Resume of Life

High school was probably the first real time I was introduced to the idea of building a resume. If you were interested in going to college, your high school career practically revolved around building your resume. My first resume consisted of just about any and everything I had ever done in my life. Even including hobbies, it was not hard to keep it to one page. As I progressed through my educational career, I fine tuned the art of resume writing. But it was after a session with a law school career counselor, that I really started to understand the true art of resume writing. 

I stumbled into her office after my first semester of law school. Many first year law students already have a pretty impressive resume. They have spent their lives curating their resume for a career in law. I had not. My previous work experience consisted, literally, of Dairy Cow Milker, Dog Kennel Technician, Veterinarian Technicians’ Assistant, Equine Veterinarian Barn Staff, Wildlife Refuge Intern, and Skydiving Instructor/Videographer. Essentially, I had scooped the poop of many different species of animals prior to entering law school, and I jumped out of airplanes. What were the admission officers even thinking letting me into law school in the first place? The career counselor quickly set me at ease though. She explained that these past jobs actually told a potential employer more about me than I realized. Scooping the poop of animals made me a hard worker and jumping out of airplanes made me interesting. All I needed to do was help an employer see this via my cover letter. 

“My life is my message.”  —Mahatma Gandhi

What she was essentially saying was that what was important was not the list of credentials set out in my resume but the experiences and life lessons they represent. These past experiences made me who I am today. Getting up at four in the morning to round up a bunch of cows to be milked to return home covered in cow poop to a tiny dorm room actually built character. 

“I have learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life.’”  —Maya Angelou

Your life resume is very similar. All your past experiences made you who you are today. Good or bad they should be viewed as stepping stones to who you want to be. Do not convince yourself that because your resume says Mom, or married, or single, or still lives with parents that you are unqualified to follow your dreams. Explain to yourself in your life's cover letter how all your past experiences built character and made you a more interesting person. Your specific experiences set you apart from everyone else and make you more qualified to land the life of your dreams. 

Trust me, if I can manage to secure a legal internship with my resume and class rank, you can accomplish that thing that your heart yearns for. Let your life's cover letter be so crammed with experiences and life lessons that you have no excuse but to chase the impossible. Your life has been building up to this very moment. What are you going to do with it?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” —Mary Oliver

 

Law school material right there.

Valedictorian Knows Best

I was recently taking a stroll down memory lane and discovered my valedictorian speech from high school. Of course, I soon found myself sprawled on the floor reading my words of yesteryear. It turns out my younger self was pretty inspirational. Here is what I had to say to my fellow classmates at the ripe old age of eighteen.

Distinguished guests, Dr. Hathcock, board members, faculty and staff of Pell City High School, relatives, graduating class members, and friends:
Here we are finally being set free from what has been our life for the past thirteen years. Looking back on our school years, some of us are a bit sad, while others are counting down the minutes of this very ceremony. {That was me. At the time, I hated ceremonies. I still kind of do.} As I peer back into the past, I like to think of school as a series of adventures, one might say a walk through the national park of life. Just think of kindergarten, even the most rebellious of us were excited to see what this school thing was all about. Everything was new and interesting, from recess to going to the library to being chosen as line-leader. 
As elementary school slowly slipped by, we became introduced to subjects such as math, history, reading, and science. The awe and glory of the independence of this nature walk for some of us began to fade. By the fifth grade we were the big cats of the school and felt the excitement and anticipation of climbing the bigger, more challenging mountain. 
Junior high loomed before us. The land of lockers and six different teachers—a true challenge awaited. We encountered such dilemmas as how to open our top lockers when we could not even read the numbers much less reach the knob to enter the digits of the combination, a true challenge indeed, or remember which notebook was math and which English when we had so wisely chosen navy blue for both. Even how to dress out in P.E. without the fifty other people in the one large room witnessing this spectacle became a challenge. 
As we moved on to seventh grade, we had overcome most of the barriers of our former year and were ready for our first dose of school related activities such as sports, band, and clubs. By the eighth grade we had reduced this mountain of junior high to a mere molehill. We were anxious to skydive into high school.
Our adrenaline rushed as we strapped on our mesh book bags, pulled out our trusty maps, and prayed we were heading in the right direction. We pressed onward through initiations, long lunch lines, and being at the bottom of the totem pole. We found that in the thick woods of high school it was survival of the fittest. We proved we were not going to go down without a fight and showed our will power when we won the homecoming float against all odds. 
After surviving our first treacherous year of high school, we looked forward to taking out our revenge on, who else, but the Freshmen. As Sophomores, we enjoyed such thrills as having top lockers—no longer facing the dilemma of junior high—and getting to choose some of our electives instead of taking only required classes. No longer the babies of the school, we basked in the glory and power that came with few responsibilities, even if that power was only over Freshmen. 
Tenth grade seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were considered upper class-men. For most of us, our Junior year meant our first prom. Anyone who has tried to find the Zamora Temple at nine o’clock at night when they have never heard of much less seen the place before knows what an adventure it can truly be. With the jungle of eleventh grade behind us, we looked forward to the mountain of all mountains, the rock wall of our dreams, the big kahuna of rafting rivers, our senior year. It was destined to be the most exciting adventure yet, not to mention the biggest party. 
For the majority , we soon realized being a Senior was going to require some work. It became a series of maneuvers to find more scholarships, pass all our classes, not to mention the graduation exam, and participate in all our extracurricular activities. It was a year of dishing out money and attending Senior meetings. Somewhere in all the commotion we found time to attend another prom, have a perfect football season, win homecoming hall and float, and be offered over a million dollars in scholarships. 
Looking back on my school exploration, I wonder how I survived. Then, I realized that without the guides when I hit rough waters and the trail markers preparing me for what was ahead I would have been really lost or possibly drowned. Thanks to the teachers who have guided us through the years and pointed us in the right direction, we are here graduating today. I would also like to give a big thanks to all the parents out there who have been our safety ropes, giving us enough slack to climb but catching us when we lose our footing. 
Now, as we move on to a new exciting adventure that is the world, we take with us the knowledge and wisdom our parents and teachers have passed onto us. I once read somewhere that living on your own is about making decisions, not always the right ones, but, hopefully, not so many wrong ones that you lose your positive opportunities. As we head out for deeper water there will be rapids along the way but as long as we keep a clear head and a tight grip on the paddles, we always have a better than fighting chance.

