Stop following the resolution cycle of setting goals, slipping up, and feeling like a failure for the rest of the year. Here’s how to live a fulfilling life year-round.

After a meeting at a Denver breakfast house earlier this month, I took Lyft home. The driver and I had an inspiring chat.

She asked me if I had any New Year’s Resolutions. I said, “No. I’m not opposed to making New Year’s Resolutions, but I try to improve every day.”

She said, “Oh, that’s nice! I already broke my New Year’s Resolutions with a chocolate muffin this morning.” She wasn’t trying to lose weight. She was trying to “be healthier.”

It was January 3rd.

Are you caught up in the resolution cycle?

It’s true: I’m not opposed to New Year’s Resolutions. I think a new year is a great time to commit to self-improvement.

Even though January 1st only has the meaning we give it and “the first day of the year” was chosen by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 to save Easter, it’s an opportunity for a new beginning. It’s a clear and decisive split between the past and the future.

It’s logical that people want to improve. It’s logical to commit to better behaviors when the calendar offers a convenient new beginning.

Other logical times to make improvements are birthdays and anniversaries. Spring, a time of rebirth that both the Gregorian Reforms and pagans honor, is another good time to review and recommit to better living.

Additionally, when you reach a point of catalyst in your life, it can make sense to resolve to change. By catalyst, I mean when you’ve reached a tipping point, are maxed out, or are fed up with how things are.

Unfortunately, these types of markers also lead to difficulty in sticking with the changes. You set goals at that time, slip up, and feel like a failure. But you don’t do anything until the next calendar marker. It’s the resolution cycle.

Fed up with life.

After spending a weekend in Winter Park, Colorado with a college friend of mine, my husband and I looked at property to buy.

We love Winter Park and this weekend trip reaffirmed our love for Winter Park. We thought it would be great to have a vacation home not far from our main residence for long weekends and quick getaways.

On our way out of town that Sunday, we fantasized about buying land and building our vacation home. As we headed out of town, we saw a sign that read “Winter Park: Elevation 9,121 feet.” We were immersed in our fantasy as we crested the top of the pass.

And then, the descent.

As we drove through Estes Park, elevation 7,500 feet, our conversation went from buying land and building a house to just buying a house or condo. We realized buying land and building was a bit out of our ability.

We passed through Boulder, elevation 5,430 feet, and our conversation went from not being able to buy a house or condo to probably not being able to rent a place. We reached Denver, elevation 5,130 feet, and we finally admitted to ourselves that we were financial messes.

We pulled up to our home, opened the door and walked down the flight of steps into our basement apartment. Our apartment was so dark in the winter that you couldn’t tell what time of day it was by looking out the window. We were physically, financially, and emotionally in a hole.

Our combined credit card debt was $51,000. That’s a 20% down payment on a $255,000 house, or the cost of a nice car. We were paying $10,000 a year in credit card interest charges. That’s a few nice vacations every year.

This was our catalyst. We were fed up with life. We didn’t know how or when, but we decided then and there to become debt free.

Time to make a change.

This catalyst didn’t happen on New Year’s Day, on either of our birthdays, our anniversary, the first day of spring or Easter Sunday. It was a random fall Sunday. There were leaves on trees and a dusting of snow on the ground.

It was no beginning or end, but it was what we needed to make a change we never achieved with the resolution cycle associated with the “new year, new year” strategy.

By then, I had my credit card debt for seven years. My husband had his for 17 years. Not until we were fed up – had our catalyst – did we take the necessary measures to become debt free.

Over the course of the next few months, we did some soul-searching to learn how we got ourselves into that mess and how we would get out.

Two-and-a-half years later we were debt free. Within the next year, we were the owners of a condo in a high-rise that overlooks the city of Denver and the Rocky Mountains.

We’re two of the last people in Denver to see the sunset every day.

There were many steps we had to take to pay off our debt. We implemented all the traditional advice:

  • Budget
  • Create a debt payment plan
  • Cut back our spending

There was one critical step that helped us more than anything else, though. It was the only step that let us to achieve what, to that point, had been unachievable as part of the resolution cycle.

We figured out what we wanted and why we wanted it.

