Entries Tagged 'For Better Life Tips' ↓

Choosing the Right Challenges in your life

By Tara Sophia Mohr

I  think this is one the most important articles I’ve written. I think this topic is so important, and it’s rarely talked about.

I wasted a lot of time in my life and gone through a lot of suffering because I didn’t get it, and I’ve watched a lot of friends, colleagues, and classmates do the same. If you agree, please share the message.

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As a coach, I’m frequently in conversation with clients and friends facing dilemmas. Option 1 or Option 2? Job A or Job B?  School C or School D?

I often hear them say, “I’m thinking maybe I should choose the harder option (the one that is turning my stomach upside down as I think about it right now), because then I will grow.

This is a widespread, treasured notion in our culture: stretch yourself in order to grow.

It’s true: we do grow from challenges, but after watching dozens of friends make the “do the harder option and grow” choice (and doing that several times myself) here’s what I’ve seen: there are some challenges from which we grow beautifully. We come out the other side, stronger, better, blossoming, even. Then there are hard experiences of challenge that leave us battered and beat down and less than what we were when we started.

What makes the difference?

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It’s not persistence or special skills. It’s not glass half full or glass half empty thinking.

It’s the kind of challenges we choose.

There are two different kinds of challenges that we’ve confused. One kind serves us. One kind harms us and wastes years of our lives. We’ve conflated them together, to our detriment.

Leap Challenges

Leap challenges stretch you to stop procrastinating, distracting and delaying and instead:

  • Step up into who you really are
  • Share your unique gifts and voice
  • Take the risk of being authentic (read: leaving the herd)
  • Do things that fly in the face of the negative beliefs or limiting stories you have about yourself
  • Face all kinds of fears as you do this

Leap challenges shake up all the parts ourselves need to be shaken up– the fears, the little ego stories, the instinctual, over-protective irrational part of ourselves that Seth Godin calls the lizard brain.

Leap Challenges are gifts. They grow us. They rebirth us. They create breakthroughs in our lives. When a Leap Challenge shows up in your life, go for it.

Slog Challenges

Slog Challenges challenge your essence, your particular voice / brilliance / contribution / unique core self.

Slog Challenges starve your essence of the things it needs to thrive. They require you to work / live / create in environments that are just not nurturing for you, that are not the right fit, that are square-peg round hole, that take you out of your flow. They require you to work / live / create in environments in which you are unheard or unwelcomed, underutilized or even mistreated.

Here’s the problem. That essence part of us doesn’t thrive from challenge. It is more like a plant; it simply needs the sun, water and nutrients (read: people, culture, context, schedule) it needs.  How crazy would you need to be to try to improve or strengthen a plant by giving a different amount of water than it needs or sunlight than it needs?

Challenge doesn’t help your essence any more than withholding light and water is going to make a better plant. It just leads to withering.

If you put yourself through a Slog Challenge, you’ll get some benefits, no question. Connections, learning, a prestigious line on the resume, money.

But here’s what you will likely pay for that: loss of vitality, loss of confidence, loss of creativity, and a mighty strengthening of your fears.

Plus, important warning: after a person leaves a slog situation, its effects persist, sometimes for years. There’s a long, not-so-easy process involved in getting your voice back, coaxing creativity out of its hiding place, rekindling dreams and rebuilding courage. Not everyone successfully recovers what’s been lost. Not everyone remembers or finds the will to turn back to their dreams and gifts.

An Example

Carol is an artist. Her creativity is inspired by time in nature. Her dream is to run her own business doing creative portrait photography. Of course, that dream also scares the hell out of her: what if people don’t like her work? What if she builds it and nobody comes?

Leap Challenges for Carol might look like:

  • Committing to do one photography session a week with individuals and families, starting this week.
  • Researching what it will really take to start the business.
  • Sending out a letter to 50 friends offering portrait services

These will feel challenging to Carol because they require her to question her beloved little story that she’s not “ready yet.” Because they require her to step into the ring and fight her fears.

Slog Challenges look like this: Taking that job that feels like it squelches the artist in her. Moving into the heart of city, where she knows she’ll struggle to access creative inspiration. Going to a prestigious art school that she senses will not nurture her creativity, because she’s convinced herself that she needs a fancy degree to pursue her dream.

Slog challenges will help her gain a few new skills, new connections, but mostly they will help her put off the daring work of claiming her dream. And, as she pursues them, she’s likely to start to grow more afraid, more confused, more cut off from her flow.

Discerning Leap vs. Slog

Clearly, knowing whether you are facing a Leap Challenge or a Slog Challenge is very important. Here’s how you know.

