Personal Development: Five Ways To Do It

In life, we can all be a little guilty of neglecting ourselves. We can become transfixed with our daily routine and commitments, be that work, family, paying bills, and we can lose sight of what life is really all about. Personal development is an essential part of growing, and too often we can flounder our personal ambitions and plans in favor of leading a mundane and unfulfilling life.

Of course, everyone has commitments. You may have bills to pay, deadlines to meet and young children to take care of. But that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t areas where could put some focus into your personal development. I thought I would highlight five easy ways to encourage your own personal growth, while still living your life.

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Practice positive thinking

 

Being a positive person doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it is something we can all practice and develop habits in. After all, thinking negatively is exactly that, a bad habit we fall into during hard times in life.

In theory, positive thinking is focusing on your thoughts and turning anything negative into a positive. Over time, it won’t feel so forced, and you will naturally become a more positive person as you search for the good in everything. It can certainly be a life changing way to live.

 

Increase your qualifications

Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut with work and daily life. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a career change or try something new—whatever your age or circumstance. Thanks to the internet, you can take up something like online mba programs or even obtain qualifications in a different role or industry. They are flexible and are able to be studied for at any time. There’s simply no excuse to not live the life you have ambitions to live.

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Start up a hobby

 

Having a job, earning a wage, and taking care of a family are just some of the necessary attributes of life. So more often than not, people take up a hobby to give them a new focus that is just for them.

It might be creating an online blog about your passion, taking photographs or creating artwork. Or, more simply, it could be exercising or practicing something like yoga. Whatever gives you joy make some time for it in your life.

 

Define your future goals and aspirations

It can be hard to look forward to the future or know the journey you are in if you haven’t defined your future goals or aspirations. These could be anything from a step up the career ladder to publishing a book. Having the ambition to reach those goals motivates you during the mundane parts of everyday life.

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Understand and recognize your strengths

 

Finally, it can be all too clear that we can be our own self-critics. Never recognizing our strengths or giving praise for the good that we inevitably do each day. Take some time out of your day to focus on your strengths and be proud of your achievements.

I hope this motivates you to take some time and focus on your own personal development for the future.

Never Say Never & Other Updates

Hey, lovely readers.

I took quite a hiatus from blogging, and rather than feeling bad about it, I allowed myself to enjoy the break and get my act together with all that’s going on in my life. But I’m back now and thought I’d start with some updates.

Since we last connected, my most recent post was about planning a book launch party. The full, detailed post is actually at JamiGold.com, which was such a privilege and pleasure for me to be on. Jami’s blog is amazing and well-read, so talk about great exposure!

Next, this summer, I did many things I never thought I’d do:

  • I taught craft classes to both children and adults at Jo~Ann Fabric & Crafts (tie-dye was the most popular class, but cross stitch was my favorite to teach)

  • I read so many books, I surpassed 160 (since January) last week

    Does NOT include books I've edited this year that are yet to be released. :)

    Does NOT include books I’ve edited this year that are yet to be released. 🙂

     

  • I took a sewing class and made a blouse

  • I took a crochet class and made a blanket

  • I “attended” more informational webinars than ever before and can’t wait to share my new knowledge with my clients

  • I started a college internship program for the Print Division at Cosby Media Productions

  • One of my Pinterest boards became a recommended board in its category in the mass emails sent to Pinterest users (blog post on this later) Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 23.10.12

  • I finished editing book #30 of my editing career in July (!!!) (blog post on this later as well)

  • I began turning down new projects and decided that I’d take a break from new clients until 2016 because I’m THAT busy and loaded up with manuscripts AND teaching for the next several months. A difficult but good decision.

  • I decided to stop wearing myself down and scale back on my freelancing business. It’s not something that’s viable for this particular season of my life. I didn’t know what I was going to do…until I accepted a full-time teaching job over the summer. I am now teaching full-time again, after a three-year break. And it’s a good thing. 🙂

I believe I had said something like, “I’ll never go back to teaching,” but I’m learning to never say never. Truly. Because every time I say that, it happens! Ha! This will be my twelfth year education, and I’m already enjoying it and loving my students.

So, yes. Many things going on, to say the least. I’m beginning to catch up with everything and am so grateful that I’m (usually) a very organized person. My itch to bring order to chaos in most things is paying off big time right now as I juggle a more-than-full schedule. If you saw my calendar, you’d probably cringe. But I’m happy, I’m busy (in a good way), I’m doing what I love, and I’m managing to problem solve pretty quickly.

