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.

 

Routine: The Essential Ingredient for Success

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It’s been summer vacation now for exactly two weeks.  It’s been amazing to have time to do whatever I want to do, and in those two weeks I’ve been to Orlando with fellow bloggers, partied it up in Vegas with my awesome friends, celebrated, and I mean CELEBRATED, the 4th of July, and squeezed various other fun summer activities inbetween.

The one thing that I haven’t been is productive.  I am out of my normal routine, so I’ve been seriously slacking the the fitness department, completely forgotten about my real estate venture, and haven’t made a dent in any of my books I was eagerly anticipating reading this summer.

In short, in everything besides enjoying myself, I’ve been a complete failure.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking some time to decompress and shake the manacles of stress off your ankles after a long, hard slog.  But at some point, there needs to be a ‘come to Jesus’ moment where your life straightens back out.  And for that to happen, it is absolutely essential to have a routine.

Having a routine gets a bad rap.  Oftentimes sticking to a schedule means that you are viewed as someone who is unable to be flexible with planning or considered someone who is No Fun.  However, having a specific plan for each day of the week is the best, nay, the ONLY way to reach your goals that you have set for yourself.

Having a routine ensures consistency.  If you have ever tried to lose weight or make some gainz, you know 100% that you will NEVER reach your goal if you are not consistent.  Eating a healthy amount of nutrient dense food as a habit ensures a lower body percentage just as a regular gym routine lends itself to increasing muscle density.  In the same manner setting aside specific times to work on whatever you want to accomplish (and keeping those times sacred) is the only way to ensure steady progress towards those goals.

Consistency is the key aspect that can make or break a long-term play.  Once the steady pace is broken, the momentum falters, and it takes quite a bit to get it going again.  Keeping all your goals in forward motion is the key to gathering speed and cutting down on time and effort once things really get going.

Having a routine does allow you to be flexible.  If you know that you always read an hour before bedtime, even on Fridays, but all of your friends are checking out the new wine bar opening on Friday, all you need to do is simply move up your hour of reading or break it up during the day to get it done.  If you have established that something is important enough to you to get it done on a daily or weekly basis, you will find the time to fit it in if other things come up.

Flexibility is the key to not going insane.  There are some routines that should never be compromised (such as brushing your teeth or hitting the gym/being active every week), but having specific tasks to accomplish shouldn’t mean that every aspect of that task is set in stone every.  Being rigid in what you want to accomplish and soft on how you accomplish it at times is a recipe for success in all aspects of your life.

Having a routine guarantees results.  If you do something on a regular basis, there is no way that that dedication will not show.  Read ten pages every day, and eventually you WILL finish the book.  Read ten pages today, then 6 pages next Friday, then 15 pages in a month, and that book may still be sitting on your nightstand two months from now.

On the flip side, your results may come from negative routines.  Sit on your butt in front of the TV every night munching on Cheetos, and there is a 100% chance you will end up fat with unhealthy innards.  Simply show up to your job, do what you are told to do, and then skedaddle home will guarantee that you are in that exact same position 20 years from now.  You get what you give, and if you consistently give your mind, body, and soul all the wrong things, it can only reflect that negativity back to you.

Overall, we as humans need to have a routine in order to feel satisfied.  Even if their lives are chaotic and they are in France today, China next month, and back home only sporadically in-between, healthy people make sure that they have set patterns within the turmoil.  This may be always completing a room workout no matter where they land, or making sure to take 10 minutes morning and night to meditate and reflect on their day.

No matter what you need to set in place for yourself in order to feel accomplished and continually grow, the fact remains that there does need to be some regularity held sacred in order for the benefits of routine to be the most potent.  

Think  about where you want to be.  Everything starts from this knowledge.  If you have a clear vision of where you’re going, it is much easier to read the map to get there.  While you may end up somewhere pretty cool simply by wandering the streets, it is more likely that you’ll end up taking a wrong turn and stumbling down the alleyway on the wrong side of an invisible territory line.

The great thing is, you can know where you want to go and still enjoy the scenery and unexpected detours along the way.  Perhaps you weren’t expecting the croissant shop that materialized on your way to the Eiffel Tower, but you can still savor the warm pastry while navigating the streets towards your destination.