Recognize a Leap Challenge–a challenge to your ego/ fears/ limiting beliefs/ lizard brain–by these clues:

  • The challenge entails leaping into imperfect, vulnerable action
  • Fears of failure and rejection are rising up like tidal waves in you
  • You feel scared scared scared, but you also feel an edge of thrill or exhilaration in the fear
  • Your brain scrambles for reasons why now is not the time to leap, for example: you don’t have the time or money, the equipment. You hear arguments about all that in your head.

Recognize a Slog Challenge–the kind that’s about starving your essence–by these clues:

  • Your reasons for going after it come from your head, not from your heart or gut instinct
  • You feel tense and tight when you think about it
  • You feel confused by complex, intricate pro and con arguments
  • As you move into the challenge, you feel more and more lost from yourself. You feel disempowered, sad or weakened.

What To Do

  1. Seek out Leap Challenges. Create them for yourself, and claim them when life brings them to you.
  2. With a spirit of self-protection and self-care, be very careful about putting yourself through Slog Challenges.
  3. When you are faced with a challenge, find out what type it is, using the discernment clues.
  4. If you are in a slog situation now, start getting clear about the kind of environment in which you thrive. What kind of culture? What type of work? What kinds of relationships? To uncover this, think back to your past peak experiences and look for common elements across them. Make a list of these elements and post it where you’ll see it regularly. Find simple ways to bring these elements into your life, right away. Then, start creating your plan to transition out of your slog environment.

You have your particular brilliance. You have a calling. Spend your energies stepping into it. Watch out for romanticization or valorization of the slog. Watch out for the arguments your own mind will make about how suffering will aid you. Do the scary-thrilling-messy-now thing. Start anyway you can, but start now.

Happiness is Self-Love

The image of myself which I try to create in my own mind in order that I may love myself is very different from the image which I try to create in the minds of others in order that they may love me. – W.H. Auden

In the never ending search for happiness, is love really all you need?

In the June 2009 issue of The Atlantic Magazine, the article “What Makes Us Happy?” reveals some amazing insights into what makes people happy. The article looked at research gathered from a study that tracked the lives of over two-hundred men for more than seventy years. The article concludes that love is the key to happiness.

Happiness is…

“The job isn’t conforming; it isn’t keeping up with the Joneses. It is playing, and working, and loving. Loving is probably the most important. Happiness is love, full stop.” –George Vaillant, director, the Grant Study

I had it all backwards.

Seeking help

For most of my life I sought acceptance rather than love. In hindsight, even when I thought I was in love or acting lovely, it was just a tool I used to seek acceptance.

On March 12, 2006, at the age of 35, the tireless cycle of searching for love, acceptance, and wrestling happiness out of life drastically changed course for me. Locked away from the world and suffering from depression, addiction, a failed marriage and a lost job, I faced a difficult decision; whether or not to commit suicide.

I share this not to be overly dramatic or invoke a response, it’s just the truth. It’s what happened and at the time life or death were the only clear options I could see. The decision was difficult to make; living was very painful for me and I just wanted it to end, I was tired.

In a moment of clarity I remembered a note my mother had snuck in my luggage as I traveled overseas just out of high school:

Take your time and count to five,
Keep yourself always safe and alive,
the greatest gift a child can give,
Is that their parents they outlive.

So I gave up, but I chose to live. I surrendered my perception of what happiness was supposed to be and sought help as only the dying can.

Fear spinning at light speed

After making that decision, I recall just a few of the things I said. The first was after hitting speed dial on my phone, hearing my sister’s voice I said, “I’m done, I can’t do this anymore.”

The next conversation I remember was while lying in a child’s bed at my sister’s house. As she gently rubbed my forehead, I remember saying, “I don’t love myself.” She replied, “That’s OK Jared, I’ll love you enough until you can.”

It’s sad. My heart still swells and I want to cry and love me then. We really need to hug ourselves more often.

In the past, regardless of what life threw my way, there remained an underlying knowing that I could figure it out. Whatever it was I struggled with—addictions, bills, relationships, happiness—if and when I really put my mind to it, I could overcome anything with self-will.

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Desperation led me to this point. A place of complete surrender and acceptance that I had no idea how to be happy. Every conceivable option and outcome had been tumbled through my mind, leaving no more jagged edges; just a mass of regrets, guilt, and fear spinning at light speed.

Tasting humility

In contrast was the moment of clarity that made a decision inevitable, the complete and total clarity in the realization that the solution was not in my power to achieve.

I tasted true humility for the first time in my life.

What followed was simply hard work. Books, therapists, 12-step programs, clergy, physiatrists, life and spiritual coaches, seminars… etc., if I thought they had something to teach me I was listening. I no longer cared what others thought of me. I was just happy to be alive and anything after that was gravy.

I was taking real action and responsibility for my own life and happiness.

The most important thing I learned was how little I cared for myself; which was hard for me to accept or imagine at first. After all, most of my friends would have described me as positive, out-going, funny, and having my crap together. So it took a while for me to realize that’s just what I was showing on the outside.

