Making the Most of What You’ve Got

If you’ve got it, flaunt it, right? Well, when it comes to making changes in your life, if you’ve got it, utilize it. This could be time, money, people, resources — anything that can help you in your new mission. Let’s see some examples, shall we?

  1. You want to find a new career, so you tell everyone you know. (Utilizing your friends and acquaintances.)
  2. You want to earn more money to get out of debt, so you spend your weekends mowing lawns and raking leaves. (Utilizing your spare time.)
  3. You want to repair your relationship with your mother, so you enlist your younger brother, who has a close relationship with Mom, to help. (Utilizing your family members.)
  4. You want to lose weight, so you scour your cabinets and cookbooks to find low-fat recipes and ideas. (Utilizing your resources.)
  5. You want to make a difference in children’s lives, so you spend a couple of nights a week coaching a basketball team. You also take some of your personal funds to purchase uniforms and equipment for the team. (Utilizing your spare time and money.)

These are obviously not the only ways you can use what you’ve got to move you forward, but they’ll give you some ideas. Below are some more ideas to really get the ball rolling.

Time
Time can be your greatest resource, and using the time you’ve got can be a valuable way to get what you want. In the examples above, time was used to take action on changes you want to make. Time can also be used to research, network or plan out a course of action. And putting time to good use will move you forward more than anything else.

Now before you start arguing “I have no free time!” take a good hard look at your day. How much time do you spend watching TV? Surfing the web? Texting or chatting with your friends? That time could be spent moving you forward in your goals. If your nights and weekends are already filled to the brim, see where you can maybe cut back on some extracurricular activities that don’t mean very much to you. Or use your lunch break to look for that new job, search for healthy recipes or research volunteer opportunities.

Money
If what you want to change is in the money category, this may not be a plentiful resource for you to use. But before you dismiss it completely, take a look at your finances and make sure you’re really putting your money to its best use. Are you wasting money on eating out? Frivolous purchases? Special features on your TV or cell phone bill that you don’t use? Redirect your money so it’s moving you closer to your goals.

If money is not an issue for you, then perhaps it can help you in your mission: fund education to advance your career, enlist the help of a counselor to help with your family or relationship troubles, hire a personal trainer to help in weight loss or working out goals, donate to a charity that means a lot to you. The sky’s the limit.

People
Your friends, family and acquaintances can also be a valuable tool when it comes to advancing your goals. As I mentioned in a previous post, telling everyone you know can give you a kick in the butt when it comes to keeping you on track. But talking to them about your changes can provide you with support, information and leads on new ideas and opportunities as well. This is called networking and many people will tell you that it’s the only way to get ahead. Even if you don’t know how to get a foot in the door at a particular place of employment, or you’re not familiar with the latest medical breakthrough, a friend of a friend might. And that’s a very powerful tool to have in your belt. In addition, simply talking to others about your changes can encourage ideas that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

When you’re accepting the help of other people, however, make sure you’re not taking advantage of them. Just as they can help you, you may be able to help them. Keep your eyes and ears open for any opportunities that can help someone you know, and be willing to lend an ear to someone else who needs to discuss making changes, too.

Resources
Just about anything else can fall into this category. In the example I used above, I mentioned using the tangible items — food and cookbooks — that you already had to guide you. But even intangible items can help you in your mission. For example, if you’re reading this blog, you have the internet at your fingertips. The internet offers a wealth of information on any subject imaginable. Using it to research what you want to change can give you tons of ideas. Likewise the library and the people who work there can provide information and leads in a variety of subjects.

More abstractly, consider taking a walk to clear your head. This can free your mind to problem solve and think more creatively. Listen to music. Paint a picture. Doodle. Your greatest resource is your brain — use it!

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I Think I Can

There have been books written about it. People have spoken about it. It’s pretty powerful stuff. What it is? The power of positive thinking. It’s like the Little Engine That Could, chugging up that mountain. If you think you can do it, then you can. By the same token, if you think you can’t do it, then you can’t. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. So moral of the story? Believe in yourself, and you’ll get far.

