Minimalism for Millennials

Practicing Minimalism for Millennials

I frequently feel overwhelmed. The majority of my day is spent staring at a computer screen, either for work, school, blogging, or leisure (i.e. watching Netflix while doing one of the previously mentioned activities). There is very little time to just sit and think. If I find myself doing nothing, it’s incredibly uncomfortable and boring to sit with my own thoughts. Which is sad, but true. And I know I’m not alone in this.

Our minds and lives are cluttered. That’s why I loved The Minimalists Podcast, hosted by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. In the past, my definition of minimalism was simply owning as few possessions as possible. Which, I thought was a little strange. After listening to this podcast and learning the “why” behind a minimalist’s thought processes, I realized that minimalism is a lifestyle. It can be applied to many areas of your life, and everyone can have their own definition of minimalism.

For Josh and Ryan, minimalism is living a meaningful life with less. Now, “less” is going to look different for everyone. After applying minimalist concepts, one person might own 30,000 items, while someone who has never applied the concepts only owns 1,000 items. The number doesn’t matter. At all. It’s all about how the things you do and the things you own add value to your life.

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That being said, here are the themes I noticed after listening to 15 episodes of The Minimalists Podcast:

Know What’s Important

One main reason for integrating minimalism into your life is to figure out the things that are really important to you. By downsizing the distractions and junk that are constantly in our way, it makes it easier to focus on things that truly matter. For example, by owning fewer items your home will be less cluttered and you’ll spend less time cleaning. With that extra time, you’ll be able to spend more time other things. This could include spending time with family and friends or cultivating your passion.

In the process of figuring out what’s most important, you have to choose where your time and energy is best spent. This requires the understand that you will always be missing out on something. If you choose one thing, such as cultivating your passion, you will be missing out on something else. And that’s okay! This prevents over-scheduling and unnecessary stress (which I am personally prone to!). The Minimalists encourage us to make decisions that will bring us the most joy while growing and living simply. Don’t be afraid to experiment with taking things in and out of your life. Nothing needs to be permanent, you can change your mind if things aren’t working for you.

Technology

Before listening to this podcast, I didn’t realize how deeply technology is ingrained in my daily life. I subconsciously reach for my cell phone at work when I’m bored and log on to my computer right when I get home from work. I read scriptures online before I go to bed. And my phone alarm is the first thing I hear in the mornings. If someone reached for a cigarette as often as I reach for the various technologies in my life, they would be called an addict.

Now, technology is not inherently bad! Technology can be used for some really awesome things, like connecting with others, communicating information from around the world, meeting new people, increasing sales for business, etc. The problem comes when we mindlessly scroll through apps that do not add true value to our lives.

Before writing this post, I went through my phone. I got rid of any app that wasn’t adding value to my life. This included an old email address that collected junk mail, three mind-numbing game apps (that were really fun), and two social media apps. To be honest, this was more difficult than I’d like to admit. However, this weekend has been much more productive! I encourage you to think about how you spend your time on the computer and your phone. Are the apps or websites you’re visiting adding value to your life, or are they simply distractions from the important things in your life?

Drudge Through It

Josh and Ryan constantly use the saying, “drudging through the drudgery.” I feel like this concept has come up in almost every podcast I’ve listened to. Successful people do not give up easily. When things get hard, they push through. So how does this fit into minimalism? Minimalism is about changing your mindset and lifestyle to revolve around the things that matter most to you. So, if your goal is to write a successful book, you will need to drudge through the times when writing is difficult.

One thing The Minimalists brought up is the idea of cultivating only one passion at a time. This idea was mentioned in Emma Gannon’s podcast, Ctrl Alt Delete, as well. The general idea is that you should stick to one idea. This allows you to buckle down and really focus on it. When a new idea comes long, it might be easy to chase it down because it would be “easier” than what you’re doing right now. The Minimalists and Emma Gannon would suggest that you stick to what you’re doing and “drudge through the drudgery!”

However, what about the people who have a bunch of great ideas and want to pursue all of them? I received a comment from Maryanne (thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my previous post, Maryanne!), who has a different point of view from the one I mentioned. She said, “Doing several things is called “branding” and it has been great for my career as a writer and public speaker. One of my mentors advised me ‘Keep shooting those arrows.’ She was right.”

