Students Lead Efforts To Advance STEM In Puerto Rico

Today is National STEM Day and the students from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) are taking the lead in ensuring students in Puerto Rico are excited and involved in STEM and in NASA’s human space exploration efforts.

Providing STEM Engagement opportunities is a priority to NASA and the goal for their STEM Engagement Program is to deliver tools for students and educators to learn and succeed. To achieve this goal, NASA is actively working to increase K-12 involvement in @NASA projects, enhance higher education, support underrepresented communities, strengthen online education, and boost NASA’s contribution to informal education. The intended outcome is a generation prepared to code, calculate, design, and discover its way to a new era of American innovation. Read more.

Featured image by Gabriel Ocaña Rebollo; CC4.0

Student-Made CubeSats Are Headed To Space

On Saturday, seven small research satellites, or CubeSats, developed by students from eight universities across the nation will fly on Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops, Virginia, targeting a launch at 9:59 a.m. EDT.

All seven CubeSats were selected through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and are a part of the 25th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission. CSLI enables the launch of CubeSat projects designed, built and operated by students, teachers and faculty, as well as NASA Centers and nonprofit organizations. ELaNa missions provide launch and deployment opportunities and ride-shares to space for CubeSats selected through CSLI. Students are heavily involved in all aspects of the mission from developing, assembling, and testing payloads to working with NASA and the launch vehicle integration teams. The ELaNa CubeSats are held to rigorous standards similar to those adhered to by the primary spacecraft. Read more.

Here’s How You Know You Need A Financial Advisor

The work culture has made a sharp turn from the traditional nine- to- five, 30-year gig that ends with a steady pension. We are in the era of multiple side-gigs, short-lived startups, flexible work schedules and a work history that includes many jobs and employment gaps before the average person calls it quits.

Retirement is now managed primarily by the employee and many are opting for partial retirements and remain in a semi-retired state for years. Benefits provided by the employer are getting slimmer and workers are now having to proactively take charge of maximizing their earning potential and balancing pay with benefits and flexibility.

These changes are all good. They put the onus of creating an optimal work-life balance, earning a living wage and when and how retirement works squarely on the shoulders of the individual instead of a company or the government.

Workers have more power, options and freedom than ever before. And with all that freedom and power comes hidden pitfalls.

It’s Time To Get A Financial Advisor

Having a primary job, a couple of side-gigs, rental properties and multiple streams of income is the sexy, chic trend that everyone is following. And it works well and gives you access to additional funds that make life easier short-term but can make your life miserable down the road.

How you ask?

There are rules and regulations that govern every type of income and investment imaginable. And you best believe Uncle Sam will find your extra cash and make you pay dearly for it. The changes in how we earn money also produce changes in how we pay taxes, invest and save for retirement.

If you are “doing the most” financially, you have to be smart and understand all of the benefits and risks associated with being a financial player. You need a good accountant that is also a financial fiduciary and adviser.

How to Choose a Financial Advisor

All financial advisers are not created equal. And all financial advice — including advice recommended by top economists and financial experts — may not be the best advice for you.

Your financial plan should encompass your complete financial picture, including your goals and priorities. It should include planning for your children, your spouse, aging parents, long-term care, death, loss of income, and so much more. But just because these things should be included in your plan doesn’t mean your adviser will automatically create a plan this inclusive.

Here are five key things your financial adviser should not ignore or omit from your financial plan. Read more.

Steps For Eliminating The 4 Most Common Types Of Debt

Getting and staying out of debt is tough. Many people try and fail, or they succeed only to become ensnared the vicious cycle over and over again. Eliminating debt takes lots of grit and determination, and strategically attacking your debt will save you time, energy, and money.

Before you get started, you should know that each type of debt requires a slightly different strategy. Here’s how to tackle different types of debt, and get rid of it once and for all. Read more.

Here’s How To Get The Biggest Bang For Your Buck When Selling Your Home

You’ve decided to sell your home. You’ve done your due diligence in preparing to put it on the market. You’ve meticulously staged it and strategically scheduled open houses. You’ve given the listing agent the green light to list it. And amazingly, your very first showing generates multiple offers. Sounds like a homeowner’s dream problem, right?

In today’s real estate climate, bidding wars are something more and more home sellers are having to navigate. While this is a great problem to have, multiple offers could muddy the waters and confuse the process of accepting an offer and closing the deal. Making the wrong choice could cost you time, stress, and thousands of dollars in lost profits.

Sifting through multiple competing offers that all seem similar can be a daunting process. However, with the right perspective and the ability to detect small differences in each offer, you can make the right decision and quickly close on your home. Here are four things that will help you sift through multiple offers and pick the best one. Read more.

Healthy Couples Fight Frequently. Here’s How To Fight Right.

We’ve all seen them…that awkward couple who argues in public.

The lady jumps up and throws a drink in her companion’s face, snatches her purse and storms out of the five-star restaurant in tears.

The angry, loud couple at Wal-mart who get into a heated shouting match that escalates to the point that they start throwing shoes at each other.

OR the poor sap angrily pacing on the street corner waving his arms wildly as he shouts obscenities into the phone.

As bystanders, we may chuckle and shake our heads as we witness these scenes. Vowing, deep down inside never to be that couple.

And then one day, YOU are the one being escorted out of Wal-Mart by security and threatened with legal action if you and your mate ever return.

Congratulations. You have become that couple.

Conflict is inevitable. Instead of waiting for it to arise and dealing with it on the fly, it is far more productive to take a proactive, intentional approach to deal with conflict. And while you can’t anticipate the nature of the argument, you can plan a tactical response.

Below are a few strategies to help you and your partner constructively deal with conflict: Read more.

