Leaps of Faith

Depending on your goal, and the changes you’re looking to make, you may find yourself at a crossroads at some point. Do you play it safe or do you take a leap of faith and hope that things will work out? Playing it safe may seem the better choice: less risk, less chance of getting hurt. But at some point you’ll have to take a chance. You’ll have to take that leap of faith – otherwise you won’t get anywhere. You’ll never achieve your goal. But when is the right time to jump?

I find myself at that crossroads now. Or, at least, I anticipate being at that crossroads in a couple of months, when my maternity leave is over. It has been my goal – my dream – to be a work-at-home mom, and maternity leave seemed like the perfect dividing point. Not only would I, obviously, be a mom at the end of it for the first time, but it would be really, really hard going back to work after several weeks away, especially with a little one at home.

So what do I do? From the statement above, the obvious choice would be to stay home, leave work, do what I wanted to do. But looking at my bank statements and the list of bills that still need to be paid, it’s not such an easy choice. I’m not bringing in nearly enough to cover my full-time income – a necessity if we don’t want to get behind on our bills or default on our mortgage. Do I play it safe, go back to work and be a bit on the miserable side? Or do I take a leap of faith, push myself to do everything I can to succeed so I don’t have to go back?

I have many different scenarios running through my head. Is it possible to leap halfway? Maybe switch to part-time at work? Find a job I like better that would make it easier? Or do I leap wholeheartedly, with the determination to make failure not an option?

The answer would be different for everyone, and when you find yourself at such a crossroads, the way you feel then will likely be different than what you feel now. Perspective is everything. And it’s scary! As much as I would love to just jump, I’ve always been one to plan, and prepare, and worry if things are up in the air.

So how much risk are you willing to take on? What kind of reassurance would you need to take that leap of faith? Would you leap or go back?


Inspiration From Benjamin Disraeli

“The secret of success in life is for one to be ready for one’s opportunity when it comes.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
This goes hand in hand with what we’ve discussed already regarding fate and everything happening for a reason. Why not just sit back and wait for fate to take care of you? Because if you’re not ready for the opportunities fate presents, you won’t get anywhere. You won’t realize that what’s happening is an opportunity to be grabbed, and even if you realize it, you won’t be primed and ready to take full advantage of that opportunity.
In the novel I’m currently writing, a character actually talks about this. In her case, she acknowledges that the path her life has taken never would have happened if she hadn’t put herself out there, hadn’t been ready and waiting to meet her husband. The events that brought her to that point had helped her appreciate the opportunity that arose.
So how do you make yourself ready? Putting yourself out there, and learning, growing and developing who you are as a person will make you more aware of who you are, what you want, and where you want to go. And being aware means that when opportunity comes knocking, you’ll recognize it for what it is — and you’ll be ready to grab it by the horns and turn it into a tool for success.
Successful people don’t necessarily get more opportunities. They just know how to make the most of what they’ve got and make themselves ready for the opportunities that come their way.

Your Career: Online Help

Whether you’re looking for ideas, applying for jobs, or looking for assistance with resumes, interview strategies and more, the internet is a valuable tool. As stated previously, there are many sites that can get you started if you’re looking for a little guidance regarding your career path. The help doesn’t stop there, though.

Job Search
When it comes to searching for jobs themselves, many sites will offer listings of available jobs, especially if it relates somewhat to the site’s content. The largest number of jobs, however, can usually be found on the larger, general job-posting sites. You can check out:

If you have a specific industry or area you want to work in, you can also search for industry-specific or location-specific sites that can offer more specialized search tools and resources.

General Information
In addition to job listings, the sites above offer additional resources, such as articles on resume writing and interview skills, that can provide information and guidance in your search. Other sites also offer information in these areas and more. Here are some to get you started:

Forums can be helpful, especially when it comes to specific questions or up-to-the-minute updates and information. You can search for forums regarding a specific topic or industry by heading to your favorite search engine and searching for forum: topic or industry. (Obviously replace “topic or industry” with the actual topic or industry you’re searching for!) Below are some general career forums to get you started:

Forums can also offer support and feedback in your career path and overall career goals. This is especially useful if you’re feeling isolated in your journey or feel that others around you don’t understand what you’re going through.

Other Resources
In addition to website and forums, there are other electronic tools that can offer help and inspiration. You can also check out podcasts, online magazines, apps and more. Search your favorite electronic device to get ideas.