Life is a balance between enjoying the journey and accomplishing an end goal, and the reality is that if you are continually growing, you will never reach 100% of your goals right away because they will get bigger and better.  Life is 99% the experiences along the way to that 1% goal.  Routine will push you to reach that 1% while still allowing full exploration of that other 99% if the right attitude is put in place.

Don’t be afraid of committing to different patterns for different times in your life, but don’t make those lines so rigid they can never be crossed.  Live your BEST life, and set up the parameters to make that possible.

 

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.

Nobody Cares if You’re Motivated

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The past couple of weeks, I have been mentally out of the discipline game.  I haven’t gone off the deep end where I’m running around eating, drinking, and doing whatever I want, but I feel like I definitely have allowed myself a lot more slack than I normally do.

This might not be the end of the world, but for me, who is used to carrying things out in a timely and orderly fashion, I can completely tell that I am not at the top of my game, and I hate it.  I have so many things that I want to accomplish, yet I seem to keep sliding backwards when I should be striding forward.

I desperately want all of my goals to be accomplished.  So why is my motivation not propelling me forward in the way that a burning desire should?

Motivation isn’t the catalyst.

I read or heard something recently that you don’t need more motivation, you need more discipline.  This could not be more true in my experience: I am completely motivated to get my real estate license and to lose the last 5-8 lbs that I need to lose in order to be completely happy with my bikini bod, but the last couple weeks with discipline being completely thrown out the window, I can tell that my body is a little softer than it was 4 weeks ago, and I’m still on my first real estate book when I had planned to be on my second by now.

And so, here I sit, no real estate license in hand and jeans a bit more snug that I would like.  Nobody wants to hear about the time you were motivated to almost finish a race or almost start your own business.  We love stories about actual results.

Why, then, are people so quick to blame lack of motivation or claim they need to do all these things to get motivated to do something?  Why don’t they simply put their nose to the grindstone and start to see results?

 

Sadly, the truth isn’t exciting.

Quite frankly, discipline sucks.  No one WANTS to constantly resist all of the tempting foods that are constantly being shoved in our face.  It’s definitely not FUN to stay home on a Friday night once again so that you can pop out of bed bright and early on Saturday morning.  It’s BORING to sit down to the table to read a chapter for the 17th day in a row rather than flip on the TV to the latest hit show.

Motivation, on the other hand, is addicting.  It’s highly enjoyable to get all hyped up about something, especially if you are getting pumped up in a crowd.  You see people who have accomplished what you want to accomplish.  You hear about how they achieved this body or that amount of customers or traveled to this many places, and their story inspires you to make more of a push for your goals.

But the thing is, most goals are not going to be accomplished in the hour or two where your motivation is at peak levels.  If motivation is the only that that is fueling your fire, than you will be shivering in the cold long before the end game is in sight.

It takes discipline to go the long haul.  You are going to have to go out to the woods, chop a tree, bring it back piece by piece, and do this over and over again to keep that fire burning.

Simply put, discipline is the ONLY THING that guarantees your results.  The very nature of discipline implies consistency, and if you are consistent with anything long enough, you will eventually achieve your desire in one form or another.

Any time that I look at what I have or don’t have and try to mentally complain about how it’s not fair that I’m not at this or that level, I can always force myself to look back and see the lack of consistency that led me to where I am at that moment.

Discipline is hard.  But eventually, discipline leads to habit, and once you’ve reached habitual levels of consistent effort, your progress will speed up tremendously.

However, life still likes to throw roadblocks at you in the form of unexpected events.  When I have a week where my routine is uninterrupted, my food consumption, gym attendance, and learning schedule are unchallenged and go off without a hitch.

But throw in a random meeting or two, life responsibilities that take a lot of time in my otherwise normal day, and people who are visiting or who want to hang out, and my discipline goes out the window.

So, in reality, I’m actually not that disciplined.  If I was, I would be able to navigate those stumbling blocks with ease, and keep my eyes on what it is that I want long-term.

This is a sucky thing to admit to oneself, especially if you have an image in your mind that encompasses all you WANT to be, versus where you really are.  And once again, I have all the motivation in the world to want to be fit and advance my learning in general, but when it comes down to it, desire doesn’t matter.