Inside I was consumed by fear; fear of not being loved or accepted, which for me was the same thing.

Through a lot of hard and continuous work, I have a pretty realistic view and love for my authentic self today.

Digging deep

A few years ago I saw an allergy commercial on TV that reminded me of my own journey. A gentleman is strolling through the woods, yet there are two slightly transparent versions of himself; each version on a different path. After taking allergy medicine, the two versions come together as one, clearly defined man and moving confidently down the center of the path.

That’s me today. I feel God’s heart-swelling love and am no longer split in two; I’m who I’m supposed to be and I’m OK with that. Actually, it’s pretty awesome.
Growing up on a farm in East Central Kansas, I was amazed that we could put all these little seeds in the ground and they would grow and fill an entire field with food. A wheat seed is tiny, yet it has all the potential to sprout, grow, and become something more. So do you.

You intrinsically have everything you need to be happy, loved, and fulfilled; put there by your creator. You just need to invite it in, accept it, believe in it, and allow it to shape you into who you were meant to be.

I think a lot of us still over complicate happiness. In most cases it just takes a little work. But that work is often uncomfortable; it means dealing with emotions.

We’re reluctant to dig deep within ourselves for answers in fear of what we may or may not find.

Naturally we seek an easier way through immediate gratification and external sources.

It’s OK that we do that, it’s natural. I lived that way most of my life, seemingly happy. But it’s not comparable to the happiness I experience today.

The process of self-discovery allowed me to become emotionally connected with myself, God, and my own divinity. Sometimes referred to as “self-love” or acceptance, but the concept is pretty basic; know yourself better than anyone else and learn true acceptance and love for self.

Happiness is love

In the final scene of the movie Into the Wild (and if you haven’t seen it, I warn you it’s pretty hard to watch), Christopher McCandless is writing in between the lines of a book—his journal—for the last time.

Alone, dying in the Alaskan wilderness and reflecting back on his life he weakly scribes, “Happiness only real when shared.”

There have been times in my life when I’ve been alone and scared. And even times I’ve been alone and relatively happy. But by becoming emotionally connected and loving of self, I know what it feels like to be loved.

To truly love oneself is to accept the love of God. It’s not a belief for me anymore but a knowing as it permeates every part of my life. With that kind of love, there are no obstacles in life today, just opportunities to learn.

And no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I may physically be alone, but I’m never lonely.

I feel the empathy for the guy alone in the dark. It’s not just in my head anymore, I feel it, I experience it, and it’s real. That is the love that moves across conversations, that you can feel emanating from others and makes experiences palpable.

Happiness is love.

Top 10 Entertaining Apps and Games to Stimulate Your Creativity

As a child of the 80’s, predating the wide use of the internet, my options for staying creative were limited and very rarely involved technology. A sheet of paper and a pencil or perhaps a tambourine would suffice for that underlying urge to create. Nowadays, while paper, pencils, and tambourines aren’t fully extinct, there are endless alternatives to quenching that artistic thirst that lies deep within many of us. With countless apps and games right in the palm of our hands, it’s far more convenient to spark artistic inspiration all while having fun. Today, we bring you ten of the most entertaining apps and games on the market to creatively stimulate you and fill that artistic void in your daily life.

1. Draw Something

If you haven’t already played it, you’ve most likely heard of the popular game app calledDraw Something. Following the basic rules of Pictionary, this game allows players to connect with their friends through Facebook or strangers by random selection to play a fun illustration guessing game. It’s especially amusing when players get creative with their drawings, adding elaborate settings for simple words. Taking turns, each player draws their selected word for the other player to guess. If guessed correctly, there is a reward of 1 to 3 coins, depending on the difficulty of the word selected. Coins can be traded in for prizes including new colors to draw with. If you don’t feel like shelling out the $1.99 right away, there is a free version of the game, but it includes ads and fewer words to work with.

Price: FREE – $1.99

2. Scribblenauts Remix



Scribblenauts Remix is a puzzle game that enables and encourages the most creative minds to be as inventive as possible. Set up like a normal 2D platform game, each stage presents a set of obstacles for your character to overcome with a nifty pencil that can be used to summon anything you write. The game prompts players to use their imagination and type out anything from a “rock” to a “giant hungry rainbow beaver” to help them solve the level’s problem. The game boasts an extensive vocabulary that leaves players in awe, trying to find a word it won’t be able to reproduce. The game was originally designed for the Nintendo DS, a handheld video gaming console, but is now also available as a downloadable app with additional levels exclusively designed for iOS devices.