Featured image by Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay 

A Mortgage Can Kill Your Career. Here’s How…

Buying a home has been a status symbol for a long time. However, shifts in cultural norms and value systems are challenging the notion that owning a home means you’ve “arrived.” Don’t get it twisted, consumerism in America is at an all-time high, but more people are evaluating what really makes them happy. And the more they search, the more they are finding that happiness isn’t necessarily found in the house with the white picket fence.

Buying a home can be a great investment if done strategically. It’s also a huge commitment, and can financially ruin you if things go sideways. Deciding if buying a home is the right move for you can be tricky. There are a lot of unknowns, but one of the most important factors to consider is your career. Here’s how buying a house could affect your career path. Read more.

The Secret To Winning At Everything

Success is intentional. Failure just happens.

In order to become a winner in any facet of life, you must be deliberate, intentional and focused. The first step in winning is learning to be a more conscientious person.

Conscientiousness, as defined by Psychology Today, is a “…fundamental personality trait that influences whether people set and keep long-range goals, deliberate over choices or behave impulsively, and take seriously obligations to others.”

In other words, it is the ability to live intentionally.

The Big 5

Many personality psychologists believe that there are five basic dimensions that comprise a person’s personality. Experts call them the “Big 5”. They include extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.

Conscientiousness is the character trait of being deliberate, careful, meticulous and vigilant. The presence of conscientiousness is the fundamental personality trait and determinant that drives people to set and systematically chase goals. It is what makes people keep their word, fulfill their obligations and remain steadfast and loyal in the face of opposition.

The absence of conscientiousness is a key contributor to the lack of success. A person with low levels of conscientiousness is easily distracted, unfocused, unmotivated, spontaneous and often described as “flighty” and “all over the place.” If you find yourself constantly failing to achieve your personal goals or quitting projects midway through–you may need to work to live in a more conscientious fashion.

Becoming more conscientious

Experts believe that in order to actively become a more conscientious person you must work to be organized and industrious. Read more.

 

Coping With Compassion Fatigue

Daily we are bombarded with unrelenting reminders that the world is an unsafe place full of death, disaster and evil sadists who revel in–or at the very least are indifferent to–human suffering. Every where you look, television shows, movies, social media, radio and the local newscasts you are assaulted by negativity and sadness. The word “news” has become synonymous with tragedy, loss and torment.

If you’re anything like me, all of the sadness, pain and anguish is felt and internalized on a deep and very personal level. And if you’re not careful you can find yourself overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, exhaustion and even depression–despite the fact that you have not personally experienced any tragedy.

This phenomenon is called compassion fatigue.

The true danger of compassion fatigue has less to do with it’s impact on the one suffering and more to do with those he or she serves. The most devastating result of your inability to manage and recover from compassion fatigue is that over time you lose your ability empathize.

So exactly what is compassion fatigue and how is cured? Read more.

Here Are 5 Things To Consider Before “Doing The Deed”

Sharing is caring — at least that’s what has been drilled into our minds. And for the most part, it’s true.

However, if you’re contemplating making the ultimate step in sharing — adding someone to the deed on your home — it’s a good idea to consider the consequences. It’s important to understand that when you add someone to your deed, you are entitling them to the same “bundle of rights” — control, enjoyment, possession, exclusion and disposition — that you have as a property owner. Before adding a loved one to your deed, it’s important that you speak to an estate attorney and your mortgage lender to ensure you understand your rights and to determine if this is the right move for you.

Here are five things you should consider before adding someone to your deed. Read more.

How I Quit Being A Passive People Pleaser

“If you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection” ~Lecrae

Everyone needs to feel safe, loved and to have a sense of belonging. These are innate and basic human needs. In an effort to have these needs satisfied, many of us resort to becoming masterful at people pleasing.

And it works for a while.

We find that we experience less conflict with others, but the conflict within ourselves grows. Saying “no” produces feelings of guilt, and saying yes brings anger and resentment. It is the quintessential dilemma–  you find yourself caught between a “rock and a hard place.”

Where it began…

The longing for acceptance which lead to people pleasing, began for me at a very young age. My father was in the military so we relocated frequently. I experienced being “the new kid” a lot. Being introverted further complicated matters as I was shy and did not make friends easily. I was naturally “book smart” and making good grades came fairly easy–but being smart–back then–was not on trend as it is today.

To further complicate matters, I grew up in a household where grades, image and how others perceived our family was very important. In our household a “C” was unacceptable, a “B” should have been an “A” and an “A” meant the class was to easy and we needed to be moved to a higher level class. I was too skinny, my sister was too fat and my brother’s lips and ears were too big for his tiny head (actually true–but not his fault).

People pleasing became a way of life.

The Transition

The ability to stop pleasing others as a coping mechanism after it has been a way of life for so long is easier said than done. It’s a long process one in which I consistently am working to perfect.

The turning point for me came shortly after I married my husband. He was a people pleaser as well. We found very earlier in our marriage that in order to remain married and have a successful future together we would have to stop doing things just to please others and do what was best for us as a unit. That meant learning to say “no” and making people upset.

Get to know the real you

One of the very first things we did to end the cycle of catering to others was developing our own identity as individuals and then as a couple. A funny thing happens when you know who you are–you begin to care less about what others think of you.

The second thing that really changed our lives and helped us stop pleasing others was the develpoment of a strong set of core values and a vision for our future. We determined what was important to us, established our non-negotiables and made all of our decisions based on these factors. We developed a habit of discussing all decisions with each other. And this was especially crucial during the initial stages of our transformation.

