#Life: 5 ways to get your life together with online 30-day challenges

The first online challenge I ever signed up for was a 28-day fitness challenge. I’m sure you’ve seen one of this brand’s many posts promoting their online fitness program geared toward women and probably rolled your eyes or got annoyed by the amount of ads showing up in your social media timelines. Well, I downloaded their 28-day fitness eBook and didn’t start the challenge until three months later.

When I finally started, I was hooked and it changed my life for the better. And It’s been the reason behind my obsession with taking part in 30-day challenges since then.

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Though the idea may seem foreign, taking part in 30-day challenges of any kind is a great way to get your life together if you feel it’s out of whack. We all want the same thing in life which is to live happy and fulfilling lives, we just go about it differently because we have different interests as different people.

I’m here to tell you to stop getting in your way and try something out of the norm. Challenge yourself to complete challenges and watch it trickle into your everyday life. Here’s how to start.

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#BlackHistoryMonth: This Was The Best Black History Month…Ever!

As Black History Month comes to a close, can we take a moment to acknowledge and applaud the efforts of this generation? For as long as I’ve remembered, Black History Month was a time to remember all the great things Civil Rights pioneers like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and Rosa Parks to name a few did. How they fearlessly fought for the rights of blacks to be seen as equals. To be given enough respect to sit anywhere they pleased on a bus, to vote, to drink from the same water fountains and use the same bathrooms as their white peers.

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But this month, we made history ourselves. Instead of just learning from the greatness of the past, we made some incredibly powerful noise this month. I think we can agree that February 2016 was the best Black History Month ever. So good, we got an extra day!

Urban pop culture gets a bad rap for perpetuating stereotypes and putting value in the wrong things, but I think it was used for good this February 2016.

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#Life: How to grow through life instead of go through life

 

Instead of having breakfast at Tiffany’s last December, I had breakfast and an epiphany. For close to 30 years, I must admit with much embarrassment I have been going through life without real goals. I’d make the occasional New Year’s Resolution because it was the thing to do but then by February I had forgotten all about the stuff I said I wanted to do and focused on the things I had to do.

Goal_Setting_SamanthaGWritesBut then it hit me. The only reason I had a laser focus on the things I had to do was because I was letting life dictate my next moves. I’d read about goal setting but I never really understood what it entailed.

“So, you have something in mind you want and then you say you want it and then you’ll get it… DONE! Right?”

Not quite.

“Ok, so then I say what I want and then I get it, right?”

Close, but you’re just missing one little but very important step.

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#Life: Trigger words and why you need to work on yours for 2016

 

There are officially three weeks left in the year so a lot of us are making plans and promises for the New Year. Resolutions are the thing that most of us create as soon as December rolls around and either you or someone you know will say that 2016 will be their year. And they or you may be right, but you won’t be happy if you don’t work on your trigger words. What are trigger words you ask? It’s those words that really get under your skin. The mislabels that people give you when they’re ready to act like a Judge Judy.

trigger_words-SamanthaGWritesThese are the words that set us off and make us angry and react like we don’t have the good sense the lord gave us. I have trigger words. They’ve been reduced after having a child. I think this is because being a parent requires the patience and dignity that a nun would need in a Las Vegas nightclub. But seriously, in order for us to make it through 2016 and every year after that is for us to work on and then distance ourselves from our trigger words. My trigger words used to be insults about my writing but I now appreciate those.

Your trigger words may be something like someone calling you ghetto or even insecure because you don’t like your spouse having friends of the opposite sex. Pretty much any negative label or personal attack that can encourage a verbal (or physical) altercation, damage relationships, or ruin your day are trigger words. The way I’ve learned to deal with my trigger words is by not taking it personal or taking the people using them seriously. But deeper than that, separating myself from the words that set me off began with knowing myself. If you know that you are not what you are being negatively labeled then let those words roll right off your back.

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#Life: Why I randomly turn off my phone and avoid social media (and why you should too!)

 

*This is Day 12 of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge*

During this past week, I’ve gone on a mini hiatus from blogging and writing. I’m taking part in this amazing blogging experience, the 30-day blogging challenge, and it is teaching me a lot. But I’m also learning the value of having a life offline.

