Don’t Quit Your Day Job! Here’s How To Build A Business While Working A Full-Time Gig

The saying, “Don’t quit your day job,” has become all but obsolete. We live in an era of entrepreneurship. Being your own boss is the chic new trend. But while throwing caution to the wind and only having a Plan A is tempting, keeping your day job while turning a side-gig into a business is a great way to mitigate risk, learn your market niche, and test ideas and business models.

However, building a business and a brand while working a nine-to-five is tough. Here are a few tips to help you ease your way into doing both. Read more.


Having Trouble Making New Friends? Try Using The Friendship Formula

Let’s play a game. It’s called How to Get Noticed.

Pretend you are at a crowded party or social gathering and you see a cute guy/girl that you want to talk to–how would you go about getting his/her attention? Do you:

A. Make a loud noise such as clearing your throat, coughing or sneezing?

B. Walk straight up to your crush, interrupt the conversation and introduce yourself?

C. Linger in the background listening to the conversation and then at the perfect moment interject a witty comment or expound on a point made in the conversation showing how intellectual you are?

D. None of the above. You freak out and hide in the corner all night.

For most people, the method depends on personality and level of intro/extroversion. However, the truth is that all of the approaches listed above won’t net you a smooth interaction and can actually hijack your attempt at connecting with an unknown person.

Research shows that there is a systematic method for approaching and engaging new people.

The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over

Dr. Jack Schafer, author of The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over, believes the key to being noticed and befriended rest in reading and responding to cues.

The foundation of the Schafer’s theory is  what he calls “the friendship formula,” which involves:

  • Physical proximity
  • Frequency
  • Duration
  • Intensity

He begins by explaining the value of nonverbal friendship cues, which he calls the “big three”:

  • The eyebrow flash
  • The head tilt
  • A genuine smile

Next, he tackles body language and what it reveals about a person’s intentions, regardless of what he or she might be saying aloud. He also advocates “speaking the language of friendship,” which involves keeping one’s ego in check, and what he calls the LOVE Method, which includes:

  • Listening
  • Observing
  • Vocalizing
  • Empathizing

Schafer’s approach to observing human nature is practical and useful in a variety of situations, from romantic meetings to interviewing or working the room at social gatherings.

 Switching your focus will improve your technique

When you think about meeting someone new what initial thoughts enter your mind? Are you thinking about what you should say? Are you worried about your breath, your clammy hands or trying not to saying something stupid?

While these are natural fears, focusing on you is the wrong perspective and makes new interactions even more awkward than they have to be. Dr. Schafer believes you should shift your focus from you to your object of interest. You should focus on reading and interpreting body language and subtle signals. Remember the key to attracting the right attention is your ability to effectively read and respond to cues.

If you walk up to a stranger and try to engage them immediately, you tend to appear aggressive and you break two of the unspoken “friendship rules”–proximity and intensity. You can take on an air of hostility as you unwittingly invade their territory. Walking up and bombarding a stranger with conversation can make you seem aggressive and the interaction becomes too intense too quickly. It can make others feel uncomfortable and can lead them to form the wrong impression of you. And when that happens, they will actively avoid you.

It’s all about the eyes

The first and most important step in making friends is to read signals. Some people are unapproachable. You can tell by paying attention to their body language. Look for things like lack of eye contact, folded arms and what Dr. Schafer calls, the “urban scowl.” His friendship model encourages you to look for nonverbal friend cues, including the aforementioned “big three”: the eyebrow flash, the head tilt, and a genuine smile.

1. Establish eye contact

When you are thinking about approaching a stranger, the first thing you should do is attempt to establish eye contact from a distance. This allows you to catch the person’s attention and simultaneously assess the situation.

To send a friend signal, establish eye contact by catching and holding his/her gaze for a quick a second (staring can be perceived as aggressive, threatening or just downright creepy). When the person catches you looking, see if they look uncomfortable. If so, drop your eyes and abort the mission.

2. Use stolen glances to articulate your interest

If they don’t appear put off by your glance, continue engaging in quick glances to ensure that they know that you are intentionally looking at them and that the eye contact wasn’t inadvertent.

3. Slowly build intensity

Once you have the individual’s attention and you’ve clearly expressed interest with your eyes, check to see if he/she is sneaking glances at you. If so, and you are fairly certain that the person is interested, it’s time to turn up the heat a little.

Dr. Schafer suggests that you then avoid initiating eye contact for a few minutes and wait for them to initiate. When the person does, he suggests that you don’t return their gaze. He believes that this will create a bit of tension and intrigue. It makes the person wonder why you aren’t engaging with them anymore. If done correctly, this subtle teasing heightens intrigue and interest.

4. Make your move

Once you’re certain that your interest is reciprocated it’s time to raise the stakes again.

Look him/her directly in the eyes and flash a little smile. If your smile is returned and his/her body language appears open–then you’re in and are free to approach. You want to walk over slowly and then engage in small, non-aggressive chit-chat.

If he or she doesn’t return your smile or looks away quickly, they may be shy and need a little more time to warm up, or you may have misread the interaction. If that is the case–cut your losses and move on.

End Game

Capturing the attention of a stranger–especially a crush–can be an awkward and unpleasant experience but it needn’t be. Using tricks and wild antics to gain attention will get you noticed but not in the manner you would like.

Remember to take your time and shift your focus away from you and onto the other person. Try to avoid over thinking what you are going to say or using corny or fake pick- up lines. Then employ your technique: establish meaningful eye contact, build intensity and then approach slowly once you are sure your interest is appreciated and reciprocated.

Featured image by Tom Edgington on Flickr

Thinking About Starting A Business When You Retire? Consider These 5 Things First

Retirement is a time to kick back, slow down, and do all of the things you didn’t have time to do during your “clock-punching” years. But for an increasing number of retirees, becoming an entrepreneur is the new thing to do after leaving the workforce.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2015 the self-employment rate among retirement-aged workers (65 and older) was the highest of any age group, at just over 15 percent.

However, before diving headfirst into the pool of startups, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself before starting a small business in retirement. Read more.

3 Reasons Why Your Small Business Needs An Emergency Fund And How To Start One

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately one-third of all businesses fail within the first two years. Half fold within five years. And of the businesses that fail, a banking survey showed that 82 percent do so because of cash flow issues.

These numbers are not meant to keep small-business owners up at night or deter new entrepreneurs. They’re simply a statement of fact and should serve as a reality check for all small business owners: Having an emergency fund is not optional.

Three reasons your small business needs an emergency fund

In business, the term used to describe emergency or rainy day funds is “retained earnings.” Retained earnings are cash supplies that are kept on hand to enable your business to continue operating in lean times or in an emergency. These funds allow your business to keep providing services while making payroll, paying bills, and purchasing supplies, and they allow you — the owner — to continue sustaining your family’s income.

Most businesses fail due to a lack of preparation for the inevitable. Here are three major reasons your small business needs an emergency fund. Read more.

Using The ‘Ben Franklin Effect’ To Deal With Haters

Haters are a part of life.

Hate comes in a variety of forms and can come from friends, family members, coworkers, classmates, associates and random internet trolls.

Haters are the tag-a-longs of success. If you have anything going for yourself, you will experience hate. If you are intelligent, charismatic, creative, thin, rich, a good cook, in a relationship, single, have kids, have a big booty, love your job, or have good hair you are a prime candidate for hate. You hear the snide comments, see the random side-eyes, read the hateful comments under your social media post. And you feel the tension when you try to discuss a recent win with a friend…

Since success is a hate magnet, it would seem that the only two coping options you have are to either embrace the hate or become a loser. And since becoming a loser isn’t an option for truly successful people, most choose to embrace it and use it as fuel. They ignore it when possible and address it when necessary.

But there is a third option…

The Ben Franklin Effect

The quickest and easiest way to turn a hater into a friend is to ask them for a favor.

Sounds crazy right?

It’s actually a well-researched psychological technique called the Ben Franklin Effect. When you ask people who dislike you to help you out, it shifts their perception of the relationship and makes them view you as a friend instead of an enemy. Ben Franklin used this technique to finesse a foe and gained a friend for life.

 Ben’s Story

Once upon a time, Benjamin Franklin had a hater — someone he considered a “gentleman of fortune and education” and who would later become a political powerhouse and influential in government.

In order to recruit the hater to his side, Franklin decided to ask the man for a favor. He asked the gentleman to borrow a book from his library. The man was flattered and obliged the request. Franklin returned the book a week later with an eloquently worded thank-you note.

The next time the two men saw each other, the hater ‘s entire demeanor had changed. He was suddenly extremely friendly with Franklin. Franklin recorded the episode and noted that they remained friends until the gentleman died.

The Franklin Effect’s magic

The Franklin Effect creates cognitive dissonance. According to cognitive dissonance theory, there exists an internal subconscious need for people to establish consistency in their beliefs, values and opinions. When attitudes and behaviors become inconsistent dissonance occurs. The brain hates dissonance and will seek to resolve it.

Dissonance occurs most often in situations where an individual must choose between two incompatible beliefs or actions. So, when it comes to requesting a favor, the reasonable belief is that favors are for friends. When you ask a hater for a favor you create dissonance and the hater has to alter their perception in order to perform the ask and eliminate the inconsistency.

Favors are for friends

Soliciting a favor is a subtle and very effective form of flattery. Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” suggests that requesting a favor allows the hater to feel that they have something you don’t. It levels the playing field in their mind. It also makes the hater feel admired and respected. Then, not only do they want to help you but they will also begin to see you differently. The hate dissipates.

Asking a hater for a favor requires humility and a bit of thought. The favor should be something small enough that it is easily performed but not so trivial that it seems more of an insult than a favor. This means that you should consider the strengths, weaknesses, intellect and ability level of the person you are asking.

If its someone you don’t know, keep the ask simple. Borrowing some change at the vending machine, asking them for assistance with an app on your smartphone or asking for a restaurant recommendation are quick favors that are easily performed by most people.

When you make your request, remember to ensure it sounds like a legitimate need and that you truly value the person’s help. Keep your tone humble and your body language open. And be sure you express your appreciation and gratitude for their help.

Turning every hater into a friend isn’t a plausible goal. In the end, some people aren’t going to like you know matter what you do. You have to learn how to be ok with that. But for the ones who may dislike due to a misconception or prejudgement, you can open the door of friendship with this one act of humility.

