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How to Get in Shape

In the New York Times article, “It’s Hip to Be Round,” Guy Trebay, author, and Aaron Hicklin, editor of homosexual magazine Out, both agree that “What once seemed young and hot – [six-pack abs] – for gay and straight men alike, now seems passé.” In this brave new world, the protruding tummy is attractive.

Are Trebay and Hicklin correct? Do aging men no longer have to worry about their pluming potbellies? Conversely, do young women no longer have to agonize over their waist size? Are the cosmetics, tanning, apparel and breast-implant industries about to take a hit? With all due respect to Trebay and Hicklin, their approval of the bulky belly is due for the same destination as cat-eyed glasses and dog shawls: the forgotten past.

The cosmetics and fitness industry is rollicking and rolling; voluptuous women and brawny men remain more popular than ever. Fitness and health are not fads and they are not leaving. Thousands of muffin tops, love handles and wheezing staircases are due for judgment. Interested? Thought so.

Let’s stop the yammering and yakking and start sweating and striving; let’s get in shape.

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with the First Step

Sven Goran Ericksson stated, “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” Success begins in the mind by denying the power of fear. The mind must be made ready to transform the behavior of the body. Hundreds of ingenious scholars, authors and DIYs (do-it-yourselfers) have crafted tried-and-true strategies for changing behaviors. Let’s examine a few of them.

According to Peter McWilliams …

Peter McWilliams, author of New York Times number-one best-seller, “Do It! Let’s Get off Our Buts!” believes that harnessing emotions is the key to living your dreams – or in this case, losing a muffin top. He presents several tactics, including the subsequent three:

1) Harness fear. McWilliams contends that, “Fear is the energy to do your best in a new situation.” What mother-of-four has not embarked on the post-pregnancy weight loss regimen without anxiety? Take that apprehension and use it as motivation.

2) Grab guilt. According to McWilliams, “Guilt is the energy for personal change.” Where did those youthful promises of eternal health and wellness depart to? Reclaim those early dreams.

3) Hurt helps. “Hurt feelings remind us how much we care,” argues McWilliams. Disappointment in your physical condition is the ultimate impetus to seize health, improve your physique, and embark on a journey to fitness.

According to Stephen Covey …

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, asserts that change is a choice, not a chance. Victory is driven by “Your chosen response to the situation and what you should be doing.” People direct their lives. They decide to be healthy or unhealthy.

Here are two essential habits for success.

1) Be Proactive. He writes, “Proactive people focus their efforts in the circle of influence – they work on the things they can do something about.” Rather than injecting yourself with new genes, change your behaviors.

2) Begin with the end in mind. Kendall Harrell, personal trainer for Life Time Fitness, agrees, adding, “It’s a lot easier to make it to the finish line if you have the goal in sight.” Goals must be determined beforehand.

According to Anonymous …

But that’s not the only prerequisite for proper goal-planning. There are six other factors for success.

1) Form a time-frame. Losing ten pounds in ten weeks or in ten months results in two distinctly different exercise regimens. All plans should have a precise time-frame.

2) Make it measurable. As Lord Kelvin noted, “When you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.” Declaring, “I want to be skinny!” is not a measurable concept. Determining measurable goals is an essential step to success.

3) Be accountable. Employ a spouse, co-worker, fellow fitness freak or personal trainer as an accountability partner.

4) Pick the process. Anyone who strolls into a gym and casually asks herself, “What do I want to do today?” is actually lamenting, “Why don’t I have a workable plan that I can rely on to accomplish my goals?” Determine the specific method[s] (e.g. running, dancing, weight lifting, croquet, swimming, etc.) required to achieve your fitness goals.

5) Make milestones. Each achievement is cause for celebration. While gorging on pizza and milkshakes is not recommended, a night out with friends or new pet is a great celebration choice.

6) Keep records. Log meals, exercises and days off. Records serve dual purposes: when all is rainbows, leprechauns and pots of gold, they propel you forwards; when all is thunder, hail and disappointment, they drag you onwards.

Where Are You At Mentally?

Fitness does not begin with a 45-lb barbell; fitness starts with a piece of paper and a pencil and a furrowed brow. Planning is essential to success. Proper preparation asks two questions: where am I at; where do I want to be? Use the following six-tiered behavioral change model to determine your current status.

Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change

1) Precontemplation. If you are in this stage, then perusing this document is accidental. The precontemplation stage occurs when an individual has not yet begun to considering change. This is a dead-end path.

2) Contemplation. In the contemplation stage, individuals are considering changes in behavior but have yet to act upon them. Many American comfortably reside in this arena. They are content to remain in limbo, aware of their shortcomings but unwilling to change.

3) Preparation. In the preparation stage, individuals gather information, begin networking, and start planning.

4) Action. So the journey begins: the first bench press, the first mile, the first diet. Adrenaline and dopamine run high during the action stage, propelling the individual onwards towards the next step.

5) Maintenance. Fitness freaks, successful athletes, and health addicts joyfully thrive during this stage. The maintenance stage occurs when the action becomes fully converted into a lifestyle.

6) Termination. For most fitness purposes, the sixth step is an anomaly. Health and fitness are never fully terminated. However, certain programs or types of exercises may need periodic replacements, depending on age, gender, and other external circumstances.

For the Desperate …

Unfortunately, for some, following a six-step goal-planning chart is laughably ineffective. Mere willpower and knowledge cannot propel them on the path to health. They are obsessed. They are addicted to food.

Because food releases pain-numbing endorphins and pleasure-causing dopamine, food may become a drug for obsessive-compulsives or the depressed. Food addiction sends desperate individuals spiraling down a pit of self-inflicted injury and depression. For these people, motivational speeches and colorful graphs are inadequate.

The organization “All About Life Challenges” asks, “Do you eat when you are not hungry? Do you eat in secret? Do you feel guilty after eating?” If any of the listed questions apply to you, consider seeking professional help.

Other individuals are uncontrollably obsessed with their body image. Due to the profusion of skeletal models dotting the pages of fashion magazines, many females feel forced to deny themselves essential nutrients to remain skinny, and therefore stay popular – or employed. These women may suffer from food disorders, including anorexia and bulimia. These are addictive disorders. And as Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, “We were powerless over alcohol” – powerless over their addictions. Similarly, individuals suffering from food disorders require assistance to overcome their obsessions.

Where Are You At Physically?

Now, you are psyched, hyped, excited and exhilarated. But unfit, you still are. Fitness is physical. It is also a personalized state of being. Find out where you stand in the fitness arena using the following methods:

Body Fat Percentages

Many dieters are interested in losing weight, and for good reason. Obesity is linked to coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, colon cancers, prostrate cancer, breast cancer, gallstones, thromboembolic disorders, skin disorders, degenerative joint disease, heart failure, respiratory impairment, and increased mortality rates (Osama Handy). With such grotesque consequences, why wouldn’t someone want to lose unnecessary fat?

There are several methods to determine body fat percentage.

1) Hydrostatic weighing. Known as the “gold standard” of body composition analysis, hydrostatic weighing is based on the theory that fat floats and muscle doesn’t. The method: after exhaling completely, individuals are fully immersed in water and then weighed. The problem: according to Len Kravitz, Ph.D. and Vivian H. Heyward, Ph.D., hydrostatic weighing assumes “relative amounts and densities of bone, muscle, and water comprising the fat-free mass are essentially the same for all individuals, regardless of age, gender, race or fitness level. It is now known that this is not the case.” However, hydrostatic weighing is typically correct within 2-3%.

2) Skinfold measuring. Using a calibrated tool, a skilled technician measures the thickness of skinfolds at 3-9 standard anatomical parts, taking 2-3 measurements and recording the mean. Measurements are generally only on the right side to ensure consistency. Skinfold measuring is capable of 3-6% accuracy, except for obese people, for whom accuracy is reduced.

3) Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA). This nifty device is held in both hands in front of the torso. It shoots an imperceptible current of electricity from one hand to the other, measuring elapsed time. The theory: water (contained in muscle) conducts electricity and fat does not. This method is generally true within 3-5%.

These methods require skilled assistance or instruction. For that reason, many turn to a simpler, albeit less accurate, method: the BMI.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The BMI, invented by Austrian Adolph Quetelet, relates height to weight. Its obvious deficiency is the irregularities in peoples’ bodies despite their height similarities. For that reason, measurements are merely estimates, and should be taken with a few grains of salt.

The BMI equation is weight(kilograms)/height^2(meters). An individual may fall into one of six weight categories:

• Anorexic/Below 17.5
• Underweight/17.5-18.5
• Optimal/18.5-25
• Overweight/25-30
• Obese/30-40
• Morbid Obesity/Over 40

You know where you stand; the mind is prepared; the body is ready. It is time to embark upon the third stage of the transtheoretical model of change: action. So tighten your belt, flash a grin, and mutter a Hail Mary, because this coach potato is about to mashed.

A New Lifestyle – And Two Gods

Switching from an apathetic, irresponsible, unhealthy routine to a fit, capable, proactive lifestyle is nearly akin to swapping religions. Bid adieu to the weak deities of the past and welcome two robust gods, both of whom demand your allegiance. They are called: “Diet” and “Exercise.”

One Half: Diet

What is a diet? Despite the myths of popular folklore, dieting does not demand pain, sadness, or inordinate sacrifice. In the modern world, dieting is commonly associated with severe deprivation and a reliance on smoothies, carbohydrate-free food and an overarching abundance of Omega-3 fats, B vitamins and sugar-less (i.e. tasteless) cuisine. These are, in fact, not diets.

The Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines “diet” as: “Food and drink regularly provided or consumed.” As such, many so-called “diets” are, in fact, frauds and falsehoods; they are structured systems of temporary starvation. A diet is a habitual selection of foods and nutrition. A proper diet must be long-term, result in health, and make the dieter happy. Without these criteria, the diet has failed.

What does a proper diet include?

According to the USDA …

The USDA Food Pyramid is as American as apple pie, July 4th and, unfortunately, fat people. Undergoing a transformation in the spring of 2005, the new Food Pyramid is more flexible than the previous rendition. It is based on a 2,000/day calorie diet, which is appropriate for a cubicle worker, but not much else. The Food Pyramid is split into six culinary categories:

1) Grains. There are two subsets of grains: whole and refined grains. The former tends to be healthier, although the latter may undergo two possible processes, known as enrichment (adding original nutrients) or fortification (adding unoriginal nutrients) to restore health. Daily recommendation is 6 oz. – although for anyone more active than Homer Simpson, more is required.

2) Vegetables. Vegetables are the epitome of gastronomic health. Dark green leafy vegetables are chock-full of nutrients; beans and peas are full of hard-to-get vitamins and minerals; and carrots may even improve night vision. Daily recommendation is 2.5 cups. Tip: iceberg lettuce, celery and artichokes are more for psychological benefits than for hale and hearty health.

3) Fruits. The more color the better. Try apples, pears, bananas, lemons, cantaloupe, melons, peaches – the list goes on, and so do the delectable flavors. Recommended daily amount is 2 cups, though ravishing more certainly will not hurt you.

4) Oils. A smidgen of legume, fish and vegetable oils is appropriate, but counting margarine or mayonnaise as “acceptable” sources of oils is, at best, a fallacy, and at worst, responsible for an up-and-coming heart attack from clogged arteries. Recommended daily amount is close to zero.

5) Milk. A perennial children’s favorite, skim, 1% or 2% (for growing children) milk is high in calcium, vitamin D, protein, and other nutrients. The milk category also includes cheese and yogurt. Recommended daily amount is 3 cups.

6) Meats & Beans (and Eggs). Certain types of unprocessed meats, such as chicken, turkey, beef, ham, pork, veal or venison, are healthy – and for sprinters, required – in limited amounts. However, in the modern industrial world, most meat is a grotesque, unhealthy product of manufacturing, barely comparable to its organic state. A McDonald’s© hamburger does not count as a healthy protein selection. Beans, farm-fresh eggs, and seeds are other sources of healthy proteins. Recommended daily amount is 5.5 oz – roughly the size of a deck of cards.