My younger self really understood that life is just one big adventure. Sometimes you fall off the raft or fail to bag the peak, but these setbacks shouldn’t keep you from hitting the next trail with just as much gusto as the last. I wish I could harness the confidence and energy of my younger self, but alas, I cannot. I will just have to conquer the world as the older superhero I have become. Don’t let the adult in you beat out of you the power you once knew dreams could hold. Sometimes it is in the midst of turmoil that we learn our strengths.

“I found that every single successful person I’ve ever spoken to had a turning point and the turning point was were they made a clear, specific, unequivocal decision that they were not going to live like this anymore. Some people make that decision at 15 and some people make it at 50 and most never make it at all.”  —Brian Tracey

 

Me as a Senior. Graduating Class of 2004!


The Slightly Leveled Up Essentialism Edge

I am new to the world of inspirational self-help books. Truthfully, I have tried to get through quite a few in the past but always ended up abandoning them before the end.  The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson broke my self-help abandoning streak. I read The Slight Edge from cover to cover. When I closed the book, I was on fire. I felt ready to take on the world. These inspirational self-help books became like a drug. Every couple of months I needed another hit. The key to these books is to actually implement their teachings.

Three books in particular hit home for me:  The Slight Edge (Jeff Olson), Essentialism (Greg McKeown), and Level Up Your Life (Steve Kamb). Although there is some overlap, each has provided an essential piece to figuring out this puzzle of life. They provided a paradigm shift in the way I look at certain things. I was given an awesome new perspective on life. I will give you a summary of each book before I give you the recipe for the Slightly Leveled Up Essentialism Edge.

The Slight Edge

“The truth is, what you do matters. What you do today matters. What you do every day matters. Successful people just do the things that seem to make no difference in the act of doing them and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in.”            

The Slight Edge is about implementing slight disciplines in your life to achieve bigger outcomes. It is about creating simple daily routines that are just as easy to do as not to do (i.e. five pushups every day, five minutes practicing a foreign language every day, fifteen minute walk every day). These small disciplines compounded by time equate to a big outcome. It is small disciplines matched with consistency that give you the slight edge.

“Showing up is essential. Showing up consistently is powerful. Showing up consistently with a positive outlook is even more powerful.”

Essentialism

“Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.” 

The main point in this book is less but better. Cut out the nonessentials in your life. Stop saying ‘yes’ to everyone and everything. Draw your line in the sand. If your answer is not ‘Hell, yes!’ then it should be no. Saying yes only to the essentials allows you to better apply yourself instead of always being stretched thin.

“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities.”

Level Up Your Life

“Starting today, that voice in your head is no longer allowed to utter the words: “I don’t have time.” Instead, the voice must use the phrase, “It’s not a priority.”

I must admit that I really loved this book. The presentation of the material and the idea of gamifying life made the content much more enjoyable. I am all about making a game out of life. Steve Kamb, also founder of nerdfitness.com, studied the mechanics used to capture the hearts and minds of gamers and began implementing them in his own life. In the book he uses video games, movies, television, comic books, and pop culture to share this process and to help you design your own Epic Quest of Awesome. Who doesn’t want to be their own superhero?

“Life is meant to be lived on your own terms.”

And now, how to slightly level up your essentialism edge!

1.    Priority

In each moment we can have but one priority. We know from Essentialism that less is more, and we know from science that multitasking is impossible. Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. I love Steve Kamb’s paradigm shift in Level Up Your Life. He says instead of using the excuse “I don’t have time” substitute it with “it is not a priority.” That simple change in perception brings to light the actual priorities in your life. It makes you question what you are actually spending your time doing.

Despite what you might want your priorities to be, your actual priorities are what you spend time on each day. Maybe you want to spend time with family, exercise, or learn a to play the guitar. Unless you are actually actively putting these pursuits first and making them a part of your routine, they are not your priorities at all.

2.    Fully commit and implement baby steps

I like the idea of having a direction over setting goals. If I want to head for a sunrise (a healthier life), I will set my compass for east instead of north, south, or west. But there are times when goals are important, when having something concrete to strive toward is beneficial.
The key to reaping rewards, whether it be seeing a sunrise or being debt-free, is implementing small, measurable, achievable disciplines. As humans, we love progress. It is our consistent actions that eventually reap progress. I suggest developing daily habits. Make these new habits laughably simple, so you have no excuse not to execute. If you want more family time, schedule a time when you turn your phone off for just fifteen minutes and give your family members your undivided attention. Do ten pushups every night before going to bed. Add one serving of fresh fruits or vegetables to your day.

“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” –John C. Maxwell

After a while turning your phone off becomes a habit. After a while ten pushups is a breeze, and you start doing fifteen. After a while eating one vegetable a day is a habit, and you start adding more and more fresh foods to your diet. Incremental progress is addictive. Short-term wins actually cause a release of dopamine. Consistency is key. And don’t be afraid to up the anti to keep things challenging.

3.    Make it a game

Stop taking things so seriously. Don’t beat yourself up over perceived failures or shortcomings; instead, praise yourself for wins no matter how small. Set up a system of rewards and consequences. Leveling up in a game always has consequences and rewards. That's what makes it so addicting.

My favorite aspect of Level Up Your Life is the idea of gamification. It makes accomplishing tasks fun and a . . . game. How far you go with this idea is up to you. I say the more fun you make a challenge the better. Steve Kamb suggests having several overarching quests (i.e., travel, learning a new instrument, learning conversational Spanish) and to break them down into mini-quests or missions that provide experience points. Maybe you start out by signing up for a music class two nights a week for a month. You commit to practicing for ten minutes each afternoon. You pick a song to learn to play by a certain date. Each mission gives you a set amount of experience points in your quest to learn a new instrument.