Great Expectations

Have you ever given thought to what life will be like when you accomplish your goal? I bet if you have, you’re picturing a rosy, perfect life filled with happiness and joy, right? Now get realistic and think about what it’ll really be like. Where will the results of your actions lead you?
There are a couple of goals that I personally have that sound great — but even after I reach my goal, I’ll still be putting in a lot of work to maintain things and keep myself in that “rosy, perfect life.” For example, one of my goals was to start a family. Well, I’m just about there. And yes, I’m very happy that my little baby boy is almost here. But guess what? With that comes sleepless nights, mess and noise, stress and worry. So much for picture perfect. And yet, it was what I wanted. So where did my goal get me?
I’ll give you another example. When changing my career, I made the decision to focus on my writing. And the perfect life I picture will enable me to work at home, be there for my children and make a name for myself. But what will that life really bring me? Any kind of self employment brings its share of headaches when it comes to cash flow, keeping yourself motivated and disciplined, and balancing work and life. And, yes, I’ll be there for my children — all the time. Meaning I won’t get that mental break parents who work outside of the home get. I’ll be the one to soothe boo-boos and pick them up when they’re sick at school. I’ll have to deal with arguments and yelling and general rowdiness. Not exactly idyllic.
So where do your goals lead you?
Now I’m not trying to discourage you from accomplishing your goals. I just don’t want you to think that the goal is the only thing to think about. If you focus only on one thing, one point in time, you’ll be disappointed — not only on the way there as you’re frustrated with not being there yet, but also when you get there when you realize it’s not everything you had imagined in your rosy picture. Being realistic will keep you grounded, and keep you focused on what’s really important. Life is filled with good and bad, in balance. As long as there’s more good than bad, I’d say you’re pretty lucky!
In the meantime, while you’re striving for your goals, you can also prepare yourself to make reality even more pleasant. Being realistic will help you lay the foundation for a happier life, as you set yourself up for success instead of disappointment.
With my first example above, I can be more prepared by researching child rearing. I can be prepared with things I’ll need for less-than-perfect situations — like thermometers, diaper rash cream and more. And I can learn relaxation techniques for when he really tries my patience. With my second example, I can be more prepared by coming up with a finance plan, learning time management skills and really doing some soul-searching when it comes to determining what’s important to me.
No matter what your goal, or the challenges that will face you even after you reach it, cutting yourself some slack and accepting that life isn’t perfect — and never will be — will help you enjoy life for what it is. There will be a lot of good moments, worthwhile moments, that make you happy. But accepting that it won’t all be perfect will help make the wonderful little moments all that much sweeter.

Inspiration From Diane Ackerman

“I don’t want to be a passenger in my own life.” ~ Diane Ackerman
Whatever the reason for your decision to take charge of your life, this is certainly a compelling one. It may be easier to watch life go by, to settle for whatever comes your way. But is it satisfying? Does it fulfill you? I suppose only you can answer that question, but chances are if you’re reading this blog, it would not.
I know I wouldn’t be content just letting life happen. Sure, some good stuff could come my way. Just as easily some bad stuff could come by, too. And, technically, the same could be said even if I do play a more active role in my life. But at least if I take charge I can say I really lived. I can say I did what I wanted to do, became who I wanted to be. Instead of being a passenger, watching life go by, I am the driver, steering my way down the road, following the paths I want to follow, taking detours as I see fit, avoiding the potholes as much as possible.
Along the same lines, I can do a complete 180 if I want to. I can change my course if I’m unhappy with how things are going. That’s what I’m doing now. Instead of heading down the path I had been heading down — complete with unsatisfying jobs, a sense of being lost and unfulfilled, and an unhappy reality, I can try something new, take a new road, backtrack a bit and try again. I can take charge. After all: I’m in the driver’s seat.

