Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year, New Resolutions

As the crystal ball drops we descend into a new year, a new decade. A clean slate full of new opportunities.

The new year will be filled with countless resolutions, goals and promises.

While just another day, January 1st, 2010 presents a great opportunity for self improvement. Because wanting to improve is the most important step to actually improving. (In reality, any day you choose to make a conscious decision to improve is a great opportunity. This hyper-self-help sentence is super corny and yet super true.)

Going into the new year with a little preparation can make a big difference in terms of sticking with your resolutions.

A few tips for your 2010 goals
  • Choose something you really want do to. This is the most important tip. You won't stick to something you don't care about.
  • Tell someone about it or write it down. This will keep you inspired and increase accountability.
  • Make the resolution doable. 
  • Set measurable benchmarks. "I want to get in shape," is a terrible resolution. What does this even mean? When will you be in shape? Where is the motivation? A better alternative: "I will work out for 10 minutes five times a week." This will keep you motivated and will allow you to track your progress.
  • Limit yourself. Do not spread yourself too thin. The more goals you set the less likely you will be to do them. Shoot for the one or two things you truly want.
Inching towards your goals and slowly building positive habits is a great way to make your resolutions a reality.


Photo: Jsome1

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What is Your Goal in Life?

I never really thought about what my main goal in life was until I was 17. I lived life because that is what I had always done. I tried to do well in school because I liked doing well. I had a job because I needed money. I did things to do them.

It amazes me that I floated in life for so long without really thinking about why I did anything, beyond surface reasons.

When I was first asked the "goal in life" question by my then-girlfriend, now fiancee, I did not know what to say. I thought about it for a minute and said my goal in life was to be successful. "Quick thinking," I thought to myself with a smile.

I asked her the same question. She said her goal was to be happy.

The moment she answered I knew her answer was better then mine. (She is a very smart woman.)

Having a big, overarching goal is not necessary as evidenced by my initial 17 years of existence. But it is helpful. It's helpful in those moments when you are searching for reasons to get up in the morning or deciding what type of career you should choose. It's helpful when contemplating philosophical questions like,why am I here?

Happiness in context

Currently I am reading The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by The Dalai Lama. The main idea of the book is very clear: "the purpose of our life is happiness." The idea is discussed in the context of how it can be helpful on a day-to-day basis. Flipping through the book, here is a section from a page I dogeared:

"The purpose of our life is happiness. That simple statement can be used as a powerful tool in helping us navigate through life's daily problems. From that perspective, our task becomes one of discarding the things that lead to suffering and accumulating the things that lead to happiness. The method, the daily practice, involves gradually increasing our awareness and understanding of what truly leads to happiness and what doesn't.

When life becomes too complicated and and we feel overwhelmed, it's often useful to stand back and remind ourselves of our overall purpose, our overall goal. When faced with a feeling of stagnation and confusion, it may be helpful to take an hour, an afternoon, or even several days to simply reflect on what it is that will truly bring us happiness, and then restart our priorities on the basis of that. This can put our life back in proper context, allow a fresh perspective, and enable us to see which direction to take."

The advice is simple.  Become aware of what leads to your happiness and what leads to suffering.  Do what makes you happy and don't do what makes you suffer. Obviously, in our real lives it is not this simple.  Little is black and white and sometimes its necessary to face the things that make us suffer before they will go away.

Whether you decide that your purpose in life is to be happy or if it's something else, the above advice can be helpful. Taking a moment to step back to ensure that our actions and decisions are in line with our ultimate goal is crucial. Because it is the accumulation of our decisions that ultimately determine who we are and who we become. 

Photo: rajkumar1220

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Slow and Steady...

My initial foray into self improvement was fun. My ambition was so high that I felt I could truly do anything. I brainstormed all the things that I wanted to improve and set out improving. After a great 3 or 4 months I hit a plateau; I was getting stretched too thin and was not happy. What came next, I believe, happens to many who set out to improve and hit some difficulty. I shut down. I stopped working out, getting up early, reading thought provoking books, everything. I went from feeling like I could conquer the world to feeling like I couldn't get out of bed. The more I think about it now the more I am reminded of the many people who excitedly set New Year resolutions only to forget about them two weeks down the road. 

