What Country Should I Live in? A Better Life Visualization

While doing a project for my current job, I stumbled across this wonderful site that represents 11 key categories of well being and allows you to rank their importance to you. It then visualizes the countries that best fit your criteria across the world, in sort of a flower visualization design. It is not only beautiful, but highly functional and useful for those that care about this sort of thing. I was intrigued myself, having lived in and loved New Zealand, to see it high up on the list for me. I must admit I was also surprised to see Canada, as it is really just around the corner from my neck of the woods.

How does this relate to my journey towards financial freedom? I think its important to constantly re-evaluate if my life is going in the direction I want it to, and this can largely be impacted by the opportunities, government, quality of life and financial system that surrounds you. This chart serves as a starting point for me to explore other places that we may want to visit or possibly move to in the future if our dreams align with our actions. Which one can only keep hoping and working towards.

Stop Chasing After Happiness – Choose Happiness

I’ve written a few posts on this blog on the topic of happiness, since as we all know, ‘money can’t buy me love’ – or happiness for that matter. Financial freedom will free me to have time, and I still believe it to  be the first step to focus on the intentional life that I want. But if I’m not in the right place mentally, its useless to have financial freedom. I keep searching for ways to attain what I’ve been calling sustainable happiness.

Yesterday, my husband, quite nicely mentioned to me that one thing I might have a hard time doing is living in the moment. This is why I married him, because he is all to good at this. And it is a quality that I want more of in my life, but struggle finding because of my personality type and ingrained habits.

Today I happened upon and took a short quiz on Oprah’s site, the happiness test, and after answering just a few short questions in this quiz, the insight that I received as my result was amazing to me. To the point where I printed it out in large text and put it on my wall. I reached the category right under the you are always happy category. Here’s what my result said:

You need to recognize the difference between chasing after happiness and choosing happiness.

Happiness is not outside you; it’s not a destination; and it’s not about “getting there.”

When you stop chasing happiness, you allow yourself to be more present, more available and more open.

This way you find happiness wherever you are.

The old saying “Life is journey, not a destination” has a similar meaning. Its not about being happy. Because if I reached the elusive happiness consistently, I wouldn’t be growing or changing, and I would become bored eventually anyway.

The overall concept that I am hearing applied to my life is this:

I need to LET GO of my need to control everything and this will allow me to be able to enjoy the moment.

I need to have faith that tomorrow will bring joy and sorrow alike, but that I will have the strength and courage to not only survive, but also come out a little bit smarter, and happier, than I was before.

I’ve realized, that’s all that I can really ask for.

5 Months in, I’m a Lot Closer to “What I Want”

Day 161 of my First 365 Day Journey to Financial Freedom

On day 1 of my 365 Day Journey towards Financial Freedom, I charted a short list of what I wanted in order to find a more ‘sustainable’ happiness.

In reviewing my list, I am proud to say that I am a little, or maybe even a lot, further along in my journey than I would have predicted. This blog, and my dedication to not lose my drive and focus, have helped me stay on track and get inspired. This transformation of my life is real, and I want to thank those that are reading and following me along in my journey. I hope some of my stumbling thoughts have helped you.

Let’s take a look at what I said I wanted and if I am now doing or feeling these things:

Excerpt from First Entry Oct 26th 2009

To begin my journey, I wrote a list of some of the key answers to the question: “What do I want?” Here are my answers in no particular order:

    I want to be FREE to move my life forward

Through much reflection, I’ve learned that freedom is really a perception. Though I felt very stuck for many years prior to starting my journey, I was only as stuck as I allowed myself to be. Things don’t always move or change as fast as I want them to in order for me to feel more free, but many things have changed. Most namely, I quit my FT job and I am choosing to pursue my own business! That is a big step for me toward my freedom.

    I want to get my POWER back

The main thing I was looking for was an inner confidence in what I am and what I will add to the world. In my journey so far, I’ve learned that success is almost entirely based on your confidence, attitude and sense of purpose.