However, the USDA Food Pyramid is just a guide. Almost all athletes and active individuals require more than 2,000 calories per day. Also, bodybuilders need gargantuan amounts of protein to build and maintain muscle mass. The lesson learned? Adjust your dietary habits to fit your needs and lifestyle.

The Other Half: Exercise

It is perfectly possible to chuck the blub without daily exercising. Achieving fitness, however, is another matter. No successful athlete or shredded Adonis-type model attained his or her goals through dieting alone. There are two types of fitness: aerobic and anaerobic.

Aerobic

The term “aerobic” means: with air/oxygen. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines aerobic exercise as: “Any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature.” Aerobic activities are long-lasting, low-intensity exercises that utilize the body’s respiratory and cardiac systems. The ACSM recommends 20-60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity 3-5 times per week.

What are the benefits of aerobic exercise? Lisa Balbach, in the article, “Why Is Aerobic Exercise and Why Should I Do It?” notes that “Aerobic exercise conditions the heart and lungs by increasing the oxygen available to the body and by enabling the heart to use oxygen more efficiently.” Aerobic exercise may lower blood pressure, burn fat, decrease LDL cholesterol, increase resistance to fatigue, aid in sleeping, regulate electrolytes and reduce risk of heart disease.

Aerobic exercises can be further divided into high-impact and low-impact exercises. High-impact activities place stress on the bones and joints, while low-impact exercises are much gentler. For example: while running is middle-to-high impact activities, cycling is a low-impact action. Age, bone health and muscular strength are factors in deciding which type is appropriate.

Running claims the crown as the preferred aerobic exercise. Generally speaking, any race over 800 meters (approx. 0.5 miles) is considered an aerobic exercise. Other popular and effective aerobic exercises include cycling, swimming, dancing, skating, cross-country skiing and skateboarding.

Anaerobic

In contrast to aerobic activity, anaerobic exercise means “functioning without air/oxygen.” Anaerobic activities are typically short-lived and intense in nature. They develop speed, strength, and power.

Anaerobic exercise is responsible for type II muscle fiber growth, motor neuron development and coordination, bone strengthening, lowered glycogen, developed tendons and ligaments, and increased water storage.

Bulk-building weightlifting reigns as king of anaerobic exercises. Sprinters, body-builders, football linebackers and martial artists all rely on anaerobic strength to gain mastery over their sport.

Note: most anaerobic activities do not contribute much or anything to weight loss.

The Three-Faced Foe

To be fit, you must fight. Against who? Against a potent three-faced opponent. Here are his three lethal strategies:

1) Anabolic steroids. Body-building magazines are full of alluring advertisements promising superman-style muscle gains in mere days – “just take this pill”. However, according to the Essortment article, “Effects of Using Steroids When Lifting Weights,” there are a number of possible detriments to anabolic steroid use:

• Psychological addiction
• Spread of diseases through intravenous injection
• Male infertility
• Female facial hair
• Manic depression

In short, steroids fail. They cannot support long-term muscular growth and maintenance and should be avoided.

2) Rapid weight-loss supplements. Smiling, foxy models plastered on the face of fashion journals promise instantaneous weight loss – “just drink this beverage.” However, there are three potential problems with weight-loss supplements.

a. The UCLA Student Nutrition (& Body Image) Action Committee reveals the lack of industry regulation of weight-loss supplements. In, “Dietary Supplements: Help or Hype?” they reveal that “supplements do not have to prove that they work … [they] do not have to prove they are safe to be sold … [and they] do not have to be manufactured according to any standards.”

b. Popular weight-loss supplements and additives, such as ephedrine, are linked to hypertension, seizures, heart attacks, depression, and death.

c. Steroids don’t work in the long-term. The only valuable long-term solution to weight loss is to operate at a calorie deficit until optimum weight is achieved, and then maintain that calorie input. Steroids are tools for cowards and sluggards. Don’t give in.

3) Laziness. There is no surer assassin of health and wellness than habitual lethargy. The world can be sitting at the end of someone’s fingertips, but without the gumption get up and grab it, the world will slip away. Fitness lies at the end of your fingers. Will you grab it?

Your tummy is waiting.

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How To Gain Publicity & Awareness

No matter what career you set out to define yourself in, gaining publicity and awareness can be crucially important to your overall success. After all, you are going to need to gain exposure if you ever want your brand to grow. While it may seem strange at first to think of your business, your band or even yourself as a brand, it takes this particular kind of mindset in order to truly make it in the world.

BUSINESSES

Any successful business has at one point been concerned about how they are viewed (and how much) in the public eye. Businesses usually tend to thrive on having a large base of clients, and it can be extremely hard to do well and gain clients if no one knows about you or what you do. This is why for businesses, marketing and advertising are of the utmost importance.

Marketing and advertising are extremely different these days than ever before, and will undoubtedly continue to change as the years begin to pass. It is an industry devoted to change, as keeping up with trends and growing into the “next big thing” is what marketing is all about. Your goal should be for your business to be this next big thing, and you should do so knowing that it will not happen overnight. Marketing is extremely effective, but it can take months and even years to work. Also, it is far from an inexpensive process, so be sure that your company has pockets deep enough to invest a hefty sum of money into it’s marketing.

For small companies who do not have marketing departments, working with a marketing firm is by far the best way to go. Marketing firms deal with the situation your business is in every single day, and many of them have turned start-up businesses into multimillion dollar conglomerates. Marketing and advertising work extremely well when the people behind it know what they’re doing, which is why working with a professional marketing firm is almost always a smart decision.

Once you contact a firm and set up the initial meeting, you’re going to want to have all your ducks in a row. This means any history, notable sales numbers or old/current marketing initiatives need to be put on the table for the firm to use as a basis for their strategy. Marketing is not just throwing together an ad and running it on the radio. Successful marketing is made up of deliberate and well-devised campaigns that can include print, television and radio advertising as well as public relations and focus groups. The firm will put all of this together and may even want to rebrand your company’s image. Always remember that these people are the experts when it comes to marketing, and you will be safe in their hands.

That said, you’ll want the marketing firm you choose to be a good and comfortable fit for you and your business. A strained business relationship will absolutely destroy any chance of a campaign working to your benefit, and no one will be happy with the results. Be sure to have at least a few meetings with the people who will be mainly handling your account before signing off with them. Meeting for coffee or drinks outside of a professional setting is also a good idea, as this can help to build relationships.

Once you choose the firm and come to a monetary decision based upon your budget, it’s time to throw your hands up and let them do all the work. Remember that marketing campaigns can take quite a while before any kind of public awareness starts to pick up. Be patient and positive, and you’ll find yourself on your way to becoming the next Nike.

MUSIC GROUPS

Anyone who has ever started a band and tried to make it big knows that doing the latter can be a frustrating and nearly impossible venture. With the sheer amount of bands on the music circuit these days, it is an all out war to get your music heard and get signed to a reputable music label. Fortunately, there are ways to get yourself ahead of your competition, and you don’t even have to do the dirty work yourself.

The best way to get your band heard is to hire an agent. Agents are usually extremely well plugged into the local music scene (which is where fame begins) and the majority of them know the ins and outs of the industry. After all, getting your music heard is a lot harder than sending a demo to a record label and expecting someone to actually listen to it. Agents know this, and each one has a unique strategy that they will use to help propel your band to the top.

One of the best ways to find an agent is to look towards a local band that is beginning to find some success. This will assure you that whoever they are using as their agent actually knows what he or she is talking about and you will not be wasting your valuable time and money. Becoming friends with other local bands will help you to make connections with agents that could inevitably land you a spot on their list of clients.

If you are able to get a sit down meeting with an agent, coming in prepared is one of the best and most professional things you can do. Agents are extremely busy and do not have time to waste on people who are unprepared. Bring in anything that has to do with your band’s image such as cds, t-shirts or other merchandise. Also be sure you have a clear idea as to what kind of crowd you are trying to appeal to and what type of music you want to be playing in the future. All of these will inform the agent’s decision about how the band is marketed.

A word of warning: Agents are expensive. Anyone who plays in a band full-time and makes just enough money to slide by will likely have a hard time affording an agent, especially if they are really good or well known. Occasionally, you can get by on the merit of your music, as the agent may see your band as a good investment of their time if they feel like the music would be popular among a larger audience. This is just another reason to concentrate on propelling the quality of your music into the stratosphere.

INDIVIDUALS

Individuals that are trying to gain exposure, such as artists or actors will find comfort in knowing that the process of moving towards publicity and awareness is not too dissimilar from that of a music group. You are going to want to hire the best publicist you can find, and you are going to want to have all of your materials prepared for that initial meeting. Go into the meeting with a clear vision of what you want to achieve, as individuals often work by the seat of their pants and do whatever they feel. This can be great for the artist, but not so for the publicist.

In many ways, gaining publicity as an individual can be relatively easy. For instance, if you are in an area where there are not a lot of visual artists, a good publicist will likely be able to propel you into fame without a whole lot of time or effort on anyone’s part. However, if you are a struggling actor living and trying to find work in Hollywood, the tables have turned and you may find that gaining publicity is not nearly as easy as you once thought. This is why it is important to bring your talents to a market that hasn’t been flooded. It is always a good idea to be in an area where there are a lot of like-minded individuals, but too much competition can equal no publicity or awareness.

Depending upon who you are and what you do, the publicist may also want to change your act. While it can be easy to initially take offense to this, remember that he or she is the specialist when it comes to gaining publicity and awareness. Their job is to tell you what works and what doesn’t, and you should be happy to take such advice. If the publicist wants to alter your act slightly, get into a dialogue about what you don’t want to see go and what you wouldn’t mind changing. This can often lead to improvement, and can help gain you the awareness you’ll need to become a star.

Remember that as with any other kind of branding or marketing, gaining awareness as an individual does not happen overnight, and can often times take even longer than it does for a music group or a business. The bottom line is that you should never give up your craft and should do all you can to keep bettering yourself. Patience will inevitably lead to greener pastures for your career.

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How to Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is one of the most important activities to promote good health. A good habit of exercising will allow for good health, a better immune system, and longer life thanks to a healthier heart. So with all of the reasons out there for starting good exercise habits, why is it so difficult to get ourselves motivated to exercise? For the past few decades our lives have become so cluttered with school, work, family, shopping, movies, television, sports, and the millions of other activities out there that most of us think it is impossible to find 30 minutes every day to exercise. Here are a few tips to overcome these challenges and begin your path to a healthier life:

1. Recognize that it is not going to be easy.
One of the reasons that most people don’t stick with their workout routines is that they assume they can easily find the time every day to exercise. People who assume the task is easy often stop workout out once they realize that finding 15 to 30 minutes of free time every day is not easy. Before beginning to write up your proposed exercise schedule, write a note on the top of your paper that will remind yourself of why you are doing this. No matter what your reason is for wanting to get into shape, you need to remind yourself on a regular basis that it is more important than sleeping in or watching television. If you are able to recognize that your task is going to be difficult and you still want to get into a good habit, then you can be assured that you have the necessary desires to get into the regular habit of exercising.

2. Set small goals to begin with.
You are not going to be Mr. or Ms. Universe within a week so don’t try to set the same goals that they have. If your goal is to run a marathon within a year, don’t set a goal to run a half-marathon within a week because it just isn’t going to happen. If you want to be able to bench press 200 pounds within 6 months, then more than likely you aren’t going to be putting up 190 pounds after 2 days. It is important to not overwhelm your body or your emotions by pushing yourself too much at the start of creating a new exercise habit. If your goal is going to be to run a four-hour marathon in the future you will need to build up to that point. Start out with 10 to 20 minute runs and slow build up your stamina. The same concept applies to all types of exercise and even in activities outside of physical fitness. Our minds are able to accomplish a lot, but they need to be trained and strengthened by starting out with small goals.

