes fewer and further between.  Whenever you use the fallout from your weaknesses as teaching moments, those weaknesses slowly start turning into strengths.  Recognizing that you are human does not have to be synonymous with constantly letting yourself off the hook.  Life is meant to be a growth process, not a continuous recline into our comfort zone.

Ultimately, make up for your mistakes that do happen.  I apologized profusely to my student.  I sent an “I’m SO SORRY” text to her mother.  I made sure that I texted my student this morning to see how the homecoming election turned out.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that I won’t be taking her to Subway for dinner on Wednesday.  You cannot erase mistakes, but no matter how small they are, you can show that you care enough to make them right, or as right as possible.

Each and every time you fuck up should be a time where you learn.  If you’re applying the knowledge gained from when you screw up, it will be very rare that you make the same mistake twice.  A flaw-free live is completely impossible, as much as the A-type personalities of the world wish it were so.  However, a life lived with integrity and purpose is as close as we can get.  Don’t allow your missteps to prevent you from finishing your path, and don’t allow your dirty shins and skinned knees to give you permission to sit down and throw up your hands.

Every. Single. Person. makes mistakes.  As with everything in life, it’s what you do AFTER those mistakes that truly makes the different between moving forward or sliding deeper into the mire of false contentment.  Pick yourself up, dust off your jacket with dignity, and step forward with a keener eye and sharper sense of purpose than before.

 

Inspiration Must be Sought

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This morning (a Saturday), I woke up around 6am and hopped on my bike to take a lap around the Back Bay area, which is a beautiful lake-like bay that I just discovered a couple of weeks ago right by my house.

As per usual for my morning rides, I popped in my headphones and scrolled through my podcast list to choose a title that caught my eye.  The past week, I’ve been listening to either The MFCEO Project by Andy Frisella and his cohosts Vaughn and Tyler or The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes.  I absolutely love the former podcast because you can feel 100% that the information given is valuable, and that the people giving it are authentic.  The latter is great as well because Lewis brings on pretty cool guests.

The point is, my four AM bike rides this week means that I have listened to four different podcasts, all with varying messages and main points.  The one common factor, however, is that starting off the morning listening to people who want to make a difference in the world and who are very successful has motivated me each day to start getting my shit together again, and to focus on the different areas of my life that I want to improve.

During the past couple of months, I haven’t been as motivated as I have been in the past to get working on all of my side goals that I have for myself.  My real estate books have fallen by the wayside, snacks have made their way into my tummy way more often than I’d like, and my book ideas have remained just that….ideas.

This is partly due to the fact that I am starting out a new school year with a heavier workload than I’ve ever had before, but it’s also because I have neglected to feed my mind with inspiration in order to keep my vision at the forefront of my mind.

Successful people always say that you will not be motivated 100% of the time, and you have to be able to simply put in the work anyway regardless of how fired up you feel in the given moment.  I completely agree.  However, I think that the hard work will eventually peter out without periodic bursts of oxygen to get the fire roaring again.

However, there sometimes is this idea that inspiration is something that must hit you like a strike of lightening, and it will come out of the middle of nowhere and BAM, you will be triggered to throw yourself wholeheartedly into your passions once again.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes inspiration DOES happen like that.  However, most of the time those who get re-inspired get that way because they are constantly seeking out people, stories, and actions that motivate them.  And it is only when they can’t find that outside galvanization that their work ethic kicks in, and they do what they need to do anyways.

So how do people find such motivation on a regular basis?

Follow people who have done the work.  While social media sometimes gets a bad rap for being a time suck and perpetuating images that simply aren’t true, there are people who put out a lot of really valuable content and give inside looks into their day to day routines that lay out the blueprint for how to emulate their success.

If your feed is filled with people who are constantly hustling and improving themselves, you cannot help but feel obligated to catch up.  If your feed is filled with memes glorifying laziness and constant partying, you will feel pretty great about where you’re sitting and feel completely unmotivated to change.

Expand your knowledge.  There are so many smart, life-experienced people who have taken the time to write about what they know to be true.  We can cut our learning curve by quite a bit if we take the time to take advantage of each perspective of life that has been offered to us.  There is nothing more motivating that reading the life story of someone who has overcome obstacle after obstacle and finally came out on top (and stayed there).

Even if you read something that you don’t agree with or that don’t resonate with you, you can still use the pieces that do make sense to fuel your fire or to add more to the picture of your life and where you want to go. Gathering information that you end up discarding is not a waste of time if it solidifies the direction that you’re going.

Motivation doesn’t have to come in a glittery, splashy package; sometimes it simply is a phrase that you come across or a small conversation with a friend, or a quote that grabs your attention as you scroll through Instagram.  But the thing about inspiration is that it is not a constant, and it is not the end game.