The power is in your want.

Jim Rohn said, “When you know what you want, and want it bad enough, you will find a way to get it.” Up until this point, we were spending and living unconsciously. Even though we were two thirty-something financial services professionals helping other people with their money, we weren’t living authentically.

Up until this point, we were spending and living unconsciously. Even though we were two thirty-something financial services professionals helping other people with their money, we weren’t living authentically.

We couldn’t explain why we ate out several times a week, despite several unconscious trips to the grocery store each week. We didn’t see the contradiction in wearing $600 jeans and missing credit card payments.

It didn’t strike us as ironic or stupid that we wanted to buy land and build a vacation home when we were living paycheck to paycheck in a friend’s basement apartment.

Only when we were clear about what we really wanted in life and why we wanted those things did we get our lives in order.

It’s wasn’t enough to know what we wanted. We had to know the why as well.

When we’re clear with what we want, we have focus. And it has nothing to do with the resolution cycle. It’s knowing why we want it that inspires us. Your want is the match. Your why is the spark.

During those times when it felt like we’d never see a “$0” on our credit card statements or when we had pent up demand to splurge, it was our wants and whys that helped us persevere.

How to break the resolution cycle.

My advice for breaking the resolution cycle and improving year-round, no matter your goal, is to know what you truly want and why you want it.

Only when you’ve peeled back the layers of your desires to their deepest core can you stop worrying about the cycle of setting resolutions and failing. Once you can answer your whys and wants, you can make improvements all year round, without worrying about setting resolutions at an arbitrary time of year.

No fad, gimmick, or date will help you until you know your why.

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Did you receive participation trophies as a child? That’s not an excuse to avoid responsibility for your character.

We’re dealing with an epidemic. 

It’s one that’s received a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons.

What’s the epidemic?

It’s an extreme lack of character and the expectation that everyone should win in every situation.

Nope. That’s not how life happens.

Participation trophies galore.

As I kid I received participation trophies or ribbons. I remember running a one-mile race at my elementary school in Boulder, Colorado (bastion of all that is crunchy) and receiving a ribbon for participating.

That acknowledgment of my participation is only that, an acknowledgment that I was there and finished what I did.

That’s about it.

The lessons that people fear aren’t being communicated during these acknowledgments:

  • Life is hard.
  • You lose sometimes.
  • Life gives and takes unexpectedly.

Those lessons come to us all — Millennials, Gen-Xers, and all others — as time moves by. However, those lessons arrive at different moments, when you least expect it.

That is how life works.

Can you win (or lose) with grace?

Perhaps the problem people are really concerned about is a general inability to manage moments when they don’t win (or lose) with grace.

We just came out of a brutal election season.

I hope we never have an election this awful again. And, one of the most telling moments of that process was our fear that the loser would be unwilling to lose with grace.

When people who are running for the highest office in the land can’t be counted on to lose gracefully it’s time to acknowledge that we have deep cultural problems.

Character problems aren’t about participation trophies.

We have a character problem in America.

Nope, I’m not talking about a lack of fun and imaginative fictional characters. I’m talking about a depth of character that sustains people when times are tough.

Character is doing what you say, even when it puts you at odds with other people. Character is helping people perceived as weak without any expectation of receiving something in return.

What happened to us?

It’s my belief that parents (and society in general) have tried to shield people from the reality of difficult times.

We had the rise of helicopter parents and increased litigation. People stopped acknowledging when the fault for something was theirs, and their fault only.  

Basically, there is an extreme lack of responsibility for our own actions.

I received participation trophies, but those trophies didn’t eliminate my ability to take responsibility for actions that I’ve taken in my life.

Even if I didn’t want to be held accountable for the things that I’ve done or will continue to do life will hold me accountable (or karma).

How our society fails at building character.