    I want to WRITE

I am writing – a lot! I’m writing on this blog, I’ve written articles that have been published on Wisebread and in magazines, and I’m in need of a lot of how to guides and documents for my new business. I also cannot wait to write a series of ebooks on SEO & usability and other web marketing tips I’ve learned along the way.

    I want to LOVE what I do for a job

Guess what – I now do! I didn’t love the politics where I used to work, they impeded on me enjoying my work. The design and business building of what I am doing is super fun, but my passion is lead generation and marketing. I was discussing it with my husband and realized its a matter of an inner desire to help others combined with a need to influence. Successful online marketing is all about beauty, simplicity and influence. Beyond this, I am looking forward to getting into the health industry once I have started being more successful with business building.

    I want to feel comfortable and at PEACE

Not quite there yet. I move at such a fast pace, and I have a 2 year old for goodness sakes. Finding time for balance of mind, body and spirit is always a bit of a struggle. Still an important goal for me however.

    I want to take CONTROL of my own destiny

I feel that I am doing this much more than I used to, though many things always still seem up in the air. I have realized that you can only control things so much, and after a certain point you have to trust and believe that things will shape themselves for you.

    I want to spend more QUALITY time with my family and activities I want to do

I don’t know that I am spending MORE time, but the time I have with my family is better spent with me happier. Step in the right direction.

    I want to find SUSTAINABLE happiness

Sustainable? Not yet. Happier? Yes.

    I want to live an INTENTIONAL life

I think everything I am doing is getting me much closer to this. The largest thing that I have to do is manage my most precious asset, time, as best as I can and filter out what is and is not a priority toward my intentional living.

So, overall, I think I am a lot closer than I expected to getting where I want to be at this stage in my life. Hooray!

Overcoming Fear of Failure and the Unknown

Overcome Fear to “Win Some or Learn Some”

Today is my last day at my job, and I am taking a step into the unknown. For the last four years, I have worked at the same full time position. In my last post, I outlined the logical and emotional reasons for making a decision on what to do next with my life and career. I also explained that, if all fear was pushed aside, I would choose to follow my heart and do my freelance web design and online marketing, as well as build other business ventures.

The fearful side of my still keeps saying, are you crazy? In this economy?  What happens if you fail? How do you know you will succeed?
And of course, the truth is, I have no idea what is coming next. All that I can do is keep my mind in the right place, and put my best foot forward.

Fear and doubt have a tendency to sneak back into your mind at the most stressful and insecure times in your life, when what you really need are feelings of confidence and strength.

For me, though I still experience feelings of doubt and fear, I am now able to recognize my fear as a trigger for the fact that I am out of my comfort zone, and that this will be a good learning and growth period of my life.

The Steps You’ll Need to Overcome Fear and Doubt:

  1. Recognize the emotional trigger that caused you to feel fear, doubt, etc
  2. Accept that there are some logical reasons for the feelings
  3. Acknowledge that, though there are some reasons that you are feeling fear, there is also the strong possibility that things will go the way you want them to
  4. Accept uncertainty and the unknown as a constant part of life
  5. Think positive and be confident in your decisions
  6. Move forward with your best foot forward
  7. Mission Accomplished: Fear is Overcome

What are the Possible Outcomes of Pushing Past Your Fears?

  1. You Get What You Hoped or Even Something Better
  2. You “Fail”, but You Learn From Your Mistakes and Move On

Or, in the words of Jason Mraz: “You Win Some or Learn Some”

I’ve made my decision to give it a try. I have the ability so I am going to take a 2 month test period to see if I can truly build my businesses to support my family.