This month, I turn 31, so that’s something to look forward to as well. I’ll actually be IN my 30’s, though I’m still trying to figure out this whole “adult” thing. Why weren’t we given manuals for this stuff when we were born?

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Next up, once I get a handle on everything, I’ll be bringing you some awesome blog posts. I also can’t wait to get back into a regular writing routine and finish up some projects I’ve been working on over the summer. Before we blink twice, NaNoWriMo will be here, and I’d like to work on something totally new in November. We’ll see if I can finish three manuscripts before then.

I hope you all have a wonderful week and holiday weekend (for my U.S. peeps). Until next time, read a good book!

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Current reading stack…

 

Rediscover Reading: A 2015 Reading Initiative

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If you’re reading this blog post, you’re doing better than the average American. And, hey…I’m not writing Latin here; this post is probably 4th grade reading material, in regards to comprehension. Are you surprised?

According to DoSomething.org, 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read. And, according to some of the latest stats from the Literacy Project Foundation, 50% of adults in America cannot read a book at an 8th grade level. (Don’t even get me started on how we rank in the subjects of Science and Mathematics.)

It’s obvious we have a serious problem. To have knowledge means to have power, to be better informed. Without furthering our knowledge, which is often done via reading, we risk becoming ignorant, less apt to have an open mind, and foolishly happy to remain complacent with the status quo.

Again from the Literacy Project Foundation, here’s the impact that illiteracy has on our society:

  • 3 out of 5 people in American prisons can’t read

  • To determine how many prison beds will be needed in future years, some states actually base part of their projection on how well current elementary students are performing on reading tests

  • 85% of juvenile offenders have problems reading

  • Approximately 50% of Americans read so poorly that they are unable to perform simple tasks such as reading prescription drug labels

Sobering, isn’t it? Though it’s hard to pinpoint any one cause of the illiteracy epidemic in America, I think it’s safe to say that with the rise of “microwave technology,” where many things are simply done for us without us having to think, efficiency is having a negative impact on the simple pleasures (and necessity) of reading. I am actually in the age bracket of the MTV generation, and remember how technological entertainment steadily took over the minds of the generations after mine.

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I’m not saying that TV or movies or smartphones are bad, but I am saying that many of us have allowed ourselves to send our brains on a sluggish vacation every night to watch hours of TV while playing Words With Friends on our iPhones. There’s an enticing, addictive factor about just shutting down the human computer and booting up the mechanical one. Americans have not really been the best at striking a balance in life, and I know this from personal experience and observation gained while traveling to other countries and studying what makes them different from us.

I’ll admit that I’ve had periods in my life where I didn’t read for pleasure because I was so consumed by work or school. In fact, even though I was writing fiction while earning my undergraduate degree, I wasn’t actively reading (say what?!) until a year after I graduated! I was so burned out from textbooks that my mind needed a long break. However, I’ve always been a reader, and I owe it to my parents who modeled a love of books. Were it not for them, I don’t know what would have eventually gotten me into books. Therefore, I am so grateful to them for instilling such a love for literature, encouraging me to better my intellect while escaping to another world. (Also, I’ve just finished reading book #115 of 2015! N.B.D.)

So, my point is this: a love for reading starts with us. A solution to the problem of illiteracy in America begins with us. We are the role models and need to take our roles very seriously. We need to rediscover reading for ourselves—if we are not already active readers—and help others rediscover or simply discover reading for themselves.

I’m proud to be a part of Cosby Media Productions’ 2015 “Rediscover Reading” initiative. As a media company that runs a publishing branch, a love for reading is of the utmost importance to us—but we also are passionate about playing a part in solving the problem of illiteracy.

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I’m asking you to join our initiative by becoming an active reader, and then finding just one person with whom to share your love of reading. Just one. Why? Because change starts with us, and if we can get one other person hooked on reading, and they do the same for another…you do the math. From just one person’s change, a whole nation, theoretically, could be changed for the better. Will you join me and Rediscover Reading for yourself? Help someone else Rediscover Reading? 

