New Years SOLutions
I am not a big believer in resolutions. Namely because people tend to set their sights on great ideals and they don't understand how to set up goals, tasks, and self-evaluation periods to ensure they will make those 'resolutions' happen. I see new years resolutions as a great way to set yourself up for disappointment.
However I am a big fan of goal setting, so I find myself joining the yearly craze of New Years Resolutions as a fantastic time for me to check in on the status of my constant goal setting and to reflect on what needs updating or added. One of the accomplishments that I am firmly proud of was my resolve to monthly find ways to give back.
Vague sounding? Yes.
Open to a fair amount of interpretation? Yes.
I purposefully worded it that way.
I found myself living a life where any time I made a donation to a cause I believed in or I was able to donate my time to volunteer for a great charity- I felt really great. I found that I had a deep desire to do more good, but being fairly poor I was unwilling to commit to donating money monthly and being time strapped often I didn't want to commit myself to physically volunteering and then be unavailable. So I set an attainable and achievable goal for myself:
Every month try to find some way to give back.
I set this goal in Sept 2013 and have been in one way or another going strong. What has been fun is that every month that has meant slightly different things...and when the 30th is coming up its easy to find a way to meet that months quota:
I am not listing these things to in any way brag but to point out suggestions. If you are reading this blog, I assume there is some level of giving in your heart. So I challenge you to make my goal, your goal. Make this a SOLUTION to making 2015 love filled. What things can you do to give back this year?
Once you start to brainstorm it becomes apparent that these opportunities are everywhere....
Babysit for friends, Help clean up the neighborhood garden/park, Give your nutrition bar to a homeless person, Donate $$$ to public radio/tv, Help a friend move, Volunteer to paint a neighborhood school, Give hot coffee to your postman on a cold day, Rake a neighbors leaves, Send a note of appreciation to your garbage-men
Think about what your interests are. What your skills are. And what things in life you constantly take for granted. I challenge you to not walk past them blindly this year. Take some time, open your eyes, and give back in any capacity that you can.
I guarantee, that far after you stop going to the gym, you will be wanting to continue giving back.
originally posted on my previous blog lovesomemore, prior to combining blogs in Jan 2015.
No One Tells You How Hard It Is
I am naturally talented at many things. Being empathetic, being physically strong, I have a ability to see the big picture, I am good at organizing people...but I am not a naturally gifted fighter. I am not someone who can perfectly mimic a new move after seeing it once. I am not a person who can skip practice and maintain dominance. But I love fighting. More than anything. The peace and calm it brings to my soul and the challenge it brings to me physically and mentally is something that I have not found in any other area of life. So I committed myself to getting good at it. I set lofty goals for myself.
Here are some lessons that I have learned over the years, in pursuit of my goals:
People tell you "believe in yourself" and that "hard work pays off". So off you go in pursuit of your goals. But no one tells you just how hard it will be. No one tells you just how many bumps you will run into and challenges you will face.
They say "knock down seven, get up eight" but no one talks about how broken your soul feels after being knocked over that third time, how much confidence is lost, and just how hard it is to "dig deep" and pull yourself up.
No one talks about the nights when you can't sleep. When you feel crazy and like no one believes in you. When you question why you should believe in yourself.
"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work". So your work and work and work - and jealously watch as the talented work far less but see far more success. No one warns you about the anger, frustration, and utter hatred that will build up towards them.
No one talks about the camps where you get destroyed. When you question if you should keep doing the sport. When you really want to blow off the next round and next session....but you dig deep and face the next opponent.
They say "surround yourself with those that support you". But no one talks about the weeks when it feels like partners and coaches aren't on in your corner. How hard it is to convince yourself that it is okay- that you are your own best advocate and that they will regret it when you are successful.
No one warns you that other things in life will get in the way. People you love die, work gets stressful, boyfriends leave you, life gets in the way....and despite all this you have to stay focused. How hard it is to maintain composure despite life's distractions.
No one tells you how hard it is to look loved ones in the eye, when they come to watch you perform, and you fail. There is no way to warn you for the sadness, shame, and disappointment that you have in yourself.
"Use the killer instinct". But no one teaches you how to. How to be fierce, confident, and relentless. If this isn't your natural state, no one tells you how to learn it. No one sends you the videos, books, and articles to train your mind. No one explains this can be learned. Because it's assumed that you naturally have it...or you don't.
People will say "just do it like this, it is easy" - but despite your every effort, it won't click. You will feel stupid. You will want to punch them in the face. You will want to punch your partner in the face when they effortlessly figure it out. You will question your skills and ability. Frustration will overtake you.