3. Multi-task by catching up on television shows, movies, radio while exercising.
Distractions are often the reason that people stop exercising regularly. However, distractions can also be used to motivate and schedule your activities. One good way to get 30 minutes of exercise is to plan on using your treadmill, elliptical, or other home gym equipment during your favorite television show. Most machines are quiet enough that you will be able to ignore their motors and pay attention to the radio or television. This way you will have an excuse for watching television and working out at the same time. Reading books or magazines can also be done easily on many home gym apparatuses. Audio books are another excellent way to distract yourself from the pains of working out.

4. Be creative in your workouts.
Treadmills, weight machines, and elliptical trainers can all get boring really quick. Try to be creative in your workouts. You don’t need to feel bad about doing different exercises every day because you will be working your entire body. If you like working out indoors, try to have a few different pieces of equipment so that you can switch up the routine once in a while. This is possible now because of the wide variety of machines that exist ranging from rowing machines to assisted bench pressers. A great way to mix up the workout is to get outside once in a while. A jog around the park or neighborhood can be a great way to get your mind distracted from the difficulties of working out. Swimming, biking, skating, jogging, and hiking are just a few of the great outdoor activities that not only train your body, but they are also healthy for your emotional and intellectual states.

5. Invite someone to join you.
If you aren’t held accountable for your daily exercising it becomes extremely easy to stop. Invite a friend, family member, or even your pet to join you in your activities. Once you both create a habit of exercising you will be able to keep tabs on each other and remind each other of why you are doing this to yourselves! Pets can be a great workout companion and they will become used to the regular exercise and can even let you know when it is time to get out and work up a sweat.

6. When there isn’t time, make some.
Even the most avid athletes can have days and weeks in which their agendas are packed. It is important that exercising becomes a priority if you want to make it a habit. If your workout time is every morning at 7:00 a.m., make sure to write that down in your planner every day for the next few weeks. That way if your friend calls and wants to go to breakfast at 7:00 on Friday morning, you will be able to tell them that you can’t and you need to plan a different time to go out. If you really can’t find the 30 minutes you need every day then it can be beneficial to set the alarm clock 30 minutes early. There is always time that can be made to work out if you make regular exercise a priority in your life.

7. Reward yourself for your good work.
We all need incentives to do something that is hard work. Aside from the rewards of a better body, good health, and better overall well-being, treat yourself with a reward for your hard work. For example, you can promise yourself a weekend getaway if you exercise 30 minutes a day 4 times a week for 6 months. Or you can even have an extra scoop of ice cream on Saturday night if you fulfilled your goals for the week. Kids are not the only ones who do a good job if they know a reward is around the corner, adults are much more inclined to perform their best if they know there is a reason for doing so. If you promise yourself a reward for exercise it is important to stay true to your word. Your mind will remember if you lied to yourself!

8. Remind yourself regularly why you are exercising.
Every single day there will be a reason to not work towards your goal. You will need to have the willpower to get yourself out of bed and into the gym even when it doesn’t sound exciting. Try to think of a new reason for working out every week or add to your already created list of goals. Write these reasons down somewhere where you will be able to see them every day or ask somebody else to give you a reason for exercising regularly. There are a million reasons why someone will want to exercise and you need to make those reasons personal. You will need to have a reason for exercising regularly because if there isn’t one, why would you be doing it in the first place?

9. Remember the hidden benefits of regular exercise.
Exercising regularly to achieve your goals is a great activity but there are other benefits to creating a habit of exercise. Regular exercise has long been known to reduce the risks of any type of heart disease such as high blood pressure. This habit will also prevent osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, and depression. Your joints, ligaments, and tendons will be healthier and last longer. Aging effects are slowed down in the body of a healthy and fit person. As you exercise regularly you will be able to maintain a normal weight, sleep easier, and have an increase in energy and endurance. Studies also show that stress and anxiety are dramatically reduced in persons who have created a healthy habit of exercise.

Regular exercise can be one of the most rewarding and difficult challenges one can take upon themselves. The habit is not created easily and you will not be able to achieve your goals without the help from others. One of the most important things to remember is to not get down on yourself if you don’t always complete your goals. You need to remember that it is more important to stay in the habit of exercising then it is to achieve those goals because if you can create and maintain that habit you will eventually reach those goals, even if it is on a different timeline.

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How to Overcome Addiction

A lot of addictions are not the type you read about in the newspaper or see on TV. The movie Trainspotting showed the screwed up lives of heroin addicts, and then ended the movie off with a highlight of how he was better and needed to get a TV and this and that, highlighting how materialism is yet another form of addiction.

Let’s face it – anyone who suffers from problems with addiction was once at a point where they thought “it’ll never happen to me.” The sad truth about addiction, however, is that no one ever sees it coming; otherwise, they would have nipped it in the bud before it became a real problem. Facing addiction can be extremely trying on one’s soul and can lead to depression, anxiety and a host of other undesirable problems. Fortunately, it is never too late to start working towards solving your addiction problems. Let’s look at how to approach this slowly and methodically – one step at a time.

Facing the Facts

The first step towards conquering any kind of addiction is to admit to yourself that you have a problem. Often times, this is one of the hardest parts of the process. No one wants to actually admit that there is something wrong with them, and this generally leads to denial. But how do you know that you actually have a problem?

Pinning down an addiction can be difficult, but the writing is usually on the wall. You may tell yourself that you don’t have a problem, but perhaps your family, friends and loved ones feel otherwise. This is the first indication that there is likely something wrong with your habits. If this is the case, it’s time to do a self-evaluation. Do you really think that the way you’re living your life and treating your body is ok?

If you can honestly tell yourself so, then perhaps you are correct and in control. However, most people find that when they ask themselves this question seriously they end up feeling guilty. In this case, guilt is almost always a result of coming to the conclusion that you’ve been lying to yourself about an addiction problem. This part of the process can be extremely painful, but it is unlikely that you’ll see any kind of recovery in the future without experiencing it. If you’ve done a thorough self-evaluation and have come to the conclusion that your friends and family have valid points, it’s time to say “yes; I have a problem.”

Taking the Plunge

Now that you have come to the conclusion that you do indeed have a problem, you are at a turning point in your life in which you need to decide whether or not you are ready to step up to the plate and correct it. For many people, stressful situations can make correcting their problems much harder than it has to be. While you should always work to better yourself, it is smart to plan around situations that you know will be stressful for you. For instance, if you come to the conclusion that you are addicted to smoking cigarettes but find yourself in a situation of extreme stress, it may not be the right time for you to quit. Always weigh your options against how you are feeling at any given time.

Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you’ll know it is time to finally do something about your addiction problem. Congratulations; you’re on the road towards healing yourself. Many people who find themselves in this position begin to get anxious about how to go about tackling their addiction. Granted, it can be a very complex process, but it doesn’t have to be. The trick is to plan out exactly what you are going to do to work your way out of addiction. When making such a plan, always ask yourself “is this going to help me quit?” It may, or perhaps it will actually make things harder for you. Always take this into consideration, and always go with the former.

Many people who struggle with addiction find that there is no clear pathway towards healing. Beating addiction is a process usually comprised of peaks and valleys; you’ll have good days that are often followed by bad days, and may even find yourself slipping back into a slump. This is normal – overcoming addiction is a process that does not follow a straight line. What you want to look for is a pattern of bettering yourself overtime. In other words, if you’ve been working to overcome your addiction problem and you are currently worse off than you were a year ago (and have been for some time), it may be time to reevaluate your methods.

The first step towards overcoming your addiction can be whatever you feel will work best for you. It may be a good idea to set up an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss your options. Depending upon the type of addiction you are struggling with, he or she may be able to point you in the right direction. Visits to your physician are confidential, and you should never feel as if you are stepping on anyone’s toes by approaching the subject.

Support Groups

Many physicians will tell you that the first step you should take is to join a support group. As so many people in the world suffer from various forms of addictions, there is practically a support group for everyone. Alcoholics Anonymous is famous for being one of the strongest forms of support groups available for those who suffer from alcohol addiction, and there are groups just like this that revolve around whatever substance it is that you are grappling with. While joining a support group like this is never easy, it is an important step that will bring you closer to the life you hope to someday lead.

When joining a support group, it is important to realize that you are not obligated to show up after your first meeting if you are unhappy with how things go. Most people who join Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, are very hesitant their first time around. Knowing that there is no obligation can be very comforting; you are simply going to check things out and see what happens during a standard meeting. Be sure that you arrive with a nonjudgmental attitude and treat others with the same respect that you expect to be treated with. Most support group meetings consist of people bearing their souls and laying all of their problems on the line. Be sure that you are comfortable listening to others as they do this, as you do not want to make it any more uncomfortable for them than it has to be.

This initial discomfort generally dissipates after the first few meetings you attend. Once you start seeing familiar faces who all share the common bond of struggling with the same type of addiction, the discomfort does a 180 and the meeting turns into a safe place for you to express your feelings. It is always recommended that anyone who is not comfortable at first when joining a support group goes to at least three separate meetings in order to fully form an opinion. Support groups have extremely high success rates, and many former addicts peg them as being the reason they were able to give up their addictions.

Therapy

Support groups are extremely helpful, but beating addiction is often a process comprised of multiple steps and methods. Another method that may be helpful to you is private therapy. Like support groups, therapy is often given a negative stigma and is looked upon nervously by the addict. This is really too bad, as therapy helps millions of people around the world conquer their fears and addictions each year. Asking your doctor to refer you to a therapist that deals primarily with substance abuse will generally get you a referral. It is important to be sure that your health insurance covers therapy sessions, as they can be astronomically expensive otherwise.

The therapist’s office should be viewed as the ultimate safe place. Everything that is said and done within the confines of therapy is strictly confidential and should not leave the room. A responsible therapist will never take private information with them outside of a session, and it is best for the client to do the same. This being said, there is a stronger air of confidentiality that comes with seeing a therapist privately versus opening up in a support group. Many people worry about running into someone they know at a support group or having their personal stories disseminated into the public. While this rarely ever happens, the possibility does exist. In therapy, as long as both the therapist and client are responsible, it does not.

There are many forms of therapy that can be effective for those who suffer from addictions. Perhaps the strongest of these is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or simply CBT. CBT focuses on the connection between thoughts, emotions and actions. The theory behind CBT is that actions are directly influenced by the way we think and feel. Actions can be anything that we do to cope with these feelings, and in this case are usually exemplified by substance abuse. The goal of CBT is to take the negative thoughts and emotions that lead to unwanted behavior and turn them on their head. By changing the way we think and feel about something, we can change the way we act. Changing neural pathways is never easy, and takes quite a bit of practice and positive thinking. It is, however, very possible. Many people who suffer from addiction find that just a few months of CBT has an immensely positive effect on their trying to overcome their issues.

Mindful Meditation

Many therapists are also quick to teach and recommend mindfulness meditation to their clients, especially those who suffer from substance abuse issues. The concept of mindfulness is painfully simple, but eludes many of us on a daily basis. Living mindfully is no more than focusing your attention on how the bubbles in your mouth feel when you brush your teeth, or how your joints feel after a long run. It sounds incredibly obvious, but the fact is that many people live their lives on autopilot and pay little if any attention to simple pleasures such as these.

Mindfulness meditation can be many things, but it often involves focusing on the motion of the breath. Start by sitting in a dark, quiet room and closing your eyes. As you breathe in, focus your attention solely on the part of the body where the breath is felt the strongest. Feel as it fills your body and eventually exits, leaving you more and more relaxed each time you exhale. The mind will inevitably wander; part of the discipline is bringing your focus and attention back to the breath. Practicing mindfulness meditation for ten to fifteen minutes a day can have a dramatic effect on your levels of relaxation. When struggling with substance abuse and trying to change your habits, this can be an extremely useful tool.

Exercise & Diet

Combing the above practices with exercise and a healthy diet is crucial to beating an addiction. Not only will exercise help to clear your mind of any cravings or negative thinking you experience, it will also help to flush your body of any toxins that are present. Exercise does not have to mean going to the gym for an hour a day; often, taking a nice leisurely stroll through your neighborhood on a sunny day is enough to get your heart rate elevated and your endorphins going.