Let’s go through a list of recent controversial situations where people weren’t held accountable for their actions until society or karma decided otherwise:

  • Bill Cosby: It was hard for me to believe that America’s favorite dad could be such a douchebag. But, apparently, he is. And, if you’re not sure about this, he did go blind (karma is a bitch). By the way, his trophy was fame.
  • George Zimmerman: This guy shot and killed Trayvon Martin and then was found not guilty. He has experienced increasing escalations of public beat downs, and altercations with other people that have found their way in the news. I’m also sure that he eats a lot of spit hamburgers. His trophy was notoriety.
  • Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio: This Arizona lawman was infamous for the prison conditions that prisoners in his jails experienced. I believe he ate a lot of spit burgers too, but he’s no longer Sheriff anymore. His trophy was power.
  • Brock Turner: You know, the guy who raped that young woman who was unconscious and was given three months and time served. Well, I remember what he looks like and I’m 100% sure he will be eating a lot of spit burgers too for the rest of his life. His trophy swimming accolades.

So, what is the point to sharing such extreme examples?

Regardless of how much we would like to protect people from the hard things that happen in life, or the bad or good choices that we make, sooner or later life happens and we all have to take responsibility for our actions.

Demand character from our public figures (and ourselves).

Participation trophies aren’t our problem.

Our ability to accept less-than-ethical behavior and lack of depth of character is our problem.

Parents, friends, and family who poo-poo this are also a part of the problem. Adults of all ages struggle with managing their personal character.

Do you keep your word to others? Do you acknowledge when you’re in the wrong? Do you intuitively know when you’re not accepting responsibility for you?

Truly becoming an adult is knowing — truly knowing — and acknowledging your role in how you’re perceived by others. You shouldn’t pass the buck to not holding yourself to a higher standard because your participation was rewarded or acknowledged when you were younger.

And it’s time we demand the same of those we look up to.

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Whether in love or your career, whether you control it or not, you’ll probably pivot at least once in your life.

At some point during my third year of college, I started to suspect something wasn’t right. The path I set out for myself for the prior six years wasn’t quite satisfying me. A young man of many interests, the prospect of spending a lifetime focusing on being the best I could possibly be at one calling — teaching music — became unappealing.

Sure, teaching music is a wonderful path. The lasting impact teachers have on hundreds of lives is incomparable to most other roles and careers. I, however, felt strongly at that time that by following that typical career path and by putting as much of my life into my job as I expected would be necessary, I wouldn’t have the kind of fulfillment I was looking for.

My first major pivot.

While in college, I pivoted my approach. After several attempts to fit a minor course of study into my schedule, I settled on a minor focused on nonprofit. It was a pivot that I now see as a good move because it helped shape the projects I take on today and gave me more paths towards living a life of doing important things.

The pivot is the key to not just success but survival. If you’re a professional athlete, focus on sharpening your broadcast skills so you have an opportunity for a “second act” once you can no longer compete — especially if you aren’t one of the few superstar athletes who could publish a memoir people would buy.

If you run a business, a pivot could be revolutionary. It’s a fundamental change in the nature or strategy of the company. Nintendo is known for video games and gaming technology, but the company launched in the 19th century making vacuum cleaners and playing cards. The executives saw the birth of a trend very early on, and in 1966, turned to video games and never looked back.

It was a massively successful pivot.

There’s nothing more pivotal than the life of a serial entrepreneur. Take one business to a certain point, exit that business through a sale or merger, and move onto the next project. In the same vein, I’ve seen people develop successful businesses, and once they’ve gone as far as they’d like to go, they’ve begun their next business selling other entrepreneurs on the ideas that led them to their initial success. “You, too, can be a success, just like me! I’ll tell you how. Buy my e-book and take my online course!”

Adaptability is the key to a successful pivot.

Pivot Your Way to a Better Life

Adaptability is one of the most important adult skills. If you’re too set in your ways and not amenable to change, you can be guaranteed that life will pass you by, and if you’re after happiness, it may prove to be elusive. You’ve got to be paying attention to today’s trends, predicting the future, and have a keen awareness of your skills.

Tim Tebow’s now a baseball player. A podcast company called Odeo became Twitter. Jessica Alba went from actor to entrepreneur — and if that’s not a complete pivot, at least it’s diversification.

Pivots in your personal life can be even more monumental. Moving out of a toxic relationship could be the best pivot for your long-term health and happiness. The list of famous relationship pivots is too long to include here.

Pivot successfully with five steps.