There is a quote I’ve loved since I was in high school. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia says “we know what we are but know not what we may be.” It’s been quite some time since I’ve read Hamlet, so I don’t recall the context exactly. But I’ve always interpreted it to be saying that anything is possible. We don’t know what we’re capable of. And while that can be good or bad, I prefer to see the positive side of it: I can do anything. I can achieve anything. I can be who I want to be. If you believe in yourself, and you truly want your goals to become reality, you can achieve them.

Now this may sound cheesy to all you cynics out there. Even I can acknowledge that it’s a slightly skewed version of things. But I really believe that the more you think positively, and the harder you work toward your goal, the more likely you’ll achieve it. Negative thinking doesn’t move you forward. It will just make you depressed, discouraged, and unmotivated. Try to keep yourself going in the right direction.

This journey you’ve decided to start won’t be easy. There are times when you’ll think it’s just better to throw in the towel and go back to how things were. But remember what brought you to this point. If you haven’t already, take a moment or two to visualize what your life will be like when you’ve made the changes you’re trying to make. What comes to mind? Try to remember that when the going gets tough. Remember that image you just visualized. If it helps, find a picture or symbol online, print it out and post it on your fridge or somewhere else you’ll see it every day. That is what you’re striving for. That is what will keep you going. And if you believe you can get there, you’ll get there.

A Game Plan – Spread the Word!

Hopefully by now you have an idea of what you want to change, and maybe you have some ideas on how to change. As time progresses we’ll come up with more ideas, motivation, and inspiration that will guide you in your new mission.

So you’re taking charge. You have an idea of what you want to change and maybe even how you’re gonna do it. What’s next?
Tell everyone you know.
Tell your friends, your family, your hairdresser, and the guy down the street. Post it on Facebook, tweet about it and blog about it. Let people know about the changes you want to make.
Why?
The reasoning is twofold:
  1. If you didn’t tell anyone and just decided to give up, it would be easy. But knowing how many people you would disappoint by giving up can be enough incentive to keep going. You wouldn’t want to let them all down, would you?
  2. Some of the people you tell will become a support group for you. They can motivate you and encourage you when things get hard. They can give you a kick in the butt when you start slacking off. They’ll hold you accountable and keep you going. And that support can be invaluable.
So what if you don’t have people to talk to about this? Or what if what you want to change is too private, and you don’t want to share it with people you’re close to? What if the people you tell don’t seem very supportive, and maybe even criticize you for making the decision?
Well, as I stated way back in the beginning, the beauty of today’s society is how easy it is to connect with other people, no matter where they live or what they do. So go online. No matter what you’re looking to change, there will be support groups and forums to help you in your journey. I’ve listed some below to get you started. If your changes are on the specific side, do a search. Something is bound to turn up.
Another option is to hit the library. Many national organizations have local chapters that can help you in your mission, especially if it falls into a popular category such as losing weight. The library may also have information on seminars and classes that can give you more information and guidance as you proceed.
An added benefit of online forums and other support groups is the wealth of knowledge their members can provide. Many of the people you’ll interact with have been on their journey a lot longer than you have. They can offer not only support but information, guidance and additional resources. Even if you have friends and family who offer support, you may want to check out these groups as well for the added benefits.
Online forums to get you started
Career
Money
Relationships
Health
Making a Difference
To find more forums, just visit google.com and search for forum: (topic). Happy hunting!