Where it went wrong

I got too ambitious and confident in what I thought I could do that I did not limit the goals I set to achieve to things I really, truly wanted. I had so much on my plate that I did not have time to comfortably focus on the one or two things I really wanted to do. Additionally, I probably should have limited my pace in the beginning. I sprinted the first 5 miles of a marathon, only to come up winded a fourth of the way through. (Maybe the tortoise was really right...)

What I am doing about it

Instead of dwelling too much on my failures I know that I have to focus on the present and the things I can do now. Focus on what I want to accomplish and how I want to do it. Rather than the rigid, utilitarian approach I previously took, I am only going to set out to improve things I truly care about and make me happy. Over the next few days I will be thinking about where I am currently and where I want to be.

Photo: cliff1066 

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for having a loving family, a wonderful fiancee and great friends.  I am thankful for having a warm apartment to call home, with food in the cupboards. I am thankful for having the opportunity to think and write about my ideas and passions.

*Happy Thanksgiving*

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Weathering the Storm

I have been blogging a lot less frequently.  The reason is that I have not felt like writing about self improvement.  I have not felt like actively doing anything in a while.  It is hard to strive for improvement when you feel like you are just getting by day to day.

Life can wear you down when you let it.  And sometimes it feels like you don't really have a choice in the matter.  Pretty much everything that this blog has revolved around is that we all have a choice in who we want to be and what type of life we want to lead.  In theory this is a great idea and I truly do believe it.  But I also recognize that in practice we don't always have the time or energy for our normal lives.  In these difficult times improving and choosing to be better is an afterthought.

How you handle the difficult times can define who you are.  Sometimes weathering the storm is just the best option.

Photo: Kr. B  

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Auto-Simplify Your Life

I never miss an episode of The Office. The reason? Because it’s an awesome show. Another reason is that my DVR is set to record the show automatically every Thursday at 8.

Automation is a good thing when it comes ensuring you catch your TV shows. It can also be a good tool for improving and simplifying your life in other ways.

Automating aspects of your life allows you to be lazy. I don’t know about you but I like being lazy, or at least I like having the option of being able to be lazy.

Here are a few ways to automate your life:
  • Set up Google Reader to automatically pull articles from your favorite blogs.
  • Automatically invest or save a portion of your paycheck. Take the money right off the top. It doesn’t have to be a lot. You will get used to not having that money. It will pay off in the end and cause you a lot less stress.
  • DVR your favorite shows. My recommendations: The Office, 30 Rock, Top Chef. Watch them without commercials and spend the extra time doing something worthwhile.
  •  Set up your coffeemaker before you go to bed. Spend 30 seconds setting it up so you do not have to stumble around in the morning. Wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee.  This is also helpful in not spending a lot of money at Starbucks.
  • Autopay your bills. It is pretty easy and straightforward to set up autopay on most bills.  I set up my bills to pay right before they are due. This is my way of sticking it to the big banks and credit card companies. (Take that Bank of America!) No late fees. No hassle.
  •  Pack yourself a nice, healthy lunch for work. When you are at work and hungry you’ll eat anything, including a healthy lunch. If you are not a morning person pack it the night before.
These things all sound nice but the biggest hurdle to any of them is doing work now while reaping the benefits later. In our world of instant gratification investing time and energy now without immediately getting something back is rare. But it can be worth it, saving you time, energy and stress down the road. And best of all it can ensure you do not miss Michael Scott and the gang.

Photo: Toronto Rob

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fall-ing Out of Habits

I am not sure if it's the cold weather, shorter days or increased football, but once fall hits it is much harder for me to get anything done.  My work out goals have been sputtering.  My law school applications are still not out.  The frequency of my blog posts has been weak.

Overcoming these type of difficulties is just a part of the game.  I am making myself finish my personal statements for law school this weekend.  I also need to reassess the habits I am trying to build.

If fall is this hard, winter will be harder.

Just because things are not going well today does not mean they cannot be better tomorrow.

Photo: Per Ola Wiberg

Sunday, October 11, 2009

4 Tips to Improve Your Finances

For the past two weeks I have been on a binge of learning more about personal finances. Currently, I am reading Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Yes the title is blatantly over the top, but the ideas expounded in it are not. Sethi gives practical advice for how to improve your finances.