Gotten Off Track With Your Debt-Reduction Goals? Here Are 7 Things You Can Do To Quickly Recover

You’ve been diligently working to pay off that pesky credit card and get your finances in order. You’ve cut back on spending, quit eating out, and you drive for Uber and Lyft twice a month. Yet after all that hard work, you still didn’t pay the card off within six months like you planned.

Missing a milestone can be disheartening and demotivating. But just because you didn’t meet your debt payoff goal in the allotted time, doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. Consider this quote from Michael Jordan, arguably one of the greatest basketball players of all time:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And this is why I succeed.”

Failure and falling short are risks in any meaningful endeavor. Here are several things you can do to bounce back after missing your credit card payoff goal. Read more.

Featured image by lemonjenny on Flickr

Think you have a good handle on your debt? Here Are Five Signs You’re In Over Your Head

Dave Ramsey once said, “Debt is dumb, cash is king.” Truer words have never been spoken.

According to data from the U.S. Federal Reserve, the average amount of credit card debt per U.S. household is over $16,000. And even though debt and consumerism are the American way, staying up at night worrying about money doesn’t have to be the norm.

The ability to make the minimum payments on all your debts each month doesn’t constitute financial stability. Your credit card bills may not be keeping you up at night yet, but if you analyze your financial situation, you may find that you are closer to the edge than you think.

Here are a few warning signs that you have way too much debt: Read more.

Featured image by Jason Rogers on Flickr

Here’s How To Make A Big Decision And Get A Perfect Outcome Every Time

You’ve got a huge decision to make. What do you do? There are pros and cons, consequences and outcomes, potential profits and losses that must be properly weighed.

Do you play it safe or take the risk?

Big decisions are hard to make

What makes making big decisions so tough is that your brain isn’t wired to make one large jump. It prefers shorter easier steps. When you try to make a big decision, you expend a lot of time working and reworking an idea. You work to perfect it. You attempt viewing it from all angles and seek to avoid any negative consequences.

Aiming for the perfect solution can actually delay and hinder the decision-making process. Very few decisions are perfect–without any negative consequences. Striving for a no-consequence solution can lead to you not making a decision at all. And when no decision is made, nothing’s executed, and nothing gets accomplished.

The Art of Decision Making

Decision making is an art. It involves intricate analysis, synthesis and evaluation of ideas and possibilities.

Big Decisions are the result of several smaller choices

Let’s use Henry Ford’s car business to illustrate how this process works:

Most people believe that Ford’s decision to mass produce the Model T is the lynchpin of his success. However, what we fail to see are all the tiny choices added together that resulted in his massive success such as:
  • Reducing the standard workday from nine hours to eight.
  • Doubling workers’ pay.

These two decisions reduce employee turnover from 370 percent to just 16 percent. And even though he reduced the workday by an hour productivity rose from 40 percent to 70 percent.

His decision to focus on employee morale and invest in and improve the lives of his workers made him the world’s greatest automobile maker and a billionaire. And his success came after steadily and systematically reducing the price of the Model T from $800 to $350 over a nine-year time period.

These smaller decisions–reducing the number of hours worked per day, doubling worker’s pay and lowering the retail price of the car seems counterintuitive and should have made him lose money. But by making smaller decisions that impacted people is what made the decision of mass production the success it was.

Your brain is programmed for simplicity

Research shows that the human brain is hard-wired for efficiency. It seeks and finds the most efficient and energy saving method to do everything.

Every movement and action is an intricate maze of staggering complexity. Scratching your nose requires your brain to choose which of your body’s hundreds of muscle fibers should be contracted and in what order. There is an infinite number of ways that task can be completed but the brain chooses the path of least resistance.

Conscientiously, you are unable to comprehend and understand the process our brain undergoes to do the smallest tasks. You are only aware of larger tasks and processes which are an aggregate of millions of tiny decisions your brain undergoes every second.

This process and logic should be applied to making larger decisions. You must make multiple small choices that culminate in one major decision.

Small choices lead to small mistakes that are easily fixed

Once you’ve made a big decision it’s hard to go back and undo what’s been done. When you hang all your hopes on one big decision you are setting yourself up for a huge victory or a massive disaster.

The greater the risk, the greater the consequence. A bad decision can alter your future, ruin your business, cost you money or even a relationship. And when you expend copious amounts of time and effort in making a large decision, you are more apt to blindness concerning the holes in your logic that lead you to make a poor choice. You’ll stick with what you decided and defend it. You are also less likely to change course which can end up costing you, even more, time, energy and resources. It’s hard to cut your losses when you make one large decision.

A big success is an aggregate of tiny choices

Most successes are not the result of one big decision. Instead, success is constructed from a slew of tiny decisions. Smaller decisions are more flexible and fixable.

Making smaller decisions also allows you to mitigate risks. You don’t usually make a huge mistake from a small decision. Good small choices create small wins. One small win leads to another and another. They form a chain of good decision-making.

Big decisions are burdensome and heavy. You are more apt to put off making a decision when a big looming consequence is hanging threateningly over your head. Breaking a decision down into pieces and steps makes the process easier and much less daunting. You progress quicker and build confidence.

If you decide to change your lifestyle and eat healthy, it’s better to start by deciding which small actions to integrate into your lifestyle first. In lieu of going completely vegan all at once, you may want to start by drinking one more bottle of water per day and replace your normal, unhealthy snacks with fruit.

However, if you completely change your entire lifestyle all at once, you will become discouraged. And when you do, it’s hard to shake it off and keep going. Adapting to drinking more water and eating healthier snacks is easier to adjust and stick to. When you become demotivated and fall off the wagon, it is so much easier to get back up and resume. The risk of failure is smaller which is far less burdensome than trying to cut all meat, dairy and eggs out of your diet in one swoop.

How to make a big decision

When you are faced with having to make a big decision, break it down into bite-sized chunks.
  • Think about of the smaller components of this decision
  • Determine what steps you need to take and what resources you need
  • Make small decisions about these things first. Each small decision adds to the larger one and before you know it, you’ve reached your intended goal

Think about Henry Ford and the small adjustments he made. By using the step-by-step process of making small decisions that built upon each other, he changed the entire manufacturing industry forever. He impacted the lives of his workers, made the Model T affordable for the common man and became a billionaire and icon.

Featured image by Wesley Nitsckie on Flickr.

Retirement May Be Closer Than You Think. Here’s How To Plan For A Forced Early Retirement

Every working adult dreams of the day they can retire and take it easy. But for some, retirement is forced upon them sooner than expected. When this happens, a world of financial stress can follow.

LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute found that 51 percent of workers retire between ages 61 and 65, while 18 percent retire even earlier than that. It may not have been in your plans to retire so soon, but life doesn’t always go accordingly — things like declining health or caregiving for a loved one can force people to leave the workforce earlier than they anticipated.

Retirement experts advise that in the face of this new trend, your retirement plan should include early retirement options and safeguards. Below are six things you can begin doing now to prepare for an unexpected early retirement. Read more

Your Parenting Style Could Be Making You Depressed

In the age of Tiger moms and helicopter parenting, it can be hard to gauge how much time you should spend with your children.
Parents, today spend way more time with their kids than in years passed. A recent study of 11 wealthy countries estimates that in 2012, a mother spent an average of 120 minutes per day directly parenting her children. In 1965, a mother only spent 54 minutes directly parenting kids.
 women child rearing times
And while men, on average, still spend far less time than women caring for children, the time they do spend caring for their kids has jumped from 16 minutes a day to 59 during the same time period.
Father time caring for children

These numbers may seem underwhelming but you must keep in mind that the numbers have doubled during a time when childcare options have nearly quadrupled. In our current society parents work longer hours and employ the help of nannies, au pairs, nurseries, daycare, afterschool programs and the list goes on… but they still find the time and a way to stay tethered to their kids.

Let’s face it, overparenting is the new trend.

The problem with over-parenting

It’s safe to say that every parent wants what’s best for their children. Most, if not all of your lifestyle and parenting choices are centered around trying to provide the best opportunities for your kids. As a parent, you are preoccupied with trying to ensure your kids are healthy, safe, have access to the best education and are set up to be successful adults.

You don’t mind going the extra mile to make sure their kids are doing okay. You drive 14 hours in a blizzard to pick your son up from college because he wants to spend the weekend at home. You insist that your daughter discuss every decision with you–no matter how small–in order to help her avoid making mistakes of any kind. And though your intentions are honorable, your methods could be doing you more harm than good.

If your child isn’t doing well, our culture has a way of making you feel as though you’ve done something wrong. You are pressured into feeling that your child’s successes and failures are a direct reflection of you. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you think that your children’s accomplishments are a direct reflection of good parenting?
  • Does your child’s bad behavior signify a failure of some sort by you as a parent?
  • Do you allow your children to fail? Why or why not?

The answers to these questions can help you determine if your parenting is more about you and your issues than it should be. The better your kids do, the better you feel about yourself as a parent. Your value and worth have become directly tied to the success and/or failures of your children. This creates a mountain of unfair stress and pressure on you as a parent and on your kids. 

Research shows that parents who over-parent and hover are more susceptible to depression than parents who don’t. Overparenting can cause:

Loss of identity

Your world shouldn’t revolve entirely around your kids because during the process you can cause you to lose your own identity. All of your likes, dislikes, hobbies and interest become driven by your children’s interests and needs. You no longer know what you truly enjoy doing, who you are and you don’t take time for yourself. 

Relationships to suffer

Always allowing your children to be the number one priority and the center of your joy is unfair to others in your life. This is especially true if you are married. Your relationship will begin to suffer and you may be tempted to put your marriage on the back burner. Over time, as you continue neglecting your spouse the relationship deteriorates and the only thing you have in common is the kids. This is a path to a stressful and unfulfilled marriage which could end in divorce.  

A lifetime of codependence

You may think that once your children are grown, then you will focus on yourself a bit more and reignite the romance with your partner. But the truth is that once you’ve established a pattern of co-dependence it doesn’t end with the kids becoming adults. You will continue to worry, over-parent and allow your kids to rule your universe for the rest of your life.

Stunted growth for your child

Your child learns how to function, handle relationships and deal with failure by watching you. They will be ill-prepared to deal with life’s inevitable setbacks. They will either believe the world revolves around them or will always put themselves last. It will be hard for them to establish and maintain balanced and healthy relationships.