Learn to say no

Saying “no” is extremely hard for some people. It was very difficult for us. So, instead of making a decision the moment a request was made, we always told the person we would get back to them. If we could not discuss it and at least sleep on it, the answer, most often, was a no. When we would discuss pending decisions and if the answer was no, we would assist each other with framing the response and then provide support in helping each other stick to the decision.

The third and one of the most valuable things we did during this process was developing our own personal sphere of influence. These are people we surrounded ourselves with who were, older, wiser and more successful than we were and whose opinions we valued deeply. The sphere was and still remains very small. Our sphere is objective, has a similar value system and above all else– is honest with us.

 Helping can hurt

The last thing we did was come to an understanding that sometimes helping people actually hurts them. When we are quick to swoop in and rescue individuals or remain at their beck and call, we actually create a system of co-dependence which inhibits them from every being their best selves.

Struggle is essential to success. Struggle strengthens character, builds tenacity and resilience and forces people to develop ingenuity and grit. Sometimes allowing a person to struggle is the best thing you can do for them.

Now, when I am approached to attend an after hours office party which I vehemently do not want to attend; I square my shoulders, look my co-worker dead in the eye and say, “I would love to, but my cat just died.”

I am still a work in progress.

Financial Infidelity Can Ruin Your Relationship. Here’s How To Come Clean If You’re The One Cheating

Financial infidelity is a real thing. It can ruin relationships and financially devastate families. You’ve probably heard stories of people hiding accounts, buying big ticket items without their partner’s knowledge, or cleaning out a joint bank account. Infidelity ruins trust and robs the relationship of financial stability and security.

But what happens if you’re the one who’s been unfaithful? How do you correct the issue and change course? And most importantly, how do you win back your partner’s trust and repair the damage?

Addressing your financial unfaithfulness starts with honesty — which is a tough and scary thing to do. Here are a few ways to come clean after financial cheating. Read more.

Featured image by Jenifer Corrêa on Flickr.

A Major Economic Storm Is Looming. Here’s How To Prepare

Predicting an economic downturn can seem as mystical and convoluted as reading tea leaves. However, the economic tea-leaf readers — financial experts — are warning that the economic winds are changing.

Even though unemployment is still low, there are other economic indicators causing financial analysts to predict lean financial seasons. First, economic growth has all but stalled. The rate of wage increase has stagnated. The Constant Maturity Treasury (CMT) rates, which are used to measure and predict future interest rates, economic growth, and output, are near flatlining — and threatening inversion. This means that as the economy continues to slow down, consumer interest rates will rise and investment earnings will lose momentum, possibly even losing money.

Preparing for a recession is similar to preparing for a tropical storm: There’s no way to predict just how bad things will get, but burying your head in the sand and hoping for the best is a horrible idea. Here are a few things you can do to stormproof your finances against the coming economic slowdown. Read more.

The Secret To Romance & Longevity

The first six months are magical. There are flowers, candy and hundreds of emoji-filled texts that are all promptly read and reciprocated.  When you end a romantic evening, you go your separate ways only to rush home and Facetime one another.

You eat off each other’s plate, wipe each other’s mouths and walk down the street with your hands in each other’s back pocket. You have become THAT couple but you are oblivious to what others think.

You’re in love.

And you now have the confidence in this new relationship to change your Facebook status from “single” to “In a relationship,” and to post cute pics on Instagram with “#couplegoals” as the caption. And that seals the deal. It is official.  You are in a genuine adult relationship.

Life is good.

You are happy.

And then you break up.

Why good goes bad

Most dating relationships fizzle around the 18-month time frame and the breakup occurs before the two-year mark. During that time, you slowly go from hot and heavy to “meh” and the feelings associated with being in love–the butterflies and the longing–dissipate. You and your mate begin to wonder if you’ve found “the one.”

If you’re married, you’ve probably heard of the “seven-year itch.” That’s the time when relationship experts believe a marriage is at its most vulnerable. But  research shows that marriages are actually more susceptible to demise far sooner. New studies show that marriages actually begin to falter around year three— earning the handle “three-year glitch.” And most first-year marriages that end in divorce, do so within five years.

After year three, you’ve probably seen your partner at their absolute worst–physically and emotionally. You’ve seen some things that you don’t particularly care for–and so have they.

You are left with the reality that your mate is flawed and a little crazy.

The honeymoon is officially over.

The feelings of being “in love” are waning. The passion is gone. Your days are bland. And sex has dwindled to the occasional, routine, uninspired and mediocre romp.

So how do you avoid splitting up?

It’s just a phase

The first thing a couple seeking a viable, long-term relationship must understand is that infatuation and love are not the same. Infatuation is the feeling. Love is the action.

Infatuation is the feelings associated with new love–butterflies, extreme longing, giddiness and the lack of objectivity. It is wonderfully intoxicating to be infatuated with someone. The problem with infatuation is that it is a feeling. And feelings change.

Love, on the other hand, has nothing to do with feelings. Love is a commitment to doing whatever it takes to make a relationship work. Including staying committed and faithful during the “down times” of the relationship.

The second and crucial thing you have to understand and embrace is that every relationship goes through a series of phases. And in order to maintain a long, happy and viable relationship you have to endure all of the phases.

You’ve got to enjoy the good and survive the bad.

Below are the five phases every relationship must endure:

1. Infatuation

This is the honeymoon stage. It is filled with lots of kisses and touching each other for no particular reason. It is when you are completely taken with your mate and are blind to his or her flaws. You are on your best behavior, take extra time getting ready and use your “A” material. It is the easiest of the five phases to endure and it is very intense.

2. Coupling

This is still within the infatuation or honeymoon stage. You are still blinded by love but have the clarity to see that this relationship has long-term potential. This is when the relationship becomes exclusive and you begin making long-term plans with your partner.