Here are some tips that I have taken from Sethi and other research on personal finance:
  • Improve your credit score. This can be done in a couple different ways but the easiest is getting a credit card and then paying the full amount off every month. Having a good credit score will save you thousands down the road.
  • Keep track of your expenses. This can be done any way that works for you. But beware, if your method of budgeting is not easy you will not do it. A website that I just discovered and am in love with right now is The site tracks all expenses from your debit or credit card and automatically sorts them into categories. Then you can see exactly where all of your money is going. The site lets you set budgets, gives you warning and even lets you track any loans, all income and pretty much anything else. Check it out.
  • Invest early. You have heard it before. I’ve heard it before. Even if you do not have a lot of money, do a little. If your employer matches your 401(k) invest what you can, otherwise you are losing free money. When figuring out your budget, try to take out a portion right off the top for investing.
  • Spend money on what you love. If you do not spend on the things you really enjoy you will not stick with your spending plan. Try to cut money from things you do not really care about and spend money on things you do. For me, I do not really care about the car I drive, the clothes I wear or the restaurants I go to eat. So (when not taking the bus) I drive a ’97 Bonneville, wear clothes I’ve had since high school and eat a lot of soup. I do care about my education, my future wedding and watching football games. So I spend thousands on going to school, a lot on wedding reception sites and DJs and on an HD cable package.
Personal finance is often made overly complicated with too much data and too many options. It does not have to be that hard.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How to Make Self Improvement Fun

I enjoy improving. Particularly, I enjoy seeing progress. This is one of the biggest reasons why I enjoy computer and video games. The games allow you to level-up, increase various attributes, all the while letting you see how you have improved. (Yes, I realize that I am a dork.)

Self improvement is similar in the sense that it is fun to see ourselves get better at things. But there are big differences. Virtual improvement is quick, easy and displays the improvement right away. Real improvement is not always quick, not always easy and not automatically displayed.  (Another big difference is that real improvement is...actually real.)

Making self development more like a game can make the process easier and more fun. The easiest way to do this is focus on displaying or charting results and progress. I envision something similar to the Wii Fit, where every workout is recorded and displayed in various fun ways.  (If only there was a Wii Diet or Wii Law School Application.)

Here are a few tips to making improving yourself more like a game and more fun:
  • It has to be easy. If the process to showing progress is more work than actually improving you will not stick with it.
  • Make it public. Making your goals public gives you a greater incentive to work towards them.  It also is a lot more fun when you succeed.
  • Make a work out log. I am doing this right now. It has been very helpful, sometimes frustrating and other times, fun.
  • Try to make your goals more quantifiable. Without being able to track what you have done it is almost impossible to track progress.  (This does not mean that less quantifiable goals are less worthy, just that they are harder to keep up with.)
  • Make a blog. Trust me, creating a blog is really easy. It allows you to publicly create goals and gives you an avenue to chart improvement. If you are thinking about doing this let me know and I will be more than happy to help out.
  • Find people who are looking to improve. They will motivate you. You will motivate them. Everybody wins. Places to check out: online forums/websites and even your everyday friends if you talk to them about it.
  • Improve things you care about.  Do not try to improve just to improve.  You either won't stick with or won't care after you have succeeded.
I am still working on ways that I can better chart improvement. I will keep tinkering with this blog and other avenues to see how I can make the process easier and more fun.  If things are fun, we do them.

Photo: vramak

Monday, September 21, 2009

What Better Time Than Now?

At this moment you are the oldest you've ever been and the youngest you'll ever be.

You have the most knowledge, experience and wisdom than you have had at any moment in your life.

You have the most youthful energy, optimism and drive than you will ever have.

It is the perfect time to use this combination of experience and energy to do something great.

It doesn't have to be a huge, complicated task. If you want to lose weight, go for a jog. If you love writing, start a blog. If you don't know what you want to do, think about it.

The hardest part to doing anything is just getting starting.

There will never be a better time than now.

Photo: John Morgan

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Your Political Views Are Not Right

While I have not touched on politics in this blog, I work in the industry and it is a great interest of mine. Politics does not necessary fall under the self improvement category, but good public policy can improve the lives of many. (At least that is how I am justifying writing about it.)

This is not a political blog so I am not going to get into a deep conversation about the nuances of various public policy. (Whew.)