Take Charge and Make a Difference

The internet and other media have truly made our world a global community. While that’s great as far as education and communication are concerned, it can also increase awareness of all the people and causes who could use our help. If you’re feeling the urge to truly make a difference in the lives of others, then this posting is for you.
There are many ways to make a difference, from writing a check to traveling across the globe to help out firsthand. Regardless of what works for you, help is appreciated and gives not only those you help but you yourself a sense of fulfillment and well-being.
Donating
The quickest, simplest way to contribute is by writing a check (or the monetary or electronic equivalent!). Money can go a long way toward helping people and organizations who need help. Just make sure you’re familiar with the organizations you’re contributing to. Not all groups are reputable, and even some reputable organizations may be questionable when it comes to the percentage of monetary donations that are applied to actually doing good. Check out www.CharityNavigator.org or www.CharityWatch.org to look up organizations you’re interested in.
In addition to monetary donations, you can also donate items that are needed — food, clothing, health and beauty aids, and more. Look for groups advertising food and clothing drives or inquire at your town’s social services department to find out how to donate. Items often go directly to those who need them, ensuring your donation is truly being put to good use.
Volunteering
When it comes to local groups and organizations, volunteering is a great way to help out, especially if you don’t have the monetary resources to finance a group or project or simply want a more hands-on way to give back. And if you have a specific skill or talent, there’s probably a group who would love to utilize it. If you’re particularly ambitious, you can even join an organization that will send you around the country and even around the world to help others with disaster relief and ongoing needs.
To find volunteer opportunities, check out www.Serve.gov to search for opportunities in your area or contact local groups and organizations to see if they could use a helping hand. Don’t forget places like nursing homes and hospitals that offer worthwhile opportunities to truly connect with other people.
Mentoring
If working with children is your forte, and you’re interested in helping at-risk kids, consider mentoring. You can coach, tutor, or just be a friend willing to lend a hand and a sympathetic ear. Check out http://www.nationalmentoringmonth.org/ to look for opportunities. You can also inquire at your town’s social services department about local opportunities, such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

Take Charge of Your Health

When it comes to your health, there are some things you have control over, and some things you don’t. I’m sure if we could all live a healthy, pain-free life, we would. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do everything possible to keep yourself as healthy as possible.

Overall Maintenance
Regular physicals are a great idea. Not only will they let you know how you’re doing — and catch potential problems early — they’ll also give you an opportunity to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have had. You can ask questions, get checked out, and see what you need to do to get yourself in good shape.

If you’re not a fan of traditional medical establishments, there are alternative medical practices that can help you as well: chiropractic, acupuncture, Nutrition Response Testing and others. You’re kind of like a car — if you maintain yourself, you’ll last longer. Don’t take care of yourself, and you’re bound to encounter problems.

Getting Better
If you have medical concerns, discuss with your medical practitioner how to help yourself. Are there vitamins or medications you should be taking? Is there a diet or fitness regimen you should be following? Knowing what you should do to put yourself in the best position possible can help put you in control and make you feel like you can change your life. Even if you can’t control everything, controlling the controllables can put you in a better position overall.

Diet
Most of us have probably been on some kind of diet at some point in our lives. Whether it was to lose weight, get healthy, or follow a medical recommendation, these diets have likely altered our ways of eating. Did they work? What was effective and what wasn’t? Why or why not?

A well-balanced diet filled with nutrients is, obviously the best choice. Your dietary needs and limitations can adjust the specifics of what you can and cannot eat, however, and to determine the best diet for you I encourage you to discuss with your medical practitioners. If you have no specific limitations, look to fill your diet with a variety of proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Limit sugar and fat intake. You know — the basics that you’ve probably been hearing about since elementary school. Your personality may make this easy or difficult, but keep in mind that you control what you eat, and you can take charge of this part of your life, just as you can with the others.

Keeping Fit
Most doctors will tell you that physical activity is good for you. Get moving and you can reap the benefits of higher metabolism, great muscle tone, lower body fat and others. You can strengthen your heart and keep everything working more smoothly.

I admit, I could do better in this area. And I hope to do so in the coming year. I’m sure having a little one to run around after will keep me in better shape! But baby aside, I need to walk more, move more, instead of so much sitting. To do that, I will be coming up with a game plan to get myself in shape. Exercise, partnered with a better diet, should help me make that a reality. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

In the meantime, think about what you can do to get yourself moving. Even if you have a tight schedule, chances are you can fit in a daily walk or jog, a quick yoga session, or even a dance around the living room, rocking out to the latest hits.