Your body doesn’t react to what you WANT it to look like-it shapes itself based on what you do to it and how you feed it.  Your business doesn’t grow based on what you WANT your revenues to be, it yields tantamount to the consistent effort that is put forth by you and your employees.  When it comes down to the wire, your efforts will show, no matter how much you will them to be different than they are.

There is no shortcut to any success.  Motivation may cause an initial burst of energy that will get you past the breakers, but it is the slow, steady strokes, hand over hand, that will get you across the channel.

So sit down with yourself.  Acknowledge where you want to end up, and how far you are away from it.  Steel yourself for the long haul ahead.  Write out a specific plan for your days, and how you will handle routine interruptions.  Settle into the reality that it’s not going to be a high-energy, full speed ahead race where the finish line is reached in mere seconds.

The journey is long.  It’s arduous.  It’s full of moments that suck.  But in the end, the steady turtle of discipline will outpace the bounding rabbit of motivation every. single. time.

Appreciation is a Powerful Drug

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Last weekend, all of my friends got together and had an amazingly fun girls night-without me.  Whomp Whomp. I had prior obligations, and while I was sad that I couldn’t be there, I know it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.

What made this event stick out to me, however, wasn’t the fact that I was missed out, but the fact that they all took the time to tell me that they wished I was with them and to make sure I knew that they would have rather had me join in the fun.

Now, having a group of girlfriends is probably old hat to most women my age, but I haven’t yet had this experience: I grew up fast, working all the time, and I was married throughout college, the time when most people are forming solid friend groups for life.  This show of appreciation for, well, just being me made me feel amazing.

This got me thinking: how often do we take the time to let people know that they are appreciated simply just for existing in our lives?  When do we take the time out of our day to write a text, drop a note, take advantage of a pause in conversation just to say hey…you’re awesome.  Thanks for being in my life.

Polite habits are ingrained (or should be ingrained) in us from childhood.  Say please and thank you.  Write a thank you letter when you receive a gift.  Make sure that if someone does you a favor you pay them back somehow, someway.

Yet we rarely take the time to appreciate people just for being them.  And let me tell you from one who has received an abundance of ‘just because’ recognition lately: it feels damn good.

When it comes down to it, appreciation is simply showing that you notice and you are grateful.  Writing a thank you note for that brand-new wedding crock pot is a formalized way of saying Hey!  I liked this thing you picked out for me.  I am really happy that I don’t have to go get one myself.  Thank you!

When you tell someone ‘thank you’, or ‘miss you’, or ‘wish you were here’, it’s saying that you notice them and you’re grateful for what they bring into your life.  You observe what they do when you’re around, and you care when they are not around.

There are so many people in your world that deserve appreciation.  

That barista that makes you coffee every morning?  It would make her day to hear a heartfelt greeting and sincere words of acknowledgment on how much she kicks ass every morning.

That office lady who always greets you with a smile, no matter what?  It would mean the world to hear even the smallest affirmation of  how well she does her job.

That coworker who keeps his head down and just does his job-but does it well?  He would love to hear that people notice his dedication.

No matter how much we tell ourselves that we can give ourselves our own props and it doesn’t matter how other people notice, when push comes to shove, this is complete and total bullshit.  While we can, of course, keep going without cheerleaders and can accomplish anything we want sans pats on the back, the truth is, receiving that acknowledgment and recognition from others around us can act as high-octane gas in our fuel tank.

Sometimes, our encouragement just serves as as a touchstone for others on their journey, a sign that they are doing what they need to do.  Other times, our confirmation can be the push that sends them soaring beyond anything they dreamed they were capable of, that little rev on the engine that sent them shooting beyond the mark they made for themselves.

We never know where anyone is in their life journey.  So seek out opportunities to appreciate others.  These opportunities can be as big as letting someone know that you think they’re doing such a great job that you’re going to recommend them for a promotion, or as small as saying thank you to the random stranger who holds open the door for you.

There are so many situations that we fail to take advantage of; appreciation opportunities are actually quite frequent; you simply have to pay attention:

Tell your friend that you miss them when they aren’t there.

Tell your spouse that you feel lucky to be married to them, just because.

Tell your coworker that they are doing amazing, especially when you can see they’re having a tough day.

Tell your boss that you appreciate his communication.

Tell your mailman that you appreciate his service.