Price: $0.99

3. Beatwave



Beatwave is an addictive music beat creator and visualizer. The app doubles as a sort of game. The objective? Create the greatest tune there ever was! There’s absolutely no prior knowledge of playing or reading music necessary to use this app to its full potential. As the app’s description suggests: “[E]ven the most tone deaf would-be DJ [has] the ability to visually create perfectly in sync hit tunes.” Anyone has musical potential at their fingertips with Beatwave’s assortment of instrumentals sprawled across a kaleidoscopic grid of beats. While the app itself is free, there are plenty of desirable purchases within the game, including additional instruments like drums, synths, and upright bass and the ability to export a music file (.WAV, .MP4, and even ringtones) beyond the confines of the app.

Price: FREE

4. Granimator



Granimator is an iPad app that allows users to construct their very own graphic wallpaper for the iPhone or iPad. Illustrators and designers from around the world have lent their artistic hand to create over 40 artist packs for users to play around with. Every pack is downloadable within the app for free. There are endless color schemes and compositions to create that’s sure to keep you active and perhaps even lose track of time. Once you’ve completed your personalized wallpapers, compositions can be saved and shared through email, Granimator’s own site, and social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. There are currently over 4,000 user-generated wallpapers uploaded to Granimator.com and available for downloading and sharing.

Price: FREE

5. PaperDesk


PaperDesk is an app exclusively for the iPad that turns note-taking into a fun and creative experience. Your notes can be as organized and manageable as a PowerPoint presentation that can be accessed on the go. You can type out notes in 58 different fonts, add bullet points and numbered lists, sketch a drawing with thousands of colors to choose from, and even record audio that can be synced with your written words. There is also the option of inserting photos from a photo library or camera and importing PDFs from other apps. Once you’ve completed your note-taking, you can export your finished notebooks directly to Dropbox, Google Docs, email, Twitter, or AirPrint. PaperDesk offers a creative approach to taking notes all while inciting a surge of productivity.

Price: FREE – $3.99

6. Brushes



Brushes is a fantastic drawing and painting app with advanced features including a selection of realistic brushes, multiple layers, extreme zooming, opacity adjustment, and nearly infinite undos and redos. It’s an excellent app for artists on the go and commuters with a penchant for extreme doodling. More than simple monochromatic sketching or finger painting, Brushes allows the user to create original professionally detailed artwork with the convenience of mobility. Artist Jorge Colombo has gone so far as to paint covers for The New Yorker on the app. Brushes is available for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Though the iPad version of the app is three dollars more, it seems like the way to go for serious illustrators and painters looking to create multilayered masterpieces.

Price: $4.99 – $7.99

7. Instagram


Instagram is an increasingly popular photo sharing app, but more than that, it’s another way to connect with people through a visual art form. Most people own cellphones with built-in cameras and with this additional tool they have the ability to enhance the quality of their images with a varied selection of filters. The image settings can be tweaked and played around with to create just the right type of feel you’re going for with your shot. While there are plenty of apps out there that provide similar filtering services, Instagram boasts an immense audience of 15 million users. By linking your Instagram account to Twitter or Facebook, you can share your daily captures with the rest of the digital world.

Price: FREE

8. forger

Whether you’re a professional sculptor or not, sometimes it’s just fun to mash and mold some clay and you can do that without getting your hands dirty with forger. This digital sculpting application presents users with a three-dimensional model that is fully capable of being rotated, panned across, and zoomed into for precise sculpting. It features nine sculpting tools–standard, clay, flatten, move, smooth, pinch, inflate, layer and mask–which each also include the ability to be adjusted according to size and strength. Once finished, the digital creation can be saved as an OBJ file and exported. The app is great for artists looking to sketch out a prospective project or idea in a 3D format while traveling without access to software on a bulky desktop.

Price: $2.99

9. Soundrop

Developed by young software engineer and digital artist Max WeiselSoundrop is a musical geometry game available on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Like Beatwave, it offers an audiovisual experience at the hand of the user. Rather than a series of highlighted boxes, this game utilizes the player’s ability to create lines anywhere across the screen. Sound is produced when automated balls drop and come in contact with the lines, bouncing off of them and emitting high and low pitches, depending on the speed with which they ricochet off the line. The app itself is free but there is an upgraded “pro” version available as a DLC for $1.99 that increases the library of accessible sounds with the introduction of different colored lines, inviting more possibilities for a complex soundscape.

Price: FREE

10. Ordinarium



Ordinarium is an action game exclusively for the iPad. While the gameplay is simple and somewhat traditional as far as action games go, the art direction and music is where a player can be swept away into a bizarrely inventive experience. The cast of characters, including a creature that resembles a one-eyed octopus, and surreal settings draw a likeness to a Tim Burton-inspired aesthetic. It appears to be in a similar line of artistically designed games as the popular 2D platform Braid and action RPG Bastion. While it may not encompass the same level of graphics and integration, there’s something to be said about Ordinarium’s surrealistic efforts. The distinct artistic style and direction is so compelling that it sparks a surge of creativity in the player.