Speaking of endorphins, they can be very helpful when trying to beat an addiction. The harder you exercise and exert your body, the more endorphins the body releases. Endorphins are chemicals that naturally calm the body and have an affect not too dissimilar from drugs that affect the central nervous system. As one tries to limit or cease their intake of these drugs, replacing them with endorphins can make the process much easier and less rocky. Never push yourself too hard; start slow and build your exercise routine up gradually.

In terms of diet, eating healthy (preferably organic) foods can have a dramatic impact on how you feel as you are trying to overcome addiction. Bogging your body down with trans fats and fried food will make you feel sluggish and unhealthy. Stick to fresh produce and organic meats prepared in a healthful fashion. You will exercise better and feel less guilty about your eating habits, both of which will be of help when struggling with addiction.

Supplements

Supplements can be helpful as well. As your body learns to cope without the drug you have been supplying it with for so long, it will naturally go through a withdrawal process. Depending on the substance, this withdrawal process can range from being a minor nuisance to being extremely painful, and in some cases (such as with alcohol and barbiturates) can even lead to death. There are many over the counter supplements that can help to smooth out this process and make withdrawal more tolerable. Supplements that have positive effects on the brain (such as B12 and Omega-3) will be the most helpful, and even the ubiquitous multivitamin can prove to be helpful. Always be sure that you check with your doctor before adding supplements to your diet, as they can occasionally interact with some medications.

Medications

If you have tried all of the above methods and are still grappling with addiction, it may be time to try medications. Depending on which substance you are addicted to, your doctor may be able to prescribe you a drug that can make the cessation process a bit easier for you. Alcoholics, for example, are often prescribed a drug called Antabuse. Antabuse works by slowing down the body’s ability to metabolize the chemical in alcohol that results in hangovers, leaving the patient quite ill if he or she drinks while taking the medication. While the use of drugs like Antabuse is controversial, many people find that it helps them steer clear of their addiction. It should be said, however, that medication is not a quick fix or a magic bullet. Using medication may help you to work through your addiction issues, but it will not solve them completely.

Finding Purpose & Meaning in Life

Once you have meaning in your life the perceived risks of acting irresponsible are much greater, and that alone can provide incentive to change.

The single most important piece of advice I can offer, which I first read in Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning was something he quoted from Friedrich Nietzsche: ‘He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.’ Once you have meaning in your life, or at least once you start focusing on searching for it, then you will likely be able to overcome most of your flaws. However if you just focus on *not* doing something then you will likely only replace one problem with another, or keep repeating what you want to stop doing (because you keep thinking about it).

Overcoming addiction is often a rocky road, and no one ever said it was supposed to be easy. Think of the above suggestions as all being different tools in your toolbox. If one isn’t working, perhaps it is time to put it down and try another. Eventually, you’ll find the wrench that fits.

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Personal Things To Do

1. Love yourself.
This is the most important thing for anyone to learn, as before we can understand the true meaning of selfless love that is required to making the world a better place, we have to learn to love our self first. Anyone can say they love themselves or others, but the proof in the pudding comes from their actions. When people are rude, inconsiderate, abusive or intolerant of others, then they do not understand selfless love. Unfortunately, this comes from some past act that has happened to the bitter person that may be elusive, but just as everyone learns how to do something one way, they can also learn how to change. Change is good as it allows people to learn from their mistakes and make better choices for their future. Learn to control your vices and gain virtues in your life. Look inward to see your true self and learn what really makes you happy. I believe that the results will shock you if you are used to pleasing other people in hopes they will please you, or you think you have nothing to offer. We all have insecurities, but it is how we address these character traits and learn from them that makes the experiences we call life. We might think we are making the world a better place when in reality we are only looking out for number one. Once we realize the true meaning of personal happiness we can use this to learn to love our self, and in turn, by spreading true love we are one step closer to making the world a better place.

2. Take care of your body.
Learn how to take care of your body by eating nutritious meals that work to build the body up, instead of greasy, salty meals that are void of anything even remotely healthy. Exercise for at least 30 minutes six days a week, and this means getting your heart rate up and building muscle. Walking is the best and cheapest way to get exercise, and nearly anyone can partake in this type of movement. By exercising with someone else, you are creating a social connection as well as building you physique and strengthening your body. If you have an addiction of some sort find out why you have the addiction. This is the only way to end your habit, as you learn the reason you developed the addiction to begin with, and then develop healthy ways to cope with stress and other issues instead of drinking, smoking or eating yourself to death. Stop wasting the wonderful body you have and learn how to make yourself happy in a healthy way. Once we respect our own body this will reflect onto those we come into contact with, motivating others to also take responsibility for their health. When we are healthy, we are happy and we want others to be happy as well. The good energy from true health will radiate to even more people creating the necessary environment to help the world be a happier, healthier place where we can give more than we receive.

3. Listen to your mind.
Your mind is as important as your heart and just as with any muscle, you must work to strengthen the brain. Reading is a wonderful activity that allows you to relax, focus, and learn something new. The brain will be active and fruitful as long as you feed it engaging materials. The imagination part of the mind is how creative idealizations come to be and allows us to change throughout life as we evolve through experience. Music works to calm the nerves, develop creativity and release emotions. Whether you are musically inclined or simply like to listen to tunes, keep the habit of making music part of your daily routine. Respect your brain and it will work wonders for you.

4. Get a hobby.
Everyone is good at something. We all have at least one thing we enjoy doing, or we should if we want to truly be a happy and constructive society. A hobby or activity that allows us to express ourselves, reduce stress from our lives, and use our imagination is a necessary function right along the lines of eating and sleeping. Find something that interests you, that triggers a passion to erupt in your soul. Learn everything you can about this topic, participate in group sessions, and practice what you are learning. Then share your passion with others. Whether it be through artistic expression of dance, painting, photography or writing, or something more active like golf, soccer or conservation forums, anything that you have a passion for can be the vehicle to introduce others to the art of self-expression. In order to make the world a better place we must first learn to contribute, and everyone can do this by sharing their personal experiences in a passionate manner.

Environmental Things To Do

1. Recycle.
Recycling gives back to nature as it provides the opportunity to decrease the raw materials and resources that are taken from the earth in order to create new stuff. I have always seen recycling as important and a moral duty, but in my rural community there has not always been recycling centers due to a lack of popularity. However, now we have two centers here within our north Georgia mountain community that provides free recycling. I am able to take my one-year-old with me to recycle our newspapers, soda cans, glass and plastic bottles, saving money on garbage pickup by decreasing the number of bags that need to be picked up and taken to the landfill, as well as providing my son with the experience that will last a lifetime. I hope that he will see recycling as a normal routine duty rather than something difficult and hard to do, and take this experience with him when he has his own family. The earth can only subsist humanity as long as we subsist the earth. We should take every effort to be efficient, and practice sustainability in any form. Science has given us the tools to recycle materials to be reused rather than going to waste and we must take advantage of this information.

2. Grow a Garden.
Anyone should be able to grow some type of plant. I have always heard that before we can become good parents, we should first take care of a plant, then take care of an animal. This means that just as a child needs nurturing, plants are living things which we can tend to and provide life through nature. A plant can grow in a pot if land is an issue. Learning to grow plants teaches us a lot about the natural world and gives us an appreciation for how delicate flowers and hardy herbs come to be. As sad as it is, many children who are growing up today in particularly in urban areas are not given the opportunity to learn how food is grown, where flowers come from or how to turn a seed into a cucumber. By taking a single solitary seed and planting it in some dirt you will be amazed at the results. It has been proven scientifically that having plants in our homes and workplaces reduce stress levels and improve air quality. By making ourselves happy we are able to make others happy. Plants are capable of doing just that when brought indoors. If you are able to grow a full fledged garden or have a flower bed in your backyard you should feel blessed. Gardening is a wonderful hobby that can provide beautiful flowers to be shared with others as well as delicious fruits, vegetables and herbs that are fresh giving more nutrition.

3. Humane Society.
Most communities have a local humane society where forgotten and abandoned pets are housed. While there is a debate about the way animals, especially pets, should be treated giving consideration to whether they have feelings and emotions, these animals are part of the circle of life. We could not live the way we do today without them, because each creature serves a purpose to the greater good. However, for those who tend to overlook animals or do not agree with this, the people that work in these organizations do deserve praise for their efforts. That being said, many people think that the only thing they have to do with their local humane society is to adopt pets. Not so. These organizations are usually nonprofit groups, meaning they spend every penny they receive to make sure the animals are taken care of, and by donating money, time and even pet supplies, every single person has the opportunity to help. The benefits of giving to the humane society does not extend only to the pets. The employees and volunteers that spend their time and give their hearts to keep the organization afloat really need the help of their community in order to show that others do care about the mission of this group. The thoughtfulness and kindness shared to these people as well as the pets can radiate into the homes of the pet handlers and veterinarians as they go home each night. Rather than being frustrated at the lack of community kindness which can result in many people burning out and giving up, these wonderful people can have a sense of purpose that is being fulfilled. And this helps to make the world a better place.

4. Serving Strangers and Neighbors.
Serving others is the most successful method of making the world a better place. People who are able to volunteer their time and energy to do good for other people are truly succeeding in helping the whole world. This is a selfless way to share what you know best through your own experience. Anyone who has given without expecting a profit or reward understands the difference between instant gratification and true gift giving. Most people you talk to will only do something as long as there is a return of equal, or greater, value. This is where most people lose focus and become materialistic. However, over time these people, hopefully, come to realize that material goods do not bring joy in and of themselves. Of course we need some material goods to survive and to be able to function successfully. The true joy of receiving is not met by toys, cars, clothes or money. The latest fashion may be wonderful right now, but it will fade quickly as will the joy of receiving the clothing. The newest car might give us a rush of excitement as it pulls into the driveway. But by the time the new car scent wears off and is replaced by more expensive car insurance and loan payments, the burden overtakes the joy of receiving the vehicle. By learning to accept what we have and to appreciate what we are given because we deserve it, we can make the world a better place. There will be less competition, fewer stresses, and more time spent on helping others. By serving humanity we can learn the true joys of life and be capable of sharing them with others.

List of Examples

Now we will share a list of activities that most people can either do or adapt to in making the world a better place.

  1. Bake a cake or pie for someone for no special reason. Keep in mind dietary restrictions and be conscious of who will receive the bake goods; some people cannot have sugar, chocolate, dairy, etc. for health or religious reasons, and you do not want to insult someone.
  2. Take flowers to your favorite restaurant to be viewed by customers. By sharing something so beautiful and for free you are sending out the message of love and kindness.
  3. Help out an elderly person work in the yard. This can be your grandparent, neighbor or even a stranger.
  4. Volunteer your time. Need somewhere to go? Nearly every community has a soup kitchen, meals on wheels, or nursing home; these are organizations that depend on the kindness of people to take care of vital functions.
  5. Have a baked goods sale or garage sale and donate the proceeds to your favorite charity.
  6. Give canned and nonperishable foods to the local food bank. Nowadays these organizations are running low on items as more and more people are in need for food. Go through your cabinets or buy soups on sale. Everyone can give something.
  7. Give blood. This is something most every adult can do, and will most likely benefit from the use of other people’s blood in their lifetime. Look at it as a savings account. Also health screenings typically accompany blood giving so you are taking care of your own health for free.
  8. Donate old magazines to hospitals or doctor’s offices. Not only are you recycling, but sharing with others. Most visitors to these places need some lifting up and reading magazines helps to distract patients from their health issues at least for a short time.
  9. Offer to volunteer anywhere that you are interested. Nursing homes need to have people come to visit the elderly. As a youth I visited our local nursing home and sang with our youth choir at different occasions of the year. I always loved Christmas time when we would sing tunes and give out handmade cards to the elderly in their common room. Of course, there are so many ways to volunteer your time. Local newspapers often list opportunities to volunteer, and you can check with clubs and charities to see if they have a need for volunteers.