So many of our phones are practically glued to the palms of our hands that when it isn’t there, we feel naked. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve walked into the bathroom without my cellphone. And the thought of what life was like before them scares me. Perhaps it’s just a millennial thing, but social media has become a big part of how I communicate with others and keep in touch with relatives.

Alone_Time_SamanthaGWrites.ComThe cellphone has gone from being a luxury to being a necessity. Click To Tweet

And it has even gone from being just a phone to a handheld computer. There’s nothing wrong with this so long as there is a balance. If most of our conversations are via texting, Facebook messaging, or Twitter are we really having a conversation? Trust me I get it, it’s easier to text someone versus calling them and having moments where you sit in awkward silence but I kind of miss awkward silence during phone calls. Weird, I know.

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The best of Samantha G. Writes week one

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It’s day 9 of the 30-day blogging challenge I’ve been taking part in and today I’m taking a look back by posting a roundup of the posts I’ve published since day 1 of the challenge.

What I’ve learned from this challenge is that you can blog every day. It doesn’t get boring, and it takes some creativity to create content that you enjoy writing, but it’s possible. It also doesn’t take that much time out of your day to complete. Most of the posts have been unplanned and written and edited in less than two hours. I’m sure if my posts required some research, I’d have to add on additional time. But for the most part, it doesn’t take very long to keep my blog updated daily.

Below are the posts I’ve published since day 1 of the challenge. The posts are a mix of tips I’ve learned in life and writing. There’s also a couple of recipes I use a lot at home for my mini-fam. They make great brain food too. Feel free to share the ones you love!

Day 1:  Almond Milk RecipeMaking almond milk is a lot easier than you think and it tastes amazing!

Day 2: 5 tips for surviving in Brooklyn your first year as a writerNew York is a great big city of dreams and the price tag can be, well, pricey. Here are tips to keep your sanity and a little extra cash in your pocket.

Day 3: How to deal with the negative people in your life We all know at least one negative person in our lives. Here are some ways to deal with them and not lose yourself in the process.

Day 4: Creamy Vegan Mac & Cheese RecipeNow I’m hungry again. I’m a huge cheese lover and I’m still a fan of this vegan macaroni and cheese recipe.

Day 5: 7 things new writers should do to make money writing onlineTips that have helped me make money writing online that I know will work for others too.

Day 6: The 5 phases of pregnancy new moms experienceOne of my favorite posts because it brought back so many memories. New expecting moms, this is a must-read!

Day 7: Reading “The Power of Habit” will change your lifeMy review of the Charles Duhigg book that has changed my view on habits and how it shapes my life.

Day 8: How to embrace failure and rejection as a writer If you’re a writer, you’ll face rejection sooner or later. Here are some ways I embrace the dreaded rejection response.

 

#MustRead: Reading ‘The Power of Habit’ will change your life

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*This is Day 7 of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge.*

I’m a bookworm. I like gaining information and being taken into an author’s world by just turning the page in a book. There have been many books that have changed my perception on everything from mental health and storytelling. Some of which of read more than once (The Power of Now). But this one book sits at the top of the list and it’s called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

I read this book 3 years ago when it was first released. The word habits resonates with me because I believe it to be the core of who we are as human beings. Everything we do is based on habits from getting up in the morning and brushing our teeth to having to crack our fingers before we type on the computer. Some of our habits are good and some are awful. The Power of Habit breaks down the role of habits in our lives and in business, even showing how major brands have used habits to make a lot of money.

Two examples of how habits can change your life, as mentioned in the book, is the process of losing weight or quitting smoking. The author Charles Duhigg gives an example of a 9-5’er who wants to lose weight and cutout eating junk from the vending machine. After close evaluation of self, they realized that they only went to get something from the vending machine whenever they needed a break from looking at their computer or when they got bored.

After realizing this, the subject sets a time everyday to stop and speak to a co-worker. What they realized was less trips to the vending machine, weight loss, and a better relationship with co-workers. Another example was of a woman who wanted to quit smoking. She didn’t realize how smoking was ruining her health and her livelihood. Once she got out of the habit of smoking, she ate right, then that habit lead to her working out religiously. These two individuals traded bad habits for better ones.

