Do What You Love

No Regrets

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The holidays are a time for family, friends, food, gifts, and joy. Last year I got a friend a baby monitor because she was about to have a baby boy. But it’s also a time for reflection.

I learned an important life lesson at an early age about reflection from my beloved grandfather. He was Irish with dancing eyes and a great storyteller…he unfortunately had a lot of health challenges, but for most of his life he put on a “happy face” for me.

It wasn’t till I was 17 years old, and he was near the end of his life, that he said to me, “I wish I hadn’t been afraid to do so many things in my life.” That regret he felt and the longing and poignancy in his voice broke my heart and I vowed to live my life doing things that scared me…no regrets for me!

As a result, I’ve lived a full life -as a matter of fact, I feel like I’ve lived several lifetimes wrapped up into this one wonderful life.

As many of you know, my 2011 adventure was turning my passion for travel into a travel agency business…San Juan Capistrano Travel.  To me, travel is like food -a basic requirement for the fullness of life.

Whatever it is that makes your heart sing, I encourage you to do more of it in 2012.  Seeing new places, meeting new people, learning new things, loving and laughing more…whatever is important to you, vow to do it in 2012. Live a life of no regrets.

Best to you and your loved ones during this wonderful season!

Warmly,

Ann

Solo Travel: It Doesn’t Have To Be Lonely

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Between 2000 and 2006, I took three trips to Europe happily on my own. I drove all over Ireland, then journeyed to Venice & Florence and finally fulfilled a dream of going to Paris. Some things I learned:

Even though I was a fiercely independent traveler- in retrospect- I wish I would have done some parts of each trip as tours – a half day bus tour, a walking tour, maybe a guided tour of the Louvre. That would have given me an opportunity to meet some traveling companions and get the inside scoop from a knowledgeable guide.

I really do suck at learning languages. I wish I’d had a translator app and a smart phone! I did manage to learn a few useful phrases -it does go a long way in warming people up to you. I found an Irish pub in Paris (really!) filled with Aussies and some Brits so I got a dose of English most every night before heading back to my hotel. In Italy, I hung out in the centrally located piazzas every night -they’re always filled with people out for a stroll and socializing, sort of like hanging around Camino Capistrano in San Juan in the early evening – I almost always met someone who spoke English to chat with for awhile.

People in Ireland live up to the hype about Irish hospitality -pick one of the plentiful pubs -sit at the bar (even if you’re going to sip a soft drink) and in no time- you’ll find a friendly conversation. Riding the city tram in Dublin led to several enchanting conversations – I chatted with a group of teens who had me laughing so hard it hurt, or as they said, they put me “in stitches.” On another tram ride I enjoyed a lively conversation about my Kindle with a curious elder.
At the Dublin airport, waiting for my plane home, I met the “Seven Widows.” I had left a book, Anam Cara by John O’Donahue, on my barstool in a packed airport pub, hoping it would still be there when I got back from a restroom stop. When I got back to my seat, the Seven Widows were surrounding my stool, cooing over the book. Turns out they loved the author too. They told me their story: each was a widow and they traveled frequently together. They were on their way to the Canary Islands. They insisted I join them in drinking Guinness and blackberry brandy and in no time, we were truly Anam Cara which means “soul friends.”

The joys of traveling alone include doing what you want, when you want, while offering plenty of opportunities to meet new people -both fellow travelers and the locals. If you’ve been dreaming of traveling -don’t put it off because you’re single. Pick a destination, choose a date and start announcing to everyone you know that you’re going. Now you’re on the way to turning your travel dream into the experience of a lifetime!

Change: How Do You Handle It?

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I’m on the roller coaster called change in my work life.  And I’m loving it.  After more than a decade of successful self employment, my work felt stale.

I was itching to do something new, something really fun.  I decided to walk my talk about “you gotta do what you love” by combining my love of travel, writing and speaking into a travel agency business with a focus on cruises.  The journey that began with research at the end of 2010 and started officially in March has been filled with lots of learning, plenty of joy and some moments of “I don’t know what I’m doing!”   With this change, I’m learning to manage my time in a new way so I can continue to bring in income from my current two income streams while investing enough time to nurture the new businesses.

Lessons learned so far (or I should say relearned!)

1.  Start where you are.  You might as well be happpy to begin right where you are and grow.   “To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly” said Henry Bergson.  It’ s ok to move on to new things.  When an interest is calling to you -explore it.

2.  Get in the game quickly.   I realized that I would become an expert more quickly if I put myself out into the world and talked with people about their travel dreams.  It ‘s a much richer, quicker learning curve this way.  I know it’s easier and feels safer to hide behind the computer and take all kinds of classes -this is good  – BUT it needs to be combined with action in the world.  Each action I take is a bit scary and that’s ok.  I’m only 3 months into the “game” and have made my first sales and have several other seeds planted that are about ready to sprout.

3.  You don’t have to figure out all the hows in order to get started.  Start with a small step and take it.  The “hows” remarkably fall into place in ways you can’t possibly see when you’re sitting in isoloation behind your computer.  Take a look at what successful people  in the field are doing.  Particpate in online forums.  Attend trade events.  And keep taking steps that engage you with your ideal client/customers.