You are hot and heavy and can’t seem to get enough of each other.

There is still lots of hand-holding, cuddling and you give each other meaningful nicknames. You begin to share yourself more intimately with your mate.

3. Disillusionment

Stage three is when the relationship becomes real. The blinders are off and you begin to see your mate for who he/she really is. Physical touch–hand-holding, kissing and other forms of physical intimacy–may be starting to slow down a bit. The butterflies are gone and your mate is not as cute as they once were.

The hardest part about stage three is that you both begin to question the relationship.

4. Team Building

Once you’ve chosen to move past stage three and to stick with the relationship, you develop a deep and intimate bond. This is the time when couples really begin to merge their lives. Serious discussions concerning marriage, kids and finances ensue and plans are made to move the couple forward as a unit.

A partnership has formed.

Many couples make it to this phase and experience a long, healthy and productive life together.

But there is one more phase…

5. True Love

Stage five of the relationship is when the couple becomes a solid team. The relationship moves past “me and you” decision-making and the team becomes more important than the individuals. This stage requires selfless acts of sacrifice, extreme levels of endurance and doing whatever it takes to make the union work.

This is the part of a relationship everyone longs for but few reach. It’s the true love phase.

It’s when the couple has its best chance of making it to “happily-ever-after.”

That’s not to say that there will not be challenges, hardships and bumps in the road. But it does mean that both parties are committed to staying and making the relationship work–no matter what.

It’s the place of full acceptance and unconditional love.

Stuck in stage three

Most relationships that end do so somewhere within stage three. Some relationships can last for years and never make it out of stage three, but the relationship is not healthy and neither partner is fulfilled.

The first thing you must understand when you began to feel disillusioned is that feelings don’t sustain a relationship. Feelings are unreliable because they vary and are subject to moods and external factors.

Think of when a family celebrates the arrival of a newborn. At first, all of the attention is on the new addition and everything is sweet and cute. After a few months of dirty diapers, spit up and random crying, the initial excitement passes but the parents still deeply love the child.

Romantic relationships function this way as well. It’s the struggling process that helps both partners grow and this process also helps the relationship grow into something better, something that will last.

Struggle and hardships are the glue and strengthening agents of the relationship, not the good times.

Giving up in stage three is like declaring a patient dead while there is still a pulse.

Moving forward

The second thing you must understand is the duration of each stage is different for every couple. For some couples, the honeymoon stage may last for years and for others a few months.

The important thing to note is the length of the stage has no correlation to the viability of the relationship.

The third thing to remember is when you reach stage three, you determine how long it will last. Getting out of stage three requires you to make a decision. You must decide that your relationship is worth it and you must choose to go all in.

Here are a few things you can do to get past stage three:

Recognize that questioning your relationship is normal and necessary.

Allow yourself time to assess whether or not your concerns are simply connected to a loss of passion or if you have legitimate concerns about your partner and the relationship.

Share your concerns with your partner.

Saying something as simple as “I feel that we’ve lost the romance and passion we once had,” could be the jolt the relationship needs. It can initiate a healthy dialogue and assist you both in actively addressing your concerns.

Sharing your concerns and seeking advice from others during this time is normal and acceptable, just be careful who you listen to.

Make a decision and then put in the work.

Once you decide that the relationship is viable–do something about it. Don’t make your decision and then hope things will get better. Actively work to improve and enhance your relationship.

Try new things. Do things your partner likes to do. Be romantic on purpose. Relationships take heaps of effort. It’s time to put in the work.

All relationships take time, energy and targeted intentional effort. It doesn’t matter how “lovey-dovey” cute and cuddly you are in the beginning. The honeymoon will end. And when it does you must work in order to make it last. Stage three doesn’t have to be the death of your relationship.

 

Depressed Dads Have Depressed Kids

Hundreds of studies have solidified the fact that a father’s love is just as important to a child’s development as a mother’s, and sometimes more so…

Research has proven emphatically that, overall, the love — or rejection — of mothers and fathers affects kids’ behavior, self-esteem, emotional stability, and mental health. According to Ronald P. Rohner, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Parental Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut, in some cases, the withdrawal of a father’s love, acceptance and presence seems to play a bigger role in their children’s problems with personality and psychological adjustment, delinquency, and substance abuse.

And of course, the transverse is also true. The presence of a father’s love boosts children’s sense of well-being and improves their emotional and physical health. …But this is common knowledge. Most people are aware and do recognize the impacts a father has on his children.

Dad’s mental state directly impacts the kids

Scholars from Michigan State University (MSU) conducted a study and their findings not only underscore the importance of a father’s role in the lives of his children, but it went on to prove that dad’s overall mental state and moods have short and long term, direct effects on his children.

In the study, MSU researchers collected data from about 730 families that participated in a survey of Early Head Start programs at sites across the nation. The researchers focused their attention on discovering effects of parents’ stress and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety on their children. They found that parents stress levels and mental health issues affected how they interact with their children and, subsequently, their child’s development.

Daddy-and-daughter (1)

One of the most surprising findings derived from this study is that a father’s mental health has long-lasting implications that directly correlate to differences in children’s social skills (such as self-control and cooperation) by the time children reached fifth grade. In fact, a father’s depression during the toddler years is more influential on the development of a child’s social skills later in life, than is a mother’s depression or anxiety.

The study also highlighted the fact that a father’s parenting-related stress levels have a particularly harmful effect on his children’s cognitive and language development when the children are 2 to 3 years old—even in the presence of a mother’s’ positive influences.  As might be expected, the father’s’ influence appears to have a stronger effect on boys’ language than girls’ language.

These empirical, evidence-based findings are a poignant reminder that every father has a responsibility to take care of his own psychological well-being in order to nurture and foster the well-being of his children.

