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Four years ago, my best friend had one of the roughest summers of his life. His girlfriend whom he had dated for nearly three years had broken up with him that past April, and his emotional wellbeing seemed to completely collapse over the following months. I was also newly single back then, but from a short-term, less-devastating relationship. While I was alright, understandably losing a three-year long relationship was incredibly painful. He couldn’t shake the break up from his mind. A lot of his daily routine went like this:

· Creeping on her Facebook hoping her status would be about him.

· Staring at his phone hoping she would text him.

· Talking to women that were never “as good” as her.

· Wondering why life had dealt him the hand it had dealt him.

It was a depressing scene to watch, but the real devastation came that August when she had found herself another boyfriend. My best friend was devastated. “How could she do this to me?” he’d say, almost on repeat. “Four years and she replaced me in four months?” Beyond the “Hey, I’m sorry man” and “You’ll find someone else” I really didn’t know what to say. All of my relationships up to that point had at most lasted a year. He had dated her since high school. It was hard to see.

For some of us, breaking up is a lot like having someone scoop a big hunk of your heart out of your chest. When we’re the one getting dumped, it can be unexpected, shocking, painful, and even devastating. We’ll wonder how our now-ex seems so cold and able to move on so easily. I don’t have all the answers when it comes to moving on, but I have a couple of leads – perhaps I can help set us on the right path to moving on.

Their Relationship With You Ended First

I took her out on what seemed like a normal date. Things were going really well. We were just shy of nine months together. We sat down to eat, and the words came right out of her lips: “It’s not working.” Me: “Huh? What?” Her: “I just don’t think we’re right for each other. I’m sorry.” She got up and left. I tried texting. I tried calling. I didn’t even know what I had done. But like a light going out, the relationship was over. In my mind it completely came out of nowhere.

When we really like – or love – somebody, it’s easy to be oblivious to the signs that our object of affection is starting to slip away. There’s a point in time where someone is considering a breakup and eventually concludes that it is going to happen – and from that point on the relationship is dead. They don’t know when they are going to do it, because unless they are completely soulless they still care about the other’s feelings, but they know eventually it is going to happen. In most cases, this stage lasts for a few weeks. For some, it can take months.

In my case, I think that as I look back, the signs were all there the last month. Less physical contact. Less smiles at my lame jokes. Less eye contact. Less communication. I was blissfully unaware of what it all meant until it happened.

This is what I would have told my best friend had our breakups happened in reverse order: The reason your ex was able to move on so much faster from you was because she had, in her mind, broken up with you weeks or maybe even months before. She dealt internally with that pain of loss, but didn’t know how to tell you without hurting you. For me, I find solace in the idea that for the most part, I’m sure it was a painful ordeal for the other party – not because we want them to hurt, but because we know we at least meant something to them.

Time Heals Wounds

I don’t have as conventional-as-usual advice for this one. It hurts. I know. Most of us know. We’ve all had that first real taste of love only for it to be snatched out of our hands. That’s a very common human experience. But the way we deal with that is completely specific to our situation. What I can say is that you need to follow the lead of your ex – if they’ve moved on, you can at least try. Don’t waste your time hoping for a conversation where you both admit you still love each other. Don’t waste your time wondering what could have been. You are here right now. Ultimately, that’s the only absolute you have to deal with.

Honestly, it gets better. That pain of loss eventually vanishes, but you’ll have to slog through some painful memories but if you come to the other side, you’ll be the stronger person. Don’t waste your thoughts on the past. What has happened has happened, and the more you linger in it the less time you have looking forward to the future.

But understand that no matter what you felt for them, that’s perfectly okay. Loving somebody like that is perfectly okay, even if you came up short. Don’t feel mad, be appreciative that you had that relationship. One day, all of that pain and sadness will be a blessing, because your new perspective will have taught you more than you can imagine.

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You Don’t Always Have to Fight the Current

“The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or in defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.” – Bruce Lee

Four years ago I travelled with my family down to the Florida Keys. This was my first conscious experience of flight (though a few times as a small child I had flown that I don’t recall). While I wasn’t particularly nervous headed into the flight, while we were onboard we dealt with a bout of turbulence. While, in hindsight, the plane shaking was no big deal, I felt a very overwhelming sense of anxiety. What if the plane exploded? What would I do? What could I do? That anxiety and stress turned to dread, but then, unexpectedly, a sense of peace. “Whatever happens is out of my hands, so I might as well just relax.” It was a strange sensation. Even now I sometimes look back at that moment and I remind myself that all of our worry and doubt isn’t usually worth the price of admission.

Are We Too Forwards (and Backwards) Oriented?