These mini-quests and missions are cool and all, but it is also important to have accountability and rewards. Not only should we reward accomplishments, but there should also be consequences for not following through. In games you never concede yourself to a subpar life, you are always trying to become better and stronger. That is because there are rewards and consequences for your actions. Maybe your reward for exercising every day for a month is a new bathing suit or a trip to the beach, but the consequence of missing a workout is that you have to give $50 to your friend (or better yet an enemy). I don’t know about you, but I don't have $50 to spare, so if the bathing suit or the beach isn’t motivation enough, losing $50 is.

The consequences must be harsh. If the consequence of making a mistake in a game is that you lose 1% life when you are at 100%, you might take more risks. But if you know a mistake will cause you to lose a life and have to start the level over, you might proceed with caution. The same goes for rewards. If you have a drawer full of bathing suits, another bathing suit won’t provide much incentive, maybe a new pair of exercise shoes would be better and make going to the gym more fun. You are more likely to gain experience points if you have real rewards to gain and real consequences to face.   

“It’s the game of life. Do I win or do I lose.” –Tupac Shakur

4.    Confront your fears

“It’s either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” –Level Up Your Life, Steve Kamb

It is important to recognize any fears that are holding you back, for me it is usually the fear of failure. Then ask yourself what is the worst that could REALLY happen. More often than not, the worst-case scenario is not life threatening or even that bad. The discomfort is usually temporary and the reward is potentially life changing.

I remember when I was studying for the bar exam. I was overwhelmed and tired. A colleague and friend put things in perspective for me. She asked what was the worst thing that could happen. I could fail obviously. And she responded that that was indeed the worst thing that could happen, and I would ultimately survive. She was absolutely right. I would not be disowned by my family, lose any friends, or even be prevented from retaking the exam. It would be a hit to my ego, but I would survive. Do not let fear hold you back.

5.    Don’t pursue things

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” –Ernest Hemingway

Trying to tie happiness to shinier and shinier things is not sustainable. Once we gain that new shiny thing, it becomes normal and we need bigger and still shinier things to sate our need. Things cost not only our money but our time, a much more precious resource.

“Oh, the things we think we need. . . . that new car? How many payments left? No matter—at least it has leather seats that warm your ass on your long drive home from an eleven-hour workday.” –TheMinimalists

I know few people that are truly more happy with more things. As I get older, I realize that most things are merely a distraction. It is the experience that counts. That does not mean you have to live with nothing. You simply surround yourself with meaning instead of things. Just make sure what you are striving for will actually bring you joy.

Now, take action!

Pick a priority. Choose a direction. Set a goal. Then, break that overarching goal into three mini-quests or missions. These mini-quests or missions should be actionable. Finally, take action now. Do something now, right this minute, that will take you fifteen minutes or less to accomplish that will bring you closer to your goal. Book a trip to a Spanish speaking country. Sign up for guitar lessons. Create an actionable routine. Just do something that gets the ball rolling. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on life. Adventure is waiting.

 

How to Positively Reinforce Your Life

Positive reinforcement works by presenting a motivating or reinforcing stimulus to a person (or dog) after a desired behavior is shown, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future. It is a positive incentive to motivate a behavior we want. It is commonly used with children and also in dog training (I am not comparing child raising to dog training . . .I promise.) When you tell a dog to sit and give him a treat when he does, that is positive reinforcement of the wanted behavior–him sitting.
 
This type of motivation can be used in many different ways. I work part-time in childcare, and I use positive reinforcement all the time, occasionally on purpose. When I have a couple of children I have had to constantly yell at to no avail, I am forced to change my tactics in order to save my sanity. I soon found that acknowledging good behavior in other children while ignoring bad behavior usually results in the child that is displaying the bad behavior to mimic the acknowledged good behavior in other children. For example, I will say, "Look at how good Jason is being. Thank you for standing in line quietly like I asked." All of a sudden Jenny and Susan will be in line with their fingers on their lips usually looking at me expectantly for their praise. It is actually a fun little experiment.
 
I have seen positive reinforcement work in marketing as well. Several years ago I went wine tasting in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. The area is known for its wineries, so a girlfriend and I escaped law school for a long weekend to enjoy the finer things in life. It cost two to three dollars to do a wine tasting at each winery. A price we gladly paid. Some of the wineries would credit the wine tasting fee toward a bottle of wine if you chose to make a purchase. What I discovered was that I was much more likely to spend an extra eight to ten dollars to purchase a bottle of wine if given the incentive of getting the tasting for “free.” Needless to say, I ended up with a well-stocked wine cabinet. Don’t judge me; law school is stressful.
 
One of my favorite examples of positive reinforcement happened in Richmond, Canada. The Richmond Police Department followed a well-established approach to cracking down on crime: pass new and harsher laws, set stronger sentencing, or initiate zero tolerance sentencing. That is until Ward Clapman became the new superintendent. He questioned the reactive and negative policing efforts. Out of his questioning came the idea for Positive Tickets. This program focused on catching youth doing something good (i.e. picking up litter and throwing it in a trash can, wearing a helmet while riding a bike, getting to school on time) and giving them a ticket for the positive behavior. Instead of carrying a fine, the ticket could be redeemed for a small reward—like free entry to the movies or to an event at a local youth center. The program worked so well that over time it reduced recidivism from sixty percent to eight percent.
 
I was reading about this incentive program in the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown. The program itself is a pretty good example of positive reinforcement, but the story gets better. During this program, a police officer stopped a teenager who had saved a girl from being hit by a car and gave him a Positive Ticket. He told the boy, “You did a great thing today. You can make a difference.” The boy hung the Positive Ticket on his wall. After a couple of weeks, his foster mother asked whether he was going to use it. His response caused my eyes to mist. He told his foster mother that “an adult had told him he could be somebody, and that was worth more than free pizza or bowling.”[i] That is the power of positive reinforcement.

“You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”  —Louise Hay

 
But what if you applied these tactics to your own life and your own behaviors. What if, instead of always beating ourselves up for bad performance in work, school, career, health, or relationships, we rewarded ourselves for behaviors we wanted to repeat? What if, instead of complaining about the current state of our lives, we started building a life we truly wanted to live and rewarded ourselves for those positive steps? I think we could not only change our way of thinking, but we could actually change our lives.

