How to Make Decisions (Uncomplicated)

When I describe the KonMari method to people it is so simple it seems stupid at first. “Make a pile of like-objects, hold each one in your hands and as yourself, ‘does this bring me joy?’ Discard the nos and keep the yesses.”

This is as basic as addition (subtraction?) and is a method that has proven effective for both me and millions of others around the world.

I would never attempt to say that I have an idea as amazing as the KonMari method, but I can’t help but wonder, “what if there were a similar method, not for objects, but for making decisions on how we spend our time?”

 

With that thought, I created this diagram a long time ago, when I was at the height of my Mustachian fandom. I wanted to illustrate the idea that making educated, controlled decisions, no matter how minor they may seem, add up to a more meaningful life over time. A great example of what a best choice might be is probably the most Mustachian activity imaginable: riding a bike. It saves you money by not using gas or increasing the wear and tear on your car (Increases Wealth) it gives you an opportunity to exercise (increases endorphins=Increases Happiness) (increases heart health and muscle tone= Increases Health). Some examples, such as riding a bike, are universally obvious. Others are more personal and depend greatly upon your specific situation, personal values and circumstances.How to Make DecisionsStarting a side business, for instance, could easily end up costing you money if you’re not careful. On the other hand, if your business requires little in the way of overhead and is flexible enough for you to keep your job, it would end up satisfying the goals of increasing health, wealth and happiness- making it a best choice for you. Off the top of my head the idea of walking dogs could be perfect for someone who loves dogs. You would get outside, get exercise, spend time with fluffy animals who are always happy to see you, and increase your wealth by making some extra money. Even if your side business does not satisfy all of these requirements, it is still worthwhile even if there’s only a chance it could meet all the requirements in the future.

Selling jewelry, for instance, may not increase your health and it may cost you a lot to buy supplies, meaning you’d just break even. If the happiness it brings you is worth it however, it might be something to stick with because it is quite possible in the future to have enough business to increase your wealth through it. Overall, I’d say even if your choice only includes two out of three criteria, it is worth pursuing if it’s not possible or practical to make a choice that includes all three.

If the choice meets one requirement, it’s a “good choice.” If it meets 2, it’s a “better choice,” and if it meets three, that it’s the “best choice.”

Though it may seem obvious at this point, if a prospective choice doesn’t enhance your health, wealth or happiness it should no longer be something for we should consider at all. Like the possessions you need to ‘let go’ when you’re tidying, there are choices in life that we have to decide for ourselves to walk away from. Leaving a time commitment, hobby, job or relationship can be a painful decision- especially if we have invested a great deal of time, money and energy on the endeavor. If the choice affects someone else, it can be downright scary to even consider abandoning the commitment. As a motivating thought there is a fundamental defect in staying in these scenarios that are solely for the benefit of other people.

The problem is that all the little choices we make for other people will slowly accumulate into a life that doesn’t advance us to our true destiny.

On the flip side, the more we examine each choice we make in the present moment and evaluate its potential to propel us forward, the closer we come to living to our true potential. No one else can decide for us what it means to be healthy, wealthy, and happy- although there is a great deal of research that points to what can statistically contribute to a higher quality of life for most people. If you’d like to learn more about this topic, I’d highly recommend the documentary “Happy” on Netflix instant. It is a captivating film that I am positive will be worth your time.

To give a quick recap in case I lost you:

We make choices at almost every minute of every day.

The choices we make affect our mood, our health, and our financial freedom (or bondage).

When we make choices that increase our health, wealth, and happiness we generally become better people over time.

We can think of it like a software program that mandatorily updates to the newest version every day. Do you want your newest version to work well, to be fluid and run at optimal performance or do you want your newest version to run slow, have kinks and crash all the time? Of course you want it to be better than before! This philosophy and diagram is simply an external cue for being present in every moment; having awareness of our own free will and life force.

Simply trying to feel happy in the moment actually can backfire, but as this wonderful article points out, we can make an effort to plan our time out in a way that incorporates our most rewarding activities.

