Holding on to Passion

A while back, I did a series of posts on finding and living your life passion. (If you haven't read them, check them out: parts one, two, three, and four.) In the series, I talk about ways to discover what you are passionate about, and also how to begin living those passions once you discover them.

Passion for something is a wonderful thing. It makes us feel alive; it gives us a sense of purpose and drive. But if we're not careful, passion can smolder and eventually die. Sometimes this will be a natural thing, as our dreams and passions definitely change as time passes. But sometimes the loss of passion happens because we lose focus or because we are no longer taking action.

I've found this to be the case for me lately. I haven't taken enough action toward my dreams. I really haven't engaged in enough action, period. As a result, my life feels smothered, lifeless, and I feel myself losing all sense of passion for the things I once loved. I don't want that to happen, so it's time to make a change.

As I read back over my series on finding life passion, I saw a common theme: passion requires action. Just as our physical bodies require action (i.e. exercise) to prevent atrophy and the breakdown of the body, our minds and hearts do too. Even if you were living your life deliberately and with passion a few months ago, if you do not take the necessary actions right now, you won't feel the benefits now. I'm at just such a place, so I need this reminder.

What is holding me back from living my life the way I know I want to? Here are some of the biggest ones:

  1. Fear. Passion and purpose can be scary, because you might fail. You might not get what you want, so it can be easy to rationalize that you don't really want to go for it. Or that you will take action later. It's true, your dreams will always be around, but if you don't take action NOW, you may be missing out on some amazing opportunities.
  2. Complacency. Do you know why we get stuck in ruts? Because they're comfortable. They're easy. You don't have to extend yourself or make a lot of effort. Sometimes you need a little break where you are comfortable. But if you stay comfortable in life, you aren't moving anywhere or growing your soul.
  3. Distractions. I say distractions, but what I mean is distraction, because my main distraction is the Internet, and I freely admit that. I'm not proud of it, but I'm coming clean and saying that the Internet is my biggest time waster and I want it to stop!

So what do we do? How do we start taking action toward our goals and dreams? How do we push past fear, complacency and all the distractions out there? I'm not certain we can ever fully beat these monsters, but if we don't fight them by taking action, they take over and we lose. Is that dramatic? Maybe. But if we don't take action now, before we know it life will be over. All we have is today. So...here's what I pledge to do, starting today.

  1. I pledge to act on my feelings. Sometimes I think to myself, "I should call so-and-so" or "I should start playing guitar again." Well, needless to say, I don't often actually DO the things I think about. When I get a prompting, I will act on it.
  2. I pledge to actively live my life, every day. By this I mean that I will enjoy the moments I have right now. I will seek out new experiences, do instead of think, and actively BE the person I know I am meant to be.
  3. I pledge to cut distractions from my life. This is a hard one. I use the Internet for work, for communication, for entertainment. But it also wastes my precious time. I'm going to find ways to get it out of my life as much as I can. I'll detail this in a future post. Instead of allowing my mind and heart to be distracted, I want to be active, to live, to be.

Do you have things holding you back from your passions? Tell us in the comments what is holding you back and what you pledge to do in order to live your best life!

Kitchen clutter

I don't know about you, but my kitchen gets dirtier faster than any room in the house. Maybe it's because it's a tiny kitchen. Maybe it's because 3 meals are made in there every day. I'm not sure the reason, but I'm getting very tired of the mess.

I get behind on dishes just one day and it looks like an explosion happened in there! And to be honest, a messy kitchen gets me down and makes me feel guilty. So I want no more of that! But how to keep the kitchen manageable?

Okay, we're going to start with the FlyLady, because all cleaning eventually comes back to her, doesn't it? Her first tip of all is this: Shine your kitchen sink every day.

I guess the secret is that in order to shine your sink, you've got to get the dishes out of there first. And once the sink looks nice, you'll be inspired to keep your kitchen looking nice all day. Or so her theory goes...

My problem is that once I've made lunch or dinner, I'm tired! I don't feel like doing the cleaning as well. That's the first hurdle I need to overcome. Here are the things I'll be trying in order to keep my kitchen clean and organized:

  1. Clean as I cook. Putting stuff away and cleaning up as I go seems like the best solution for me. I'm already in the kitchen, so adding in a little cleaning will hardly be noticeable.
  2. 15 minute timer. FlyLady had this one right - 15 minutes of cleaning is not that bad! And you can get a lot done in 15 minutes! I'll do a 15 minute session a day in the kitchen.
  3. Enlist my husband's help. This might be the hardest one of all to implement, but I think it's time my husband did his fair share. :)

And that's my plan for the kitchen. I'm going to try it for a week and see how it goes. I'll let you know what comes of it. How about you - what are your secrets for keeping your kitchen in good shape?