But how do you change behaviors in yourself?

First, start acknowledging your positive behaviors. When you acknowledge a good behavior in yourself, give yourself a smile and a pat on the back, allow yourself to be proud, wallow in that good feeling. And when you notice you are behaving in a way you dislike, refrain from chastising yourself. Simply change your behavior, and then reward yourself for the change. It is like the naughty child that changes his behavior when he sees that good behavior is praised.

“If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a LOT of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” 
—Kevin Ngo
On the flip side, stop chasing rabbit holes. Stop feeding the negative wolves. By my third year of law school, I was suspicious that practicing law was not for me. But I felt I was too far-gone. I was proud when I graduated, as I should have been. I should mention that law school graduation is truly a celebration. We clogged up a NYC street outside of Carnegie Hall with post-graduation celebrations. When I returned to Alabama, I kept telling myself I would eventually travel. I would find a job that allowed me to be location independent, yet I still pursued a career and a path I hated. I created negative habits. I, in some ways, rewarded negative behaviors by continuing to do them. I took the bar exam and applied for jobs I had no desire to get. It took a lot of courage to walk away from that path.
 
If you are working too many hours and want to spend more time with your kids, stop rewarding your negative behaviors. Eat in more and savor a cheaper meal spent at home with your family instead of a more expensive meal that requires an extra hour of work to afford. Most kids would rather play with sticks in the mud with their parents than alone in a playroom full of toys. Stop saying yes to over-commitments. Say no and reward yourself with some quiet time indulging in something you love but rarely have time to do.
“Be proud that you are trying even if you aren’t there yet.” 
—Al Fox Carraway

You can apply these tactics on a larger scale as well.

Say you want to completely change job paths or start a new endeavor or travel the world. Make this big objective your overarching goal. Achieving this goal in and of itself is a reward. These big goals are easy to get excited, motivated, and even fired up about. Now you need discipline. Break down this overarching goal into smaller, achievable tasks. If you want to write a book, shift your focus to the smaller, achievable goal of writing 500 words of chapter two over the weekend. Reward these smaller achievements.
 
Especially with bigger goals, the reward needs to be worth the effort. It should be meaningful to you. Do not reward yourself with a hike if all you have been thinking about all week is a nice, refreshing dip in the lake.
 
Lastly, the reward should fit the effort. A smile and a pat on the back might be just reward for refraining from making a snarky comment and giving constructive criticism instead. But a pat on the back might not be enough to positively reinforce doing a tough five-mile run in preparation for a marathon. A warm soak in a bath or even a nice massage might be a better reward. The reward should be equal to or slightly greater than the effort.

Now, live positively. 

This week start becoming the person you want to be. Positivity builds, so start out small. Reward your achievements, no matter how slight. And forgive your shortcomings. Positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool in your life and the life of others. So don’t forget to acknowledge others’ good behavior and forgive the bad. Watch your life transform before your eyes.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”  —George Eliot

Love Yourself!: A recap of two weeks of self-love

The first two weeks of February were wonderful. It was nice to make an effort to acknowledge myself. It is always nice to give a little love, especially when you are the recipient. Here is a recap of my Instagram posts in case you missed the blessed event.

Day 1: It is February and the perfect time to show some self-love. Today, write down one thing you love about yourself and post it on Instagram.

Day 2: Rockin' my favorite outfit today! I have cultivated a wardrobe with only things that bring me joy, so picking an outfit that I love was pretty easy. It feels like springtime here in Alabama, so I went with my favorite bright button up shirt. My ripped jeans make me feel rebellious, and my sweet Nikes make me feel like a superhero. I am wearing a turquoise ring my mom gave me from when she was a little girl. And I LOVE a mix of bracelets. I'm feeling good and ready to rock!

Day 3: t is not too late to give yourself a big ole smile! It does wonders for the complexion, and some studies have even shown that smiling can make you happier. So give yourself a dose of self-love with a genuine smile.

Day 4: indulgence. It is wonderful to indulge in the finer things in life. My indulgence for my self-love challenge was some Endangered Species brand dark chocolate with cranberries and almonds washed down with some caramel almond amaretti tea from travail served in my airplane cup. Mmmmm! 

Day 5: "Your heart is just a beatbox for the song of your life" -Sande Thom. Make yourself a playlist that will make your heart sing and your feet dance. Be that crazy person jamming out on their way to work. Self-love day 5 is all about music. So compile that perfect playlist and sing yourself a love song.

Day 6: Self-love challenge day 6: sleep in. I am a bit of a morning person (understatement of the year), so sleeping in does not mean lingering in dream world. To me sleeping in means curling up under warm blankets and just staying in bed. This morning I curled up with a book and a puppy. Who wouldn't want to stay in bed with a cuddle buddy as cute as this one? Get out there and love yourself! But first get some sleep.

I did not post anything for days 7 and 8. THe challenges were a five-minute guided meditation and giving someone a genuine compliment. I felt a post commemorating these days would take away from purpose, but I can assure you they were wonderful days full of warm fuzzies.

Day 9: Today is favorite drink day! I went with a homemade recipe. I call it the Spiced almond milk latte. I got the recipe from@simplegreensmoothies and just added coffee. It takes a little more time than just regular cream so it is extra-special!

Day 10: Love yourself! Day 10: write down your dream. I have suffered from wanderlust for the past several years. All I can think about is how to get on the road full-time. I made the decision last year to work towards starting a freelancing career, so I can be location independent. I wish things were moving faster, but the pace is probably where it needs to be. Today, to get me closer to my dream, I forwent immediately logging in to Netflix, and instead did tasks to increase my skills as a copy editor. I am tired but I am worth it. 

Day 11: Love yourself! Day 11: special meal. I didn't know how much a needed a sit down dinner until tonight. I have been penny pinching a bit this year, but a dinner out was a nice treat. I even walked through the shop and like a little kid talked myself into a pouch of Pop rocks. It was an evening well spent.

