If you’re planning on seeing the world someday – what are you waiting for? There’s no better time to fulfill your wanderlust than now. Read More...

Every single time I look at my phone or laptop, I’m amazed by the feeling that the world is at my fingertips. Social media influencers are always sharing stories about dirt bike riding in Moab, wandering the streets of Paris, and backpacking through Morocco. It almost feels like you’re being taunted continuously about all of the amazing experiences you could be having.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The moment that you become excited about travel and exploring the world outside of your town is the moment that you should travel. And, let’s face it, now is an incredible time to see the world. “Your ‘now’ is whoever is reading (this post) at whatever point in time you’re in, in your life.” Mark Zmarzly.

And, if you decide now is the time for you to travel, you’ll be joining record numbers of Americans stepping outside our country’s borders.

7 reasons why now is the best time to travel the world.

1. Americans Are (Finally) Getting Passports – Due to the recent enactment of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, Americans who would like to leave the U.S. (even to go to Canada) must have a passport. As a result, more Americans than ever have requested and have been issued a passport. Having a passport increases the potential for travelers to embrace overseas travel.

2. Social media influencers share great tips, tricks, and ideas for traveling to different locales around the world. Travel guides are created to make new countries accessible and easy to explore, and even amateur travel videos are designed with the novice traveler in mind. Influencers have made travel to foreign countries feel approachable to people who may have been concerned about overseas travel.

3. Specialized travel communities – If you’re nervous about traveling as a POC (person of color) as a single woman, or a person with physical challenges, there are communities that have been created to help you travel safely in the country that you’ve been dreaming about.

  • Travel Noire – A community created to encourage, inspire, and organize African-American travelers. Their photos on Instagram are drool-worthy.
  • She Roams Solo – A community created for female travelers who would like to connect with other travelers exploring the world on their own or looking for like-minded people to join in the journey.
  • AccessAnything.net – Is a resource to help connect travelers with disabilities with resources related to travel around the world.

4. Travel is More Affordable-You don’t have to be a millionaire to travel around the world. You need a strategy, a budget, and the strength of your imagination. The average traveler can now fly on budget airlines that offer affordable and safe flights overseas. You do have to be careful of the amenities add-ons that can increase the price of your tickets. But, it’s not unusual to pay $500-$800 round-trip to fly to Europe depending on where you live in the country.

5. The Sharing Economy – Travelers no longer have to stay in expensive hotels once they arrive in their new town. They can stay in an Airbnb and other variations of home sharing that keep their trip expenses low.

6. Food Familiarity – It seems like a small thing, but, travel is a lot easier for us because we have a passing understanding of what other countries eat. We may enjoy an Americanized version of the country’s food, but we typically can find something new to eat in the place that we’re visiting.

7. You’re Excited About Travel Now – If you’re reading this post filled with travel tips and other travelers’ experiences, it’s highly likely that you’re excited about traveling NOW. If that the case, it’s the time to optimize your enthusiasm and begin planning your trip.

Bonus Reason – Technology makes it easier for your nervous loved ones to get in touch with you while you’re having an incredible time in a new country. You’re just a Facebook, Instagram, SKYPE, Text, or What’s App message away.

If those seven reasons above aren’t enough to inspire and motivate you to plan your next (or, first trip) maybe the following reason will: life changes fast. You may end up in a relationship with a partner who hates travel, political situations may change, and the once open country you loved may become a scary place to visit Or your student loans are now due, and you have to focus on paying off debt. Life changes faster than you expect and often you have to grab opportunities when they present themselves because they might not present themselves again.

In fact, when I was in high school, I fell in love with the French language. I studied it, belonged to the French club, and even remember going to see Les Miserables at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

It would be safe to say that I fell in love with the romance of the idea of France and Paris in particular. But, at the time I was too young to truly imagine the possibility of being able to visit Paris. Instead, I followed a time-honored tradition and headed to university thousands of miles across the country to begin my first foray into adult life.

I loved it.

As I adjusted to attending a school that I’d never visited before I was exposed to how the other half lived. Let’s face it, I was a hick from Colorado and found myself meeting people who were traveling abroad during school breaks. My classmates would return with tales of adventures in Europe, ski trips, ironically in Colorado, and quick getaways to Asia.

What next?

As I struggled to survive my college experience, working in food services so that I always had food to eat, the urge to travel was forever at the back of my mind – but it wasn’t the right time. Nearing the end of my college career, I found myself completely confused about “what next.”

While I wasn’t the first person in my family to graduate college, I was one of the first to attend in the traditional sense, right out of high school. Upon graduation, I returned home and floated around like many kids who still had no clue what was next. And, it was at that moment that I decided to travel to Europe for the first time.

There was a sense of urgency because I understood that life happens and as a single woman with no kids, the best time to travel the world was ‘now’.

So I did.

I spent months agonizing over what my itinerary would be, how much I would have to pay, what visas I might need and more. I picked up extra work shifts at the retail store where I was working and zeroed in on my goal with laser-like focus. Here are a few ways I stayed focused and excited about my trip:

  • I watched television shows about the places that I wanted to travel to.
  • Believe in Vision Boards? Mine played a massive role in keeping me focused and excited about my upcoming trip.
  • Do you have a journal? I wrote in mine often to work through any doubts that I may have had about my trip.

By staying focused I was able to meet my goal of traveling to Europe, and it was glorious! I lounged on the beaches of Barcelona in the moonlight, explored Amsterdam by foot, and reconnected with European friends.

These tips are helpful to anyone planning their first trip. Especially if you’re surrounded by people who don’t get why anyone would want to travel to a foreign country.