Take Charge of Your Relationships – Family

“Family” can encompass a lot of people: mother, father, sister, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, spouses, children, even pets. Your relationships with some or all of them may be strained, whether it’s a personality conflict or they just did something that really ticked you off. Or maybe you’re looking to enhance your relationships, get closer to some of your family members. Maybe you want to add to your family by having a child or adopting a pet.

Your Relatives
They’re the people in your life you didn’t pick: your blood relations who may or may not bring you joy. If you’re content in your relationship with them, you likely don’t need this section. But if they drive you crazy (not in a good way!) and you find yourself avoiding them, perhaps it’s time to evaluate your relationship and see what to do about it.

There are different types of conflict, and you have to decide if you’re willing to deal with it or if you want to step back. If you want to have a close relationship with family members who have certain qualities or past actions that have hurt you, then you have to learn to let some things go. While you can never forget who they are or what they’ve done, you have to accept them for who they are — flaws and all. Can you do that? If not, the relationship may not be salvagable. If your interactions will constantly be tainted by memories and teeth-grinding, perhaps you should limit your interactions as much as possible. But if you truly want to build a relationship with them, look inside yourself and think about what you can accept. It’s not about forgetting what they did or who they are — it’s about accepting it and not letting it consume you and your relationship. Can you move past it?

Your spouse
All relationships require work, but these are perhaps the most crucial. You love your spouse (theoretically). You have chosen to spend your life with him or her. Where you live, what you do, how you act — chances are they’re all affected by your spouse and the decision to be together.

If you’re at the point of divorce, I won’t try to talk to you out of it. That’s none of my business. I believe you have to do what’s right for you. But I will ask this: are you sure? Have you looked at your relationship and determined there’s no way to fix what’s wrong? Only you can answer that question, and only you can make the ultimate decision. I would just encourage you to make sure that this is what you want.

That being said, what could use improving in your relationship? Chances are there’s something. I love my husband dearly, but there are still times he drives me nuts. And I know I do the same for him. It’s just human nature. But if there’s something that truly needs changing, sit down and talk about it. Talk about what’s missing, what’s not working, what needs help. Try not to get defensive or attack your spouse. This is supposed to bring you closer, not drive you farther apart. Do you need more affection? He or she won’t know unless you say something. Do you need help around the house? Support in a decision you’ve made? Feedback on a career change? No matter what it is, talk about it. Not only will it help you get what you need, but it can also bring you closer.

The conversation shouldn’t be one-sided though. If you’ve been feeling some tension, chances are your partner has as well. Listen to what he or she says, what he or she needs. And don’t brush off his or her concerns. Listen and respond accordingly. For your relationship to work, you need to be able to give as well as take. And don’t forget to thank your spouse for actions he or she has taken that address your needs. Everyone wants to feel appreciated.

Kids

For me, I was happy with my marriage, my friendships, my relatives, etc. The part I wanted to change was becoming a parent. My husband and I wanted to have a child, and we were already trying to conceive when I decided to make changes in my life. But we had been having some difficulty, and that was very discouraging and depressing, especially when combined with my general unhappiness.There are obviously medical issues that can delay or prevent you from conceiving a child. Some can be overcome; some cannot. I won’t say that simply deciding to take charge of your life will magically make these issues disappear. All I can say is that figuring out what’s going on, and determining what you can do about it, can give you the information you need to take the steps that will get you where you want to be. When we were having trouble, we talked about our options. If we hadn’t been able to conceive, we had considered adoption. We are fortunate in that we were able to get pregnant, but it’s a fact of life that it may not have happened. That doesn’t mean we would have had to give up our dream of becoming parents. If you’re having trouble conceiving, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about your options. Then you can make the decisions that are right for you and your significant other.