Day 12: Love yourself! Day 12: thirty minutes of me time. Instead of jumping into more work after returning home from my day job, I sat down with one of my favorite pleasure reads and a warm cup of milky chi tea. I put thirty minutes on the clock and enjoyed a half hour of simple pleasures. I love using my new hour glass timer gifted to me by @chercrow. It makes for a peaceful ambiance. I hope everyone had a funtastic Friday.

Day 13: Love yourself! Day 13: do what YOU want. I am starting out this afternoon quite pleasurably. I am about to have a book discussion with a dear friend at one of my favorite coffee shops! So far, today is another wonderful day!

If you missed out on the challenge, have no fear! It is never too late for some self-recognition and pampering. Also, follow me on Instagram @AmyGrvl. I am a ton of fun!

Cultivate Discipline

I have used a lack of motivation as an excuse to prolong procrastination more times than I can count. Law school paper due next Monday–no “motivation” until Sunday (night). Dirty dishes in the sink–no “motivation” until there are no dishes to eat on. Decided to take up running–no “motivation,” period. It is a great excuse because there is little or nothing I can do about it. My lack of motivation usually stems from laziness or fear of failure.  So I sit on my couch, doing nothing, waiting on the inspiration fairy to send me some motivation.

What I am really lacking is discipline. The difference? Well, let’s see what Merriam-Webster has to say about it.

            Motivation: n 1a: the act or process of motivating b: the condition of being motivated c: a motivating force, stimulus, or influence

            Discipline: n 4: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character 5a: control gained by enforcing obedience or order b: orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior c: self-control

What I get from these two definitions is that motivation requires being acted upon, whereas discipline requires action. I can do something to become disciplined, but I need a stimulus or influence to be motivated. When I tell myself I need to be disciplined, I take emotions off the table. I am no longer waiting to “feel like it.” I am doing it regardless of how I feel.

Motivation comes and goes. Discipline can be cultivated. Motivation is fleeting. Discipline is about self-control and shaping your behavior. Cultivating discipline has a positive effect. Once you finish a task you have been putting off, you feel better. The more you discipline yourself, the better you feel. And with those good feelings come motivation to continue on this new path of discipline. Before you know it, discipline is backed by motivation. And you are one happy camper.

“Only the disciplined are truly free. The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites, and passions.” –Stephen Covey

I don’t want to downplay motivation too much though. A lot of times it is motivation that gives you actionable ideas. You get motivated to finally commit to a workout schedule, yay! But it is discipline that helps you keep going when your motivation wanes. It is discipline that makes you put your running shoes on when the motivation of yesterday leaves you high and dry today.

When cultivating discipline, it is important to attach good feelings to the task. Think about how good you will feel once you finish a run. Think how much more satisfying Parks and Rec will be if the house is clean. Think how proud you will be when you turn in a paper free of careless mistakes because you actually had the time to proofread it.

Here are some tips for cultivating discipline.

·      Make a to-do list of 2-3 actionable items: This will be a tacit reminder of the things you need to do. And there is always the immense pleasure of checking an item off of your to-do list. I have several to-do lists. One is of daily tasks. These include yoga, meditation, and exercise among other things.

·      Remove distractions: Log out of all of your social media accounts. It is an easy reminder that you need to stay on task. Having to physically login gives you a second to reassess your priorities. Do not allow yourself to watch TV until certain tasks are accomplished because no matter what you tell yourself just one episode of Parks and Rec (insert favorite show) is never enough.

·      Make a decision upfront: Commit upfront. This makes the task nonnegotiable.

·      Set a schedule and create a routine: Put the task on your calendar at a specific time. Work it into your routine. Every morning I follow a simple routine. I get up and make my coffee. I have a couple of sips while I read something funny, uplifting, or inspiring. I then do ten minutes of yoga (I love yogamazing’s morning flow) followed by a five minute guided morning meditation. Then, I take a shower and get dressed for the day. Before heading to work (time permitting) or starting on my work at home, I go for a fifteen-minute morning hike/walk. It is so natural to me now that I don’t even think about it.

·      Constructive reminders and nudges in your environment: Setting a reminder on your phone or leaving your running shoes by the door are great reminders and gentle nudges. They reinforce what you know you NEED to do.

·      Baby steps: Remember to take baby steps. Start out running one mile or working on a project for thirty minutes at a time. Build up your stamina slowly, and you are more likely to stick with the task.

·      Acknowledge and reward your good decisions and actions: Give yourself a pat on the pack. Acknowledge the euphoria you feel after a good run. Reward yourself with a fifteen-minute break (time the break so it doesn’t get out of hand; make sure the reward promotes good habits instead of undermining them–i.e. don’t eat a cupcake as a reward for a run).

·      Link your actions to good feelings: Don’t forget to link your positive actions to good feelings. Remember how good it feels to mark that item off your list. Remember the feeling of a job well done. Reward yourself for staying on course.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

This week pick one thing you constantly put off. That one thing you keep telling yourself you are going to do tomorrow until your lack of motivation puts it off another day. Write it down. Schedule a time to do it. Set up some reminders and gentle nudges. Then when the time comes, make yourself accomplish that task. Reward yourself for a job well done.

Do it again tomorrow and the next day until it becomes a routine. Cultivate discipline and stop being a moody, unmotivated cotton-headed ninny muggins.

 

Love Yourself

February, the month of love, full of hearts and chocolate. February 14, the one day a year you can really show that special someone that you care for no other reason than. . .social obligation. People either love Valentine’s Day or they hate it, and it all seems to hinge on the presence or absence of a significant other. But I say, Celebrate Yourself! Regardless of whether you have a special someone, take the time to fall in love with you. Because if you aren’t madly, deeply in love with yourself, how can you expect to convince anyone else to be. While thumbing through Instagram the other day, I came across a post proclaiming February 13 to be self-love day, and I loved it! I literally clicked the little heart button virtually confessing my love for the post.

 

And it gave me an idea. I would devise my own self-love challenge because showing yourself some love not only helps you appreciate you, but it also allows you to appreciate and love the people around you.