One uplifting and positive thing that comes from this study is that we now have solid, scientific proof that dads do play as significant a role in raising children as mothers do, and that their piece of the family puzzle is crucial in helping a child learn and grow properly.

Defeating the “Dad Funk”

Parenting is a daunting and stressful undertaking–no two ways about it. Especially for new parents. Below are some ways for dad to minimize the negative impacts his foul mood can have on his kids:

Accept the fact that you will feel stressed

Understanding and accepting that stress is a part of child rearing is key to helping reduce its impact on your mood. If you expect it and prepare for it–you can proactively minimize its effects on your mood and it can reduce the number of outwardly negative reactions you display.

Learn your triggers and work to destress as quickly as possible

Learning and becoming in tune with yourself is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Find out what situations, thoughts or moments cause you the most stress. Can they be avoided? What can you do to avoid or minimize these moments? Take some “dad time” and engage in activities that lower your stress levels–engage in a sport or hobby, take quiet time away or take a walk on the beach.

Get help

If you are feeling overwhelmed or have a history of depression, anxiety or mental illness be sure to seek professional help. It is imperative for you and for your children. Consider the “airplane safety model.’ During the flight attendant’s safety speech, you are instructed to put your own oxygen mask on first and then help those around you don theirs. The message here is that you can’t help others breathe if you are suffocating.

 

Your Happiness Is Locked Inside You. Here’s The Key…

Most successful businesses operate by following a fundamental set of core values. Their vision and mission statement reflect these values, the day-t- day operations are driven by them and they dictate how major decisions are made. Having core values provides clarity that fosters focus and makes prioritizing easy.

As human beings, we all have a personal set of core values that reflect the essence of who we are. We all have them. However, having them and consciously allowing them to guide you through life are two entirely different things. Understanding and living a life driven by your own personal values is one of the major keys to success, happiness and inner peace.

What Do You Value?

The first step in living a life full of purpose and passion is to understand and establish your own personal value system. Your values, though tied to your morals and ethics are not a system of right or wrong. Your personal values are the things you matter most to you.

What drives you? What makes you feel alive, energized and invigorated? Is it love, family, money, career, popularity, serving others, social justice, rescuing animals? The list goes on and on. What do you love? What matters to you?

After you’ve determined what you truly value, it’s time to move to step two. Write them down. Research shows that the simple act of writing down your core values can have tremendous long-term benefits, such as:

  • You get a true picture of who you really are and what you stand for. To get what you truly want, you must be who you truly are.
  • You will begin to manage your time better. You will learn to make better choices about where you spend your time.
  • Knowing and being true to what really matters to you will ignite your passion for your purpose and being able to fulfill your purpose fuels that passion even more. The two are interdependent and keep you motivated and moving forward.
  • Our values are like our internal compass. They keep us headed toward our true north. When we get off course, having them written down helps us notice sooner. Writing about our values helps remind us of where we need to be and it helps us get back on track more easily.
  • Our values are our roots. They keep us grounded in what’s important. Having them written down visually reminds us to stay true to who we really are.

In short, discovering, defining, writing down and living your core values helps to ensure that you get more of the right things done and makes the journey more enjoyable, targeted and intentional.

Having Your Value System In Writing Reduces Stress

Dr. Kelly McGonigal, Stanford Professor and author of the book The Upside of Stress, has studied the impact that connecting our personal values to our experiences–specifically journaling about the connection–has on our overall health, well-being and ability to cope with stress. According to Dr. McGonigal’s research:

“In the long term, writing about values has been shown to boost GPAs, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping. In many cases, these benefits are a result of a one-time mindset intervention. People who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.”

McGonigal believes that writing about how the events of our day match up with our deepest personal values can mentally and biologically improve our ability to deal with stress. In the cases she studied she found that:

“Stressful experiences were no longer simply hassles to endure; they became an expression of values… small things that might otherwise have seemed irritating became moments of meaning.”

Putting it on paper

When our actions and activities don’t align with our values, we feel less authentic and become demotivated in our daily lives.

Below are a few simple steps to assist you in aligning your actions, activities, goals and life purpose with your own unique set of values:

Writing it down:

  • Choose the top five (or less) things you value most in life and write them down.
  • Define what each of those values means to YOU.
  • Reflect on your day (or week). What went well? When did you feel stressed? Why?
  • Select one or two highs and one or two stressful events and briefly jot down how they connect to at least one of your core values.
  • Select one or two core values and jot down something you can do the next day (or during the following week) that will positively reflect that value.

Self Assessment:

  • As time progresses, keep a tally of how many times you purposefully and intentionally engage in activities that positively reflect your value system
  • Assess your stress levels. Are you feeling more or less stressed/anxious since you began the exercise? How are your passion and motivation? Do you feel driven?
  • Assess your physical well-being. How are you feeling overall? What changes have you noticed (more or less: headaches, neck and back pain, tension, upset stomach. etc.).
  • Plan your action: what can you do to keep this moment going?

The most important thing you can do for your personal success today is to not only know your core values but live them. Allow them to become a part of your day to day life. Write about them and learn to see them in everything you do. A life lined-up with personal values will yield a well-lived, purpose-filled existence.

Your Plan B Guarantees Your Plan A Will Fail. Here’s Why…

“There is no reason to have a plan B because it distracts you from Plan “A”” ~Will Smith

Such a profound and thought-provoking statement. But is it accurate?

Professor Jihae Shin, Assistant Professor of Management and Human Resources at the Wisconsin School of Business (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Katherine L. Milkman from the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) conducted an experiment to research this topic and have concluded that it is–indeed–a very accurate statement.