12 Ways Utilize Resources at the Public Library


I may be a little biased because I have a master's degree in library science, but I love the public library. There are so many resources. Helpful librarians are there to help you find what you need. And it's all free!

Some people don't even set foot in the library, and many don't know what's there. Here are several ways to use your local library that you may not have thought of, and which could help save you money. My library is in a fairly large city, so your library resources may vary, but it doesn't hurt to check!

  • The obvious resource is books, but not just fiction. Are you interested in a new hobby? You'd be surprised at how many useful books the library has. Just recently I decided to find out more about web design. I found an amazing book at the library and read it for free.
  • DVDs and VHS tapes. My library has a great selection of movies that are available for a free three-week checkout. I don't use Netflix or Blockbuster anymore, I just look for a movie on the library website, request it, and I'm usually viewing it within a week or two. The newest releases are more scarce, but if you don't mind watching a movie after it's been out a while, this resource is amazing.
  • Exercise, Dance, and How-To videos. I thought these DVDs and VHS tapes were worth mentioning separately. Do you need a new workout? Your library may have a collection. What about learning how to do something? My library has 'how-to' videos, including topics as diverse as belly dancing, home improvement, and getting through pregnancy.
  • Books on CD or tape. I don't use this resource anymore because my car stereo is broken. But my commute time used to be a perfect chance to learn a new skill (like learning Spanish), learn about a new topic (like world history), or just catch up on a fiction book I haven't had time to read.
  • Music. Most libraries have a good collection of CDs you can check out in just about every genre. It's a great way to explore all kinds of music for free.
  • Download books to your computer or mp3 device. Some libraries have a program where you can "check out" books by downloading them and listening to them on your computer or mp3 player. Definitely take advantage of this if you can.
  • Inexpensive books, music, and videos. Many libraries sell used library items that have been donated or that the library no longer needs. You can find books, music, and DVDs for a great price.
  • Free Internet and computer use. Back when I was without the Internet and looking for a job, this resource was worth its weight in gold. Some libraries don't even require you to have a library card to use the computers.
  • Free classes, lectures, and movie showings. There is always something interesting going on at the library. Try going to a lecture at the library sometime instead of going out to the movies. It could prove to be more fun, and it's definitely cheaper!
  • Study. The public library is a great place to study. It's quiet, there are several desks or comfortable chairs, and many libraries even have study rooms where you can study with a group. For a student or someone who needs a quiet place to work for a few hours, this is a useful resource.
  • Story Time. If you have small children and have the time to take them to Story Time, it is well worth the effort. The kids get to interact with others, learn songs and games, and have fun. They also get more exposure to reading and books.
  • Teen Programs. If your teens are looking for something fun to do during the summer, many libraries are updating their programs to appeal to teenagers. Fun classes, crafts, activities and movie showings are just some of the resources out there.
Have I convinced you yet that the library is worth checking out? Perhaps you are already a library enthusiast. What resources do you use at your local library?

Organize Your Life

My life has been busy lately. We recently moved to Georgia and at first I didn't have a job, so I felt as if I were between lives. I had stuff to do, like find a job, but nothing too strenuous. Then out of nowhere I found freelance writing work, took on a position of responsibility in my church, and I'm suddenly busier than I was before we moved. I realized I would need to organize my thoughts, my paperwork, my home, and my life in order to accomplish all that is required of me. Here are the areas I plan to focus on.

My thoughts. I have a million things in my head at any one time, and it's easy to forget them or miss out on an important detail because I haven't written things down. From now on I plan to keep a notebook with me at all times and write down absolutely everything as it comes to me. I will also need to keep a pretty thorough 'to-do' list. I may go back to using todoist.com, but for now, I'm going low-tech with the notebook and paper calendar.

My paperwork. I don't know about you, but we've got papers everywhere in this house. The dining room table is the repository for recent mail items. My work desk is littered with bills, documents, and important scraps of paper. Our filing box has a stack of documents six inches high on top of it, none of it organized at all. This is one area of my life that will require a lot of changing on my part.

My home. I constantly battle dishes and clutter in my house. Things are not where they should be, so I'm constantly wandering through the house looking for an item that I searched for (and found) just the day before. It's frustrating, to say the least. I would like to organize my home in such a way that everything has a place, and is there when I need it. I would like to find a system in the kitchen so that I don't fight mountains of dishes all the time. (It doesn't help that our dishwasher is minuscule!)

My life. I need to organize my life so that I use my time wisely. I've got a lot to do, and I'd like to maximize my efficiency so that I can accomplish a lot but still have plenty of free time for relaxing.

I think I will write longer posts on each of these four areas. I'll let you know what I do in each area to organize myself, and hopefully share some good tips for keeping things running smoothly. I hope you will share your ideas as well.