What if you’re kind of broke?

Don’t let being a little short of cash keep you from traveling the world. I spoke with some non-traditional Millennial and GenX travelers about how they strategized their foreign travel with (gasp) kids.

Mark Zmarzly never really traveled. In fact, he never really traveled outside of his home state of Nebraska. He had an opportunity to travel to France for a few weeks in high school and was planning to go until he changed his mind. When I spoke to him, he still seemed a bit puzzled by that decision. Then, his life continued, like lives do. He got married, had a few kids. And, then, one day he and his wife decided to visit Colorado for a week with the kids. Because let’s face it, each state is like its own country.

Then one day, he and his family decided to visit Wisconsin for eleven days. Each consecutive trip became longer as they became more confident about traveling around the world. Mark’s family then had the opportunity to visit Ireland for a month. When I interviewed him for this post, he shared how he and his family had recently returned from living in Australia for six months after he won a business grant for entrepreneurs.

I also spoke with Melissa, owner of the blog Traveling Wallet. She shared her desire to return to Ecuador and El Salvador, the two countries that her family is originally from. Her story is a little different from Mark’s as she visited those countries as a child and lived in one of them briefly as well.

But, life happened.

She went to university, got married, had kids. But, she kept thinking about visiting her family’s home countries. Then, she and her husband decided to move from California back to his home state of Michigan, and that’s when the opportunity presented itself for them to travel.

They decided to add a two month trip to Central America before settling down in Michigan permanently. Here are some things they had to figure out before going:

  • Budget – Their budget including factoring in how long her husband would need to find a new job in Michigan. It took a little longer than they originally anticipated for him to find a new job when they returned to the United States. Fortunately, they had factored that into their budget.
  • Accommodation – They opted to stay with relatives for the majority of their stay while they were in Central America. But, they still ended up covering some accommodation costs.
  • Flights – They were able to travel hack their airfare by opening two credit cards and strategically hitting the spending threshold to earn their mileage points.

Once they figured out their strategy, they began saving their money and enjoyed an incredible two months in Central America.

Lessons from these two families.

There are several lessons to be learned from these two couple’s stories. And, they apply to anyone (single or part of a family).

  • Start Small – Mark made the point that he and his family decided that they wanted to travel, but chose to start small. That small initial trip to Colorado helped them work through the following: figuring out their travel logistics, how to save for a trip, finding accommodation, and building confidence to travel to an unknown locale.
  • What About Work? If you travel for work, make a point of asking if the mileage points accrued can be added to your mileage account. You can then use that mileage when purchasing tickets for your next trip.
  • Business Travel – Add vacation days (if able) to the end of business-related travel trips. Since you’re already out of the office, see if it’s possible to add some vacation days to your trip and explore the town that you’re in.
  • Travel Hack – This strategy to earn mileage points is not for everyone. But, if you pay your credit cards in full every month, this may be a way for you to accumulate miles towards your next trip abroad. Travel hackers spend time looking for credit cards that offer excellent airline mileage sign-up bonuses for new members. Once you’ve added up your points book your trips and go! There are a number of communities and resources that help people with how to travel hack, spend some time doing research to make sure you find a reputable and honest resource.

If now is the time you would like to travel, begin working on your plan. And, if you’re still not convinced that now is the best time to travel the world, here a few more actions that you can take to make your trip around the world happen.

5 more actions to take.

You can take to make your dreams of international travel happen before it’s too late.

  • Join a program! When I was 27 years old, I joined an international cultural program called “Up With People.” It was a multicultural program where we traveled around the world, stayed with host families, performed a musical, and participated in community service around the world. The best thing about joining a program aligned with my interests was that I didn’t have to do any of the trip logistics. All I had to do was pay for the program and show up the first day. They took care of creating my travel experience, my flight details, accommodation, and facilitating my experiences when I arrived in each country.

During that year I traveled to 21 states, Norway and Japan. I’m still in touch with the people that I traveled the world with during that year, and it was an incredible experience for me. No, I wasn’t building my career in a traditional sense, but I was developing my cultural competency which is an area where a lot of business people struggle.

  • Work Abroad – The younger you are the easier it is to find a program to work abroad. There are certain countries constantly looking for English language instructors, and if you’re open to working while you travel, this is a fantastic way to afford your travels. Almost every non-English speaking country has businesses that focus on teaching students to speak English. Be aware that they may prefer British English to American accented English, but, there are plenty of jobs out there.
  • Look for Grants and Scholarships – Don’t leave money on the table. Spend time searching for grants and scholarships created with you in mind. Mark Zmarzly has researched and found three business grants with the most recent one enabling him and his family to live in Australia for six months. There are unclaimed scholarships and grant money waiting for you to find them.
  • Build an Online Business – 2018 and beyond is a fantastic time to build a digitally based business. It’s a pain to grow any business, but online business is great because you can work from anywhere as long as you have decent internet access. Love to write? Become a freelance writer, enjoy being a part of a team? Virtual Assistant work may be where you should lend other entrepreneurs a hand.

There is a ton of money out there waiting for you to find, earn, or claim it. If now is the time for you to travel the world, don’t let lack of money be the reason why you decide not to travel.

Every person’s “now” is subjective.

Traveling the world doesn’t mean that you have to go to 17 countries in 17 days. You could visit one country for a week, and that would count. Or, you could use your typical vacation time and go somewhere new.

You get to decide what your world travel looks like. There are no hard and fast rules. Don’t believe me? I thought I would share some of my past travels and how they were perfect for the moment that I was traveling in.