Instead I will offer a few political-related self improvement tips:
  • Your political views are not right. Your friends opposing views are not right either. My views are not right. They are all just snap shot judgments of reality from a particular view at a particular time. If the solutions to the worlds problems were that easy they probably would already be solved. Advancing public policy and voting on elected officials makes these judgments necessary, but it does not make them right. Additionally, your views will change as you get older. If they don't you probably are not thinking about this stuff enough.
  • Intolerance makes you look like an idiot. Intolerance to the views of others is one of the biggest hurdles to solving problems and collectively moving forward. I do not think people understand how ignorant they look when they know they have it right and everyone else has it wrong.
  • Be more critical of your own views. Mark Twain: "In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination." Having the same political views as your parents does not make them right or wrong. But it should make you wonder.
  • Don't be ambivalent. Being ambivalent to the whole process is the easiest way out. You do not have to think about the different problems and views and political bickering. But turning a blind eye to problems does not make them go away. It only exacerbates them if enough people do it.
An overly idealistic view that I still hold is that solving problems should transcend political parties and ideologies. Striving to understand the views of others and working with them better allows us to reach the common goal of making this world a better place. We have a lot riding on us.

Photo: woodleywonderworks

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I'm Too Busy

I'm too busy. I have way too much stuff going on. I have a job that requires long hours. I am planning a wedding. I just cannot do it all.

This is how I started letting myself think. I have been pretty busy lately and just started thinking, maybe I just do not have time to write blog posts, or work out or go on romantic dates.

How ridiculous are these thoughts? Everyone is busy. We all have a lot going on. I am 23. I have the least amount of responsibility that I am going to have until I am retired. Think about it. The least amount of responsibility for decades.

I need to take advantage of this time. I am starting to realize that if you do not have the time now you will not have the time later.

We never truly realize how well we have it until after the fact. Wait until you have a kid. Or two kids. And a job with longs hours. And t-ball. And...well you get the picture.

It may seem like you are too busy to go and conquer a goal or do something you really want. There is time, you just have to make it.

Here are a few ways to make enough time for the things you love:
  • Stop spending so much time doing things you do not care about. We all do it. Sometimes it is easy to waste a whole evening watching bad TV shows or surfing through pictures of people you do not even know on facebook.
  • Sleep a little less. This one is hard for me. I love sleeping. I love getting 8 (or more) hours of sleep. I am starting to realize that it is not necessary. Get up early in the morning and stay up. Make some time for yourself.
  • Learn to say no. This is important. You are not obligated to do something just because someone asks. (Unless its your soon-to-be-wife.)
  • Do things that are important to you. It is easy to get wrapped up in our daily routines and forget about the things that are important to us. Think about the things that are important to you and make sure you are spending enough time doing them.
  • Get to it.
Photo: Michel Filion

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Opening Career Doors

I recently posted about how I am using this summer to help me decide what career to pursue.

I am starting to realize that mapping out exactly what I want to do is not necessarily the best idea. To think that you can just pick out a career that you will be in for the next 40 or 50 years when you are in your younger 20's is unrealistic. Careers have twists and people change. I may decide that I want to be a government affairs attorney now, but does that mean I will want to be one in five years? Or 20 years?

Not only do we change but markets and technology change. With the decline of the newspaper industry many journalism majors are being forced to shift gears. Careers are variable. We need to be variable.

Instead of mapping the rest of our lives out we need to focus more on the present. Focus on doing a good job and keep your eyes open to opportunities that may come up. Doing great work will open doors. Also important is keeping in contact with the people you have worked with. Having this network will keep you connected to new opportunities that arise.

Deciding which opportunities to chase is key. Knowing what you like and what you are passionate about will make it much easier to make these decisions.

Keep your eyes open and keep working hard.

Photo: anyjazz65

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Working Out Consistently

I mentioned in a previous post that one of my goals was to work out more. It still is a goal but I am finding it hard to consistently work out. I think the reason is because "work out more" is not really a defined goal. There is little to motivate me when I think about it in those terms.

I need to sent a tangible goal if I really do want to work out more (which I do).

Fortunately, what I have done is record how much I have been working out over the past 5 weeks. Here has been my breakdown:
  • Week 1: 3.8 miles ran, 65 push ups
  • Week 2: 6.2 miles ran, 70 push ups
  • Week 3: 4.8 miles ran, 35 push ups
  • Weak 4: 2.9 miles ran, 30 push ups
  • Week 5: 4.3 miles ran, 40 push ups
As you can see my work outs have been all over the place. The reason: I work out when I can and when I am busy I just don't do it. I really have not made it a priority. So I am setting a new goal: run 5 miles a week and do 100 push ups. Once I can consistently do this I want to bump it up even more.