Their research proves that merely thinking through a backup plan, in most cases, reduces overall goal performance and hurts the chances of successfully achieving the primary goal.

The Research

Shin and Milkman conducted a series of experiments set out to test the notion that backup planning does more harm than good. They set up a series of laboratory experiments to test this theory. In one experiment, participants were given a sentence-unscrambling task and told that if they showed high performance on the task, they would be given a free snack or the chance to leave the study early. One set of participants were then instructed to find other ways they could get free food on campus, or make arrangements to eat later in the day in case they didn’t do well enough to earn the snack or the early dismissal.

And you’ve probably guessed the outcome. Those that were able to make plans to get food later did not perform as well as the group that did not have other plans.

Through a series of similar experiments, the cohort was able to determine that making a plan B caused people to exert less effort and energy and to be less successful at attaining their primary goal.

An article published in Science Daily further investigates and validates that backup plans are not as beneficial as once thought. The article discusses the findings of scientists from the University of Zurich who have developed a new theoretical model to study the use and usefulness of backup plans.

“Our model is based on a straightforward idea: backup plans change the way you pursue your goal, even if you aren’t using them, and even if you never use them,” said Dr. Christopher Napolitano, who is a researcher and lead author of their essay.

Simply put, research shows that the “backup plan effect” is counterintuitive and works by diminishing the desire to achieve the goal. Reduced desire means reduced motivation, which translates into a reduction in effort and performance.

Throw caution to the wind–cautiously

So are these research findings suggesting that we throw caution to the wind and chase our dreams with reckless abandon? Not exactly… It’s a bit more complicated than that.

Research shows that only having a Plan “A” works when the outcome of the goal is largely under your control. For example, winning the lottery should not be your only goal. The ability to reach that goal is largely outside of your control making it imperative that you have a plan B. However, if obtaining a college degree is your goal, having a backup plan may sabotage your efforts of toughing it out and seeing it through to the end.

The backup plan effect is particularly counterintuitive when it comes to things like marriage and certain financial, educational and career goals. If you give yourself an out–you are probably going to take it.

However, scientists suggest that while making a backup plan can be detrimental and counterproductive, it does not mean that people should go through life without EVER having one. Experts say you should explore ways to mitigate the negative effects — such as being more strategic about when you make a backup plan.

“You might want to wait until you have done everything you can to achieve your primary goal first,” Shin suggests.

At the end of the day, investing too much time and energy in making backup plans could create a sort of ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ where one becomes more susceptible to using a well-developed backup plan, and subsequently failing to make a sufficient investment into succeeding with a Plan “A.”

The Cure For Brain Fog

Ever have those moments where it feels like you just can’t think straight? When it comes at the end of a very long day or after an intense mental activity, you feel tired, unfocused, and can’t seem to get your head in the game. That haze of mental obscurity is what many refer to as brain fog.

The most common symptoms associated with brain fog are:

  • Inability to focus
  • Poor memory
  • Trouble learning new things
  • Feeling “groggy” or confused
  • Daydreaming
  • Difficulty finding the right word
  • Saying one word but meaning another
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety

Preventing Brain Fog

The causes of brain fog generally fall into one of two main categories — either it’s lifestyle-related or a side effect of a medical condition or medication. The most common causes, by far, are related to nutritional and biochemical imbalances that affect the brain and central nervous system of the body, which can be easily corrected with four very simple lifestyle changes.

1. Proper Nutrition

Refined carbohydrates like sugar and high fructose corn syrup allow your blood sugar levels to quickly skyrocket followed by the dreaded and severe crash. Your brain uses blood glucose as its main source of fuel. This puts your brain on a roller coaster ride — first too much, then too little glucose. Low brain glucose leads to brain fog, mood swings, irritability, tiredness, mental confusion, and impaired judgment.

Another mentally devastating diet fad is one that is too low in fat. Your brain is largely comprised of fat — about 60% by dry weight — and research shows low-fat diets have been disastrous for our brains. According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, a leading expert in non-pharmaceutical applications to chronic illnesses and author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working, the brain starts to literally “digest itself” for the raw materials it needs to create essential brain chemicals when you don’t eat enough dietary fat.

In order to stave off brain fog, eat foods that are rich in good fats such as oily fish, nuts and seeds, and avocados. Foods rich in vitamin E and antioxidants such as blueberries work wonders in sustaining good mental health both long and short term.

2. Drink Water

Over 70 percent of your body is composed of water and every function in the body is dependent on water, including the activities of the brain and nervous system. Water gives the brain the electrical energy for all mental and processing functions. According to Dr. Corinne Allen, founder of the Advanced Learning and Development Institute, brain cells need twice as much energy as other cells in the body. Water is the most effective and efficient way to provide this energy.

Water is also needed for the brain’s production of hormones and neurotransmitters. Nerve transmission requires half of all the brain’s energy. When your brain’s water reserves are full, you can process information quicker, are more focused, and experience greater clarity and creativity.

3. Move More

Physical exercise is not only important for your body’s health, it also helps your brain stay sharp. Your brain is no different than the rest of the muscles in your body―you have to train it to ensure its elasticity and strength. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions.

Exercise stimulates brain plasticity by triggering growth of new connections between cells in a wide array of important cortical areas of the brain. Recent research from UCLA demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain—making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.

Another important benefit of exercise and physical movement is, it increases the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain. The brain uses about three times as much oxygen as muscles. Oxygen is vital to brain function and brain healing. Optimal brain function is dependent upon healthy blood flow.

4. Destress and rest

Sleep is essential to proper brain functioning and for mental clarity. The brain needs sleep in order to recuperate. When sleep is regularly interrupted or you only get a few hours of shut-eye, you are more likely to experience brain fog in the morning and throughout the day. While you sleep, cerebral fluid rushes in, “power washing” your brain, clearing it of debris. It’s during sleep that you consolidate memories so you can recall what you learned the previous day.

