I woke up today

I woke up today
with my mind empty

Gone are the thoughts
of my future, that could be
my past a distant memory

Instead, I rise with thoughts
that are free.
Free to wander upon
Many things

Bring on the Full
Moon to release me

MOON’S RIVER

Image
We sat by the light of the orange moon, that night
We stared at the eyes of twinkled stars so bright,
Then we fell into the thought of catching falling stars
As the night caught the gentle beat of both our hearts.
We stared at the moon in the sweet, silent sky,
Looking for a face that we could recognize
We saw the eyes on the moon, we saw the smile.
Our hearts connected to the love from way up high,
Then the moon trickled light to meet our needing eyes,
Came flowing now as roots from dark and silent skies,
Connected to our hands and feet as tiny lines,
We felt the truth of moon’s beam that amazing night.
The moment gone, moon drifts away from sight,
The night hides away as morning lights
And there on the ground we wake to find
A star twinkling, fallen from the skies.
This truth can’t be felt from other’s eyes
But we hold that truth forever of our night.
Some things must be experienced to know,
No matter what belief we speak and show.
These moments live as stories to the crowd,
The tale is told by those who speak out loud,
But all of us have moments where we feel
The magic of this dream that is so real.
I hope one day you look to skies above
And feel those stars connected to your love.
I hope you feel the pull and that you too
Touch the truth from your rivers of the moon.

Everything You Need to Know About The Fourth of July

On July 4th, the United States of America will celebrate its Independence Day. If you were born in America or live there now, this is the perfect occasion to celebrate the country in all its glory. Not sure what the holiday means and how to celebrate? Western Union has got you covered! Take a look below to learn everything you need to know about the Fourth of July.

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The History

All the way back in the year 1776 on July 4th, the United States was formed. Back then there were not 50 states, but thirteen colonies that claimed their independence from Great Britain. One of the country’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, drafted the Declaration of Independence and the rest is history. The country grew and grew to where it is today and Jefferson would go on to be America’s third President!

The Meaning

The historic meaning behind this amazing holiday is one of freedom and independence. It is a special time for Americans to recognize how fortunate they are to live in “the land of the free,” as it is sung in the Star Spangled Banner, the United States’ national anthem.

88,291 Fourth Of July Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

How To Celebrate

The Fourth of July is quite an exciting and spirited time in the United States! One of the biggest ways to celebrate is by watching a colorful firework display at your local park or stadium. These beautiful fireworks light up the sky with colors of red, white and blue and help make the Fourth of July celebrations memorable for the entire family.

Before the firework display however, the real fun begins! Many families will take a stroll to the beach or head to the park for a mid-day barbeque. Others might find themselves entering a watermelon-eating contest or visiting a local Fourth of July parade, full of live music, cyclists and fun!

Where to Watch Fourth of July Fireworks Near the Philadelphia Suburbs

 

What to Eat

We mentioned that many families celebrate with a big barbecue and it is a feast you will surely remember! Some typical dishes you might find at a Fourth of July barbecue are hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, with a side of corn on the cob and Coleslaw!

For dessert, this is a great opportunity to flex your creative muscles and cook up something fun and festive! Many will bake fruit cakes in the shape of the American flag, while another fun idea is to enjoy red, white and blue popsicles that are fun to look at and even better to taste!

No matter how you celebrate today, the Fourth of July is all about spending time with family, friends and loved ones. It’s important to celebrate your country’s Independence Day and recognize the significance of your culture and its history. If you are recognizing the Fourth of July, make sure it’s full of family, fun and fireworks, too! How does your country celebrate its Independence Day?

9 Short Quotes That Might Change How You Think And Live If you resist change, you resist life.

If taken seriously, short quotes can help us live healthier, happier, and more peaceful lives. Yet most of the time, all we do is get inspired for a few seconds and then move on with our busy lives.

Even though a spark of inspiration can be valuable, quotes only become truly powerful when we take time to reflect on their meaning and see how we can make use of them.

If used correctly, those tiny lessons can have a lasting effect on how we live, love, and make sense of life.

They can help us overcome challenges and spark hope when everything seems meaningless.

Most people waste their lives trying to “play it safe” because they fear changes and unexpected challenges.

Yet the truth is, you can’t run away from change because it’s a crucial part of life.

Life is an unpredictable journey and we can’t ever know what will happen tomorrow, next week, or even next year.

How to use this:

Instead of looking at change with fear, embrace it as a vital force in your life.

Things change all the time anyway — whether you like it or not. But instead of trying to resist, you can choose to welcome new opportunities with joy.

We often hold ourselves back because we’re afraid of standing out and being different.

Instead, we try to fit in, even if that means feeling miserable deep inside.

The truth is, you were not born to “fit in.”

Yet, that’s not what society tells you. Instead, they tell you to live life a certain way: Go to school, graduate, get a “safe” job, get married, have kids, please everyone around you but yourself, retire, and die without ever fulfilling your own dreams.

According to most people, that’s the formula for a perfectly “safe” life. If you follow it, your parents and their friends might be proud of you.

But what about you?

Is that how you want to live?

Why do we normalize a certain way of living and demonize anyone who steps out of that boring pattern to live life according to their own rules?