I think that both points are valid and correct. Depending on the type of person, focusing on one project or pursuing multiple at a time could be the right decision. If you are a person that gets distracted easily (I fall into this category), then taking things one project at a time may be more productive. If you’re like Maryanne, pursuing more than one avenue at once can keep you motivated.

MAKAYLA

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Why Diligence Is Important to Your Success

Why Diligence Is Important to Your Success

There are so many times in life where I need to complete a task and just can’t make myself do it. I do everything I can to avoid the one thing I actually need to do. Have homework? Well, I’ll do that tomorrow even though it’ll be on my mind all day and make me miserable. Need to fold laundry? I’ll just leave it on the floor in a pile and go to work with a wrinkled shirt. This way of thinking interferes with my success. And I know I’m not alone in this.

As I was writing this post, I was constantly thinking about Nike’s “Just Do It” logo. Sometimes it’s that simple. If we’re diligent and “Just Do It,” we’ll be so much better off! This concept was a major theme I noticed in Emma Gannon’s podcast, Ctrl Alt Delete. This podcast is full of interviews where Emma chats with successful writers and entrepreneurs about their relationships with the internet. She’s even interviewed other podcast hosts that I’ve mentioned on this blog, like Gretchen Rubin!

I usually listen to 15 episodes of each podcast I review, but I ended up skipping two of them due to language and content I wasn’t comfortable with. However, the rest of the podcast was interesting and applicable! One main theme  I wanted to focus on was diligence. Diligence is extremely important for our success, but it’s something that just about everyone can work on!

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Why Diligence Is Important for Your Success

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What is diligence?

Most of us are familiar with the definition of diligence, but I wanted to discuss it anyway so we’re all on the same page. When I think of diligence, I think of persistence. Also continual effort over a long period of time. My husband is a great example of this. He’s a law student and spends hours and hours every day studying and writing. Even when he doesn’t want to.

A huge part of diligence is patience. There will be days when you do everything right but see no results. Diligence is the ability to keep going and pushing through in order to reach a goal that takes time to achieve even without immediate reward. For example, if you have a goal of reaching a certain GPA, the entire semester should be filled with reading, studying, and completing assignments. Without that continual effort, the final will be extremely difficult and you won’t receive the grade you want. That general idea can be applied to many situations in life.

Why is diligence important for success?

Let’s say that you have a particular skill that comes naturally to you. We’ll use basketball as an example because I’m watching an NBA game right now. If you’re naturally good at shooting three-point shots, that’s great! You could make the junior high basketball team with ease. But as time passes and you grow older, you can’t coast by on natural ability any longer. You have to actively work on developing new skills as well as stay ahead in your shooting ability. And that takes diligence. Understanding that you have to keep developing and pushing forward is a necessary skill for success.

The wonderful thing about being diligent is that you eventually see results. Being diligent sets you apart. It shows that you’re willing to put in the work, time, and effort is takes to improve. Not only does this show the people around you that you’re worth investing in, it also gives you more confidence in your own ability to succeed. Over time you’ll be able to prove to yourself and others that you can accomplish great things through daily diligence.

How can you be diligent?

I’d like to talk about three practical ways to add diligence into your daily life. These tips won’t add any extra time to your day. They will hopefully help you change the way you think about the daily tasks that need to be done, even when you don’t want to do them! And replace some bad habits as well.

Avoid Procrastination.

Procrastination is the opposite of diligence. If you’re procrastinating, you are not focusing on the things that matter most. Sometimes we procrastinate with good things such as cleaning, spending time with family and friends, or relaxing. Those are all good things, but it means you’re not being diligent in achieving the goals you’re working towards.

One way I’ve found to avoid procrastinating is picking the three most important tasks that need to be done that day and striving to complete them as early as possible. By doing this, I’m able to accomplish more each day and feel like I can relax or work on more enjoyable tasks for the rest of the day.

Pick One Idea.

This was suggested by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love. When we start a new project, job, or school assignment, it’s so easy to get distracted with other things that might seem easier, more fun, or a better fit. If you’re working on writing a novel, it might be tempting to say, “I want to push this novel to the side and work on a blog because that seems easier.” Elizabeth encourages us to not do that!

The grass is always greener on the other side. It’s so easy to think that some other project is going to be easier, faster, or a better fit. The truth is that you’re just being distracted by a new shiny object. It takes diligence and perseverance to stick to a project, but putting in the time and effort to complete it is how you achieve your goals.