Perhaps, however, you already have kids — and they’re driving you nuts. Hey, they’re kids, right? True, but some kids have issues that need addressing. Accept your kids as much as possible, then seek help for the concerns that really need taking care of, whether they be medical issues or behavioral issues. Books, doctors, counselors and support groups can all help you in your goals. Just make sure the problems are actually problems — and not you trying to make your children into people they’re not. Forcing your idea of what your child should be can not only cause your child to act out and rebel, it can also cause irreparable damage in the form of a strained relationship or repercussions from actions taken while acting out.

Pets
Animals can be welcome additions to any family. They offer love and affection and even have medical benefits. From what I’ve read they can help diminish the chance of allergies in children, reduce stress, and help the elderly in finding purpose and improving quality of life. Adopt a pet instead of purchase one, and you can also help an animal in need.

Just like kids, pets need love, attention, medical care and basic needs taken care of. If you want to welcome an animal into your home, make sure you’re able and willing to meet all these needs before taking a life into your hands.

Take Charge of Your Relationships – Friends

I can be a bit of a loner. I enjoy my own company. That being said, there are still times I want a friend to talk to or someone to hang out with. For many of you, friends are an integral part of your life, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. Then there are those who want those few confidantes or cluster of friends and yet are having trouble finding them. Perhaps you just moved to a new area. Perhaps you’ve been too busy to really nurture any friendships. Or perhaps you’re just really shy. No matter the reason, you can still meet new people and form lasting relationships.

Make New Friends
Meeting new friends can be much like meeting a new potential life partner. You want to find someone you “click” with, someone who shares some common interests while being different enough to keep things interesting. So where do you look? As with everything else, possibilities abound. You can check out the night scene. You can sign up for classes you’re interested in. You can go online and join forums and chat groups in topics that appeal to you. Talk to your neighbors. Join local organizations, such as the Junior Women’s Club or Kiwanis. Join a religious establishment and talk to the leaders there about social events.

Once you’ve found places to meet people, go. It can be very scary to put yourself out there, but sitting at home by yourself, too scared to talk to anybody, will ensure you remain by yourself. If you’re shy, start small. Chat with people online to build your confidence. Perhaps some of the forums and groups you chat in have local members. If you hit it off, arrange to meet for coffee. Once you’re comfortable with yourself and what you have to offer, expand your social circle to meet other people as well. Talk with others who share common interests. Participate in events that appeal to you and will give you the opportunity to meet others who share your passions. Give yourself the opportunity to connect with others who can be valuable additions to your life.

But Keep the Old
Relationships new and old need to be nurtured. It’s not just about meeting someone, chatting them up for a bit and then calling when you need something. Friendships, just like romantic relationships, are about give and take. Be the kind of friend you would want to have. Support your friends in their times of need. Lend an ear. Help with birthday parties, support their kids and offer to help them in a pinch. Be a comedian when he or she is down. Make chicken soup when he or she is sick.

Of course that doesn’t mean to let your friends’ lives consume your own. To be a worthwhile friend, you still need to be a worthwhile person. Nurture yourself, as well, so you still have something to offer yourself, your friends and the rest of the world. As I said, it’s about give and take. Just as you would help your friend in a time of need, look to your friends when you need help. Not only will your friend appreciate being needed, it will also strengthen your bond and help you get closer.

If you find that a “friend” is not the supportive, loving person that you need him or her to be, consider his or her role in your life. Is he or she just a friend you see or talk to occasionally, a peripheral member of your life? If so, then perhaps that’s OK. Not everyone will be a close, vital member of your circle of friends. Is he or she going through a difficult time right now? That’s OK, too. Cut him or her a little slack. There just may not be enough hours in the day at the moment for him or her to really be there for you. Offer support in the hope that once things get back on an even keel, your friend will be there for you, too. Is he or she the kind of person who will come to you only when they need something, borrow money without repaying it, constantly say they’re “too busy” when you need or want something? Then perhaps it’s time to cut your losses and look for friendship elsewhere. A friend that is just a drain on your mental and physical resources without any benefit to your life is simply not worth your time and effort. It may sound callous, but with billions of people in the world, why are you wasting your time with someone who makes your life worse?