How to use this:

Normality often seems the safest way, but it can quickly become the most dangerous path — especially if it doesn’t align with your needs.

You deserve to make your own choices based on your dreams, goals, and strengths.

Just because others are living life a certain way doesn’t mean that’s how you need to do it.

Step out of boring patterns. Do you.

When we say “I don’t have time,” we usually mean “It’s not a priority” or “I can’t make time for it.”

Yet the truth is, we all have enough time if we’re just careful about how we use it.

Surveys show that we spend almost 4 hours per day on our phones.

Just imagine how much more we could do if we minimized the hours spent scrolling through news feeds every day.

How to use this:

If you feel like “you don’t have time,” start to religiously plan your weeks and days.

On Sundays, plan the week ahead and set three core priorities that’ll help you achieve your long-term goals.

Each evening, set three specific goals for the upcoming day, which will help you accomplish your weekly priorities.

If you have no idea how you’re using your time, start tracking your productive hours with a simple time tracker.

We often keep ourselves busy “doing things” yet procrastinate on the few tasks that would truly matter.

Most people are so afraid of facing the truths in life that they choose to keep themselves busy, so they never “have time” to do the hard things.

They don’t follow their heart, stay stuck in careers they hate, and barely show love.

Even though we all have goals and dreams, most of us never dare to fight for them and thus stay stuck in daily lives we don’t enjoy.

How to use this:

Instead of fighting through endless to-do lists, pause and ask yourself which important moments and conversations you’ve been putting off for too long.

Each week, make time for at least one such conversation or activity.

So many people believe they need to be bold and relentless to achieve anything valuable.

And quotes like “Nice guys finish last” just make our insecurities worse because we start to think we need to be mean to “win” in life.

Yet, as Gandhi preached more than 50 years ago, we can shake the world by being gentle, soft, and kind. And that’s mostly because shaking the world starts by shaking ourselves and those around us.

How to use this:

If you want to impact the world, start by first impacting your own life.

Stand up for yourself and show us what to do by doing it first.

Contrary to common belief, we can influence millions of people by being kind, compassionate, and caring.

In the 21st century, we’re all lacking love and deeper connection, so if you can show up and convince even just a few people of your good intentions, you’ll soon be able to start an entire movement that might shape more people than you ever thought possible.

Our energy shapes every aspect of our lives: It influences how we communicate, how we show up for ourselves, how we take care of our loved ones, how we get things done, and how we ultimately feel.

You can add energy and enthusiasm to the most mundane tasks of your life and ensure you stay on top of your game regardless of external circumstances.

How to use this:

There’s a saying that goes, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.”

The truth is, the majority of our lives aren’t exciting.

Most of our days are spent with basic, boring activities like work, cooking, eating, running errands, cleaning up, and so on.

Yet regardless of what exactly we do, we can always decide to show up and infuse our desired energy into our days.

Instead of being frantic, we can choose to be peaceful and calm.

Instead of being annoyed, we can choose to be compassionate and kind.

And instead of blaming ourselves when things go wrong, we can choose love and forgiveness.

We often blame others for “not treating us right,” yet we’re usually the ones who treat ourselves worst.

We don’t take our needs seriously, prioritize others instead of ourselves, and barely take time to nourish our deepest needs.

And instead of looking within, we get mad at our partner, friends, or family for not taking care of us.

How to use this:

If you want to be treated with respect and love, you must first love yourself.

We’re teaching the world around us how we want to be treated by showing them how we treat ourselves.

Take time to explore your needs by reflecting and journaling.

Cancel appointments if you think they’ll make you feel worse instead of better.

Speak the truth and show up for your desires, even if they might sound ridiculous to others.

This is your life, and you only have one shot at creating a reality you truly enjoy. Trust yourself and give yourself the love you deserve before expecting anyone else to do it for you.

I’m an online writing coach and teach new writers how to build an audience by sharing their expertise or passion online.

One of the questions I hear a lot is: “What if it doesn’t work?”

And I usually reply by asking: “Well, what if it *does* work?”

Most of us are so used to “playing it safe” that we want to know our efforts will be “worth it” before even lifting a finger.

We don’t want to give more than we might receive. That’s also why so many people struggle with their relationships.

They expect 50/50, but the truth is, strong relationships aren’t always balanced.

Sometimes, you need to give 80 and only get back 20, while other times, it’ll be the other way around.

If you can’t deal with the fact that you’ll never know whether your hard work will pay off or not, you’ll struggle to break out of your existing patterns.

How to use this:

Big goals usually require big action and risks.

Whether that’s building your own business, getting a new job, or making fundamental changes in your relationships, you always need to do the work without knowing whether it’ll be worth it.

But instead of wondering, “What if it doesn’t work?” you can ask yourself: “Well, what if it *does* work out exactly how I want?!”

We want to “succeed” at all costs and ignore everything we need to give up to achieve our goals.

You can always go “the extra mile” and do a little more, but the question is: What do you need to give up?

The truth is, every decision we make comes with its own sacrifices.

Whenever you say yes to something, you’re saying no to many other things.