Be a Warrior.

There are times in our lives where we want people to comfort us. We want people to tell us that we’re right to feel like the world is against us. We throw pity parties for ourselves and invite anyone that’s willing to listen. And sometimes that’s okay. However, part of being diligent is being to pick yourself up and understand that the only way to change your situation and achieve the success you desire is by fighting for it.

Practicing diligence is an area that everyone can improve. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay focused, but it’s so worth it to put in the effort and achieve the success you deserve.

MAKAYLA

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Recharge, Find Harmonious Passion, and Be a Great Friend

How to Recharge, Find Harmonious Passion, and Be a Great Friend

Have you ever met anyone so intense and sure of themselves that you can’t help listening to them? Even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying, you still want to learn their point of view. As I listened to David Halpern’s podcast Social Triggers Insider, I felt like I needed to look up and research everything he said!

This podcast was suggested by Jess Lively of The Lively Show. I reviewed her podcast last week: 3 Tips to Add Intention to Your Daily Life. I think the reason Social Triggers is so enticing is because David mixes psychology with business. He interviews New York Times best seller’s about how to integrate the lessons in their books into business and entrepreneurship.

David is always amazingly prepared for his podcasts. Not only does he read every book he asks about on his podcast, he remembers every story they tell and comes prepared with questions! There is never a dull moment, that’s for sure. Here are the themes I found throughout the podcast:

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Take Time to Recharge

Do you find yourself on social media between tasks? I know I do. If there’s a fifteen minute break, I immediately get on my phone. After all, fifteen minutes won’t hurt anything and there’s nothing I can really get into for that short amount of time, right? Wrong. David suggests that there is actually something better we can do with those fifteen minutes.

He suggests that you use that time to think about your day and recharge. Constantly using social media takes our minds away from things that really matter. Spending that time planning, power napping, thinking, or reflecting can be a much better use of our time. I love this, because I imagine that when this becomes a habit, it would be such a relaxing activity that would help us recenter. And, it can be done anywhere!

Two Types of Passion

There have been many time on this blog that I’ve mentioned passion. Every time it’s mentioned, I get such an overwhelming response about how important it is and how necessary it is for success. And you’re right, it’s 100% necessary! That’s why I thought it was so interesting that there are two kinds of passion… One type is good and one type is actually bad!

Let’s start with the good type: harmonious passion. Harmonious passion is healthy because it is consistent with what you want you want to achieve in your life. This means that your passion allows you to grow in other areas of your life as well as pursue your dreams. For example, let’s say your passion was writing novels. You would wake up every morning and write 500 words and then spend the morning exercising, eating breakfast, and then go about your day. Of course, you would think about writing when an inspiring thought came to you and it may come up in conversations with others. 

On the other hand, there is obsessive passion. Obsessive passion takes over other parts of your life. It’s something you’re thinking about constantly, even when you’re not doing it. You also may feel guilty if you’re not doing it. To stick with the writing example, your morning might look like writing 500 words and then knowing you should exercise and eat breakfast but feeling bad about doing those things because you won’t be writing. Writing might dominate conversations between you and your loved ones, and other activities won’t be as enjoyable.

Be a Great Friend

There were so many interviews on Social Triggers Insider that talked about the power of connections and strong relationships. This past week I reviewed the book The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter – and how to make the most of them now by Meg Jay, PhD, which you can read here. In that review, I talked about what Jay calls the strength of weak ties. Weak ties are essentially connections that you get through connections what are not in your immediate circle. 

The Social Triggers Insider podcast takes this idea a step further with dormant ties. Dormant ties are people that you’ve known in the past but haven’t been in contact with for three or more years. Essentially, you used to know them but lost contact. These types of ties are the most useful ties of all! This is because they give you all the benefits of a strong tie (past history), but have been meeting different people and travel in different circles like a weak ties.

Like any relationship, a key part of calling on these dormant ties is being a great friend. If you try to ask for help from someone you’ve rubbed the wrong way in the past, they aren’t likely to want to help you! So what’s the secret to being a great friend? David suggests that we give, give, give. Friendships should involve 60% giving and 40% taking, and that should go for both people involved!

Luckily, all of the tips mentioned above have been researched not only by David Halpern, but by everyone he interviewed. I definitely encourage you to look up this podcast and have a listen if you’re at all interested in business or psychology, because the mix is fascinating! Hopefully these three themes will be applicable to your daily lives and help you earn the success you deserve!