Stress is very powerful and it can negatively affect the body in a number of ways, including causing brain fatigue which gives way to the fog. Being stressed is often equated with being productive, popular, and successful, however, that is far from true. In fact, prolonged stress leads to anxiety, depression, poor decision making, insomnia, and memory loss. Too much of the stress hormone cortisol leads to a surplus free radicals ‒ unattached oxygen molecules ‒ that damage brain cell membranes, causing them to lose normal function and die.

A healthy brain begins and ends with a healthy lifestyle. Eating right, staying hydrated, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and reducing stress are the keys to not only avoiding brain fog but ensuring your brain’s overall health long term.

Featured image by Jessica Cross on Flickr

The Secret To Loving Others Lies In Your Ability To Love Yourself

“Love yourself.”

“Take time for yourself.”

“Treat yourself.”

“Celebrate you.”

“Do you Boo.”

In today’s society, we are inundated with messages that admonish us to put “me” first.  And while it is very important to love, accept and appreciate yourself to ensure your mental and emotional well-being are in order; it is equally important to not to become a conceited, self-absorbed nincompoop.

Learning how to love yourself is key to being able to love others. Establishing healthy relationships requires that the individuals in the relationship be healthy. Part of liking yourself involves recognizing your own good qualities, accepting your strengths and weaknesses and being ok with who you are–flaws and all.

Where healthy self-love and respect derails and morphs into unhealthy egocentrism is when your self-view becomes distortedly grandiose and you constantly crave the attention and admiration of others. You become oblivious to your own flaws and fail to recognize value in others. Then comes true narcissism. This occurs when you resort to putting down and demeaning others to make yourself feel better.

Loving yourself enables you to love others

An extremely distorted love of self, robs you of your ability to grow, love and feel loved by others. Humans are relational beings and are born with an innate need to be loved and give love to others. The reciprocal process of giving and receiving love is essential to the wellness of all people. They are equally important.

Learning how to love yourself begins at a very young age. It happens simply. You are loved, accepted and valued by others which teaches you that you are loveable and valuable. You internalize those feelings and begin to view yourself–at least initially– through the eyes of others. This is how self-worth is developed. Transversely, when you love and cherish others you provide them a different view of themselves. Your love for them assists them in loving themselves.

Being overly self-absorbed limits your ability to grow. The unfortunate thing about being narcissistic is that you hyper-focus on a few key aspects of yourself which you love and ignore, deny or make excuses for things you don’t. The narcissist will focus on looks or a specific ability or gift and never work on shortcomings and weaknesses. This stunts emotional growth.

Even worse, those with an inflated view of themselves often criticize and put others down to ensure their inflated ego remains intact. This is the ugly side of distorted self-love. Mistreatment, contempt, and disregard for others are bi-products of extreme vanity. The person that is completely and utterly in love with themselves becomes emotionally unavailable to genuinely love others–and they also limit the amount of love they can receive.

One of the purest signs that you possess a healthy amount of self-appreciation is in your ability to choose to put others first and to genuinely love another human being. This doesn’t mean that you allow people to walk all over you or guilt you into doing for them. These acts of service and self-sacrifice are sincere, pure, genuine and purposeful choices. They come from the heart–you do because you want to.

Love is a reciprocal force. The more you give the more you receive. Finding a balance between self-worship and a healthy dose of self-appreciation can be a difficult balance to maintain. We are encouraged to put ourselves first and do what feels good even if that means disregarding the feelings and needs of others. True love is not selfish, abusive, vain and never degrades, demeans or belittles others. It is kind, gentle and uplifting.

Love yourself. Love others.

Featured image by lian xiaoxiao on Flickr

3 Hard Truths of Success

He silently packed his bags. Brushing past her, he walked out the door and never looked back. Stephanie fell to her knees, shaking uncontrollably as muffled sobs escaped her body. The pain was unbearable.

She had two babies- the oldest was five and the youngest three. What was she going to do? She had no job, no experience, and no marketable skills.

Six months passed and he still wouldn’t return her calls. The house was in foreclosure, the car was in danger of being repossessed, and she was down to the last $100 in her savings account. Thoughts of suicide incessantly lingered on the fringes of her thoughts invading them more each day, but she had those two babies.

Then one day the tears dried up. The hurt and devastation morphed into anger and determination.  She would come through this. She would not just survive. She would thrive.

Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth.” ~Bryant McGill

It took seven years. She lost the house and had to live with friends. She worked two full-time jobs, cleaned houses on weekends, and earned an online degree. She struggled, she suffered, she cried, but she kept going- because of her two babies.

Stephanie became the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a fortune five hundred company and makes well over six figures. She repaired her credit, bought a new home, fully funded her two babies’ college funds, and is preparing to start her own company.

Her suffering was the catalyst to her success.

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it.” ~Andy Rooney

Most of us mistakenly believe that happiness is the absence of heartache and struggle. We desire a life of comfort and ease, void of difficulty. However, the truth of the matter is that happiness–true gratification– is shrouded in struggle and facing challenges gives us the traction needed to move forward and live purpose-driven lives.

A few fundamental changes always accompany personal growth. Here are three hard truths about personal growth and development.

1. Change is a big part of growth.

Stephanie had to change (although the change was forced upon her) to achieve what she did. The experience of being left by her husband and losing almost everything changed who she was. She had to adapt and overcome. Don’t be afraid of change and don’t run from challenges because every challenge is an opportunity for growth.

