The Power of a Habit

We all have bad habits. We procrastinate, or chew with our mouths open, or interrupt people. We all have some things that we do that we just can’t seem to shake; that’s the definition of a habit. So what if we could make our habits work for us? Think about how powerful it would be to have good habits that we don’t even have to think about. I’ve been searching long and hard to find the secret for creating habits that stick, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

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First, understand that creating habits is nothing more than creating a new normal for yourself. Once it becomes a habit, it becomes normal in our life. Trade in your current normal for a new normal and you’ve created a habit.

  • Commit to 30 days for each new habit.
  • Make it every day.
  • Start small and simple.
  • Be very specific.
  • Thank yourself every day that you follow through.
  • Notice when you don’t follow through and adjust accordingly.
  • Make the change easier by removing obstacles.
  • Enjoy the change you’re making.
  • Once you have a new habit, change your life again.

What do you do to make a new habit? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t? How do you keep yourself motivated to change more things in your life?

Photo Credit: trainingforwarriors.com

When “Enough” Isn’t Enough: Push Yourself Further

It seems to be an epidemic in today’s society to just do “enough”. We do exactly as much as we need to in order to get by, to get the grade, to satisfy the boss. We’ve become complacent with good enough and society has accepted mediocre as the new norm. In the generation of the entitled, we seem to search for the path of least resistance to get to what we want, and often sacrifice bigger goals and aspirations for the sake of just reaching something, anything. I’ve found myself settling for “good enough” and I don’t like the way it feels. Existing just to exist isn’t living and I’m tired of selling myself short. I know I have the potential to be greater and search every day for the motivation to get there; I want to push myself further.

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If you’re feeling stuck and are tired of the internal dialogue of excuses for why you aren’t doing the things you want to do, here are some tips:

  • Minimize temptation. This involves anything from turning off the TV to keeping junk food out of your pantry. The less chances you have to deviate from your goal, the easier it is to reach it.
  • Push yourself over your limit for a short time. Whether this is in a workout where you do a few more reps or during a long work session where you finish that assignment before taking a lunch break, you’ll feel better after doing it. Motivation is the key to success in any aspect of your life.
  • Build “energy rituals” for your toughest challenges and turn them into routines. Harder tasks are more draining; focus all of your energy on them for no longer than an hour to an hour and a half, then give yourself a real break if you need it. Discomfort is much easier to tolerate in small doses.

What do you do to push yourself further?

Photo Credit: mattersnow.com

The Quarter Life Crisis and How to Overcome It

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I’ve been hearing a lot recently about something called the quarter life crisis, a new phenomenon that affects many young adults in my generation. With the average adult holding over a dozen jobs in his or her life and making career changes multiple times, it’s safe to say that for most, the midlife crisis isn’t enough. We change our minds like we change clothes and follow our passions as they change, even if it means making a significant career move. But the quarter life crisis doesn’t just have to deal with work; we frequently reevaluate who we are as people. I’ve been dealing with my own quarter life crisis and find it a very stressful, uncomfortable and scary place to be. I always had a plan: get the scholarships, go to college, graduate in four years, start climbing the corporate ladder. Study abroad changed all of that and flipped my life plan on its head. I met people who made me reevaluate who I was and the type of person I wanted to be. I had experiences that completely changed my view of the world. Things that were important to me didn’t seem so important anymore. I literally began to feel the weight of the world and realized I didn’t want to place borders on my life. I don’t want to live a linear life; I want to branch out!

If you’re having a quarter life crisis, here are some things that might ease your mind:

  • 80 percent of people feel better on the other side of their crisis and are more satisfied with their lives.
  • This is the safest time in your life to have an identity crisis. You’re young with relatively limited responsibilities and only yourself to look after. Take advantage of it!

I still don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I’m fairly certain I know what I don’t. I’m learning the things that are important to me and exploring options for career paths that incorporate those things. I’m learning to embrace uncertainty and to follow the path I’m on without trying to figure out where it ends. I have faith that if I keep listening to my heart and exploring my passions, I’ll end up on the other side of my crisis with a much clearer picture of who I want to be.

Have you had a quarter life crisis? What have you found helpful in navigating through it?

Photo Credit: stylishthought.com

The Importance of Balance for a Successful Life

After a long weekend at Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California, I find myself reflecting on the importance of leading a balanced lifestyle. We all have passions and hobbies, as well as personal and professional goals, and all of these things compete daily for our time and attention. Sometimes it becomes easier to just forget about our responsibilities and do those things that make us happy; we jump first and worry about the consequences later. While this can be an exciting way to live for a while, eventually all of our decisions will catch up to us and we need to be ready to face the music when they do.

Trying to live a balanced lifestyle is probably one of the hardest goals anyone can strive for. Juggling work, school, the gym, eating right and all of your other wants and needs on top of it is a daunting task. However, the biggest challenges are usually the most rewarding, and nothing worthwhile is usually very easy to accomplish. To live a successful life, you first need to define what successful means to you and set goals and guidelines as a means to achieve those objectives. It’s also important to keep in mind that life never stops moving and you will probably never stop changing, and that means your goals and aspirations will change, too. Re-evaluating your goals regularly and accepting change as a natural process will set you up for success.

balanceThis semester has been one of the biggest growing experiences of my life. I’ve changed my major, my graduation date, my career path, and my living situation all in a few short months. It’s been painful, hard, scary, and thrilling all at the same time. I’ve learned to accept uncertainty and am slowly adjusting to a life full of twists and turns. Deviating off of the common path is not for everyone, and I certainly didn’t envision it in my life plan, but I have faith that it will be one of the most rewarding things I ever do for myself.