MAKAYLA

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The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter

Each month, I discuss a personal or professional development book on this blog. Last month the we discussed 5 Ways to Ensure Success in Business, Relationships, and Everyday Communication; influenced by Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The book I’d like to discuss this month is The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter – and how to make the most of them now by Meg Jay, PhD.

So in the interest of transparency, I am in my twenties (22). But to be honest, I think this book can be enlightening to anyone who isn’t entirely sure about the path they’re on… Which I assume is most of us! And if I’ve learned anything from this book, it’s that everyone wants to grow, live up to their potential, and be the person they’re supposed to be.

This book is broken into three sections and each section has several sub-sections:

  1. Work
  2. Love
  3. The brain and the body

I will use the same format to outline the themes I found. There may be some overlap, simply because our lives are complicated and interconnected.

Work

To me, the most encouraging piece of advice in this section was, “Don’t be afraid to reach out.” From experience I’ve found that applying to jobs that you aren’t quite qualified for makes you feel pretty junky. However, have you thought about what would happen if you actually get that job? Take an extra twenty minutes and fill out that application, even if you think there’s no chance you’ll get it. As Meg points out, “the worst they can do is say no,” and the best is life changing.

I know this point is true from experience! I had my resume up on a job search website and it was picked up by a recruiter for an investment banking firm in the city. She asked me if I’d like to come in for an interview. A little something about me, I graduated with a degree in human development and am currently studying gerontology… and have no finance experience whatsoever.

The author puts a huge emphasis on “the strength of weak ties.” You all know the basic idea, even if you haven’t heard that term. It’s essentially when someone says, “I got a job at Microsoft because my dad’s college roommate works there.” Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Ugh, I really hate networking. I want to get a job on my own.” I get it.

But stop thinking that way.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help from weak ties, and Meg Jay would agree with me. Why? Because once you get that job, you still need to hold your own and prove yourself. Be the kind of person that is grateful for the opportunity and proves that you do belong there.

If you’re someone that has no idea what they want to do with their life *coughMEcough*, try your best to keep your doors open and keep progressing and adding to your resume and life experiences, because when the perfect opportunity comes along, you want to be able to snag it with confidence.

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Love/Friendships

This section was originally labeled “Love,” but I think adding friendships to this category is important. At first it was difficult for me to glean advice or information from this section, because I am happily married to a man that I adore! It was only after I started taking Jay’s information into the context of other relationships that aren’t romantic, that I was able to digest the information in a helpful way.

She mentions that “An identity or career can’t be built on what you don’t want.” I think this holds true for relationships as well. If you’re going into a relationship or friendship knowing that it’s not what you want in the end, then what are you doing? You’re wasting time and energy. Even if you’re only in your twenties, put your effort into something or someone that will help you progress as a person and reach your goals.

This next point is something I see many people my age struggling with: having a tribe. Social media has us constantly comparing each other, and sometimes it seems like everyone else has “people” to hang with, go on trips with, or party with. It’s simply not true. What you’re seeing is someone else’s best, and I bet you’re comparing their best to your worst. No one feels satisfied with their social life 100% of the time.

If this is an area where you struggle, I invite you to read this book. Examine the areas of your life where you’re unsatisfied with your relationships. It’s a great way to put things in perspective and gain some tools to get out of your funk.

The Brain and the Body

Confession time: feeling overwhelmed is approximately 98% of my life. Luckily, I’m convinced that I’m not alone in that. This book helped me realize that we can’t control anything except how we interpret situations and how we respond. Jay points out that we often get stuck in a fixed mindset. We think that everyone around us has always been competent and confident in what they’re doing. In reality, they started out like us.

And you know how they became confident and competent? They said yes to something. They made a decision. The author addresses a common problem among young adults, which is “If you don’t say yes to something, your life will be unremarkable and limited.” As children, we’re told that we can be anything we want, do anything we put our mind to… Well, that’s not necessarily true. I don’t have the reflexes or problem solving skills to be a fighter pilot. No matter how much I wanted that or worked for it, it’s a path that isn’t attainable for me. And that’s okay! There are other things that I’m better suited for, and I can find it by developing my natural talents and not stressing about the paths that are closed to me.