How do you handle change?  Do you embrace it?  Push down the urges to grow and express yourself more fully because it’s scary?   Let us know what’s changing for you!

Starting A Business

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Starting a business is exciting and scary at the same time.

I’ve got two that are up and running pretty smoothly so…I’m ready to start another one!  I like to call them profit centers.  I’m going to start a travel agency business from home.

This profit center combines several of my passions.  As many of you know my life vision is “Everyday A Vacation Day.” You know how you wake up with that feeling of excitement and anticipation when you’re on vacation. The day is a blank slate and you get to create what you want with it.  That’s what I want for each of you too -to enjoy most of what you’re doing…every day.  And, it’s a portable business I can work on with my husband.  Fun!

I thought it would be a great experiment to document my progress here in this blog. I’m thinking it may help you on your journey to creating your profit centers.

I’ll share what my next steps are, my progress, my bumps along the way and soon…my successes!

So here we go.

Step 1. I googled “home based travel agency.” I found a homebasedtravelagent.com website created by Tom and Joanie Ogg. I browsed it and read some articles.

Step 2. I went to FabJobs and bought a book on becoming a travel agent. I like this resource and have several of their titles on my website http://authenticlifeinstitute.com/how_to_guides.htm  (I receive a small commission for referring their products.)

I browsed a bit more, saw that Tom Ogg’s name came up a few times as a trusted, knowledgeable professional so went back to his site, purchased two of his information products and joined his forum.

Step 3: After spending about 3 weeks reading and gathering information I had the lay of the land and knew what my next step was.  I haven’t got a clue about how a lot of this works yet but all I need to know is the next step. In this case that is to decide whether to find a host agency or go it on my own.   I decided on the host agency route. I know I’ve got a big learning curve ahead of me and I want to learn from successful travel agents who are already where I want to be.

Next step?   Research five host agencies.    So for all of you thinking of starting a home based business.   The first step is like a research project.  You need information.

But  the very next step I’m taking  is a cruise to the Mexican Riviera.  I leave Saturday.  Got to do research you know 🙂

Star

Meaning of Life

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Big topic huh? One of the my favorite books about life meaning is “How Then Shall We Live” by Wayne Muller. In it he poses 4 questions. I share them here with you to get you thinking about the bigger picture of your life. My ultimate goal in sharing this with you is that you will be gentler with yourself and that you will live YOUR life doing what you love. Onto the first question!

1. Who am I? Are you saying, well, I am a business owner, writer, teacher, mother, etc? Muller encourages you to go deeper, to find the places beneath those names. Consider that what you call the “self” is always changing. If you get too focused on just one facet of yourself, you may feel smothered by the smallness of who you have become. Consider this, your true nature can take the shape in a million forms, all unique and useful in their own way. You are not a prisoner of your history! Try this: for five minutes complete this phrase: “I am.” Without judging keep speaking for five minutes. Notice what you say and how you feel when you say it. Are there repeating themes? What stands out for you? Which sentences seem the most troubling? Which feel most true? When you’re finished, try to name the single phrase that feels most potent. What does this want to reveal about your current sense of self?

Jack Kornfield, a leading Buddhist teacher, said, “the path is not so much about changing ourselves as it is about listening to the fundamentals of our being.”

2. What do I love? Whatever you give your time and attention to becomes the focus of your life. What is at the center of your life? What activities? Which people? Are these the people and activities you hope will receive your love and devotion? Whatever you are giving your time and attention to every day is the kind of person you will eventually become. Is this what you want? Try this. Grab a stack of magazines and make a collage of what you love. As you look through images hold in your mind the thought “what do I love?” When you’re done take a break then come back to it. Are you pleased with what you love? Is anything missing? Pick the single image that seems most powerful to you right now. What does it reveal about what you love? Choose one image and make a commitment to include it in your daily life more of what that image holds. You can choose another image next week!

3. How shall I live, knowing I will die? If you walk through life thinking that you will live forever, you’re not alone. It’s an illusion most people hold. The danger in it is that you think you can waste all the time in the world before you are ready to live. Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun states, “if you live your life as if you actually only had a day left, then the sense of impermanence heightens that feeling of preciousness and gratitude.” Muller says that many of us are exhausted by a desperate search for answers, as if our life were a big problem to be solved and we haven’t yet found the perfect solution to the puzzle. We figure we’re not working hard enough and continue to push harder. What if the “don’t know” is an indication that it is time to be quiet, listen and wait? There is a time to act and a time to remain still. A time to engage and a time to retreat. There is a natural expansion and contraction in all things, and when you feel the truth of this, you will be easy and at peace. And you will find, that much will be accomplished!

4. What is my gift to the family of the earth? Most of us have had some hurt in our lives. And when you feel broken, you can feel useless and undervalue your gifts. Jesus declared we are the light of the world and must let our light shine. The gifts you give can be simple yet powerful. A kind word, a laugh, a meal. It is impossible that you have not gift. You may be unsure of it, afraid it’s not good enough, or waiting for the perfect opportunity. Don’t wait. It’s alive in you this very moment. You are given countless opportunities to offer your gifts to others every day. Take a day and examine how you give. Does it feel like an obligation? Which gifts are given most freely? We all need what you have. Be not afraid. Muller says, “a kind life is a life of courage, the courage simply to bring what you have, to bring what you are.”