Price: $0.99

Way to Balance Short-Term and Long-Term Happiness

By Ali Luke

Do you find it hard to resist chocolate cake, even though you’re on a diet? Do you end up buying new DVDs or video games, even though you’ve made a careful budget?

There’s nothing wrong with you – and you’re certainly not alone. Most of us find it really difficult to stick with our goals at times. And there’s an understandable reason why.

When you’re attempting change in your life, you often need to forsake some short-term pleasures for the sake of happiness over the longer-term. The various things that appeal to you in the moment – like eating chocolate, buying a DVD, hanging out on Facebook, watching TV – are all ones that will bring you some immediate gratification.

Of course, your long-term goals are more important to you. In fact, they’ll probably bring you much more happiness over time. But in order to reach them, you need to find a way to balance that future happiness with your moment-by-moment impulses.

Short-Term Happiness Isn’t Bad

Some people get the idea that any immediate pleasures are inherently bad. They try hard to resist all snack foods, or they never buy anything for fun, or they cram every moment of the day with work or chores.

There’s nothing at all wrong with enjoying yourself in the moment. In fact, when your long-term goals are on track, you’ll find it much easier to relax and have fun: you won’t have that nagging sense of guilt when you cut yourself a slice of cake or when you head to the cash register with that DVD.

But … Short-Term Happiness Isn’t Everything

On the flip side, of course, you can’t give in to every impulse. If you live too much in the moment, you’ll find things gradually getting worse and worse: you’ll end up in debt, unable to afford necessities, let alone luxuries – or you’ll end up unfit and overweight, struggling to enjoy activities that were once easy for you.

It’s crucial here to find a balance. That might mean that you don’t eat dessert Monday to Friday, but you treat yourself at the weekend. It could mean you give yourself a budget for entertainment spending – say, $50/month – and you use that guilt-free.

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Adjusting Your Focus to See the Long-Term

One of the reasons why we struggle to stay committed to big goals is because they seem so far off. It can be tough to turn down a slice of cake when losing 50lbs is a year or two away. It’s difficult to resist a $50 purchase when you’ve got $50,000 of debt: it feels pointless.

Try boosting your commitment to your goal by looking ahead. Write down what it feels like to have met your goal, in the present tense. (I am happy and healthy. My old jeans fit perfectly again…) and read it on a regular basis. Remind yourself what you’re committing to – and remember that small steps will get you there.

Joining Short and Long-Term Happiness

Sometimes, your goals might seem completely opposed to what you want in the short-term. For instance, you might have a goal of losing weight – but you’d also like to enjoy your food.

Look for ways to be happy now and happy tomorrow. That might mean, for instance, trying out some new fruits and vegetables, or creating some diet-friendly but delicious meals. If you’re taking up exercise to get fitter, then experiment with different sports and activities to see what you enjoy most.

If you can, try to centre your life on something that gives you both short-term and long-term happiness. Find a career that means you’ll be where you want to be in a few years time … but that also gives you what you need right now. That might mean following a particular passion, like graphic design or music, or it could mean choosing a career that fits well with the lifestyle you want – perhaps one that allows you the flexibility to pick your kids up from school every day.

Father’s Day Tech Gift and Gadget Ideas

It’s time to celebrate dad and what better way to say “Thanks for all you do pops” than with a brand new piece of technology.  I know that I get such a kick out of watching my dad (not of the tech generation) open up a new gadget and start to play with it.  It’s even better when he exclaims, “I always wanted this!”

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So this Father’s Day, why not introduce the dads in your life to a new piece of gadgetry and accessories for his tech. I gathered a few of my favorites items this week, and I hope you’ll help me add to the list.

What are you thinking about gifting to dad this Father’s Day? Share your gift ideas in the comments.

fathers day1.jpg

1. Polaroid camera, $390 

2. speaker, tbd
3. carbon computer mouse, $99
4. bike, $595
5. leather wallet, $75
6. compass, $75
fathers day2.jpg
1. eco water bottle 
2. laptop case, $192
3. iPhone alarm clock charger, $180
4. smart watch
5. notebook, $15
6. 8 mm video camera, $69.99

Top 3 Easy Steps: The Only Life Hack You Will Ever Need

There is an endless pool of life hacks out there discussing methods for improving your productivity, happiness, and general quality of life. However, there is only one life hack that forms the foundation for which all others are built upon. If you ignore it, you will fail. That’s the bottom line.