I’m currently choosing to use mine to spend time with my family and close friends, to make art and music, to learn web development, garden, eat well and move closer to a more minimal, intentional and eco-friendly environment in my home.

How will you use yours?

 

 

Jumping Ship or Changing Course? On switching careers

The way that things usually happen for me is shakily, in a very slow waxing and waning cycle that takes place over many months and weeks. It starts with the tiniest of inklings, caused by reading something in a blog post or seeing something in a movie and quietly observing, “maybe that could be for me.”

There’s always those intense jolts in life that make you snap to reality, such as when I had one of my daycare kids run out the front door, leaving me waiting at the door with all the other children in my charge. That definitely was one of the single most stressful moments in my life. It was after that incident that I questioned what I was doing and where I was going, and if it was truly worth it. As a parent, I could understand the high demands when it comes to caring for your children. I completely sympathize with the desire to have the best quality of care possible but not being able to afford the cost. On the other hand, as the care provider, I could most definitely get the reason why child care has a huge turnover rate. The stakes are high, the pay is very low.

With my Rheumatoid arthritis, it seemed that I could not be as hands-on with the children as I needed to be. It hurt to pick up the little ones to change their diapers, I couldn’t run over to stop a fight or, as in the aforementioned scenario, keep a kid from running away. I’ve had multiple parents get upset with me for their kid getting hurt on my watch, and even with an able body, with many children sometimes there’s nothing you can do in the moment. Having worked at child care centers before, I witnessed how the director had to constantly be in the role of substitute teacher when the other subs were not able to come in. I saw how she stayed at the center from 6:30 AM to PM, even 6 days a week at times. I saw her having to deal with kids that had zero respect for authority, with parents that tried to pick their kids up drunk, with staff members that gossiped endlessly about their fellow teachers, their students and their students’ parents.

What took me so long to decide officially to change careers was the fact that I dedicated so much time and education into that career. I read so many books and blogs and watched videos, attended conferences and developed business plans. Everything I did was to one day open up my own child development center. How could I just throw it all away? A lot of personal finance bloggers will have you believe otherwise, but a huge part of saving money can come from simply making more of it. That is something that would be tough to do in the field of child development. There was a big part of me, and still there is today, that does want to open up a center one day, but I’d rather it be when I wasn’t strapped for cash, I’d rather it be when I can afford to pay someone else to be the director and buy all the amenities of a Waldorf school. It would be a wonderful retirement project that I would be so proud to finally accomplish.

When I told my sister I was considering changing careers to web development, she mentioned that she had a friend who owned her own web development business and that she was very happy and successful. I got the nerve up to ask if I could talk to her sometime. At first she was hard to get a hold of, but with some persistence I finally got to speak with her on the phone. She was completely nice, enthusiastic about her profession as CEO of an online marketing company, and patiently answered all my questions and spelled out any definitions of terms she used that I was unfamiliar with.

When she described how she could pick up and go practically anywhere whenever she wanted as long as she brought her laptop along I was sold. I was also pleasantly surprised when she made the suggestion that I could teach myself with all the free resources online these days. She invited me to let her know how I was doing as I progressed in my knowledge and that her company may even be able to give me some work in the future once my skills were up to par. Looking up BLS statistics online about the web development field was greatly reassuring as well, with excellent projected job growth and great pay as the standard of the field.

Changing Careers

About three weeks ago, I finally officially decided silently to myself that I was going to do it wholeheartedly, to dedicate myself to learning web development in order to be at the level where I could freelance or get an entry level junior developer job. Since then, I’ve been working around an hour a day on practicing basic skills such as html and css and trying my hand at building my own website. I’ve also been researching local web development groups in the Austin area and online so that I can connect with others in the same field. I still feel scared sometimes to have left my old career, but I feel like this one has greater potential to make me happy and allow me to follow my goals and values in life.