 

1.     Write down one thing you love about yourself: That is easy enough. Everyone can find one thing they love about themselves.

2.     Wear something you love: It can be an outfit, a piece of jewelry, some killer shoes, or a batman suit, whatever. Just wear something that makes you happy regardless of what anyone else thinks.

3.     Give yourself a smile: That’s right, next time you look in the mirror give yourself a gorgeous smile. When you get out of the shower, smile; when you visit the restroom, smile; when you see yourself in the reflection of a puddle, smile! I love the quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book  Eat, Pray, Love,

“Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend.”

So give yourself a smile and remember you always have a friend in you.

4.     Indulge: This can be anything that feels indulgent to you. Be it a bubble bath, a piece of chocolate, a specialty coffee from your favorite shop, whatever makes you feel decadent, do it. You deserve a little indulgence.

5.     Make a kick-ass playlist: Pick your favorite songs or songs that are empowering, and listen to it on your way to work and be happy. Be that person jamming out in their car driving down the interstate.

6.     Sleep in: Even if it is only an extra five minutes, hit the snooze button. Or better yet, don’t even set an alarm clock. Greet the day when you are a ready.

7.     Five minute guided meditation: I have been experimenting with meditation lately. It is hard to clear your mind and relax, even for five minutes. So I decided to search for a guided meditation on youtube. It changed my mornings. So go find you a guided meditation and give yourself five minutes of relaxation to focus on being a more beautiful, happy you.

8.     Give someone a sincere compliment: This is one of those things that gives back. Putting a smile on someone else’s face is sure to put one on your own. But make it sincere.

9.     Drink your favorite drink: This can be a special tea, a specialty coffee, your favorite soda, or a drink with a little extra kick. Stop by your favorite coffee shop on the way to work or by your favorite tavern on the way home and raise your glass to you.

10. Write down one of your dreams (not the weird sleep kind of dreams): You get extra bonus points if do one thing today that brings you closer to realizing that dream. Don’t be afraid to dream big.

11. Cook/order your favorite meal: Really treat yourself. There is nothing like the pleasure of a satisfying meal.

12. Take 30 minutes for yourself: This isn’t always easy. Many of you have young children or demanding jobs or other people demanding you entertain them, but find 30 minutes today to do something just for you. It can be watching YOUR favorite show or reading a book or surfing the internet uninterrupted. Take the time for yourself, and it will allow you to have more to give to others.

13. Do whatever you want! It is self-love day! Take yourself out on a date or play hooky from work. Do whatever you want because it is YOUR day to love you however you feel is best!

 

So that is the list. If you would like to participate in the challenge, I would be honored to have you. I will be instagramming each day so follow me @amygrvl. I might even post my daily endeavors on Twitter. You can tweet at me @tep_editing. I cannot wait for tomorrow to get my self-love on! I look forward to hearing from all of you as you get out there in give yourself a good dose of lovin’!

 

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no on alive who is Youer than You.” –Dr. Seus

 

State of the Amy

Inspired by Paul Jarvis and Jason Zook, I decided to write my own State of the Union, or State of the Amy. Looking back on the past year made me appreciate how far I have come. This was the exact opposite of what I expected. But without further ado, Amy's year in review.

What Went Well in 2015

  • Revamped Lifecta.com: After much agonizing over WordPress and one incident where I thought I had lost all my content, I made the decision to move Lifecta.com over to Squarespace. It was a wonderful decision. I hope you lovely followers are enjoying the new look as much as I am.
  • Friends and Family: I feel like my relationships with friends and family are stronger than ever. I make an effort to stay in touch with the people that are important to me, more so than I ever have. I am surrounded by the most wonderfully amazing and inspiring people.
  • Decided to Become a Freelancer: This was a very big decision. As soon as I decided to build a career around the life I wanted, it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I am still a ways away from fulfilling my dreams, but I could not be happier with the choices I have made.
  • Travel: Looking back I cannot believe how much traveling I actually did. I took a two week roadtrip to Buffalo, NY and back. I visited tons of friends and slept on many couches. It was amazing. I visited Niagara Falls and crossed the border into Canada. I ran off to the mountains in North Carolina to sleep in a tent and ride on a train. I visited my best friend Cheryl and her family pre-baby Luke. I visited Feel Good Farm and reconnected with some wonderful skydiving friends. I attended my very first Fly In at Hogjowl Airfield and made new amazing friends. I would say that is a pretty exciting year of travel for a broke girl from Alabama.
  • Fell in Love With Myself: I finally feel like I am on the path I belong. I am surrounded by wonderful people and have infused my life with positivity. 

What Did Not Go Well in 2015

  • Bar Exam: I was hesitant to list this here, but the reality is I failed the bar exam. But I also found a life I could only dream of. While looking for jobs in the legal field, all I could think about was getting out. I viewed practicing law as a temporary obligation that I would do until I could afford to start my real life. I found myself constantly looking at jobs I could do while traveling and making plans for the future. It took failing the bar exam for me to realize I did not have to wait. I could create the life I wanted.
  • 365 Days of New Challenge: This is another one that was technically a failure because I did not finish the challenge. But I did a lot of cool things. I also realized I wanted to write more meaningful articles for this blog. Looking back at pictures made me realize how many new things I actually accomplished. It was the quite a year of experiences packed into a couple of months.
  • Health and Fitness: I spent a lot less time up and moving than I wish to admit. Stopping at fast food restaurants on the way home became the norm instead of the exception. My health and fitness have suffered.
  • Finances: I have not tended to my finances as I should have. The end.

What Surprised Me About 2015

I cannot believe at the beginning of this year I was studying to take the NY Bar Examination. That seems so long ago. A lifetime even. As 2015 came to an end, I felt like I had not accomplished very much. I thought looking back would reveal my shortcomings. What I discovered was that although I have a ways to go I have come a long way as well. I spent several months doing new things. I visited old friends and made new ones. I spent time hanging out with my wonderful family. I am a new and stronger person, and I think my future is looking bright. 