Inspirational Websites to Help Motivate

http://www.43things.com/things/view/326/make-the-world-a-better-place
This link goes to the 43 Things, an online goal setting community, where people have set a goal to make the world a better place. Anyone who is interested in making our world better can use this site to connect with other individuals who are on the same path. There are inspirational quotes from Martin Luther King and lists of personal goals for bettering the world for over 750 people.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/campaigns/jamies-food-revolution
Jamie Oliver has a hit show on television that has revolutionized the way students and families in America look at food. He is working to make the world better by teaching children and parents healthy foods to eat and how to prepare them by setting up kitchens in home towns to provide this new food education that is much needed as can be witnessed from watching the show. In one episode Oliver showed students a red tomato and asked them what it was—no one knew. The idea that children do not know what a vegetable looks like because they are not being fed them first makes one wonder what they are eating and then how society has failed in providing nutritious foods.

http://www.squidoo.com/GypsyOwl_Motivator
If you are looking for daily inspiration, here is a blog post that gives a daily meditative thought, some new method of making the world a better place, and links to other websites that can also inspire and lift you up. Whenever you are feeling blue or disenchanted this means you need to make a change in what you are doing in your life. Actions are the result of thoughts, and when we feel depressed we need to get ourselves out of the rut. Reading inspirational stories from other people who are trying to make the world better as yourself can expand your repertoire and knowledge to help you get out of the troubled thinking pattern.

http://www.sanjosepby.org/QuotesonHowToMakeTheWorldABetterPlace.htm
Here we have a list of quotes and inspirational sayings from famous people throughout history. Anyone who would like to expand their thinking and discover how other influential people have been successful in making the world better can benefit from reading these lines. People all throughout time have been searching on how to best benefit the world around them. By understanding this is not new or impossible and that by working towards success, we can have the confidence that we are doing the right thing.

http://gabs.strength.org/site/PageServer?pagename=GABS_homepage
The Great American Bake Sale is an online community where anyone can sell baked goods anywhere and donate the money to be used to fight childhood hunger in the United States. I have signed up with this organization and will be having a yard/garage sale at my home where I will also be selling goodies that I will make in honor of this organization. This is a simple way for anyone to donate time and money to help others, making the world a better place. You do not have to be an individual; as reported on their website any group, workplace or church could get together and do the same thing. This is what makes this group great; it does not matter who you are or where you live, anyone can sell baked goods and donate the proceeds in a simple and legit manner. You can also donate directly through the website, but as I love to bake, I can only imagine the joys I will bring to many people as they buy the delicious treats knowing they are supporting a good cause, and then the joy of getting to eat something that tastes like heaven. This is an opportunity to make many people happy.

In Conclusion

Most people want to make the world a better place for either the present or the future. However, this can mean something different depending on the individual. Some people may see volunteering as out of reach, while others may feel that their lives must revolve around this ultimate goal of peace and joy. The truth is everyone has the ability and responsibility to make their world better, but we can only do this if we are in the right frame of mind. By beginning with ourselves and making sure we are healthy and happy, we will radiate the positive energy and find new ways to share our success with humanity. Do not worry if you think you are not doing enough. Start out small and opportunities will come to you.

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How to Become Successful

Success traditionally involves the attainment of wealth, fame, power or some other form of achievement that is held in esteem by a group of individuals. Each individual describes success differently. Some individuals define success based on their career, familial success, or other form of measurement. Others define success by a measurement that only a small percentage of individuals may achieve in life. Depending on your definition, there are several suggestions upon how to attain the ever elusive successful lifestyle.

Determine Your Personality Type

Before you decide upon your particular definition of success, determine your personality type. There are several ways to determine the type of personality a person possesses. One of the most effective tools is the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test (MBTI). The MBTI assessment was based upon a principle developed by Carl G. Jung in the 1920s. This personality test assesses a person’s strengths and weaknesses. A person who completes the test will determine their personality traits in four categories. The four categories are as follows:

Introvert (I) or Extrovert (E)

This describes how a person gains their daily energy. A person who relies on an internal locus of control or receives their energy from within is an introvert. A person who constantly desires and feels energized from being around people is an extrovert. Extroverts love to know a lot of people. Introverts prefer to know a few people well.

Sensing (S) or Intuitive (I)

People who prefer only factual information are more of the sensing type. These people are very pragmatic. Individuals who like to look at the facts and extrapolate meaning are intuitive type people. These people “read between the lines” and make correlations that sensing types may not recognize.

Feeling (F) or Thinking (T)

Feeling type personalities prefer to examine people and their situations before examining the facts. Feeling people prefer harmonious situations and behave with tact. Thinking people prefer to examine the facts aside from people’s situations. These types of people seek logical explanations and are task oriented.

Judgmental (J) or Perceiving (P)

Judging type personalities like for decisions to be made quickly and judiciously. These people like deadlines and complete tasks on schedule. Perceiving type individuals prefer to remain open for new ideas and options before making a decision. They work in spurts and often do not adhere to schedules.

From this test 16 different personality types emerge. The combinations of personality types are listed below:

• ISTJ
• ISTP
• ESTP
• ESTJ
• ISFJ
• ISFP
• ESFP
• ESFJ
• INFJ
• INFP
• ENFP
• ENFJ
• INTJ
• INTP
• ENTP
• ENTJ

Knowing your personality will help you determine your potential for achieving the success that you desire. Each personality type is no better than the other. It is merely an indicator of the type of person that you are. Some personality types do lend themselves to producing more celebrities, famous, and wealthy people than others. However, nearly every personality type has successful individuals in the group. The manner in which the success is obtained differs from group to group.

Once you have the test results in hand, place them to the side and proceed to the next step.

Determine Your Definition for Success

Think of the attributes of a person whose life you deem successful. List their professions on a sheet of paper or computer. Common examples of other people’s ideas of success consist of the following:

• Becoming a Celebrity
• Becoming a Political Figure or World Leader
• Attaining a College, Graduate, or Professional Degree
• Becoming a Millionaire
• Winning a Gold Medal
• Getting Married and Becoming a Successful Parent
• Becoming an Author
• Starting a Business
• Starting a Non-Profit to Save Children or Feed the Hungry

List the attributes that allowed these people to attain these levels of success. Attributes of these successful individuals may include the following:

• Driven
• Focused
• Consistent
• Persistent
• Ability to Withstand Pressure
• Personable
• Likeable
• Philanthropic
• Giving
• Gifted
• Talented

Examine your life and determine if you have similar attributes. If some of the components of success match your personality, then list instances in your life that have allowed you to obtain a form of achievement from that particular attribute. If there are concrete examples from a person’s life that you deem successful, compare the achievement with the individual. Ask yourself the following questions:

• Are their attributes and achievements similar to yours?
• What attributes does this person have that you do not?
• Do they have special circumstances in their lives that would preclude them to being more successful than you?
• Do you admire the person?
• Would you be willing to make the sacrifices they made to achieve their level of success?
• What steps must you take to achieve their level of success?

Compare Your Personality Type to Your Desired Career

Answer the questions listed above honestly to make a clear assessment of whether or not the profession is one that is suitable for your personality type. A person, for instance, may want to achieve wealth, but are not willing to make similar sacrifices of time or other sacrifices that may be associated with the position. Do not waste time pursuing a goal that you will eventually find that you do not love or will not perform on a daily basis.

Do not allow someone to discourage you from achieving your goal. If you are interested in a particular industry, there may be alternative ways to gain exposure while still earning a living. Individuals should remain realistic. A person, who is 4 foot, 9 inches, may not be deemed runway model material. However, this should not discourage the individual from the industry, if they are truly interested. There may be other ways for this person to become involved. The person may focus on becoming a hand model, headshot model or a foot model. The person may decide to become a talent scout or recruiter.

Do not become discouraged by the negative comments. There will be many naysayers along the route to success. The key is putting on the blinders and ignoring their comments. Do not disregard any negative comments. Listen and take any constructive criticism. Then, take the good advice and discard the bad. Believe in yourself first, have confidence and eventually others will also have confidence in you as well.

Habits of Successful People

There is no one formula for achieving success. Some individuals achieved success by inheriting money. Other individuals started from nothing and worked hard to attain success. Other people take a more traditional path of going to college and climbing the corporate ladder. Regardless of your path, your must remain focused. Listed below are some of the suggestions made by successful individuals who have attained success:

• Surround yourself with other successful people. Mary Kay produced several millionaires base upon this particular belief. While this may be an effective strategy, most people do not attain their wealth simply by befriending only successful people. Often a person’s biggest supporter may be individuals who feel inspired by a person’s work, but perhaps are not wealthy themselves.

• Think positively about yourself and your accomplishments. Individuals who believe they will achieve a particular goal will often recite positive aspirations to themselves daily. This positive energy will allow them to accomplish the goals desired to achieve.

• According to Steven Covey, individuals should maintain an “internal locus of control.” Being driven from within, helps business people remain focused when naysayers hurl negative comments.

• Be grateful and thankful for the people who have helped you along the way.

• Always help others. Some individuals can achieve success with very few contributors, aside from their fans. Most of those people are either inventors or authors. Those types of individuals need very little support aside from supporters purchasing their products. Celebrities, however, need more support. They can rarely become successful without being supportive of other individuals.

• Be persistent.

• Welcome constructive criticism and learn from your mistakes.

• Establish a support group of individuals who will support you, if you become discouraged.

Set Goals to Achieve Success

Set goals to achieve your definition of success. Goals should be “specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive”, according to the acronym, SMART.

A person who desires to start a non-profit organization, for example, may begin by establishing the scope of the non-profit. A person may allow themselves 2 to 4 weeks to complete this task. Secondly, they may research how to obtain 501(c)(3) status. This goal may take 1 week for research and another week to apply. After obtaining the 501(c)(3), they may do further research to raise capital for the organization. This process may take longer. Depending upon the grant source, the process may take 3 to 6 months. After receiving the funds, the person will appropriate the funds as set forth in their particular plan. Each of the goals must be achieved within a given time frame. Each goal can either be marked as complete or incomplete.

In this example, the person did not attempt to start a non-profit and raise funds in one day. The process took several weeks or several months depending upon the person’s resources. The goals set in this particular example were realistic and attainable.

Goals, along with timelines, will help the individual pace themselves for achievement. If the goals are not met by a certain time frame, examine the reasons why the goals were not met.

• Were the goals not met because of extenuating circumstances?
• Were your goals unrealistic?
• Is the economy bad?
• Are funders not interested in your particular project?
• Is the idea too progressive for the individuals who are appropriating funds?
• Was your proposal poorly written?
• Did you lose focus?
• Did you remain on task?
• Were you persistent?
• Did you follow up with the appropriate individuals?
• Did you delegate tasks where necessary?

Setting goals and delegating tasks will allow you to remain on task at all times.

Some success stories do not include goal setting and other structure that we may associate with other success stories. Inventors or chemists who “discover” a cure or a product may happen upon something simply by doing something they love to do. Louis Pasteur wrote that “chance favors the prepared mind.” Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin accidentally. He was prepared to recognize the discovery when it occurred. He went into the lab daily pursuing other goals and accidentally, discovered a medicine greater than the ideas he set to achieve in his daily tasks. Always be open and prepared to receive a pleasant idea or discovery.

Individuals, who do what they love, will be more apt to do it every day without regard to time. Unfortunately, doing what you love may not pay the bills in the meantime. Therefore, it is important to find work that will allow you to meet your financial obligations while pursuing your goals. The two may be synonymous. However, many times, the two are not synonymous. Some individuals may not mind acting as your benefactor while you pursue your dreams. Others may view supporting an unemployed person as a burden. Do not overstep your boundaries. Doing what you love does not have to be synonymous with “starving.”

Implement Your Goals

Possessing a piece of paper with a list of goals is a wonderful idea. However, unless those goals are put into action, then it is just simply a plan. Each day, take steps towards achieving your goals whether large or small. In order to remain encouraged, reward yourself if you complete your daily task list. The reward may be something small, but remember to do it each day to remain motivated. For example, a person who completed all of their tasks, for a specified period of time may reward themselves with a new item, such as a movie, pedicure or facial.