Here’s how you can prepare for a successful pivot, and you can expect to have at least one major pivot in your life — more if you want to be as agile as possible, increasing your changes for success and happiness.

Are you ready to make a pivot in your life or career? These are five important steps.

Pivot Your Way to a Better Life

1. Focus on being a generalist with as much enthusiasm as a specialist.

Take the time to explore your interests and learn about related areas. Although people no longer tend to work for the same company from the moment they can work to the moment they retire (or die), there still is a strong trend to stay in the same field. Often, a strong career requires a highly specialized degree, and that education takes a long time.

But a great education prepares students for adapting to the world, whatever it might bring. Use time in college to experiment with different paths, especially if you are talented in or passionate about a variety of fields. Gain experience working in areas you wouldn’t normally consider. Practice solving problems of all types.

There’s a danger when people become experts or become immersed in a narrow field. So many mortgage brokers — trained to be nothing more and without other marketable skills — found themselves out of work during the credit crunch period of the last recession.

Multi-faceted experience gives you a level of employability first of all, and beyond that, the potential to take your income into your own hands through building your own business, consulting, freelancing, or otherwise honing in on entrepreneurship.

2. Open your mind to new ideas.

It’s possible you discover an important pivot by saying yes to interesting opportunities. While it’s important not to distract yourself from the job you are doing, closing yourself off to signs that the world is changing around you will be disastrous.

Find interesting people — or anyone doing work in something that interests you — and ask questions. Get acquainted. Learn from them.

3. Guide yourself by a broad vision.

Corporate mission statements are often specific, and direct a company towards the type of work they do. Sometimes these mission statements change, but the overall vision remains the same.

Your vision should be broad. What kind of world do you want to live in? The answer to that can be your vision. And when you pivot, even if it’s from one career path to another, it can still fit in with your vision of the future.

But don’t feel bad if it doesn’t. You’re allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to follow a path that has no relation to the journey you started. That’s an inherent benefit of being an adult.

4. Predict the future.

Easy right? It’s not impossible. You don’t have to be a fortune teller to get it right. You just have to pay attention to the little details, and have a good grasp on human behavior, using history as a guide.

Keep an eye on the world around you, because that’s how you can learn to spot minute changes that signal the shape of the future. For example, not many people accurately predicted the latest economic recession with significant advance warning, but once the recession was apparent, it was relatively easy to figure out what some of the world’s biggest concerns and trends were going to be in the coming years.

5. Plan your pivot as much as possible.

Pivot Your Way to a Better Life

If you want to jump into the pool’s deep end, you should probably know how to swim first. If you don’t know how, you may struggle, and your basic need for survival may be the only force preventing you from drowning. Maybe.

Prepare with knowledge and practice, and your chance for survival increases. Reduce the risk of the pivot by doing research, talking to others who have made similar moves, and setting up your personal support system.

Your support system includes friends and family who want to see you succeed with the changes in your life. There will always be doubters, though. You may want to ignore them and remove negativity from your life, but that’s not always the best idea. Even critics might have a perspective worth considering — not all, but some.

But you do need people who will cheer you on and provide moral support.

Create a timeline. And depending on whether you like the sink-or-swim challenge, either you give yourself no option but to keep trying until you succeed, or give yourself a back-up plan. Build that into your timeline, but don’t be afraid to adjust or adapt — or pivot — as the needs arise.

Whether it’s part of your plan or appearing by surprise, your life will include at least one pivot. Take control of your pivot with preparation and planning, and be ready to pivot at any moment. Look for the opportunities.
You never know what kind of success or happiness is out there if you move only in one direction and ignore your peripheral vision.

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Is it time to bail? Here’s how to tell if you should move on right now.

You’ve stressed about doing a great job so you can stay employed. It seems like a terrible idea to ditch your job when you worked so hard to get where you are.

But sometimes you need to move on, no matter how much time and energy you’ve invested in your job. Here are a few signs your current position has run its course:

1. The environment is toxic.

One of the biggest reasons to ditch your job is due to a toxic environment. If you are dealing with harassment, bullying, or you are concerned about the legality of some of the company’s practices, it’s time to bail. Don’t stick around if there are serious problems.