My first trip to Europe I worked like a dog at a retail store for months and saved up so that I could experience Europe in all of its glory. My trip to Europe was the only thing on my mind. I still made time to live in the moment, but I was focused on one thing and one thing only – getting the hell out of dodge and doing something that felt so beyond my reach.

Traveling to Europe felt like something that only “rich people” did. Not, regular people like myself. I had to prove that I could do this one thing and ended up traveling during different seasons of my life and discovering that each time had its own unique set of challenges.

Each trip was a reflection of a different point in time and a different “now” moment. Here are examples of other trips that I’ve taken, and I noticed that my experiences were similar to Mark and Melissa’s experiences.

  • Three Weeks in Argentina – I used to work at a university and had accumulated a lot of vacation time. As a result, I decided to study Spanish for three weeks in Argentina. That trip was a wonderful break from my regular work life. I partied, ate a ton of Argentine beef at different asados (BBQs) met terrific people, traveled to Iguazu Falls, and lived my “best life” for three weeks in a foreign country. That was the time that I had that year, and I would never change that experience.
  • Three Weeks Studying in France – When the opportunity presented itself I decided to take a French course in Amiens, France. Again, it was the right time for that trip. Again, I increased my cultural competency, met amazing people, and even got to explore Jules Vern’s house (he wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and crept around in the hidden room that he had installed in his house.
  • Two Months in Australia and Hawaii – Similar to Melissa and her husband, a job change gave me the opportunity to go “Down Under.” I’d always wanted to visit Australia and Hawaii, but there was no way in hell that I was going to go for just two weeks. My career change presented the chance to visit for as long as I wanted to, and I decided to go for two months. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I’m glad that I recognized that was my “now” moment to travel to Australia.
  • Six Months in Paris – If you’re a Francophile then you must watch the movie “Sabrina” specifically the version starring Audrey Hepburn. There is a moment in the movie when she reflects that “I went for long walks and I met myself in Paris.” I, too, met myself in Paris and I took a lot of long walks around the city. Incredibly, I was about to spend six months in Paris spending a measly $4,000 for everything including studying at the Sorbonne. I even found a job with housing and am amazed at how I was able to make that trip happen in the way that it did.

For each one of these trips, I would have an inexplicable urge to travel. In fact, it felt like I was consumed by the idea. Each time I decide that “now” was the time for me to travel and explore the world that urge became my #1 focus until I was able to complete my mission.

If you’ve been on the fence about traveling abroad because of money, age, or family hopefully the examples shared gave you some encouragement and inspiration on how to travel the world. If you keep daydreaming at work about going somewhere new, meeting interesting people, and experiencing different cultures, stop dreaming. Take action, create a plan, and embrace the world that awaits you.

“Dare to live the life you’ve always wanted.” Unknown

Now is the best time to travel the world. There is never a perfect moment to explore the unknown. Travelers embrace that risk and let the chips fall where they may. Remember that the world begins right at your doorstep.

Start small.

If you’re American, you live in an enormous country made up of 50 very different states. And, each state has its own energy, regional foods, weather, and people. You could spend the rest of your life just exploring the United States, and you don’t need a passport to do it. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few suggestions:

  • Go sand boarding in Southern Colorado at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Home of the largest dunes in the United States.
  • Visit Yellowstone National Park one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Just make sure that you avoid falling into one of the park’s boiling hot springs-you’ll die. Instead, enjoy watching the buffalo run across the prairie and watching Old Faithful shoot into the sky.
  • Wander around the French Quarter in New Orleans stepping into dark jazz clubs filled with the energy of years gone by.
  • Dance the night away in Miami after a day relaxing at the beach sipping on a refreshing drink.
  • Drive down the Pacific Coast Highway in California and experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the Pacific Ocean as the sunsets.
  • Sample wines in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Yes, New York does have a wine region and it’s beautiful.
  • Eat your way through Portland, Oregon. Home of some of the best food in the United States.
  • Gaze silently at columns hanging in the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and meditate on the tragedy that this memorial commemorates.

Now is the time to travel the world and you can begin seeking out new places one low-cost airfare at a time. So I ask, what are you waiting for? The world is out there. Visit your relatives if they’re not crazy, take a road trip with your best friends, or take the train across the United States.

Couch surf your way to savings, become a house sitter or pet sit someone’s fur baby in exchange for free room and board. Pick up extra shifts at work, find a side-hustle, and ask around to see if someone has mileage points that they won’t be using that you could use. My mom had a fight benefit that I was able to use to fly to London for a $100 round trip. She didn’t work for the airline that long, but it was long enough for me to get a cheap ticket to London.

Eat, Pray, Love your way to self-realization in New York’s Little Italy. Become better connected with your “Wild” self as you hike the Pacific Crest Trail or a trail similar to it that happens to be in your state. Instead of being dreaming about your secret life like Walter Mitty, go out and live your life in technicolor.

Go before it’s too late.

Don’t let your dreams fade as you deal with the boring daily tasks of living your adult life. Now is the time to go because crazy stuff always happens. Countries change leaders, your family has a financial emergency, and then the possibility of travel may slip away.

Don’t let that happen.

Paying bills, going to work, and focusing on your responsibilities will never end. Fortunately, you can be an adult and live your best life. Remember, you’ll only be as young as you are today…today. Dream big, save your money, sell your shit, save your money, and go.

Have some good travel tips? What interesting places have you visited? Let us know in the adultingHALP Facebook community

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Good news: you can be happy and productive without getting up at an unholy hour. Read More...