How to use this:

Next time you’re setting or reviewing goals, ask yourself what you’ll need to give up to achieve them and whether it’s still worth it.

If you have to give up your peace of mind, favorite hobby, and quality time with your loved ones to get a raise or build a side hustle, you might want to rethink that goal.

Each decision comes with its own effects. The earlier we consider those effects, the sooner we can avoid frustration in the future.

Be aware of your goals, but also be mindful of what you’re not willing to give up.

14 Tiny Habits That Can Have a Huge Impact on Your Life

 

When we feel stuck, we usually crave huge changes. We want to make radical shifts to turn our lives upside down because we believe that’s the only way to move forward.

Yet, in reality, those massive shifts rarely lead to sustainable changes. Instead, we often feel overwhelmed and readopt our old patterns very soon, which only leads to more frustration.

The good news is, we can rely on small yet consistent changes to help us regain our power over time. This might take a little longer, but it’ll lead to a more fulfilled and peaceful life in the long run.

Stick to the 80% rule for better health

According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people worldwide are obese.

The main reasons for that shocking number are obvious: We spend most of our days seated and consume much more calories than needed.

And most of the time, we overeat because we’re so used to processed foods and huge portions — especially when eating outside.

In Okinawa, one of the five Blue Zones where people often live up to 100 years or even more, the population follows the 80% rule: They only eat until they’re about 80% full.

This is powerful because research proves it takes 15–20 minutes for our brains to realize we’re full. So if you stop when you feel like you’ve reached 80%, you’ll likely feel 100% full after a few minutes anyway.

However, you’ll avoid overeating and feeling tired after each meal.

Log out of apps you should be using less

If you want to spend less time on your phone but don’t want to delete certain apps altogether, log out.

Next time you want to use the app, you’ll be reminded of your good intentions and can consciously decide whether you really want to use it.

Don’t leave empty-handed

Whenever you leave a room, take something that doesn’t belong there with you.

E.g., When leaving the bedroom, take empty cups, bottles, or dirty laundry with you and put them in the right place. This will help keep your home tidy and organized at all times with minimal extra effort.

Keep a virtual shopping list on your phone

I started to use a virtual shopping list called Hngry a few years ago.

This simple habit has helped me save so much time: Whenever I realize we’re about to run out of something, I immediately add it to the list: soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, candles, pasta — whatever.

Next time I go shopping, I know exactly what I need to buy.

Since using the app, I’ve never run out of anything.

Plus, using a virtual shopping list has many more benefits: You have a better overview of what you need and make fewer unnecessary purchases, which helps reduce waste and save money.

By knowing what you need, you’re also less tempted to buy sweets and highly processed foods. And most importantly, it makes your shopping experience a lot easier because you spend less time thinking about what you need.

The #1 time and energy saver

While talking about groceries, let me share two more habits that helped me make a profound change: Meal planning and prepping.

Every Sunday, I create a weekly meal plan and write down what I’ll eat next week. I’m not a talented chef and don’t enjoy cooking, so I purchased meal plans full of simple and healthy recipes I like.

As I don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen, I always cook bigger batches, so I can eat the same meal at least twice.

Without meal plans, I easily opt for processed, unhealthy foods — especially if I need to make choices when I’m already hungry.

But if I’m well prepared, I can easily stick to a healthy, nutritious, and simple plan.

By eating healthily, I feel better, have more mental clarity, and am more energized overall.

Be kind (even if the other person isn’t)

Instead of taking other people and their work for granted, try to show kindness and compassion.

This isn’t always easy, but most of the time, it’ll help you engage in genuine conversations and solve problems much quicker.

Just because someone reacts rudely doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. They might be having a bad day or might’ve received bad news just recently.

Train your “kindness muscle” by reminding yourself that someone else’s behavior is barely a reaction to you but just a reflection of how they feel deep inside.

If you can get it done within 2 minutes, do it

Whenever you have an annoying task to complete that won’t take you more than 1–2 minutes, do it right away.

By procrastinating and whining about it, you’ll only get even more annoyed and waste mental energy. Once it’s done, you can happily get it out of your mind and focus on more important tasks.

Stick to water as your go-to drink

You can save loads of calories and money by drinking water instead of pretty much anything else.

There’s no harm in drinking a cup of coke or orange juice occasionally when you really crave it, but make sure you don’t pour those immense volumes of sugar into your body regularly.

Water is simple, cheap, and healthy, so train yourself to choose it more often.

Get used to complimenting other people

Cheering for others and highlighting their positive traits is a superpower.

Most people are stuck with a scarcity mindset and believe they must compete with others. Yet, the truth is, life is abundant, and we can all get what we want while being nice to each other.

Instead of looking at others with jealousy, try to share your genuine thoughts with them.

If you like how someone looks, tell them. They might’ve spent years losing weight and working out, so your compliment might make their day.

If you realize someone’s making an effort at work, tell her. She might’ve been up all night to finish a presentation, and you might be the only one to acknowledge her hard work.

Life could be much more beautiful if we all supported each other and shared more compliments instead of hate.

Sleep can be the solution to most of your problems

According to CDC, almost 40% of adult Americans don’t get enough sleep.