2. You aren’t growing.

Many of us like meaning in our work. In fact, one of the hallmarks of today’s young job-seekers is that they expect a job to offer meaning. While it’s possible to find meaning in practically any job, no matter how crappy, it can become wearing if you don’t feel that your work leads to personal growth and feelings that you are impacting the world for good. If you feel like you could progress and make a positive contribution elsewhere, start looking.

3. The company doesn’t match your values.

Maybe the company isn’t doing something illegal, but you aren’t sure that the mission and values align with yours. It’s hard to feel good about working at a place that doesn’t mesh with your personal mission. Ditch your job if you feel the cognitive dissonance is becoming too great to manage.

4. Your skills aren’t utilized.

Are you proud of your skills and abilities and wish your company would use them? Perhaps your boss doesn’t recognize your skills, or maybe you are in a position that isn’t compatible with your abilities. The struggle to continue may drain you emotionally. Start looking for a job that offers you a chance to use what you know.

5. You’re at a dead end.

Trying to climb that career ladder, but there’s no place to go? It’s time to ditch your job. If you want a position that allows for the possibility of advancement and you’re stuck going nowhere, a shift to a company with room for progress might make more sense.

6. The job isn’t secure.

These days no job is secure. However, there are times that might be less secure than others. If you think layoffs are coming, now might be the time to update your resume and brush up on your interview skills. Don’t wait until the ax falls to get ready.

7. You’re want something different for your life.

Sometimes you just want a new challenge. Maybe you’re ready for the freedom and flexibility that comes with being self-employed. Perhaps you’ve changed your expectations for your life. We’re all on a journey, and when you’re ready for a new direction, your current job might not fit.

Before you leave your job.

Don’t get fired up to ditch your job and give noticed tomorrow, though. Once you realize it’s time to move on, you need to have a plan in place. Are you in a financial position to leave? What are some of the challenges you will face if you no longer have a job?

Whenever possible, build up an emergency fund and think about how you will handle benefits. You need to be ready for what’s next before you take that leap. While it’s not always possible to be completely ready, do what you can to get ahead of the curve.

There’s no reason to stay in a job that doesn’t fit with your life. Start preparing now so you are ready in the event you decide to ditch your job.

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Don’t be afraid of getting old. I don’t even care about having bigger boobs now. Life is better!

When I flip through my monthly stack of women’s magazines, I see the same message over and over again: aging is bad. You should try to stop it, prevent it and reverse it. And here’s how you can do it.

But I’ve recently realized that I actually love aging.

Let me first point out that I’m only 27, so my experience with getting older is limited. But after the turmoil of my immediate post-college years, getting older has been awesome.

Every year seems to get better. I get more financially stable, my husband and I get along better, even the furniture and clothes I have slowly get upgraded.

But it’s less about material stability and more about how secure I feel in my own skin. The older I get, the less I care what people think about me or what I look like.

In high school and college, I really wanted bigger boobs. Because, really, what girl with a B cup didn’t?

Recently a friend told me how she went on a certain medication that amplified her rack. I told her jokingly, “Oh, I’d hate to buy new bras all over again.” But truthfully, I don’t want a bigger rack. I’m comfortable with what I have, and it’s taken me years to get to this point.

I also have spent the majority of my life hating my pale white skin. I was teased for looking like a vampire or a ghost, and I’ve always been jealous of those with natural tans. But after getting the worst sunburn of my life a few weeks ago, I realized how much I liked my ivory skin. Tan skin looks great on other people, but on me, it looked like mud I couldn’t wipe off.

The things I cared about, even a few years ago, seem petty now. Who cares if I don’t have a perfect flat stomach? That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t wear a bikini and feel good about it. Why should I worry about wearing my husband’s PJs to the grocery store?

My priorities seem clearer with age. While I still want people to like me, I’ve started to worry less if they don’t. I can’t make everyone happy and I shouldn’t spend my time trying. I feel less of a desire to badmouth and judge other women. The more comfortable I feel with myself, the less I’m threatened by other people.