Every ounce of anxiety we feel when we look towards our future seems like a big waste. From a philosophical standpoint, the future hasn’t happened yet – and therefor it doesn’t exist (at least, yet). When we sit around worrying about what could, what should, or what may happen, all we end up doing is creating catastrophes that aren’t really there. Imagine following the rabbit trail of every possibility that lies in your future:

· You could have some horrific illness that is incurable (you probably don’t)

· You could get hit by a bus when you leave work (you probably won’t)

· A meteorite could crash through your house and go straight through you (it’s improbably)

· Lighting could hit you in a storm (unlikely)

These are just some of the countless catastrophes we could sit in terror of if we focus ourselves too far forward. You know they probably won’t happen – but they could. What-if thinking is destructive thinking largely because it misleads us into fearing possibilities

Likewise, when we look at our own past and dwell on it, we’re dwelling on absolutely nothing. I remember reading in a psychology textbook about how memories are constructs of the present – we create memories in the present and they are, experientially, occurring right now. In other words, even our memories are just experiences we are having in the present. We’re always looking forwards and backwards, but do we do it to the point where we aren’t even living in our present?

Right Now is Your Only Guarantee

I believe that any one of us has the ability to make changes in their lives and find fulfillment. However, I don’t believe that those changes happen in the future. They start today. They start now. It’s good to have a plan to work towards, but when you hinge every move you make based on this possible plan, you start to limit your possibilities. The best choice for you today might change tomorrow – and because of the nature of life you have no way of knowing that.

I encourage present-minded thinking because the “you” that exists currently is the only you that you can possibly focus on. When you design a future for yourself, you do it without the knowledge of your eventual life experiences – and how those might impact your decisions. Seventeen-year-old me wanted nothing more than to become a teacher. In fact, I spent two years chasing that goal, only to discover that, in practice, I absolutely hated it, and promptly changed my major.

No matter how many plans you make for your life, anything can change. This may be due to external forces, but I believe that this happens moreso on an internal level. It’s the reason why you’ll never see me get a tattoo – the “me” today might want a tattoo, but I might come to hate it twenty years from now, so why bother? What I love doing today I may come to hate years from now. That doesn’t mean I’ll change the path I’ve put myself on, it just means that I recognize the benefit of staying flexible. Life leads us down many roads – some we recognize right now, and others we won’t know for years.

Make Plans, But Don’t Always Fight Life

Ultimately, that experience I had on the plane wasn’t some groundbreaking discovery. It was just a reminder that sometimes you have to just let go of the steering wheel and have some faith in life. When you feel directionless, when you feel aimless, and when you feel pointless, maybe you need to let go of your life a bit and stop resisting the current. Your glorious master plans might feel perfect, but one day you might wake up and hate them. You never know.

Instead of drowning ourselves in the past and the future, let’s live in the present. Sure, there’s a path we can follow along, and it’s admirable to commit to our goals. But never allow your plans to hold you back from the many possibilities life brings. Maybe you want to be a doctor today, but tomorrow you’ll want to be a chef. Life is a love letter of self-discovery, after all. Sometimes we need to battle the current to find ourselves, but other times the answer is there all along.

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5 Good Habits for College Success

As much as we emphasize intelligence in academia, individual intelligence has, in my eyes, never been the key trait to success. I’ve had friends that seemed like borderline geniuses drop out and flip burgers. I’ve known other people that, while not exactly book smart, worked their butts off throughout college and became successes. The great mystery for some are the traits the separate the successes from the failures. Here are five crucial habits that a good college student displays – and these can help whether you begin college in the fall or are in your senior year.

Having Intelligent Priorities

College is a time where we get to socially spread our wings. For those of us that have went away for our education it may seem like we should spend all of our free time socializing and partying. I’ve had friends that did this, only to flunk out and return home with their tails between their legs. It’s fun to go out and meet new people. It’s idiotic to do so when you need to be studying or getting your work done. Many people don’t know how to properly prioritize these correctly.

The intelligent approach to this issue is to always prioritize your education over social events. No matter what the situation, your education should take priority. After all, you are paying for it. Most importantly, it has a direct influence on your success. Make time for the social events, sure, but never in place of your grades.

Make Connections

This isn’t merely in the context of a fraternity or a common-interest group. College is a rare opportunity to interact with people from a massively diverse pool of backgrounds. You may meet people from other countries or the opposite side of yours. People from all walks of life can be found. We all are influenced by the place we grew up in. When we meet new people, we can learn amazing things about the world that had never considered in the past.

I met a Brazilian student in college, and his background was completely alien to me (no pun intended). We ended up hitting it off pretty well, and I learned a lot about the state of the world outside of America. Him and I still talk every now and then, even though he’s moved back to Brazil. My little home life bubble burst in college, and my perspective completely changed.

Search for Opportunity

Most colleges have job fairs and internships available, but I didn’t realize that mine did until my junior year. Colleges want you to get a job when you graduate (after all, you can’t pay on those student loans if you don’t have one), and they usually have a number of different facilities in place to help you get one.

Many of college graduates face a declining economy where jobs are scarce. The field is more competitive than ever, so never balk on the chance to get a head-start. An internship can pad a resume and make you look a hundred times more prepared than the competition. You’ll often get college credit for it as well, so why not start out strong? Actively look for opportunity.