The key to good parenting? Relax…

Your kids are going to make mistakes. In fact, they need to make mistakes. Shielding your children from failure shields them from valuable life lessons, robs them of the tenacity and fortitude failure provides and it tampers with their destiny.

The litmus test of good parenting is not determined by the successes and/or failures of your children. Preventing your child from making mistakes is an exercise in futility and counter-intuitive. Your role as a parent isn’t the prevention of failure but showing your child how to get up and recover when they do fail. It is your job to demonstrate how they should handle mistakes and cope with missteps with integrity. This is how you truly impact and shape their character.

As a parent, your job is to love unconditionally, guide and gently correct your children. You are not your child’s savior, force-field or life’s compass. So, relax, stop hovering and have a bit of faith in the process. You are a great person and an awesome parent. Your kids will be just fine.

Take A Vacation From Your Normal Vacation. Here’s How

When you hear the word “vacation” what images come to mind? Do you envision an exciting location where you spend time indulging and pampering yourself? Or maybe, for you, it’s a time to simply relax, catch up on sleep and take it easy. Either way, most people view their vacation as a time to unwind, recharge and escape work and the daily stresses of life.

However, the reality is that far to many vacations end with vacationers feeling even more stressed and exhausted than they did before going on vacation.

How is this possible?

Vacationing Gone Wrong 

A common misconception people have as it relates to vacation is that you must make the most of your trip. And in an effort to make the most of the trip, you end up doing “the most.”

While you do want to make the most of your time away–especially when visiting exotic locations–you don’t want to over-pack your schedule and overwhelm yourself with busyness. Your vacation shouldn’t end with more stress and less rest.

Here are a few of the most common vacation mistakes you should work to avoid:


You have been wanting to visit Italy for the longest time and you finally have two-weeks and enough cash to do so. You methodical research every blog and travel website available and find the top 101 places to visit while in Italy. You pack 98 of those suggestions into your itinerary.

Your vacation days begin early in the morning and end in the wee hours of the following morning. Every day you wake up early, go to sleep late and are walking or running around the entire day…

Making your travel schedule too tight

Another mistake you made is booking the first flight available, which left at the butt-crack of dawn. And then you’ve planned to catch the very the last flight home and only give yourself a couple hours to spare before heading to work the next day…

You return to work an exhausted, frazzled and unproductive mess.

Getting lost in the world of social media

The saying, “if you didn’t post about it, did it ever really happen,” drives our current culture to document and share EVERYTHING.

Soooo, in an effort to prove you had the time of your life in Italy, you Instagram all your meals, snap chat every moment of your time on every tour and check into and post every “it” spot on Facebook. You wind up spending more time taking the perfect selfie at every stop than you do actually participating in the activities.

Failing to disconnect

During your vacation, you are constantly checking and responding to work emails and completing tasks. Not only are you ruining your vacation, you’re ruining the trip for your companions as well. You are not fully present. You are failing to live in the moment and continue perpetuating the very stress you are trying to escape!

You also spend copious amounts of time snap-chatting, facebooking and Instagramming– showing off for all of your friends and followers– and miss so many beautiful moments. Because you’ve bought into the “if you didn’t post it, it didn’t happen” mentality you end up overbooked and sacrifice the quality of the trip for the quantity of posts you make.

Picking the wrong kind of vacation

Your intent was to take a break and to relax and recharge but you’ve decided to hike Mount Etna and participate in a marathon during your trip. You don’t sleep in, go to the spa or spend time taking in and enjoying the serenity and calm nature provides. You’ve neglected to include any tranquil activities in your itinerary.

You are mentally drained and have completely counteracted your unwinding process.

Vacationing done right

Learning to appreciate time away from life and adulting is the first key to actually enjoying your vacation. You have to be intentional. If you need a chance to unwind, you must ensure that the planning process and your choice of activities align with your goal.

You shouldn’t feel overwhelmed with planning and trying to create the perfect vacation.  It’s a great idea to enjoy the recommended hot spots, attractions, restaurants and activities, but understand and accept that there will be more activities than you have time for–don’t try to do it all.

Plan a vacation that provides you flexibility. Eliminating the pressure of having to do it all will leave you feeling refreshed and motivated when it comes time to head back to work. You will perform better, be more productive and combat feelings of fatigue and burnout.

Here are a few key things to keep in mind that will ensure you appreciate your vacation time:


Plan a vacation that suits your needs

 If the purpose of your time away is to recharge, don’t over-crowd your schedule with late night and early morning activities. Make sure you rest and get plenty of sleep. It’s okay to schedule a lazy day during your vacation where you can sleep in and not be bound to an itinerary.

On the other hand, if you are an adrenaline junky and need copious amounts of action and adventure in your life to help you de-stress–you definitely need to plan accordingly. A tranquil few days at a quite resort would drive you bonkers and leave you restless and bored. Plan something that gets your heart racing and leaves you feeling rejuvenated and revived.

Come home a day early

It’s always a good idea to give yourself a full day to recoup before returning to work after a vacation. This allows your body and mind to adjust to being back home and get back into the groove of your work routine.

Coming home at least a day before going back to work also allows you to settle in, unpack and do some catching up with work before going back into the office. This gives you room to breathe and reduces the anxiety and stress associated with the impending workload.

Be fully present

The purpose of a vacation is to relax and enjoy yourself. So when you finally get to take that trip you’ve been looking forward to, take your time and work to be completely present during every experience.

Take a break from social media. If you can’t eliminate it altogether, set limits on the number of posts and time you will spend on social media. Allow some portions of your trip to be sacred and keep some experiences private–shared only between you and the ones you are with.

Accept the fact that there will always be more to see and do than you can possibly fit in your vacation. Relax and have fun.



5 Key Things You And Your Financial Advisor Should Consider When Developing Your Financial Plan

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 is automatically doing so.

Here are five key things your financial adviser may skip over or omit telling you while developing your financial plan: Read more

The Art of Being Alone: Here’s How To Enjoy “Me” Time The Right Way

How you chose to spend your free time is based largely on your personality type and temperament. And while your preferred choice of activities is a great way to spend your free time, you may not be optimizing your “me” time.  You can end up feeling even more drained, depleted and depressed than you did before.

When you think of unwinding and getting in some “me” time, what comes to mind?

Is it a quiet evening at home with you curled up in your favorite spot with a cup of hot tea and a good book? Or maybe it’s an entire day spent binge-watching consecutive seasons of House of Cards or Orange is the New Black on Netflix.

You may be one of those people who prefers to grab the girls and spend the day shopping and the night dancing. Or maybe you call up the bros and shoot hoops or catch the game together.

Or maybe you just sleep all day…

The Purpose of “Me” Time

The true purpose of “me” time is to give yourself the opportunity to get away from the activity and nonsense of life, quiet the noise in your mind and focus on self-care.

It is a time of reflection and self-assessment. It’s a self-imposed mental, emotional, spiritual and physical check-up. It’s about shutting off the world, unplugging and turning your attention inward.

It’s a chance to pause and reboot.

The Art Of Being Alone

Whether you are an introvert, extrovert or ambivert you need time alone. There is a difference between merely being alone and actively being alone.

One is intentional and purposeful while the other is just a circumstance.

Journaling–by either writing down or audio recording your thoughts–is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself during this time. It allows you to focus on things that have caused you stress recently and find a way to mitigate that stress moving forward. When journaling you want to:

  • Identify specific incidents that caused you to be upset or feel stressed.
  • List all of the feelings you experienced associated with each incident–such as anger, disappointment, embarrassment, feeling unappreciated, etc.
  • Write down how you overcame those feelings. What did you do to calm your self down, cheer yourself up or move on? Were you able to resolve the situation? If so how?
  • Write down ways that you can avoid the stressor altogether (whenever it is realistically possible) and steps you can take to resolve the situation and appease yourself when you do become stress.
  • And last but most importantly, always end with a list of things for which you are grateful. Research shows that maintaining an attitude of gratitude is one of the quickest and easiest ways to pull yourself out of a mental funk and to move forward. It always helps to look at the bright side of things.

Engaging in reflection and then journaling provides clarity and declutters your thoughts. It allows you to sort, process and make sense of your feelings. It also helps you create a plan for attacking negativity when it rears its ugly head.

Actively being alone allows you to be fully present in the now

Actively being alone helps you eliminate distractions. It allows you to be fully present and in tune with right now. It makes you conscious of what you are doing, feeling and thinking.

Worrying about the future, and being consumed with whether or not you’ll achieve your goals or create your perfect vision of a fulfilling life diverts your attention from the present causing you to miss out on the beauty and opportunity that is in front of you, right now.

You miss the magnitude of moments always reaching for the future.

Learn how to be alone with yourself. And purposefully decide to love yourself enough to spend time with you–with your thoughts. Once you’ve spent time processing your thoughts, you will find that your state of mind changes. Your mood improves and your outlook is better. You can then spread sunshine and goodwill instead of doom, gloom and sadness. You will be a refreshed better version of yourself.

Activating your active alone time

In order for the refreshing to truly begin, you have to remove distractions.  Go to a quiet spot and sit amongst nature. Go to a beach, a wooded area or a quiet park tucked away. And leave your phone in the car or turn it off.

If you can’t take an afternoon to get away, set aside the hour before you go to bed as your active alone time. Shut off all of your electronics, get in touch with you and record your experience.

If you have plans to go to lunch or shopping with friends during your free time, carve out time before or after to disconnect from the outside world and turn your attention inward. You will become a better, more balanced version of yourself.

Make it happen

You will become over-saturated with life from time to time. And getting away for a week in the Bahamas to rest and recharge is not always an option. You have to learn how to create your own little oasis right where you are. You have to make time to spend time with you. This form of mental exercise will help to restore your spirit and give you the type of true rest that recharges your battery and keeps you moving forward.


Dating And Unhappy? Here’s How To Know When You Should End It

The dating scene is a jungle. It’s kill or be killed– or at least it feels that way.

In the age of side-chicks, sexual ambiguity and gender identification issues, sweetheart scams, catfishing and all the other shenanigans that come with dating, finding someone to settle down with seems impossible.

But then you strike gold.

You find yourself in a committed long-term relationship that has the potential to go the distance… and you’re unhappy. Being unhappy is not reason enough to end a solid relationship–is it?

Your partner is the correct gender, he/she is not abusive or a psychopath, has a job and seems to be committed to you and to the relationship.  That should be enough.

But what if it isn’t?