You must "work with the best to be the best" but no one prepares you for what it feels like to be tossed like a rag-doll for an entire practice by "the best". No one massages your bruised, beaten body as you cope with the fact that you have to work with "the best" all week and are questioning how you will survive.
"Rest and Recover" after an injury. You worry about how much others have grown as you have been resting. You feel distant from your goals. You get antsy and want to rush back despite the injury. You question returning at all. You worry strength will not return. You fear the injury will re-occur. You will be unmotivated to do PT. You fear your skills will be lost.
They say "early bird gets the worm" but no one tells you how hard it is to turn off that alarm at 4:45am so that you can make your 5:30 appointment. No one tells you how tired you will feel and how much you will want to blow it off. No one warns you for the flood of excuses that will enter your thoughts.
"Do what your opponents aren't willing to do". But no one tells you why others aren't doing it. Just how exhausting and painstaking the effort will be. How many tears will be shed and how much your body will scream to stop.
"Winners never quit".
But they question themselves, their training, and their lifestyle...
EVERYONE has challenging days, practices, weeks, mentalities...
But truly the victorious...the real champions.... despite it all, dig deep and despite all the hardships - they never quit on themselves.
I had lots of reasons to not reach my goals:
No matter what your skill...or your goal...know that is going to be extremely hard to reach your goals. Harder than anyone will ever tell you.
And extremely lonely.
But if you believe in yourself & don't quit despite it all...you will be surprised with what you can accomplish.
You will be amazed what you are capable of.
You are stronger than you know.
Monday morning driving to work is the worst 30 minutes of the week. I am not only haunted by the onslaught of work challenges that I so happily ignored throughout the weekend but I also get hit heavily with guilt for all of the personal “to-do” tasks that I managed to put off over the weekend. By the time my car is parked at the office I am already beyond stressed out. There is no worse feeling (for an over-planner) than not achieving what you set out to do.
I’ve found that a great solution to this constant need for tasks to be completed is by daily planning. Every night before bed I take a look at my personal to-do list and nab 2 that I want to accomplish the next day. I set my alarm early enough to allocate enough time to get both of those tasks done. This way, by the time I leave the house in the morning, once I get to work I have already accomplished something.
This is similar to the army mentality of making your bed every morning. The idea that you should start every day with a task that you have committed to completing. The sense of accomplishment and ability will carry with you throughout the day. If nothing else gets done, at least that was.
Sometimes my daily task will be going to the post office, which is never open prior to work. In that scenario I take a look at my work schedule for the day and complete whatever was planned for mid-day, at home prior to work starting, so that mid-day I can drive to the post office. It sometimes becomes a game of give and take.
Don’t beat yourself up if you missed a to-do. Just focus on one or two a day, make them the priority and slowly you will watch your list become less of a stress-causing-nightmare and more as a list of accomplishments.
How to Decide What's Next
Reality crashes down hard on you when you know that you are returning home from an around the world adventure- jobless and have become a thirty-something that will be living in your parents basement. The planner in me basks at the idea of another high paying corporate Project Management gig, so that I can max out my savings and can feel comfortable about future investments and expenditures. But the person that I grew to love during my six month excursion, REALLY hates that idea.
So what's next?
One of the best things about seeing the world is meeting people with a vast variety of backgrounds, expertise, experiences, and passions. I stayed with a poet, soldier, translator, pianist, restaurant owner, roofer, teacher, waiter, farmer, coach, journalist,....hippies, black guys, white guys, asians, middle easterners, brazilians, spanish, italians, norwegians, finnish, japanese....and there was ONE COMMON THREAD that stuck with me.
Many people who rent out their homes via Air BnB are not the richest in the world. But many are truly and deeply happy because they are following their passions in life.
The best example of this was the couple in Japan who live a shoestring lifestyle. The husband paints to live music on weekends and the wife starts each morning with yoga. Every day they spend 12-14 hours out of the house pouring their heart and soul into the art school that they opened, where they do awesome things with kids (like put on native drumming music, cover the furniture in tarps and have the kids climb underneath creating 'cave drawings'). They were some of the happiest people I have ever met. Each day their eyes were filled with excitement to inspire and share their love of movement, music, art, and self expression with a younger generation.
On the other end of the spectrum was a work-a-holic so focused on saving up that he put his passion for stand up comedy on hold. The more we got to know him, the easier it was to spot his deep sadness day in and out as he trudged from job to job, doing things he hated, working with people he loathed. But at night as he told us jokes or showed us video of his old stand-up comedy gigs, he lit up. That is when his beautiful soul emerged.