Take Charge of Your Relationships – Romance Part 2

Not everyone needs help finding someone or forming a lasting relationship. But that doesn’t mean everything is hunky dory. Maybe your relationship isn’t satisfying you. Maybe something needs to change. Or maybe it needs to end.

Note: If you are in an abusive relationship and need help getting out of it, please seek help. I am certainly not an expert in this area and would not want to give you advice that would harm you. Just remember that you are a worthwhile human being, and no one deserves to be in a relationship that is mentally, emotionally or physically abusive. You deserve better.

Making Changes
Ideally, any relationship you’re in will meet your expectations, make you feel safe and happy and bring you fulfillment. In reality, it doesn’t really work like that. As humans, we’re all different, and it’s natural that we’ll have different expectations and different ways of looking at things. There will be conflict. There will be tension. And even if you’re overall happy with each other, there will be times you simply don’t see eye-to-eye.

If you find yourself constantly being defensive or not trusting your partner, take a good look at yourself. Are you giving your significant other a chance? Are you seeing him or her for who he or she really is or are you projecting your own insecurities onto him or her? Make sure the things you’re arguing about are real — not your interpretations of what’s taking place.

If, however, you’ve followed my recommendations from the previous post, you accept yourself for who you are, and you accept the person you’re with for who he or she is. As such, you should have a pretty good idea if you get along well.  If you’re constantly fighting (as it seemed I was with my ex-boyfriend), maybe you aren’t meant to be together. If you seem to bring out the worst in each other, maybe you would be better apart. Recognizing what you really want is the first step to determining how to proceed. If you’re unhappy, even miserable, most of the time, it’s time to part ways.

But even if you’re happy with someone, love him or her and want to be with him or her, it’s not a guarantee that your life together will be all you hope. Maybe you have different visions of what that life will entail — live together or separately? marriage or no marriage? kids or no kids? buy or rent a home? east coast or west coast? focus on career or focus on family? The possibilities for conflict are endless. And even if personalities mesh well, life goals may not.

If you find yourself butting heads on major issues, sit down with your significant other and discuss what you really want. Avoid attacking your partner. Instead, explain how certain things are important to you. Perhaps some things can be compromised on. But make sure you’re not compromising on something that truly is important to you. If you’ve always wanted kids and your significant other does not, will you be happy never being a parent? Will you end up resenting your partner because of it? As painful as it might be to have these discussions now, it’s a whole lot easier than dealing with the aftermath. Many issues can be worked out. But if they can’t be, it’s better to know now. Be careful when having these discussions, though. Issuing ultimatums can just build resentment.

Parting Ways
When conflicts become too much to bear, or you simply realize that this relationship is not the right one for you, it’s time to have the dreaded talk. With any luck the person you’ve been seeing feels the same way. If not, prepare for some defensiveness and backlash.

Just remember: there is a reason you’re at this point. It doesn’t help anyone to be in a relationship that makes you miserable. Dragging things out does just that — drag them out. It doesn’t make them better. It just makes them last longer. Be firm but gentle. There’s no need to attack and berate the person you’re breaking up with. Be civil and hopefully the experience will be as painfree as possible.