So…

How do we make the most of our twenties? Recognize that we’re all seeds, but we aren’t all acorns. Some of us will grow into oaks, but some will be maples, palms, or elms. Recognize that your path won’t look like anyone else’s. Say YES to something, work hard even when you feel like it isn’t worth it, and be the kind of person you want to be.

Makayla

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3 TIPS TO ADD INTENTION TO YOUR DAILY LIFE

3 Tips to Add Intention to Your Daily Life

I spend a lot of time on trains. I often sit by the window in the early mornings and look out at the landscape as it rushes by, feeling the cool air radiate from the glass. For the past four weeks, I’ve been listening to podcasts as I ride, which has added not only spectacular audio, but a way to learn from others. This week I chose Jess Lively’s The Lively Show. It’s designed to uplift, inspire, and add intention to your everyday life. And it certainly does.

Jess is awesome. She started her business when she was fifteen and now travels the world full time while teaching others how to live more joyfully. One thing I love about Jess is that she leads conversations, but does not dominate them. The people she interviews feel free to open up about their own stories and Jess simply guides them along.

Every episode of The Lively Show (that I listened to) is an interview with someone who lives a life of intention. Most of them are bloggers and entrepreneurs that blazed their own online trails. What I love about this setup is that even though these people have similar outcomes (successful businesses or blogs), they have such different ways of getting there. Some people took eight years to get to where they are and some took significantly less time, but all of their stories are unique and interesting. After listening to the first 15 episodes, there are three themes I found in The Lively show.

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Be Diligent

We are all incredibly busy. We have families, school, work, housework, etc. And huge dreams that we need to work for. And only 24 hours in a day. I’m willing to bet that our dreams are often put on the back-burner when prioritizing the zillion things we have to do.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to take hours and hours of our time each day to work towards our goals. It was suggested in this podcast that if you just take 30 minutes every day to work on your blog or business, you’ll be able to build momentum. Taking small chunks of time and really focusing on the task at hand can be more effective than taking a lot of time and not being as focused. Doing too many things at a time can also be overwhelming. Instead, try to pick one or two things to accomplish at a time and dive deeper into them.

In addition, recognize that there’s always something you’re going to want. Someone else will be living your ideal situation. One of the guests Jess interviews talks specifically about this situation. She says to just do something to move forward and not stay in a situation that you’re unhappy with! Stop giving excuses and go after what you want.

Don’t Let Fear Stop You

At the end of each episode, Jess asked everyone she interviewed what their best piece of advice would be for someone just starting out on their journey. Almost every single person she interviewed said, “Just do it! Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams!” Now, how many times have you heard that advice from someone further along in the process? I’ve heard it so many times, and it never sunk in. Until listening to this podcast.

You’re never going to be 100 percent ready for something. Right now, I’ve been procrastinating growing an email list for my blog. It’s scary to me because it’s something I haven’t done before. And the thought, “Man, what if no one signs up?” holds me back. But here’s the thing, nothing has to be permanent. If the first email I send out is a total flop, then I’ll learn from it and write a better one. The same principle applies to anything, really.

This podcast was full of people Jess had met at conventions and social events. She is so willing to reach out to others and get their opinions and perspectives. It can be exhausting just thinking about networking sometimes! But Jess recommends reaching out to others in creative ways (such as buying them a taco instead of offering money) to build relationships and show your interest in their knowledge. Try your best to open doors for yourself. The worst they can do is say no!

Find Your Passion

I’m not a vegetarian, but one of my favorite episodes of The Lively Show was with a guest that makes her living coaching and writing about plant based eating. The reason I enjoyed this episode is because the guest had gone through so much to get to the point where she found what she was truly passionate about. To me, someone that is so sure about what they’re sharing is inspiring.

Even if we’re not inspired by vegan recipes, sharing what you love is essential to success. For me, I am passionate about actively learning to become my best self. I love finding new resources to make that possible, and sharing what I find on this blog helps propel me forward.

No matter what you choose to pursue in life, there will always be someone that will disagree with you or think you’re silly. And that’s okay! Be confident in who you are and what’s important to you. Because you have something to share with the world.

 

MAKAYLA

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How to Set Goals, Be Authentic, and Serve Your Audience

Let’s be real, none of us are completely satisfied with our blog’s growth or our social media presence. Most of us don’t make money with our blogs and can’t quit our 9-5 jobs to pursue our dreams. And it’s probably because we have no idea where to start. That’s where Jenna Kutcher, the hostess of The Goal Digger Podcast, comes in.