A big future motivator will be the fact that my wedding and honeymoon are less than a year away! It is never too soon to get into shape to look good for my future wife on the beaches of Hawaii.

Photo: Stuart Seeger

Friday, August 14, 2009

Deciding to Dream

When I was five I wanted to be a football player. I was almost certain that it was going to happen. The reason: because I loved it. I loved playing it, watching it and thinking about it.

Most children have similar dreams and aspirations. There is nothing they cannot do. It is inspiring to see a child believe they can do whatever they set their mind to. They do not care about probabilities or difficulties; if they want something they will go for it.

I love this idea, but in the back of my mind I cannot help but think: how realistic does a dream have to be to chase it?

What does realistic mean?

One of the hardest parts in deciding whether to chase something you really want is deciding is it realistic? Is it worth it? These are good questions to ask.

If you are a single mother raising four kids, then moving to Hollywood to chase your acting dream is risking a lot. Becoming a famous actress would be great, but you have four kids depending on you. To a certain extent this internal cost-benefit calculation is important to ensure you are not risking too much for too little.

But what is realistic is different for each person. We define what is realistic. Sometimes putting all your effort into accomplishing a goal with a small shot of succeeding is worth it because you love what you are fighting for. If you want it more than others you will probably out work them. If you out work everyone else you will probably succeed. Several other factors come into play, but these are the biggest.

If you want something bad enough, who I am to tell you that you cannot do it? Who is anyone else to tell you that you cannot do something? Everyday I am amazed at the things people accomplish. The mother of four could have all the talent and drive in the world and only needs to be discovered.

All of this taken into consideration, we can learn something by being more like children. While sometimes our childish fantasies fade, as we get older new dreams emerge. Dreams of being a better person or having a better job. Dreams of a better life. Do not be afraid to be like a child and follow your heart.

I have a what?

It is one thing to dream, it is an entirely different thing to turn these dreams into reality.

Big dreams require big drive. Reaching goals and dreams requires you to want it. To overcome people telling you that you are not good enough. To overcome the countless difficulties you will encounter along the way.

The only thing worse than chasing your goals and failing is deciding not to even try. Not deciding to chase your dreams is a decision. It is one big decision yielded from countless small decisions of inaction culminating in a life of accepting what you have been given. A decision to be like everyone else.

Why settle for average? Why be happy with just getting by? When do you actually go for it? There rarely is a defining moment that will tell you to just go for it. You have to create it.


The hardest part about chasing these dreams is failure. Failure is scary. No one likes to fail. But chasing your dream and failing is better than living a life filled with regrets. Though you may not reach the ultimate goal, the things you gain from chasing it and the experiences you go through are truly invaluable. And when you do set out for a dream and succeed...well there truly is nothing like it.

Photo: Hamed Masoumi

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Creating Habits to Overcome Laziness

"I believe that goals — especially ones that are worth reaching — are ultimately achieved through the building of good habits."
Leo Babauta, Zen Habits

It is easy to dream about the things that you want to achieve. The hard part is following through and getting them done. A huge influence on me and this website is a blog called Zen Habits. If you have not heard of it follow the link and check it out. It is my favorite blog to read and easily the most beneficial.

One of main ideas behind Zen Habit's is the importance of reaching goals through the building of habits. The process for forming these habits is to start small and incrementally change what you do. For example, if you want to wake up earlier, do it slowly. Get up 15 minutes earlier for a couple days. Once you get used to that wake up 15 minutes earlier than your new time. You might be able to go from 9 am to 5:30 am for a couple days but this will probably lead to you crashing and going back to the old routine. If you are interested in getting up earlier check out Zen Habit's post on the benefits of getting up earlier and how to do it.

This idea of forming habits slowly can be applicable to reaching many different goals, such as: eating better, working out more, studying more, watching less TV , aimlessly surfing on the internet less, etc.

A key notion that the blog emphasizes is to focus on improving only a few areas at a time. Put all your extra attention on improving these areas. Once you build a habit it becomes part of your life. You can then move on to the next thing you want to focus on. If you focus on too many things at one time it can be very overwhelming and will increase your chance of failure.