My favorite part of the book was when the author broke down how major businesses like Proctor & Gamble and Target made habits grow loyalty in their brand and keep customers coming back for more. In P&G’s case, they were stumped on figuring out how they could create interest in their new product Febreze. Marketing it as a product that just dissolved odors wasn’t enough. So when they asked their testing groups how they were using Febreze and discovered that some of them were using it to a finishing scent when they were done cleaning up a room or making a bed, they marketed this and saw great success. Target did something similar, except they watched what their shoppers were routinely buying then sending them circulars with related products.

One example that stuck out was one of a young girl who shopped at Target and gave them some form of contact. On her first visit she purchased baby lotion and other essentials related to baby. When they sent her the circular, it was filled with baby items like clothes, bathtubs and the like. The girl was a teenager and her father was less than pleased that the company was sending his daughter circulars filled with baby stuff, fearing that they would force the idea on her of having a baby. A few months later when reps for the company reached out to apologize to the father he apologized to them and revealed she was pregnant and preparing to have her baby.

The Power of Habit is a powerful book I recommend. It applies to all areas of life and shows how our lives are shaped by our habits. And if we want better lives we’d be happy with, we have to take a close look at our habits and decide if they are aligned with our goals.

Image Credit: Amazon

#Life: The 5 phases of pregnancy new moms experience

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Earlier this month, I found this photo of my son’s sonogram. It was taken during the summer of 2012 and was one of the most exciting times for me. We were anxious to have our little boy and talked for hours about the things we’d do with him and how much we’d want him to learn. My pregnancy was a fairly pleasant one. And although I had a great experience, every month was like a roller coaster at six flags. The only way to describe them is to put it in writing so here goes.

Phase 1: Pregnancy shock

I was surprised to learn that I was pregnant with my son. He was a very happy surprise, so surprising I took two pregnancy tests and still wasn’t convinced I was with child. I guess the shocking part was coming to the understanding it wouldn’t be just my husband (who was my fiancé at the time) and I anymore. Then there was the doubt I would be ready to be a mother in nine months. Shock wore off the moment I heard his heartbeat at the midwife’s office. That moment can only be described as love overload.

Phase 2: Sick of being sick

For the first three months, I became best friends with my bathroom, saltine crackers and ginger ale. Random hunger and upset stomachs was the name of the game and I had no say in the matter. I drank so much ginger ale it took me over a year after the pregnancy for me to tolerate the taste of it. I had the worse nausea; it was so annoying. And I smelled every single thing both good and terrible. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned falling asleep everywhere. I would rush home just to go to sleep. My bedtime was at 8pm, I was officially the boring friend.

Phase 3: Glowing and eating everything

I was hot stuff once the first trimester was out of there. I had my energy back, my hair was super thick and shiny, I had this gorgeous pregnancy glow, my skin was the clearest it had been in years, and I had an excuse to eat everything in sight. The baby bump I had been waiting forever to see was finally here and everyone wanted to touch it. The latter wasn’t always my favorite especially when people would ask “do you mind” with their hands already on my belly. But it didn’t bother me much because I was on cloud nine and I was probably eating something delicious. This phase was one of my favorites because this was also when I felt him kick for the first time and when I really felt him actively making his presence known. This is usually the time that most expectant moms are in Babies R’ Us buying everything except  the store shelves bolted to the walls because to us, our babies can never have too much.

Phase 4: Obsessed over everything

Completing the baby room and buying as many bottles of baby shampoo is what we can’t stop doing. All I could talk about when speaking to people was stuff about the baby. The event of a lifetime (giving birth) was right around the corner and I needed to make sure I knew what I was doing. I attended the baby classes, read the books, asked the questions to the moms who had been there and done that before but I still felt like I had a lot more to do. Then it happens, that moment when you have to come to terms with the fact that your baby is going to come out of you somehow. I stayed up at night just picturing what I believed would resemble one of those gory episodes of Grey’s Anatomy or ER. The idea frightened me. I saw the videos on YouTube and they were scarier than any horror film I’ve ever watched. But it was the next phase that helped me overcome this.