If you want to show your enthusiasm in a BIG WAY, then take it to social media. All year long, we’ll be using #RediscoverReading to show that we’re participating in the initiative, hoping that others will catch on and join the fun. You can also check out the fairly new Facebook page we’ve started for the Rediscover Reading campaign by clicking HERE and adding to the conversation. And, if you’re reading a really great book and want to share, you can tweet it, Instagram it, pin it on Pinterest…the possibilities are endless. Just be sure to use #RediscoverReading when posting.

I’ll do my best to keep things updated here in regards to the latest news for #RediscoverReading. 🙂 Now, your assignment is to figure out what book to read this month, and then who you’ll share it with.

–>Read more stats about illiteracy at: DoSomething.org, Literacy Project Foundation, and StudentsFirst.org.


And…speaking of reading…

My second book, The Wrong Fairy Tale, comes out tomorrow! Woohoo! Shameless pitch: If you don’t know what to read this month, pick up an eBook copy of my book. 😉

You can pre-order The Wrong Fairy Tale on Amazon by clicking HERE. (Paperback available July 14th.) Do if for the kids, do it for yourself, do it for my retirement fund. This is my best work to date, and I am super excited to share it with readers!

Until next time, lovely readers…xx

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You Are In Control

I have something to confess. I’ve been struggling a lot this year. Creatively, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Those are a lot of areas to struggle with, huh? And you know what? I know why I’ve been struggling.

I forgot that I AM IN CONTROL.

It’s easy to do, even though it sounds like something stupid. And I’m willing to bet lots of you have done the same—or are even in the same boat RIGHT NOW.

Sometimes, we can become so wrapped up in our routines and the day-to-day stuff, that we forget to live our lives with meaning. We forget to infuse our activities with intention, and then we get dragged down by the mundane and feel like we aren’t being effective. We feel like we have nothing to offer others, much less ourselves, and we keep sinking further and further down until, one day, we wake up and ask: “How the hell did I wind up here?”

I know, because that’s been me.

And while everyone thinks you’re making progress—which, perhaps you are—you really aren’t. Not at the level you desire and are capable of, anyways. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living or what you’re passionate about… You can be a writer, artist, businessperson, parent, educator, server, or flight attendant. If you’re not able to give 100% and feel like you did something meaningful at the end of the day, it feels like nothing matters. But, you know what?

YOU MATTER.

You do. You really do. I matter, you matter, we ALL matter. And I want to share with you how I’m getting out of my funk and writing more than ever while being productive in other areas of my life. It’s simple and complicated all at the same time.

I AM IN CONTROL.

I control what I read, what I do with each minute of my day, what messages I choose to listen to (positive or negative), who I work with, and what I write and create. It’s the simplest thing, really, yet it can be daunting to realize the responsibility we have to ourselves. Especially when it feels like everything else is out of control.

I’ve been reading—a ton—and have become quite selective with the kinds of messages I put into my brain. I now have narrowed down my reading list and email subscriptions to only those that will give me insight into what I do and create, while propelling my vision forward. I have been making small changes to benefit my health, taking baby steps each week. I have been more intentional about the precious relationships I have with others—relationships that are mutually beneficial, that give me energy from every interaction.

Am I going to become superwoman overnight? No. But am I going to slowly and intentionally gather all the fuel I need to become a better writer, friend, daughter, sister, and influencer? Yes. Absolutely yes.

So, if you’re feeling like you’ve been in a funk too, here’s an action step I want you to take. Take a note card or a post-it and write this: I AM IN CONTROL. Put it somewhere you’ll see every day. And make it a mantra. Make it an intention. Make it an affirmation.

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Remind yourself that you are in control of yourself. You are responsible for YOUrself. Sure, we can’t control others and we certainly can’t control many other things in this life, but that’s not what we’re supposed to do anyways! When we realize that we have the power to change ourselves to be better—to give more and feel fulfilled—it makes a huge difference in how you live your life and how you look at others.

The change starts with us. The change starts with YOU.

I think this is just such an important reminder for all of us, but especially for artists. It’s so easy for us to put our work first—along with everything else—that we forget to take care of ourselves.

So, march forward, my friends. You are in control of yourself, and you have the power to make the changes in your life that you need to, in order to have meaning in all that you do. I’m right here, alongside you, doing the very same.

We all have something unique to share with the world. We are enough, just as we are. And we matter.