Here are a few habits that I have been working on recently:
  • Getting up earlier. This is one is tough and I even consider myself a morning person. I used to get up for work at 7 am and leave for work at 7:45 am. I slowly got it down to 6, but whether I actually get up then really depends on how late I stayed up the previous night. Committing to getting up earlier necessitates committing to going to bed earlier (which can be tough, especially if your fiancee is a night owl). Having nearly two hours in the morning before leaving for work is pretty great. It allows me to workout (when I feel like it), make a good breakfast, pack a good lunch, write and just get ready slowly. Relaxing and drinking a cup of coffee is my favorite way to start the day.
  • Working out more. I have recently started writing down how much I work out everyday. I have not yet set a goal for how much I want to workout but even writing it down is motivating. The hard part will be keeping up with this habit in the winter.
  • Staying in the moment. I am really working on focusing on the present and enjoying the little things. This means not worrying about what happened in the past and what might happen in the future. This one is a lot harder because it is not a finite thing and difficult to measure, but the goal is definitely worth seeking.
Reaching goals through building habits is about lifestyle changes. It is a slow process, but definitely worth it.

Photo: Jens Poder

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Overcoming Obstacles

Everyone has moments in life where it seems like everything is going wrong. You cannot catch a break. Instead of worrying about reaching your goals you have to worry about if you can find a new job or if your relationship will work or how to get over the death of a loved one.

We do not live in a bubble. Outside stressors affect how we feel and influence our ability to reach our goals. When times get tough my attention usually is focused on staying afloat rather than self improvement.

Here are a few tips for balancing personal problems and remaining focused on your priorities:
  • Deal with the problem(s). Some problems do not go away easily and require our attention before they are resolved. Focus your attention on either fixing the problem (if possible), understanding why it happened (if possible) and then accepting it. Once you get yourself back on track you can attend to your goals full-steam.
  • Modify you goals based on new circumstances. Sometimes when big things come up in our lives we have to modify what we want to accomplish. Review your goals and make sure they are still in line with your current situation.
  • Stay positive. Sometimes this can be very difficult to do. Think of the good things in your life, do not get too down. This does not mean ignore your problems (see first bullet).
  • Understand your motivations. Know why you are trying to accomplish something. If a goal has little meaning for you, you probably will not accomplish it when times get tough.
  • Make time for goals. Many people are so busy that they rarely make time for themselves. This can be especially true during times of turmoil. Even if it is for only 30 minutes a day, make time for yourself and your goals.
  • Create habits. Creating routines where you slowly work toward your priorities is an easy way to stay on task. My next post will be covering this is the topic more in depth.
Just because obstacles come up does not mean you have to stop reaching for your goals. There are 100 different ways to reach one goal. When you cannot reach something the way you originally thought try another way. If that doesn't work, try another way. It is easy to make excuses when things come up, but there is always a way forward.

Photo: Mykl Roventine

Friday, July 31, 2009

Embrace Your Laziness to be More Productive

There is a ton of advice out there on ways to improve your life. There are times when it is easy to soak up this information and dream of improvement. Other times its hard to even get off the couch, much less practice for a marathon or meditate or learn a new language.

For me there is a certain natural ebb and flow to my productivity. In the mornings I have all the drive in the world (at least after I have my first cup of coffee). Come 3 pm on a work week and I almost always hit a wall and just want to go home. The same thing usually happens during the seasons. Spring through fall it is generally easy to be productive, but come winter I just want to hibernate.

It is important to remember that everyone feels lazy at certain times. It is ok. This does not mean that you cannot improve or reach your goals.

Learning how to deal with the laziness and still find time to work towards your goals is really the key.

Here are my keys for dealing with fluctuating ambition levels:
  • Embrace your laziness. Take advantage of some down time. Enjoy not doing anything. Do not feel guilty. Restore your mind and body. This step is crucial to avoid burnout.
  • Be productive when you have ambition. Use your natural energy cycles to your benefit. Understand when you usually are productive and take advantage of the time. If you are not a morning person, work hard in the evening when you have the energy. When you know you are not going to have the energy or ambition, pushing yourself into something you do not want to do often leads to failure.
  • The key is balance. If you combine the first two tips I gave, you might be thinking, "Nice, I can just not work when I don't want to and I'll reach my goals!" Its not that easy (good things in life never are). Inactivity for 95 % of the day will lead you no where. Embracing the fact that you will get lazy is a good idea. But connected to this is the idea that when you are not lazy you get things done. You make a choice of action. Work towards your goals. Use the ambition that you have inside, the dreams of a better life and work hard to get the things you want.
And when you accomplish a big goal or reach a milestone, go grab a cold one with some friends or just curl up on the couch and be lazy.