Each person should be aware of their motivators for accomplishing certain items. Some individuals are motivated by money. Others are motivated by fame or attainment of material items. Some are motivated by relaxation. Motivators depend entirely upon the person’s personality. Use these motivators to encourage completion of certain goals.

How to Maintain a Budget while Achieving Your Goals

Those who are not independently wealthy may need to establish a budget while working their way to success.

• Determine the minimal amount of money needed to maintain food, water, shelter, transportation, health, vacation, and sanity.
• Attempt to locate a source of income to provide those basic necessities.
• Save as much money as possible.
• Limit the amount of debt accumulated while pursuing your goals.
• Save for medical expenses. If you can afford health insurance, obtain it. Medical procedures are expensive and may cost more in the long run, if you are not able to obtain medical insurance.
• Start a retirement plan. If you are unable to work, due to age, disability or illness, have some money that will allow you to live while receiving these procedures.
• Do not spend an exorbitant amount of money on food, liquor, cigarettes, or other vices that may or may not help you achieve your goal. Some will argue that beer and cigarettes allow them to maintain sanity, while working towards their goals. However, both items are fairly expensive and disposable. Therefore, manage the amount of money budgeted for these items.

Remain Committed to Your Goals/Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Becoming successful is like a relay marathon race. Some people are more effective in the starting position of the relay and other people are stronger in the anchor position. Some people can successfully accomplish both. Those individuals, who are strong at the beginning of the race, may lose momentum after the initial tasks are completed. Some individuals may have difficulty getting started, but may finish strong at the end of the race. Know your strengths and weaknesses. If you are aware that you have difficulty getting started, solicit help for the beginning of your journey to success. By contrast, if you are running out of steam near the end, solicit help from supportive individuals who will not steal your ideas.

Pace yourself, on your journey to success. Take sufficient breaks to avoid fatigue and feelings of defeat. The road to success may be smooth for some people and rocky for others. Your journey depends upon the profession you pursue and the number of hurdles to overcome on the road to success. Remain focused when faced with defeat. Overcoming adversity may be beneficial in your success or business venture.

Most people are familiar with the story of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates starting a business in the garage of their home. They had very little money, but they were driven and had a dream to become successful. Who would have thought that someone could become wealthy of animation and theme parks? However, Walt Disney’s dreams and desires inspired others to dream. He built his wealth inspiring others to innovate and imagine what was possible.

Beware of Poachers

Individuals often say, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” However, those individuals who “flatter” or “poach” your ideas are not just flattering you. They are becoming successful at your expense. At that level, it becomes more about competition and mockery.

Keep these types of individuals away from you while you are striving towards success. Some people are successful at stealing ideas in manners that cannot be prosecuted. Know your legal rights to safeguard proprietary information. Always confer with an attorney on these matters. This will help you avoid any unpleasant lawsuits. Many individuals will take an idea from you simply because they can develop it faster than you. If you are aware of such individuals, you may want to develop a strategy to make money from their jealousy and ill will. This is preferable to losing your idea and income to a competitor disguised as a friend or supporter.

Self Help Books

There are many books that individuals may read in order to assist them on their path to success. In the past, some of the more popular books included the following:

• What Color is Your Parachute?
• 7 Daily Habits of Highly Successful People
• Rich Dad, Poor Dad
• Biographies of Famous Individuals
• Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth
• I Dare You!
• Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success
• How to Win Friends and Influence People
• Think and Grow Rich
• Who Will Cry When You Die?

Life Coaches

Hiring a life coach may also be a strategy to assist you in your path to success. Life coaches may administer tests, such as the Myers-Briggs test. They will evaluate your results and help you develop a strategy for becoming the person that you desire.

For instance, a life coach may have a client who has the personality type of ENFJ. This person may be outgoing and very driven. They may have a desire to obtain wealth by becoming more involved with people rather than items. Extroverted people thrive in large crowds and are energized from being around people the majority of the time. A life coach may advise the person to capitalize on this trait by pursuing a profession that involves people.
Life coaches should help the person develop goals and keep the person on task to meeting and obtaining those goals. The life coach provides structure, resources, advice, and support when needed. This person should be licensed and trained in coaching in order to be reputable. The person may be paid a flat fee or by the session depending upon the person’s needs.

Many individuals coach others naturally. Therefore, it may be a natural progression to obtain a license. Know a person’s rate of success before hiring the individual. The person may have inspired one person, but not another person. Request an interview with the coach prior to hiring them. Ask for references. Most life coaches will have quotes from clients who benefitted from their services. Read the comments and decide if the life coach fits your particular goals and needs. A life coach that makes you feel uncomfortable will not inspire you to achieve the goals that you have set.

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How to Find the Perfect Dream Job

Careers as a Career

I have spent the majority of my working adult life helping people with disabilities find a job. I started out working with adults who have cognitive disabilities. Cognitive disabilities affect how a person learns and processes information. Autism and Down’s syndrome are considered cognitive disabilities. I enjoyed the work so much that I decided to study Vocational Rehabilitation. The concept behind Vocational Rehabilitation is that work can be therapeutic; besides money, work is a social outlet and a chance to feel like a productive member of society. For many of the people I worked with, having a job was the best and brightest part of their day. They had co-workers who saw them as people, not just as a disability. Finding a dream job can be a soul-searching journey that can lead to wealth beyond money and satisfaction beyond the end of the workweek.

Why Work?

Why you want to work is as important as what you want to do for a career. If, for example, you are motivated by money, then working as a ticket taker may not be the answer to your dream job. For many people, money is the motivation. Not only do they need money to live, but they also have dreams, hobbies and desires that require a certain amount of cash. Other people are motivated by prestige. They may take a job as a minister, for example, in a small congregation. This job may not pay well, but a minister is usually looked upon in a positive light and their word is highly valued. Some others may value notoriety, or fame. They may pursue a career in acting, sports, or music. Maybe power is a motivating factor, and a job in politics is chosen. Another factor for choosing a career is the desire to help others. Some people truly do not feel fulfilled unless they can care for and assist others in need. These types of jobs can include the professions of doctors, nurses, or social workers. If you enjoy working with your hands, maybe you would like working as a carpenter, painter, or sculptor. Sometimes, there is a family business that you were born and raised to do and you naturally fall into that occupation. The reasons for choosing a career are as varied as the careers out there!

Finding What Motivates You

So, when looking for your dream career, the first thing to do is find out what truly motivates you? Be honest with yourself; if you are motivated by money, then that is fine! It’s more important to be honest then to worry about what others think about your personal feelings. If you aren’t so much interested in money as you are with, for example, working with animals, then working with animals is your motivation. What do you do if you have more than one motivation? Combine the two motivations! For example, if you really want to help those cats and dogs but want the money to support your sailing habit, then you would look for a job that can provide both, such as a veterinarian. Sometimes, you need to decide which of the two factors motivate you more. If working with animals is more important then having a great deal of money, then maybe working as a dog groomer or in a pet store is what will work for you. Motivation is very personal. It may take a lot of time and deep thought to admit to yourself what you want out of a job or career.

How Much Commitment

Once you have honestly asked yourself what motivates you, it’s time to determine how much it motivates you. In the example I gave before, I used a veterinarian. The person who is choosing to be a veterinarian is motivated by money and helping animals. If they are not motivated enough to go to school for such a long length of time, however, then being a veterinarian may not be the right choice. How much commitment and passion you are willing to put into a career is also important. For some people, a job is just a job. For some, a job is a passion, and they are willing to put in the time and dedication into their education and their career. Keep in mind, also, that working towards your dream job may require putting in time at a similar job. For example, if you want to work as a supervisor in an assembly plant, you may have to learn all the machines on the job before stepping into a higher role. It all depends on the type of work and the workplace.

Enjoying Work

After thinking long and hard about motivation and commitment, also take a look at what you like to do. Do you like being around other people? Do you like working alone? Do you like working inside? Do you need to be outdoors? Not everyone is cut out for the 9 to 5 office job. Interest inventories can help you to narrow down what you like and don’t like by using a scale to rate how much you enjoy certain activities. One example of an interest inventory is the Self Directed Search. It is available for free online and has a list of job duties and a choice between liking and disliking each task. It rates each task and determines which type of career may be for you. It is important to remember that interest inventories give you a snapshot of your interests at the time you take the test. If you were to take the test again in a few months to a year, your answers may be different. However, interest inventories can help you to narrow down your choices from thousands to a select few.

What Jobs Fit My Motivation, Commitment Level and Likes?

Once you have narrowed down what motivates you, how much of a commitment you are willing to make, and what interests you, it is time to research those jobs. The internet is a fantastic resource. One of the best sites is O*NET. O*NET provides information on:

  • Jobs Titles – O*NET has thousands of jobs and related jobs
  • Job Description – what is involved with certain jobs
  • Tasks – this is basically a more detailed description that tells what is involved with a specific job
  • Tools and Technology – the type of equipment needed to perform job tasks. A computer would be an example of this.
  • Knowledge – what you need to know to do your dream job.
  • Skills – what you develop in order to perform a job. Examples are the capacity to manage time effectively or convey thoughts in writing.
  • Abilities – describes qualities a person already has developed and that are long lasting. Examples are the ability to see details or understand what you are reading.
  • Work Activities – tasks performed on multiple jobs, not just to the specific job that is being researched. Some work activities include supervising others or using word processing programs.
  • Work Context – what physical labor is involved and who is it involved with. Do you need to lift heavy objects or talk with people over the phone? Work context answers those types of questions.
  • Job Zone – this section provides similar jobs and what type of training or education is required.
  • Interests – just as it sounds, this section describes the inclinations of those who are interested in each particular line of work.
  • Work styles – what personality traits are needed to perform the job. An example would be how much stress you can tolerate.
  • Work values – this looks at what provides fulfillment on the job. For example, how much do you value the support of others at work?
  • Wages and Employment Trends – this section provides information on the average amount of money a person can expect to earn in each particular field. It also tells you if the job you want to pursue will have openings in the future or if it will be obsolete.
  • Education – there is also another section that lists how much education was completed by people who already work in each occupation.

O*NET is a great resource. It really allows you to thoroughly research a job and gives you similar jobs. It goes deeper into what is involved and does not just paint a rosy picture. If you have to put in 4 years of education in order to get a job that is expected to have little to no job growth, is it worth it to you?

It Looks Good on Paper

Like all things, a job may look good on paper, but may not be what you expect when you are finally working. Making contact with professionals in your chosen area is a fantastic way to learn about what really happens. Informational interviews, where you contact 1 or more people in a certain profession and ask questions about their jobs. If you are too shy or uncomfortable to do an informational interview (it’s hard, believe me!) then try and research jobs on the internet by looking at blogs or other honest posts. A site like O*NET provides facts, but does not provide opinions!

In Conclusion

Job searching is soul searching. If you plan on working full time for 50 years, you want to be able to like what you do and feel a sense of accomplishment. Being honest with yourself, having facts and the opinions of a few professionals in your chosen area will give you a good foundation with which to build a dream career. With an increased level of connectedness online and an increasing rate of innovation, few of us will be able to do any job for our whole career, so staying well connected and bridging together multiple disciplines will be key strategies to help ensure a long and prosperous career.

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How to Build Lasting Friendships

In the world that we live in there is one thing that all of us are in need of. That one thing is a few close friends in whom we can confide in, trust, and share some of the most personal details and needs of our lives. It is interesting to note how many people are out there that struggle in creating quality, long lasting friendships and how difficult their lives can be because of that challenge. So what is it that allows some people to have many long lasting friendships while many of us struggle to even have one close friend? There are actually many reasons why some people are able to easily make friends and most of it has to do with the way they treat themselves and others. Some people, however, treat everyone with kindness and still have a difficult time creating the type of friendships they are seeking. The following is a list of a few qualities that will help you to develop the kind of friendship that will last longer than a few weeks or months.