5 Quick Tips for Starting Your Day Right

Some days are really good for me. I'm productive, I feel confident and happy, and I check a bunch of things off my to-do list. Other days, I have to force myeslf to get going, and my day never quite takes off.

Why is this? I think the key is the way I start the day. The way you start the day can set the tone for the rest of the day, so it's important to get off to a good start. I've found several things that help ensure that my day is happy and productive rather than blah. Here are 5 quick tips for starting the day right:

1. Get up. Okay, maybe that was obvious, but I mean that when you wake up, get up immediately. If you take your time getting up, you'll fight grogginess for the rest of the day.

2. Meditate or pray. Spend 5-1o minutes at the start of the day in prayer or meditation. You may be surprised to find out what kind of effect these quiet moments will have on the rest of your day.

3. Eat breakfast. Your body needs fuel. We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so don't skip it! And bonus points if you make it healthy.

4. Exercise or at least breathe. If you have time (or want to make time!), exercise in the morning. The endorphin boost can get you going and help you feel good. If you don't have time for exercise, take some deep breaths and notice how good it feels.

5. Go for it. Before you settle in with your time wasters (whatever yours happen to be - TV, Internet surfing, chatting, etc.), get started on your first 'to-do.' Pushing forward and finishing a task feels good and can help you build momentum toward the next task.

There you have it. Try one or several of these tips and see if they help your day go better. Let me know the outcome! And if you have your own tips, feel free to comment and let me know what yours are.

Stuck in a Rut

I have been stuck in a huge rut lately. It has affected my ability to work, blog, and even enjoy life. I just didn't feel like doing anything. I think this happens to everyone occasionally, but it can be very frustrating when you're in the middle of it.

How did I get out? I think part of it was me riding out the bad time until it started to ease. I'm not sure that's the best way to handle it, because what if it lasts a long time? Not to mention the fact that my productivity levels went WAY down during this time period.

Something else that helped me happened this weekend. My husband and I were given tickets to see an amazing concert pianist play on Friday. I hadn't been to an event like this in a long time, and it rejuvinated me! It was exciting to see what one person could do with hard work and practice.

So the next time I get into a rut, I'm going to try the following:

  • Try something new. It could be playing a sport, spending time with a different friend, seeing a concert, trying out a new restaurant, etc. Anything to get me thinking again.
  • Do something. Many people recommend setting a goal to do 3 things in a day. I always feel like I need to do MORE than that, which can stress me out. When I'm stuck, I should focus on doing ONE thing in a day, and go from there. Once I start, doing more gets easier.
  • Ask for help. During my very worst day, a good friend decided to come over to my house and help me clean. It sounds like a small thing, but her help and friendship made me feel so much better. Ask for help when you need it!
  • Exercise. What is it about exercise that makes it so hard for me to do when I'm in a rut? It is one thing that gives energy and can help rejuvinate you. I just need to do it!
  • Manage stress. If there's something weighing you down, find a way to deal with it. Maybe you just need to vent your feelings, but maybe you need to tackle a project so that it's not hanging over your head. For me, a stressful situation can really bum me out.
  • Find your energy. What makes you happy and renews your energy? Think of some things and just do them. For me, spending time outdoors or with my niece and nephews really lifts my spirit.

Those are my ideas for picking myself back up and regaining my energy. What helps you during those 'blah' times?

I'm back and ready for action!

Posts have been scarce during my two-week vacation for Christmas. But I got back today and am ready to do great things in 2008! It's really hard to work on goals when you're at someone else's house living out of a suitcase, so I'm glad to be back in my own house so I can get started with my plans.

I already mentioned many of my goals in my previous post, but I came up with another one that is really key to achieving all the rest - ORGANIZATION! I want to organize my life in such a way that I make time for the important things.

That means staying on top of cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. (the stuff I don't currently enjoy doing). It also means setting a work schedule and sticking to it (I work from home, so I've been known to work until midnight before. But not anymore!) It also means that I have to stop procrastinating projects and tasks I need to accomplish.

2008 is the year that I get organized and just do it!

Setting goals for the new year

The new year is coming soon - have you thought about goals for the coming year? I know several people who don't like new year's resolutions, preferring instead to constantly update their goals. I think that's great too. But I like the way the new year feels like a clean slate. The year 2008 has never happened before. So no matter what I did in 2007, the year 2008 is wide open for me.