Many times we tend to think “well, it’s just so-and-so’s JOB to do that.  I don’t need to acknowledge anything”.  Who the hell cares?  It’s MY job to teach, and guess what my favorite thing in the world is: hearing ‘thank you’ from a student.  People may be getting paid to do something, but money exchanging hands should not be a determining factor for with-holding gratitude.  Besides the light that you will bring to others, it also serves to make YOU feel amazing.

Take the time to reflect on who actually is a help to you, who makes you feel amazing, who is there for you when shit hits the fan, who makes you laugh, who knows you inside and out, and who is doggedly keeping your life running in the background.  After you’ve realized all the amazing people that you know and who is true gold in your life, take the time to sincerely tell them ‘thank you’.  And then, every once in a while, just so they don’t forget…tell them again.

Best Foot Forward

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I just ended a week full of presenting my best self.  Interviews are no joke: dressing to impress, trying to recall all of your vast work experience to fit into one perfectly worded response to the rapid-fire questions coming across the conference table, and anxiously waiting to hear back from the one job you really want (and, of course, hearing back from the job you’re only so-so about two hours after you leave).

Finding a job is serious business.  If you’re good at the initial first impression game, you have lots of offers, even if your qualifications are sub-par.  If you can’t interview well, sometimes you are passed by for someone with more flair.  Knowing how to play the game is crucial if you really want to get ahead.

These observations instantly reminded me of dating.  Finding a partner is one big interview process that can be intriguing and exciting but also exhausting and disheartening.  And the exact same parameters for success apply.

When you’re dating, you make sure you make up your face perfectly and wear the top that shows off just enough cleavage to be interesting, but not enough to be slutty.  You try to come up with clever and witty responses to their questions, and you anxiously wait by the phone for them to text (but sadly, usually only getting 5 in a row from that one guy from that one bar who won’t leave you the hell alone).

This begs the question:  what’s the difference between someone who gets the job, and someone who is sent the polite “thank you but no thanks” e-mail?  What differentiates between someone whose call is eagerly awaited and someone whose very name on the screen initiates an eyeroll and a screenshot?

Marketing matters.  The candidate who comes across as knowledgeable, friendly, and confident, even if she is shaking in her proverbial boots, is the person who will receive the offer.  Likewise, the guy who goes after what they want without any hesitation and puts out the vibe that they know the other person will like them will usually get the giggle, sideways glances, and beaming smiles from the girl they are pursuing.

However, this is a double-edge sword in both scenarios.  Sometimes confidence can cross the line into arrogance.  No one, either in the professional and dating worlds, wants to be around an egomaniac.  Trying to downplay things, though, can be equally as off-putting.  While reaching the Goldilocks sweet spot can be tough, it is the attitude that wins the offer letter AND the 2 second text response.

Authenticity matters.  Even if people aren’t  as in tune with their inner psyche as they should be, we usually can tell when something is off.  As humans, we want to know that we are surrounded by trustworthy human beings both on the job and in our romantic relationships.  Authenticity means being true to your likes and dislikes, what you need, and not being afraid to show your whole self.

Nonetheless, this again needs to be tempered with common sense.  Just because you prefer casual dress at the workplace doesn’t mean you should show up to an interview in jeans.  Likewise, just because you enjoy frozen TV dinners more than fine dining doesn’t mean you should take your date to Chipotle the first time around.  Our BEST authentic self should be what we present, not our ’20 years in the same job’ self or ‘thrifty, cutting corners’ self.

Preparation Matters.  Believe it or not, there are some people who show up to an interview with no idea of what the company stands for or what makes it unique.  Likewise, there are people who ask for a first ‘date’, only to end up dilly-dallying around because they made no plans beforehand.  Interviewers want to know that you have done your homework and that you actually want to work THERE versus ANYWHERE.  Girls want to know that you care enough about the date to take the time to set up a dinner reservation.  Doing your homework may not guarantee an A on the test, but it will give you a hell of a better shot than just winging it.

Ultimately, you can market yourself impeccably, be true to yourself, prepare to the Nth degree, and still not get a callback or a second date.  Sometimes, there was a superior candidate.  Other times, it just wasn’t the right fit.  While either scenario sucks, it’s also a relief to know that you are still free to find the perfect fit for YOU, whether it be a job with more flexibility or a partner who just gets you.