Develop Quality Study Skills

Our study habits do matter. I struggled with class anxiety and a number of other bumps in college, and the reason was relatively simple: my study habits were complete and utter garbage. I would wait until the last minute to cram as much information into my head for an upcoming test, and then be disappointed when my grade was less-than-optimal. Here are a few quick studying tips:

· Start studying day one. Cramming simply does not work in the capacity we wish it would. When we begin studying for a class from the first day, we use our memory functions in a more appropriate manner. Studying in smaller sessions over the course of a few weeks helps the information to be recorded in our long-term memory. When we cram, we often rapidly forget the information that we had just read. While some last minute touching-up is alright, don’t wait until the last minute.

· Get rid of distractions. Don’t open your textbook while your favorite television show is on. Find a space that is separate from everything that distracts you and focus on your studies. A quiet location can help you focus on the text.

· Take good notes during lectures. You don’t have to record every word spoken by your instructor, but keeping a decent amount of notes, especially on areas that confuse you, can help you identify areas where you are weakest and need to focus on. Taking notes has a second effect – it keeps you engaged in the lectures while they happen.

Learn about Yourself

College is a time where you, for better or for worse, decide what exactly you want to do with your life. Many people will change their major more than once (I managed to keep it to only twice) because college is a time for soul-searching and finding self-meaning. You will be introduced to worldviews you aren’t familiar with. You will meet people that are completely different from you. Use all these experiences to figure out just who you are exactly.

Enter college with the mindset of self-revelation. You’re an adult now – and the decisions that you make will have an impact on the rest of your life. College can be a scary time, but the experiences you have can shape you into something you never expected of yourself.

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More Than a Feeling: Treating Love as a Verb

Let’s face it: most of us have dealt with some heartbreak in our lives. I’ve had some great relationships suddenly end. I’ve been in and out of love multiple times. While some relationships just sort of blew up, others simply faded away. Most relationships I’ve seen end – be it mine or others – I’ve watched them fall away over a long period of time, not over a day or two.

Love is a complicated, nearly impossible-to-define word. It is used in many different contexts. There’s the love between friends, which some might see as a deep sense of inter-connectedness. There’s familial love, a love based on a bond made of common blood and in many ways is seen as unconditional. But then there’s romantic love, which includes a physical bond, attraction, and a heightened sense of emotion that is an altogether different sort of “love” from the others described.

I can say that I’ve “felt” all of these loves in my life. I would do anything for my friends and my family. In contrast, I have “fallen in love” with different women over the years – and near as I can tell, these “loves” faded. A common reason why relationships end is simply that those feelings of love, for whatever reason, have faded away. That makes me wonder if what we define as love should be a little less about feeling, and more about action.

Flawed Thoughts about Love

My grandparents were married for fifty years before my grandfather finally passed away. Those two bickered like crazy over the years. My grandmother was always flighty and prone to worrying. My grandfather was laid back and go-with-the-flow. On some days, when they’d bicker, you’d wonder how anybody could say that the two of them loved each other from an emotional standpoint. But we all knew that my grandfather would have done anything on the planet for my grandma. We knew the same of her.

I have a running, crazy conspiracy theory about love: we’re indoctrinated by our televisions, our movies, and the world to think of love in a relationship as this crazy rush of emotion that overwhelms and absorbs us. Watching Aladdin and Jasmine fall in love on a magic carpet has made us think that love hinges on ourselves, rather than the other person. That’s not to say that people can’t “fall in love” and make it work, but that you can’t expect love-as-an-emotion to merely conquer everything in its path. Love fades.

I know, for a fact, that I felt “in love” with an ex-girlfriend. At the time, she meant everything to me. A few months back, I discovered an old box of lovey-dovey notes she wrote me that, at the time, overwhelmed me with emotion. When I saw them again for the first time in years, all I could feel was a small tinge of sadness. Not that same rush I had the first time around. And into the trash they went. It’s hard to recognize the fact that you simply don’t feel the same away about someone that you once did.

Love Requires Hard Work

Love, I suppose, is a small goal in my life. Not necessarily even from a romantic standpoint, but to understand the concept at all. We say “I love you” at the drop of a pin. “I love Angry Birds.” “We’ve been dating a week, I love her.” “I love my friends!” I’m not discounting that we all feel a tremendous sense of joy from the things we ascribe to, but I also think that the word “I” always magically finds itself in front of the word “love”. Isn’t it funny how we can turn the concept of “love”, which is about the bond two people share, and re-direct it into being about ourselves? We might not do it consciously, but it certainly occurs. People are quick to write about their love all over some social media site. People are quick to advertise their marriage in a newspaper. It seems that to some, in the world of love, the court of public opinion matters most, almost as if it validates love as a concept.