Take Charge of Your Relationships – Romance Part 1

Our relationships with others can define who we are and can determine how happy or unhappy we are with many aspects of our lives. This can encompass romantic relationships, but it also includes friendships, parent/child relationships, and more.
Change for you can be just about anything, from wanting to be in a relationship, to wanting to form lasting friendships, to having a child or pet become a part of your life. As with previous posts, this is not designed to be the be all and end all of the topic, but it will hopefully get the ball rolling on some positive changes. Since this category encompasses so much, I’ve divided it into a few different parts, one for each type of relationship. We’ll start with romantic relationships and move on from there.
Romance
Whether it’s starting a relationship, altering a current one, or ending one, making the decision to change your current romantic situation can affect many aspects of your life.
Starting a Relationship
Let’s face it, there are some things that you can’t control. You can’t make Mr. or Miss Right walk down the street and bump into you. And you can’t make someone fall in love with you. But you can put yourself out there and make yourself available for the right person to find you. Before you can be ready for someone else, though, you need to be ready for yourself. Being happy with who you are is the first step toward being in a worthwhile relationship. Know who you are, be comfortable with your self worth, and know that you deserve to be in the relationship you want. An added bonus? Confidence is sexy and will make you more appealing when the right person does come along.
That being said, when you’re ready to find your second half, continue being true for yourself. If you’re not one for bar-hopping or clubbing, don’t start hitting the town to try and find your match. The people you find won’t be in line with what you’re looking for. At the same time if you’re a social butterfly, don’t look for your mate in the science fiction section of the closest Barnes & Noble. Think about the kind of person you are, the kind of person you want to meet and the qualities you hope to share. The possibilities are endless when it comes to places to meet your soul mate, and knowing what you’re looking for should steer you in the right direction.
When I was ready to be in a relationship, I realized that I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to meet men. I wasn’t into the night club scene. I didn’t drink. And I was self-employed, so I didn’t even have coworkers who could fix me up. I was a bit of a homebody, so even my friends were few (by choice). I was in a pickle. My choice? I went online. (If you decide to pursue this avenue, be careful. Don’t give out too much personal information, and arrange to first meet in a public place with other people around. Unfortunately there are a lot of crazies out there, and you don’t want to take unnecessary risk.) That was about 8 years ago now, and while it’s become more popular recently, I was still a little nervous. But online I was able to be picky about who I was and what I was looking for. I communicated with a couple of people before I met my husband. Some of the people I talked to were a little strange; some just weren’t a good fit. It actually didn’t take long for me to connect with my husband, and while I can’t say that it was love at first sight, we meshed well and the rest is history. But I would never have met him if I didn’t put myself out there or if I had looked in all the wrong places.
Meeting him wasn’t the end, though. To form a lasting relationship, I knew I had to be myself and accept him for who he was, too. Pretending to be someone you’re not, or expecting the person you’re with to be someone he or she is not, will only set you up for disappointment. Even if it got all the way to “I do,” it’s unlikely you’d be able to continue the charade for the rest of your life. And would you really want to? I can’t imagine that that would make you very happy.
So: start with accepting yourself for who you are. Think about what you’re looking for. And put yourself in a position to meet people who meet your criteria. Then, be yourself. Continue accepting yourself for who you are, and extend the same courtesy to the people you’re trying to connect with.
Now what if you’re in a relationship that needs help? We’ll go into that next…