Here’s My 2 Month Plan:

  • I already have a few new and a few big projects lined up, including my other recurring work for clients.
  • I am going to re-brand my business, which is currently called AGR Web Designs, to Lead Online Marketing. This will include moving from a sole proprietor model to an LLC, a new website/branding/blog, etc strategy, marketing and better packaged offerings. I have also started to get better with software for my invoicing an estimates (I may to a post/review on those tools)
  • I may also do a bit of additional part time work during this time as I build my business
  • I will continue to build my timeline/planning templates business
  • I’m considering building another small site that focuses on wordpress and/or thesis design, as this market is really booming and I enjoy working in that area

I am afraid, but I am also very excited. And though it is a slightly uncomfortable place to be, it makes me feel more alive and happy about my career than I have been in the last 4 years.

Making a Choice Between Entrepreneur or Corporate Life

Well, its official. I have turned in my two week notice at my current position and I am pursuing other options. We have enough of a padding to last long enough for me to sort this out. (My fear is talking there)

I’m very happy about this first decision and I have lots of options. Nonetheless, I am very much struggling with this life decision. The lucky part is that I can actually make this choice with the career path that I have in web design and online marketing. Here are my options:

Option 1: Accept a FT Corporate Job – The “Logical” Choice

Pros

  • Steady income to support my family, benefits (health, dental, paid time off)
  • Opportunity for learning from others and new environment
  • Career growth potential
  • Escape from the cubicle and florescent lighting

Cons

  • Not enough time to do my freelance work, be a mom, take care of the house, etc
  • Potential to be ‘more of the same’ in terms of politics and personalities
  • 401 K hasn’t been a reliable investment vehicle for retirement

Option 2: Accept PT Work + Freelance/Businesses – The “Tempting” Choice

Pros

  • Flexible hours, variation in work
  • Ability to pursue many projects and avenues (web, businesses, writing)
  • Pontenial to be happier by feeding my creative outlets, feeling of acomplishment
  • Ability to help many small businesses and increase networking
  • Ability to be there for my daughter more, especially when she is sick

Cons

  •  Inconsistent income, no protection from month to month, no paid time off
  • Have to work at ensuring I have additional work
  • Location of jobs may vary, though remote is very possible in my industry
  • Administrative duties increase, have to take care of own taxes, health, investments
  • Might be lonely working alone majority of the time

I want to live every day as if it was my last. I want this thing called life to matter. And I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to do that if I can’t do more of the things that I want to do with my time. Having a little 2 year old means that I don’t have any ‘down time’. The time I have is absolutely precious.

But whether I’m following my heart and whether I’m taking care of my responsibilities might be two separate things. I am the sole bread winner right now in our household. Is this just a timing issue or is it the right time to make the leap?

I’ve made a hard choice which is to quit my job to start to really craft the life that I want to lead. But now I need to get more specific and really play out what my life will look like depending on what path I choose.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it is that there are no black and white answers. I’ve  also learned that people are willing to be flexible working with you if they truly value what you offer.

Often times its fear that prevents us from taking a leap. If I can get past the fear, what choices would I make?
Option 2 hands down. Can and should I overcome this fear?

Be the Change You Want to See in the World

Gandhi knew what he was talking about. This simple, but powerful phrase has become my mantra as of late. I wake up hearing it in my head. I think about it at random times of the day. I don’t  know why it popped into my head, but it rings true as a mantra for a path towards both sustainable happiness and financial freedom.

I’ve Figured Out What I Want

Through much self reflection over the past 3 months, I’ve finally found myself at a point in life where I have a good idea of the direction I want to go, the goals I want to set, and I have a very vague idea of how to get there. Up until recently, all that I have been doing is driving my life on auto pilot, doing the things that I’m supposed to do, trying to ‘survive’ and following in the traditional cultural patterns of the US family. This is not to say that I’m not happy with the family, friends, and other aspects of life that I have built, however, I have finally realized what it is I want to DO with my life, and this has been an inspiring and enlightening process.

But I Don’t Have the Resources to Get There Very Fast

The only problem I have now is that my mind is very focused on this new direction (yes, I admit, practically obsessed to the point where I’m sure I’m annoying everyone I know talking about it), but the rest of my life is not even sort of ready to catch up to where I’d like to go. I still don’t have those same resources I’ve blogged about in the past, time, money, etc to just up and start my new business idea, or focus my efforts to reaching my ultimate dream. I still am relatively stuck financially, and its slow going to get ourselves out of the mess we are in. Feeling stuck is still a pretty real thing if your income outweigh your expenses, even when your mind is on its way towards a brighter future.