I’ve seen a lot about the “miracle morning” recently. It seems to be everywhere.

Basically, the idea is that you wake up an hour earlier than normal. You spend that time journaling, meditating, and exercising. The miracle morning is a pretty cool concept. I like it in theory:

  • Get up
  • Set your intention for the day
  • Exercise to take care of your body and mind
  • Eat breakfast
  • Start your workday energetic and focused

The result, of course, is supposed to be getting more done overall. Increased productivity through a better start to your morning — all by getting up an hour earlier.

But what if it doesn’t work?

I tried the miracle morning — and failed.

In an effort to wrest control of my life back from my schedule, I thought I’d give the miracle morning a try. After all, it’s supposed to transform your life.

An hour a day to change everything?

Sign me up!

However, it didn’t go as I expected. First of all, getting out of bed an hour earlier proved almost impossible. I tried going to bed earlier, to no avail.

My son’s activities and the realities of having a teenager didn’t mesh with going to bed as early as I needed to in order to get up at a miracle morning time.

On top of that, when I did succeed in getting up an hour earlier, it didn’t actually help me with my productivity. I often wake up ready to work. It was hard for me to spend an hour journaling and meditating. Plus, about the time I finished with my miracle morning regimen, it was time to get breakfast and eat with my son.

By the time my son was off to school, my day was taken over by meetings and phone calls and unexpected little issues drawing off my attention. I felt just as harried as ever.

So I decided it was time for a new approach. Rather than focusing on my morning routine, I decided to look at the way my internal clock functions. I know you can shift your clock over time to become a morning person, but I was tired of trying to fight it. So, I didn’t.

Check in throughout the day.

First, I started by paying attention to how I felt at various points during the day. I noticed that I often woke ready to get something done. On top of that, my afternoon slump effectively made me useless for work.

As part of this exercise, I factored in time with my son before he left for school, as well as our afternoon and dinner commitments and obligations.

I kept notes about how I felt throughout the day, and when my work flagged. Additionally, I paid attention to when I had standing meetings and when others were most likely to interrupt me. With this information, I was able to identify patterns.

After about two weeks, I had a pretty good idea of when I was likely to work most effectively — and when it was better for me to just stop trying to force it. I was also able to figure out which times were likely to be good times for things like exercise and self-improvement.

I was ready to take a new approach to my days.

Starting work first thing.

My first main change was that, instead of trying to exercise or meditate first thing in the morning, I would just get to work on the most challenging item on my to-do list.

Because my son changed his school schedule recently, there are now three days a week when I basically have two hours in the morning before I needed to start breakfast. The other two mornings, I have about an hour.

My new morning routine looks like this:

  • Wake up
  • Sit up and stretch in bed
  • Drink some water
  • Use the restroom
  • Take three to five minutes to do a little “wake up” yoga
  • Immediately start work

My whole get up and get started takes less than 10 minutes.

And I get to work immediately on the most challenging thing I have to work on that day. Essentially, I follow the advice in the book Eat That Frog! However, while the book assumes you’ll be at work after a morning routine, I’m actually getting my biggest “frog” out of the way before I really start my day.

After getting some work done, I then turn my attention to breakfast and seeing my son off to school. I get dressed, and then start in on the rest of my day.

Now, though, meetings and phone calls aren’t pulling me away from the big thing on my plate. It’s already done by the time all these other things start demanding my attention.

Scheduling exercise in the afternoon.

After getting my new morning squared away, I decided to schedule exercise in the middle of the day. It’s true. I head to the gym between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

Before, this was time spent in a stupor as I either tried to power through the afternoon brain fog or gave up and took a nap. Of course, the nap usually ended up being longer than it should have been and resulted in sleep inertia — making me feel worse.

Now, though, I have my exercise scheduled on my calendar. It’s an item I’m reminded of and that is blocked off so that appointments can’t be made during that time.

Instead of trying to make myself be productive during a time when I’m not really wired for productivity, I use the time to reinvigorate myself with exercise. Usually, when I’m done, I’ve received enough of a boost from the activity that I’m ready to tackle items that require a bit of thought (although they aren’t as energy-consuming as what I work on in the morning).

At times I feel a little tired and sleepy after my workout. On those days, I meditate in the afternoon. In fact, I find that meditation helps me most just after lunch, or soon after a workout. I still meditate most days, just not in the morning.

Creating my “excellent evening.”

Rather than a miracle morning, I’m working on creating an excellent evening. While my son is getting ready for bed, I answer a few final emails and finish up some of my loose ends.

Once he is in bed, it’s time for my own wind-down routine. I put the phone and laptop away, done with them for the day. If there are things still bothering me about the day, I write them down. I also take this time to identify my first move in the morning. It’s a great time to decide what my first focus should be. I tidy my work area and get things set up for the next morning.

With everything resolved on and ready for the coming day, I engage in 15 to 20 minutes of gentle stretching yoga. Then I take my shower and go through my bedtime routine. Often, I read a book for pleasure during this time. It’s a great way to relax and unwind and get my mind ready for sleep.

Finally, I can just go to bed. Sometimes, if I’m struggling a bit to fall asleep, I use a guided meditation designed to help.

Do what works for you.

Maybe the miracle morning works well for you. I know a lot of people really like it. Getting up early and centering themselves ahead of the day is perfect for them. I even know folks that get up at 4:30 a.m., do the whole miracle morning routine, and then get started on work sometime around 6:00 a.m.

And that’s fine.

But that’s just not going to cut it for me. I’ve tried.

