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“Anything you do requires energy.” So begins the webpage by Dragos Roua dedicated to teaching people how to “pay themselves first.” Payment, however, has less to do with monetary compensation, and more to do with spiritual energy. This concept mingles closely with the yogic idea of Asteya, or “nonstealing.” Asteya “calls us to live with integrity and reciprocity,” Deborah Adele writes in her book The Yamas and Niyamas. Both concepts, of differing origins, speak one truth: give so that you may receive.

Roua asks readers to start paying attention “to all the energy we’re receiving.” We must be fully aware of the energy given back in order to appreciate it and use it. Energy comes to us in many ways, but often are not aware of it. Our colleagues who interact with us, strangers we pass and smile at us, a short chat with the woman behind the counter at lunch. This is all energy; be open to receiving it.

Stealing from others impedes reception of energy. Adele writes that “[w]hen we compare ourselves to others, we either find ourselves lacking, which makes us feel cheated, or we find ourselves superior, which leaves us feeling arrogant.” Instead of expending energy in comparisons, we can instead just be and lift others up in a positive light. Compliment a stranger. Help a struggling friend. Be the positive light you want in your own life.

This said, we must be cautious not to give energy away, to allow it to leak and not refill. Losing too much energy comes when we put others before ourselves, which sounds altruistic, but ignoring personal needs undermines the ability to serve others. Therefore, the theme of this blog: pay yourself first.

If you don’t help or support yourself before others, there will be no energy for others. As Roua says, “[i]f you’re giving away all your energy, you’ll end up weak, vulnerable and defeated.” We must not steal from ourselves, as Asteya dictates. Adele continues this definition by saying “[w]e need to take time to rest and to reflect and to contemplate.” Never stopping, never pausing to breathe will leave us powerless and vulnerable.

It is our responsibility to “pay ourselves first.” In order to find the energy and purpose to salvage our earth, community, friends and family, we must first care for and love ourselves.

 

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Negative Nelly, Debbie Downer, Billy Blamer. We know them, and we name them, but what if we ARE them? It’s easier to designate nomenclature than to find fault in ourselves, or, worse yet, reasons to agree with those who challenge our status quo.  It is the common lot of modern man to disagree with the world around him in an attempt to prove himself as an independent and uncontrolled being.

Yet that which is most resisted is growth. When one consistently resists (change, advice, even gut feelings), he does not learn the lesson and instead is fated to follow the same destructive path. This can be seen vividly in presidential–and other political–campaigns. Not only the stoic beliefs of far right and far left politicians, but in the extremist ideals held by the common man. To disagree, to resist can create negative energies and opinions toward opposing forces, thus creating friction and unnecessary anger.

In most cases, this opposition to advice and change is reflective of one of the most base emotions: fear. We fear that we were wrong, unnecessary, that our view of the world is being challenged, that we must step outside the comfort zones we create for ourselves. These comfort zones are what define us, and to challenge that is to admit we do not know everything about ourselves.

The transverse, which is just as destructive, is to “agree” or listen without truly understanding. Not wanting to “rock the boat” or cause dissention, some choose a path of least resistance, a path that does not include argument or challenge, but also does not include growth.

So, why learn to agree with others? To disagree uses a great deal of energy, more energy  than calm contemplation could ever draw. It can end friendships and close doors to new opportunities and new ways of thinking. It keeps a person on edge, always waiting for the other to make a mistake and gloatingly point it out without remorse. This isn’t about forcing another to change his mind or for you to give up your position; sometimes its enough to use the old adage of “agreeing to disagree.”

I see this in my classroom regularly. Students, and sometimes their parents, are resistant to unique ways of thinking. When asked to peer inside themselves in journal entries, they balk at the task, demanding that the class instead watch a movie. What that translates to is that to find a new perception of themselves is terrifying, but latent or passive education in the form of movies or lecture is more appealing. They can remain in their “safe zones” and passively resist change. To agree with me that their education is important is terrifying, and therefore they spend more of their energy arguing for “easier” assignments than if they had merely done the original assignment.

But, sadly, this is also true of myself. I don’t agree with my own decisions! I resist outside advice! Often, I am the most avid enemy of my life-choices. The hardest lesson I have come across is believing in myself and not putting myself down, but accepting me as I am. Refraining from resistance, from anger is a new lesson and mindset for me. But I would rather take the challenge and the experience of listening, understanding, and agreeing than constantly spending energy that I lose, never to regain said energy through powerful connections to others, and to myself.