So, I’ve been telling myself to just do what I can, get things written down, keep learning, etc. However, I feel compelled and compulsed to do more. I’ve never before felt so clear about what I want to do with my life.

So HOW do we be the change we want to see in the world?

I believe the answer is through a serious of small, but important choices that lead us in the right direction. I know this, but sometimes I really, really wish I could make big ‘ol giant leaps all at once.

Small and steady wins the race, but the energy and passion I feel towards what I have discovered makes me oh so conflicted on why I can’t just sprint to the finish line.

I can’t do everything I want to do all at once, but the New Year is always a good time to think of the things I’ve accomplished and assess where I want to go.

What I Want To “Be” More Of in 2010

  • I want to remember my cloth bags more often when I go shopping
  • I want to read and go to the park more with my daughter
  • I want to read & write more and continue my financial education
  • I want to keep getting more organized
  • I want to develop at least 1 full clear business plan for my new inspiration
  • I want to act on my knowledge, whether small or large steps, some type of action is better than none at all!

What will you do to be the change YOU want to see in the world?

Despite the Economic Future, I’m Still Thankful

Its everywhere you turn, on every newspaper, on countless blogs, in every book store. The drastic changes that have happened to our financial system and our economy can be pointed at many reasons including excessive debt by consumers and government, greed, separation of the wealthy and poor, and the dollar not being tied to gold back in the ’70s. Whatever the reasons, its more imperative now than ever for every person in the US to take control of their own future, to get more educated and make sure they are making active decisions, intentional decisions, not just following along the patterns of the societal norm.

It won’t necessarily be doomsday if you do not wake up as I have. However, your financial education is a key factor in ensuring the strength of your family and your future, certainly your 401k and your government aren’t anything to rely on.

Giving ThanksI still want to honor the tradition of taking a moment to say what I am thankful for, as I don’t pause to do it often enough.

  • I’m thankful for my family, my daughter, my friends and those people in my life that support and help shape my future
  • I’m thankful that I still have some equity in my home, when I read yesterday that 1 in 4 Americans owe more on their home than their house is worth
  • I’m thankful that I have the desire and passion to learn and improve my life
  • I’m thankful that I have been given many resources, the education and upbringing that I have had to allow me to be where I am now
  • Even though I get the strong sense that tomorrow may present such frightening futures as global warming disasters, economic and political disasters, and a truly different norm than what we have know in America for so many years, I feel that I have the strength, passion, ethics and willingness to be proud of the life that I lead.

What are you thankful for?

The Happiness Project and the Happiness Project Toolbox

What Does Happiness Truly Mean? How Do We Find It?

HappinessIts amazing how the journey to financial freedom is leading me many directions towards self reflection in other areas of my life, such as how to find real happiness.

Want an excellent example of a blog / book / community site well done? Take Gretchen Rubin, a writer whose new book, The Happiness Project, will be available in January 2010. Her blog  is an account of the year she spent test-driving studies and theories about how to be happier.

Based on this blog, she put together a site for individual and / or collaborative use focused on motivation and happiness through a happiness tool box.

hdr_hpt

I love the idea that you can be working on your own goals for happiness, but also can get real time updates from your friends that join, or just those in the ‘community’ to inspire you.

I especially like the concept of the “Personal Commandments” section. I have actually started a written journal of family ‘rules’ or concepts that I want to use and reflect on while raising my daughter. I think I will transfer and add to these on this tool box site. I also love the concepts behind “Happiness Hacks” (quick helpful tips for the community) and “Secrets of Adulthood”. I found myself somewhat unprepared for a lot of the teachings of adulthood and can see the usefulness in learning from others. The inspiration board is a nice place to view quotes and, well, get inspired.

