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3 Tips for Accomplishing Anything

Photo by Flashback Tunisie
Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment. ~Thomas Carlyle

About a month ago, I finished knitting my first sweater. I’m so proud of it; I think I’ve worn it more often than anything else in my wardrobe since then. When I tell people I knit it, most people — even some of the knitters — say “Oh, there is no way I could do that.”

I used to feel this way too. About sweaters and novels and 14-mile hikes and much more. I think a lot of people, including myself, look at a big project that is seemingly over their heads and decide they will fail before they even begin.

But tackling something you think is huge isn’t about having loads of time to dedicate to it or even all sorts of ambition. It’s about stamina and persistence. Sure, you might only be moving an inch every day, but a year from now, you’ll be a lot farther ahead than if you never started at all.

In the past few years, I have worked on loads of different “big” projects. I’ve knit an afghan. I wrote a novel. I saved money for several big vacations. While they all have different outcomes, I looked at every one with similar attitude and approach.

3 Life Lessons Learned from Being My Own Boss

Photo by Tori Barratt Crane
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. ~Mahatma Gandhi

A few years ago I was walking to the car, about to jump in the passenger’s side so my husband could drop me off at my job on his way to work. Suddenly my stomach was in knots; my esophagus felt like it was on fire.

This had been happening regularly for a few months, but we’d just gotten back from two weeks of blissful vacation, road tripping up the Pacific Northwest coastline. I had sort of forgotten this misery … until I returned to my job.

The cause and effect were so clear to me at that moment. How could I continue working somewhere that caused me physical pain?

4 Ways to Stop Procrastinating

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Procrastination is opportunity's assassin. ~Victor Kiam

After a nice walk on a Saturday, my friend told me she had some housework to do and was weighing her options.

“I really don’t want to do it now, but if I wait until Sunday night, it’ll put a damper on my whole weekend. It’s like I won’t really enjoy anything until it’s done.”

Boy, could I relate. I had been the world’s worst procrastinator in high school, somehow managing to pull off amazing feats of academic strength with all-nighters, but that all changed after an incident in college.

I stayed up late into the night finishing a paper and had to drive to class to hand it in. (Oh the days when professors wouldn’t accept email files!) On my way back, I was exiting off the freeway and a cyclist ran a red light in front of me. I was so exhausted I didn’t notice him right away.

3 Ways to Know What You Want

Photo by Kurt Budiarto
If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else. ~Lawrence J. Peter

I was riding in a taxi cab with a few coworkers years ago after a long day working a convention when I said something I thought was basic knowledge.

“You’ve got to know what you want in life,” I said matter-of-factly. “I think the reason so many people are unhappy is because they’re busy chasing things they don’t even want.”

One of my coworkers laughed and called me a guru. I took the compliment. But she also said this:

“If that’s our problem, then fixing it should be easy, right? We just need to figure out what we want.”

In saying that, she’s sent me on a bit of a quest these past years. How do I know what I want? How can I help other people figure it out too?

4 Easy Tips for Living Light

Photo by Holly Lay
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. ~Arthur Ashe

Several years ago, my good friend and I shared an apartment. We both just started our first “real jobs” and weren’t making a ton of money. We took turns cooking dinner, and we came up with a plan to use everything in our fridge before we went grocery shopping.

We didn’t waste food and saved serious cash at a time when we needed to most. It also forced us to be ridiculously creative.

Apples and tofu were the only thing in the fridge? Check out the pantry. We’ve got some walnuts, honey and a lone red onion. Suddenly we went from scrounging to gourmet cooking.

We called this using what you have, and we applied it all over the place. I just used it while shopping yesterday.

Find Power in Silence

Photo by Phillipe Put
Silence is a source of great strength. ~Lao Tzu

When I was a kid, my family would take long road trips. We were from the Midwest, so in order to get anywhere the drive was at least six hours. But we were ambitious. Six hours was a weekend trip.

We were more interested in traveling to Detroit (a 13-hour trip) or Seattle (a 22-hour drive). When you pack five people in a car for that long, there are bound to be issues, and one of those was the radio.

Since my father drove most of the time, we were at his mercy when it came to the music. Or more often, I should say, the silence. While we were a musical family, my father would insist on turning off the radio every hour or so, just “to hear myself think,” as he said.

We would whine and complain.

“It’s just so boooooring without anything to listen to,” we’d say.

Fast forward decades later, and I suddenly find myself turning off the stereo at home, while I’m working or driving. This is odd for me — I consider myself an audiophile.

How to Be Patient … Now

Photo by Roel Wijnants
Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Monday came around, and I was bouncing off the walls. I couldn’t get any work done; I was so distracted. I had been waiting for this day for what seemed like ages: My husband would finally be home from a week-long business trip. Yeah, it may be cute, but it also showed me that I am no good at waiting.

Of course, I knew this. And I don’t think I’m the only one. Just look at everyone frustrated in their automobiles when traffic doesn’t move at the speed they want. When I wait for the bus, I rarely sit more than a few moments before I pull out my phone to check the schedule because it’s taking “forever.”

Patience is something that’s been pulling at my heart strings for a while now. “Don’t you think we should get to know each other a little better?” it would ask. For years I’ve stubbornly pretended I couldn’t hear, but it (of course) waited patiently until I was ready.

6 Tips for Asking for Help

Photo by David Urbanke
Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence. ~Anne Wilson Schaef

For the past few months I’ve been training for races I’m running this summer. Before I signed up, I had never run more than a few blocks without stopping. I’d just never gotten into it.

I’m not really sure why, but I’ve always wanted to run a trail race. Plus a triathlon is on my Nothing’s Impossible List, so why not start with the part I’m no good at?

I headed out to buy some good shoes. The owner offered me advice and ideas about how to begin running and what sort of training plan to follow.

What’s funny is that I figured there couldn’t be much to it. Instead I realized that I was a young babe in an old woods. There was a lot to running, and I didn’t know what I was in for.

I’m so thankful I opened up to that shop owner, because now I have all sorts of things to help me succeed. I was a little embarrassed to admit I was trying something new (that’s one of my ego’s trouble spots — I always want to look like an expert), but by doing so, I probably saved myself a whole bunch of misery, injury and wasted time.

4 Things Good Listeners Do

Photo by Jan Fidler
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. ~Bryant H. McGill

Some acquaintances and I were hiking together in a new spot. Everywhere we turned there were things to behold — falcons perched, coyotes hunting, altars built — it was an experience I can’t wait to repeat.

Since we were all fairly new friends, we all had plenty to tell each other. There was very little silence, even in such an awe-inspiring place. When I got home I realized that I didn’t remember a lot of what was said. I was embarrassed to admit it, but it seemed I had forgotten to listen.

I’ve been told many times that I’m a good listener; in fact, many people open up to me for just that reason. Maybe it was because I was tired, or maybe I was just out of practice (working alone will do that to you) but I decided to revisit some of the things I draw on to listen well. Here are four tips on how to listen:

3 Tips for Building Wealth

Photo by Michael Sissons
The importance of money flows from it being a link between the present and the future. ~John Maynard Keynes

A while back, my husband and I took a vacation into the southwest deserts of the United States. We were driving through a particularly affluent area when my husband made a sarcastic remark about how much money everything cost.

I was quick to join in, but then I realized that one of our goals was to create wealth like that for ourselves. I asked him, “How can we ridicule something we desire? How will we ever attain something like that when we shun it now?”

It was a big question that stunned us both into silence. Since then, we’ve been working hard to understand our money stories and how we relate to wealth. It’s brought us into some emotional places, but throughout it all, we’ve felt our relationship with our money improve.

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