I see how happy, successful and comfortable my older relatives are. My mom has always been secure with herself, but now I truly realize that she DGAF. I see other women I admire who embrace their age, but continue to be active physically and mentally. They don’t see their age as a hindrance, and that inspires me to keep trying new things and getting better.

While many of my peers see their 30s as deadline that they hope to avoid, I’m looking forward to them. Granted, I miss being able to stay up until 4:00 a.m. and get up at 9:00, but I don’t miss wanting to be like every other girl I knew. I miss the lack of bills that I had in high school, but don’t miss constantly worrying about boys who didn’t care about me.

One of my favorite movies, “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears,” tells the story of three best friends. The first half of the movie follows them for one year in their 20s. The main character meets a man who tells her that life really begins at 40. “40?” she tells me. “I’ll be an old lady by then.”

The second half of the movie sees where they are 20 years later, as the main character finds out, even at 40, it’s never too late to start a new life.

I would always joke with my parents that if life began at 40, then they were just toddlers. But now I see that life, love and self-awareness all get better with age. And I’m looking forward to mine.

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What is your passion in life? Can you even answer that question? Here’s why it’s important to find your passion now.

As a fresh college grad with a terrible diet and pack-a-day Marlboro habit, I knew it was time to get in shape. And after months of forcing myself into the gym every day, something finally changed.

I ran an entire quarter of a mile on the treadmill without stopping. Looking back now, it was such a small accomplishment, but one that filled me with confidence and the desire push myself harder.

From there, I worked my way up to a mile, then two, which then evolved into a full marathon — and then five more. At some point, running became my passion and it changed my life in several positive ways.

What’s yours? If you struggle to answer the question, it might be time to do a little soul searching and discover what you’re passionate about. Here’s why.

Your passion gives you a sense of purpose.

Maybe you’re someone’s husband or wife. Perhaps you have kids, or you’re hyper-focused on your career and kicking ass at it. All of these things are fantastic.

However, the older you get, the more you’ll notice your peers defining themselves by their relationships or what they do, not who they are. That’s an easy way to lose yourself entirely.

Having a passion affirms your values. Maybe it’s volunteering, painting, writing — hell, even playing video games. Your passion in life is a reminder of what’s most important to you outside of these other obligations. It allows you to find enjoyment in something that’s all yours, out of the control of others, and instills a deeper sense of meaning to your life beyond simply existing.

It drives you to accomplish goals.

Plenty of people live day-to-day simply going through the motions. And that’s fine, but it’s also incredibly boring.

Setting goals — and even more importantly, accomplishing them — makes life so much more enjoyable. Having a passion gives you something to strive for, whether it’s setting a new personal record in a 10k or achieving level 80 in World of Warcraft.

Not only will you feel good about yourself for reaching your goals, but you’ll be much more interesting at parties and have something to #humblebrag about on Facebook. And isn’t that, really, the ultimate goal in life?

You’ll inspire others and be more successful.

Passion is contagious. When you’re hungry, driven, and full of positive energy, it tends to rub off on others – which a great thing for everyone involved.

Richard Branson, one of the most accomplished and well-known entrepreneurs, gives a lot of credit to passion for his success. In a recent article for the Daily Monitor, he wrote, “When you believe in something, the force of your convictions will spark other people’s interest and motivate them to help you achieve your goals. This is essential to success.”

There are few accomplishments better than being a source of inspiration to the people around you. Except maybe becoming a wildly loved, self-made billionaire. Take it from Sir Branson, you need passion in your life.

Remember, it’s about you.

As a runner, I’ve won first place in my division and also been one of the last people to cross the finish line. I’ve logged 60 mile weeks and gone months without lacing up. Some days I feel like I could keep running forever, and others, my legs might as well be made of lead.

But I keep going, no matter my speed, age, size, or ability. Because having a passion is not about being the best; it’s about striving to a better version of yourself.

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Don’t get hung up on changing the world immediately. Start local and watch your efforts bear fruit sooner.

Do you want to live with passion and purpose? Do you want to change the world? Do you feel like I’ve shared froofy sentiments that don’t actually matter?

The reality is that you don’t need to try to change the world all by yourself if you don’t feel like you have the time, energy, or ability to make it happen.