And while most people don’t even take sleep seriously, the truth is that we can eliminate many of our daily problems just by sleeping better and longer.

If we’re sleep-deprived, we’re more prone to gaining weight but also more irritable, anxious, and mentally exhausted.

To ensure you get a good rest, go to bed at the same time every night. In the long run, this will help you fall asleep easily because your body will get used to a specific schedule.

Also, ensure to sleep in a dark room (or use a sleep mask), avoid eating big meals at least 1–2 hours before going to bed, and don’t take your phone to the bedroom.

Also, allow yourself to slow down at least an hour before bedtime so your body can adjust.

If possible, take the stairs

As someone who’s working from home, I move very little during an average workday. So when I do get outside, I try to make the most of my time by walking most distances and taking the stairs whenever possible.

For me, it’s a simple way to get some extra steps in without much extra effort.

If you’re struggling with money, track your expenses

Most people widely underestimate how much money they spend on luxuries like eating out or new clothes every month.

They work hard for their money but don’t pay much attention to how they spend it.

If you ever feel like you have no idea where your money went, start to religiously track your expenses for at least 2 to 3 months.

I used an app called Toshl to keep track of every penny for two years. This helped me realize that eating out and making random impulse purchases were the two major expenses I could control if I wanted to save money.

Your insights might be totally different: You might be paying for subscriptions you don’t even use or spending lots of money to replace broken items in your home every month.

The problem is, you won’t know unless you document your expenses. And the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to make changes.

Keep a tiny diary

A few years ago, I came across a “One Line A Day Journal,” which is a tiny notebook to summarize your day in just a few lines.

Each page represents a day of the year: the first page is January 1st, the second is January 2nd, and so on.

In my journal, each page is divided into five sections, which means I’ll be able to use it for five years.

I started in 2021, so next year, when I open the page for January 1st, I’ll see my entries from 2021 and 2022 and then put my 2023 thoughts on the same page.

This is a great way to keep track of your life without a huge time commitment.

It literally takes you one minute to sum up how you feel and what you did on a particular day. Yet, it’s a fantastic way to reflect on the previous years and the progress you’ve made over time.

Each year, the journal reminds you of wonderful memories you’ve made and challenges you’ve overcome.

Take full control of what you see online

On average, we spend 3 to 4 hours per day staring at our phones.

And the truth is, most people allow their phones to make them feel worse instead of better.

Here’s a mantra I wish more people would be aware of: Nobody has the right to stress you out on your own phone.

If I see a post I don’t like, I’ll unfollow the author, so they don’t show up on my feed again.

If someone leaves a disrespectful comment on anything I publish, I won’t even waste a second before I block them.

I wouldn’t let a person enter my home and act rudely, so I also don’t let them do the same online.

If you think you have the right to piss me off, I’ll use my right to ensure you can’t do it in the future.

Your phone can be a powerful tool and help you live a better life, but you need to control how you use it.

What’s the point of constantly seeing posts you fundamentally disagree with?

If we spend so much time scrolling through news feeds, we can at least ensure the content we see makes us feel good instead of bad.

4 Habits that Will Bring You Inner Peace

 

We all wish we had a little more inner peace in our lives.

After all, it’s hard enough to cope with the stress of workplace politics or family drama when your mind is clear and still. But when you’re trying to do it with a mind that’s buzzing with worries and insecurities, regrets and ruminations, frustrations and irritations, well… it can be overwhelming, if not completely debilitating.

But here’s the thing about true peace of mind:

Peace of mind is not something you do or find immediately. It’s something that’s cultivated slowly and intentionally.

If you want to cultivate a calmer, gentler, and more peaceful mind, these four habits are a good place to start.

1. Talk About How You Feel

Because painful emotions feel bad, our natural instinct is to avoid them… Naturally!

The only trouble is…

When you constantly run away from your emotions, you teach your brain that emotions are bad.

But painful emotions are bad, right?

Not exactly.

Think about it:

When you touch a hot pan on the stove, is the pain bad? Nope, not at all. Even though pain feels bad, it’s actually good! Pain is a messenger telling you to move your hand so you avoid the real danger — tissue damage resulting from third-degree burns.

Well, emotions work the same way.

Emotions themselves are not bad or dangerous. They’re just messengers trying to communicate something to you.

Just because your emotions feel bad doesn’t mean they are bad.

But if you treat your painful emotions like enemies by running away from them or trying to eliminate them, you train your brain to see them that way in the future — and this only makes you more reactive to them and keeps your mind constantly stressed out and worried.

Luckily, you can counteract this effect by doing the opposite:

By welcoming and expressing your emotions, instead of running away from them, you teach your brain to be calmer in the face of difficult feelings.

“Feelings are something you have; not something you are.

― Shannon L. Alder

2. Practice Feeling Bad on Purpose

We all feel bad sometimes:

  • We get a surge of anxiety or fear.
  • We go from on top of the world to grumpy and irritable in just a few minutes.
  • We feel sad and just can’t seem to shake it.

Painful emotions are unavoidable. But here’s the thing…

Life goes on whether you feel good or not.