Though it may seem as scary as jumping ship, it becomes easier to re-frame it in your mind as just charting a new course. We can’t always predict what will really be satisfying or turn out to be exactly what we estimated, whether that is our career, our location, our companions or anything else really. It is a virtue to be faithful and diligent, but the way I see it, your career is not necessarily going to be faithful and diligent to you (though you may find a company with absolutely amazing employers that do hold these values, I haven’t personally come across this in this day and age).

Because of this it’s much better to change courses if you’ve carefully considered it, taking into account many factors such as location, job satisfaction, potential for upward mobility, financial reward, family circumstances, time commitment, education expense in both time and money. If you’re seriously considering a career change don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family or even members of your local community to see if they might know someone you could talk to. Not only will you get valuable information about the real state of affairs in that position or career field, you will also gain a valuable contact that you can reach out to in the future once you’re job ready, or even if you just have a simple question. Ultimately if you’re feeling that you’re not as happy as you could be, it’s up to you to change your situation.

I changed course and I’m so happy that I did.

 

 

Beating Stagnation to Maximize Progress

A few weeks ago, I talked about how making small, sometimes unnoticeable changes can add up to huge results over time. But what about when you’re not sure what changes you need to make in the first place?

With the ever-present and unending amount of information available to us because of the internet, just about every human being has access to recourses and knowledge on any topic under the sun. While this is amazing, it can also be extremely stifling, especially for those of us that lack confidence or experience imposter syndrome. Past mistakes such as bad investments or career missteps can also make us question our own inner compass. Taking what we can to learn from these experiences rather than letting them control our decision making is the key to moving forward.

When we have reflected and spent time thinking about what we want, hopefully we will have come to an educated decision about what we want, and it will be something that truly resonates with our spirit. After that point is reached it’s imortant to take action rather than waiting. Even a small step such as reaching out to a group, signing up for a class, or executing the first step in a plan counts!

Starting the process of change- especially when it is a big change such as relocating to a new city- can be daunting. Starting small and working our way up to bigger and better goals is one approach- diving in and putting yourself in a sink or swim situation is another. Whichever approach you take is up to you and your personality. The most important thing is following through after committing.

If you still have doubts- that is perfectly acceptable. Believe it or not everyone, even and especially the most successful people live with fear every time they perform, publish, or produce something. It’s learning to live with the fear, in spite of the fear, that sets one up for great success and satisfaction. To look at it philosophically, the time will pass anyway, you will age anyway, and the world will keep turning anyway. The real question is not “what will happen if I do this?” It’s “What will happen when I do this.”

To keep up this momentum and acheive optimum happiness, we must continue to have new goals and set up new pathways that will alow us to reach them. It’s not about some ultimate acheivement, it’s about getting to where you want to go and then doing it again and again. As we change and the world changes, our dreams change. Life rewards action, so let’s take the bull by the horns and make it happen for ourselves.

10 Ideas for an Eco-Friendly Christmas

1. Keep it simple.

Just pick the most important traditions that have meaning for you, leave the new fads behind. When I was pregnant I babysat for a family with three kids who had the popular “Elf on the Shelf.” The kids all loved the elf but one day when I arrived the mom explained to me her kids would be upset because she forgot to move the elf. She was frantically pouring out flour onto a cutting board and trying to set the elf up so it looked like it was making a snow angel before they woke up. The holidays already have enough traditions to keep everyone happy, do we need to buy into marketing’s attempts to make more just to increase profits?

SplitShire-0080

 

2. Reevaluate the gift giving tradition altogether.

Gifts can be wonderful to give and receive, but often gifts may not be the right fit for the individual, or maybe they already have everything they need. The wrapping, shipping and packing materials of presents on such a large scale uses precious resources and creates a monumental amount of waste in the environment. Everyone can donate to one another’s favorite charity, volunteer together, or just spend time doing an activity like going to the movies or for a hike. Gifts can also be in the form of gift cards or certificates for experience activities such as a wildlife reserve, a playhouse or a museum. You also could simply ask your loved ones to spend time with you instead of getting gifts. You can see the letter I used this year: Dear Friends and Family.