Photo: Claudio Matsuoka

Saturday, July 25, 2009

10 Things That Inspire Me

To improve anything you need inspiration. It can come from anywhere and can inspire you in all different ways. Some things drive me to work harder, some to have better relationships and some to be a better person.

Here are ten of my biggest inspirations:

1. Seeing results/achieving goals. I love getting better and improving. The best way for me to see results is to keep track of my performance.

2. Competition. I am a very competitive person. It drives me.

3. Lakes and oceans. There is nothing like gazing out at Lake Michigan on a hot summer day, feeling the cool breeze against your face. This is less about productivity and more about just staying in the moment.

4. Being the underdog. Throughout college I worked harder than almost everyone else because I believed everyone else was smarter.

5. Little old couples. I cannot help but smile when I see little old couples going for a walk and holdings hands. Relationships are not easy and take a lot of work; seeing people who have overcome difficulties and are still in love is truly inspiring.

6. Selfless people. Individuals who give so much and ask for little in return push me to be a more selfless person.

7. Overachievers. Ambition is contagious.

8.Failure. It is not the fear of failing, but remembering my past failures that inspires me.

9. Family and Friends. Making the ones you love proud is a big motivation.

10. Being lazy. Every once in a while you just have to relax and not worry about anything.

Inspiration can really be found almost anywhere, you just have to look for it.

Photo: Kevin Dooley

Thursday, July 23, 2009


“Everyone feels some ambition, but few have ambitions on a vast scale.”

Three years ago I ran across this quote by Tocqueville while reading for a political philosophy class. It struck a chord with me at the time so I scrawled it on a piece of paper and put it in my wallet. To this day I still have it and run across it every few months when I de-George Costanza my wallet.

Having ambition is one thing, having enough to consistently act on it is another. Why not push yourself? Why not have ambitions on a vast scale? Most good things in life were done by people who thought big. If you fail, you fail. You will get over it and have that experience to push you. My failures drive me to succeed.

I am no expert in self-improvement but my one key to success is to work harder than everyone else. Realize that you are not the only person with with motivations and aspirations and work harder, longer and smarter then everyone to achieve your goals.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Finding Your Career Path

For the past couple years I have been trying to figure out what career to pursue. Unlike a lucky few, I have never had that dream path that I knew I would follow. College helped cultivate my interest in a few areas, namely, politics and law. Yet I still find myself questioning my specific career path. My only requirement (aside from being able to pay the bills) is that I find a job that I am passionate about. When I do things I am passionate about I am happy, take pride in my work and do it really well. I think this is applicable to most people. Finding something that you can do that fills you with passion and that someone will give you money for is the ultimate key.

I am spending this summer trying to gain a better understanding of what I want to do and what fills me with passion. I am doing this in a couple different ways:
  • Taking the time to think. Taking 20 minutes to sit and contemplate career goals and life is probably the first step. As simple as this seems it is easy to not do it.
  • Reading. Reading books about different careers and successful people can yield great advice. Reading about remarkable people and ideas usually gets my mind racing.
  • Talking to people in the field. Who better to talk to than people who have great jobs. I have found that people are very honest and helpful if you ask them for career advice.
  • Writing this blog. This blog forces me to extrapolate on my thoughts and career aspirations.
The most important step is just taking the time to think and reflect. I think too many people take what they are given and accept it. They get a job and go with the flow. I worked at a place once where you could just see people who had lost their passion for work long ago. They trudged on because they had to. I vowed then to never let that happen to me. Having the power to choose what you want to do is a gift. Don't waste it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.”
John Dewey

My name is Ryan Krueger. I currently live in Los Angeles with my wife Caroline and our cats Siggy and Millie.  I finished by first year of law school at Loyola Chicago and recently transferred to UCLA.  For the past couple years I have been focusing on improving different areas of my life, with varying degrees of success. I strive to be a better person, to have a better relationship and to have a more successful career.

About the Website:

Choice of Action is a website geared towards self improvement. It covers a wide range of topics centering on the "continuous (self) formation through choice of action."

Topics include:
  • Tips to reach goals
  • Productivity
  • Health/fitness tips
  • Relaxation
  • Mistakes along the way
Choice of Action is a chronicle of my quest for improvement and (hopefully) can provide a bit of help for those also looking to improve.