 

The New Year is approaching rapidly, and with it we return to work to either love or hate our workspace. Having a healthy, positive, and comfortable workspace is key to helping work not feel like, well, work. Having an organized desk and colorful walls are an easy step to make, but why not take a more studied approach? Feng shui, a complicated and almost scientific study, began most likely about 4000 BC. Buildings in China from this time period on were aligned to earthly rotations and astrological formations, and in later times this alignment made its way indoors and into physical study as well. In the art of Kung Fu, for example, part of the practice incorporates the idea of bagua, the eight trigrams. In essence, the study can be broken down into the idea that all things impact other things, that interconnectedness reveals power…or weakness.

Though some call it hocus pocus, still many more study feng shui in not only modern China, but in contemporary Western cultures as well. At care2.com, the greenliving segment offers suggestions for “do’s and don’t’s” of office feng shui. First, where you sit is supremely important. Having your chair directly across from the door weakens your position, while the corner farthest from the opening will give a “command” position. For me, my desk is built into my wall connected to the door (so not directly across) but I do have a rocking chair and the ability to reposition myself in this area when teaching. Perhaps I will bring a stool and utilize its mobility for this command seating.

In this same vein of thought, one’s back should rest against the corner of the room, NEVER turning one’s back toward the door. This is to turn your back on business, which comes through your open door. For obvious reasons, then, one should also never “look straight out into a corridor or see the stairs, storage rooms, closets, elevators, escalators, or toilets” while seated at your desk. My desk, for example, faces an open window the looks toward a snowy mountain. Very inspiring!

While setting up one’s desk, one should place his or her computer in the north or west area if creativity is needed. However, to generate income, the computer should be placed in the southeast. A benefit of laptops is the maneuverability of work locale. A tabletop fountain in the East provides a calming and relaxed atmosphere. Feng shui dictates that this will activate business and career success, which no one can have too much of.

On to colors. Balancing yin and yang is important and can be done by balancing heavy and light, harsh and soft surfaces, textures, and furnitures. Even the most skeptical person can agree that variation provides uniqueness and keeps the mind active and interested. Blue might be the ideal color for my classroom, for example, because it is thought to “increase productivity and work efficiency” as per inventcreativity.com. At the same site, green calms the mind while the color yellow on a notepad can increase memory, but as a wall color, will increase tensions and fighting.

My weakest area is one of the last quick lessons from this website. Treating your files (whether paper or electronic) with respect and care is important as they represent business from the past, present, and future as well. Last is clutter, notably that of office equipment cords which can cause injury, but lest ye forget the obvious–knick nacks and stacks of unnecessary extras kept around to “use someday”. Someday will not come. If it isn’t vital to particular programs or outcomes, or if it hasn’t been used in a month, toss it, donate it, sell it, but by all accounts, don’t keep it. Let’s see if I can follow my own advice!
One should feel passionate about their work, or at the least not be filled with disdain while driving to the office. Though we do not necessarily have the ability to change those we work with or the line of work we are in, we can at least change our workspace.

A beautiful perk to living in or visiting a metropolis is a euphony of various languages, a din of voices uttering gorgeous vowels or harsh consanents, but nonetheless transmitting the most precious of all human inventions–culture.  But why learn these conduits of varying societies?

Pickthebrain.com articles “5 Great Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language”, and starts with the idea that it will improve your English…or whatever language is most familiar. Granted, not all ideas are parallel between societies, but to understand the uniqueness of a language and its reflection of culture ultimately makes one a more authentic and careful speaker. This continues the idea that knowing a language deepens cultural learning, teaching more than just vocal sounds, but instead a very human experience.

But strengthening one’s familiar language is only the beginning. Any avid traveler will note that knowing the local lingo can not only enhance the experience, but keeps a traveler safe as well.  Without knowing the behind-the-counter conversations, one can feel excluded from the local culture, relegated instead to buying over-price cheaply-made souveniers and eating at the local McDonald’s. Opening with at least an attempted language exchange increases the chances of a receptive and positive interaction, thus increasing the memories and deepening the experiences. When last I visited Paris, I attempted my worst pronunciation of French. Though I was ribbed for my terrible French, the Parisians were still quite happy to help me with whatever I needed. And possibly flirted with me a little bit, too.