3. Re-imagine gifts.

If you do give physical presents, select items that you know for sure the receiver will need and use. For instance if you know they drink a specific type of tea regularly, you are guaranteed to give them something they will appreciate and use. Alternatively, any gifts that are made from natural materials, or that can be used up such as homemade cookies, soap or candles are likely to be well received. Thrifting items such as vintage cookie tins or eclectic frames to use to children’s artwork can make wonderful heartfelt gifts as well.

4. Promote an existing tree to “Christmas Tree.”

 

tree

 

By using a tree (or a bush, or a plant) that’s growing instead of going out and chopping down a Christmas tree or supporting an industry that does, we’re honoring the beauty in a living tree’s ability to absorb carbon and emit oxygen.

On first glance it would seem that buying a fake tree would be eco-friendly but the truth is that these trees often are made from synthetic materials that emit harmful gases, they tend to break or become bedraggled after a few years, and eventually find their way into the landfill. Not so cheery. Alternatively, you can string up your ornaments across a threshold, mantle or wall which actually causes you to look at them more often and more closely, enjoying them every time you walk by!

 

5. Use nature, or food items as decor.

It is a wonderful thing to have heirloom ornaments you use year after year, but unfortunately the vast majority of ornaments today are the exact opposite- quite disposable. What better way to bring beauty to your home than creating ornaments from the beauty of nature? String a popcorn garland, use found pine cones, create snowflakes out of sticks, or try drying orange slices to create beautiful 100% free and biodegradable ornaments.

167H

6. Go out into nature.

Going out around the holidays often encourages needless consumption, whether it be buying a Styrofoam cup of hot cocoa or sparkly mass produced ornament that catches the eye. If you do go out, it’s best to have a plan that is sustainable- think a tree lighting, the ice rink, going caroling (do people still do that anymore?) or visit a friend. Though it is probably cold, bundling up and going out into nature fosters appreciation for the natural world, gives us a chance to exercise and breathe fresh air without creating waste. Snow can be very beautiful and playing in it with our family provides us with endless fun and precious memories.

7. Rethink the Christmas card.

Send an e-card or family video instead of greeting cards. If you must send greeting cards, select postcards which cut on paper used and require a cheaper stamp as well.

8. Cook and bake from scratch.

Cooking and baking as a family can be an enjoyable tradition unto itself while also being practical. Not only does making food from scratch taste way better, it also cuts down on packaging (especially when you buy bulk and bring your own bags and jars!) and is almost always cheaper in the long run. When we bake from scratch we know exactly what went in to the food we’re eating, and we don’t have to worry about toxic preservatives and artificial dyes.

9. Give back.

Go through the cabinets and donate any unwanted canned food. Also go through the closets and give any spare coats or other items to a homeless shelter or other charity shop. Host a soldier, pick an angel from a giving tree to prepare gifts for deserving children, volunteer at a soup kitchen or make baskets to give to families in need. There are so many ways to give back. Check your local library, community center or college to see what opportunities are available to serve your community. This simple act allows us to feel the magic of community, feel happiness in giving and lets us have gratitude for what we already have in our lives.

10. Consider staying home.

Of course, public transportation is the next best thing. Traveling cross-country? Take the bus for the smallest carbon footprint. Next best, a fuel-efficient vehicle, train and at the bottom of the list-air travel.

However you choose to spend the holiday season, I hope it is filled with peace, joy and simplicity!

Introducing: The Scratch Paper Saver

I’m so very excited to present to you a new look, a new name, and a new blog. I wanted to be able to share something that was easy to say and remember, that I felt described me but also appealed to a wider audience. As the gap between the upper and lower class gets smaller and smaller, the landfills become bigger and bigger. There is a huge concern among the families that I come in contact with about both saving money (or being able to live on what little money can be made) and saving the environment (or at least not exacerbating the currently growing list of ecological disasters that humans have instigated on this planet.

