inspiring this week (3/19)

Boy, this week has been a doozy!  I’ve been feeling under the weather for the past several days, and my daughter was sick on Monday.  On top of that, I attempted to tackle our taxes – never a fun task!

On a brighter note, this has been a great week for inspiration.  In fact, I found so many articles, I had trouble picking just three to share with you!  So here are my top four picks for the week.  They’re all fairly short, so you should still have time to browse through them!

  • I don’t know about you, but I’m forever tidying up my office space only to find it cluttered again the next day.  This article from Michael Hyatt offers some simple steps you can take to conquer your space within a few hours.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to in the coming week.
  • The Crippling Fear of Medical Poverty was a real wake-up call for me.  The author, Holly Wood, wrote from personal experience five years ago.  I am in complete agreement with her that now is the perfect time to revisit this topic.
  • Finally, I found Courtney Carver’s post on breaking free from worry offered some sage advice.  As someone who struggles with anxiety, I know you can never have too many tools in your arsenal!

That’s all for now, folks.  Stay tuned, though, as I’ve been working on a larger post full of some fantastic free resources I’ve discovered over the past couple years.  I can’t wait to share them with you!

As always, I’m wishing each and every one of you an inspiring week 🙂

 

 

inspiring this week (3/12)

Is there anything more frustrating than enjoying a few days of lovely spring weather, only to be thrown back into the bitter cold?  As much as I worry about climate change, I’ve so enjoyed the nicer days sprinkled amid this winter.  I’ve been a Pennsylvania girl nearly all my life, but I’ve never quite developed a true appreciation for low temperatures.

The first article I’ve recommended this week speaks on hope and social justice.  What little social life I have these days revolves around my church, and this is a hot topic there, as it is for many Americans of late.

For too many people, hope is wearing thin.  I know that the cold will end and Spring will come, and it will stay a while.  In the same way, I trust that we will get through these difficult times in our lives and our country.  But as I was reminded today, while the “we” may endure, many “I”s will be lost, and this is unacceptable.  In deference to each individual, our hope must be active and never passive.  I am always eager for encouragement from others in staying the course.  I hope you find the following article as valuable and thought-provoking as I did.

Wishing you all an inspiring week!

inspiring this week (03/05)

Hello friends!  I’m so excited today to bring you the first in a weekly series of posts titled inspiring this week.

I am blessed to read several newletters each day full of meaningful stories and valuable information.  Many of these motivate me to seek positive growth in my life.  It occurred to me recently that instead of deleting or storing my favorites for a rainy day, I could be passing them along to you!  I count myself among those who consider Sunday the last day of the week (it is, in my own Christian tradition, the Sabbath.)  As we rest up and prepare to transition into another busy Monday, what better time is there to reflect on inspiration from those around us?

Without further ado…

Your Weekly Inspiration

  • This article from Thomas Oppong discusses several common habits that sabotage our achievement.  Complete with several inspirational quotes (my favorite!),  his words are a helpful reminder of the many ways we keep ourselves from reaching our true potential.
  • A mother of two wrote an incredible Letter to Ivanka Trump passionately addressing how current policies are harming her child.  Regardless of where you stand politically, this letter is a moving and thought-provoking read that I highly recommend.
  • In the past, I’ve read several books on diet and nutrition.  The amount of confusion (and despair) surrounding this controversial subject seems endless.  Thus I was thrilled to stumble across Daniel Jeffries’ Common-Sense Approach to Living to 100.  This extensive article critically examines conflicting advice on diet and health, and it’s well worth a read.  In case you miss it: here’s a great link from the article to Consumer Reports’ guide on pesticides in produce.  Tremendously helpful!

This series of posts reflects exactly the kind of value I hope to bring to you at Inspiration Kindled.  I pray that in the weeks to come, your lives will be as blessed by this information as mine has been!  As always, please feel welcome to leave a comment or write to me at annemarie@inspiration-kindled.com with any questions or suggestions.

creating a self-reward system

When I was in high school and forced to read for class, I was desperate to find a way to make Dickens less painful.  So I devised my own reward system.  After finishing each assigned chapter, I read one chapter of a book I wanted to read.  Sure, the execution was imperfect.  Often I’d get caught up in my novel-of-choice and realize three chapters later that I should have been reading the torture-book a long time ago.  But it worked; it got me through.

The science behind using reward to establish or perfect a new behavior is enduring and vast.  Although he didn’t first discover it, Skinner popularized what he called operant conditioning in the 1930s and 40s.  The experiments he published demonstrated his success in training animals to perform specific behaviors by rewarding them with food.  His techniques have since been expanded and implemented in homes and schools world-wide, often in the form of token economy.  (Note: if you don’t know what that is and you have children, you might want to check it out!)  

The trick to applying these principles in our own lives lies in a) determining the most suitable reinforcement for a given target behavior, then b) implementing it regularly.  

A Reward Must Be Sufficient Motivation

A Snickers bar isn’t much of an enticement if you don’t like chocolate.  And even if you do, if candy isn’t something you have a strong desire or need for, it’s not going to be enough to power you through something unpleasant.

Consider: Would you act like your dog for a Klondike bar?  I wouldn’t.  Maybe Klondike should have considered their audience more carefully when airing that commercial.  But perhaps if I’d just run a marathon in 90-degree heat, for example, it might be a stronger temptation.  Put some thought into what will really work for you and your circumstances.