Actually learning the language, though, can be the challenge. Two of the most used on-line language courses are livemocha and Rosetta Stone. However, which one to use is an even more of a challenge. LiveMocha allows learners to interact with fluent speakers and other learners. This community makes learning not feel so isolating, and gives almost immediate feedback as to the quality of responses. LiveMocha also has many free courses, though the most common languages (like German and Spanish) do cost. The downside is that LiveMocha has many translation errors, and behaves more as a review of a language than an initial learning tool. Rosetta Stone, however, has proven strategies that work, though at a high financial price at roughly $300.

Whatever language learning software you choose, just experiencing a new culture enhances the human experience. Challenging yourself, stepping out from your comfort zone, makes life more meaningful. Larga vida y prosperidad!

Who wants to go to work tomorrow? Sadly, today’s economy has turned the American passion for hard work into hardly caring about work. The Conference Board research group found that “[i]n 2008, 49 percent of those surveyed reported satisfaction with their jobs.” Sad facts, of course, but wait, there’s more: the same research group claims job satisfaction has dipped even lower recently, “according to a new survey that found only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work.”

What, then, is the answer? For many, it’s to start your own business. Though such a move has obvious risky results, there are plenty of reasons to follow through with your dream that may outweigh the risks. According to Inc.com, there are at least 10 of these reasons to get out and take a risk. First, owning your own business gives at least a feeling of controlling your own destiny. This said, keep in mind that markets and environmental factors could demolish an otherwise sound dream. But small business ownership allows type A personalities the freedom they need for true happiness.

As a small business owner, work/life balance becomes something you DO have more control over. In this same vein, you have more say over those people you work with as well, thus ending the frustrating battles of personalities or even mutinies.

And yes, there is a great amount of risk, but he who takes the risk, also reaps the rewards. This gives one the challenge so many seek! The challenge is what is exciting, especially if this relates to a field you are passionate about. And when there’s just you taking the risk, things get done faster than going through red tape or another’s hemhawing. Last, working alone also gives you more opportunity to bond with those you work with, including your clients.

Once successful, many small business owners feel a sense of pride, of accomplishment, and pass this positive feeling back into the community it serves.

Kiplinger.com offers advice on how to get your business started. Though their 6 steps are not new advice, nor are they greatly detailed, what it does offer is a concise, and not overwhelming page of advice. The best advice? Start with a solid business plan after gaining experience.

Of course, the above business plan should also involve a marketing plan that details who might be interested, where is the best location to start, and what time of year is best to get into the game.

All this said, I have pondered the idea of a small business for years. At one time it was a coffee house/ book store with live music. At another time it was photography. More recently, though, two ideas have become constant images in my head: an extreme sport tour company for women, and a licensed nutritionist.

I have not yet begun my official journey, but the idea of both simultaneously seems bountifully fun. I would love to give back to others who share the same passions I do. And to help people stay healthy and live longer lives? I know I would feel as though I am giving back to my community every day.

All this said, it takes a great deal of guts to start your own business. I think it would be easier if I didn’t love my currently job as much as I do! But some day, I’ll love my two business ventures even more.

Day 11: Take Risks!

Though mothers around the world cringe at the thought of their offspring and “risk” in the same sentence, it has been proven that taking risks in adolescence is “a positive tool in an adolescent’s life for discovering, developing, and consolidating his or her identity”, as per Dr. Lynn E. Ponton. Taking risks is vital to our development, but should we stop taking risks when we become adults?

We have graduated college, found a career, maybe even settled down. The harder we’ve worked, the more we have to lose. Fear of loss, then, causes most adults to risk less, to find safe routines and comfortable lives. Yet this comfort–immediately lounging on the couch after work, rarely stepping out to meet friends unless it’s a special occasion, spending more time indoors than out–can also lead to complacency and later, despondency. We become lazy, overweight, energy-less, and with fewer and fewer experiences to make living worthwhile. However, reintroducing risk to break up routine can solve that!

At learnthis.ca, “Reach Out Beyond Your Comfort Zone” encourages readers to, once a month, take a small, calculated risk to break up routine. Some safe, small risks to try are:

  • Get out of the office at lunch (if you normally stay in)
  • Meet a friend you rarely see for coffee or a drink
  • Do something for a stranger. This can be volunteering or even just complimenting or smiling at a random person.
  • Step out of your normal “media” circle: try a new genre of book, music, or movie
  • Try a new and exotic food
  • Approach and tackle a fear, like skydiving or taking a dance class

Essentially, risk is comprised of four elements: get out of a comfort zone, face a challenge, use innovation, and have courage. Escaping the area of most comfort allows us to explore and re-examine who we are. Too much routine and we lose the definition of ourselves. We do this through facing, embracing, and hopefully overcoming a challenge of any variety. One day it might be dealing with feisty parents, while another it might be hucking off a cliff on a snowboard. When we approach these challenges, we must do so with innovation (new thinking) and courage, lest we turn and run the other way.