No one wants to tell stories about how they spent their life being motivated.  You need to use that impetus that you find on a daily or weekly basis to actually work toward something tangible.  A spark is necessary for the flame to start, but the labor of cutting down the trees, hauling them to the fire pit, and physically putting them in the ring is what creates the fire that is usable.

The bottom line is inspiration isn’t necessary to do hard work, but the hard work comes much more quickly and easily if you have the inspiration.  Seek out ways to become motivated, but then don’t let that motivation go to waste.  A horse that is spurred to run but is chained to a wheel will only be trotting in circles.  Don’t place inspiration above putting in the work, but recognize the advantages of the extra fuel.  What you focus on grows, so make sure that spotlight is shining on the right things.

In other words, set your intention, seek out those above you, and go get inspired to actually do the work!

Dedication Becomes Habit

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Today I started my routine of waking up at 5am and doing cardio before heading to work.  I had stopped doing it a month before the last school year ended, and didn’t pick it up again during the summer.  However, because I have certain Halloween goals (Spandex suit, anyone?), I am dusting off ye olde alarm clock (or the earlier alarm clock setting, anyways), and utilizing my brand-spankin’ new hybrid bike and exploring the roadways around my house.

When I mention that I get up at 5am, most people are surprised and feel sorry for me.  When I mention WHY I get up at 5am, people make comments like “wow, really?” and “you’re really dedicated!”

Which is funny because to me, dedication sometimes seems like a chore.  Something that you have to slog through and mentally grit your teeth about and put your head down and just.get.it.done.

Yet for me, because I’ve done a 5am wakeup call for so long (minus my three month haitus, of course) I was able to slip into the routine this morning without a problem.

Of course, in the beginning, my routine was nothing but a problem.  I mean, waking up at 5am when it’s still dark as pitch out and only the hard-core commuters are there to share your misery is not anyone’s definition of a good time.

And yet, as I groggily opened my eyes morning after morning, it become something that I simply did.  Engrained.  Part of the daily grind.  A habit.

In order for the hard things to reach the point where they are no longer hard, you have to struggle through the beginning stages.  When you pick up your first weight at the gym, it has to give you a little bit of pain in order for your muscles to actually get stronger and be able to handle heavier weights.

Obviously, if you pick up a heavy weight one day, and then two weeks later pick it up again, that won’t do anything.  That’s where the grinding comes in (and not the fun grinding on the dance floor).  Pushing yourself to go headfirst into the suck day in and day out until eventually, it starts to suck a little less and pretty soon, it’s not sucking at all!  In fact, you might actually find yourself enjoying it.

So, how do you find it in yourself to actually make it past the daunting gauntlet of suckage to get to the enticing, seemingly unreal goal of actually liking this thing you once hated?

Mental fortitude.  You simply cannot reach this point if you don’t have the mental balls to tell yourself that you are GOING TO DO THIS, DAMMIT!  Having the discipline and strength to get through the terrible times is invaluable and indeed, 100% necessary to turn your desires into a habit.

Many people let themselves have the easy way out.  Catch yourself in the act, and force yourself to follow the harder (yet more satisfying) path.  This will be a major bummer the first couple (or more) times, but it eventually that dedication will pay off in great habits.

Start small.  If metal toughness and going all in on a goal is something that you’ve always struggled with, start small!  Sometimes the easy goals to hit are overlooked.

If you eventually want to become the top salesperson at your job and know that your skills are sub-par, but just can’t make yourself concentrate on the classes or practice that will get you what you need, start with one thing.  Find one small tweak that you can make that is so small it seems laughable, and challenge yourself to do that for one week.

Once you’ve accomplished this small, insignificant goal, you will feel a small ego boost.  This will carry you through your next round of attainable mini-goals, and eventually, you’ll find that the target that seemed so far off before now seems, well, actually attainable!

Sometimes, we may look at someone and feel like they have their shit 100% together and they don’t struggle with anything because they are always following through with what they set out to do.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There are some days where I go to the gym and my ENTIRE BRAIN is screaming at me to turn around and hightail it back home.  Hell, even tonight I didn’t want to write a blog post, but because I try to post every Tuesday and Saturday (barring anything unforeseen), I opened my laptop and started typing.

You will never be at your peak in all areas of your life (unless you are super human).  However, with time, you will be able to build up the different aspects of your life after a period of dedication to each one, and then you will be at a point where you are able to start optimizing rather than playing catch-up.

Plowing into the dedication stage does really pay off.  You will mostly likely want to tear your hair out and quit, but if you stick with it for a while, you will be so, so glad you did.  Building up to a habit is like building a house-the foundation is the dirty part, the framing is a little easier, but once you get to the point where you can decorate it, live in it, and show it off, all the blood, sweat, and tears WILL be worth it.

Just know, you CAN do it.  All it takes is faith, trust, and a little bit of commitment dust. Then, friends, you are ready to fly!