That’s a damn shame, honestly. Any couple that survives into the golden years will tell you that hard work and dedication got them to where they were. That rush of emotion can fade. If we hinge our definition around our own feelings, I think we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

Loving Somebody

I’m not a love guru. My definition is shifting and my understanding is growing. What I do know is that maybe the way I love my future wife shouldn’t be all that different from the other kinds of loves I feel. Love isn’t just an emotion, it is-

· Commitment, which means that we honor the relationship by being there for one another when needed.

· Effort, that is to say that we don’t merely “give up” when those emotions fade or the road seems particularly rocky – we try to persevere.

· Concern, which is to say that we place our well-being – and even our own sense of love – underneath the needs of the other.

-among many other things. Not all relationships are destined for success. I know that all too well from a personal level. However, when we hinge love on our emotions, we virtually set the relationship up for destruction. Sometimes, we have everything that we need when it comes to love, even if we don’t realize it. Don’t let a flawed definition of the word ruin a good foundation for love.

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Identifying People You Shouldn’t Trust

“Never talk to strangers.” As a kid, that was I think as close to some universal truth as some people see religion. When I got older, that list began to expand and change. Strangers were one tier of non-trust, but other people, like the lawyers and politicians of the world, were another. Some people throw doctors on that list. To some, the government, or even the police shouldn’t be trusted.

We can conclude that trust is a tricky topic. When trust is on the table, we can have close, meaningful relationships with one another. When it’s taken away, we are filled with doubt and insecurity. As much as we’d like to say we’re ace mind-readers, the fact remains that some of us are tricked and double-crossed by one another. That’s a painful endeavor to go through. When I look at my closest friends, I believe the key trait that separates them from more casual friendships is my sense of trust in them. All of my friends on the “outer rim” of my friendship aren’t all that close with me because, while I like them well enough, aspects of their personalities fired out alarm after alarm.

Trust is valuable from a success-standpoint because trustworthy people will have your back. I would much rather work with somebody that is trustworthy than somebody conniving and manipulative – that is just common sense. However, the latter type of person isn’t always easy to identify until it’s too late – so what are some warning signs?

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

For the most part, I would describe myself as a relatively trusting person. I can think of a number of times that natural sense of trust has burnt me in very powerful ways, and it’s shaped my current view on how trust works with other people. Here are some ways I initially build a pattern of whether or not to trust somebody.

· Pay attention to the way they behave about other people, not just you. Someone might be a real treat to be around when it is just you and them, but what about with others? Do they gossip constantly about other friends? Do they come off as judgmental and negative? Some people thrive off of drama. One of the biggest reasons I broke up with an ex-girlfriend was the realization that she would constantly talk about people behind their backs. If she did that to them with me, how could I be certain that she wasn’t saying things about me to others?

· Do they keep promises or do they make excuses? Because of life circumstances, not every promise can be kept, and it’s important to not hold grudges in regards to the lives of others. However, when someone always has an excuse for why they break a promise, it’s time to re-consider their role in your life. I had a co-worker that would constantly ask me to cover his shifts, promising to return the favor. When my time of need came, multiple times, he always had an excuse for not being able to honor his promise. In the end, I rarely covered shifts for him.

· How bad is their ego? Confidence and arrogance are often identified together, but I believe there is a sharp difference between the two, and that affects the way I identify trust in others. A confident person can admit their mistakes – but then, turn around and figure out a way to repair them. An arrogant person will ignore their mistakes and may even blame you in the process. Work with confident people, not with ego-driven and self-absorbed ones.

· Do they lie often or exaggerate the truth? Lies happen in varying degrees. While I believe in a total and complete rule of honesty, I can respect the difference between a well-intentioned lie and a bold-faced malevolent one. When somebody can’t stick with the truth, why would you want to be around them? On the other side of the coin are people that constantly exaggerate and blend the truth. Anybody that can’t stick with a general principle of honesty is not worth your time.

· How self-centered are they? Narcissism comes in many varieties, but they all boil down to whether or not somebody can empathize with you and show concern. I have a few friends that are incredibly self-centered, to the degree that when I talk about myself they manage to re-direct the conversation towards themselves. These are friends that I can’t open up with at all. When somebody doesn’t show concern about you or your well-being and only themselves, how can you trust them to stand by you when the situation calls for it?

Trust as a Priority

As much as the above may emphasize how to not trust people, I always support approaching people from a neutral standpoint. Everybody deserves a fair shot. If you spend too much time focusing on why you shouldn’t trust somebody, you can walk a slippery slope that leads right into cynicism and doubt.

There are amazing people out there and a whole slew of opportunities to network. Don’t make yourself a walking target by ignoring the signs that your new friend or co-worker might not be all that trustworthy. When you encounter people like that, avoid them. But remember that a lot of good exists in others. There are people out there that we shouldn’t trust – but don’t let them ruin our mindset with those that deserve it.