Making a Difference: Starting Small

It may seem that to truly make a difference you have to dish out tons of money or time. So how can you move forward in this goal if you don’t have the money or time to give? You start small.
Sometimes the smallest action or donation can make a huge difference. Just ask the starving man who received a hot meal, the new mother who was able to get an hour of uninterrupted sleep, or the struggling student who got helping figuring out the difficult problem. None of these scenarios required a lot of time or money, yet the recipient was more than grateful for the help. Here are some ideas to get you started in your own journey to make a difference:
Donate to your local food pantry
Go through your kitchen cabinets for non-perishable items that you aren’t using (make sure you check expiration dates to ensure they’re still good) and donate them to the local food pantry. Or pick up a few staples next time you go grocery shopping and donate those. Some food pantries will also accept donations of health and beauty items. Contact your local social services department if you aren’t sure where the food pantry is or how to donate.
Donate to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or other organizations
Clothes, housewares, books and more can be donated to charitable organizations. The items will either be given to those who need them or sold to earn cash that can be used to help others. Clean out your closets and drawers to find items you no longer need or want, and donate these to one such organization. Even larger items, like furniture, can be donated if they’re in good condition.
Donate to a battered women’s shelter
Shelters that help victims of domestic abuse can benefit from donations of health and beauty items and clothing items, especially items that can help women establish new lives and careers (suits for job interviews, etc.) Clean out your closets or pick up a few items on your next shopping excursion.
Shop at Goodwill, the Salvation Army or Savers
Next time you need to pick up an article of clothing, something for your home, or a new book or movie, swing by your local thrift store. You get what you need, and the money you spend goes toward a worthwhile organization — it’s a win-win.
Organize a food or clothing drive
If you’re part of a school or organization, put together a drive to gather food or clothing to donate. Have members bring in items to donate, then bring those items over to the food pantry or thrift store.
Organize a blood drive
Contact your local branch of the Red Cross to see how you can arrange a blood drive at your school or business.
Volunteer in small doses
Even an hour or two can help out your local groups and organizations. Help organize a book drive at your local library. See if you can help at a school’s homework helpline. Call local organizations that mean something to you — shelters, soup kitchens, animal shelters, etc. — and see if they want some help answering phones, filing paperwork, or helping visitors or clients. Any non-profit organization will rely on volunteers to help them function. Call around and see where you can help.
Go visiting
Some groups of people would love to simply have someone sit with them for a bit — especially elderly residents at assisted-living complexes and terminally-ill children in hospitals. Taking some time to spread some cheer can make them smile and perk up their days a bit.
Help your friends and family
Don’t forget to look close to home when it comes to helping others. Do you have an elderly neighbor? Offer to shovel snow, cook a meal or two, or help clean house. Know a parent with small children? Offer to babysit so that parent can go grocery-shopping, run errands, attend appointments, etc. without a child underfoot. Keep an eye and ear open for opportunities that might help those around you: job openings for your cousin looking for employment, doctor recommendations for a parent whose doctor is retiring, potential customers for your brother starting his own business.
Opportunities to help others are all around you. Just keep looking!

Making Lists and Plans

In posts thus far, I’ve often referred to your “game plan” or “course of action.” What I’m talking about is the series of steps you’re taking to get you to your goals. These steps can be as broad or specific as you want or need them to be. They can be short-term, long-term, in-between or a mix of all three. As you progress in your goals, you’ll find a system that works for you.
For me, I’ve found what works for me changes as time progresses. Overall, though, my plan consists of a series of to do lists partnered with a schedule that dictates when I’m doing those items. The format may change with my mood, or as my focus shifts, but the overall plan stays the same for the most part.
Today I’ll be talking a bit about what I do. Maybe it’ll help you; maybe it won’t. Either way I hope it’ll give you ideas that will help when formulating your own course of action.
The first step is taking my desired end result and figuring out what I would need to do to get there. Let’s take a simple example: to become debt-free, I need to pay off each credit card bill and avoid charging additional items. Simple enough. I list each credit card I need to pay off. Then I break it down even farther: how much do I owe on each card? What’s the interest rate on each one? When it comes to the second part, avoiding additional charging, I try to figure out where I can cut back on spending so we’re not living beyond our means. Are there bills I can lower? Expenses I can cut?
Each one of the items on this new list becomes a mini goal, and I can break it down even farther. How am I going to pay off those bills? Will I establish a debt snowball to pay them off one at a time? Will I look at changing energy suppliers to cut my electric bill? Cutting out unneeded items on our cell phone bill? Spending-wise we’re already pretty bare bones, but if I were one to indulge, I could add things like cutting out my daily coffee and bagel run, cutting back on clothes shopping, etc.
The things I come up with become my to do list. Some items I may need to break down farther as I go along, but for now I at least have an actionable list. And once I’ve got a concrete idea of what I’m going to do, I put it into effect. I take the things I’ve decided to do and do them. I look into changing energy suppliers and select one. I cut out those extra minutes we don’t use on our cell phone. And I determine how much I’ll pay each month toward my credit card bills. Each action will take me closer to my goal, and I can check things off my to do list. If there are items I’m trying not to do, I can put that on my to do list for each day or week or month, too: i.e. pass Starbucks without stopping.
When I do the items on my to do list will vary. Some things, such as actually paying the credit card bills, get done according to my bill-paying schedule. Other things I fit in as I have the time. Sometimes I’ll take my work schedule for the week or the month and actually write in when I’ll do things, according to when I have a morning or day off.
Since I have so many goals going at once, my schedule gets quite full. To keep myself somewhat organized, there are times when I will plan out every spare moment. (When I’m feeling really unfocused, I might even plan out every free hour to keep myself on track.) Sometimes this will consist of a general goal for the day (for example “update website”). Other times I will give myself more specific tasks (make a particular phone call, run a particular errand, etc.).
Now, I’m not perfect. There are definitely times when I don’t finish everything on my schedule or my to do list. But having it all written down helps keep me accountable and focused. It’s harder to slack off without guilt if I know there are things I had scheduled myself to do. And, ultimately, the purpose is to move forward in my goals. The only way to do that is to move forward with my course of action. And, for me, that’s checking things off my to do list. What works for you?

