Categories
Education Goals Inspiration

PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING

One semester down; 19 to go.

We can do 19 semesters.

When I shared that fact with my daughter Katie (who is studying for her Bachelor’s in Health Science now), she announced that it sounded so much easier that way. She had been a bit depressed at the fact that she just committed four years of her life to not only working full-time, but studying full-time as well.

Unlike my Katie, I am only capable of going to college on a half-time course load. The thought of taking four years to acquire a two-year degree would be depressing but 19 semesters?

I can do 19 semesters.

To monitor my progress, I decided to take the suggestion of reader Belinda to heart. She used a five-year journal to keep track of her progress as she stopped smoking and sorted some health issues. I decided to follow her lead and use the multi-year journal format to keep track of both my long and short-term goals. With each passing year, I will be able to look back and see how far I’ve come.

It will help me gain perspective when I feel as if I’m not making any progress.

How do you maintain a positive perspective as you work towards your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Personal

Counting Down the Days

It is finally starting to hit my daughter that she will be moving soon. This morning she wandered around the house a bit before asking when I had to leave for work. As soon as she discovered that I work the evening shift she offered to treat me to my new favorite place, the Main Cup coffee shop.

We settled down in our corner spot to enjoy our drinks and relax for the remainder of the morning. Katie immediately whipped out her phone and started snapping photos.

“Why are you so picture crazy these days?” I asked, intrigued by the fact that here lately she’s been snapping photos of me constantly.

“I want to have something to remember this time,” she replied. “This way we will both have something to remind us of these last few days.”

It is comforting to know that I’m not the only one facing the emotional upheaval of our eventual separation. While I am thankful that she is moving out to start her own life, we’ve spent almost 20 years together. That’s her whole life and a good portion of mine as well. This is going to be difficult on both of us, I’m afraid.

While she did her thing I pulled out my journal and started writing. It felt so luxuriously wonderful to hang out in a coffee shop sipping an espresso while I journaled. It has been years since I’ve had the opportunity. Memories of writing my very first books and articles in the coffee shops of Paducah danced through my head as I poured my soul upon the pages until Katie captured my attention. She turned her iPad around to show me what she had been tinkering on.

It was this photo.

I’m going to really miss her when she’s gone.

Categories
Law of Attraction self-improvement

An Experiment in Luxury

It is amazing how quickly things can work out when you create an intention. Shortly after challenging myself to reverse the Diderot Effect in my personal life a friend came over to visit. Her granddaughter was moving in with her; did I happen to have any old children’s movies that I would consider selling on the cheap?

I pulled out my binders to examine my DVD collection. My Katie had been quite fond of Barbie movies and the like; I had built up quite the collection over her childhood. She selected several of them along with an assortment of other movies that she thought she would enjoy personally and we sat down to negotiate.

She left with a tidy stack of movies fifty dollars later.

I was fifty dollars richer; what should I do with the money? I thought about investing it but then remembered my challenge. I’d just written about how I would like to find some way to treat myself that wouldn’t hurt my budget; in a stroke of sheer luck, I now had fifty dollars that hadn’t been accounted for.

What could I buy for fifty dollars that I would never allow myself to normally purchase? Was there something that I wanted that wasn’t functionally necessary but that I dreamed of owning just the same?

I drew a blank. I’d become so conditioned to living cheap that I could not think of a single thing so I took the question to my daughter.

“What about that guestbook you’ve been admiring at Biancke’s for years?” she suggested. “Every time we go in there you flip through the pages and drool over it; I can’t count how many times I’ve heard you say that it would make the perfect journal.”

An image of the book immediately popped in my head. A large, well-bound book, it features numbered, lined pages that I had admired for decades. The restaurant had encouraged guests to sign in on every visit since I was a teenager and they had used the exact same style for as long as I could remember.

I had even asked where they bought their replacements once. I’d priced it and immediately choked at the cost.

It was far too much to spend on the luxury of journaling.

But now? Now I wanted something completely decadent. I wanted to allow myself a luxury so outrageous that it bordered on ridiculous.

And I wanted to do it on a fifty dollar budget.

Convinced that I’d never be able to afford it, I allowed the kid to persuade me to walk down to the restaurant for a closer examination. I was certain that it was out of my league but what would it hurt to look? If anything, I would find that book above my station and treat myself to a Moleskine.

I’ve never allowed myself to indulge in a Moleskine.

We braved the curious looks from the workers as we examined the heavy tome. Armed with the brand and model, we headed home to price one.

Ouch! Just as I anticipated, the book was almost $100.

“Maybe I should buy a cheap washer instead,” I suggested as I went to close out the tab.

“You’re always doing that!” Katie snapped. “You’ve wanted that thing for years–don’t tell me you haven’t! Buy something nice for yourself for a change! You’ve bitched about how thin the paper was in composition notebooks for ages. You’ve bitched about how you dislike journaling on the computer and now you’ve got fifty bucks that you can use to fix the problem. Let’s see what we can find!”

She shoved me out of the chair and hijacked the computer. Flipping over to the purchasing options, she discovered that Amazon had some for sale minus their original packaging.

The price was $53 after tax.