Phase 5: Over It

I liken this phase to phase 2 except instead of being sick I was exhausted and done. At some point I didn’t feel there was any more room for him to grow in there. Sitting for long periods of time was getting hard and standing was even harder. Then there was the kicking I once anticipated that was now keeping me up at night. I was at my wits end. And ironically when that first contraction hit me like a wave, I couldn’t be any happier. The pain I feared in phase 4 was gone. I actually welcomed it because I knew that the baby would be here and soon enough I’d be able to sleep on my stomach! I was so over it, I didn’t mind during labor that I was commando or that my midwife had to repeatedly check how far along I was dilated. Was that TMI? Well speaking of that, my concern for TMI went right out the window along with my pride while laboring. And believe me when I say I was so shy before that. The finale was near, and I was ready, I had the imaginary superwoman S on my chest to prove it.

When it was all over and I finally held my son in my arms for the first time, I felt like the most powerful person in the room. That moment made all those phases worth it. This little person who heard my heartbeat from inside was now laying in my arms. Feeling like a champion comes easily at the end of it all and the memory will stick with you for a lifetime, I know it will for me.

#Life: How to deal with the negative people around you

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Negative people are all around us. Though we can try to avoid them, they’ll always be there either as a friend or a stranger. It’s not you, well at least that’s what I tell myself. Some don’t even know they’re being a negative Nancy or angry Adam but they are and you’ll have to learn how to deal with them.

In my day-to-day life, I’ll come in contact with a negative person or two but when you live in a city filled with different personalities that are going through different things in their lives, it’s to be expected that you’ll be in the company of negativity energy.

Hence, the inspiration behind today’s blog post. As some of you may know, I’m taking part in a 30-Day Blogging Challenge.

I had another topic I wanted to write about today but after an earlier conversation, I wrote this one instead. It wasn’t on the list but I’m realizing that for writing, not everything needs to go according to plan. I’m already doing that with Nanowrimo and I like finally having a blog to blog my thoughts and feelings.

I’m getting a little off topic so let’s get right into some of the ways I deal with negative people.

Don’t take everything so personally

It’s so easy to get in your feelings when someone makes you feel a certain way. I’m a sensitive person. I can admit this at this point in my journey. So I’ve had to learn to let certain things roll off my back and go in one ear and out the other. With this said, don’t lose precious brain power trying to figure out why the negative cashier at your supermarket doesn’t smile and tell you to have a nice day. And don’t feel bad when you don’t receive a warm welcome at the MAC counter. Either avoid these places or learn to co-exist even if it’s for a few minutes. Now, I’m not perfect at this and you’ll probably find this to be difficult, but the sooner you understand this important rule of not taking things personally, the easier it will be to deal with negative people.

Learn to keep your ego in check

You’ve experienced this before, I’m almost sure of it. You’re having a great day. Your coffee came out the way you wanted it and you’re feeling good. You leave your home and boom, someone pisses you off. You’re wondering what you’ve done to deserve they’re attitude but instead of not paying them any attention and walking away, you let your ego take control. Now you’re arguing with this person, albeit stranger or loved one, and at the end of the argument you’re still pissed. In fact, for the rest of the day you can’t stop kicking yourself for allowing this person to ruin your great day. They’ve transferred their negativity on to you and they’ve done that because you let your ego get in the way. The ego is a powerful thing and if you don’t learn to keep it in check it can get you in the unhappy zone. Have control over your ego and when you notice someone trying to test it walk away. No need to win an argument with a negative person when you can win at being the better person.

Take their criticisms with a grain of salt

Negative people are always primed and ready to criticize whether you’ve asked them for critiques or not. I’m not a fan of criticisms, and few of us are. But there are also many individuals out there who take people’s criticisms to make themselves better. Be more like these people. I like to separate criticisms into two categories: constructive criticisms and reckless criticisms. Reckless criticism can be related to you building your sandcastle on the beach and a negative Nancy coming through and calling your sandcastle ugly, stomping all over it, and then walking away. While constructive criticism is that same person calling your sandcastle ugly then giving you advice on how you can rebuild a bigger and better one without them needing to damage the one you’ve already built. If there is anything you take from this post, take this one. Take negative people’s criticisms lightly because chances are they don’t really want to see you win, they just like seeing you frown.

Spend as little time with them as possible

Saved the best for last. Sometimes we can’t get rid of certain negative Nancys or Nathans because they work in the cubicle next to us, they’re our own friends or worse are members of our own family. We put up with their negativity because we have to and kicking them out of our life is damn near impossible. In cases like this, reduce the amount of your time you spend with them. Listen, your joy should be one of your top priorities, if not your number one priority. People spewing negativity can be toxic and can have a damaging effect on how you see yourself and your own happiness. It’s important that you are selective with the time you spend with them.