Instead, it works better for me to get up around 6:30 a.m. and immediately get into my work. I suppose I could get up at 5:00 or 5:30 and still accomplish much the same thing. But until I’m able to go to bed much earlier, that’s not practical in terms of making sure I get enough healthy sleep each night.

Rather than getting hung up on what everyone else is doing with their morning routines, think about what makes your day better. Consider a schedule that makes sense for you. Maybe it’s more work at night, or perhaps it’s exercising after dinner (like my parents do).

The important thing is to pay attention to your own internal clock and the realities of your situation so that you can create a schedule that works around your various commitments, your family, and helps you start working toward your goals.

What helps you in the morning? Or the evening? Have you tried arranging your schedule around your internal clock? Let us know in the #Adulting community on Facebook.

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Have you thought about what it means to live a purposeful life? Read More...

“Follow your bliss.”

“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

What does any of that mean?

Sure it would be nice to just hang out having fun and making money for doing whatever. The reality, though, is that most of us have to work for a living.

Besides, even if we love what we do, some days are just crappy. As much as I enjoy writing, there are days I just don’t really “feel” it.

But I do it anyway because I like eating, and I think my son should wear clothing to school. Does the fact that some days aren’t bliss-filled and there are times I have to write shit I don’t care about mean I’m on the wrong path?

Of course not.

You’re not supposed to be in a state of blissful happiness 24/7. If you were in that state all the time, it would cease to be bliss. Once it becomes normal, there’s really no point. It’s the ups and downs that make those precious moments worthwhile.

The real key is figuring out what your bliss happens to be and then incorporating that bliss in your life.

That’s the journey I’m on right now. Rather than setting a bunch of quasi-meaningless goals for the new year, I’m making this a time of exploration for me. What do I want my purpose in life to be? How can I figure it out so I can follow my bliss?

Map it out: What does your bliss look like?

If you want to follow your bliss, the first step is to think about what it looks like. And be honest: would you really be happy lying on a beach somewhere doing nothing all the time? I know I wouldn’t be.

In fact, most of us don’t want to be stuck doing nothing. There’s a reason research indicates that early retirement can lead to an earlier death. There might be a correlation between not having a purpose after you quit work and a premature death. While there’s still plenty of research to be done, and the data isn’t conclusive, you can see why losing your purpose might mean mental and physical health problems.

But I’m not anywhere near retirement. I just want to figure out what matters to me so I can follow my bliss on a more regular basis.

So, inspired by Harlan’s life map, I created my own.

Miranda Life Map

I named my map “Living with Passion and Purpose” because I decided that my bliss involves things that allow me to follow some of my passions while also living with a sense of purpose.

Many of us like to feel as though we can make a difference. Chances are when you think about how to follow your bliss, part of that is working in a capacity that allows you to help people, whether that means volunteering or cultivating career opportunities that allow you to feel as though you are contributing to something worthwhile.

You can figure out what your own bliss looks like by going through the exercise of creating a life map as well. Sit down and think about the kinds of things you would be doing for work and in your leisure time if you were able to follow your bliss.

One of the reasons that phrases like “follow your bliss” get so much play is due to the fact that, for most of us, money isn’t the driver that makes life interesting.

Here is what Rosabeth Moss Kanter at Harvard discovered about what makes work worth doing:

In research for my book Evolve!, I identified three primary sources of motivation in high-innovation companies: mastery, membership, and meaning. Another M, money, turned out to be a distant fourth. Money acted as a scorecard, but it did not get people up-and-at ‘em for the daily work, nor did it help people go home every day with a feeling of fulfillment.

Follow Your Bliss -- Or At Least Figure Out What It Looks Like

Where does money fit when you follow your bliss?

Money is on my life map, but mostly as a subject I write and podcast about — as well as the Thing that allows me to follow all my other interests.

In order to fulfill the items at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid, money is necessary. You can’t buy food, water, or shelter without money. Even on the second level up, with safety needs, some sort of funds are necessary.

You can’t keep moving up the pyramid without the basics that often have to be bought. And, even as you progress up the pyramid, money can help you feel other things. I like to use money as a means to my ends. Many of the activities I have on my life map — items like travel and providing opportunities for my son — require money.

But I don’t like earning money just to have moar money.

Chances are that money isn’t your main motivator, either. Even if you don’t have same passions I do or hope to impact the world around you in the same way (I prefer small-scale, local efforts), you are probably motivated by something other than just piling up the benjamins in your bank account.

Add bits of bliss to your life.

Once you know what your bliss looks like, you can start adding it to your life. It doesn’t mean that you have to drop everything you’re doing right now to follow bliss. You can start looking for meaning in what you do, even if it is a crappy job.

Find other ways to add purpose to your life. Start a side gig. Volunteer. Take music lessons. Play with your kids. Netflix and chill. Join a book club. Spend the night in a hotel. Look for a way to make a small change that adds to your quality of life.

A few years ago, when I felt trapped in my life, I made time to take guitar lessons. For half an hour each week, I met with a teacher. I practiced for 15 to 20 minutes each day.

Is that enough to become a good guitar player? Nope. But it’s enough to find some enjoyment and passion in the day, learn something new, and get to the point where I can accompany other people. It wasn’t much, but it added something to my life — a spark of joy.

Today, I still like to get out the guitar on occasion. Just like I enjoy playing the piano. I’ve also added short, 10-minute lessons with Duolingo. I purposely carve out a half hour for lunch to read a chapter in a novel while I eat.

These are simple things that don’t take a lot of time. However, they bring a bit of bliss into my daily life. They give me a sense that I don’t always have to be involved in the daily grind or working on something productive. Sometimes it’s okay to just live.