Take Charge of Your Money

Ah, money. Depending on who you ask, it’s what makes the world go ’round or it’s the root of all evil. Either way, modern life depends on it, whether we like it or not. And if you’re really interested in having it be one of your life changes, you’re probably struggling somewhat. If you had tons of money to run through, you probably wouldn’t be worried about changing things!
For many of us, myself included, the biggest issue is the mountain of debt. For whatever reason we find ourselves in a position where we have just plain too many bills and not enough income. And it can be very disheartening to be dishing out payments, especially when a good portion of those payments consist of interest. I know I’ve been there. I’m still there. And it’ll probably be a while until I get out of it.
Now I won’t pretend to be a financial guru, because I’m far from it, but I’ve read enough financial mumbo jumbo to at least have an idea of what I should do. Between what I’ve read and what I’ve tried, I’ve got some tips that have helped me along the way. It’s slow going, but eventually you can get yourself into a better position.
Paying Bills
The first step is making sure all of your bills are paid, and paid on time. It doesn’t help to add late fees to the already-high amounts or mess up your credit by having things sent to collections.
One thing that I have found to work is to make a list of all my regular bills and about when they’re due. I have a spiral notebook with a sheet for each month’s bills. I have columns for the due date, the bill, how much is due, how much I paid, and when I paid it. I start the month with just the bills that are due that month. As I get statements in the mail, I add the due date and amount due to the appropriate columns. When I pay the bills, I fill in the appropriate columns for that, too. I can see at a glance what has been paid and what hasn’t been.
In addition to this, I’ve taken the idea one step further: I’ve come up with a game plan — a bill-paying schedule to make sure everything is getting paid on time. I have it all planned out for the whole year: when each bill is getting paid, based on how much we bring home each week. To do this, I compiled the statements from the past year or so and figured out when bills are usually due, how much they’re usually for, and how often they’re due. Some of this was already done when I made the monthly sheets. But by looking more in-depth at the statements, I was able to finagle things so I could determine when the bills would be paid, based on when they’re due and when we get paid.
These efforts have made it slightly less stressful when payday comes, because I don’t have to think about what I’m paying each week. I know that if I open my notebook and it says we’re paying the electric bill and the phone bill, that’s what we’re paying. And both will be on time. Easy peasy.
Saving Money
In an attempt to save (I say attempt because we haven’t gotten very far with it), I have a little money transferred to a savings account automatically each week. When I balance my checkbooks on payday, I record that transfer as if it were a bill being paid. It’s non-negotiable, because it’s automatic. It’s not much, but it provides a little bit of a cushion if something comes up.
This is about the only attempt to save we have going at the moment, because our expenses have been cut pretty far. But there are lots of little ways to spend less money that can help you save a little more. I’ve written a few articles about saving money, and I will share them in future posts. They may guide you in the right direction so you can get even closer to your goals.
Paying Off Debt
Once the bills are being paid on time, and a little money is getting put aside in savings, it’s time to tackle the debt. And there are a ton of resources out there to help you. Rather than rely on companies or solicitations that claim to help me pay off my debt, I prefer to listen to actual financial experts and keep things in my control. But you have to do what’s right for you. Just be careful — they’re not all legit.
From what I’ve read and heard, it seems to be the general consensus that you should cut back where you can, save about $1000 in an emergency fund while you’re paying just the minimum on the debts, then tackle the debt like crazy once you have that $1000 cushion. Once the debt’s paid off, focus on building up an emergency fund for 3-6 months’ worth of expenses so you don’t get back into that debt.
How you pay off the debt is up to you. Some gurus will say to pay off the smallest debt first. Some will say to pay off the highest interest debt first. Whatever makes you feel most productive is what you should do, as far as I’m concerned. The biggest thing to remember is that once a debt is paid off, you should take the payments that were being made on that debt and apply them to the next debt in your plan.
For those of us living paycheck-to-paycheck, it can be hard to pay any more than necessary, especially when we’ve already cut out pretty much all unnecessary expenses. But even those of us who are already beyond tight can find a little — like the $10 a week that gets transferred into my savings account. And then, of course, there’s always…
Making More Money
Once the expenses are cut as much as reasonably possible, the next step is to try to bring in supplemental income. For me, that came in the form of my writing: I self-published two novels and started selling those, plus I got a little residual income from some articles I wrote online. While neither of these is getting me rich any time soon, they help ease the burden a little. For you, you may be able to bring in a little extra in a variety of different ways:
  • Perhaps you have a hobby or talent that you can put to use.
  • Hire yourself out for mowing lawns or some other such thing.
  • Deliver newspapers.
  • Babysit.
Or, if you have a job outside the home:
  • See if you can pick up a few extra hours for supplemental income.
  • Ask for a raise.
  • See if you’re in line for any promotions.
  • Look for a higher-paying job in your field.
The possibilities are endless. And just a little extra a week or month can knock down that debt faster than any of your other efforts.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ideas or ways to get yourself back on track. But once you’ve figured out what it is you have to change and how you’re going to get there, the rest is just staying motivated and not losing focus. And that, of course, will be covered in future posts.