Jenna is a blogger, podcast host, photographer, and business woman who is living our dream. She’s obsessed with macaroni and cheese, fostering puppies, and napping. The wonderful thing about Jenna is that she absolutely loves to serve other people. She talks about serving others quite often, but shows that she means it by sharing free content with her followers and being open about the way she runs her business.

One of the most important things about this podcast is that Jenna gives us a piece of advice that is grossly overlooked. Creating a brand that speaks to people. A brand that people think of when they’re not looking at your website. A brand that they genuinely like! I will let her speak to you about how to grow your blog or business since she’s certainly more qualified, but I’d like to point out themes I saw in the 15 episodes I listened to of The Goal Digger Podcast.

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Serve Your Audience

I get a ton of emails with people asking me to buy something. And I never do. I think part of that reason is that I feel no personal connection to those brands at all! What Jenna has found is that if she gives and gives and gives to her audience without asking for anything in return, they will respond much more favorably when she does ask.

She continually asks herself, “What keeps my readers up at night?” Asking that question requires a couple things. 1) You need to know who your audience is, 2) show that you hear them and that you’re willing to solve their problem, and 3) love and believe in the content that you’re putting out to help them.

I think a lot of us miss the mark with this point. I personally have never hosted a giveaway, created free eBooks or worksheets, or given free coaching sessions. However, I try to read posts other bloggers put out and show as much support as I can. I also enjoy collaborating with others to create richer content. I definitely encourage you to think about how you can serve your audience on a more personal level.

Be Authentic

One of the concepts Jenna brings up is the importance of being authentic. This essentially means being your true self and not putting on your best face for social media. I used to think that this is easier to say for someone like Jenna with a ton of followers. She’s already established a brand and doesn’t necessarily need to impress anyone. However, she got to that point because she was extremely authentic. She shares enough of her life with her audience to make them feel connected to her, and she tries her best to respond to them and make them feel loved.

A wonderful thing that Jenna points out is that there is no one size fits all to business, social media, or marketing. Success will come when you own up to who you are and go from there. When you’re authentic, the people you want to attract will be attracted to you, and that’s all that matters. Part of that is finding your unique voice and trying to write the way you talk. Not adding fluffy adjectives or filler words.

Set Goals

This sounds extremely obvious considering her podcast is called The Goal Digger Podcast, but Jenna interviews some really great people that touch on this topic. One interesting conversation was about jealousy. If you’re jealous of someone, try to understand why. Do they have the career you want, the relationship, or something else? If you’re someone that doesn’t know what you’re doing with your life, look at what you’re jealous of and go from there. Obviously don’t let is weigh you down, use is as a springboard to bigger and better things. And remember that things don’t happen by chance. Successful people work for what they have.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that we don’t have to do everything. If you set too many goals at a time, you won’t be successful. Pick a couple things that you think you can really work for, and focus on them. For example, so many people try to work on every social media platform right at the beginning of starting their blog, and get burnt out. Decide what success looks like for YOU and go for it. And if someone is doing something else and is successful, be happy for them, not competitive.

I’ve found that listening to this podcast gave me a lot of inspiration for making my blog better (and got me really excited to try new things, like building an email list!). Some things Jenna talks about in this podcast are too intense for me because my blog is only one month old. However, the themes I discussed in this post are hopefully things we can all work on not matter how far along our blogs are.

What have you guys been working on recently to make your blogs better and serve your audience?

Makayla

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Practical Happiness: Changes That Aren’t Overwhelming

We all have busy lives that are filled with junk that we don’t want to do. Many of us have work, school, and relationships that take up the majority of our time. On top of that, we have chores, cooking, exercise, self-care, and maybe trying to fit some leisure time in between. Frankly, feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unhappy seems unavoidable for some people because of the obligations they find themselves having to fill everyday. Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft address those feelings in their podcast “Happier.”