Little by little, reduce the amount of time you spend on things that don’t bring you happiness and shift toward what adds purpose and passion to your life.

Don’t expect everything to change at once.

It would be great to snap your fingers and have everything figured out. But that’s not how it works. In fact, it can take months — and even years — to finally shift all the pieces of your life.

You don’t have to upend your life to follow your bliss. And you don’t have to stop what you’re doing just because you have a bad day.

However, you can make a plan. Use your life map as a guide to figure out which areas you want to focus on first. Consider how you can create a new career strategy that allows you to gradually change course and love your work.

Slowly find time to yourself, doing what you want. Maybe it means finding five minutes to do yoga or scheduling 20 minutes to read each day. I recently added exercise to my calendar. It’s something that is now blocked out and I’m committed to it. While it’s not exactly my bliss, I do feel better when I exercise and I also expect to reap the health benefits.

Your life will never be absolutely perfect. But it can be pretty damn good.

Look for the little ways to enjoy life, and you’ll be surprised at how it all adds up until eventually you really do get to live the life you (mostly) want.

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

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.

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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It’s tough to deal with failure. But there is something even more difficult to go through that’s absolutely worth it: the comeback. Read More...

A few years after graduating college, I started writing a blog about trying to pay off my student loans in three years. It was pretty small and relatively unknown at first, but eventually it garnered some attention with a local financial writer and radio personality. He had me on his show several times and became a bit of a mentor.

Eventually, he talked to me about the possibility of working for him in the future. The conversation progressed, and eventually, he promised me a concrete position as soon as his budget freed up. That would take a few months, he said, but no longer.

I waited, and waited, and waited. Then I started asking about the position more firmly during our conversations. Finally, I flat out asked him if he had any intention of following through on his promise. That’s when I stopped hearing from him.

I was crushed and put the blame entirely on myself. I was certain I had said something, or done something, or not done something to make him retract the offer. It took me years to fully recover from my perceived failure, and I learned a lot about moving on and letting go.

If you’ve fallen down, here are some ways you can pick yourself back up.

Be kind to yourself.

For years, I thought if I punished myself every time I failed, I’d learn not to do it again. Instead, the shame and guilt only pushed me away from figuring out what went wrong. Any time you fail, you have to forgive yourself for what happened.

I like to close my eyes and visualize myself as a friendly kindergarten teacher, talking to a younger version of myself. I speak in a sweet, soft tone and say things like, “Hey, it’s ok little pupper. Think of this as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and it doesn’t mean you’re a failure or a bad person. It just means you’re human.”

It may sound contradictory to some, but being nice to myself has yielded more change than being mean and condescending. Think of it as talking to yourself the way you’d talk to a good friend going through a rough patch. You wouldn’t criticize their mistakes – you’d try to build them back up with positivity and support.

Have no zero days.

When I experience failure, my instinct is to run away and hide under the covers, both literally and figuratively. I don’t feel like doing anything productive, like going to the gym, eating healthy or working on my hobbies. But feeling sorry for myself only makes the feeling of failure linger.

When you fail, you have to try even harder to get back up again. Start by doing something simple like taking a walk outside or reading a self-help book. Doing small things like that will make you rebound faster than laying on the couch binging on Netflix.

Every day, aim to do one productive thing, like meditate, apply for new jobs or work out. Mark an X on the calendar every time you’ve completed that thing. Your goal is to do something every day, no matter how inconsequential it seems.

Don’t worry about whether or not your heart is in it – this is about going through the motions. By stringing together a series of Xs, you’ll feel better about yourself. You’ll be more motivated to do other, bigger things, like taking online classes or cold calling a potential mentor.

List your accomplishments.

After we fail at something, our minds get clouded by self-doubt and insecurity. When I’m feeling down, I think about the amazing things I’ve accomplished and reminded myself that I’m capable of success as well as failure.

Sit and write down a few things you’ve accomplished recently, like running a marathon or being a great mom. The goal is not to forget or ignore your failure, but rather to remind yourself that failure does not define you.

For example, when I’m having a bad day and feeling lame, I think about how I paid off my student loans in three years, how I’m successfully self-employed and how I moved across the country without a support network. Taking a second to appreciate my victories makes me more confident in my ability to overcome my failures.

Be grateful.

When you’re feeling like a failure, it’s easy to see your life as a series of bad turns. That kind of thinking can make you feel unlucky, cursed or doomed to remain a failure.

To combat this mindset, try writing down at least three things you’re grateful for. Finding time for gratitude will help you see the positivity in your life. Even on the worst day, you can find something to be thankful for – like nice weather, a burger from your favorite fast food place or a kiss from your dog. Focusing on failure will only exacerbate your feelings while being grateful will shift your focus.

One way to feel grateful is to volunteer with people who truly are less fortunate than you and who need your help. By getting out of your own skin, you’ll start to realize that this failure is only a blip and doesn’t have to define the rest of your life.

Do you recall a time when you dealt with failure? How did you overcome it? Let us know in the #Adulting Facebook community

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Leap outside your comfort zone. Try something new. Fail. And grow into the life you want. Read More...

Once in a while, we present Adulting.tv LIVE! Subscribe on YouTube to hear about future events, and share your questions about or suggestions for our next discussions!

Show Notes

Life stuck in a rut? Feeling low on confidence? Maybe you need to conquer life by stepping outside your comfort zone. Martin Dasko joins us to talk about bold challenges and how trying new things changed his own course.

You can improve your confidence as you seek the life you want to live, and the key to doing so is getting comfortable with taking on bold challenges.