Love,

Tamar

10 Things I Learned From Living Abroad This Year

If you’re newer to this blog, then you may not know that I spent a majority of this past summer living in Europe. I stationed myself in a wonderful southeastern town in Spain, called Alicante, where I had previously studied in 2008. But I also had the opportunity to travel to Edinburgh, Scotland for a week.

During my time away from American culture, allowing myself to be completely immersed in another culture, I learned so much about myself, my worldviews, and people. I experienced life-changing lessons, and as I reflected on the most important, I came up with 10 things to share with my readers.

1. I can live without

Less truly is more, especially when you don’t have to keep track of a lot and/or clean it! For the past 2-3 years, I have committed to simplifying and de-cluttering my life. It hasn’t been an easy task—not because I’m sentimental with my stuff, but because I just had so much, and I really had to ask myself if I could live without something or otherwise. Knowing I was leaving the country for quite some time was like that final push I needed to get rid of more.

I gave away and/or sold about 80% of my stuff this year! Less to worry about, less to clean, less to keep track of. Also, doing so helped me to begin to truly prioritize what was important in my life and my career. I learned that simplicity really is best.

Sunrise I witnessed yesterday morning on Playa Postiguet.

Sunrise at Playa Postiguet.

2. American society has some major problems with gender, sex, and sexual identity issues

Well, no duh, but it was disturbing and shocking to come back to after being out of the country for a few months to witness things firsthand. Here’s an example: When I returned to California, I decided to walk to the mall on a warm August day. It’s about a 15-minute walk from my house. In that short time, a few cars honked at me (or guys catcalled me) because I was a woman walking alone outside.

In Spain, and in Scotland, that NEVER happened. Even dolled up on the street and going out at night with my girlfriends—being accosted the way I have been IN MY OWN COUNTRY never happened in Spain. I felt safer being alone in public overseas than in my own neighborhood. How sad, huh?

Also, people in the States are very extreme when it comes to sexuality and sexual identity. I think the climate of talking about sex and sexual preference is slowing improving, but Americans have quite a ways to go. The fact that we’re still arguing about giving women access to contraceptives, etc., is baffling to me. In Europe (or most of it, anyway), I felt that there was a healthier view about sexuality and people’s bodies in general.

There’s so much more to say on the topic, but I’ll leave it at the few examples above.

A view of the sea from the Castillo de Santa Barbara in Alicante, Spain. Photo cred: Yours truly. :)

A view of the sea from the Castillo de Santa Barbara in Alicante, Spain. Photo cred: Yours truly. 🙂

3. I was able to home in on what really matters to me

As with my “Great Purge” of material goods this year, I also purged a lot of activities in my life. Many of them were really good things, too! Things like volunteering, tutoring, and singing. But those things had become distractions that were taking me away from focusing on my career as a writer and freelancer.

Because I was in a different country, I was able to be awake before my clients in the States, get a lot done, minimize distractions, and stay at home when I needed to rather than worrying about having to run errands or volunteer or tutor somewhere. Until you can walk just about everywhere within minutes, you don’t realize how much time you actually waste driving around town.

Beautiful view of the Alicante coast from the Castillo de Santa Barbara.

Beautiful view of the Alicante coast from the Castillo de Santa Barbara.

4. Sometimes, you need to physically remove yourself from . . . 

 . . . from where you don’t fit.

 . . . from distractions.

 . . . from toxic situations.

I have been unhappy for quite some time in my city. I needed a break—needed to get away so I could refocus, meet some new people, and experience a different way to look at the world. I also needed space to heal from some things in my past, and being in a different place really helped me with that.

Sunrise on the port. Alicante, Spain.

Sunrise on the port. Alicante, Spain.

5. Not having expectations can be the best thing ever

Though I am part Latina, know a fair amount of Spanish, and had been to Alicante before, I just kind of took a giant leap in going across a country and an ocean to live somewhere else for a while. I knew I’d want to stay because I love Spain and the Spanish culture so much, but I also knew that there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to. So, I went with the mindset that anything could happen, and I just had to take one day at a time.

And you know what? I had the BEST TIME of my life. I met so many cool people, learned a lot by myself, figured out a lot of things that were challenging, and re-learned how to live in the moment. Before I flew to Alicante, all I knew was that I had an apartment booked for the time I’d be there, but that’s pretty much it. I knew I wanted to go to Scotland as well, but I actually didn’t book my flight until I was in Spain. Without expectations, I was able to live and let live . . . and be content with my life every day.