2. Pressure and struggle are the fertilizers of growth.

Consider bodybuilding as an example. The basic strategy for building muscle is to keep lifting heavier weights. The stress you put on your muscles is what helps them increase in size and strength. The opposite is also true. Avoiding struggle is the quickest way to stunt your personal growth, become stagnant, ensure that you never fully optimize your potential, and doom yourself to a life of mediocrity. Embrace the struggle.

3. Failure is a better teacher than success.

Failure is the best way to learn and grow. When you fail at something you usually analyze both the situation and your efforts to try to determine what went wrong. Failure makes you think. It makes you assess and it makes you change. Success feels good but it reinforces what you are already doing. It causes little thought, assessment, or change.

Life’s inherent challenges are what make it possible to thrive. Pain produces progress. Without challenges and the weight of your own personal load, there would be nothing to overcome, nothing to achieve, nothing that could bring you happiness. You can’t appreciate the good without experiencing the sting of the bad. Bad is what makes “good,” good.

The trick to failure is learning how to “fail forward.” Don’t let failure break you or make you quit. Allow it to motivate you and to be your catalyst for change and ignite your drive to do better.

Success takes grit, determination, lots of failure, loss, and heartache. If you can’t endure the hardship you don’t deserve to win…

Featured image by BK CC 2.0

Compound Interest… The Quick And Dirty

Compound interest can make you rich or it can make a bad financial situation disastrous. It all depends on which side of the paradox you land. It is a savvy investor’s best friend and an unconscientious borrower’s worse nightmare. Whether you are looking to invest or to use credit wisely, it is imperative that you understand how compound interest works.

Before we dive into the deep end, let’s discuss the concept of interest. When you borrow money or buy something with credit, you are charged interest. Interest is a small fee you pay for the convenience of paying later. When you invest money, you loan someone else—the bank, a business, etc.—money to operate and make money. They pay you interest for allowing them to use your money.  Interest is a small percentage of the outstanding balance owed that is charged at a regular interval—usually annually.

Simple interest accrues yearly, monthly or daily, and only on the principal—or the balance of what’s owed or has been invested. Compound interest accrues yearly, monthly or daily, but it accrues on the principal and the interest that has already been applied. So, you are paying or earning interest on interest. This is what makes compound interest so powerful.

One of the worst kept and unappreciated secrets to wealth is the concept of investing and earning compound interest. According to a survey conducted by George Washington University,  66% of Americans don’t understand this concept. When you put money in an investment with compounding interest you make money just by allowing the money to sit. You earn interest on the original investment and on the interest it accrues. The more money you add, the faster it grows. You can literally earn money by sitting and doing nothing. Just invest and let it rest.

Of course, this is a simplified view of investing and a lot of other factors—especially risk—effect how fast your money grows. The greater the risk, the greater the reward or consequence. Before you invest, it’s important that you perform due diligent research and understand all of the intricacies—interest type and rate, type of investment, level of risk, penalties, fees, etc.—that can affect your bottom line. You want to find an investment strategy that suits your needs, circumstances and risk tolerance.

Ready to get on the right side of compound interest?

These 4 Money Challenges Could Save Your Relationship

Mixing love and money is tricky. In fact, a recent study conducted by Dave Ramsey and Ramsey Solutions found that money is the second leading cause of divorce. Infidelity is number one. The study concluded that debt, communication, and attitudes about money and spending habits keep couples broke and disgruntled.

Money challenges are the ultimate team-building activities for couples. When done correctly, they can expose areas of pain and fear, open or improve lines of communication, and help you become a more disciplined unit.

Whether you are newly married, been together for a while, or are on the cusp of divorce, engaging in a financial challenge — as a couple — could improve or even save your marriage. The challenges themselves aren’t magic. You have to commit and do the work. They can, however, assist you in revamping how you view and handle finances as a pair.

Here are a few money challenges that every couple should try. Read more.

5 Reasons Why Trying To Get Rich Quick Is A Waste Of Time

We’ve all dreamed about it: Winning the lottery without even playing. Inheriting millions from a wealthy, great-uncle you never knew existed. Pitching the perfect business idea to the perfect person at just the right time.

But chasing quick riches and instant wealth is an exercise in futility. It’s like trying to capture a purple unicorn that lives outside of the castle just beyond the end of the rainbow; it’s impossible. It doesn’t exist. Movies, books, and social media have sold the idea that getting rich quick is possible. But that is a lie.

The allure of fast, easy money is a mirage that can lure you down a dark path. You risk emotional and financial devastation, as well as wasted energy and resources. And yet, people can’t seem to let go of searching for ways to skip work and go straight to the wealth. It is impossible — always has been, and always will be. Here’s why (read more).

Featured image courtesy of Flickr

5 Pitfalls You’ll Encounter Along Your Path To Financial Freedom

The road to financial freedom is paved with good intentions — and littered with skid marks from those who started out, but opted for an easier path. It can be a lonely, winding road that has potholes, roadblocks, and detours. The best way to ensure any journey is successful is to properly prepare.

Here are a few pitfalls you can expect to run into on your way to financial freedom, and what you can do to cope. Read more.

Thinking About Retiring Early? Here Are 5 Things That Could Wreck Your Nest Egg

The Financial Independence/Retire Early (FIRE) movement is hot right now. People working toward FIRE are hoping to retire in their 40s and, in some cases, even their 30s. And while the focus of FIRE is to produce financial freedom and not ascribe to a strict definition of the term “retired,” it is a tantalizing goal many find worth chasing.

However, if not properly planned, early retirement can be more of a burden than freedom. The earlier you retire, the longer your money has to last. Your life mitigation plan also has to be more solid and thorough than those who retire at the standard age. Below are some things that could derail your finances if you retire early. Read more.

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