I’ve listened to three podcasts this year, and Happier was by far my favorite. Gretchen and Elizabeth are both successful women that share their experiences as they try to be happier people. Gretchen researches happiness and has even published books on the topic (Better than Before and The Happiness Project), while Elizabeth is the “happiness guinea pig” and tests the suggestions Gretchen gives to her listeners. Each episode is short (about 20 minutes), so listening doesn’t seem like an imposition. There is a fairly structured format for these episodes, which I personally enjoy. Here’s the format:

  1. Tip of the day: Each episode starts with a tip that you can try out for the week. All of these tips were completely practical (i.e., making your bed in the morning, the “one minute rule,” or setting an alarm for bedtime).
  2. Stumbling blocks: Gretchen addresses stumbling blocks to happiness that are often overlooked. This includes things like free food, envy, and cluttered rooms.
  3. Know yourself better: I loved this section in every episode because she talks about the different groups people can fall into and discusses each one. The reason I loved it is because it’s so inclusive and allows everyone listening learn something. It also helps us understand others in a deeper way.
  4. Happiness demerits and gold stars: At the end of each episode Gretchen and Elizabeth take turns giving themselves demerits and stars. A demerit goes to things in their lives that detract from their happiness and stars go to people, objects, or places that bring joy!

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Just like the last two podcasts I discussed on Hello, Professional Girl!, I listened to 15 episodes of Happier and identified themes that are relevant to millennials like you and me.

Happiness is Attainable 

There’s a common belief that if you think about happiness too much, then you won’t be happy. Gretchen suggests that way of thinking is wrong. Think of it this way… How are you going to hit a target with an arrow if you aren’t aiming at it? In the same way, how are you going to be happy if you aren’t thinking about ways to reach happiness?

Fixing small things in our daily lives can lead to a life of happiness without taking up time and energy that we don’t have. For example, simply “aiming” for happiness by thinking about what makes us happy can get us one step closer. I personally enjoy making little changes instead of trying to change everything all at once, because it’s not as overwhelming for me. One suggestion I absolutely loved was to be very intentional when saying hello and goodbye to people. Make sure to give a warm greeting when you walk into the office, or an attentive goodbye to your family as you leave for the day. There is research that supports the fact that relationships with others is what makes us happy, and making the effort to cultivate those relationships is worth it!

Dealing with Negativity

When you’re happy, other people are more likely to be happy. However, there are always people who are in a bad mood and in a constant state of negativity. When grumpy people are put in our path, Gretchen suggests using emotional contagion to deal with them. Emotional contagion is essentially the idea that your emotions will trigger the same emotions in others. So the next time one of those grumps crosses your path, don’t let them bring you down. Try to lift them up by being your naturally positive self, and don’t feel bad about it.

Negative people tend to take the opposite view of whatever the other person is saying. For example, if you say, “Oh, that activity must have been fun!” Their reply would most likely be, “No, it was actually not that great.” To be honest, I am guilty of this. I think I take the opposite side of the conversation for the sake of keeping the conversation going! The problem with this approach is that you come off as argumentative. Gretchen reminds us that skilled conversationalists have a way of being positive and leaving you feeling better after talking to them. By being conscious of how we’re speaking to others, we can being more happiness into our lives and the lives of others.

Boost Productivity

In most episodes of Happier, Gretchen and Elizabeth talk about how everyone is different when it comes to what will make them happy and more productive. Problems with productivity come when people don’t recognize what kind of person they are, which will ultimately make them unhappy.

For example, some people are “marathoners” and some are “sprinters” when it comes to getting work done. Marathoners prefer to get things done slowly over time while sprinters prefer to be right up against a deadline. In school (at least in the US), everyone is taught to be a marathoner. We’re told that your best work can’t be rushed and, “There’s no possible way this assignment can be done in one night!” The fact is, some people truly do their best work when they’re rushed. It would not make them happier to think about and work on an assignment for an entire semester! If you’re not a marathoner, don’t feel bad about it. There’s no right or wrong. Embrace what works for you.

 My favorite piece of advice Gretchen and Elizabeth give about productivity is the “One Minute Rule.” If there is a task that takes under one minute to complete, then do it immediately. Examples of these kinds of tasks would be opening your mail and throwing away the junk, hanging up your coat and putting away your shoes when you get home, and placing your clothes in the hamper after showering. Following this rule will declutter your life, get those small tasks off your mind, and make you feel more productive!

Happier has taught us that there are small, practical ways we can improve and be happier without becoming overwhelmed. Remember, happiness is attainable, you are equipped to deal with negative people, and boosting your productivity can be done in just one minute! Let me know what you do to boost your happiness!

Makayla

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