But before pulling a disappearing act on them, it’s important that you talk to them first if you haven’t already. Tell them about their negativity and how it’s affecting your relationship with them. As I mentioned before, some negative people don’t even realize they’re being negative. They really believe they are keeping it real. You can’t really fault these negative people. But if the negative person in your life isn’t trying to hear it, you have to do what’s best for you. So if holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and funerals are the only time you’ll see or speak to them, so be it. Your happiness is important, protect it like a baby.

Image credit: Dollar Photo Club/Trimbaldi

#Turning30: 7 ways to cope with not being where you thought you’d be at 30

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Three weeks ago, I celebrated my 30th birthday. I told myself on my 21st birthday I would be in Las Vegas the moment the clock struck midnight on October 16, 2015. That didn’t happen. If you asked that little girl in the photo above where she thinks she’ll be at 30, she’d say rich, living in a house the size of a mansion, and retired because 30 is old. That didn’t happen either lol.

This is a natural feeling wanting more in your life and not being 100% satisfied with where you are. That’s what leads you to seek better and live the life you truly believe you deserve.

There is a lot of 30+-year-olds who are where I am. Wishing they had more and dealing with the fact they are in a new decade of their life not having accomplished the things they thought they would have, or worse just settling for the way things are. This can be a source of unhappiness. But I’ve discovered that there are ways to cope and fix this.

Here are 7 ways I’m coping with not being where I thought I’d be at 30. Hopefully these tips will help you too.

Come to terms with the fact you want more

The first step to recovery in anything in life is to admit that there is a problem. The longer you say you’re fine or pretend to be happy is the longer it’s going to take to get to your goal. I drowned myself in positive quotes when I was in my 20s. But I didn’t work on making sure my inner happiness was on point so that what I read really stuck with me. You can curate a fabulous life on Instagram, Facebook, twitter or wherever else you publish your thoughts and doings on social media, but once you turn off your computer or put your phone down and are left alone with your thoughts, the truth of knowing you want more from your life can be suffocating when you’re in denial. Come to terms you want more, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.

Understand that it takes time and dedication to make necessary changes

Time is a commodity. I know this more than ever now as a mother. I have so much more respect for my time now. Something simple like running in the park alone with myself for an hour is a treat. To reach the goals you didn’t achieve in your 20s, you’ve got to stick through it in your 30s. It may take 2 months or it could take 2 years to get where you want to be. As long as you’re working towards it, that’s all that matters. Sign up for the gym and keep going, you won’t see results next week, but 8 weeks or more from now you’ll fit into those jeans you haven’t worn since you were 23. Or apply for your bachelors or masters. You won’t graduate next year but four (maybe more, maybe less) years from now you’ll have that job you really want. Whatever your goal is, understand it takes time to get it. It’s the hard work you put in that makes you appreciate how far you’ve come. Plus the time you are spending working on your goal is preparation for you maintaining your new lifestyle.

Write a list of things you are grateful for and that you’ve accomplished

Wanting more is great, but let’s not forget how grateful we are for the things we have in our lives now. Are you breathing on your own? Can you see? Did you turn on your faucet this morning and water came out of it? Then boo, you’re blessed! No matter how small the thing you are grateful for is, speak it into the universe and you will get blessings tenfold. The best way to do this is first thing in the morning or last thing at night. You can sit at a table and write it pen to paper or use the notepad on your phone. Personally, I find it resonates more with me when I write it down because I’m thinking and jotting down my gratitude. Do the same for your accomplishments. Promotions, new baby, helped your best friend plan an epic wedding – write any and everything you’ve done that made you feel great.

Create a list of things you want in life and things you want to change about your life

Lists are everything! They help you organize and paint a clear picture of what exactly needs to get done. The most successful people in the world swear by lists and create lists for all facets of their lives. Writing for me is therapeutic and having my stuff together and right in my face in list form is an amazing habit. Ok, now back to creating your list. Create this list when you have little to no distractions. I like to write my lists when my son and husband are asleep that way I don’t have to stop doing what I’m doing to get something for someone or help the other look for his tie lol. Set up your area so it’s super Zen. Light a candle, burn incense, or meditate. Whatever you got to do to get you in the mood to create the list that will change your life, do it. Everything you want in life no matter how big, silly or crazy it may be, if you want it, write it. If your list is just one page that’s fine, if it’s 10 pages, that’s fine too. You make your own rules, this is all you, so be nice to yourself.