Inspiration From Frank Crane

“Nobody has things just as they would like them. The thing to do is to make a success with what material I have. It is a sheer waste of time and soul-power to imagine what I would do if things were different. They are not different.” ~ Frank Crane
I read these words and find they’re much easier said than done. Usually I’m bemoaning the lack of time I have, since there never seem to be enough hours in the day, and they’re often filled with things I don’t want to do! Or there’s the money, of which there’s never enough. I wish I could rise above the disappointment and take charge with what I have, but I find myself slipping down into negative thinking on occasion.
The key here, I think, is acceptance. Sitting and bemoaning my fate does nothing except make me depressed and miserable. Obviously I can’t make more time. I can just do the best with what I have. And the same applies to other things, as well. I can’t will myself to have more money, better health or a greater impact. I have to accept my current reality.
Once I’ve accepted it, then I can do something to change what is in my power to change. I can take my current situation and resources, figure out what can be done with them, and try to improve my situation. Things may not be different right now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take charge and turn them into something that works for me. Rather than waste “time and soul-power” I am instead taking action and being productive. And the things I can’t change? Well, nothing’s perfect. But at least if I can learn to work with them instead of against them, maybe I’ll get somewhere.

Your Health: Getting a Tune-Up

With the overall busy-ness of life, it’s easy to let your health take a backseat. Women, especially, are notorious for putting everything and everyone ahead of themselves. So until something happens, visiting the doctor is bottom on the priority list. If you’ve decided to take charge of your health, it’s likely you want to change at least some part of this.
Taking charge of your health, though, is more than just tackling the weight issue or the quitting smoking issue — or any of the more specific, demanding goals you’ve established. Taking charge of your health should be about making sure you’re running your best, keeping yourself in shape and healthy. Still need convincing? Here are some reasons why making your health a priority can be a good thing:
  • You’ll feel better
  • You’ll look better
  • You’ll catch problems earlier — which means better chance of recovery
  • Lower overall medical bills, because you’ll have less issues less often
If you’re convinced that taking overall care of yourself is the best course of action, there’s no time like the present to start. Schedule a physical with your primary care physician (PCP) to get checked out. Women, also schedule an exam with your gynecologist. Don’t have a PCP or gynecologist? Try the sites below to find one:
While you’re at it, you may want to schedule a check-up with your dentist and optometrist, too. Get everything checked out so you know what you’re working with. To find a dentist or optometrist, try the sites below:
Once you’ve made your appointments, take a few minutes to think about anything you might want to discuss with the doctors. Are there any concerns you have? Questions you have? Have you noticed anything “off” about your body lately? Any symptoms you can’t quite explain? Write down anything you want to know more about or want the doctor to check out.
Now here’s the key: take that list and actually talk to the doctor. It can be easy to get shy or nervous when talking about personal, private things like your body. But the doctor can’t help unless he or she knows what’s wrong. And that doctor won’t know how you feel. Try not to be nervous — there’s likely nothing you can say or feel that the doctor hasn’t experienced before. Think how much better you’ll feel just getting reassurance or taking measures to get better!
Once the appointment is over, though, you’re not done. It’s one thing to go to the doctor and get checked out. It’s quite another to follow through and actually carry out the recommendations the doctor has made. To get yourself in tip-top shape and keep yourself there, you need to take into consideration what the doctor has recommended.
Take notes if necessary. What is the doctor recommending you do? Are there vitamins or medications he or she is recommending? An exercise regimen to start or continue? Special diet to follow? Are there tests he or she is sending you for? Anything you need to monitor? If you don’t agree with something or have concerns about it, get a second opinion.
Once you have a course of action, stick with it. There will be times that it’s not easy, especially if the changes are drastic. And you won’t feel spic-and-span brand new right away. Things take time. Just take things one step at a time and keep your eye on the ultimate goal of being healthy. And think about how great you’ll feel when you get there!