1. Know who you really are and who would be a good friend.
Not everybody is meant to be your “best friend”. In order to meet someone and create a lasting friendship you must first understand what kind of a person you are and who would want to be your friend in return. If you are the kind of person who loves to be the center of attention and always telling the stories then you probably won’t be capable of forming a lasting friendship with somebody else who likes being the topic of most conversations. On a similar note, if you are a little bit more quiet and reserved it could prove to be difficult to create a friendship with another person who is equally as shy.
Your interests and hobbies are also important to consider when determining who would make a good friend. It is most likely that you will develop friendships with people who share your interests. For example, if you are into sports and exercising it may be easier for you to make a friend through finding an exercise buddy or basketball teammate. People who tend to be into crafts are always looking for others to bounce ideas off of and do projects with. Personal interest sharing is often the main reason that two friends begin to spend time with one another.

2. Be yourself and always be sincere and genuine.
There is no point in creating a friendship that is not based on true principles. There is no need to pick up a specific hobby or activity that you don’t enjoy doing just to have a new friend in your circle. There are plenty of people out there who share one or more of the interests you have so don’t feel like there is no person who would like to spend time with you. Lasting friendships are built on more than just superficial activities and time spent with one another. True friends will accept each other for who they are and not just on what they do together.

3. Be dependable and trustworthy.
A major cause for most friendships ending or not advancing beyond the initial stage is that one party leaves the other one hanging at a critical moment. Whether it be a career change, family moving, being locked out of the apartment, or just needing someone to talk to, a friend can always be counted on to bail someone out. In every friendship there will come a time in which one of you needs the other to step up. If your friend calls on you and you can tell that he or she is struggling with something, always be willing to make the small sacrifices in order to help that friend. These small sacrifices help to build trust and care for one another and make it much more possible that when you are in need of something, your friend will also be there.

4. You must be willing to reach out to others whom you may not consider to be a future friend.
Every time you walk down the street or in the mall or at church you are passing hundreds of potential friends. The reason that most of us don’t consider reaching out to prospective friends is that we are worried they don’t share the same interests and won’t enjoy spending time with us. It is true that most of these people may not want to share their personal lives with you but it is highly likely that one or two of them are also in need of a good friend. Sometimes people with opposite personalities and interests make the best friends and are able to commit to lasting relationships. These types of personalities tend to complement one another and they don’t steal each other’s thunder because they have different interests and concerns.

5. Be positive and uplifting with everyone you meet.
Don’t buy into the belief that sarcasm will help you to make friends because you will come across as being funny. People like to hear good things about themselves and always enjoy a complement. This can become especially more difficult when you have been close friends with someone for a long time because we tend to think that everything is concrete and that the friendship cannot be lost. This can be a huge mistake however, because all of us have the need to feel that people notice our accomplishments.

6. Tell your friends that you appreciate and respect them.
We all want to feel needed and appreciated. Friendships that are long lasting tend to stand the tests of time because both people have a feeling that the other person needs them and loves them. Your friends are much more likely to notice your accomplishments if you are able to notice theirs.

7. Never be willing to compromise your values in order to make friends.
Your values and ideals are much more important than a friendship that lasts a few weeks. I say “a few weeks” because if you are willing to change who you are just to impress somebody it is likely that the relationship won’t last very long. People have a need to be close to others who are able to be themselves and not change, we like consistency. Your values have made you the type of person that you are today and the type of person you will be in the future. If you are willing to stand by your ideals it is much more likely that you will be able to be yourself around others rather than worrying whether or not the other person is impressed by you. By staying true to yourself your self-respect and self-worth will remain strong and you will have the confidence you need in order to create a lasting friendship.

8. Develop a genuine concern for your friend’s well-being.
As you develop a friendship with someone else, you will want to make sure that they are concerned about you and your happiness. You will easily recognize whether or not the person truly cares how you are or if they are just trying to create meaningless conversation. In order to get your friend to have these feelings about you and truly care for your well-being you need to show your friend that you have that same concern for him or her. People are able to detect how sincere you are when you are asking about their life and their problems. If you cannot develop a genuine concern for your friend’s well-being it can be difficult to have your relationship develop beyond the initial stage and into a long lasting friendship.

9. Keep in contact regularly.
It is not likely that your best friend who lives around the corner is always going to live around the corner. Friends move away because of family, jobs, school, and other reasons but that does not mean the friendship has to end. The modern world provides us with many means to stay in contact with old friends. The internet now offers social media such as Facebook and Twitter as well as video chat rooms and other programs such as Skype. Cell phones have made it possible to contact each other at very affordable rates and at all times of the day. There are many ways in which friends can keep in contact even if they don’t live close to one another. These types of friendships can be just as meaningful and long lasting as any.
Sometimes it is important to force contact with a friend who doesn’t live far away because life becomes busy and overwhelming. You may not have spoken to a good friend in a month or so and it could become important to make contact, even just to say hello. Many friendships have slowly slipped away because both friends have become so wrapped up in their day-to-day activities.

10. Don’t overcrowd or smother your friends.
We all need our space from time to time and sometimes a good friend might be smothering someone and not allowing them their “alone time”. It is important to discuss this with friends because it is not an easy thing to detect. If you are feeling like you need a weekend alone to just relax and not hang out, feel free to let your friend know why you can’t do anything. Understand that your friend will also have this need in a few weeks, also. Time spent away from one another can help you to appreciate your friendship and the time you spend with one another. Friendships that are too time consuming can cause family and other problems that are not healthy for the friendship or those involved.

11. Be willing to admit wrongdoings and offer apologies.
We all make mistakes and it is important to recognize that neither you nor your friend is perfect. Your friend may do something that you don’t approve of and may upset you. These are the times when friendships are truly challenged and tried. If your friend has made a mistake, he or she probably is in need of a good friend to get him or her out of trouble and back on the right track. This is when you need to be the genuine and reliable friend that you would want if you were in their situation. If you happen to have hurt a friend you need to be willing to offer an apology and ask for forgiveness. These times can cause tension in a friendship and if you just assume the tension will just disappear you will find that the friendship is the only thing that goes away. Always admit to any mistakes and be willing to forgive your friend if they are the one who has messed up.

12. Understand that some friendships will not last forever.
Some friendships only exist because they are convenient or to fulfill some purpose at a specific time in your life. Understand that not all of your friendships will last forever. When you have created a long-lasting friendship you will be able to recognize it. When you recognize that you have made one of these friends you should be willing to do the things necessary in order for that friendship to last, even during difficult times.

Building a lasting friendship is not easy and it should not be forced. If you are yourself and are willing to open yourself up to others and serve them, you will find that there are many people who are looking for a good friend.

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How to Find Your Lover & Soulmate

What True Love Is

A soul mate is your true love. It is someone that you can connect with. Ideally, the person that you love is someone that causes you no pain. Of course, all of us have trouble trying to find the true soul mate. It is something that all of us try to look for. However, we end up being stuck in a relationship that does more harm than good. If you look at other relationships, you may find that people stay with someone for any number of reasons. They could be infatuated with that person, they could be hoping for that person to change, or they could be enjoying the financial stability. No matter how you look at it, if you do not change yourself and your environment, you may never find your true soul mate. There are a lot of things that you can do to change your situation.

Many people have different definitions of soul mates and true loves. Ideally, a soul mate is your other half. They could help you deal with life when you cannot deal with it yourself. They could give you the things that you are lacking in life. Your true love could be something entirely different. Many people mix love with infatuation. For example, I am sure that you have had a high school crush. In my own experience, I found my true love when I was fifteen. He was everything I could ever ask for in a person. He cared about me and he was attracted to me. He was funny and good looking, and he was not afraid to embarrass himself. Unfortunately, he had a problem with keeping himself for one female. This is a good example of the difference between true love and soul mates. Although he was my true love, he was not my soul mate. He caused me more pain than anyone else did. Even though I will always love him, the relationship was meant to be a disaster. If you can figure out the difference between true love and a relationship meant for happiness, then you can find the person that is for you.

Cleaning Up Your Life

The first step to finding your soul mate is to clean up your life. If your life is a complete mess, how do you expect to find anything? Imagine your life as a messy bedroom. You can probably find one sock, but you cannot find the other matching sock without actively cleaning the room first. Now, look around your room. Are there things that are stopping you from finding the other matching sock? Do you know what they are?

Cleaning up your entire life is an article in itself. Because of this, let us make the path to finding the other sock simple. Do you have any trash that you want to get rid of? If something is stopping you from being able to find your true soul mate, then you need to get rid of it. For example, if you are in a relationship that does not make you happy, you may need to get out of that relationship. Many people stay in abusive relationships for different reasons. This relationship may offer you companionship, sexual activity, fun, or simple financial stability. If it is not offering you what you really need, then it is not a healthy relationship. It is understandable if you feel like this person will be the only person that is willing to be with you. However, you do not deserve to be unhappy. One of the steps to finding true love is to get out of something that is harming you.

It is hard to let go of the past. Once you are out of a harmful relationship, it can be hard to pack up everything and let it go. This is something that you will have to do. If you are having a hard time letting go of the past, try doing one of the following:

  • Try cleaning up your house. Do you remember the room that was mentioned earlier? If it is full of dirty old socks, how can you expect to find the other clean sock? Get rid of the painful memories. If you have an ex boyfriend’s old tee shirt, throw it out. If you still have old photos on your table, get rid of that as well. You might want to get rid of everything that once belonged to this person.
  • It may also help you to find an online forum or blogging website. If you can open yourself up and get things off of your chest, you might find that you will be able to let go easier. Talk about the things that bother you. There are always other people that are in the same position that you are in. If this is the case, you might be able to get advice from others just like you.

Cleaning Up Yourself

Now that you have been able to clean up that room of yours, it is time for you to look at yourself. Before you can even begin to find someone of your dreams, you need to identify and recognize the things that are wrong with you. Honesty is the best policy, and if you cannot be honest with yourself, how can you be honest with someone else? If you have been in a previous relationship that did not do well, try recalling the negative things that they have said about you. These things about you may have been annoying, or downright unbearable. No matter what they thought, think about it. If you can remember everything, and I am sure that you can, now is the time to be honest with yourself.

Try making a list of things that they hated about you. As mentioned before, be completely honest with yourself. List things that went bad in the other relationship, and mention things that you think caused the relationship to go sour. An example of this list might be:

  • I was too clingy for this person
  • I wanted all of this person’s time
  • I wanted too much from this person, and they could not cope
  • I talked too much about myself
  • I was too nosy about their time
  • I was irresponsible
  • I tried to change this person
  • I asked too much about this person’s past

Your list might be long or it may be just a few things. However long it is, be honest with yourself. The reason why I am telling you to make a list of the negative things about yourself is quite simple. You may have noticed that when a relationship first starts out, all of your energy is spent focusing on the good things. Eventually, each person will begin to focus on all of the negative parts of the other spouse.

After you have looked at the list, focus on yourself. I am not telling you to change who you are. Some things you cannot change, like being talkative, funny, or too adventurous for that person. However, you can change how much you ask them about their past. If they have something bad hidden, it may be too painful to talk about. Do you remember the first love that I mentioned earlier? If you have someone like that, I am sure you do not want to go over the heartbreak to someone else about it until later on in the relationship.

Take a year to focus on yourself and try to change certain things that you do not need in your life. Change parts of your behaviour that is bad for a relationship and get rid of the extra baggage. Do not jump into the next relationship that comes along. If you know that you are not completely ready yet, just say no. If they were truly interested in you, they would understand. They might even help you get over everything in your past.

A New You, A New Relationship

After you have cleaned up your room, it is time for you to find that other sock. The first step is remembering what it looks like. Was it fuzzy and pink, or was it a simple ankle sock? In other words, try to figure out what it is that you are looking for in a relationship. You may want to write down a list of the qualities that you want. You may want to include:

  • Political interests
  • Musical interests
  • Movie interests
  • Entertainment interests
  • Body type
  • Piercing, no piercing
  • Tattoos, no tattoos
  • Religion preference

Once you have completed this list, organize it and rank it. For example, if religion is extremely important to you, put that at the top of the list. Additionally, if you do not want someone with tattoos everywhere and a facial piercing in four different areas of the face, this may want to be at the top of the list as well.