Obesity Costs More Than Your Good Looks

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Those of you who’ve been hanging out with me for awhile know that my credo is “Everyday a Vacation Day.” I want to wake up every morning with anticipation of new adventures ahead of me. I love feeling excited, fresh and light – light in spirit, mind AND body. And like many others, in my pursuit of enjoyment I sometimes overdo. Combine that with some genetic tendencies towards a full body, and my scales have gone into the obesity realm several times in my life.

I’m happy to report that I’ve been heading back down the scale away from the obesity category and it’s not so difficult this time. I think I’ve finally got a handle on the balance between eating/drinking what I enjoy, moving my body and feeling light and healthy. I’m also motivated when I realize the high cost of obesity. Not only do those extra pounds make us feel less attractive and make it more difficult to move around, they also lead to diminished health and outrageous obesity related medical costs.

Here’s a report from the McKinsey Quarterly that gives more detail. You have to register on their site to read the complete article -it’s free.

“An obesity pandemic has put pressure on health care systems throughout the world. The United Kingdom, for instance, spent more than £4 billion on obesity-related medical costs in 2007, and that could rise to £9.7 billion by 2050. The United States currently spends about $160 billion—twice what it did a decade ago—and that amount could double again by 2018.

Yet these huge numbers represent only a fraction of the pandemic’s total economic burden on societies. Obesity indirectly costs the United States at least $450 billion annually—almost three times the direct medical cost. The situation is comparable in other countries as well. To learn more, read “Why governments must lead the fight against obesity” (October 2010).” http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Why_governments_must_lead_the_fight_against_obesity_2687

Are Your Habits Supporting YOUR Life?

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What are some of your daily habits? It’s worth taking a look at them. Your habits shape what you do with your precious time. You can decide for yourself which habits you engage in are “good” or “bad.” I’d say that the actions you take that positively contribute to your health, happiness, prosperity and relationships are worth keeping. Anything else -well, you might want to make some changes. Here are some habits that I find to be dreamkillers:

1. Email. In my opinion, opening email first thing in the day is not the best way to start out. You’re allowing others to shape your thoughts, actions and even your mood. I say make your first actions meaningful ones -something that makes you happy, something that inspires you to live a fantastic day, or something that contributes to a goal you have. Check email after you’ve done the most important things first.

2. Mindless eating. I think this widely accepted American habit contributes to obesity, poor health and a lack of enjoyment. When you eat – just eat. Don’t read, watch tv or keep one hand on the keyboard. Be aware of the texture of the food, the taste in your mouth, how it feels in your belly. Give thanks for all the people involved in getting the food to your table. Sure, enjoy good conversation in between bites -but other than that – mindful eating will enhance your health and your life.

3. Noise. Lord, there’s noise everywhere! When I pump gas there’s a t.v. blaring at me (I skip that gas station now). I got a new dentist after my former dentist installed flat screen tvs in each exam room. I’m sure some patients appreciate it, but I got nervous when I noticed the dentist kept looking up at the t.v. Silence is a good habit to cultivate for the soul. Your inner voice knows a lot -it just needs a little time to be heard. Allow for some silence each day.

Be a gentle observer of your habits. Don’t beat yourself up -just notice. Which ones make you happy? Which ones move your goals and dreams forward? Which ones are obstacles. Pick one and decide to change it. Here’s a cool tool I found today that might inspire you -and it’s free. www.habitforge.com

Would love to hear about a habit you’re ready to change. Post your comment here and let us know!

Do What You Love

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I want you to do what you love. That’s my mission. And if you want to be paid to do what you love, all the better! Sounds simple huh? Then why are so few of you doing it? Because it’s not all that simple after all.

Take your lizard brain -nickname for the amygdala part of your brain. It’s an older part of the brain designed to help you survive. Trouble is, it rears up in fear and panic at any new change -not just at incoming lions and tigers that could actually eat you. So it’s likely that when you start to make a move to do something you love, that your lizard brain starts bombarding you with messages about how stupid this is and what will people think and you’re a complete idiot for even thinking about it.

Another obstacle to doing what you love is ideas. Yes, ideas. Too many of them. When you first start to think about doing something you love, you get a kind of high, an excitement. But soon enough that wears off. And then you might get depressed. Your lizard brain is screaming. So you decide you need a new, better, shinier idea to go after. And your dream dies. Once again.

What to do? Get into action. Quickly. Keep moving forward with small steps -your lizard won’t even notice you’ll be moving so fast. Write out actions you need to take and put deadlines on them. We need some constraints…honest. You’ll never do what you love without them. And lastly, you’ve got to have another person (or even better a group of people) who are there to support you, nag you a bit, and cheer when you’ve taken an action, no matter how small.

Tell me something you’d love to do. And post a comment about what’s stopping you. Let’s see what we can do to remove all the obstacles from doing what you love.

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