A Reward Must Not Be Harmful/Counter-Productive

A Snickers or Klondike bar is probably not a good idea if your goal is to exercise more or stick with a diet.  Similarly, don’t reward yourself with something that costs money when your aim is to save it.  (Unless, of course, the “something” is your savings goal!)

Intrinsic or Extrinsic Rewards?

People automatically think of the tangible upon hearing the word “reward”, but research has shown that intrinsic rewards are more powerful.  Finding ways to tap into the intrinsic can be a tremendous asset in achieving your goals.

In this article, Michael Hyatt reminds us that the things we regularly enjoying doing – tasks that come easily and need no prompting – are in fact intrinsically motivated.  The motivation is the enjoyment felt when we watch our favorite movie, read a good book, or savor a glass of wine.  He goes so far as to point out that attempting to reward these things extrinsically might be counter-productive.

Of course, you can’t force enjoyment of something, and feelings like accomplishment and confidence take time to develop.  Fortunately, there are still ways to incorportate intrinisc reward into your game plan.  Consider enlisting a support system (which is an awesome predictor of successs, anyway) to cheer you on.  Better yet, grab a buddy to join you in your quest – spending time with a friend is a reward in itself.

If these aren’t applicable or doable, get creative.  Write congratulatory notes to yourself and plan to read them upon reaching defined milestones.  Alternatively, pair the behavior you want to strenthen with a pleasurable activity, preferrably exclusively for a time.  (For example, only watch TV or listen to your favorite podcast while you exercise.)

Distant vs. Instant Gratification

People are far more likely to fail at maintaining any behavior when the impetus is in the distant future.  As human beings, we are driven to seek instant gratification.  Unfortunately, that can mean slipping up and spending the hundred bucks you meant to save for a trip to Europe on a new gadget you can use right now.

The only way around this is to have incredibly strong willpower (don’t count on it!) or to work it into your plans.  Try staggering some small rewards along the way that can serve (or at least don’t contradict) your larger goal.  In the vacation example above, this could be planning parts of your dream trip when you reach smaller savings goals ($700 to book the hotel, $400 for the plane tickets, and so on.)  Or try harnessing the power of intrinsic reward by keeping a small photo of the vacation locale in your pocket for times when you’re tempted to spend the dough.

When (and If) It’s Time To Stop Rewarding

Some things – like saving to purchase a home, losing a specific number of pounds, or completing a project – come to a natural end.  But what about behaviors that are more like habits you’re trying to master?  Maybe your goal was to give up electronics before bed or make healthier meal choices when eating out.  Once those behaviors have settled into your life with a ritual-like frequency, do you still need a reward?

Fortunately, science is encouraging in this regard.  After a behavior is repeated x number of times, it becomes habit and requires less active choice and motivation.  So how long does that take?  The most recent research has shown that habits generally take a little more than two months to form.  Thankfully, this allows for messing up a time or two.  A more encouraging statistic: in Timothy Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Body, he writes that once you perform a target behavior for 5 consecutive sessions, you’re far more likely to stick with it.

My advice?  Commit for five days and follow through.  Then another five, then another.  Throw in a reward for every five day streak you complete.  These small goals will add up and lead to big gains!  Once you feel like you’ve achieved success as you’ve defined it, enjoy a big reward.  Going forward, taper off established incentives as you would medicine – reward every other time, then every third time, etc.  By then, you should have achieved the best reward of all: the satisfaction of success.

living the life

Last Friday was my husband’s last day as an OB-Gyn resident.  And I don’t mean in the he’s-finished-headed-to-a-real-job kind of way.  In the he-quit kind of way.  Yep.

He doesn’t have any prospects for another job yet, despite sending in multiple applications, and so aside from our rental, we have no income at the moment.  I should be scared and anxious.  Instead I’ve been feeling kind of… free.

We’re the kind of people who binge-watch HGTV.  Watching the families on there move to paradise to live the life of their dreams is so inspiring.  I’ve been doing a lot of research lately about small business and multiple income streams and living an untraditional life free from the constraints of a 9-5 job (or any job, for that matter).  And now we’re there, and in spite of losing some measure of security not to mention any pretense of alone time, it’s kind of good.  In an every-day-is-Saturday kind of way.

I’ve recently launched an Amazon business, which is still in the hole, but I’ve got dreams.  He’s looking into becoming a real estate agent part-time, until he lands a job and maybe even after.

I’m not going to lie: I do miss the security of having money rolling in every two weeks, and especially insurance, which we’re still trying to figure out.  I definitely miss quiet(er) mornings and days of setting the schedule for myself and my daughter with no one else’s input.  But things are getting fixed and painted.  I have help with said daughter, which is awesome.  Maybe I have less privacy, but I’ve also gained family time and maybe some extra me-time, after all.

I’m not sure where our lives are headed, but I’m full of hope that it’s somewhere good.  Somewhere with more abundant time, more abundant freedom, and hopefully (eventually) more abundant income.  We’ll get there.

My only regret is that we didn’t come to this place sooner.  That we were taught – as America tends to teach its children – that a college education leading to full-time work is the only way to survive and get ahead.

I want something more for my child.  I think I’ll focus on this wisdom:

“You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Gotta love Dr. Suess.  It took a while, but we’re there now.  And we’re going to keep going – and growing – to someplace even better.