You may also want to include things that you lack in your criteria. For example, if you enjoy having a good time but you never really know where to go for fun, you might want to find someone who is easy going and knows how to live life. This does not mean you have to find someone that can replace everything that is missing in your life. You cannot rely on them to take care of you and you cannot rely on them to replace the missing parts in your life. It is not their job to fix you. Additionally, if they have a personality trait that you wish you had, do not date them for this simple reason. You cannot borrow personality traits, and you cannot make them fix you if you think you are broken. You are fine just the way you are. These mistakes often lead to a painful relationship on your part and on their part.

Once you have created your list, review it once more and figure out what things are expendable. You have maybe a one percent chance of finding someone that has everything that you listed in your criteria. Figure out what parts you would not mind someone lacking if you were to be in a relationship with you. For example, if someone has too many tattoos but they share the same core values with you, you might want to make their appearance expendable. Not everyone is perfect. If you finally find that other sock in your room, the sock should be okay even if it is a little wrinkly. As long as you have found that matching other sock nothing else should matter. This brings me to my next point.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

Everyone makes mistakes. It does not make them a horrible person, and it does not make them unfit to be with you. This goes vice versa as well. Before you even get too deep in a relationship, tell them everything that you think they need to know. Do you remember the list of bad things that we mentioned earlier? Now is the time to bring this up. Do not be afraid to be yourself. Do not hide the bad parts of you that you cannot change. In fact, go ahead and tell them that you may not be the most organized person in the world. If you smoke cigarettes, tell them that you do this and that you do not intend to quit.

As far as the big secrets go, tell them this as well. If you try to hide something, it will end up blowing up in your face later. Imagine if the relationship continues to grow and you have been hiding something. Eventually, they will find out. Once they do, they will be angry because of the truth and because of the fact that you purposely kept something from them. This is one of the worst things that you can do to someone. This is mainly because you were not afraid of keeping a secret. How can they trust you if you are not completely honest?

If you simply tell them everything before it gets too serious, they might understand. Many people respect honesty. They will give you a chance, as opposed to being angry eight months later.

This is vice versa as well. If your potential lover has managed to summon up the courage to tell you something about him or herself, do not make it a big deal. Try to understand their position. As mentioned before, everyone has made mistakes. If they are willing to tell you about it, this may mean that they have changed or they are trying to change. Additionally, they are showing that they have nothing to hide from you, and they are taking their relationship with you seriously. You should do the same, and you should try to be compassionate and open-minded.

Do Not Give Up!

Finally, do not be discouraged. Love is out there, and all you have to do is find it. Do not date multiple people at once in a frenzy to find them. Focus on one relationship at a time. If you are dating more than one person, you will not be able to give each person the attention that they may need. Remember that you need to put all of your energy into each relationship. If you do not try hard enough, how can you expect the relationship to work? You need to figure out if each person clicks with you. If they have some qualities that you do not like, try to figure out if it is something that you can live with. For example, if this person has a thing about sports, try to understand it even if you do not enjoy sports. On the other hand, if they drink too much or happen to like happy hour with certain drugs, this is something that you do not have to deal with. If you do not focus on each relationship, you will not be able to pay attention to the small details.

True love can be seen anywhere. That being said, do not be afraid to visit new places in search of what you want. If you are interested in music, go to a concert. You might be able to find someone who is just as interested in music. Try going to bookstores or different clubs. If you enjoy skydiving, golf, or even hockey, join a club. You can find anyone practically anywhere.

If you do the same thing that you did before, you are going to get what you got before.

When I say this, I mean do not go through the same routine. For example, if you met your last lover at a party, change up your scene and go somewhere else. Try to avoid dating the same person that you always fall for. Give people a chance if you normally would not give them a chance. You may get the unexpected. You may actually find that sock that you have been looking for.

Even if cleaning your room makes it the same place, it is always changing. There will be new environments, and you will buy new socks. Take the time to find the right one. If you know that one relationship is not going to work, do not be afraid to leave it and find someone else. Additionally, do not be afraid to leave your comfort zone. Try things that you have never tried before. Being single does not chain you to the ground. Now is the time to live your life and find true love in the process. Who knows? Maybe you will find someone just when you least expect it. No matter what you do, do not give up. That person is out there somewhere, looking for you when you are looking for them.

Now that you have cleaned up your life, you have room for true love. You no longer have to suffer with someone’s endless pain. You have made bad relationship mistakes in the past. Now is the time to learn from them. Do not get into the same situation that you were in before. If you know that you did something wrong in your previous relationship, change it. Be more thoughtful of their needs, and you will get the same type of treatment. Understand what true love is. Find someone who will truly love you for you. If someone cannot accept who you are or if you cannot accept who he or she is, then it is not a relationship that will work. You cannot change one another, so you may as well try to find someone that does not need to change. You are who you are, and they are who they are. There are no hidden signs.

Find someone who is willing to take the time to know you. Find someone who comes to see if you if you ask them to. Find someone who does the small things to show that they care, even if they have no money or no time to do anything. This goes for you as well. Take the time to understand them and listen to what they have to say. If you put enough time and care into the relationship, it may blossom into what you have been looking for all along. Relationships do not become perfect at the beginning. It takes work, and it requires two people. As long as you remember this, you will be on the path to a working relationship. You will be on your path to true love.

Now that you have cleaned your room, you can finally start finding that other sock. Good luck on your journey, and do not be afraid if it is a little wrinkled.

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What is the Meaning of Life?

There is a question that lies behind every man and woman’s daily thoughts and activities. One of the great equalizers of human kind is that we all, regardless of race, creed, color, or nation, wonder what our lives mean. The inherent desire to question our world and all that exists within it is the most significant difference between humans and animals. Reflecting on our evolution from tribal hunters and gatherers to high tech creatures of leisure, we cannot escape the most basic of questions. What is life?

Ancient Wisdom

The search for life’s meaning is not new. Ancient Greek philosophers spent their lifetimes contemplating this very question. During the 5th century BC, noted philosopher Socrates declared “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This simple quote is not just influential to a philosophical mind, it suggests something deeper and more complex. It is a mandate that compels humanity to examine life’s essence. Socrates influences us by linking meaning to life and placing a heavy weight to his words. He does not just suggest that there might be meaning to live, he insists that it must be contemplated, examined. To not do so reduces our species to something less. The teachings of Socrates influences the way we think to this day.

Prior to Socrates, the teachings of Confucius in China were held in high regard. Confucius is credited with having said “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first by reflection, which is noblest; second by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” In this wisdom, he held that reflection is the purest way to obtain wisdom. Once more, philosophical teaching that implores us to think about our very existence. This is, in fact, a very common piece of advice among those philosophers of all ancient cultures. It is such a fundamental concept that it would be examined by more modern philosophers and spiritualists throughout history.

While their advice to contemplate our lives seems simple, their true intent and meaning is easily lost in the modern world. What is this idea of a meaningful life? Philosophers both ancient and modern promote an examined life, but who determines the definition of a meaningful life? What is the ultimate goal of self contemplation? We see that the question very rapidly becomes a rabbit hole through which we must travel without benefit of chart, map or guide. The quest for life’s meaning is open ended and vague. In point of fact, it creates even more questions. Am I living a meaningful life? To whom am I beholden in answering this question?

At its most basic this complex question is, in essence, an attempt to validate our own existence. Seemingly this question seeks approval. In modern western culture, much value is placed on a person’s ability to gain wealth, respect, power and prestige. There is a great respect and regard for positions in politics, religion, medicine and education. While greed may be a part of this validation, it is not always so. Much value is also placed on social or personal achievement. In many circles, life’s meaning is found in one’s profession or career. Some view the value of creating and providing for a family as meaningful. How do we decide what part of life dictates its meaning. Is the material aspect of life more important than the social and spiritual? Or vice versa.

There is another possibility. It is possible that we may not really understand what Socrates meant by examining life. The idea seems straight forward and material. However, if we view this question in a broader sense, we may be able to find a simpler answer. Perhaps we tend to over think the purpose of our existence. It is possible that Socrates, Confucius and others were not quite understood. It’s important to consider that the meaning of life is of a singular nature. That is to say that it is only a dilemma for the self. Each individual person must decide what value their life holds. As with art, life’s meaning is in the eye of the beholder.

A Material Life

The most basic of life motivators is survival. The urge to survive drives us in most of our endeavors. The most basic of needs are sought out. Food, water and shelter. Life’s necessities are important of course, but they do not provide much meaning to life. As our species became more sophisticated, we were able to manipulate nature’s resources to suit our needs. For many people in modernized countries survival is not an issue. That fact leads to a more recreational life style. Non-essential possessions are desired and a sense of importance is placed on what and how many possessions we have. To obtain those possessions we must find occupations that can provide the means to achieve wealth. Thus, prestige, power and social rank begin to manifest themselves as our defining points. On the surface a materialistic life may seem shallow and short sighted, however, there are valuable aspects of this life that can define us in a positive way. A social or economic position might be reached due to our hard work ethic, our desire to finish tasks or a genuine desire to do our best at every task. But while important, these traits don’t provide a meaning of life.

A Spiritual Life

Religion has traditionally been a major force in humanity’s search for meaning. It has provided a very important aspect to this question. It establishes a theory that there is an existence beyond the material world. Throughout history many people have been drawn to the belief of a hereafter due in no small part to the fear of death and a presumed finality. The belief in an afterlife is reassuring, however, it also takes the burden off of the individual in defining his or her existence. Without that burden, focus is shifted from examining the nature of life to speculating the nature of gods and heavens. Spirituality is vastly important in defining one’s existence but it is also just a starting point. It would be too simplistic to say ‘I exist because I was made by a higher power’. Even if that is true, there is so much more to examine.

The Ego

For all the wisdom of ancient and modern thinkers, our truths exclusively lie within ourselves. Ultimately we determine our own morals, ethics, spirituality and indeed the meaning of our lives. To discover that meaning we must follow the wisdom of our philosophers, both spiritual and non. It is our own responsibility to find that answer. Education and meditation are powerful tools in the journey to self introspection. We can enlighten ourselves through reading and contemplating our lives each day. However, even these two tools can run counter to the very question we are asking.

The Secret Meaning of Life

We look around our world and wonder why. Life on this planet can be taken for granted when a species like ours achieves an advanced existence in which we have no want for food, water or shelter. Fight or flight mechanisms are no longer of use and they become dusty and unused. Life in our modern world seems easy, yet in reality it is very fragile and very special. To examine life is to become more humble and amazed at how grand and complex life really is.

The meaning of life is a well kept secret in a glass jar. It stares back at us in the mirror. It surrounds us on our way to work. It sits quietly in the palm of our hand. When we pass each other on the street, life’s meaning looks into our eyes. We touch it, feel it, smell it and sense it every day but we do not realize what it is. We talk about life, and we meditate about it’s meaning. We read books to find the answer. We ask those in high regard ‘what is the meaning of life?’. The secret is that there is no secret.

Whether we’ve been granted a gift from above or won an evolutionary game of chance, we are in possession of a very special and wondrous thing. We are alive. Life itself is where we find meaning. Decades of meditation, while spiritually rewarding, is not living. Spending years with our noses in books, searching, is educationally gratifying but not living. The meaning of life is to be found in our every day human experiences. If we spend our lifetimes wringing our hands, wondering, theorizing and seeking life’s meaning, we miss the point entirely.

The meaning of life is self defined. We must live our lives to their fullest extent with the utmost passion and reverence. We create the parameters of our lives each day by establishing our own moralities, ethics and spiritualities. Life’s purpose, our purpose, is defined by the way we treat ourselves and each other. By the way we connect with the rest of the life that surrounds us. When we achieve that connection, we discover the meaning of life in a most amazing way. There is a sensation of peace when we see what is already before us. The meaning of life is simply to live.

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