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Working on Long-Distance Relationships

A lot of people, thanks to the online dating scene, find themselves thrust into a long-distance relationship. Others find that, with the job market in decline, that they’ve taken jobs far away and a once shorter-distance relationship is now suddenly far, far away. For a number of unique reasons, these relationships can fail due to that distance. While no relationship is guaranteed, before you’re willing to date long-distance, know the playing field.

Traditional Dating Does Not Apply

Years of romantic comedies and Disney films have created a composite image of what “real” relationships look like – and that is part of why they fail. There is no relationship that we can describe as “normal” – every relationship we will ever be in will function differently than the other. The only value we can place on a relationship is whether or not it is “healthy”, and that, too, is up to us to determine. With the advent of the Internet, things have very much changed. Now, relationships are less based on proximity. Long-distance relationships are becoming more and more common.

Not all long-distance relationships are the product of online dating. Some close-proximity relationships evolve into long-distance relationships because of job transfers, going away for school, or other personal life events. Regardless of the reason, one must understand that there is a marked difference in the way long-distance relationships work due to the lack of physical proximity. However, it isn’t all negativity. Long-distance relationships tend to focus on commonality and familiarity over physical intimacy. A very solid relationship can be built upon that, as you begin to understand your partner on a deeper, mental level.

Long-distance relationships certainly aren’t “typical” or “traditional” by any stretch, which is why some might find trouble adjusting to the difference in how they function. They are much more likely to succeed if you can respect the differences and learn how to build upon the relationship even from far away.

Can You Handle It?

The unabashed truth about long-distance relationships is that they aren’t for everybody. We are all wired differently and while some of us can adjust to the differences in the way they are approached, others cannot. To exemplify, consider the following stressors that are unique to long-distance relationships:

· Limited physical intimacy. While the physical dimension of a relationship is preferably not the priority, it’s also a unique aspect to dating and marriage. When that is stripped from a relationship, it can be frustrating to both parties involved. Something as simple as a hug can go a long way in building an emotional connection, and when a relationship lacks that, it can be incredibly downtrodden and emotionally dry. Verbal communication becomes the force by which we build on the relationship, and it creates an entirely different set of pressures.

· Jealousy can run rampant. When you attempt to build a long-distance relationship, a key understanding must be trust. You will not be around your significant other often. You will see them sparingly, and they will be around other people. If you have trust issues, this can be a very stressful time. I have had friends fall into stages of paranoia over their relationships because of the distance. In order to alleviate this to some degree, daily communication can help promote relationship security. However, not everybody will be able to cope with this, so keep that in mind.

· The way your partner presents themselves may be skewed. You will only see a certain aspect of your partner when the relationship becomes long-distance. This isn’t because we are inherently phony, but rather we have many different “selves”. When we are around our friends, we act a certain way, when we are at work, we act another, and so on. In a normal-distance relationship, we have the opportunity to see those aspects of our partner, but in long-distance relationships you end up presenting yourself (and seeing your partner) under only one particular lens.

Building a Long-Distance Relationship

If you have decided to pursue a relationship that you would consider long-distance, there are a number of steps you can take that will help you build the relationship intelligently. A lot of your “common sense” about dating will function a bit differently in this sphere.

· Don’t over-idealize your partner when they are gone. Research has shown that some people have a tendency to compensate the lack of a partner’s presence by over-idealizing them. When they are face-to-face, suddenly the illusion is shattered. Remember that they are human and have the same faults any of us have.

· Communicate daily and honestly. If that means setting aside an hour which you and your partner talk on the phone about your day, or use webcams to talk to one another, be certain to maintain some sort of presence. By telling one another about your lives, it can create a sense of connection and amalgamation in your lives.

· Be willing to recognize the difficulty of the distance. Long-distance relationships are difficult, and if both of you can recognize that it will be a challenge, you may find yourself working harder to keep it secure. It’s alright to talk about how hard it is, just remember that it’s the distance, not the other person’s, fault.

If you decide to pursue a long-distance dating, remember that even if it’s hard, it is very much up to you to decide if you want to make it work. Relationships work differently for every person, and if you believe this is worth pursuing, then go for it.

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Why Honesty is Always the Best Policy

Lance Armstrong was an athletic figure that was well-respected by many people for both his cycling victories and his victory over brain cancer. After denying years of allegations against him for using performance enhancement-drugs, the situation came to a boiling point last year that completely ruined his reputation and image with other people. On top of the many lies he told the public over the years, he disingenuously competed against other athletes that may have deserved to have the glory that he unceremoniously achieved.

We all have told a lie or two in our lives, but have we ever considered the damage they do? While we might think of lies as merely spouting falsehoods to others, lies are a lot more complicated than they seem on the surface. There are a myriad of categories that we can label them with, such as:

· White lies, which are lies that we deem benevolent to the extent that they don’t hurt another’s feelings and protect and promote the other person’s emotional well-being. “Does this make me look fat?” “No, of course not!”

· Lie-by-omission, which is when we refuse, for whatever reason, to speak about something we know when asked.

· Half-truths, where we omit certain aspects of the truth in order to manipulate or misguide others.