Time passes, opportunities come and go, and our lives march forward whether we’re feeling good or feeling miserable:

  • If you wait to work on that novel you’ve been wanting to write until you feel “truly inspired,” it’s never going to happen (and you’re gonna feel bad about yourself in the meantime).
  • If you wait to start that new business you’ve dreamed of until you’re feeling confident enough, it’s never going to happen (and you’re gonna feel bad about yourself in the meantime).
  • If you wait to tell your kids you love them until it feels more natural, it’s never gonna happen (and you’re gonna feel bad about yourself in the meantime).

Many people can’t find inner peace because their minds are flooded with regrets about all the things they didn’t do.

The antidote, painful as it may sound, is to learn how to do what matters regardless of how you feel. This is the only way to stop the constant stream of regrets and disappointments.

Easier said than done of course. Obviously, it’s easier to go to the gym if you’re feeling energized, just like it’s easier to ask out that cute guy when you’re feeling confident.

And while hard things will always be hard, you can make them a lot less hard with practice. Specifically, you can practice doing things despite not wanting to.

Like an athlete building up endurance and strength, the more you practice feeling bad emotionally, the more tolerance to it you will build.

To free your mind from the constant stress of regret, practice doing important things no matter how you feel.

The next time you want to work toward a goal but don’t feel like it, ask yourself this question:

Should I look at feeling bad as an obstacle or as an opportunity to train?

“The only whole heart is the broken one because it lets the light in.”

— David Wolpe

3. Update Your Expectations

I think most of us know that overly-high expectations of people aren’t a great idea:

  • Expecting that your spouse will always be in a good mood is a set-up for excessive irritability and resentment.
  • Expecting that your employees will always act in the company’s best interest is a set up for excessive frustration and disappointment.
  • Expecting that your plans will always go well is a set up for excessive anxiety and stress.

Because here’s the thing about expectations….

The world and most of the people in it are surprisingly indifferent to your expectations.

This means that much of the time your expectations are going to be violated. And when that happens, you’re going to be chronically surprised — and not in a good way!

The issue is that surprise is like an emotional amplifier:

  • Seeing your spouse in a bad mood may be mildly disappointing. But seeing your spouse in a bad mood when you expected them to be in a good one is majorly disappointing.
  • Having your plans not work out is frustrating. But having them not work out after convincing yourself that they would is going to be majorly frustrating.

If you want more peace of mind, you must let go of unrealistic expectations for people.

Of course, you can’t just eradicate your expectations entirely. They have their uses now and then. The trick is to get in the habit of examining your expectations regularly and, if needed, updating them.

Life and other people will always disappoint you. But you’ll be a lot less disappointed if you stop expecting the world of them.

Make time to update your expectations regularly and you’ll be far more calm and peaceful for it.

“We have to be willing to confront the world as it is, not as we want it to be if we’re going to be successful.”

— Barry McCarthy

4. Enforce Healthy Boundaries

When I first drafted this article, the title of this section as “Set and Enforce Healthy Boundaries”

But let’s be honest, setting healthy boundaries isn’t really the problem…

  • It’s not that hard to ask your boss to stop emailing you on the weekends.
  • It’s not that hard to tell your adult child to get a job and move out.
  • It’s not that hard to tell yourself to go to the gym after work.

Sure, setting healthy boundaries can be a little uncomfortable. But the real issue here is enforcing the healthy boundaries you do set.

Because here’s the deal…

Setting a boundary and not enforcing it is worse than not setting it in the first place.

Think about it:

  • What are you teaching your boss if you tell her you don’t want to be emailed on the weekends but then go ahead and respond to her weekend emails anyway? You’re teaching her to not take your requests seriously.
  • What are you teaching your adult child if you tell them they need to get a job and move out but keep letting them live for free in your house and subsidizing their video game addiction? You’re teaching him that your requests aren’t actually all that important.
  • What are you teaching your own brain if you keep committing to starting a new workout regimen but then never following through on it? You’re teaching yourself that your goals don’t really matter to you and that you’re not a very reliable person.

Setting boundaries without enforcing them is just another form of self-sabotage.

The next time you think about making a serious request of someone or setting a new boundary, think carefully about what it will really take to enforce that boundary.

Because if you don’t, you’re training the people in your life not to respect you. And worse, you’re destroying your own self-respect. Both of which will lead to a lot of unnecessary emotional pain and mental stress.

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

— Greg McKeown

How to Avoid Hidden Time Sucks (While Still Being a Good Colleague)

aerial shot of messy workspace with notepad, crumpled papers, paper clips, coffee cup, and more

 

Think about the last time you had a really productive day—when you made a number of important decisions, crossed off key to-dos, and reached out to a few new connections. That felt good, right? Now think about a day when you felt as if you got nothing meaningful done. Maybe you sent out next steps after a series of back-to-back meetings, spent half a day listening to your coworkers vent, or researched Slack icebreakers instead of industry trends. At the end of that day, you weren’t sure what you’d accomplished, but you certainly felt very busy doing it.

You had the same amount of hours on both of those days, but in one scenario, you were in control and crossed off tasks that had a bigger impact on your company or career. In the other, unexpected distractions and assignments that don’t clearly ladder up to larger goals took up much of your attention. The latter are what I call distractors and fillers: the extraneous tasks and time sucks that prevent you from doing work that matters.