“Besides the noble art of getting things done,
there is the noble art of leaving things undone.
The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
– Lyn Yutang

This life hack consists of 3 easy steps:

  1. Figure out what is important to you. – The 80/20 rule suggests that only 20% of your daily activities are actually important. The other 80% are mostly excess time wasters of far less importance. The key to success rests in being able to distinguish between the two.
  2. Eliminate the excess. – What is cluttering your life? What don’t you use on a regular basis? Throw it all away. What extra steps are you taking that don’t directly support your goals? Remove them from your routine. If it does not help you move forward, it isn’t worth doing.
  3. Focus all your energy on the outcome of step #1. – After completing steps 1 and 2 you will be equipped with a clear vision of what is truly important. All you have to do now is focus your efforts accordingly. If done right, you will actually notice yourself doing less and accomplishing more.

This change life hack is really quite easy to execute once you get past the first step.

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Happiness Beyond Good Enough

By Sophy Bot

What if you could quit your job? Forget the annoyances, leave the frustrations behind and proudly announce to your boss: “I quit.”

What if you could escape that relationship you’re so unhappy with?

Or move out of that lousy living situation?

What if you had the strength and the courage to get rid of everything that makes you unhappy and to shamelessly pursue your true happiness?

Not long ago, I had the kind of life that many people dream about. I was married, had a good job where I was steadily moving up the ranks, lived in a nice home and had plenty of money to do the things I wanted to do. In some ways, I had it all… except happiness. Happiness was something I’d lost along the way; something I’d forgotten about as I pursued the life I was supposed to live instead of the life I wanted to live.

But what could I do? After all, things weren’t so bad, right?

Hiding from Change

The easiest thing would’ve been to stay; to keep going down that same path and to make do with what I had, even if it wasn’t what I truly wanted. And indeed, that’s what my family wanted me to do. Nobody wanted to watch me go through a messy divorce or to be left penniless or without a home. Nobody wanted me to get hurt – but what they didn’t realize is that I already was hurting.

We’re so willing to put off change because we’re afraid of being hurt that we often forget how much we already are hurting. After all, making big changes in your life is hard, and who wants unnecessary complications? But what would the world be like if we were always willing to settle for “good enough” when, with a bit of effort, “absolutely perfect” could be right around the corner? I’d made my decision: something had to change.

Taking the Leap

I did it, once – that thing so many of us dream of doing. There my boss was, yelling at me for something that wasn’t even my fault, when I mustered up all of my courage and before I even knew what I was doing I’d already uttered the words: “I quit.” Unfortunately, I did this without having any sort of backup or savings. But it’s funny the things you notice once you start taking control of your life because, less than two weeks later, my marriage came to an abrupt ending when it suddenly dawned on me just how miserable we’d both become in it.

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Unexpectedly finding myself jobless and single and in need of a place to move, something else occurred to me: I owned too much stuff. It was now holding me back, keeping me from moving out, and I realized I no longer wanted it anyways. So I got rid of it. All of it. And when I looked into my closets, I realized I didn’t like my clothing either, that I’d been wearing it because I thought that’s what people like me were supposed to wear. So I changed it. All of it. And when I looked in the mirror and realized I wasn’t happy with my hair, that I’d worn it that way only because my husband had liked it, I decided to cut it off. All of it.

Once you’re ready to truly take control of your life, you’re no longer willing to settle for “good enough.” That day when I quit my job, I had no idea that it was just the beginning of a total personal transformation. All I knew then was that “good enough” no longer was. I was ready to go for “perfect.”

The Rough Spots Are Worth It

My life was anything but easy in the months that followed. I was broke, yet I was no longer willing to take just any job – not when I’d fought so hard to win my freedom. My living situation was far from ideal. I rented small rooms in lousy neighborhoods and learned how to live without a husband. And yet despite all of the difficulties – and despite the fact that my whole family was out there telling me I was nuts – I’d regained something that I hadn’t had in years: my happiness.

Whatever I had to go through was inconsequential in the face of that happinessNobody ever said changing your life is easy, but the rewards you reap are more than worth the effort. My material belongings may have been gone but my happiness was back and, with it, I had no doubt that I could regain everything I’d left behind. Only this time, I would do it the right way and never – not for one second – forget about my own happiness.

Life doesn’t always go the way we expect it to. It doesn’t always give us what we truly want, and sometimes what it does give us isn’t what we wanted at all. But the beautiful truth is that life is flexible. The truly happy people out there aren’t the ones who got everything handed to them on a silver platter. They are the ones who refused to settle, even when that was the easiest thing in the world. They are the ones who were willing to take the leap; the ones who looked at life straight-on and said, “I am willing to change.” They are the ones who never stopped trying, no matter how hard things got. The truly happy people in this world are the ones who stood proudly and said: “I will not settle for good enough.”