This is merely a partial list of the variety of lies that exist. The matter is that lying is a part of life. We may tell lies. We may be lied to. Lies are nearly impossible to avoid. The virtue of honesty stands in direct opposition to the principle of lying. While we may find empowerment or advantage, at least initially, in lying and misdirecting others, honest will always, in the end, be the better option. Why is that the case?

The Backlash of Our Lies

I wonder how much we sell one another short when we tell lies? Growing up, my mother had a particular ability to see right through my dishonesty and goad the truth from my lips. I’ve had friends realize I was hiding something even when I didn’t think it was obvious. Regardless of the case, lying is something that many of us are able to detect in one another, and when they’re used against us, it can damage friendships and relationships.

The positive aspects of honesty are something to consider:

· A sense of trust. Honesty is respected by people. Your boss will respect the fact that you aren’t lying to hide the blame from yourself. Your relationships will be based around honesty and integrity.

· Closer relationships. Many people lead fake lives, in the sense that they become somebody else in order to maintain friendships (or other relationships). When somebody likes you for you, not the fake you that you have constructed, you’ll be much closer with them.

· Quality relationships. Birds of a feather flock together. People that are honest will naturally be drawn to other people that are honest. This in turn leads to the above, but also reminds you that you’re able to trust the people you’re around.

· Stress reduction. I once broke up with a girlfriend because I simply did not love her. Thinking that it would hurt her less, I told her I needed space and to figure out what I wanted. Though in my mind we had broken up, she thought we were still together. This wasn’t fair to her, especially after I met somebody else. Instead of coming clean, I tried to hide the fact that I was talking to other people, which eventually blew up in my face. When we tell lies, and yes, even the “softer” ones, we have to continue to maintain them. This can lead to more lies and anxiety. Sometimes the truth is painful, but it’s healthier in the long run.

· A mind oriented towards success. When you fall into a pattern of lying and deceit, it can reflect back upon you and how you view yourself. If you maintain lies with friends or at work to make things “easier”, how many lies do you tell yourself daily to do the same? When we can recognize the importance of truth, we can recognize our own shortcomings. When we recognize our own shortcomings, we can see how to repair them.

Integrity in Your Attitude

Some people have managed to turn their lies into stunning successes. No doubt that Lance Armstrong made a ton of money from his promotions, even though he’s now lost them. However, money is not a substitute for our own legacy (and if you think it is, that’s a topic for another day). Michael Jordan might have been one of the most intense, if not overly-aggressive, players on the court, but he left his court persona there. He didn’t cheat to be the best. He didn’t lie to the public to make it to the top.

When you tell lies, they will catch up with you. It might not be tomorrow. It might take years. But even beyond the idea of getting caught, what does your lying say about your own mentality about success? Did you actually earn it, or did you cheat your way there? When you are honest with those around you about the life you lead and the things you do, you can take pride and responsibility in the life you have lead, because you are certain that you have earned it.

And that’s what separates a real success from an ego-driven one.

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10 Ways of Alleviating Our Stress

Stress is a force that seems to exist everywhere around us. Work, school, friends, family, relationships. Heck, taking a trip through medical websites sends cold shivers down our spines. We live in a world filled with a variety of different stressors. What are some stresses that affect you? Workload? Finances? Stress can pile up and can be a real pain in the behind to deal with. The worst part is, it can have a huge effect on our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. In other words, stress can suck.

Some of the effects it can have on us:

· Muscle tension

· Headaches, frustration, anxiety

· Longer-term health problems

Some of us don’t realize the direct toll stress has in our lives. Stress isn’t just some kind of obstacle to overcome – it can have a direct and negative impact on our stress. What are some coping methods?

Dealing with Stress Directly

A number of different aspects of our lives can pile up and cause stress. When we’re lost in the mires of stress, it’s easy to forget all of the things that cause them. During a number of college courses, I would lose my mind stressing over upcoming exams. It would end up affecting my performance to the degree that I’d get worse grades. After some soul-searching and a few semesters of this pattern, I realized that while, yes, the exams were a source of stress, it was in actuality my study habits that were having a bad impact. So, instead of waiting until the last moment, I decided to start studying much earlier. Most of the stress vanished.

It’s important that we recognize the source of our stresses. If it’s something physical, ask yourself what you can be doing to solve the issue. A lot of stress can be alleviated merely by self-examination. Is there something wrong with your lifestyle? What can you do to change that?

Dealing with Stress in General

Some of us have the tendency to stress more in general. When we can’t pinpoint the exact source of our stresses, is there anything we can do? Here are ten examples of ways we help alleviate stressors in our lives and learn how to cope with the situations around us:

· Deep breathing techniques. This works well for anxiety attacks, but I also believe it helps with general stress. Practice concentrated inhaling and exhaling.

· Avoid substances that can cause stress. Though we may be able to surmise that nicotine has an effect on our anxiety, other substances do as well. Caffeine is a major perpetrator, so if you’ve been feeling a spike in your stress lately, maybe it’s time to cut back on the morning cup of joe.