Love versus convenience

Humans are creatures of habit. Once you find something that works and that makes you comfortable you fight to keep it. You embrace the status quo and shun change.  Comfort becomes your default. You will endure sadness, depression and live a life that is unfulfilled because it’s convenient.

You rationalize staying for a variety of reasons. Maybe

  • You have kids together.
  • You’ve been together for a long time.
  • You feel that you’ve got too much time, energy and money invested in the relationship.
  • You just don’t feel like starting over.

And while some of these–such as having kids together–are legitimate reasons to stay in your relationship, if you really perform a deep assessment of how you truly feel you will most likely find the driving force behind your decision to stay is, it’s just easier

You stick with your default–comfort and convenience at all cost.

Longevity does not measure quality

Psychology experts believe that unconsciously we all believe that longevity equates to “goodness.” And there are a plethora of instances where this is an accurate rationale. When a particular product or methodology has stood the test of time, it is probably superior to alternatives, at least in some respects.

The problem is that longevity and tradition aren’t always accurate predictors of goodness — inertia, habit, and the good old fear of change can all be the true reasons why we stick with what we have.

The first problem with chasing longevity or quantity over quality is that you rob yourself and your mate of the opportunity of finding true love and a fulfilling relationship.

The second issue with trying to force something that isn’t meant to be is it can cause resentment, anger, depression and a host of other emotional issues. Feeling unfulfilled for long periods of time can lead to you lashing out at your mate–unfairly–and can also be the breeding ground for affairs and create a toxic environment for you and your partner. You could wind up hurting each other so much deeper than if you simply ended things amicably. Staying can actually do more harm than good.

How to get out of the box


The first and most important thing you must do when contemplating ending the relationship is to communicate with your partner. You may be surprised that you are both on the same page.

Regardless how they feel and what you ultimately choose to do, your partner deserves to know upfront that you are unhappy and are contemplating ending the relationship. Having this type of crucial conversation is not fun or easy. But it is the right thing to do for both yourself and your partner.

And even if your partner is devastated initially, chances are when they step back and evaluate the relationship, on some level they already knew. In the end,  honesty is always the best option.

Press Pause

Sometimes, easing out of a relationship is easier than just ripping the band-aid off. Taking a break from each other could be the best way to give you both space to breathe and really evaluate the relationship.

Here are a few ground rules if you do decide that a break is the best way to go:
  • Establish a time limit: Set a time limit for how long the break will last. Once the predetermined amount of time has passed, be sure to come together and discuss next steps. You never want to leave the relationship or your partner in limbo. You, the relationship and your partner need closure.
  • Don’t date other people: Taking a break is not a license to cheat nor is it an opportunity for you to see if there is someone out there better than what you have. The break is about self-reflection and self-evaluation. It’s a trip you have to take alone. If, perchance, you do find someone else while you are apart, break things off with your partner immediately. You always want to act with integrity.
  • Establish ground rules: Sit down with your partner and spell out what is acceptable behavior during the break. Establish how often you will communicate, if/when you will go out or see each other and under what circumstances. Be clear about the space you need and respect the space your partner requests.
  • Don’t establish false expectations: Whatever you do, don’t insinuate or hint in any way that you will get back together after the break. Be clear about your intentions and your desire to end the relationship amicably. Don’t establish false hope or make your partner think that if he or she changes something that the relationship will continue. That is not fair to either of you. Don’t blame them for the relationship ending–simply let them know that you are unhappy in this relationship but not because of anything he or she has done. It just isn’t a good fit. Be lovingly firm in your explanation.

Deciding to end a dating relationship is never really easy–if you care for the other person. Having the courage to let a stale and unproductive relationship go is a tremendous sacrifice and an act of love. It could be the greatest thing you’ve ever done or it could be the biggest mistake of your life. But that’s how life works.

If you want a genuinely happy, healthy and fulfilling relationship, you have to be willing to take some risks. Staying in a relationship out of fear, guilt or for any other reason except genuine and true affection for the other person is damaging to you, your partner and the relationship.

Featured image by Anil kumar on Flickr

Fighting Fair: How To Deal With Conflict In Romantic Relationships

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.

It happens to the best of us

Arguments in romantic relationships are normal and actually healthy. In fact, research shows that a couple that doesn’t argue is in more trouble than the ones who make public spectacles of themselves. According to author and relationship expert Diane Sawaya Cloutier, healthy couples don’t shy away from conflict and are not afraid to broach difficult topics. She believes that

“when taboo or uncomfortable topics remain unaddressed, they can turn any benign event into a big drama that could have been avoided in the first place…”

Relationship experts all agree that healthy relationships are riddled with arguments. And it makes sense. You have two passionate and intelligent individuals with entirely different backgrounds and histories sharing the same space and having to navigate life together. Under those circumstances, arguing is inevitable.

It’s not about the “what.” It’s all about the “how.”

The concept of conflict or arguing conjures up negative thoughts and emotions in most people. If your mate doesn’t agree with you, you may feel a sense of betrayal and lash out at him or her because you are hurt. You may

  • give him or her the silent treatment.
  • disappear without checking in for hours or even days on end.
  • attack your partner (name calling, belittling) instead of the issue.
  • make an issue black or white/right or wrong with your point of view as being entirely right and their’s entirely wrong.
  • bad mouth your mate to your family or friends or even worse–posting cryptic messages on social media.

The normal human inclination is to lash out or retaliate when you are hurt or threatened. The problem with retaliation is that it only compounds the issue–not resolve it.

The truth is love is a scary thing. When you are truly in love, you open yourself up and become vulnerable. You are exposed and subject to being hurt.

Fighting Fair

The key to healthily handling conflicts that arise in your relationship is to respond constructively–with love and logic. And work to avoid knee-jerk fear-based reactions.

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:

1. Assess your feelings before you engage

In lieu of flying off the handle and laying into your partner, take a moment to check your emotions and gather your thoughts. You have to move from your initial visceral and primitive feelings to a place of practicality and analysis. The quicker you do this the better.

When you feel anger and other negative emotions begin to bubble toward the surface, take a break and calm yourself down. You are allowed to feel how you feel. Your feelings are valid and legitimate. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be expressed at that moment. Your feelings will change and fluctuate, it’s important to understand how you truly feel (at least to some extent) and why before you discuss.

2. Watch your mouth

Once you’ve had a chance to process and sort through your emotions, then you are ready to share your feelings with your partner. When discussing the issue:

  • Be open and honest about your feelings.
  • Use “I feel” statements and try to avoid negative “you” statements.
  • Explain why you feel the way you do and allow your partner to ask clarifying questions. The key here is to discuss your emotions without giving into them. It’s tough, but it’s doable.

3. Don’t run away

Avoiding or refusing to deal with conflict doesn’t make it go away. Avoiding issues will turn molehills into mountains. And everything becomes a huge fight.

The primary goal in any conflict is to resolve it. But there are other underlying benefits to addressing conflicts even when a resolution is not possible. You make your partner feel heard. You make him or her feel valuable, special and loved. These are far more important than any temporary dispute. Stay and fight fair.

4. Agreeing to disagree

More often than not, there may not be a clear right or wrong answer. Although your viewpoints may be on the opposite ends of the spectrum, they both are valid and worth considering. In some cases, after you’ve hashed out how both of you feel in a calm and rational manner, you may have to agree to disagree.

Reaching an impasse can feel like a complete waste of time initially, but going through the process of trying to correctly resolve the conflict will strengthen the relationship long-term. Although a resolution wasn’t reached, both parties leave the discussion feeling heard, validated and valued. Everybody wins!

In the case when action must be taken, give it some time. Allow yourself time to process all that your partner has said and work to find a solution that takes into account how they feel and also produces a solution you can both live with. This process takes time and may take multiple discussions. But the more you do it the easier and more natural the process becomes.

5. Choose your confidants wisely

Discussing the issue with someone else is a great way to gain a different perspective on the issue. The danger with talking to a third party is they could offer advice that could exacerbate the situation. When choosing a relationship confidant here are a few things you should look for:

  • Someone who knows you very well.
  • Someone who can be objective and level-headed.
  • Someone who has your best interest at heart.
  • Someone you respect.
  • Someone who will lovingly tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear.
  • Someone who has a successful relationship or at the very least understands how to handle conflict productively.

Once you’ve gotten good solid advice and have had a chance to reevaluate your position, go back and readdress the issue with your partner.

Final Word

It’s normal for a couple to quarrel from time to time—it comes with the territory. But it shouldn’t be the background music of your relationship. Conflicts and arguments don’t jeopardize a relationship. How you chose to respond does.

Successful couples have the ability to solve problems and let them go. They focus on taking care of the issue rather than attacking each other. Even when angry, they find ways to be upset and stay close at the same time.

Conflict gives you and your partner the opportunity to identify issues, address them, improve yourselves and the relationship and move on. All couples fight. Successful couples fight right.

Featured image by Vic on Flickr CC 2.0 license

Relationship Dull And Boring? Here’s How To Add Some Sizzle

The attraction was instant. Those lips, hips and fingertips–head to toe perfection.

The smile melted your heart and those eyes stole your soul.

It was like finding the perfect piece of fruit at the Farmer’s Market. An unblemished apple. Deep-red, shiny, polished and juicy.

You had to have that one.

Then one day–six months or so down the road–you happen to see an orange.

What if…

Your eyes are open and begin to wander and you discover other tantalizing delights. Mangos, pineapple, strawberries, bananas and other exotic fruits.

Your apple goes from shiny, red perfection to old, boring and unappetizing.

The brain loves surprises

The brain craves excitement and novelty. It’s how we’re wired.  In fact, studies show that the brain’s pleasure center “turns on” when we experience new and pleasurable events.

The problem with this natural tendency is it leads us into believing that the relationship is somehow flawed because the feeling of excitement and intense passion has faded.

Once the excitement and passion die, you tend to lose interest in the relationship and then your partner. You stop working. You stop seeking common ground and to understand each other.

In fact, six out of ten couples are unhappy with their relationships, citing lack of spontaneity, romance and sex as the primary factors contributing to their dissatisfaction.

Once the romance dies and you begin to lose interest your relationship will begin quickly tumbling towards its demise unless you proactively begin to work to counteract and embrace this new slower pace.