So here is whats next for me... things that light me up. Things that fill my heart with happiness. Experiences, jobs, and endeavors that allow my passions to shine.
I may not be as well off as I once could have been, but I will be happy, and that is how life should be lived. Happily.
So that's my new goal for me. Not to let this passion driven adventure end today.
Call me a hippie. Call me a dreamer. I am calling it LIVING.
So whether it be telling jokes, doing a martial art, slaying motherhood, performing artist shows, writing plays, traveling the world, reading, gardening,....ensure you are making room for that which you are passionate about. Maybe you can't afford to do this full time- but YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO NOT MAKE TIME FOR BEING TRUE TO YOU. Make sure you are filling your heart with the things that make you shine and make sure you are sharing that love and glow with others. Because if you aren't, then you are missing out on really living. You are missing out on truly connecting with others. You are missing out on whats so magical about us as humans. Our ability to light up. To inspire one another. Our ability to fill our souls with things that ignite greatness in us.
I return tomorrow, excited for all the wonderful places that my passions are leading me.
I urge you to wake up tomorrow, with the exact same goal.
In pursuit of greatness it is easy to give up on yourself. To think you are undeserving. To quit when things get hard. To take the easy path. To feel sorry for yourself. To give up when you are faced with discomfort.
These past six months I quit my corporate world job and got to live the life of an elite athlete. Here is a recap of the harshest lessons that I learned while pursuing my goals....perhaps my struggles will aid in an easier path for your trek to greatness!
The Importance of being TURNED DOWN. Rejection is painful. It makes you feel worthless, unwanted, crappy, unneeded, worthless, valueless. At international training camps you have to go up to other judo players and request for them to go with you. You set "dates" with partners to battle with for each round. If you don't do this, you will have NO partners. You will sit in a room, filled with 6 mats and hundreds of dedicated athletes- alone, cold, and not improving.
My first international training camp was in Spain... I would go up to person after person, and of course no one knew me so I got rejection after rejection. I was mentally exhausted. I wanted to just go back to my room and cry. I wanted to sit alone and feel sorry for myself for the constant rejection.
Instead, I kept asking.
"Oh we can't go round 3? How about 4? or 5? what about 6? How about this afternoon? How about tomorrow?"
"Hey World Medalist- yeah I am a no one, when are you free?"
"Oh new girl, I am a new girl - when are YOU free?"
Instead of letting the pain of rejection stop me, it empowered me. I kept at the girls that I wanted and eventually was able to train with all of them. Persistence was key. I was not going to let rejections keep me from my goals and my optimal training. I refused to sit cold and avoided on the side of the mat. I refused to feel sorry for myself.
I refused to let others keep me from getting my goals achieved.
Others would not stop my work or keep me from my goals.
The people in the world that have the best luck are the ones that are turned down a million times.
The men who get the most dates, ask out the most women. The people with the best jobs - had been rejected over and over again for similar positions until they landed that role. And the best athletes at camps, were at one time, the new person at camp that got rejected.
I left camp braver, more self assured, and with a body covered in bruised proof that I found partners every round. (And encouragingly by my third camp I was entering practices with partners already lined up...and Olympians asking to go with me!)
The Importance of RED belt rounds (going after it). In Japan many of the practices I attended consisted of a handful of players being given red belts. They were deemed the fighters for the next 20 minutes. If you were not given a red belt you had to go up to a player with a red belt and request to go with them. Simple. Right?
The issue was this - 4 people have red belts. 20 people do not. If you want to get in ANY practice that day, if you want to better yourself, you have to be the FIRST person out there (beating the other 19)- requesting a turn.
This was a huge challenge for me. It was unnatural for me. I felt rude pushing in front of others, I was worried I'd run out and the red belt would say no thanks, and I was overwhelmed with introverted paralyzing fear.
As I stood on the side of the mat, missing opportunities to train, I realized that I needed to be bold. I needed to put my needs first. I needed to not fear being turned down, pushing someone out of the way, or being seen as too aggressive. If I wanted to have a partner-if I wanted to get better, I had to go out after them. I had to see who I wanted and run for them before anyone else. I had to be ok with being turned down by one red belt and immediately run to the next.
Eventually I wasn't happy with settling for a red belt whenever I could get one. I wanted these players during their first round. When they were fresh, not tired, and at their strongest. I would plan out the best place to stand to ensure I got to them first. I would bolt towards them or try to pre-plan with them to ensure I was their partner first.
I went from hesitant & nervous, to one of the most aggressive non-red-belts at the training sessions. I refused to let my anxiety and personality characteristics keep me from better myself and getting the most out of my practices.