What is Ahead for 2016

  • FOCUS on Freelancing and Developing my Business: This year I want to actually start freelancing. I studied a lot in 2015 and it is time to put all that knowledge to work.
  • FOCUS on Writing Consistently: I want to start writing consistently everyday. Writing for this blog is just one aspect.
  • FOCUS on Finances: This year I am getting on a budget and sticking with it. It is time to get my finances in order.
  • FOCUS on Health: I will start with baby steps. I will eat at home more often. I will focus on doing yoga and playing outside. The world is my gym after all.
  • FOCUS on Bettering Myself: I want to take more pictures, travel to the Grand Canyon, explore freelance writing, maybe even learn a new language. I want to focus on doing things that make me happy.

Stepping back and looking at the past year with a critical eye was not easy. It was actually kind of scary. I saw some areas where I could definitely use some work, but I also so how funtastic this past year has been. I accomplished a lot. Looking back actually made me excited to start this new year and see where it leads. I have a feeling some big things are ahead and I cannot wait. 

I challenge everyone to look back on their own year. See where you have been and think about where you want to go. The sky is the limit and the possibilities are endless. 

"Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different . . ."    –C.S. Lewis

 

 

New Beginnings

Contemplating the new year on our big hike

I have always enjoyed the beginning of a new year. It is a fresh start. A chance to start anew. Anything can happen. 

I like to start the year off communing with nature. Every New Year's day I go on a big hike. I get up early and spend the whole day traipsing through the woods. I return home tired but cleansed. There is something refreshing about pushing your body to the limit in a tranquil setting. I spend the day contemplating the events of the past year and all that I hope to experience and accomplish in the coming year. 

I have never been one to make New Year's resolutions. For one thing, there is an air of futility that surrounds them. You hear joke after joke about empty gyms and full bars by February. But I do find myself thinking of the coming year and envisioning what the future might hold. 

Jason Zook wrote an article about framing your year around a word. As you make decisions throughout the year, you use your word as a filter. There were many words that sparked my fancy - saving, health, adventure. It was hard to pick just one. That is when I decided "focus" was my word. 

I tend to get caught up trying to do so many different things. This isn't bad except that it makes me scattered and causes me to lose focus and accomplish little. So this year I will focus. Whatever I am working on will have my complete attention.

If I decided to do a challenge, I will see it through to the end. I will not allow some new shiny thing to draw my focus away. I will focus on landing my first freelance copyediting gig. When I am doing yoga, I will focus on being present. I will focus on the people and projects in front of me instead of allowing my attention to be drawn to other things. 

Regardless of what your vision of the upcoming year looks like, I hope it is filled with happiness! 

"So, I close my eyes to old ends and open my heart to new beginnings."  –Nick Frederickson

Disconnecting and slowing down

We all seem to be in a such a hurry these days. We fill our schedules so full of things. The rare moments we do find ourselves with some down time we immediately distract ourselves with Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat. We are so afraid of being bored we walk around with a device in our face missing the world around us. 

Many of you know, or maybe you don't, that several years ago I downgraded to a basic phone. There were many reasons I made this change, particularly my phone bill each month. It really opened my eyes to my dependence on my device. I was living in NYC at the time. It was a little scary at first, I was mostly afraid I would get lost. But a crazy thing happened, a world opened up before me. I actually learned to navigate the city better without my phone acting as a crutch. I was forced to pay attention. I discovered new places and saw wonderfully interesting things simply because I wasn't staring at my phone. If I did get lost or confused, I would ask some kind stranger for assistance. Believe it or not , most people want to help, even in NYC (Gasp!).

I began to enjoy the simple pleasure of wandering around the city. I would head for a coffee shop, grab some liquid comfort, and wander around the neighborhood until I got tired or stumbled upon a subway station. It was amazing to see the world beyond my 3.5" screen. 

Do not get me wrong, I still fall for the trappings of technology. I regularly carry my old smartphone with me in case I get lost or have a desperate need to connect beyond the means of my basic phone. There are a surprising amount of hotspots, even in small town Alabama. I have yet to find myself in a situation where internet availability wasn't just around the corner. But I kind of enjoy the freedom of disconnection, of not being available on multiple platforms all the time. I have to make time for people. There is a beauty in the space unavailability allows. It gives me a sense of slowing down, of taking the back roads instead of the interstate, of cherishing a moment instead of always trying to capture it. 

So go ahead. Put it down. Look around you. I am sure there is someone doing something ridiculous that you can post about later instead of that sensationalized and unsubstantiated political opinion article. We will all be silently thankful. 

 

"Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one."  –Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

 

A phone-free moment with my sister...Just kidding, we used a phone to take the picture. Happy Holidays!

Tell me about yourself...

What a deeply profound and interesting question cloaked in simplicity. If someone that didn't know you asked you to tell them about yourself, how would you respond? Would you give a list of your qualifications? Try to expound upon your personality: shy, adventurous, outgoing?

"I mean I guess the basic info: career, where I live, random fun fact or two."
"Lol, interesting. I would answer with demographics and then the bare minimals that make me me."
"I'd probably tell them things like where I'm from, what I do, hobbies etc. and then maybe a few of my values or qualities I try to live by."

I believe your answer reveals a lot about you. It reflects not only on how you view yourself but how you want others to see you. Granted in most situations you would have some context, but I find the general question much more interesting and thought provoking. Although I have to admit that I struggle with the question even in context. 

I am not just a list of achievements. One label doesn't sum me up. How can I sum up my essence in a couple of sentences? Do I even want to?

"Um...I think everyone should have an answer ready for such a question. But I think I'm the simplest most complicated person I've ever met. I care about everybody and want for nothing. Except a full night's sleep."
"Whoa, that's a good one. You don't want to go too long and give your entire life story I guess. Makes you wonder what really makes you you. Cuz it's probably not where you were born or sh*% like that."

Or, maybe I am just overthinking things.

"I'd say I am an easy going, introverted, momma's boy, love to laugh and make others laugh, who loves his family."
"I'd say what I do for a living, how old I am. That I'm single and etc. But I wouldn't describe, for example, if I'm shy or how I behave and etc. Unless it's a pretty girl and I think she's on to me. haha."

