What Have You Talked Yourself Out of Lately?

September 17, 2014 Permalink

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an author when I grew up.

I poured over books as a child, bringing them grocery shopping with my mom, to school, and to every corner of the house. I read when I was walking, when I was supposed to be learning in school, and with a flashlight under the covers in bed.

I’d bring a book with me when we went anywhere, and, while driving home in the darkness of the suburban night, would gobble up the words on the pages as we passed under a streetlight or even the dim, flickering glow of a store sign.

Words were, and still are, my passion.

I believe that words are one of the most powerful forms of currency. We exchange them, sometimes meaninglessly but more often with purchase. What humans say can impact individuals and entire nations. Our words can build somebody up or take them down. Words can be feared, enjoyed, and are often celebrated.

This isn’t about my love of words, however.

This is about the way in which we talk ourselves out of our dreams.

Perhaps inspired by my love of books or my fascination with literature and written communication, my love of reading translated into a love of writing. When I was eight, I wrote a children’s book called Pigs in Peanut Butter, which rhymed completely and was a story about the fair treatment of animals (another passion). I handed it in to my Grade 5 teacher who spoke to my parents about taking the story to a publisher. This was short lived, as my little family moved away.

Middle school made writing dorky, so instead of journaling my frustrations with my clique, my parents or my crushes, I gossiped about them with my friends. Any writing that I did do, I did in secret. I had dozens of short stories saved on my mom’s desktop computer, and dozens more in my head, but I hid my affinity for writing to fit in.

Still, while waiting in a lineup or during “quiet time” at school, I would make up stories in my head and itch to write them down.

As I got older, I still wanted to become an author, but saw a pattern in the way the world viewed creatives. I was urged to go to school, to get a degree in something useful, something that would make me employable, and leave my writing as a hobby.

I stretched myself to leave that small part of who I was aside, to adapt to the demands of society and it’s norms.

Whereas I was an imaginative, creative, and bookish child, I pushed myself to become an analytical, practical, and detail oriented adult; these are skills I was told you needed to excel in a corporate environment. I do have a great deal of skills that come in handy in business, and enjoy flexing them, but I’m most comfortable communicating in some form or another.

Children are impressionable and gullible, but adults are self-sabotaging.

I had a conversation recently with a friend who I’ve known for my entire life: “I remember when you wanted to be an author when you grew up! What happened to that?”

The conversation pushed me to consider what actually did happen to that dream.

I didn’t fall out of love with writing.

I didn’t somehow lose my ability to write.

It wasn’t just a silly childhood notion, like my dream of becoming a mermaid.

What actually happened to my dream of becoming an author was that I talked myself out of it.

Now that I am long removed from the pressures of fitting in and choosing my career path and the potential failure to launch had I chosen wrong, the only thing that is holding me back from doing what I want is my mind.

I’ve convinced myself that I no longer have an interest in writing. I’ve convinced myself that I grew out of my creativity when I grew out of my Sweet Valley High books, and that authoring anything is no way to make a decent living. I’ve told myself that I am too busy with my day job and my side businesses to write anything worthwhile, anyway.

These are all of the excuses that I’ve created in my head, none of which are true or valid, that are preventing me from being something that I’ve always wanted to be:

A writer.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to start writing a book. Not now and perhaps not ever. The world has changed and I’ve adapted to it; there are plenty of ways to be creative besides authoring a novel. Bloggers can be writers too, and freelancers and people who just write for fun.

We our own worst enemy when it comes to reaching goals or realizing dreams or even just being the type of person who sits down and creates something or does something they love every day.

We talk ourselves out of things which, in our heart of hearts, we would still love to be able to do or at least further explore. We are scared or discouraged or out of practice, and without knowing it, we talk ourselves out of these things that were once important to us.

The craziest thing is that we even believe the nonsense our fear and discouragement is feeding us about not wanting to reach the goal anymore.

So think about it – what dreams have you squashed or hobbies have you given up because you feared failing at them? What excuses have you made to feed your discouragement?

What have you talked yourself out of lately?

Cutting Out Information Overload & Focusing On Things that Improve Your Life

August 26, 2014 Permalink

A couple of months ago, I signed into my Rogers account to see why my phone bill was double that of what it usually is.

The answer was simple: I had gone over my monthly data allotment twice over.

I had a lot of data, and never even once came close to going over, so I knew there was an issue. I phoned Rogers and they sent me a log of all the data I had used each day for that billing period.

I know that I spend a lot of time on my phone, but even so, I was shocked by just how much.  I saw that even separate from the incident that resulted in my high bill (something uploading overnight), I use the data on my phone a disgusting amount.

I use data for a variety of different reasons: Google Maps, social media, email, and of course as a time killer. I have spent more time than I would like to admit browsing the  “What’s Hot” section on Buzzfeed.

What I didn’t realize until I got that report, was that I am usually using the data on my phone to obtain information that is of no use to me, and that does not align with my values.

make decisions that improve your life

At best, my cell phone data ads little benefit to my life. At worst, it’s a tool used for procrastination and the nursing of an unhealthy dose of “FOMO” (fear of missing out).

I found myself checking my Facebook when I was at dinner with a friend, reaching for my phone on date nights when I should have been focusing on J, and (in the interest of full disclosure) even checking my email at red lights.

As I sit down to write for Add Vodka, I find my thumb dragging the slider across the screen of my iPhone, a mindless reaction to a pause in my thoughts or a moment of difficulty articulating something.

I came to the realization that I was paying an extra $40 per month for something to distract me and fill my mind with clutter.

After coming to this realization, I pushed the glaring evidence out of my mind, and save for the occasional gut feeling that I needed to get rid of the damn data, I forgot about it.

I spent the next few weeks falling back into old bad behaviours, my phone always at my fingers, social media always at my beck and call.