I allowed myself to buy that book. I can’t believe I did it, to be honest. I allowed myself to purchase something completely decadent and amazingly expensive, simply because I wanted it.

But oh my, it is absolutely beautiful.

It is beautiful. It is decadent. It is a completely selfish luxury. It is 512 pages of journaling bliss and I can’t believe the fact that it is actually mine.

It is the first real extravagance I’ve allowed myself for longer than I can remember.

I’ll have to conserve the pages. It cost too much to treat it lightly but in exchange, every time I use it I will be reminded of the fact that it’s okay to have nice things if you can afford them. It’s okay to treat myself on occasion.

It’s okay to want to improve my life.


Have you ever treated yourself to a completely ridiculous luxury? Please share your stories in the comments below. I need to christen this journal before I lose my nerve and send it back.

Categories
Inspiration Investments

The Art of Staying Motivated

The other night I came home after an exhausting shift at work. I plopped down in front of my computer to check my emails before engaging in my nightly habit of reading a bit before I went to bed.

As I sat there I thought “what’s the point?” What was the point in reading more when I was so drained? It’s going to take years for me to achieve my goal, so what would be the harm in skipping a single night?

That’s when I realized I had a problem. I was losing my motivation.

It’s easy to lose motivation when all you can make are baby steps. When you have to wait days and weeks before you can take another step forward. But that is the reality of my life. I can’t afford to plunk down thousands of dollars and then wait to reap the profits. I have to invest in stages while working to increase my knowledge during my downtime. While I know that every few months I will receive a small payoff in dividends it is a cold hard fact that this project is going to take a while to really begin to pay off.

So how do I stay motivated? What can I do to encourage myself to move forward on the nights when I’m too tired to think, much less move?

With a heavy heart as I considered this I skipped my nightly reading and went to bed. I’d have to find a solution soon or risk giving up.

A few days later I walked to the store to purchase supplies. On a whim I headed to the school supplies section, thinking that a new pencil or ink pen would be a treat. I didn’t need one but sometimes it’s the little things that encourage us to continue moving forward. I found this:

Meet my new Goal Journal. I photographed it with the little piece of inspiration I carry with me daily, one of the silver rounds from my very first investment.

On the very first page I wrote down my goal. I wanted to see it every single time I opened the notebook.

Once that was completed I was stumped. Do I use the journal to chronicle all of my thoughts or to keep track of specifics? I decided to dedicate a single page each month to a cold, hard summary of my progress. I’ve decided to share it with you now.

I didn’t tell you at the time but I began this journey on my birthday earlier this year. I was hesitant to share because the idea sounded stupid even to me. Seriously, an old woman working part time for minimum wage who wants to enter the financial ring with the Big Dogs? The idea was laughable! Who the hell do I think I am, even considering this? Because of my inner demons I kept quiet until I became comfortable enough with the idea to have the courage to share.

The next month I decided to jump in with both feet. I scraped together every single penny I could spare from my book royalties and my income tax refund, took a deep breath, and kissed that money goodbye. I knew that I didn’t know much; I could very well lose it all, but I had to at least try, you know? Wishing wasn’t going to get me anywhere without definite action:

I managed to score free trading from my brokerage until August 8th. Sometimes it pays to ask plenty of questions. I took advantage of the blessing to make a few experimental trades so that I could figure out just how this stock market thing worked. I was completely clueless and I knew it. To my surprise I did pretty well. Not only did I manage to profit from my trades, I even received my very first round of dividends. I was chuffed!

July was the last full month that I qualified for free trading. I’m sure I drove the workers at my brokerage batty with all of my questions that month! I discovered the difference between exchanges, the fact that my brokerage will not allow anyone with a balance of less than $25,000 to trade on certain exchanges “to protect them,” and lodged a formal complaint about not being allowed to invest in the real “penny stocks” — those whose shares trade for literal pennies. A worker there actually called me to apologize personally for the limitation after that stunt and he helped me figure out exactly what I was allowed to invest in through the brokerage. I modified my search criteria appropriately, albeit grudgingly. As I explained, the five or ten bucks I’d planned to toss towards those particular purchases would not be near enough to budge the stock prices and I was well aware of the risk I was taking. By this point I was literally kissing my money goodbye as I transferred it to my brokerage account, and I STILL feel that my brokerage should eliminate that limitation.

When August is over I’ll add another page to my journal as I continue to chronicle my adventure. This will allow me to look back and see a visual reminder of just how far I’ve come. Due to the fact that I don’t require much to live on I’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit over these past few months. When you add the money I invested in early August I’ve managed to top $1,500 invested in the stock market–most of which came from my minimum-wage day job.

I’m not sure if I should be proud or terrified at the fact that I’ve hit it so hard. Fifteen hundred dollars isn’t exactly chump change for me. That’s three months’ worth of living expenses in my world. I guess time will tell as I continue this journey. In the meantime I have a physical reminder of my progress for those nights when I wonder why I’m even trying.

In addition to my goal notebook I carry that silver round in my pocket as I move through my day. Whenever things get tough at work I dig it out, turn it over in my hands, and repeat my goal:

I will do whatever it takes to invest $60,000 in the stock market.

I hope it’s enough.

What do you do to keep motivated about your goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.