Martin Dasko is the founder of Studenomics. His alter-ego is the Latin Lover, a villain in Toronto’s semi-pro wrestling scene. Martin is the author of several books, including Next Round’s On Me and So, You Want to Drive for Uber? He is also a co-host of Do You Even Hustle?, a podcast about business and sales in real life.

Hosted byHarlan L. Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteve Stewart
Music bybensound.com

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Are your retirement dreams bigger than your 401(k)? If you’re ready to retire, but your wallet isn’t, here are some ideas to get you on your way. Read More...

If you’re thinking about retirement, you’re probably ahead of the curve. Most Americans don’t have enough saved for their golden years, and a substantial amount have nothing saved at all. If a retirement fund is your nest egg, most people haven’t even started looking for a chicken!

If you want to retire early, you’re going to need to get creative. Living costs continue to rise, the future of social security is dubious at best, and most experts predict that millennials will struggle to retire on the same timeline as their baby boomer parents. It’s a harsh reality, but it doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

Here are a few practical ways to retire when you want – and one you probably haven’t thought of.

Keep a budget.

When your heart is set on early retirement, you need to hit those numbers consistently in order to reach your goal. If you stop contributing to your 401(k) for a few months to pay off some debt or go on vacation, you could miss your target retirement date.

Stay on track with a budget and designate how much you can spend per category. Not sure how much you should budget? Track your spending first to see what your current numbers are, then see if you need to make any changes.

“Once you’ve tracked your spending for a few months, you’ll be able to see spending patterns,” said anonymous early retirement blogger Mrs. 1500 of 1500 Days.

Earn more money.

When you decide to retire early, you’ll probably find that you have to save far more than the average person. Your two choices are to live below your means or find an additional source of income. Depending on how much you make and when you want to retire, even living below your means might not be enough.

Go through the math and see how much you need to save to reach your goal. Can you do that on your current income? Or will you need work more?

Mrs. 1500 said people should “get a second job, improve [their] current earnings, get a side hustle or use [their] funds to invest in passive-income producing ventures such as real estate, stocks that pay dividends, or Private Money Loans – essentially being the bank for investors.”

Know your number.

Being aware of how much you need to retire is crucial. Some people assume you need millions, while others think Social Security and Medicare will be enough to string them along. Both answers are probably wrong.

Everyone’s number is different and depends on their lifestyle, location and when they plan to retire. There are many retirement calculators online to help you figure out how much you need, but you should see a financial planner if you want a personalized figure.

Mrs. 1500 said you should save 25 times your annual spending “so that you can safely withdraw 4% every year.”

Downsize your home.

Housing costs make up the largest portion of the average consumer’s budget, and a hefty mortgage can delay retirement.

Instead of holding onto your home, find the least expensive option you’ll still be happy with. You might even have enough equity in your current house to pay off a new mortgage. Many retirees like the convenience of a condo where they’re not responsible for mowing the lawn or general maintenance.

A smaller house will also come with lower utilities, property taxes and more. Use the difference to save for retirement.

Move to a cheaper country.

Your nest egg might be too small for a retirement in America, but it could be just enough to spend your golden years overseas. Many South American and Asian countries offer a low cost of living and welcome American expats.

Joseph Hogue of Peer Finance 101 lives in Medellin, Colombia with his wife and son. Their total living expenses equal $1,400 a month – a sum far smaller than anywhere they could find in the US.

“That includes health insurance for a family of three, internet, cable and all the amenities we had when we lived in the States,” he said. “The city is the second largest in the country and has a metro system as well as everything you’d expect in a large metropolitan area.”

Other popular options include Belize, Thailand, the Philippines, and Nicaragua. In many of these destinations you can live on $1,000-$1,500 a month and get access to the same level of healthcare as you had back in the States. Many of these countries have significant expat communities where you can meet other Americans.

“Sometimes it can feel like you never left at all,” Hogue said.

Before you pack your bags, do some research on your chosen destination. Make an approximate budget and factor in flights back home, which may be pricey and exhausting.

Are you prepared for retirement? Do you have any other tips to get ready? Let us know over at the #Adulting Facebook community!

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You could spend your whole life chasing the dream of more money. But to what end? Figure out how much is enough – and be happier for it. Read More...

Have you ever thought about what it would feel like to acquire too much money? I haven’t had that problem, but do plan on discovering what this problem feels like in the future.

But, in all seriousness, how on earth do you decide how much money is enough for you? I have some ideas and thought I would share so that you can have an easier time figuring this out when you have this issue.

Consider your current life circumstances.

I thought I would approach this problem with some Michelle logic. First, it feels obvious the amount of money that you need will change given your current life circumstances. If you’re single and debt-free, the amount of money that you may need and want may be significantly different from a person who is in a relationship, has kids, and a few bills.

Likewise, your past and current life experiences may have a direct effect on how you arrive at the actual number that is your financial sweet spot.  For some of you, early childhood experiences of not having enough money may make it difficult for you to  imagine ever having enough. In fact, your childhood financial experiences may resonate through future decisions such as: the type of work you may choose to pursue, the way you would like to live your life, and even who you plan on marrying.

Figure out your financial sweet spot.

Here’s some general guidelines on figuring out how much money is enough for you.

Ask yourself, are you sick of your job and have lost interest in earning money in the way that you currently are? Yes, this seems a bit counterintuitive, but stick with me. Before I began working for myself, I worked at a university making decent money (especially when you factored in the benefits).