Opportunities in life are just that: opportunities.  Just because one doesn’t take off the way you imagined or hoped doesn’t mean that you are forever doomed.  In most cases, people looking back on their lives at chances that didn’t work out for some reason (OTHER than lack of effort) feel that they were the recipient of something much better later on.

And so, whether you are searching for a job or searching for a soulmate, don’t tie yourself to one image of what you *think* you want.  Give your all and take every chance that you think might pan out, but don’t spiral into despair over a rejection letter or a flopped date.  In the end, if you play your cards right, the best things in the world will fall into your lap, and you will thank the stars for every experience that led you to that point.

LIVE for Something

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Yesterday I was listening to a song, and one of the lyrics stood out to me: “Why isn’t anyone willing to die for anything anymore?” (paraphrased).

At first glance, being willing to die for something is the ultimate commitment.  You are willing to lay down your LIFE for this thing, which means you are willing to give up your existence in order to show your dedication to this cause you feel so strongly about.

But when I was pondering this lyric and internally agreeing that the willingness to die for something really IS lacking in today’s world, I came to the realization that dying for something is hard, but living for it is harder.

When you die for something, it is over in an instant.  You declare your unending dedication by a short, albeit dramatic demonstration, and then it is over.  People remember your act for a while, but it usually fades shortly thereafter.

If you LIVE for something, however, that takes substantially more commitment.  It means that all of your time is dedicated towards that goal.  All of your choices are geared towards furthering your cause.  There are constant sacrifices that need to be made, and you are consistently having to rededicate your mind to the prize and remind yourself of why you are so devoted in the first place.

This is the reason why people who LIVE for something are remembered.  People like Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Susan B. Anthony, and many more are individuals who are commemorated for their fierce commitment to causes that were near and dear to their heart.

Each of these people were living for things greater than themselves.  Which, in my belief, is the key to true success.  When you focus on causes that impact people outside of just you, you will get increasingly more momentum as others appreciate, acknowledge, and even join your purpose rather than simply putting your head down and bulldozing through your own personal agenda.

So, what does it mean to actually live for something versus simply existing?

It means that you are actively involved in the direction your life is going.  So many people allow their lives to be dictated by life events or people close to them.  They lose out on opportunities because they don’t want to leave their current job or the people around them, or they settle down with someone and give up their life long dream of traveling to Europe because that person doesn’t like to travel.

Using a personal example, I could choose to take my layoff as a sign to leave California, or bend to the pressure to move back to Minnesota, or simply apply anywhere there is a job and take what I can get.  However, I know that I want to stay near the coast, so I am only applying to jobs that fit that location criteria.  I refuse to let being laid off dictate where I live, and I am completely confident in my abilities to make it happen.

It means you have put thought into what is important to you, and you have decided what you can compromise on and what you cannot.  If you don’t forcefully put aside time for yourself to figure out what you want, there is no way that you can keep a steady course.  Living FOR something means that you have given substantial thought to this goal or cause, and have laid out the steps you need to take to get there.

I have seen this firsthand in the life of someone close to me.  He has decided what he wants to live for, and he refuses to let anything get in his way.  The reason he can be so absolute, however, is because he has devoted a good portion of his time to figuring out what is important to him and why.

It means you have character.  It is hard to stick to something with so many obstacles constantly being placed in your path.  People who have character stick to their guns no matter what because they have gone through the mental work necessary to solidify how important their goals or their cause is to them.

The best example I can think of for character is my father.  He has beliefs that he considers absolutes, and there is absolutely nothing that will sway him to compromise those beliefs.  Even if it would be immensely easier to give into to those around him, he still unwavering acts upon his own convictions.

Overall, living FOR something versus simply existing is the optimal way to live your life.  Think of your life as a giant puzzle: it is infinitely easier to put together the picture if you have the box to go off of.  It’s just that in life, you get to create the image yourself.  If you don’t take the time to create that image and set it up so that it is constantly in your field of vision, who knows what Kindergarden-like image you will end up with at the end of your life.

Masterpieces take time, planning, and dedication.  Don’t waste your life floating from one experience to the next; decide what you want to accomplish with this one life we are given, and then take the steps to make it happen.  Live FOR something, and your life will be one worth living.