If your goals are out there - and others are lined up for the same thing - get selfish. Get aggressive. Put together an action plan to be the first out there. Be ruthless.
Training internationally in red belt rounds and at Olympic Camps taught me the importance of ignoring my timid introversion in order to reach my goals and improve myself. If you have goals you have to GO AFTER THEM.
It is scary. It may be uncomfortable. You will have rejections. You will face obstacles. People will avoid you. But to be successful, this is what I learned:
Whether its a mentor, job, or even a date - if there is something you want, go out after it.
But go for it anyway.
I quit work, packed 2 bags and haven't returned for 4 months (with 2 more to go). Here's HOW I made it happen....so that you can too!
Step 1: Save Up & Budget Wisely
Travel costs money which is often what keeps so many from doing it. Prior to my trip I wanted to ensure we would be able to afford a 6 month jaunt from reality. So I did a lot of research into getting my $$$ in an un-stressful situation prior to taking this leap. My 401k has always been contributed to, my savings account has the recommended 3-6 months of safety bucketed away, my debt was paid off (I will post later about how to achieve this)...so my next step was mapping out what I expected our trip to cost us.
When creating your budget be sure to account for all of the below:
Next, I investigated the best credit cards for travel. I started to use this card for EVERY purchase. For every part of my budget. Then I pay it back with my trip savings every other week. It allows me to rack up rewards for spending money on what I was planning to.
Once you've reached your needed $$$ and have your trip budgeted...its time to start booking...
STEP 2: Booking the Cheapest Options
If you fly at all, be sure to sign up for the airlines frequent flier programs. Even if its only been 1 flight- sign up! You will be amazed how quickly awards can accumulate, how many of these airlines are partners with each-other (and with hotels), and how many options you will have for savings by joining these programs. I made the mistake of not signing up until years after I was travelling and it has costs me a plethora of savings, upgrades, and free flights! Do it. NOW!
When booking flights I either use my Chase cards "award" search so that I can use my rewards to book free (or reduced cost) flights, Kayak, or SkyScanner to find the best choices. Do NOT jump on the lowest number! Often these great deals are with airlines that then kill you on baggage costs- so read the fine line about baggage fines (and pack as lightly/efficiently as you can!). Once you calculate these additional fees, if the cost is still the best...awesome! Also keep in mind that if 2 or 3 flights offer similar costs but one of those airlines is linked with your frequent flier group- book that flight! In the long run, its worth spending $5 more, than on an unaffiliated airline. By doing this exact thing I was able to book a flight from South Africa to USA, typically >$1200, for only $250!
To save cash on eating out, I prefer to stay in a home environment so that I can use a fridge and cook the majority of my meals. There are hotels that offer these amenities but the warmest, most genuine to an area, and cheapest is using AirBnB. By staying with people who live in the area I am provided with suggestions as to the best things to see, avoid, and best ways to get around in that neighborhood. All provided sincerely, verse the often pushy hotel slander. Although I check out search engines for hotels in the area to see if any have specials, AirBNB almost always ends up being the most affordable option. Especially if you are staying for more than a week, because weekly discounts get applied to more residences!!!
STEP 3: Getting Around on the Cheap
Once settled in a new area getting around is critical. Most of the time I google the bus and train options in that town. Google maps literally has a public transit button to push- it couldn't be simpler! Most countries have public trans that is much more reliable, cleaner, and efficient than what you find in America. The trains in Japan tell you how many minutes until the next will arrive and rolls up to the second. The buses in Germany provide frequent options to the same places so your wait time is typically ten minutes.
When public transit is sparse or the distance is further I always rely on UBER to ensure the cheapest fairs. In Europe another good app is TAXIFY. Both options provide locals who are looking for cash on the side but TAXIFY also includes local taxi companies vying for more work. I have found that even during price surges, that UBER tends to cost less than walking up to a taxi on the side of the road.
A great resource to compare costs when you are in Europe and hoping to country hop is the website www.GoEuro.com which compares the costs and time it would take via bus, train, plane to travel between countries. This is an asset that I wish I had used prior to leaving- so you are welcome in advance!
By PUTTING A BUDGET in place, saving to the budget, sticking to it, UTILIZING REWARD CARDS AND FREQUENT FLIER MILES, booking with AirBnB, using the areas PUBLIC TRANSIT and UBER....you are guaranteed to travel without the stress of money burdening you.
In fact, if you do it often enough- you will find yourself flying, sleeping, and riding for free!
So where to? What do you want to see???? What is stopping you...get going!
10 Ways to Have a Happier Day
Feel stressed? Overwhelmed? Sad? Heavy?