A couple of weeks ago I sat there with my phone in my hand, scrolling through Twitter, annoyed at the lack of quality tweets of some of the people I follow. I switched to Facebook and became quickly annoyed with that, too. Then I realized: I wasn’t annoyed by the people I follow on either social media site. I was annoyed because Facebook and Twitter and 98% of the information gleaned from the apps on my phone and the data that I use is filling my brain with crap that I don’t need to know and never really wanted to know.

This useless information was nudging out the space for the stuff that I do want to know and learn, leaving little room for the information that I should be focusing on: information which will help propel me forward and on which I can take action. Information that will contribute to my living a positive, healthy life.

In short, having data on my phone was making my life worse, even marginally.

I try to run all of my decisions through this simple test:

“Will this decision improve my life, have a neutral effect, or make my life worse?”

And for me, inarguably, the empty information obtained through my phone and the distraction and procrastination it provided pushed the data plan into the “worse” category.

Data is not inherently evil, but I wasn’t using it in a positive way.

It’s hard to change a habit, so instead of trying to restrain myself from checking Twitter every half an hour, I decided to cancel my data plan on my phone.

I realize that it is fairly rare that a female member of the Generation Y population – especially a blogger – exist without a data plan on her phone, but I still have WiFi at home.

This is taking effect September 1, which is the beginning of the next billing cycle. It will be easy at first; I’ll be on my honeymoon until early-mid October, where I will have no use for data.

Where I think I’ll likely struggle is planning ahead. I rely on Google Maps to get me where I need to go, and I rely on my phone for price comparisons, coupons, and other things when I am out and about. In the end, that is a small hurdle to improve my life and a good habit to get into, regardless.

Information overload is a problem in our society and it leaves little room for making important decisions and important information. Instead of trying to beat the system and show some serious restraint, I’m cutting the source of much of it from my life.

(Shout out to Cait for her recent post about pushing past clutter and James Clear for his not so recent post about information overload for giving me that extra push to cut out the intellectual clutter)

Saving $12,000 in Seven Months for Travel

August 11, 2014 Permalink

I love the beginning of the month. It’s when interest accumulates on high interest savings accounts, all of my payments come through, and it’s also budget and goal review time.

My goals for 2014 have been far too easy to reach. I’ve already promoted myself by going for a promising job opportunity; I’ve surpassed my online earnings goal each month of the year; my goal of remaining unplugged for at least one hour of quality time with the husband per day has been surpassed and my weight is dropping nicely and is in line with my goal to lose 15 pounds in 2014.

I’m nothing if not future oriented, and my theme for 2015 is all about travel.

save $12,000

My job is temporary, so I am not tied down. At the end of my contract, I am free to travel for a little while. My travel plans for the new year hopefully include a trip to the New England states, an extended trip to South America, and hopefully another to Europe or the UK.

Though at least one of these trips will be free, compliments of my American Express Gold Rewards Card [use my referral link for 25,000 bonus sign up points],  I don’t spend enough money on my credit cards to travel hack my way through ALL of these trips. 

Maybe just one or two.

To be able to go on these trips as well as pay the mortgage, save for retirement and maintain my savings rates, my new goal is to save $12,000.

Why $12,000?

$12,000 is a realistic amount, while still being challenging.

Saving $12,000 will require discipline and cutting back. This is especially true considering my husband and I are jetting off for a three and a half week honeymoon in Asia next month.

Luckily, Asia can be inexpensive. We are visiting Nepal and Indonesia, so we won’t be spending an extraordinary amount in either place. We have been selling a lot of our wedding decor on Facebook and Craigslist, and keeping the cash in an envelope for spending money when we leave. That should help significantly with the cost of food and attractions in both places.

I estimate that without any free flights or hotels, my trips will cost about $9,000 in 2015.

Since I won’t have a regular income when I am away from my day job, I would be using the extra $4,000 (and whatever I save with free flights and accommodation from my various credit cards) as a buffer in case I don’t find enough freelance or contract work to be able to make a decent income on the road.

Setting a Schedule, Not a Deadline

If you read any personal finance blogs besides Add Vodka, you’ll know the term SMART in relation to goals. SMART, in case you haven’t heard of it, is the notion that a goal won’t be achieved unless it is:

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Timely

My goal of saving $12,000 is pretty measurable. I’ll get into the specifics as to how I will reach this goal below. It’s realistic and attainable without being too easy. As far as timely, well..

What the T really means is that the goal has to have a deadline attached to it. I recently read a 45 page piece by James Clear about reaching goals and changing your life through habit transformation. In it, James argues that setting a schedule instead of a deadline is far more effective to reach goals and change your life.

Marrying the two theories and applying them to my goal of saving $12,000, to reach the goal and to continue saving after my goal has been reached, the steps I am going to take to make this happen are as follows:

  • With my new gig, after taxes, fees, and increased commuting costs, I make $1350 per month more (this is a modest estimate). Every pay day, I will pay myself first by transferring $675 into my account. This sets a schedule of $675 every two weeks being deposited into a high interest savings account.
  • Every extra dollar I earn from freelancing, my online income streams, or anything else will be transferred immediately into the same account. While this isn’t a set schedule as transferring $675 every two weeks, it will become a habit (and fortunately already is).
  • I will review my progress toward my goal monthly. If it doesn’t appear that I will be meeting my goal by February 2015, I will pick up more freelancing jobs and pound the sand to try to find more work.
  • Continue to make huge progress on slowly deflating our lifestyle back to normal; cutting back on eating out, spending on material things, and continue being frugal and smart with our money.

 

I am excited to not only reach this goal, but also permanently change our lifestyle by deflating it and examining our spending. Look for my progress in my monthly goal progress reports.