But, there came a point when I just wasn’t interested in earning more money. In fact, while I want to experience earning ridiculous amounts of money in the future, at that specific moment in time I just wanted to change my life. So, I focused on figuring out my lowest earning threshold. What was the bare minimum I need to make in order to live without eating ramen noodles?

I started crunching numbers and figured out what I could live on and still manage paying on my obligations. It was glorious….until, it wasn’t.

Don’t be afraid to shift your goals as your needs change.

My needs had changed. I now find myself looking at future financial goals and have realized that I want to make a lot more money than I currently am. And, I definitely don’t have a maximum earnings threshold. In fact, I felt like I wanted to earn as much money as I could possibly earn without burning myself out. I don’t want to place limits on my ability to earn.

I can honestly say that I look forward to pushing myself as much as possible to see how much money I can earn. In fact, for the next 12 months in my mind there is no “enough” it’s how much is possible? I spent time frantically crunching numbers, I looked at my goals and figured out daily earnings goals. Then I focused on how to achieve those goals.

Finally, spend some time focusing on what makes you happy? There are various studies that have linked happiness to money and studies that have found the exact opposite. There’s also a widely reported study that noted that people weren’t significantly happier when they earned beyond $75,000 a year.

Recently, I’ve gotten very clued into what makes me happy. And, knowing this has helped me zero in on how much money is enough. Some examples of what makes me happy include:

I’ve discovered that my needs aren’t that complicated or expensive.

I took a numbers and heart-based approach to deciding how much money is enough for me. Ultimately, I just want enough money that gives me stability and freedom. And, yes, more money is always better than less.

What are some considerations you use in determining how much money you need? Let us know in the #Adulting community on Facebook.

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A 5-year plan doesn’t have to be a boring cliche. Instead, create a kick-ass plan that adds meaning and purpose to your life. Read More...

It’s one of the most common questions in a job interview: what is your 5-year plan?

While you might have the right answer to give to the HR rep interviewing you, you might not know what you actually want to accomplish in your life.

Do you want to stay on the trajectory your career is on? Or do you dream about switching fields?

Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can use to make significant changes in your life and to fulfill your dreams. Read below to find out how to create a 5-year plan that gives you purpose.

Make a list of your dreams.

The key to creating a plan that will add value, purpose, and meaning to your life is to determine what the end goal is.

Do you dream about starting your own business or switching to a new industry? Or do you want to leave home and travel the world?

Before you can hammer out the details of a plan, you need to start with the end goal.

“Once you have an idea of what you truly want, it gets easier to work backward on the milestones you need to hit to get there,” said Elle Martinez of Couple Money.

So think of what your end goal is. Is it to stay home with your kids and not have to worry about money? Is it being able to take care of your parents full-time? Or do you want to devote yourself to the nonprofit you care so passionately about?

The idea here isn’t to reach your goals next week. You create a 5-year plan so that you can make reasonable, achievable steps. It’s about progress.

Once you know what your ultimate passion is, you can start to work backward to determine what your next steps are.

Talk to an expert.

Sometimes you need help if you’re trying to figure out what to do with the next five years of your life. After you’ve exhausted your significant other, your best friends, and your family, it’s time to find someone who knows what’s up.

Try to find an expert in the field that you’re interested in. This can be someone who graduated from the same college as you, someone active in the community, or even a person you admire that you found on Twitter.

Don’t limit yourself to local people, if you can’t find anyone who fits your description. You can contact people via Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media platform they might have. If you know where they work, you can reach out there.

Before you meet up, bring a list of questions with you. Nothing annoys a busy person more than someone who’s asked for a favor and who’s not prepared for it. You can create a 5-year plan that is reasonable after talking with someone who’s been there. You can create meaning and be realistic about where you’re headed with a little outside perspective.

Always send a thank-you note afterward, either by email or the traditional snail mail route. Keep in touch with that person and don’t always be asking them for a favor. You want the relationship to be reciprocal.

Follow what interests you.

For most of my high school and entire college career, I dreamed of becoming a newspaper reporter. I read the best writers, wrote as much as I could and shadowed reporters I admired. But then I got my first real reporting job at a small newspaper in Northwest Indiana and hated it.

I worked evenings and covered fires, robberies, and car accidents. In a town of 30,000, the topics we covered sometimes felt trivial.

It was then that I started blogging about living frugally. I had decided I wanted to pay off my student loans early and was trying to learn all I could about personal finance. I started reading books and blogs and finally asked my boss if I could start a blog at work about living frugally.

That’s how I discovered I loved writing about money, especially from my own point of view. I found myself focusing more on the blog than on my other assignments, and people noticed. When I left that gig to work at a nonprofit, I started my own blog. That led to the freelance writing career I have now.

If you’re not happy with where your life is going, you need to figure out where your passion truly lies. Sometimes you can only do that by giving something a trial run. There’s nothing wrong with including stepping-stone jobs and trial runs as you create a 5-year plan.

Make it real.

Sometimes it’s not enough to keep a dream in your head. You have to visualize and make it real. Try creating a vision board with images that reflect your dream and the path you’ve chosen to follow. Include quotes and inspirational figures of people you admire. You can also use a life map to set your course.

Don’t be afraid to share your dream with other people. You never know who will have the right connection or give you the best piece of advice. Plus, when people hear your dreams, they might be inspired to give their own a test drive.

The more comfortable you are with expressing your true desires, the less afraid you’ll be to really take on a new challenge.

As you create a 5-year plan meant to give the next few years of your life purpose, keep in mind that you will need to figure out the next years after that. Keep revising and updating as your purpose changes. As long as you are moving forward, and you are able to take steps to reach your goals, your life will have purpose.

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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. Read More...

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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