When deciding how to handle the boredom and salvage your relationship there are a few things you should avoid doing:

1. Ignoring the issue

  • Keeping the same routine after realizing that you and your mate are bored by the relationship is a bad idea. Things don’t just get better. You have to make them better.
  • Refrain from adopting the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it attitude.” You know you and your partner are both a bit underwhelmed by the relationship but you may feel that things are ok the way they are. Nothing’s wrong per se, so you feel you shouldn’t fiddle with things and end up making the situation worse. However, when it comes to a relationship “ok” doesn’t equal good. A relationship is perpetual work.

2. Seeking excitement outside of your relationship

  • Don’t stay in a relationship simply because it is the safe thing to do. Choosing to stay in a relationship because it’s safe and even comfortable is selfish and unfair to your partner. You’ll end up wounding your spouse with “extracurricular” activities. The old cliche, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” definitely applies here.
  • Dating other people or seeking other forms of excitement outside of your relationship will provide you a temporary reprieve from the boredom. But it won’t last. And you will create an infinite loop that will have to be repeated over and over. The only way the loop ends is with heartbreak and your partner feeling betrayed and emotionally crushed.

3. Ending the relationship out of boredom

  • Love trumps excitement. Choosing to end your relationship simply because you are bored could cost you a once in a lifetime opportunity. In every relationship, the honeymoon will end. It is inevitable and unavoidable. Understanding and accepting that your relationship will become stable and a bit routine is the first step towards experiencing pure love and having a mature adult relationship.
  • Moving on when excitement wanes also drives you towards another infinite loop. You will go from partner to partner and end relationship after relationship searching for excitement. You may achieve pockets of excitement but you will forfeit true love. True love emerges in the everyday grind. When the relationship becomes monotonous that’s a sign that it’s time to work not run.

Combating boredom

The key to combating boredom and keeping the relationship healthy is in doing a couple of things:

1. Accept that boredom is a part of a healthy relationship

Boredom in a relationship signifies that you and your partner are comfortable with each other and you know each other pretty well. This is a good thing. It signifies that the relationship is stable and both partners are at ease. You have a routine and routines provide stability and a sense of security and calm. These are good things.

However, acceptance doesn’t mean that your relationship should stay in a stagnate and uninspired state. It simply means that you should look at boredom as a positive part of a healthy relationship and then work to deepen your bond and spice things up.

2. Get out of the rut

Relationship coach and therapist Anita Chlipala believes that when couples engage in new, challenging and exciting things together they can reignite the passion and invigorate the relationship. She suggests that both partners try new things and tackle a task together as a couple. Below are a few examples:

  • Go camping
  • Recreate your first date
  • Take a class together such as a couples’ painting class.
  • Do something adventurous and a little scary. Go to an amusement park, bungee jumping, skydiving, go-carting, zip-lining or something else that excites and excites you both.
  • Plan and go on a staycation.
  • Surprise your spouse with a romantic evening. Pull out all the stops and surround them with all of their favorite things.
  • Try a 30-day challenge where you do something different–outside of your normal routine–every day.
  • Commit to a standing date night. Go out, stay in, whatever a date means to you as a couple–commit and make it happen.

In the end, you decide the type of relationship you have. Whenever you hit a time where the fun, spontaneity and excitement seem to dissipate just remember that it just a phase and all relationships experience the dreaded rut. Then find creative ways to spice things up.

Couples who find ways to add novelty and excitement to their relationship report higher levels of relationship satisfaction. Once you embrace the fact that boredom will come and go throughout your relationship you can proactively attack it and live happily ever after.

Relationships: The Secret To Romance And 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 psychology experts believed a marriage is at its most vulnerable. But new research shows that marriages are actually more susceptible to demise far sooner. New studies show that marriages begin to falter around year three— earning the handle “three-year glitch.” And most first-year marriages that end in divorce do so within the first three-and-a-half to 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 by 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–maybe 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 four 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 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. It 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 the place of full acceptance and unconditional love.

Stuck in stage three

Most relationships that end do so somewhere within stage three. Other 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 at Stage 3 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 3:

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. You control whether your relationship lives or dies.

You control whether your relationship lives or dies.

Featured image by IG@Blackcitygirl 

Productivity Virtual Summit

Denise Hill Presents: Conquering The Fears In Front Of Our Goals

September 21st at 2 pm eastern



Click here to watch my session: Conquering The Fears In Front Of Your Goals

Are You Suffering From Compassion Fatigue? Here’s What You Should Do About It

“The world is going to Hell in a handbasket.”

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.

What is compassion fatigue?

Compassion fatigue–also known as vicarious traumatization or secondary traumatic stress–is officially defined as:

“feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by suffering or misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the pain or remove its cause”

The American Institute of Stress describes it as:

“The emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events. It differs from burn-out, but can co-exist. Compassion Fatigue can occur due to exposure on one case or can be due to a “cumulative” level of trauma.”

In other words, it’s the stress of caring too much…

Initially, researchers found that sufferers most often work in fields or care for those who have experienced high amounts of trauma–such as first responders, nurses, caregivers, doctors, pediatricians, psychotherapists, social workers, etc… However, in more recent years, due to increased levels of exposure to catastrophic events and hearing tales of maltreatment–average everyday people are plagued by compassion fatigue.

Authorities in this field, such as Babette Rothschild, Charles Figley, Laurie Anne Pearlman, Karen Saakvitne, and B. Hudnall Stamm have researched this emotional malady and have found that medical personnel and psychologists–in particular–may experience trauma symptoms similar to those of their clients.

Their research shows that the act of simply listening to traumatic stories allows the emotional pain experienced by patients to be transferred to the person providing care through the deep psychological processes that accompany empathy.

Empathy is a double-edged sword that allows those who care for others to do so with precision, compassion and the “Midas touch” but it also brings with it suffering.

The more empathetic you are the more susceptible you are to experiencing compassion fatigue.

Symptoms of compassion fatigue

If you care for and work with others in a high trauma environment OR if you are a naturally empathetic and emotionally sensitive individual, you probably have and will experience compassion fatigue.

The first step in dealing with any issue or malady is to recognize the symptoms. Compassion fatigue is often mistaken as burnout and while they are kin to one another there are distinct differences and recovery from compassion fatigue is quicker and easier if you recognize the symptoms.

The onset of compassion fatigue can be sudden, whereas burnout usually emerges over time and lingers much longer. Compassion fatigue can take a physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional toll on you. Common symptoms of compassion fatigue include:

  • Chronic physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Depersonalization/detachment or disassociation
  • Feelings of inequity toward the therapeutic or caregiver relationship
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of self-contempt or self-loathing
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Diminished sense of enjoyment in career or caregiving capacity
  • Disruption to world view
  • Heightened anxiety or irrational fears
  • Hypersensitivity or Insensitivity to emotional material
  • Difficulty separating work life from personal life
  •  Absenteeism – missing work, taking many sick days–avoidance
  • Impaired ability to make decisions and care for clients/patients/loved ones
  • Problems with intimacy and personal relationships

And while this is a long list of symptoms it is not exhaustive. The bottom line is if you suspect that you are suffering from compassion fatigue it is more probable than not that you are.

Prevention and Treatment

Preventing and treating compassion fatigue seems like it should be easily remedied. Just stop caring so much…

For those of us who are highly sensitive and empathetic individuals and those who are called to care for and assist those in need of extensive amounts of compassion–not caring or caring less is not an option.

We can’t turn it off.

It drives us and makes us exceptional at all that we do. And it shouldn’t be turned off or muted. Your compassion and ability to empathize with others is a gift from God and a gift to humanity.

But it must be managed so it doesn’t morph into a weapon of self-destruction.

The good news about compassion fatigue is that it is preventable and relatively easy to treat.

Your current circumstances, your history, coping style, personality and temperament all
affect how compassion fatigue affects you and will dictate what you should do in order to manage your emotions.


Practicing self-awareness, self-reflection and self-monitoring will enable you to recognize changes in behavior, thinking and attitudes. And it is the critical first step to preventing compassion fatigue. Developing either informal or formal accountability and mentor relationships can also be helpful in spotting and managing symptoms.

Below are a few additional practical and effective preventive measures you should consider incorporating into your self-care routine:


Studies have also shown that maintaining a sense of humor,  focusing on the positive, and practicing gratitude are highly effective when it comes to treating trauma victims and assisting them move past devastating events. When you experience compassion fatigue you essentially have become a trauma victim. Focusing on developing and maintaining a positive attitude is the first step in dealing with compassion fatigue.

Here are 3 other ways to treat and heal compassion fatigue:

1. Seek professional help.

Compassion fatigue is a place of emotional emptiness. You are drained, overwhelmed and incapable of truly rational thought. You tend to overhype things, lash out and are vulnerable to developing addictions and finding other unsavory sources of relief.

You have to be willing to seek professional help when it’s warranted. A close friend or mentor can help you make that decision and walk with you through the process. The quicker you get help, the faster you heal.

2. Set emotional boundaries

When you establish emotional boundaries you set a limit to what you allow in. You can’t watch certain television or news programming, you must limit your social media exposure and you have to surround yourself with people who are postive, uplifting and capable of pouring into you emotionally instead of taking from you.

You can’t make someone else whole from a posture of brokenness. Consider the airplane model for surviving a plane crash. Passengers are instructed to dawn their oxygen mask BEFORE assisting others–including small children. That’s what emotional boundaries do for you during your time of healing. They allow you to be ok before you attempt to help someone else. If you are not whole and attempt to aid others you could do more damage than good. Your goal is to always be a help and never a detriment.

Emotional boundaries don’t make you less caring, sensitive or empathetic. Boundaries place a temporary guard around your heart allowing your wounds to mend without risking further infection or damage.

3. Talk to someone who knows you well and who will hold you accountable

This is not the job for an acquaintance or superficial friend. This should be someone who will challenge you and ensure that you are practicing good self-care. He or she will not enable you nor feed into your negative thinking and feelings of guilt. Your accountability partner will be kind, gentle yet firm and honest. They will direct you to seek counseling when it is warranted and will go with you as moral support.

4. Engage in positive intentional self-care

Do the things in the “Prevention” section of this article with passion, intention, and fervor. Attack your self-care with the same intensity you use when caring for others. Make it your mission to be a better version of yourself so that you can return stronger, healthier and happier. This is the best thing you can do for yourself and those around you.

Final Word:

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.

Apathy sets in…

And apathy is the worse kind of violence and maltreatment.

Compassion is a gift. Cherish it. Protect it.

