The Happy Halloween Guide to having a sane Christmas

pumpkin with Santa hat

Image by Jo Naylor via Flickr

They’re at it already: it’s Halloween, sunny and 75 where I am, and this morning my newspaper was full of Christmas ads.

I’m all in favor of the spirit of Christmas. Peace on earth, goodwill to man—bring it on, the more the better! But we all know that’s not the part that starts on Halloween. When they play all those Christmas songs in the stores, all I hear is

Deck the halls with buy stuff buy stuff
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Tis the season you must buy stuff
Fa la la la la, la la la la
You’re a bad person ‘less you freak out and buy stuff
Fa la la, la la la, la la la…
Buy stuff, buy stuff, buy stuff, buy stuff
Fa la la la la, la la… buy stuuuuuff!

Retailers know if they play Christmas songs, people will buy more junk, so they play Christmas songs. It’s that simple. And then people get all caught up in a needless frenzy of stressing out, decorating, baking, running around, frantically shopping, wrapping, putting up the lights, and all of the other Christmas rituals.

This year, let’s stop and think for a minute.

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Five simple steps to making your dreams come true

17/52 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Image by ξωαŋ ThΦt, via Flickr

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about big dreams. Dreams are important—they can give us direction and hope, something to work toward. If you don’t know what you want to do, check out that post for a few suggestions on figuring it out.

But dreams can only take you so far. If you really want your life to change, you need to do more than dream, you need to act.

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How to ditch your worst excuse and start getting things done

Procrastination by Amy Loves Yah on Flickr

Image by Amy Loves Yah, via Flickr

Do you have a hard time getting things done, or even started? Do you give yourself a lot of excuses for why?

I do. It’s come to my attention that I have a lot of excuses for why I don’t/ won’t/ didn’t get something done, and they all come down to “I can’t.” I can’t concentrate, I can’t code, I can’t read, I can’t write, I can’t function in the morning, I think I have ADD. The sad thing is, as long as I’m trying to get out of doing something, I really believe these things are true.

In the past two weeks, I’ve caught myself in two biggies: I was putting off editing a user guide, and after accomplishing nothing on it for almost two weeks, I caught myself thinking “I just can’t do this word stuff.” How bogus is that? The whole time I was avoiding the user guide, I was writing all these blog posts, reading books about how to become a better writer, and blabbing about how much I love writing and want to be a writer!

Similarly, two mornings in a row I had to get up at 6:00 and go to work early. Such complaining ensued, and it came down to, “I’m just not a morning person.” Yet, this morning, a Sunday, I woke up at 6 with a sinus headache and an overflow of ideas to write about. Got up, took some ibuprofen, and started thinking, researching, and writing. I was having such a blast, I caught myself thinking “Mornings really are the best time of the day.”

So what is my problem? I can do anything, if only I don’t have to.

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Cynicism and changing the world

"Don't wait for the world to change. Fix it.

Image by giarose via Flickr

Yesterday’s post generated some really great discussion about optimism. This is a subject with a lot of strong opinions!

Most people wrote very thoughtful and interesting insights, but what struck me was the tone of scorn in a few of the pessimists’ comments, and the slight defensiveness in a few of the optimists’. Somehow there seems to be a perception that optimism is a weak stance—that the pessimists are the realists, and the optimists are fooling themselves.

Why is it cooler to be cynical than to give something a chance? Why are we embarrassed to admit we have hope or want to try something that may not work? I guess it’s because there are so many scams out there—nobody wants to be a sucker or get ripped off, so we assume almost everything is a scam until we hear otherwise. I think it’s easy to go too far with that, though. Some things really are good and really do work. Just because you want it to be true, doesn’t automatically mean it’s not.

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How to become an optimist (and how to use pessimism to your advantage)

In answer to the "Is the glass half empty...

Image via Wikipedia

Apparently, at some point in my life, I “learned” that it’s safer to expect things to turn out badly. Then you’re always either right or pleasantly surprised, right?

Well, yes, but that’s a bit limiting. The thing is, if you believe you can do something, you’re more likely to try it, more likely to stick with it, and thus more likely to actually do it. You miss out by expecting the worst, and it feels pretty crappy.

Your perceptions color your experience of life. This is true for everyone, and there’s no getting around it. Perceptions are subjective—they’re based on your interpretations of each situation you encounter. The great thing about that is it means you can change them.
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How to find your passion

One of this days....I'll fly away!!

Photo by pierre pouliquin, via Flickr

Do you ever wonder what you’re really doing here on this planet, or more accurately, what you’re supposed to be doing? Do you envy the people who just seem to know, and are already doing what they’re clearly meant to do? There aren’t a lot, but they’re out there. They love their jobs and excel at what they do, and you can’t imagine them doing anything else.

Then there’s the rest of us. I don’t know about you, but if I didn’t need the income, I sure wouldn’t do my job. I like what I’m doing, but I don’t love it, and I definitely don’t find it fulfilling or meaningful.

Maybe your life is the same, and you really wish you knew what one pursuit would make ideal use of your unique talents and gifts, what one career would please you so much that you couldn’t imagine ever retiring or quitting. How do you find out what that is?

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Big Dreams

music and freedom

Image by gonzalo_ar via Flickr

Today is my anti-versary: on this date, in 46 years, I am scheduled to die. It’s also a gorgeous, clear, sunny, perfect October day. I’m thinking about walking in the woods. I’m thinking about writing. I’m thinking about what a waste it seems like to go back to work tomorrow.

I like my job, but I think it just made it onto my to-quit list. I have too many financial obstacles to quit it the whole way this coming year without something of a miracle, but what if I could take the summer off? This past summer, I went to the Adirondacks for two weeks, and I looked around at the other people who were staying much longer, and I thought “these people have it figured out.” Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time in academia, but it just seems unnatural to me to be stuck in an office all summer. Really, worse than unnatural, it seems inhumane.

I’ve got some pretty fat extra expenses right now, so the amount it would take to buy me the summer off is $10,000. Continue reading

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