· Getting better sleep. Not everybody gets the sleep amount their body needs. This can range from getting too little (college students can attest to this) or getting too much. Try to find your optimal amount of sleep (usually between 6 to 8 hours), and commit to sticking to it.

· Have close friendships. The ability to talk intimately about our troubles and fears helps shield us from them. Many times, another opinion or encouragement from a friend can help us persevere over our problems.

· No more junk food. Research has shown that certain foods can have a negative impact on our mental well-being. Considering the countless benefits of eating healthier, cutting junk food like potato chips or soda seems like a no-brainer regardless of where you are on the stress-scale.

· Exercise. Stress and exercise have a close relationship. The body has a natural ability to reduce stress when we exercise, depending on the intensity. This does not have to be a four-or-five-hour-a-day ordeal, either. Try setting aside half an hour each day of moderate exercise.

· Love positivity. When we’re going through long periods of stress, it can be very frustrating when we start to believe that nothing we do is going to change what we are experiencing. If we catch ourselves saying how hopeless we feel about our situation, focus on replacing it with positive thoughts. “I will be able to figure out and cope with this situation.” “I may be stressed now, but there is always tomorrow.”

· Recognize that stress is something we all have in common. While it might stink to think that our stresses are very specific to us, many people share in those same stresses and, like you or I, don’t show it well to others. Knowing that there is commonality with other people can help us talk about it, and in turn learn how to cope with it.

· Accept the negatives of your life. While there is much we can change and address with our life situations, there are many others which we cannot. That isn’t to say that we can’t re-appropriate how we look at them, but realize that there are negative parts of every life. You might not be able to fix them all, but you have no reason not to be able to tolerate them.

· Seek help. Not every problem is one you can do on your own. It’s alright to admit to yourself that you need to seek help from somebody trained in assisting you. If you have made many changes to your life but are still feeling like stress is overwhelming you, consider finding someone that can help you address the issues and get back on the right track.

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4 Excuses That Are Holding You Back

“People spend too much time finding other people to blame, too much energy finding excuses for not being what they are capable of being, and not enough energy putting themselves on the line, growing out of the past, and getting on with their lives.” – J. Michael Straczynski

Excuses, excuses, excuses. The lives we lead will see days of great success, as well as days of great failure. When we fail, it can be overwhelming to us to admit that our mistakes were the result of some kind of personal shortcoming. That means admission of fallibility – which, in light of a competitive world, can make us feel weak and undeserving. Sometimes, it may feel easier to blame the world around us. That’s a bad conclusion to make. Our failures are what teach us to succeed, and refusal to acknowledge them and own them pushes us off the rails on the road to success. Here are some excuses that some of us tell ourselves regularly, and why they are flawed:

I am not good enough (or as good as him/her)

The word “talent” is tossed around a lot these days. Michael Jordan was blessed with God-given talent for basketball. Picasso was an art savant. Barack Obama is a naturally-amazing public speaker. The list can go on and on. When we say thing like, “I lack the ability, the competence, or the confidence to get this done. I lack the naturally-given talents that they have and I simply can’t do it”, we are actually saying that “I would rather focus on my own shortcomings than figure out what I can do to overcome them and prove that I can make it to the top.

Overcoming this requires accepting the idea that hard work begets results. Every athlete worked hard to get where they were at. They did not simply wake up amazing one day. For every amazing piece of artwork you have seen from an artist, they have thousands of works in their trashcan that they themselves found abhorrent. While talent may exist, hard work should be seen as an equally viable option to find success.

I don’t have enough time for my own personal dreams

Because of school, work, or my family, I simply lack the appropriate time to focus on myself. I guess I’m stuck working a job I don’t like and living a life I don’t enjoy.” These types of conclusions bend to the idea that because of the nature of life and survival, we can never prioritize our dreams and must instead accept the fact that this is the best we’ll do.

The problem here is that history says that isn’t the case! Take for example the story of Chris Gardner, perhaps best known for being the inspiration in the film Pursuit of Happyness. Gardner faced homelessness and destitution, all while trying to keep his son safe and fed. Gardner was literally in a thrive-or-die situation, often sleeping in airports or in bathroom stalls. He found work, and eventually became a multi-millionaire. The adversity he faced pushed him to the degree that he completely turned around his life. Even when we see situations as difficult to cope with, the real question we need to ask ourselves is: “How bad do I want it?”

Fate worked against me

The word “fate” can be replaced by a countless number of concepts, such as God, other people, our birth, our socioeconomic status. I do not deny that some people are “born into” a good hand – I went to high school with the son of a multi-millionaire, which contrasted with my own working-class family – but what I do deny is that our situations are a suitable excuse from achieving our goals. Like the story in the above example, even people who have hit rock bottom have managed to turn their lives around in amazing ways.