Humanity desperately needs your kind, compassionate and caring heart.

“Love and compassion are necessities not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” ~Dalai Lama

Featured image by Evonne on Flickr



Conscientiousness: The Difference Between Winners And Losers

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.

Portrait of a conscientiousness mind

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.

Organization and living an orderly life is a predictor in whether or not you achieve what it is you want in life. Having things neat, tidy and well organized keeps your mind neat, tidy, organized and focused. Establishing routines and sticking to them as much as possible is a great way to bring order to your life.

When working to become more organized be careful not to overdo it. Placing routine and order as a top priority leads to perfectionism, anxiety and other counterproductive attitudes. Put yourself on a schedule and get organized–but don’t go overboard.

Industriousness is associated with tenacity and grit. It is the passion and perseverance needed to achieve long-term goals. Industrious people are often described as achievement/goal-oriented, disciplined, efficient, purposeful, and competent. They are productive–not just busy. They chase their goals, live life intentionally and methodically work hard to achieve their destiny.

Conscientious Practices

Conscientious people have several common habits that are worth studying. Here are the top five common practices of those who have mastered conscientiousness:

1. They always count the cost.

The conscientious mind always evaluates the pros and cons of a situation and considers the consequences of his or her actions. conscientious people exercise impulse control and work to act versus merely reacting. They count the cost before they undertake an endeavor and give their word.

Before launching a business, a conscientious person will do extensive amounts of research and ensure they have the appropriate capital and resources in place before diving in and launching their business. They understand the market space, their brand, their customers/clients and know the type of people they need to hire in order to be successful. Their business succeeds and thrives because of preparation, planning and diligence–not luck.

2. They keep their word.

Because the conscientious think before they act, they are able to only commit to things they know they can deliver. They provide exactly what they promise. They consider the cost before they make a promise and then they dogmatically work to do what they say they are going to do.

If you promise your best friend you are going to help them move on a specific weekend, that is precisely what you should do. But before you commit to helping your friend, you should first ensure that you are available for the date and duration of time they need you. You should add it to your calendar and consider that date, time and task non-negotiable. You should show up when you said you would, work hard and fully deliver on that promise.

3. They don’t rely on mental notes.

Taking mental notes is great and we all do it. But there is one major problem with using your mental notes to recall information–you won’t remember it all. Conscientious people write things down. They add dates to their calendar. They are schedulers and note takers. They intentionally make jotting notes a part of their routine and a standard practice.

4. They are relentless.

Quitting is not an option. Take breaks. Regroup and restart. But don’t ever quit. Remember, in order to be successful you need drive, determination and a stubborn will. You have to have fight, grit and a scrappy attitude to be who you were born to be.

Consider Desmond T. Doss.

Desmond was a combat medic serving in WWII and his heroic actions, driven by his value system, led him to perform acts of heroism during the Battle of Okinawa. He became the first ever conscientious objector in U.S. history to win the medal of honor. And he did it without ever firing a shot.

Desmond epitomizes the type of fight, tenacity and strength of will the truly conscientious have.

5. They confront their problems.

Conscientious people are not cowards or victims. They take responsibility for their part in failures and don’t run from problems. They stand flat-footed and stare their issues in the eye. And then they devise a plan of attack. They are brave, tough and resourceful. They seek out solutions to their problems and refuse to “sweep things under the rug” and blame others.

Final Thought

Being tagged a conscientious person, on the surface, seems like it would be a pretty good way to be classified. The label ‘conscientious’ carries with it a deeply romanticized and philosophical, martyr kind of vibe. It sounds sexy. But the truth is that those who truly commit to living a life of conscientiousness subject themselves to a lifetime of sacrifice and to the possibilities of being ostracized and misunderstood.

Conscientiousness is an act of one’s will. It is intentional and requires purposeful actions, an organized mind and an industrious attitude. By internalizing and embracing the five key habits of conscientious people, you set yourself up to be a reliable, productive and wildly successful best version of yourself.

Featured Image by Noize Photography on Flickr

To Sympathize Or Empathize… That Is The Question

Several years ago I was in a terrible car accident. It was a normal Thursday morning and the interstate was fairly busy as is usual for that time of morning. I was traveling with the flow of traffic, in the far right lane doing around 75 mph. There was a light drizzle falling and the roads were wet and slick as it had been raining all morning.

I hit a wet spot on the highway and hydroplaned. The car went into a violent tailspin and careened into the side wall and ricocheted back into oncoming traffic. Cars slammed into me hitting me on all four sides. It was like the car became a ping-pong ball as it was batted back and forth across the expressway …

The accident was traumatic and devastating. And while I walked away virtually unharmed three other individuals in the accident were critically injured.

I was shaken, afraid to drive and horrified that others were injured in the accident while I walked away unscathed. The one bright spot amidst the shock, tears and heartache was the understanding, devotion and genuine care displayed by my family and friends as I went through the healing process. It meant the world to me.

Several months later a friend of mine committed suicide. Once again I turned to my support system. This time, however, their response was a bit different. It wasn’t that they didn’t care per se, it’s just that they expressed their feelings a bit differently. I sensed that they couldn’t quite feel where I was coming from. They seemed to be more understanding and emotionally supportive during my car accident. Their lukewarm and slightly distant responses left me feeling confused and a little hurt.

These two experiences taught me the difference between empathy and sympathy.

The difference between empathy and sympathy

Once I was able to gain a bit of distance from the situations and view them a bit more objectively, I realized a few important factors which helped explain the conflicting responses I received.

The first thing I learned is that when people have shared or similar experiences, they have a concrete frame of reference. The situation resonates with them more.

During my car accident I heard things like, “girl, I know how you feel,” or “chile, after my car accident I felt the same way, take as much time as you need before you get behind the wheel again,” and “call me when you ready to try driving again, I’ll go with you.”

These responses came from a place of knowing how I felt in the moment. These responses were sprinkled with kindness, concern and most importantly, empathy.

The second important thing I learned is that when it comes to experiences that are foreign to others, people tend to disassociate their feelings and lean towards providing advice. This type of response–while it can appear uncaring, cold and a bit callous, truly is birth out of a place of sincere care and sympathy.

And there in lies the difference between empathizing and sympathizing. Empathy is the ability to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. It is the ability to stand in his or her shoes and endure the gut punch.

Sympathy, on the other hand, allows another person to see the situation through the lens of a spectator–similar to watching a movie. It is a place of distance and inexperience. It allows an individual to see the gut punch but not feel it. It leaves the spectator saying, “Man, that must have hurt. If I were them I would have…”

Learning to properly sympathize when you can’t empathize

The worse thing you can do during a time of turmoil is to provide unsolicited advice. Sure you mean well, but giving unsolicited advice is never a good idea. Nine times out of ten, when a person is in despair they want to feel heard and understood. As hard as it can be sometimes (most times)–simply listening to a person can be the most helpful and profoundly comforting thing you can do. When a person is in pain–emotional support always trumps practical advice.

For example, let’s say your good friend’s company is restructuring and your friend is one of the ones who is downsized and you’ve never struggled with job loss or unemployment.

Saying things like “at least you got your health,” or ” you’ve got money saved, you’ll be alright…” won’t help. These statements are accurate and your friend will bounce back, however, the true struggle may have nothing at all to do with money. He or she could be feeling betrayed, devalued, unappreciated and feel a loss of identity. Those responses don’t address how the person is feeling.

And please, please fight the temptation to provide unsolicited job leads immediately. Give them time to process the situation.

The first thing you must do in this situation is recognize that you DON’T understand what they are going through–and that is ok.

Instead of diving in head first and trying to fix it with all of your pragmatism, listen first. Try to understand how they are feeling. Try to visualize what they are saying in your mind’s eye–not how you would feel in the situation but try to imagine how they said they feel.

Then and only then should you speak. And when you do, say things that validate and address their concerns such as, “you put in so much time and energy into that job, I understand why you feel betrayed, ” or “you’re right, they should have at least given you a warning that the company was downsizing…”

If all else fails, just listening, wiping away tears and letting them know that you are here–no matter what they need…is more than enough

Here are a few steps to move from sympathizing to empathizing:

1. Draw on a parallel experience

Try to establish some sort of common ground in your mind. In the example of a friend being downsized–try relating to their feelings of rejection. We’ve all experienced rejection in some form or another. Maybe you had a bad break up with your Ex. The situations are very different but the feelings are parallel. Draw on that experience to help you empathize with what they are feeling.

2. Establish a habit of finding common interests 

Finding a way to relate to those around you not only makes you more empathetic it makes you more relatable. When you meet a new person, make it a practice to find at least three things you have in common with them.

Also, when people are sharing their experiences with you, work to engage your imagination and visualize what they are saying. Try injecting yourself into the situation and feeling what they felt. Doing this helps train your brain to move from a state of ego-centrism to being “other’s” focused.

 3. Respond to how they feel not what they say

When a wound is fresh and a person is angry and hurt they are also confused. This is why listening to understand is paramount in producing an empathetic response. You have to listen with your ears, your eyes and most importantly your heart. You have to hear the subtext and the things that go unsaid.

Parents, teachers, caregivers and anyone who works with children understand this concept. Kids–especially when they are very little–don’t possess the proper vocabulary to adequately express themselves. Adults have to assess the situation, interpret body language and facial expressions and in some way relate to what the child has experienced. The adult then responds to what the child is feeling in lieu of what they said.

4. Listen, Listen LISTEN

The key to comforting someone who is hurting is listening. You could have experienced the EXACT thing they are going through but you and your friend are unique individuals and see things differently. You may think you know how they feel because of how you felt but you can never be sure until they tell you.

You have to learn to fight the urge to jump in and say something. Even when the situation gets awkward and you feel something should be said. Fight the urge. Turn off your inner dialogue. Stop constructing your response. Listen to them.

They will tell you–through their words, tears and actions–exactly what it is that they need. And if you are unsure what to do or say, asking the simple question, “what can I do to help” or what do you need from me,” is better than assuming and doing the wrong thing.

Empathy requires more than merely putting yourself into someone else’s position. It is the ability to imagine yourself as him or her in the exact situation he or she is in. You cannot empathize with an abstract. The experience must become concrete.

When done correctly, empathy leads to compassion which is suffering with someone in lieu of merely pitying them. True empathy says, “I share your emotions.” Compassion, which is built from empathy, says “I share your emotions and care enough to help you heal.”