 How much of who we are do we attribute to our jobs, our family? What labels do we give ourselves? I polled several of my friends from all different walks of life to see what kind of answers I would receive. I asked them the simple question from above, "If someone that didn't know you asked you to tell them about yourself, how would you respond?"

"A passionate piano playing photographer painting pictures imperfectly placed on planet earth."
"I am a tough Jewish-American woman from New York. Sarcasm is my second language, but on the flip side I am sensitive and deeply empathetic. I believe in social justice and hold that above all else when it comes to looking at the world."

"I'm a sojourning artist perhaps with a likeness to driftwood in the sense that I am hardened, aloof amongst the waves, and most importantly contently adrift in time, my only true possession."

"I would start with Hello and my name. I Love music; I have been playing various instruments for over 20 years. I am very handy and can fix just about anything. I like to help people; it makes me feel good to do things for others. There is nothing I would not do for a friend. I still have most of my friends I have made over the years. The loyal ones stay around. That is a little about me, now tell me about you!"

"I guess I would say that I am a work in progress who likes a good challenge and is still capable of surprising herself."

"I think I am a very easy going person. I love life and plan to enjoy every moment I can. I love to talk to anyone I meet. The world is full of amazing people and if we cross paths I don't want to miss it."

"I'd tell them I am tall, aloof, loud and disorganized, and that I try to be sincere and kind to everyone I meet."
"I guess I could spend all day explaining who and why I am, but if I had to put it into one word it would have to be "human."

No matter what your response, I hope you are happy with your story. Just remember, at any given moment you have the power to change that story. 

So, tell me about yourself...

 

On a lighter note, this is Siku. If you ask him to tell you about himself, he will either bark in fear or wriggle uncontrollably. He is unapologetically selfish. He is my little brat, and he loves me unconditionally, even if I accidentally step on his paw.  He has more personality in his stub of a tail than most people have in there entire person.

"The less you reveal the more people can wonder." –Emma Watson

Finding your people

Fun fact about me: I once milked cows as a part-time job in college. Before I discovered the world of skydiving, my life was pretty normal. Maybe 'normal' is not the right word, but normal for me. I had aspirations to become a large animal vet. Growing up, I read most of James Herriot's books, semi-autobiographical stories about a Yorkshire country veterinarian. With that lifestyle in mind, I knew Auburn University was the only school for me. Thankfully, I was accepted, and in August 2004, I headed off to college where I later secured my first job as a vet school dairy cow milker. 

I was home one summer and bored, probably because there were no cows to milk. I decided to touch base with one of my friends from high school. Her father answered the phone and informed me that his daughter was at the airport skydiving. Naturally, I thought he said she was heading to Scotland. 

When I finally wrapped my head around the true nature of her pursuits at the local airport, I only had one option, to immediately head to the airport. Upon my arrival, my friend excitedly told me that their group had an opening, and I could jump if I liked. Clearly this was fate. My dad loaned (gave) me the money, a decision I am sure he later regretted, and I did my first tandem skydive. My life was forever changed.

The very next weekend I learned to pack parachutes. I packed something like twenty-one parachutes that first weekend. My fingers were swollen from the rubber bands that hold the lines and my body ached from wrestling parachutes into tiny bags all day. I was happier than I had ever been. The stack of cash I earned that weekend put me one step closer to being a certified skydiver. 

Little did I know the influence this crazy sport and the people in it would have on my life. I was in love with the freedom and exhilaration of flight. I was enamored by the open-minded, free-spirited individuals around me. Skydivers are a motley crew. They come from all kinds of backgrounds. But they have one thing in common, a passion for living. Even if just for the weekend, these people know what it is like to live free of the constraints of society. These people are inspirational. They are what most people refer to as crazy.

They are people who sail across the ocean in search of Neverland. People who travel to far away countries to attend speed flying camps. People who live in a canvas tent in order to build a life they believe in, a life where a young girl can eat fresh food painstakingly planted and harvested by her father's hands. They are untamed by society, and I love them.

It is so important to surround yourself with positive people that inspire you. People that believe in the possibility of your crazy ideas. People who themselves are not afraid to challenge the status quo. I am lucky to have stumbled upon such a strange and amazing community of dreamers and doers. 

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing that you can't do, is ignore them because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. Because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

-Jack Kerouac

 


To enjoying your story

The last several weeks have been busy – the good kind of busy. I finally took the time to run away and take some time for myself. There is nothing like escaping the everyday to rejuvenate the body and invigorate the soul. I always return with fresh ideas and renewed determination.

          

My first adventure landed me in Bryson City, NC. A couple of months ago I stumbled across The Great Smoky Mountain Express website. GSME is a scenic railway that departs from Bryson City and provides scenic rail tours of the area. But when I arrived, it was the mountains that stole my heart away. As my little Ford Escape wound around the mountain roads, I lost my breath with every turn.

            I was surrounded by hiking and biking trails and raging rivers as well as like-minded individuals. Every other vehicle I passed had a kayak strapped to the roof or was loaded down with mountain bikes. These were my kind of people and this was my kind of place. I filled my lungs with mountain air, stretching them to full capacity, as I raced down the single track on my mountain bike. I could hike, bike, and ride a train all in a single day.

I returned home a new person, brimming with ideas for my business and my blog. 

Once home, I had just enough time to gather my thoughts and implement some of my ideas before hitting the road for Georgia. Some friends of mine were hosting an event called The Fly In. People fly and drive in from all over the area. Everyone sets up camp and starts making friends. Planes are taking off and landing all weekend and you never know when you will be surprised by a flyby.

I found myself surrounded by the most unique, free-spirited, creative people, people that are not afraid to take chances in life. I loved the engaging conversations and feelings of camaraderie with people that I only just met. I could not help but be giddy with inspiration to go and live and do.

I returned home even more ready to channel all of this inspiration. The weekend reminded me of how fortunate I am to be associated with such an amazing community of people.

A Story For Tomorrow...

I watched this video again the other day. It is another source of profound inspiration for me. It reminds me that there are other people out there throwing away the excuses and planning an adventure and that I can be one of those people.

Here’s to living a story worth reading.