Next, write everything you want to change about yourself. Sometimes you have to look deep for this. At one point I wanted to change that I was selfish. Admitting I was selfish was hard because I associate selfishness with being a bad person and I think I’m a sweetheart. But you’ve got to be honest with yourself. You’re great just the way you are, but you could be better. We all can. Click To Tweet So if you feel you could lose a little weight, switch up your hair, change the way you think from always seeing the bad in people to seeing the good too, then write it down. Anything, and I mean ANYTHING you want to change, write it down. Another helpful way to do this, is to think back to negative things others have said about you. Don’t consider it all because people can be petty and some of their criticisms could be their own flaws they refuse to deal with. But consider the negatives that have been said about you and see if it is also an issue for you. Be honest with yourself and this list can be a godsend.

Draft a step-by-step plan of how you will get the things you want and how you will change certain things about yourself

Now this is my favorite part! We all got a lot of problems, but not enough solutions. This step-by-step plan will be your solutions! I got this idea from my husband who is militant about making plans. You don’t have to be about yours but you need to create one. So let’s take a simple example for instance. Let’s say one of your goals is to get your driver’s license. The plan you would make would go a little something like this:

Step 1: Learners permit
Step 2: Take 5-hour class
Step 3: Sign up for lessons
Step 4: Take those lessons
Step 5: Schedule road test
Step 6: Pass the road test, the end.

You’ll also want to set realistic deadlines for when you will complete each step. Just as simple as that plan is to set up that’s how simple it will be for you. Pick five wants from your list and write a step-by-step plan. Or pick more wants and write steps for them. Go at your own pace. Know how you want to get these things and set yourself up for success. This task may take a day or maybe even a month, but once you have your plan, you’ll have an agenda every day and anything that doesn’t align with your plan or goals will be seen as a waste of time for you and not even worth it. It’s a really liberating feeling. And if you see that your plan isn’t working for you, revise it as many times as it takes until it does. The more proactive you are in planning, the better things will unfold for you.

Share your plans with the ones who support you

The last part of the tip is important. There are real dream killers walking the streets. So you can’t share your plans with just anybody. People’s thoughts can be toxic and your mind is like fertile ground. Those toxic thoughts can mess with your drive and influence your decisions, and not for the best. It’s important to share your plans with people who support you because they care about your growth and progression towards happiness. They will also hold you accountable because you can bet they will ask you how things are going with whatever you have plans to accomplish. These people are gems. They’ve showed their support for you in other things and they are the ones clapping hard and loud for you when you win at whatever you work hard for. The smaller your support group, the better, so if you only have one or three people, that’s fine. Share your plans with the ones who really support you.

Just do it

Nike isn’t the top selling brand with sustained brand loyalty for no reason. They’re slogan is so powerful for just three words that are less than five letters each. Once you’ve done coming to terms with wanting more, understanding the time it takes, creating lists, plans, and telling the supportive friends or family what you plan to do, you need to just do them. Don’t wait until December 31 to say that next year will be your year. It won’t if you keep procrastinating. Tomorrow is unknown and today is a prize. Click To Tweet The more you put things off the longer it’ll take for you to get to where you really want to be. I wanted to get in shape and not look like I was in my 30s, so I decided I wanted to become a runner. I came up with a plan, downloaded and bought the tools, and was outside on the day I said I would be and have been out there three days a week ever since. I won’t lie to you – the first day you do any of the things you planned will be hard. You’ll face obstacles and feel like giving up. But the more you do it, the easier it will be. Experts and professionals don’t become that way overnight. Work on your goal every day and you’ll get better at it. I told myself in 2008 that I wanted to get paid for writing. It took time, but now I’ve got clients, I’m getting paid to contribute to websites, and I even landed a gig on TV once. Now I want to be paid more for my writing and receive residual income from it, and I will make that happen by first coming to terms with the fact that I want more.