Store Credit Cards: Are They Ever Worth The Value?

During the checkout process for most purchases, you are confronted with the question, “Will you be using your (insert store name) credit card to pay for your purchases today?”

You respond, “No, thank you. I don’t have a store card.”

Then comes the question: “Would you like to open an account with us today? You’ll get 20 percent off your purchase.” And then they stand there smiling at you. Tempting you. Baiting you…

Are Store Credit Cards Worth the value?

Most folks are aware that store credit cards don’t provide the value and the perks that major or traditional cards offer. But are they ever a good idea?

Let’s do the math.

Pros of Store Credit Cards

Store credit cards could potentially work for you if you fall in the following categories:

• Poor credit
• No credit or you are trying to establish or rebuild your credit history
• You use that retailer frequently and/or for large purchases.
• The card offers special financing, perks, bonus points or cash back
• You pay the entire balance off every month

Store cards are an attractive option for those with poor or no credit as they are easier to get than traditional cards. Most store credit is provided in a “closed-loop” system, meaning the card can only be used by the retail store—and any affiliates—sponsor. This greatly reduces the risk to the financiers underwriting the card.

According to, when used wisely, store credit cards can positively impact your credit score long-term. When used modestly, they can add points to your credit score and by keeping your balance low, you can also lower your debt-to-credit ratio, which comprises 30 percent of your overall credit score.

You also have access to better and more frequent store deals and perks. The caveat to this “benefit” is that in order to take advantage of these benefits, you must use the card more—meaning you are spending more. You can get that coveted one time sign up discount and other smaller discounts along the way, however, the system is designed to make the retailer rich, not you.

 Cons of Store Credit cards

Overall, store credit cards provide very little value. For starters, the annual percentage rates (APR) on these cards are notoriously high. To add insult to injury, retailers are scaling back tremendously on the deals and perks they offer—making their cards far less valuable.

In a recent survey conducted by, surveyors found that the average APR for retail cards is a whopping 23.84 percent. The national average for all credit cards hovers around 15 percent. They also found that only half of retailers are offering sign up discounts and rewards.

The survey collected and aggregated data on every card offered by the top 100 retailers in the U.S. and the results confirm what most people suspect. Retail credit cards are the devil…

Here are some of their findings:

• Almost half of the cards carry an APR of 25% or higher
• Store credit cards—in general—are less secure than traditional cards
• Cards that do offer a reward program or special financing offers are only beneficial for frequent and consistent shoppers or for large purchases

Another con for these cards—especially for big ticket items—are the “special financing,” offers touting no interest for a specified amount of time—usually, six, 12 or 18 months. This works and can be an amazing deal IF you pay the balance in full before the promotional period ends. For most store cards, if you fail to pay the balance in full by the end of the promotional period — even if you owe just a few dollars — you’ll be responsible for paying the full interest amount on the original purchase price. Sneaky, right? But this is a common, perfectly legal practice that’s stated in the fine print of the card’s terms and conditions.

Always do the math

In a few, very rare cases, a retail credit card can actually save you money. Your decision to open an account, however, should not be made during the checkout process. If you are considering a store credit card do the math:

Step One: Ask yourself “am I going to be able to pay the balance in full every single month?” If the answer is yes, proceed to step two. If the answer is no, WALK AWAY.

Step Two: Ask yourself “Am I sure I will have the discipline to pay off my balance every month?” If the answer is yes, proceed to step three. If the answer is no, WALK AWAY.

Step Three: Compare rates, promotions and deals. Sites like CreditCards.comWalletHub and have calculator tools that can assist you in comparing offers and finding the best card for your situation.

 Step Four: Hold yourself accountable. Set limits and conditions for using the card and stick to them. Have a friend or parent serve as your accountability partner.

Step Five: Set a time limit. You don’t need to keep a store card forever. You have it for a specific purpose and a specified amount of time. Once the card has served its purpose get rid of it. Store cards are short term relationships. They’re flings. Don’t over-commit and fall in love. Once the relationship has run its course, end it.

For the average person, store credit cards are a less optimal choice than traditional cards or saving up and paying cash for purchases (what a novel idea). People with special credit issues can make store cards work if they are disciplined, fully understand the terms and conditions and understand that store cards are a short-term solution.

Featured image by B Rosen on FlickrCC 2.0

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Saying “I Don’t Know” At Work Increases Your Value. Here’s Why…

The work landscape has changed. A person’s potential and capacity to learn is more important and far more valuable than possessing encyclopedic knowledge on a particular topic.

In today’s work culture, having in depth expertise is less valuable and has become a distant second behind potential. During the Industrial and Postindustrial eras, a person’s ability to gain employment was based on their depth of knowledge and aptitude at a particular trade. Workers were submerged in their trade from youth, they received intense training and usually performed an apprenticeship before they were considered a “professional” and respected as such. Saying the words, “I don’t know” was an indictment of incompetence.

The beauty of not knowing

The birth of the internet created a huge shift in the information paradigm. Now, information, data and knowledge are literally at your at your finger tips. The impact of the information sharing on every level and subject, which is readily available 24/7, is a remarkably wonderful double-edged sword.

On one hand, things that were privy only to certain people and shared within closed circles is now accessible to all. If you want to know–you can. On the other hand, the amount and magnitude of information available is overwhelming and incomprehensible.

It has become almost impossible to be a true “subject matter expert.” The paradox is that both everyone and no one is an expert.

The shift in information sharing has also impacted workplace norms. Where it used to be frowned upon and taboo to use the words, “I don’t know” in a professional environment, it now has become acceptable and expected.

Today people are hired based on their ability to process information not to memorize it–which is far more remarkable and better use of the brain. Our brains have gone from being storage containers to multifaceted microprocessors.

Your ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, apply and create new information is your most attractive attribute–not your current knowledge base.

Embracing the phrase “I don’t know”

The quicker you embrace the fact that you don’t know everything about anything, the better off you and those around you will be. You will unburden yourself of undue stress at work and you shift your brain into a continuous state of learning.

The value in embracing and saying “I don’t know,” lets you off the hook and helps reduce all of the misinformation pervading our information system. The truth is, your boss doesn’t care whether or not you can produce information on the spot, he or she is more interested in whether or not you can find the correct information quickly and apply it properly. Chasing “I don’t know,” with “but I’ll get back to you shortly,” is the recipe for continued growth, humility, and opportunities…

Chasing “I don’t know,” with “but I’ll get back to you shortly,” is the recipe for continued growth, humility, and opportunities…

The “I don’t Know” Process

Ok. You’ve embraced the fact that you don’t know everything and have mastered admitting it in the workplace without feeling inadequate. Now it’s time to understand how to complete the process and close the loop. Because not knowing is acceptable; failure to rectify the knowledge gap is not.

Now it’s time to understand how to complete the process and close the loop. Because not knowing is acceptable; failure to rectify the knowledge gap is not.

1. Understand and process what it is you don’t know

The first step (after admitting your ignorance on the subject) is to ensure that you understand exactly what information you are being asked to provide. Nothing is worse than misunderstanding what it is the other person needs and chasing your tail down rabbit holes. Make sure what information you are being asked to gather and synthesize and then find out how it should be presented. This is a simple yet critical first step.

2. Find and process the information.

Now comes the part of the process where you gather the necessary information. Ensure your sources are reliable. Read the information and then put it into two categories: What you know and understand and What you need to know or need to clarify further. Make a list of concepts that you need to research more in depth. Clearly defining and assessing the information is the first step in critical thinking.

3. Fill In knowledge gaps

Now it’s time to focus your energy on researching the things you don’t know or can’t articulate clearly. Always work from authoritative and well-known research. Use information from industry experts. Start from an original source such as a research study and then work your way out. Read the abstract first, then find easier to read blogs, articles,

Always work from authoritative and well-known research. Use information from industry experts. Start from an original source such as a research study and then work your way out. Read the abstract first, then find easier to read blogs, articles, books and videos that are based on this founding research.

This will help you understand if the secondary sources are accurate. And it will not only assist you in understanding the information but reading “lighter” materials also assists you with finding the vocabulary and other tools (charts, graphs, infographics, videos, podcasts, etc.) that can help you accurately explain the concepts.

4. Create an action plan

Once you have and understand the information, then it’s time to create a plan of action. Your course of action depends on the initial request. If you are being asked to present the information for knowledge only purposes, then you should plan your presentation method accordingly.

If you are being asked to provide a solution or recommend a course of action based on your findings be sure to use a structured research approach such as the “Five Why’s” or the Scientific Method. Using a structured research method will assist you in making a logical and researched based decision that has passed multiple tests. It also will assist in catching and mitigating flawed logic which is inherent to any decision making process.

5. Talk through potential solutions

Once you’ve identified a few possible solutions using a systematic approach, talk through your research findings and thought process with someone else–your boss or trusted co-worker. Together you can brainstorm potential solutions or assist each other in finding creative and innovative solutions to the issue.

No matter how thorough you are during your research process, you should always seek the input of others. The only perspective you have–regardless of how much research you do is–yours. Seeking the counsel of others broadens your perspective.

Making “I don’t know” palatable

If saying the words “I don’t know” makes you cringe, here are a few alternatives:

  • “I don’t have a concrete solution at the moment. Let me gather some information and I’ll get back to you, shortly.”
  • “I don’t want to make a hasty decision that we may regret, please give me a few hours to look into this.”
  • “This particular situation may warrant a different course of action, I’ll do some research and get back to you by the end of the day.”

These are just a few examples. Of course, you need to modify the language to fit your communication style and work place situation. The most important thing to note in each example are the three elements present:

  1. An admission that you don’t have an answer.
  2. You have a plan and are going to research the topic/possible and solutions.
  3. You provide an appropriate time frame in which you will provide the information/suggested solution.

This approach allows your boss and colleagues to know that you understand the importance of the issue. It also lets them know that you are reliable and are going to work to find the best possible solution in lieu of handing them a half-baked, under-thought remedy which may do more harm than good.

In the end, you actually walk away looking more competent, caring and committed than had you been able to provide an answer immediately.

“I don’t know is not an indictment of incompetence. It is a legitimate, acceptable and more importantly–responsible response when you don’t know an answer.

Your credibility doesn’t lie in your ability to provide encyclopedic knowledge on demand. We have the internet for that. Instead, your credibility lies in your ability to track down, research and synthesize information and provide that information in the proper format to the proper people.