There are three phases to taking back control of your time: assessing how you’re spending it, deciding what you should keep doing, and learning to say no to everything else while still being a team player. The last part is often the trickiest because being helpful at work and nurturing relationships with your coworkers are both vital to your career growth. The key is to be mindful and kind about the choices you make.

Here’s a simple roadmap to help you reprioritize your time while still being a good colleague:

Phase 1: Assess your time.

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to take notice of your distractors and identify your most common time fillers.

Distractors are tasks indirectly related to your work that prevent you from focusing on your priorities. They’re inevitable but not always proportionate. Women, for example, are often loaded with the additional roles of emotional therapist, culture builder, and conflict resolver. And distractors tend to revolve around people and culture—like getting stuck in never-ending conversations or recognizing that an employee needs a pick-me-up. In a silo, these tasks can serve an important purpose in helping people feel connected, but they become a problem when they take over your to-do list. Write your distractors down.

Fillers are tasks that are directly related to work but often aren’t highly valued and don’t help you advance your career. In other words, they’re not the kinds of projects that lead to recognition, raises, or promotions. Instead, they include “office housework” items like scheduling the follow-up meeting, taking the notes, or otherwise being the memory keeper, organizer, or person who keeps the trains on track but goes unnoticed. List these fillers out, too.

Phase 2: Decide what to keep doing and what to stop.

Look at your list of fillers and distractors and start to evaluate how essential these items are to realizing your career goals. As you look at each task, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this support one of my personal or professional goals?
  • Is this a fundamental part of my job description?
  • Does this give me access to a valuable connection or a different part of the business?
  • Does it bring me joy?

If you answer “yes” to at least one of the questions, then there’s room for that item on your to-do list and it’s worth making time for it. If not, add it to your “to-don’t” list.

Now, I wish you could just add stuff to your to-don’t list and—poof!—it disappears. Some things you might be able to just stop doing. Others may require buy-in from your manager or delegation to someone else. For each item on your to-don’t list, add the first thing you need to do to get it off your plate. For instance, next steps could include: call the head of a task force to discuss stepping down from a committee role or set up a conversation with your manager to discuss your goals and priorities.

Phase 3: Get comfortable with saying no—and learn to do it kindly.

Saying no—and doing it with kindness—is the most important skill you can learn to keep time sucks like the ones you identified in the previous steps off your plate in the future.

When one of those distractors or fillers pops ups, decline with confidence. Start with, “Thank you,” instead of, “I’m sorry,” because you don’t need to apologize for turning down a request. Say, “Thank you for the opportunity,” or, “Thank you for thinking of me,” and then add that you’re at full capacity right now.

If the request is coming from a client or your boss, you might not be able to say no outright, but you can still be intentional about your workload and say, “Yes, I can do that, but it will take the place of X. Are you OK with that?” If this is coming from a close colleague, you may want to be specific about why you can’t do it. If you’re feeling generous, you can always offer a different timeline (“I will be free in July”) or a smaller assist, such as sharing research on a smaller piece of a project that needs to be done. This keeps you focused on your goals while still coming across as a team player.

It’s too easy for last-minute requests, distractions, and fillers to take control of your time and to-do list, leaving little room for high-impact work. But when you start to pay attention to these hidden time sucks, you can prioritize the things that matter most to you and your career.

12 behaviors that leaders should avoid

12 behaviors that leaders should avoid

 

Last fall, I had a person reach out to me who was in charge of a huge change initiative in his company. He asked if I would identify a number of behaviors that leaders should avoid at all costs.

I asked him if it wouldn’t be better to identify behaviors that would positively impact every leader’s effectiveness. He asked me why he should make the distinction. I explained that when we tell people what not to do, they usually end up doing the very things we told them to avoid.

He asked me how I knew that. When I was being trained as a ski instructor in my college days, we were told not to say, “If you get out of control, don’t look at the trees.” Rather, they asked us to tell people, “If you get out of control, look downhill where you want to go.”

When we tell our brain what not to do, it may do what we don’t want in absence of clear directions of the correct course of action. In the end, my client pressed me for my “don’t” list rather than a list of effective behaviors.

Here are 12 behaviors that leaders should avoid, along with ideas for what to do instead.

1. Don’t communicate clearly

Give your directions and let that be that. People should know what you mean when you tell them what to do. Also, don’t allow questions, expression of concerns, or ideas for improvements along the way.

What to do instead: You should do all you can to communicate clearly and distinctly. If you have any doubts, ask questions to clarify and check your understanding and theirs.

2. Don’t invite input

People should just do their jobs. You shouldn’t ask them if there is a better way of doing what they should already know how to do.

What to do instead: Ask for input. People who actually perform the tasks may have ideas of what works well and what doesn’t. Allowing people to make contributions will enhance performance and results.

3. Don’t invite people to identify what they need

If you are always asking people to identify what they need (time, people, equipment, or more money), you run the risk of giving them an inch and them taking a mile.

What to do instead: Offer support along the way. Identify what is working and where people are getting bogged down. Make any needed adjustments that will help with the completion of a project.