There are a few interface changes that I would make to improve the toolbox.

  • It would be great to export and print your resolutions, commandments, etc for putting in your house and re-enforcing your messages to yourself
  • I would love to be able to see a more visual percentage of a resolution’s progress and completion (same goes for lists, etc) It took me a while, but I did find the check box to mark it as complete.

In general, the fuctionality of the tools could be improved for the user experience, but the community and concept is outstanding. Though the tool interface itself could be improved a bit, I love the concept and will be trying this toolbox out some more.

Rubin’s Happiness Manifesto includes:

  • To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
  • One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
  • The days are long, but the years are short.
  • You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.
  • Your body matters.
  • Happiness is other people.
  • Think about yourself so you can forget yourself.
  • “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”—G. K. Chesterton
  • What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vice versa.
  • Best is good, better is best.
  • Outer order contributes to inner calm.
  • Happiness comes not from having more, not from having less, but from wanting what you have.
  • You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.
  • “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” —Robert Louis Stevenson
  • You manage what you measure.

http://www.happiness-project.com/

http://www.happinessprojecttoolbox.com/

What do you think it takes to be truly happy? How do you decide what areas in your life to focus on first?

photo by wa?.ti

Carpe Diem: Is It Possible to Seize the Day?

Is It Possible to Live for Today or at Least Stop Waiting For The Bus?

3526474801_a3d55ccba4

I’m trying to make sense of the phrase carpe diem. If I truly lived for today, I mean TRULY, then I probably wouldn’t go into my job today, would eat a bunch of ice-cream and fly to the beach, rack up a bunch of credit card debit, and so on. Simply put, I would be impulsive.

Doesn’t sound financially savvy. Doesn’t sound realistic. So, what exactly are we supposed to infer out of these types of phrases and sayings?  My interpretation, is that you can live for today as long as you are financially free. Even then, you will burn through your money if you aren’t responsible about it.

Hollywood’s version of Live for Today

Many movies do a great job of portraying the ‘live for today’ attitude, such as Queen Latifah in the Last Holiday, who changes her whole attitude on life once she is (incorrectly) diagnosed with a terminal illness. As romantic as it sounds, I truly don’t know how I would live my life differently if I knew I was dying. (We all are slowly, I know). Perhaps if there was a very limited timeframe around my life, say, 1 month or something, than I would be motivated to do something drastic. But maybe not, as the responsibilities of my life would stay with me. I wouldn’t want to disturb the comfort and peace that my daughter finds in her life’s routine.

Waiting for the Bus

I like to use the metaphor that someone shared with me of waiting for the bus. As humans, we are always making excuses and reasons why something will be different or change once something else happens in the future. “I’ll save money as soon as I get this new video game.” Or, “I’ll lose weight, as soon as I get through the holidays.” One of the easiest things to do is put off what we know deep down we need or want to do.

The best meaning that I can infer out of the phrase Carpe Diem is to stop waiting for the future, stop waiting for the bus to come and pick you up. If the bus isn’t coming, take a stand and find a way to get to your destination. If the bus isn’t coming, just stand up and start walking. Or to stop using a metaphor, if the changes that you want in your life aren’t happening, if you aren’t living the intentional life that you want to live, living for today is meant to be about just taking a step; small, big or in between, towards changing your life and spending your most precious asset, time, how you want to be spending it.

Here are Just a Few Popular Quotes on the Concept Carpe Diem

Dream as if you’ll live forever.  Live as if you’ll die today.  ~ James Dean
Pretty, but if I were to die today, I think I’d go out to dinner at the best restaurant in town and buy their best bottle of wine…

Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.  ~ Stephen Vincent Benét
I can’t help but feel sad by this quote… It rings true, though I don’t yet know how to make each moment in life truly intentional.

“Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live.”  ~ Margaret Fuller
Do we really forget, or do we simply make societally approved choices that make our lives to busy to truly enjoy life?

Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning.  ~  John Henry Newman
How do you know when life has ‘begun’ for you? When you are happy? Financially free?

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Question: Is it possible to live for today or Carpe Diem? Or is it unrealistic?

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photo by the_tahoe_guy

Top 3 Barriers in My Journey Toward Financial Freedom

Day 20: Top 3 Barriers To Moving Forward with my Financial Goals

I have to admit, the fuel that was keeping me on track for the past 2 weeks has already started to burn out. Why? Its not that I have lost my confidence or positive attitude. It can be boiled down to 3 key things that to some extent are outside of my control.

Barrier #1 Time

The number one most important thing that is slowing me down is the lack of time to devote to financial education. I work full time, and do consulting as well. I have a 20 month old daughter that as my aunt put it today, “sure loves attention!” So you know what I want and ought to be doing with the REST of my time, being with my daughter who needs me there. And beyond that, my husband, family and friends. Not to mention housework, and paying the bills, etc. And beyond that, perhaps allowing myself a bit of time to do things that I just want to do for me. I realize that I have made the choices that have set up the whirlwind of a life that I lead now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get frustrated that I don’t have more time to pursue the things that I know will move my life forward.

For instance, this evening, after I put my daughter to bed, what I need to be doing is my consulting work. But what I want to (and am) doing is reading and writing in this blog, and documenting ideas for shifting my life.

Question: At what point do you say to yourself, your FUTURE is more important than the PRESENT, so allocate more TIME towards efforts that may or may not succeed, as long as they are in the right direction?

Barrier #2: Focus & Diligence

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I find it difficult to stay on course with any one thing. Perhaps its the culture of my generation or even just today’s society, but I tend to go down about 10 different paths at once, never fully absorbing ALL of the information before I try to apply it or move on to another great idea. This is partly because of my lack of time. I will absolutely take credit for part of this, but to an extent I believe its the nature of the societal structure in America.

This lack of focus can be both good and bad. The good part is that I tend to get a lot of new and great ideas, sometimes spending my time on something that truly betters my life or simplifies something that I was struggling with. The bad part is the obvious, if you never stay on course, you won’t finish. Whatever your definition of “finish” means. Some projects aren’t always meant to be finished, but sometimes, its good to see things through, and have a full and rich experience, rather than just the surface level. Often, you can hold onto that information or learn from the experience a lot better if you truly engage and see it through. A whole lot of great ideas that start but don’t see fruition doesn’t really get anyone anywhere.

Seeing things through takes a lot of dedication and commitment, which I am more than willing to do, however, I keep running into that #1 barrier: time. When I run out of that, I tend to lose focus and get sidetracked on to some other area of my life.

Question: How do you stay focused? Is it a matter of better time management or mental control over distractions?

Barrier #3: Things Just Won’t Budge

Okay, here’s the brutal honesty part of my post. I have felt stuck for quite some time. I have a huge mortgage and a ton of ‘required’ life bills (car loan, insurance, day care, food, utilities, etc). So, I would LOVE to reduce my debt or bills, but after the first few weeks of looking at our budget and pinching pennies, I’ve proven what I already suspected, which was that we don’t have a whole lot of room to budge until our lifestyle changes drastically.

We have had our house on the market for 2 months now, but today’s economy doesn’t help much with selling our house (cross your fingers that the tax credit extension might help). Downsizing our house would be the best step for us to begin to reduce our monthly expenses, simplifying our life, and assessing a realistic baseline for the income that would be needed for a step towards financial freedom. But our house hasn’t sold yet. Sometimes things truly are outside of your control. Are there always other options? Of course there are. But its hard to know the pain point at which you opt for something drastically different because you absolutely cannot make it any longer in the status quo.

Many people say to ‘take things one day at a time’, but I don’t want to do that. I never have. I want to know where I’m headed.

Question: If you are ‘stuck’ in your present situation, but don’t put time or energy to work towards the future, how will you ever get un-stuck?

time

photo by Eddi 07