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