Of course I also share these same concerns. There are many many great solutions to these troubles, and the more individuals that make more positive decisions and proactive choices, the closer we all will come to peace, prosperity and individual freedom. Welcome new friends, and thank you so much to my followers.

I look forward to helping you all to grow, lean and thrive along with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Photo credit: Blackzheep at freedigitalphotos.net)

Taming the Crazy, Finding Your Zen

You always seem to be a day late and a dollar short.

With a cold cup of coffee in one hand and a smudge-smattered cell phone in the other, your hair hasn’t been washed in days and your jeans are sagging off your butt. You’re counting the days until payday, when you can buy bananas and stop scrounging through the pantry looking for dried fruit from 3 months ago. You last had a fight with your mother on your birthday which was last year and haven’t spoken since. You wonder about the job market and what you will say when they ask you why you have a leap year long gap in your resume. You watch your kid reaching up to the counter, pulling down the potted plant so quickly you wince and cry out, but it’s crashed on the floor already.

I get it.

It’s ok, and you’re gonna be ok.

You’re Not Perfect, Your kid isn’t either.

Gracefully Let Go of What Isn’t Working

Make it easier on yourself

Live By Your Values

Simplify Your World. The Less You Have, the Freer You Become

Fill Your Cup with Peace

It’s so important to realize that you are not innately full of peace. You actually have to fill your own cup on a constant basis. No one else will do it for you.

Stop. Breathe.

Remember that we are but a speck in the vastly huge cosmos.

Breathe again.

Keep breathing.

Remember: This too, shall pass.

Abandoning Social Media

When I’m fired up about some new concept or cause, I shout breathlessly about it to everyone in earshot- by everyone I mean my husband. He usually rolls his eyes and raises his brows, humoring me for as long as he can stand it. About this, though, he is definitely first in this race. I’m talking about the concept of abandoning social media. I’ve tried to keep up with the Jones’ when it comes to social media, quickly adopting a facebook profile and later on an instagram- also tried my hand at tumblr for a few weeks which was shortlived. I have even kept up with the mandatory baby pictures, holiday family shots and announcements about my life’s events. My husband, on the other hand has dragged his feet reluctantly through these social networks, which doesn’t surprise me as he barely even checks his email. He gave up facebook, shutting down his account, over 6 months ago and he says he couldn’t be happier. I followed suit soon after, cancelling my account without warning. Some of my friends were worried because they couldn’t find me, others who tried to connect thought they’d never hear from me again. I was happy with my decision and didn’t miss it, until I wanted to sell something that was specific to a group I belonged to. Getting my account back, I was swarmed with a gargantuan stream of overwhelmingly unnecessary information. The ads, the banal, the disgusting, the disturbing, the offensive, the pretty, the educational. All mashed together in a loosely threaded grotesque quilt of two dimensional social exchanges. I don’t want it getting back to me that my ex thinks I look hot in my Halloween costume. I don’t want random old people that were friends of my parent’s parents commenting on every thought I type out into the cyberworld. I’m tired of posting things that really mean something to me just to hear a virtual world of crickets chirping. Seeing one of my friends refer to this movement- that champions a greater degree of honesty and transparency in social media has really sealed the deal for me. I applaud it’s founder, Essena O’Neill, a former instagram model who has come out against the vapid, consumer-driven motives behind popular social media posts. I don’t want to be advertised to- whether directly, indirectly or through peer pressure and groupthink. The few individuals that I stayed for have recently terminated their social media accounts as well. The truth is that someone typing “happy birthday” doesn’t have one percent of the same meaning that a quick phone call does. Even if it’s just my family- I want the people that reach out to me beyond the screen to be where I put my time and energy- because they are really there for me. When the choice comes between authentic and trendy, I will choose the real deal every time.

So long facebook, instagram. It wasn’t nice knowing you.