Whatever the case is within your life, whatever your situation is, you have the option of recognizing it as an obstacle you can overcome or allowing it to work like a weight that sinks you into the ocean. Adversity can breed hard work and effort, but you have to recognize it for what it is.

I deserve to not succeed

Some people have such a negative view of themselves, that they begin to readily expect failure in their lives. This expectation almost pads failure in that they “saw it coming” before it happened. The flip-side of this is that it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let’s say I shoot a resume to a few places, but legitimately believe that finding a job is virtually impossible, short of luck. I don’t find myself qualified or appropriate for the position in any capacity. When I get called in for an interview, I will find myself shocked. The negativity will continue and I will begin to compare myself to all other interviewees, believing myself to be inadequate compared to them. Instead of spending this time focusing on why I am the best choice for the job, I fill my head with the belief that I simply am not good enough, and it comes off in the interview. I will seem less confident, and I will seem less appropriate for the position.

Never tell yourself that you “deserve” anything – positive or negative. Instead, focus on what you know you can earn. Confidence is, in a way, understanding not what you are good at, but rather how you can be good at something.

Are you letting excuses hold you back?

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5 Things My Parents Taught Me

As much as I have wanted to admit the differences between my parents and I, years have taught me that I guess I’m not as different as I’d like to pretend that I am. Time and time again, I find myself behaving like my parents or repeating something they say. I suppose I’m old enough to realize that I’ve come full circle. For as rebellious of a teen as I pretended to be, the apple hasn’t really fallen far from the tree. That’s a good thing – a lot of life knowledge I have was imparted from them, even if I didn’t realize it at first. The following are 5 relatively universal lessons I think we all take from our parents about life.

The value of being responsible. Responsibility isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be the last thing we want at times. One of my earlier memories is of being seven and getting caught stealing a stuffed animal from a convenience store. I stuck it in my pockets. When my mom, having watched me take it, asked me if there was anything I wanted to tell her before we left the store, I told her no. Fast forwarding to the time-out and the trouble I was in, I’ll never forget what she told me: “I’m not disappointed just because you took a toy, I’m mad because you lied and didn’t take responsibility. We all make mistakes, and we need to take responsibility.”

Taking responsibility is hard because we’re often afraid of the outcome. But the truth is that we can make our lives infinitely easier by just admitting when we need to change something we’ve done.

Being thankful for what you have. I spent a lot of my teen years going out and doing less-than-great stuff with friends. I dodged spending time with my family, especially with my grandparents. Every Saturday my mother would take my siblings over to our grandparents and I’d give her an excuse as for why I couldn’t/didn’t want to go. The real reason was that I didn’t want to waste my Saturdays bored out-of-my-mind at my grandparents.

My mom, one night, tearfully asked me to start going over there and seeing them. “You won’t always be able to see them.” Feeling a bit guilty, I started going. I didn’t know why at the time, but later found out my grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer and the prognosis wasn’t looking good. Miraculously, she recovered, but my grandfather passed away a few years later. Our time in this world is limited, and instead of thinking about all of the bad, negative aspects of our lives, we should take a moment and be thankful for the memories and the lessons we learned.

Never compromise who you are to impress somebody else. This was taught to me by my mom less by direct lesson and more by watching the way she lived her life. Through the life she lived, I saw somebody that lived a set of rules that she never compromised on. Don’t lie to somebody even if they ask you a question you don’t want to answer. Don’t cheat to make it to the top – it’ll feel artificial. Don’t take what isn’t yours – earn your way to make it and you’ll be proud of your accomplishments. Never live a life that feels like a lie – always be true to what you believe is right. Do right by others, and they’ll be right by you.

My mom might be rough around the edges in some respects (but, then again, aren’t we all?), but she always taught me to stand for something and to do the right thing, even when it was difficult.

Follow your dreams, even when they seem insane. My dad wanted to be a famous musician. He loved playing guitar, and he loved writing songs. He spent a decade in Los Angeles trying to make the big times before he returned back home due to his parent’s illness. He ended up never returning. My dad spent the years after that regretting a lot of his mistakes, but even when him and I were at each other’s throats, he always encouraged me to pursue what I wanted to do. When I ended up changing my major in college, the only question he asked me was “Will it make you happy?”

When I told him yes, he had nothing else to say. Our dreams might seem a little bit too big for us to handle, but we can achieve them if we work hard. Don’t spend your life regretting what could have been – work towards what will be.

Our family is the one place where we will find unconditional love. We may spend years trying to find romantic love from somebody else. Our friends might turn their backs on us. Our family, however? Even when I hated myself, my mom and dad both loved me in their own ways. My siblings are still, and will always be there, for me. That kind of unconditional love is hard to replace, and I know that, regardless of what the problem is, I can always call my mom and get her advice.

Not all of us have awesome families, and mine certainly had its issues growing up. Even if you didn’t learn these specific life lessons, I’m sure that your family taught you values and responsibilities that you will never forget. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and thank your parents for your life.

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