Dealing With Setbacks

Last week I discussed setting mini goals to keep yourself moving forward. But even with a great game plan in place, inspiration to keep you motivated, and rewards here and there as you meet your mini goals, there will be times when things won’t go so smoothly. You will encounter setbacks, not the least of which will take place in your own mind.
Out of Your Control
Sometimes things happen that are just out of your control — but they’ll have a negative impact on your goals. You don’t get that job. Your car breaks down. Your significant other breaks up with you. You get sick, whether it’s minor or not. An organization you volunteer with doesn’t need your help anymore.
These outside factors can set you back a bit and make you feel as if you’ve taken one step forward only to get pushed two steps back. Rest assured this is normal. Life isn’t all smooth sailing. Just think how great it’ll feel when things actually go right! These setbacks will help you appreciate the positive when it happens. But in the meantime, do the best you can to muddle through. If you need to wallow a bit, take that time to wallow. Just make sure you’re ready to pick yourself up and push forward again when the wallowing is done.
Let’s face it, we’re not perfect. There will be times when we’ll slip a little in our goals and do something that will counteract what we’re trying to achieve, whether it’s splurging on that chocolate cake or buying that gadget we really didn’t need.
Don’t beat yourself up about it. Repeat: don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s going to happen. And the harder you are on yourself, the worse you’ll feel, and the harder it will be to get yourself back on track. Now that’s not saying that you can just throw caution to the wind and do whatever you feel like. If you’re serious about turning things around and taking charge of your life, you’ll need to do the right thing most of the time. But cutting yourself some slack when you slip up will make it easier to stay on track the rest of the time. If you allow yourself a little freedom, you won’t feel as restricted — and you won’t feel the need to rebel with more constant slip-ups.
If you find yourself slipping up often, ask yourself why. Maybe you’re trying to bite off too much at a time. Maybe you’re trying to take steps that are just too drastic. Cut back a little, make your efforts a little smaller, and see if you can do better. Baby steps will still get you there. It may take a little longer, but if you’re frequently setting yourself back, those big steps aren’t getting you there any faster anyway! It’s all about finding the right pace for you — so you can keep yourself in the right frame of mind:
  • Maybe cutting out all extra spending all at once is too much. Try just cutting out that daily coffee to start with.
  • Maybe cutting out all sweets is too dramatic. Try limiting yourself to one or two a day instead.
  • Maybe expecting to ace all your classes is too much pressure. Just try your best, study for your tests, and see how well you do.
If progress seems slow, or outside factors seem to be against you and you don’t seem to be treading water, never mind moving ahead, it’s easy to start thinking negatively. And this can lead to bouts of depression, whether you’re normally prone to them or not. That’s OK. No one expects you to be happy all the time. But you will have to get yourself out of it eventually. So how do you do it?
I wrote an article for Suite101.com about how to boost your mood. I encourage you to read it here. It’ll give you some ideas to get yourself out of your funk. In addition, when it comes to my goals, I find that simply taking a little bit of time to think about the goal, reformulate my game plan, and come up with concrete action steps helps get me thinking proactively again. My mood may not be magically better, but at least it gets me back on the right track.
If you find yourself constantly in a cloud of depression, and nothing you do gets you out of it, you may need to talk to a doctor. There’s no shame in that. Do what you have to do to get yourself feeling better. Even if one of your goals wasn’t to focus on your health, it’s never too late to add a new goal to the mixing pot!