Savvy tips for save big on big family vacations

They eat more. They laugh more. Big families are a blessing to those parents who are fortunate enough to have them, but the bill associated with taking them anywhere (especially on vacation) can be shocking. Before you resign yourself to a life of ho-hum campouts in the backyard and occasional visits to off-season tourist traps, get into the mood for an excellent travel adventure, and save big with these savvy tips.

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Vacationing can be an eclectic mix of restaurant visits, museum tours, and live events for many families, and with a per person admission (or meal) price to be reckoned with, it may be tempting to stay in the hotel and watch HBO instead of getting out there and seeing the world. While not offered to just those with large families, “buy one, get one” discounts are popular among those whose children are old enough to pay close to the adult price on anything from food to thrill rides. (My daughter, for example, pays just a few cents less than an adult price for everything, when establishments employ their $X times their age policy.)

Kids Meal Deals gives parents lots of listing for places that let you feed your brood for less – they even have a smartphone app! Sites like KidsEatFree.com are just starting out in areas like Orlando, but parents can purchase a card that lets the kids eat free at any time when in select establishments. For promotions on tourist’s spots outside of the dining genre, Google the visitor’s convention site for the area you will be staying. They usually have coupon books or email codes to help get the kids in for free.

Bonus tip: When getting a “free” anything, make sure you use it up on the kid that would cost the most at regular price. Many restaurants, for example, will just randomly pick a kid to comp, but smart parents know to ask for the kid that will get the biggest discount.

Book Smart
Finding hotel rooms for families of five or more can be a nightmare. (Trust me, I have five kids!) If you are not using the well-planned and priceless tips from SixSuitcaseTravel.com, you are spending too much money. Instead of having to buy two adjoining rooms or dishonestly cram all your brood into one too-small suite, this site only lists hotels and motels that sleep 5, 6, 7, or even 8 people comfortably.

Bonus tip: While you may think that the type of room that will sleep 7 should be exorbitant in price, the places on this site are rather affordable. (Think $70-100 for most 2 bed suites with a fold-out couch.)

Read Reviews

Some sites are better than others at relaying how “kid-friendly” they really are. What may be suitable accommodations for a business traveler may be impractical for someone with a stroller, car seat, and playpen to haul. TripAdvisorYelp, and other online locales are useful, provided you know how to decode the lingo. Look for reviews that are recent (provided within the past 3-4 months), give detail into more than just the cleanliness of the establishment (Are there elevators? Does the pool have a shallow end? Is the breakfast free?), and can be verified with photos or a call to the manager.

Bonus tip: If the hotel or motel site has a photo gallery and is viewable on a Google map, look to these to get clues as to the appropriateness for your family. You don’t need to do much digging to find out if the rooms have doors that open to the outside, balconies that are dangerously high, or are close to a noisy intersection.

In addition to using websites and smartphone apps to research and save, you’ll want to allow plenty of time to get your affairs in order. Book ahead of time for any large rooms (they sell out fast), and call ahead to verify that any restaurant or tourism event is participating in a savings promotion.

6 Best Apps for Exploring Your City and Enriching Your Journey

Due to rising gas prices, and a general lack of time off for extended travel, many consumers are looking for ways to get out and see the sights in their own residential areas.  While the term of “staycation” is a bit played out, the idea of getting to know your city – in a unique and exciting way, of course – isn’t just savvy, it’s ideal.  Save some cash on flights and hotel, and get familiar with your community via these six amazing apps!

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Goby

Originally marketed as a way to find “family-friendly” activities in and around town, the Goby website and its accompanying app help you narrow down events and destinations that are suited to just your tastes.  Simply answer three questions (What? Where? When?) to receive up-to-the-minute suggestions for things to keep you occupied.  Choose from adventures in dining, arts, entertainment, or even sports; the only limit to your results is the number of inquiries you choose to make!

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MeetUp

Not typically viewed as an app for city exploration, MeetUp has nuggets of info for ways to socialize and see more of the communities that thrive within an area.  If you’re game for meeting new people or pursuing more time with those you already know, the newest version of the MeetUp iPhone app can help you do just that.  While the most recent update has a few bugs to be worked out, the promise of finding others who enjoy nature photography or dog-walking, for example, is impressive.  Assuming you’re a people-person and don’t mind some company on your next adventure, this app is a must-have travel tool.

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Oh, Ranger! Park Finder

If the active and outdoor lifestyle is your thing, you might find yourself at home in your local park or campsite.  Using the Oh, Ranger! App, (which is free) it’s easy to search by your favorite activity – biking or swimming, for example – and get directions to the park that suits you best.  For those who find themselves a bit directionally-challenged, many of the parks’ maps are also available via the app as a PDF document.  (This is good news for those who like to hike, but are never sure how to get back to the car.)  Thousands of parks and public lands are listed, so there’s bound to be an exciting opportunity near you!