That courage element can often be a tricky one. “Life and Business Tips” on blogspot recommends the following to increase courage:

  • Feel and accept your fear, then visualize a positive outcome
  • Practicing daily affirmations can contribute to increased courage as well. Affirmations, such as “I am courageous. I am strong, bold and confident.” repeated regularly help guide our subconscious into a more powerful level.
  • Do a daily “anchor” exercise where you remember and meditate on a moment in your life where you feel particularly courageous.
  • As the song in Beauty and the Beast advised, “be prepared.” Know what you fear and make an informed plan of attack. For example, I once feared skydiving. I researched, learned the process, and went knowing I was ready.
  • Exercise daily. It isn’t enough to be mentally prepared, we must be physically balanced as well.
  • And last, seek examples. We can find courage in everything from uplifting movies to biographies of strong people, or even a personal role model who has achieved that which you desire.

Risk is important at all stages of our lives, but we must remember that the types of risks are what change, not whether or not we take risks. As a teenager, I took risks I know now were seriously dangerous. So as an adult, I have the capacity to make better decisions, and better risks. Dare I say even more fun risks!

Of late I’ve found myself in a routine. Same morning rituals, same afternoons and evenings. This has lead me into the “funk” I currently am swimming in, and might be partially to blame for my current illness. Thankfully, tomorrow I have the opportunity to change. Why wait for tomorrow? Right now I am plotting my revenge against routine, am building a courageous future, and hope you join me on it!

 

Mark Twain once said that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Though many travel regularly, for most it is to get from point A to point B or merely for employment. The travel Mr. Twain referred to, though, is the travel that pushes us beyond our limits of comfort, travel for pleasure and for experience, rather than altered physical geographical state. Travel of this kind offers more than entertainment: it offers health benefits multi-fold.

Tripbase.com published an eArticle “5 (Less Obvious) Reasons Why Travel is Good For You” to prove exactly this point. Of the five, the first is that travel “makes you more employable.” To backpack through a foreign country (not pay for a tour or only stay at 5 star hotels) offers opportunities to problem solve and balance a tight budget, for example, which all can be turned into viable skills in the workplace. Why stop there? Through my own world-wide solo adventures, I’ve doubled my ability to use financial restraint and discover solutions to problems on my own without freaking out.

These same experiences also lead me into the second reason: independence. Starting with an experience traveling suddenly alone in New York City when I was 22, I quickly learned how to take care of myself, instead of relying on another person to make plans and decisions. Three years later I applied these same skills to a United Kingdom adventure, and every year thereafter slowly making may way further and further across the globe.

Each time I returned from my lengthy adventures I found myself more content to be at home, which Tripbase claims as the third support for travel. When I return from a trip–whether just a few hours away or a few countries away–I find myself ever more thankful for what I have and where I have it. The first thing I give thanks for each time? My bed.

This reason leads into the fourth: therapy. To remove yourself from current and consuming issues helps attain perspective. With each excursion I go on, I find myself more and more content, able to renew my view of life, my job, my home, my friends with a wider perspective. In fact, a new genre of travel has arrived with the advent of books regarding travel therapy such as this: http://traveltherapytrips.com/book-2/

The final reason to travel, as per the site, is “consolidating relationships.” Though I rarely travel with friends, when I do, I find myself getting to know the other(s) on a level “just hanging out” could never afford. Simultaneously, I’ve never learned so much about myself, my patience, my communication, my expectations as when I have scurried around other lands with a companion. Though I prefer to travel alone, I certainly am open to the right person to join me. I realize I should approach all relationships in such a way, whether family, friend, or romantic. Being upfront about expectations, honest when things go awry, able to give each other space while simultaneously using empathy, are all relationships skills.

So these thoughts in mind, I am currently planning my future trips, which include Chile in July to snowboard, Hawai’i the following summer to surf, and Japan the winter after that to snowboard again. I’ve put off travel long enough to pay a mortgage–now removing said mortgage, I am excitedly and nervously stepping outside my comfortable home into new adventures!