So I set goals every year. I usually focus on five areas:

  • Spiritual - For some this may mean volunteering, getting in tune with nature, or building a relationship with God.
  • Physical - Health and fitness are always important, and I have to renew efforts in this area or I lose focus.
  • Intellectual - I like to find a way to learn something new each year.
  • Social/Relationships - I'm always looking to improve my relationship with my husband, other family members, and friends.
  • Financial/Career - It's important to me to improve my finances as well as set career goals.
Does anyone else have different areas of focus? Here's a short list of things I'd like to accomplish this year.
  • Spiritual - I would like to spend time each day in prayer and meditation.
  • Physical - I want to be able to say that I am physically fit. I want to work up to exercising 5 days a week. And I don't want to eat greasy food anymore.
  • Intellectual - I'd like to take a writing class this coming year.
  • Social/Relationships- I would like to make sure to date my husband weekly, and set up a time each day for sharing thoughts with each other.
  • Financial/Career - Financially I'd like to finally remove credit card debt from my life. Career-wise, I'd like to triple my freelance writing income (It's possible - I'm fairly new to the business, so my salary isn't what I'd like it to be yet), and also get an article published in a top magazine.
Anybody else care to share some goals? Leave a comment and let me know.

I may not post again before the new year, and if not, have a wonderful holiday season. And happy new year! See you in 2008.

Rediscovering your passion

Ever since I wrote the series on finding your passion and life purpose, many people have found my blog from the search term "finding your passion." It is evident to me that so many of us out there are searching for their own life passion.

Ririan Project recently wrote a post called 8 Powerful Ways to Rediscover your Passion, and it shares some great tips for finding and living your passion. My favorite tip is to spend more time alone -

"When you surround yourself with lots of people, or even one very strong individual, it is difficult to know what excites you. It is easy to become influenced if outside energies are stronger than yours."
Check out the rest of the article here.

8 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday

Are you ready for the holidays? I know I'm not. No matter how early in the year I start getting ready, I still feel unprepared when Christmas comes around.

Sometimes it feels like the holiday season is somebody's evil plan designed to stress me out. But that's not what this time of year is about! It should be a time of peace, reflection, enjoying family, and having fun. I've come up with a few ideas for making the holidays more enjoyable and less stressful.

1. Cut down. Your December may be filled with family parties, work parties, friend's parties, church activities, shopping sprees, all-out decorating, cookie baking, present wrapping, sending cards, standing in line to see Santa, house cleaning, gift exchanges, ornament exchanges, school performances, traveling, making holiday meals, etc. Can you feel the stress? It stresses me out just to write all that down. Bottom line: You don't have to attend or participate in everything. Cut out the things that don't add value for you and your family.

2. Take time out. You spend a lot of time during the month of December thinking about giving to others and making sure everyone has a good holiday. Don't forget the one person you truly need to care for - you. Give yourself a break and allow for some down time this month. You're going to need it.

3. Cut spending. I know, tis the season to max out the credit card, or so the commercials would lead us to believe. But honestly, most gifts are forgotten within days, and most family and friends appreciate the gift of your time more than a present. A small but thoughtful gift works just as well as going all out, and it's less work not to mention less stressful when you get your credit card bill in January. You want your kids to have a memorable Christmas, but it doesn't take a ton of gifts to provide that for them.

4. Shred the to-do list. Okay, not really. There are going to be some things that you cannot avoid doing. But why add anything to your list that isn't totally necessary? I used to send out Christmas cards, but now I post a message on my blog or send out a holiday email to everyone. That's what works for me. The same goes for you - what can you remove from your to-do's?

5. Give up perfection. We all want to give the perfect gift, make the most delicious eggnog, or be complimented on our perfectly gorgeous Christmas decorating skills, right? You may have a picture in our minds of how the holiday should be, but you need to let that picture go. Things WILL go awry at some point, but if you let go of expectations and just let things be what they are, you will be much more free to enjoy what the holidays have to offer.

6. Smile. Have you spent time in a mall or the (necessary evil) store Wal-Mart on a Saturday in December? Then you know how frustrating it can be, and how desperately everyone around you needs a smile. Don't let yourself get bothered by crowds and lines. Avoid them if you can! But either way, smiling at a stranger can make you feel good and brighten someone else's day.

7. Do a good deed
. Or do several good deeds. Kindness and giving are what make this season so special. Spend a little less money on your family this year and spread the joy by giving to someone else. It doesn't even have to be much. I particularly enjoy the thrill of leaving something on someone's doorstep, ringing the doorbell and then running away before they see who was there.

8. Make time for loved ones. Spending time with family and friends is (usually!) what makes us the most happy at this time of year. I recognize that family time can also be stressful, so just be sure to also take time out for you. It's not going to matter that you attended every party or baked the most cookies. What you'll remember most from the holidays is the time spent with friends and family.

And there you have it. My 8 strategies for surviving the holidays. I hope they help you out. I know I'm going to go cut some things off my to-do list right now!

Happy Holidays!