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Active.com

When sweating it out is the only way you can truly unwind, the Active.com app might be the perfect way to see your city — on foot.  This handy mobile app lists all upcoming marathons, fun runs, and charity walks in your area; just search by zip code to see what ways you can get moving in your town.  Found an event you want to sign up for?  Registration can be done directly from your mobile device!

Serendipitor

For the explorer with nothing but time on their hands, there is an app that lets you take a less-than-direct route to your desired destination.  Serendipitor allows you to input a desired end point, then follow any of a number of routes based on how much complexity (or detouring) you want to take.  Priding itself on helping users “find something by looking for something else”, the free app for iPhone encourages users to take actions as they journey.  Snap pictures of clouds, document a unique find, or share your route with others; this interactive and whimsical app encourages a different kind of exploration!

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AroundMe

When you need a basic app that gives it to you straight, you can likely get it done with AroundMe.  This app shows you every business or destination within a specified radius from your current destination – handy for anyone needing to find the nearest eatery, restroom, or hospital.  Have a little time before you need to get there?  Search for just a specific chain store, and let AroundMe tell you how many miles before the next one (or two) will appear. Available for iPhone, iPad, and Android, this app isn’t fancy; it just works.

Great Apps For Staying Connected Without Wi-Fi

Productivity is almost 100% dependent on being able to access information wherever and whenever you need to, and wireless connectivity has allowed us to become spoiled with convenience.  It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that most people panic when they are struck with unexpected downtimes in their home and mobile internet; how can they continue to get work done while offline?

We tackle this sticky situation by offering our favorite solutions designed to keep you feeling “connected” in every situation.

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Feed Readers

Keeping up on your favorite blogs and news sites doesn’t have to be limited to just when you’re online.  Mobile feed reading apps like MobileRSS Free for Apple devices allows you to download the feeds of all of your Google RSS subscriptions when you are online, then enjoy them when you’re not.  In addition to having access to the complete article of full feeds, you can add notes until you get back on the web.  Looking for Android version of savvy readers? Greed (shown above) and gReader have both earned high marks for innovative display and interaction with offline content.

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Evernote

This all-in-one tool is perfect for capturing notes, photos, and voice memos for reference and revision offline.  In addition to being one of the most popular sidekicks for journos and bloggers looking to capture the essence of a live event when away from public wi-fi, students find Evernote to be a lifesaver for syncing up classroom notes when internet is iffy. (Find past notes with the handy search tool, and get out from under that paper clutter, already!) Who said that long bus ride had to be a waste of time?

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Ebook Readers

While we can see the advantages to carrying around a dedicated eReader like the Kindle or Nook, the free versions of readers can prove just as useful for getting more of your reading and research done while waiting for the airplane wi-fi to kick on during your next flight.  Since the Kindle app is free for Apple and Android device users and makes it seamless topurchase on Amazon and have it delivered to your device, we find it to be one of the most effective ways to stock your device with offline reading content in the moments you stumble into a good wireless signal.  (Did we mention that we also like “free” content?  With Amazon offering daily premium ebooks for a limited time price of $0, there is no reason not to keep half a dozen great reads on hand for offline enjoyment.)

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Travel Advice

Waiting until you arrive at a new, unfamiliar destination is not the ideal time to start asking questions; we understand, however, if this is your style.  Ask a Nomad is an iPad app designed for the last-minute query surrounding any travel issue, including transportation glitches, safety recommendations, and dining trends.  In addition to being able to access questions that have been asked while you’re offline, you can create new questions that sync up automatically the next time you hit a hot spot.  Ask a Nomad is available at the Apple store for free.

Translation Services

If your career takes you to anywhere remotely unfamiliar, you will likely find yourself using Google Translator or another online service to figure out what a foreign phrase or sign really means.  When traveling outside of the interweb’s reach, however, an app like World Lens may become a cheap lifesaver.  This app (which requires the purchase of separate $10 “packs” for each language you want to crack), allows you to use your Apple device’s camera function to capture foreign lingo to be loosely translated back.  You don’t have to be online – or remember your 2nd semester of Spanish II – to get the basic idea of what foreign languages are trying to tell you.  While not perfect, it’s a great alternative to a pocket translator and requires absolutely no connectivity.

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Wireless Guide

Finally, the best way to stay uber-productive is to get back online!  Finding the closest and most-reliable wireless hub isn’t always cake, however, especially if you aren’t already connected.  Thankfully, services like JiWire are easily downloaded to your device to keep you up-to-date on the nearest spot to get surfing again, and it is available for both Apple and Android devices – for free!

The best way to ensure that your offline experience is as bold and fruitful as your time spent online is to plan ahead, download your favorite apps, and get everything loaded and ready to go.  Since you never know when your connectivity will drop, it’s best to assume it will happen; “up” time, then, will seem like a dream when you get it.

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