What you can do is find a cause you believe in and start making a tiny corner of the world a little bit better.

Do you really need to change the world?

To often we get bogged down in the idea that we need to change the world in an earth-shattering way. We like the idea of making a big impact. But most of us aren’t going to change the world in that big way.

That doesn’t mean that you are inconsequential. Since moving back to Idaho, I’ve realized that I can help effect meaningful change right here, on a local basis. So far, I haven’t made a huge impact, but I’ve seen that some of my efforts do matter.

It’s easy to step back and say, “I can’t make a big change, so I won’t try.” But you can make small change, and you can help men, women, children, animals, and the environment right where you live.

When you find a cause you believe in, you not only make an impact, but you also live with greater purpose. You are more likely to feel good about your life, and enjoy the mental and physical health benefits that come with volunteering your time and energy.

Don’t get hung up on the idea of changing the world; think about what you can do locally to make a difference. Later, if it snowballs, or if you get an opportunity to change the world, go for it. But don’t sit around feeling impotent when you might be capable of effecting a change that matters to the people around you.

What matters to you?

The first step, when you want to find a cause you believe in, is to decide what matters to you. Figure out what makes your life worthwhile. Decide what you wish was different in your area. Look around. There’s always something that could be better.

What are you passionate about? Do you care about education? Do you want to fight for LGTBQIA+ homeless youth? Do you wish people were kinder to animals? Is there an environmental risk in your area? What kind of local policies are causing harm to under-represented populations? Do you believe arts education is vital to the preservation of our culture?

You can go crazy trying to fix every problem out there. And it’s impossible to do everything all at once — especially since you probably also want to put a roof over your head. Narrow down to the issue that matters most to you and focus on that first. You’ll probably find that there are interconnected issues that you can branch out with, but start small and simple. That one issue can provide you with a manageable way to start making a change.

Join with like-minded people.

How to Find a Cause You Believe In

Once you know what matters to you, look for like-minded people. Whether you work for change at the neighborhood, city, state, country, or world level, you can’t do it alone. World-sweeping ideas come around very rarely. TBH, most change is incremental and arrives only after years of work and effort in conjunction with others.

Look for people who share your passion and values. Chances are that there are others interested in changing the world the same way you are. When I first moved to Idaho Falls, I joined the Chamber of Commerce for networking opportunities and to figure out which business leaders and professionals shared my values. I sought out a local political organization that better fit my leanings as well.

These larger organizations allow me to meet like-minded people who are part of a smaller subset. Together we can lobby for change, and our volunteer efforts can make a difference locally. It’s been heartening to see some of what I’ve done matter — even if it’s to a small portion of the population. That sort of change has the potential to spread.

Contribute your resources.

What if you feel like you don’t have the time to volunteer? You can still find a cause you believe in and contribute your resources. I’m involved in certain activities that, when considered with my other responsibilities, mean that I don’t have time to volunteer with the food pantry or soup kitchen, even though hunger is a major issue for me.

I have to say no to some things, and I realize that I can have an impact by donating money to local relief efforts. I make regular contributions to local food banks. I love local donations because I can meet the people responsible for the way the funds are used, and I can see the impact my donations have.

I choose which causes get my time, and which get my money. You can do something similar. Look for an organization that could use your financial support, even if you don’t feel like you have the time to volunteer. My son saves 10% of his allowance and income for charity. Until now, he’s mostly just put it in for an offering when we occasionally attend a church, or he gives something to panhandlers. Lately, after much thought, he announced that he wants to find a way to help homeless LGBTQIA+ teens — a problem in our area.

My son saves 10% of his allowance and income for charity. Until now, he’s mostly just put it in for an offering when we occasionally attend a church, or he gives something to panhandlers. Lately, after much thought, he announced that he wants to find a way to help homeless LGBTQIA+ teens — a problem in our area. He’s researching local organizations to see where his money might do some good. He’s 13, and he’s thinking about what he can do to make positive change where we live.

It won’t be a lot, but it will be something — and it just might make a difference in at least one person’s life.

What issues are you passionate about? Have you found a cause to believe in? How do you support it?

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