My bedroom windows in my Spanish apartment.

My bedroom windows in my Spanish apartment.

6. Self-acceptance is one of the most important things to have

When you are on your own, you are stuck with yourself. You must face the most vulnerable and ugly things that you’ve been pushing down for far too long. I journaled almost every day while in Spain. I went to the beach often and took long walks, working through some really tough things. I had to face all my flaws and things I didn’t like about myself, in order to eventually accept it all and realize that I’m not perfect—or anywhere close to it. I think this is something I will grapple with for the rest of my life, but this year, I can honestly say that I have come to accept so much more of myself than ever before.

Making friends with a starfish in Alicante, Spain. (From 2008.)

Making friends with a starfish in Alicante, Spain. (From 2008.)

7. The best way to learn a language and culture is by complete immersion

As I stated previously, I knew enough Spanish to get by, but I was nowhere near fluent. I had experienced Spanish culture before, but never for longer than a few weeks. This time, I was IN it—all the way. I had roommates who didn’t speak a lot of English, so in order to get things done and communicated, guess who was trying her hardest to learn more Spanish? *raises hand* 🙂

I also met many people who wanted to learn English from me. (I actually have a TESOL certificate from Oxford Seminars and used to teach ESL in California.) Funnily enough, most people I met with ended up speaking more Spanish than English with me. I didn’t mind; I was learning from the natives, after all. My Spanish improved tenfold, and I learned all the things they don’t teach you in high school Spanish—including the most important thing: curse words. Ha!

Still not at this level! Maybe one day...

Still not at this level! Maybe one day…

8. Being present in the moment

In June, my friends took me to a Spanish rock concert. It was there, sipping on a beer and swaying to the music, that I realized I was finally living again. Like . . . really living. I felt free—I felt alive. I wasn’t worried about the next day or even the next hour. I was there with my friends, listening to great music, and enjoying the energy of the crowd. Why was that such a profound moment for me? I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt that way, and I didn’t want it to end.

At the concert with friends :)

At the concert with friends 🙂

9. People can really be amazing—if you let them

Many of us grew up with the “stranger danger” thing. And that is a very valuable and viable thing to learn. However, especially in the US, many of us look at people weird if they wish us a good morning and we don’t know them. In Spain, people say good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to one another. We greet one another with a kiss on each cheek—even when we meet for the first time. There’s something about the physical contact that breaks the ice, I think.

Because of this connectedness, I met the most amazing people who I am still in contact with. One of my new friends gave me his old printer because I needed to print some documents. My landlady took me out to lunch the second day I was in Alicante, just to make sure I was feeling good about being there. My roommate and I became close, and she painted my nails, and I taught her how to knit. A total stranger in Edinburgh let me shadow him an entire afternoon and we ended up climbing to King Arthur’s Seat together.

I have street smarts. I think I’m pretty good at reading people. I usually know a shady person when I see one. But I had an open heart while traveling and living abroad. I said yes to people more than no. I agreed to meet total strangers who wanted to learn English. Some guy played guitar while I sang two songs in a Scottish bar at an open mic and got a free pint. I went out on dates. I let people amaze me. I never met anyone who wished me ill will. And I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

View from King Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland.

View from King Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland.

10. I am capable of everything I thought I was

Though I had no expectations of the experience itself, I did have expectations of myself. I had specific goals in mind, like finding more clarity and having more time to work on what was important to me. But I also knew that things would be challenging at times—that I would feel lonely. I prepared myself for all of that, even if I didn’t know what the final outcome would be. I wasn’t surprised because I had already told myself I was capable and would find a way—no matter what. I honored my commitment to myself, and I think that’s one of the great achievements I gained from living abroad. And that important commitment told me that I could apply the same tactics to my dreams and goals and plans. That I’m the only one who holds myself back. I have a choice, and I choose to keep moving forward, the way I did in Spain.

One of my faves from Edinburgh.

One of my faves from Edinburgh.

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Whew! I know this post is long-winded, so thanks for making it this far. I will never forget my amazing experience in Spain and Scotland. I will always remember the wonderful people I met while on my journey, and I can’t wait for what’s ahead in 2015. I have already been making plans, so when I have news to share, it’ll be on this blog.

One more post coming tomorrow to finish out 2014, so stay tuned. xx