4. Don’t express appreciation

After all, you pay people for doing their jobs; why should you verbally recognize them and express appreciation for what they are supposed to do?

What to do instead: Smart leaders go out of their way to observe people and catch them doing the right things. They step up and express appreciation for the work people do and the value and contributions that they make.

5. Don’t take the time to get to know your people personally

Getting to know someone on a personal level is not necessary. You are better off keeping to yourself than wasting time talking with people about non-work topics.

What to do instead: People want to connect and know their leaders. Getting to know each person on your team, their history, their goals, and their aspirations will help you establish rapport and make personal connections. People generally want to know that co-workers care about them and respect them for their contributions to the team’s success.

6. Don’t jump in and assist when things don’t go as planned

You don’t have time to worry about how people are doing at their work; they’ll figure it out. If they don’t get good results, you can always blame them. Stay out of the way, and let them work things out on their own.

What to do instead: Being involved when assistance is needed demonstrates commitment and teamwork toward a team goal. You should never be afraid to offer suggestions, share your expertise or backfill when there are not enough hands to do the work. Offering support when it is needed will demonstrate your commitment to people’s success.

7. Don’t trust people to do their jobs

No one can do as good of a job as you can. Why take the chance that your team can do the work to your satisfaction if you don’t manage every step of the process? Constant supervision will ensure that even your poorest performers will turn in good results.

What to do instead: Demonstrate that you are willing to give complete autonomy to people to do their jobs. You can offer training, support and assistance during the entire life of a project. Until people clearly seek your help, assume their best intentions and allow people to do their work. If results are less than expected, you can work with the individuals as needed to strengthen the outcome.

8. Don’t offer feedback, especially when the desired results aren’t achieved

The negative consequences of poor results should be enough to motivate and help people course-correct their behavior.

What to do instead: People love feedback. They want to know when they did the right thing, and they want to know how to improve. Never underestimate the power of giving others feedback. Things won’t change or improve without the benefit of useful and specific feedback. Providing feedback should become a regular function of assessing the quality of your results.

9. Don’t worry about throwing people under the bus

If people are not performing and are to blame for poor results, then they deserve what they get. If you are the leader, it isn’t your fault when others don’t perform. People should take the blame if they are to blame.

What to do instead: Blaming others does not solve a problem. If people don’t get the results that you expect, the first person you should look at is yourself, the quality of your communication, and the clarity of your directions. Then you should hold a conversation to identify what went awry and what should be done to address the current challenge.

If you are the kind of leader who cannot take responsibility, then people will quickly learn that they don’t need to take responsibility, either.

10. Don’t take time to celebrate successes

Taking time and money to celebrate team or individual success is wasted effort. Usually, people are only interested being rewarded with something of monetary value. If you can’t give them that, why bother?

What to do instead: Any time your team meets a milestone, you should take the time to celebrate their success. There are many inexpensive ways to recognize people and their efforts. Taking the time to celebrate in some way sends the message that people are important and that their efforts are recognized and appreciated.

11. Don’t worry about developmental opportunities

You don’t have the budget to send people to training, and it’s a waste of resources. You don’t want people to get distracted from their job. People can worry about that on their own time.

What to do instead: People want to grow and develop. They also want to expand their skills and capabilities so they can do their job better. If you don’t know what each of your people wants in terms of personal growth opportunities and support them in their efforts, they will find an organization that will offer them what they want and need to develop.

12. Don’t worry about saying one thing and doing another

Things change and you have the right to change your mind. People should just fall in line and go with the flow. Sometimes keeping your commitments is impossible and people need to be adaptable.

What to do instead: Things change, and when they do, you should be the first one to alert people and explain why it will occur. If you can’t keep your commitments, you need to apologize, explain why, and reaffirm the importance of your commitment to them. Failure to do so will result in a lack of respect, trust, and loyalty.

Hopefully, you recognize the many false assumptions that I offered above as behaviors that leaders should avoid. Your success as a leader depends upon your ability to do the right things for the right reasons.

I’ve made a few suggestions of things effective leaders do; there are many others. Taking time to assess your personal effectiveness and making needed changes will boost your success as a leader and as a team.

 

When I feel you love me

When I feel you love me

The stars are calling, the night passes
the day I’ll live won’t fade away
I’ll change the world just for you
It’s impossible, but not for me
I wanna hold you close
Under the rain
I wanna kiss your smile
And feel the pain
I know what’s beautiful
Looking at you
In a world of lies
You are the truth
My love! When you love me
I feel strong
I’ll save you wherever you’ll be
I’ll bring you everything you ask for
Nothing is above me
I’m shining like a candle in the dark
When I feel you love me
I wanna make you see
Just what I was
Show you the loneliness
And what it does
And my tears are already far away
everything is easier if you’re here
Oh baby
Every time you touch me
I become a hero
I’ll make you safe
No matter where you are
I’ll bring you everything you ask for
nothing seems too much
I glow even in the dark
When you tell me that you love me
Without you, the world can’t turn around anymore
Only your love can save me
My love! When you love me
I feel strong
I’ll save you wherever you’ll be
I’ll bring you everything you ask for
nothing seems too much
I glow even in the dark
when I feel you love me
You love me
When I feel you love me

 

 

Memories from Old City of Jerusalem – Israel

The Old City of Jerusalem is one of the most intense places on Earth! At the heart of the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian religions, this one-kilometer, walled-in area in the center of Jerusalem is beyond words and cannot be missed. The Old City is home to the Western Wall (aka Wailing Wall and in Hebrew Kotel). This is the last remaining wall of what was once the Jewish Temple and is today the holiest site in the world for Jews.