Having quit my job and left my 9-5 behind, here are the biggest lessons that I have found bring lightness, smiles, and happiness to life.
Give them a try and let me know what I am forgetting!
It is hard to believe that two months ago I was having panic attacks. I was dreading having to quit my career of 9 years and leave behind all that my adult life had known. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do and the fear nearly broke me.
Two days later I was on a plane heading to France with 2 bags, a bookbag, my husband, and a stomach full of worry.
The second I landed in Paris all of my fears vanished and I can say that this has honestly been the best two months of my life. It is true what they say- the hardest part is facing your fears. That following your heart will never be regretted. It is true that things are always hardest before the best things come.
Since embarking out of the work world my adventure has led me to the most beautiful town in France where I got a plethora of physical training and incredible partners who were willing to work 1-on-1 for my improvement. I had the pleasure of experiencing Ramadan in an Islamic country during a time where the west is so fearful of Muslims- I got to see and feel the love everywhere, all the while training with the best that Africa had to offer. Then I flew to Spain where I embarked on the most physically challenging two weeks of my life- banging heads with past and future Olympians, the best in the world - leaving camp performing better than when I arrived and with a new level of motivation and appreciation for judo.
So here I sit, two months into my adventure, in the birthplace of Judo in the lovely Tokyo. I am surrounded by a culturally rich environment, clean city, and more judokas than imaginable. It is literally a dream come true.
Some things that I didn't expect was the challenge of learning how to fill my days. A few weeks in, I felt guilty for not "doing more" - so I was fervently looking online for "work from home work" and signing up for tons of classes. But I woke up feeling stressed and then was losing sleep, and suddenly I realized there was no need.
I have since stepped back and instead am filling my time with whatever I find fulfilling.
To my surprise this has meant morning yoga practice, reading ALOT, exploring the top rated places to see in each city we visit (never thought I'd enjoy a soccer stadium...but it was surreal), day dreaming about potential future jobs/paths, writing, contacting loved ones at home, learning a language (slowly), watching movies before bed, playing MAGIC (thanks hasbro), joking with the hubby, learning to cook quick/easy/cheap, taking an online class, and of course lots of training! Not having the demand of working on my plate it's been incredible remembering what it is I actually enjoy doing. Many are the same things I loved as a kid...but just forgot about as 'life' took over.
When is the last time you acted like a kid- and just spent the day filled with activities that made you smile? No "must-do" lists...'Obligations" ignored...but just spending the day doing what makes you happy in life?
If you have not done so recently - DO IT.
You only live once. Fill your days with things that make YOU happiest.
Spend time learning what those things are.
Spend time remembering what they are.
Two months in and here are my big takeaways:
I can't wait to see what these next 4 months have in store for us!
What do they have in store for you? Hopefully some scary and happiness filled days....
Being 6 weeks into this job-free, world-tour, judo-training venture I have had a ton of time to reflect. Here are a few realizations that I have made thus far:
The key take-away: Take some time for YOU. Make some time for YOU.
Do you Deserve Success?
I stood like an anxious parent cheering my heart out at the tournament in France as I watched my training partners compete against the best in the region. As the day passed, I came to a strange realization - all of the teens that I knew best, the ones that were at every session and all the cross training, were the ones leaving with medals. The competitors who I recognized from the club but did not know well, due to their lack of attendance, were the ones quickly defeated and seemingly not surprised. As a competitor that hates to lose, I could not wrap my head around their seeming apathy at the losses- to which my husband calmly replied "they know that they didn't put in the work."
It's such a simple concept but one that has taken me years to fully appreciate. When it comes to achieving success in life, you MUST be willing to PUT IN THE WORK.
You need to be the one staying late at the office to ensure your assignment is completed on time- and you get that promotion you are after. You need to go to the teachers and TA office hours to fully understand the material- to get that A you want. You need to attend the extra sessions at the gym - to get that place on the medal stand.
It is easy to convince yourself that you are giving your all, doing all you can, putting in 110%...but until you fully are committed you will never understand why you are not achieving the success that you think you deserve.
So I challenge you- give 110%. How?
Mock others who have reached your goals in the past. What efforts did they put in? What have you not been doing? Who can you mimic? Get role models. Ask for help. Try things differently. Do research. Be honest with your boss/coach about your goals and make a plan to get there. Surround yourself with partners, classmates and co-workers who lift you up and help you work towards those goals. Do not be afraid to fail.
It will be hard. But if you are wanting more it will be worth it.
If you are attending things in life and are satisfied with not achieving highest levels of success, that is totally OK. But if you are wanting more - do more.
Believer that everyone is special.