With that, I challenge you to lay your life out in front of you and dedicate the amount of time you need to each of the things that are important in your life. Balance business with pleasure and your stress will begin to fade away.

Photo Credit: achievebalance.com

Tips to Stop Procrastination in its Tracks

My last post related to channeling negative energy into positive stress. This post takes it a step further. It doesn’t matter how much you reshape your stress to get things done if you actually run out of time to do them. Procrastination is a tendency of many perfectionists who constantly feel under pressure to do something perfectly the first time, and it often chokes people to the point that they end up not finishing at all. Here are some tips to stop procrastinating and start doing:

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Take the first step. Sometimes this is all it takes to jumpstart you to get the job done.

Make it manageable. If it’s a large project, break it up into manageable pieces and reward yourself for each piece you complete. Those small wins give you motivation to keep going.

Eliminate distractions. Turn off the TV, log out of Facebook, and spend some quality time working on your project. Multitasking is not ideal when you have a deadline to meet.

Set a realistic schedule. If you don’t give yourself a realistic timeline, you’ll feel doomed from the start and end up stressing yourself out more. Set frequent deadlines and reminders to keep track of your progress.

Stop over-complicating things. Many times the hype we build up around our to-do list is just that; hype. Simplify your life and take things at face value. We all have tasks we have to complete every day.

Finally, just do it! Stop making excuses and finish the job you set out to do. You’ll feel better when you can cross it off of your checklist and will never have to feel the failure of not accomplishing things you needed to do.

The Power of Positive Stress

We all hate the “s” word, right? That uneasy feeling you get when things just aren’t going your way? For most of us, stress is a dirty word. It’s something we work to avoid at all costs, and often it’s something we can’t cope with when it hits us. We’ve been taught all our lives to strive for a stress-free lifestyle, to avoid stressful situations by any means necessary. But is this really the way to approach stress? Can’t stress be a positive thing? In its simplest form, exercise is a form of stress on the body and helps us lead healthier, longer lives. Working under a deadline often produces the best creative work. The “fight or flight” response is what motivates star athletes to push it to the limit every single day. And for procrastinators like myself, we shine under pressure. So is stress really something to be completely eliminated from our lives? My answer is no. Rather, I think we need to re-evaluate the way we look at stress and learn to embrace it instead of fear it.

Studies have shown that the way people perceive stress has a significant impact on the way it affects them. Reacting to stress with the typical mentality that it is something to dread will often elicit those feelings. Conversely, using the feeling of stress as a trigger that it’s time to step up and perform can lead to increased motivation and increased output. There is no reason to fear stress; it’s a natural part of life that is never going away. The trick is to break the cycle of habitual worry and channel our stress into energy and determination, if nothing else, to get rid of  whatever is causing the stress. Here are some tips for handling stress and turning it into something positive:

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Breathe. You aren’t going to get anything done if you can’t settle down and get it done. Take some deep breaths, focus your mind on the task at hand and get it done. The hardest step is the first step; center your thoughts and you’ll be amazed at how much clearer the path becomes.

Stop multitasking. We pride ourselves on it, but multitasking by definition is doing multiple things at once without dedicating 100 percent of your energy and focus to any of them. Get yourself in front of one task at a time and finish it before starting the next one. You’ll end up saving yourself some time.

Allot the appropriate amount of stress to the situation. If you’re about to be late to a nail appointment or a gym session, it isn’t quite the same as missing an international flight or being late to an interview. Accept the situation, make a mental note not to let it happen again and move on with your day. I guarantee you, there are more important things to worry about.

Allow yourself those little wins. You deserve it! When you finish a task, pat yourself on the back and allow yourself a few moments to enjoy it. Then get back to work.

Learning to channel that nervous energy into positive stress can make the difference between finishing strong and not finishing at all. Being stressed means you have important things you need to do, so do them!

Embrace stress today. Learn to master your stress and you’ll well on your way to mastering your life!

Photo Credit: lukeroxasblog.com

Friendship: The International Connector

I just got home from a fantastic scholarship benefit hosted by USAC and am glowing after spending an evening eating and drinking with some dear friends of mine from my study abroad programs. It truly is incredible to me how small the world is, and nights like this one remind me that no matter the borders that separate us, we are all the same. Any person on any continent on the planet is just a phone call or Skype session away. No matter our cultural differences backgrounds, upbringings, or current situations, we all share a similar love and passion for travel, making memories, and exploring the beautiful world we live in.

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Luis Fernández from Alicante, Spain

It’s a powerful feeling to be in a room full of strangers from countries around the globe and feel right at home. Looking at us, you would have thought we were at a family reunion. Laughter filled the room as stories were swapped among resident directors, students, and staff from all over the world. Moments were relived, memories were recounted and promises for future adventures were made wholeheartedly.

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My resident director Jacob John from Bangalore, India

This is why I study abroad. This is why I feel it important to explore the world. You gain a tremendous sense of self while broadening your horizons and meeting some incredible people in the process. I am 100 percent confident that wherever I end up in this world, I will have friends by my side. I am a better person for meeting them, and I would like to think they have benefited from knowing me. Together we are a global force for good and can show others the benefits of becoming a citizen of the world.

Have you thought about study abroad but have been unsure as to whether or not it’s for you? Take that leap of faith and look into programs that could change the rest of your life!