Above the Western Wall lies the Dome of the Rock, which is important for Muslims as the site where the prophet Muhammad is said to have risen to heaven.

 

people gathering near brick wall

Just a few minutes’ walk away lies the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where some believe Jesus was crucified and buried.

The Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters; The Jewish Quarter, The Armenian Quarter, The Christian Quarter, and The Muslim Quarter. The walled city is entered by one of seven entry gates, although the busiest for tourists is the Jaffa Gate next to which is the Tower of David Museum, providing the history of Jerusalem within the Old City Walls. Each quarter has its own unique atmosphere and observations, sites and smells, and experiences.

 

 

In the Jewish Quarter, for instance, the narrow alleyways are lined by the homes of Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish families and Yeshivas (schools for Torah study). Walking around, you can observe the residents of the Jewish quarter go about their daily lives. There are teenage students in the Yeshivas who are often here from around the world, children playing outside schools between lessons, men rushing around between places of worship – and of course, many people praying at the Western Wall. The houses of the Old City – and the Jewish quarter, in particular – are hotly contested real estate, and for good reason. They command spectacular prices on the rare occasion that they trade hands.

Image result for jerusalem at night

The Jewish Quarter’s narrow alleyways open up as you reach the Western Wall Plaza and the wall itself. At times of Jewish festivals, the wall can be crowded, and observing the tourists brushing alongside daily prayers here is an interesting site. Anybody can go up to the wall, although men and women have separate areas. Men should cover their heads (there are paper kippahs available), and women should wear modest clothing. It is customary to place a small prayer on a piece of paper within a crack on the wall. Amazingly, the vast Western Wall represents just a tiny percentage of this elevation of the Temple, and the Western Wall Tunnels, accessed via the plaza, allow visitors to see even more of the wall underground. Also interestingly, within the Muslim Quarter is whats known as the Little Western Wall where the wall is once again exposed and visible. This is argued to be holier than the iconic section of the wall because it is closer to the ‘Holy of Holies’ – the holiest part of the Temple.

The Muslim Quarter is a huge contrast to the Jewish Quarter. Its streets are busier and more crowded, with vendors – especially within the famous Shuk – selling all varieties of products. In contrast to the other quarters where shops are generally selling religious or tourist-appealing products, here the Shuk is literally an ancient shopping mall in the 21st century where one can practice their bartering skills and buy almost anything imaginable. As in the Jewish Quarter, and the rest of the Old City, tourists wandering the streets of the Muslim Quarter find it hard to imagine how the locals go about their everyday business so normally in what is such an intense place. Kids play in the street, and men sit out in cafes smoking nargila (hookah or shisha).

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The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

 

The Dome of the Rock sits above the Western Wall Plaza, and while non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the building itself, tourists are able to tour the compound and nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Moving into the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, there is yet another change. Home to about 40 holy sites to Christians, in the streets here you will see priests and pilgrims from around the world. This quarter was constructed around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried. Within this hot patch of real estate, even the Church is divided, with different parts controlled by different Christian sects, meaning that there are often disputes over maintenance and some parts are in poor condition.

The Armenian Quarter is one of the four sections within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The other Quarters are the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Quarters. The Armenians have the smallest section in the Old City and take up 14% of the total area of the Old City. The Quarter is home to approximately 2,000 people many of whom are connected to the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Armenians have their own distinct language and culture and are ethnically neither Arab nor Jewish.

The Armenians originated from Turkey, the Caucasus Mountains and Iran. Soon after Jesus’ death the Armenians were converted to Christianity and ever since then have been making pilgrimages to the Holy Land.  Armenian monks arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD. Jerusalem’s Armenian community is considered the oldest living Armenian Diaspora community in the world.

Armenians have had a strong presence in the city since at least the fourth century, when Armenia became Christian. Their quarter is said to be the oldest living Armenia diaspora community. Thousands of displaced survivors of the Armenian Genocide relocated to this part of Jerusalem in the 20th century.

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Narrow Alley in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem

Armenians displaced from the former Ottoman Empire because of the genocide brought with them a special type of Turkish-style ceramic, which has since become synonymous with Jerusalem and Armenians. It’s now used for all the street signs in the Old City and is also sold in many stores. Explore the walled Old City of Jerusalem, and you’ll soon spot beautifully crafted ceramic street signs spread through the area.

The Armenian compound is enclosed by an inner wall within the Armenian Quarter and includes St. James, a convent, school, churches and residences. Along the walk from the Jaffa Gate past the Zion Gate and to the Jewish Quarter are many small shops displaying the beautiful hand-painted Armenian pottery which is made locally. Armenian ceramics can be seen adorning many parts of the Old City including the Dome of the Rock and neighborhood street signs.