4 Steps For Developing Powerful Habits

Behind every success is a trail of bread crumbs. If you retrace the steps of any successful person, you will find a path littered with intentional and pragmatic steps commingled with bits of good fortune along the way. Your success hinges on your ability to establish and develop powerful habits.

Understanding the “habit loop”

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” ~Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Most endeavors begin with noble intentions. However, the best intentions coupled with bad habits is a recipe for failure and disappointment every time. If you set a goal but fail to establish habits that support and move you toward that goal, you are sabotaging your own efforts

We are slaves to our habits. They control us. They dictate our actions and those actions determine our outcomes. When you establish good habits, you get good results.

According to Charles Duhigg, author of the book The Power of Habit, every habit starts with a three-part psychological pattern called a “habit loop.” First, there’s a cue or trigger that signals and sends your brain into automatic mode allowing a behavior to unfold. Then comes the routine, which is the actual the behavior itself. Lastly, is the reward which is something that your brain likes and helps it remember the “habit loop” in the future.

Neuroscientists believe that habit-making behaviors are located in a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which is responsible for the development of emotions, memories and pattern recognition. Decisions and conscious choice, however, are made in the prefrontal cortex which is an entirely different part of the brain. As soon as a behavior pattern has repeated the loop enough times and becomes automatic, the decision-making part of your brain goes into “sleep mode.”

“… the brain starts working less and less,” says Duhigg. “The brain can almost completely shut down. … And this is a real advantage, because it means you have all of this mental activity you can devote to something else.”  He goes on to say, “you can do these complex behaviors without being mentally aware of it at all because of the capacity of our basal ganglia: to take a behavior and turn it into an automatic routine.”

Studies prove that people will perform automated behaviors — like pulling out of a driveway or brushing teeth — the same way every single time, if they’re in the same environment. Understanding how behaviors are formed and solidified is the first step in breaking these bad loops and developing powerful habits.

4 Steps for developing powerful habits

Now that you are aware of how habits are formed and how behaviors are naturally perpetuated by your brain, you can devise a plan to eliminate negative behaviors and institute good habits. Habits are a cycle. And developing powerful habits involves intentional willful acts that establish the correct cycles. Here are 4 steps to help you with this process:

1. Engage in personal introspection and self-reflection

Introspection is a process that involves examining one’s own thoughts and feelings in order to gain insight. Introspection and self-reflection, allows you to, not only recognize patterns and cycles but it also allows you to determine if they are having a detrimental effect on your emotions and outlook. Introspection and reflection also enable you to locate your triggers so that you can interrupt or prevent the “habit loop” from starting. From there, you can find alternative approaches for these triggers and develop a more powerful habit loop.

2. Replace bad habits with more productive ones

Once you have located a bad habit loop, it’s time to interrupt the loop. The biggest mistake most people make when trying to correct a bad habit such as smoking, or overeating is by merely trying to quit the behavior. But remember, when habitual behavior is occurring the brain is on automatic. The prefrontal cortex is in “sleep mode” and requires activation to help break the cycle.

The way bad habits are broken and powerful habits are developed is by replacing a negative habit with a positive one.

Triggers initiate habits. Once the trigger occurs a behavior results. By recognizing the trigger and then consciously replacing a negative behavior with a positive one, you reset the” habit loop.” Let’s use smoking as an example. Stress is what triggers the urge to smoke in most people. When feeling stressed, a person trying to quit smoking will simply try and resist the urge to grab a cigarette. Eventually, the urge becomes overpowering and they give in, or even worse, they start smoking without even realizing it. The correct way to end the cycle is when stress triggers the urge to smoke, a new behavior such as going for a quick walk, chewing a piece of gum or some other constructive behavior should be engaged in. You must identify the cue, substitute the unwanted behavior with a new more productive one and ensure the new behavior is rewarding.

3. Create an action plan

“A goal without a plan is a wish.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Failing to create a detailed and practical plan is a surefire way of sabotaging your own success. Developing powerful habits is an intentional act that requires a plan. Creating an action plan is a very deliberate and practical process. Below is a model for creating a “habit loop” action plan:

  • Identify and write down the habit that needs changing.
  • Write down two to three (no more than four) behaviors or steps needed to replace the habit.
  • Keep the list visible and refer to it often to keep it top of mind.
  • Try to follow the steps in the same order every time.

Hold yourself accountable for your plan. Record your successes and failures during the process and tweak the plan as often as needed. Be sure to celebrate your successes, and acknowledge your failures—but keep moving forward.

4. Create routines

Consistency is the key to developing powerful habits. Habits that support your goals should become an automatic part of your daily routine. This will ensure consistent progress. Persistence, discipline and determination are born and forged through routines.

Unfortunately, scientists have found that there isn’t a set amount of time or number of repetitions necessary to develop a habit. Biology and genetics are responsible for why some people are more susceptible to habit formation and why others are more resistant. But in every case, the adage–practice makes perfect—holds true.

“Habits are an accretive process,” says Duhigg. Each time you perform the habit, “there’s a thickening of neural pathways. It’s more automatic the third time than the first, and even more automatic the 21st time. Every single time you do it, it gets easier and easier, and eventually you cross the line in the sand where it feels automatic and it’s an almost thoughtless activity.”

Powerful habits are the force that propels you forward and significantly enhances your chances for success. Sometimes the process of change can be a long and arduous process requiring repeated experiments and failures. But once you understand your “habit loops,” can accurately diagnose the cue and find and replace the routine behavior– you gain power over it. The recipe for success begins and ends with powerful habits.

You Don’t Need More Rest, You Need To Learn How To Rest Properly. Here’s How…

Do you ever ask yourself, “why am I so tired?” Is the answer elusive? You eat relatively healthy, you take weekends off and lounge around the house and during the week you come straight home after work so you get in at a decent hour. And you’ve worked hard to establish a good work life balance… So, what gives?

Let’s begin by dissecting the concept of “work-life balance.” When you attempt to balance things, you put them on a scale and work to ensure that they are equal. You then expend copious amounts of time adjusting, planning, shifting and assessing things to ensure you maintain that balance. That’s a lot of work. Furthermore, you set “work” and “life” at odds with one another.

Experts are suggesting a new paradigm shift in which work and life align and work in harmony with one another. The first step to resolving the question, “why am I so tired,” is to alter your perspective and end the exhaustive exercise of trying to establish balance.

Get some rest

“Get some rest.” This has become the most ambiguous piece of advice a person can receive. What is “rest?” Most people tend to define rest as:

  • Lounging on the sofa or laying in bed
  • Doing nothing (is that even possible?)
  • “Netflix and chill”
  • Not doing chores

And while your body is in a relaxed posture your mind isn’t. Rest is a mental activity, not just a physical one. When you engage in the activities like those in the list above, you encourage mental activity that is counterproductive to rest.

If you are like most people, you’ve probably developed the habit of browsing social media while you are relaxing. This type of mental engagement and stimulation can actually leave you more tired than you were initially. Your brain is not only quietly processing all that you are taking in, it is also preparing for and encouraging you to socialize. A recent study found that when the brain isn’t actively engaged in a conscious activity, it shifts into a state of prep for social interaction with others. Mindlessly watching television, browsing the internet or reading tweets isn’t mindless at all.

Another important fact to consider is that the brain needs something to focus on in order to achieve a state of symbiotic rest. It needs a purpose. Think about an activity requiring very little focus and attention–such as showering. Most times you are thinking about other things and your mind is busy working out problems and connecting dots. This type of mental activity is necessary and beneficial but it chases away rest. Letting your mind run free is the quickest path to exhaustion.

So then, sleep must be the only way to rest then right? Wrong–well, partially wrong. The problem with sleeping is that most people tend to oversleep. Oversleeping can actually be detrimental to your health as research has found that it contributes to issues such as heart disease, diabetes and depression.  The amount of sleep you need is unique to you and varies with your lifestyle, activity and stress levels and your overall health.

Now that you can pinpoint some of the things you are doing that are contributing your continued quandary “why am I so tired,” let’s look at what you can do to achieve true rest.

What is rest, really?

Rest is an activity. It is not a state of “doing nothing.” Below are 2 important ways to trigger your brain into actively engaging in rest. They directly oppose what society typically considers rest and relaxation but I challenge you to give them a try.


1. Switch between tasks that are opposite in nature.

If you are working at the computer, after a few hours switch to a more physical task, or go for a walk or short run. If you are working on a very technical and detail oriented project, switch to working on something requiring a bit more creativity and whimsy. After being in meetings all day or giving a presentation, work on a quiet task, alone that does not involve other people such as balancing your checkbook or prepping food for dinner. As you participate in each activity, be sure you are practicing mindfulness–or being fully present–as you engage in each activity.

The key here is to remember the brain needs and likes focus. After engaging in some of the tasks above, you are most often tempted to just “veg out.” Giving into this feeling will sap you of the remaining energy you have left.

2. Exercise

Exercise is the cure for what ails us. Moderate exercise reduces stress, increases productivity, overall health and wellness and prolongs life. Research shows that regular amounts of light exercise is one of the best treatments for those suffering from exhaustion and fatigue.

This fact holds true for those with sedentary or physically demanding jobs. Whether you are in a tiny cubicle sitting all day or working at a dock loading and unloading heavy freight, studies show that light amounts of exercise beyond your daily routine helps your mind and body achieve rest.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia found that moderate and low-intensity workouts increase feelings of energy.

“A lot of people are overworked and not sleeping enough,” said Patrick O’Connor, co-director of the university’s exercise psychology laboratory. “Exercise is a way for people to feel more energetic. There’s a scientific basis for it, and there are advantages to it compared to things like caffeine and energy drinks.”

In the study, research subjects were divided into three groups. One group was prescribed 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for six weeks. The second group engaged in low-intensity aerobic exercise for the same time frame and the third group–which was the control group– did not exercise at all. Both groups of exercisers experienced a 20 percent boost in energy levels compared to the group of nonexercisers. Researchers also discovered that intense exercise is less effective at mitigating fatigue than low-intensity workouts. The low-intensity group reported a 65 percent drop in fatigue levels, while the high-intensity group reported a 49 percent decrease. It’s important to note here that any exercise is better than no exercise.

In order to truly feel rested and refreshed, you must be willing to shift your thinking when it comes to rest. How you feel you should rest is not working for you, so it’s time to develop a new norm and give your mind and body what it actually needs to rest.

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