Dreaming is good for everyone, and regular bouts of inspiration are a prerequisite. Yet, shows, movies, books, museums, and other creative outlets can seem like unnecessary splurges. Here are some tips for inspiration on a budget:
Buy theater and movie tickets at a discount. Check out www.playbill.com or www.theatermania.com for discounts to Broadway, off-Broadway, and other shows. TKTS booths in NY sell Broadway tickets for half price; there are typically similar outlets in other major cities. Audience Extras and Theater Development Fund are additional sources for cheap tickets. Visit the website of your favorite movie theater chain for info on discount movie tickets or other specials. AMC has a Moviewatcher club to earn points towards free tickets. If your office doesn’t offer corporate discounts on movie tickets, ask your friends because someone’s office probably does.
Borrow books instead of buying. For NY libraries, visit www.nypl.org, where you can search on titles, subjects, keywords and authors, reserve books, and designate the branch where the books should be delivered. You will be emailed when they are ready for pick-up. Other cities might have a similar set-up.
Visit museums on the free day. Many museums and cultural institutions offer blocks of time when you can pay what you wish or even enter free. Keep a log of these free days, skip the Starbucks, and instead meet with friends in these climate-controlled, non-caloric, creative atmospheres.
Audit classes for free inspiration pick-me-ups. Most acting schools let you audit one class for free. Neighborhood colleges sometimes offer classes at no or low cost.
Many of us have parallel careers – the “money job” we do from 9 to 5; and the dream we harbor on the sidelines. Even those of us who make the leap to turn dream into dream career may not earn a sufficient or stable income solely from this dream – hence the prototype of the waiter/ actor. Thus, we have parallel careers: the one that fulfills our life; and the other that makes our livelihood. Here are some tips to meet the challenge of parallel careers:
Clarify your motivations for each career. What is your ultimate goal for your dream? Do you want your dream to be your source of income, or do you want to keep both careers? How much money do you need to make from your money job? How much scheduling flexibility do you need? Depending on your requirements, your money job may mean temping, a traditional career track job, or an entrepreneurial venture.
Follow the business protocol for each career. Take the example of an actor who supplements with temp work. Acting resumes differ from corporate resumes. Audition clothes differ from interview clothes. Interviews vary at a casting office versus a corporate office. You need to understand the required marketing materials, dress code, and work environments of each career.
Maintain perspective about the benefits of both careers. The benefits of pursuing your dream as a career include doing what you love every day. However, resist the trap of begrudging your money job. Your money job is an investment in your dream. It sustains your dream and gives it a chance to succeed. Both careers contribute to your ultimate life goals.
You’ve picked your goal. You’ve aligned your mind, your energy, your time and your money to reach it. Now if you could just stick to it long enough to see results….A key to sticking to it is being flexible enough to adapt when initial plans and prior assumptions don’t pan out. Here are additional tips to help you stick to your goal:
Share the work. Form a support group of like-minded goalseekers. Meet on a regular basis to share encouragement and tips. Share your progress with each other, and promote accountability.
Pace yourself. Reaching too far too fast is demoralizing. In many fields, from athletics to business, goals are mapped out over a long-term timeframe. Runners build up to the marathon. Writers have drafts before the final product. CEO’s hold several jobs during their overall career of CEO. Find out what are realistic progress steps for your ultimate goal and plan accordingly.
Always find the fun. Goals can be about pushing our limits, improving bad habits, and acquiring new skills. However, while the ultimate destination may be self-improvement, the journey should still be fun. If sticking to your goal seems like drudgery, ask yourself whether or not the goal is still relevant. You want to honor your needs and values, not just prove your sticking power. If you’re convinced that you’ve identified the right goal, then inject a fun factor in your strategy. Losing weight does not have to mean x number of trips to the gym, if you’re not a gym rat. It may mean dancing at the local club, walking to work, doing laps around the mall, or meeting friends over different workouts, rather than at the café.
A store decides that it wants to sell more shoes. So, marketing advertises formalwear. Sales pushes jewelry. The CFO tracks cosmetic sales. Obviously, this store is not aligning its goals with its business resources. When you pick your goals, make sure you don’t make the same mistake. You have four key resources that must be aligned to achieve maximum impact:
Focus your mind. Your mental concentration is a resource for mapping out strategies, finding solutions, and envisioning success. Are you frittering it away planning mundane tasks, watching TV, or worrying?
Harness your energy. If you’re reading this column, hopefully you get inspired to act to further your goals. Your day-to-day actions are a resource you control. What can you do TODAY to further your goals?
Make the time. You block out 40+ hours per week to further your employer’s goal. How much time have you set aside for your own goals?
Invest your money. Many of us casually spend several dollars a day on a newspaper or a snack that becomes hundreds of dollars over the year. Then, we want to lose weight, but we can’t afford that trainer, class, or video. How much money are you investing in your goal?
A friend of mine wanted to write a novel. She was a business consultant, so writing fiction was not her background. She focused and set a firm end date. She wrote and edited daily. She set aside two hours a day for most of the year. She turned down projects to write (essentially investing this foregone money into her goal). She finished her book. She is also head of her own corporation, married and the mother of two small children. She aligned her resources and found the focus, energy, time and money to reach her goal. Why not you?
We all have stubborn goals – the ones that we want to accomplish, but that we somehow never seem to do. Losing those pounds, working out regularly, and building that nest egg are some common stubborn goals. For these tough goals, the achievement itself is obviously not enough incentive. We need to call in special reinforcements to kick us into gear:
Reward yourself for doing nothing. Attach something you really want to progress on your goal. If you like massages, get a weekly massage for every week that you hit your weight loss/ exercise/ diet/ savings goal. However, the key to this strategy is to get the massage BEFORE you even start your goal and to do this regularly in the first few weeks of your goal, whether or not you make progress. A key mistake people make is to withhold their reward for only when they’ve accomplished their first big step. Instead, use the early rewards as a taste (and potent reminder) of things to come. Once you realize how great the reward is, you will not want to give it up, so you will stick to your goal.
Double the deterrent. Sometimes knowing how many calories are in that junk food is not a strong enough deterrent. But what if you count calories AND dollars? Add up the dollars spent on junk food, and see if the money wasted (or the combo of the money plus calories) affects you more than just the calories. Perhaps when you see that junk food adds not only to your waistline, but also to your debt load, the double deterrent will turn you onto your goal.
Scare yourself into submission. If you need to lose weight, read articles on the Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other ailments related to obesity. If you need to work out, get familiar with how much bone density and muscle mass is lost with age. If you need to save more money, read stories about bankruptcy and falling on hard times. It would be great if we were inspired to change for purely positive reasons. However, a dose of negative reality might do the job even better.
Some people get all the breaks. Conversely, once you get up on the wrong side of the bed, everything seems to go wrong. There is a momentum factor to good and bad luck. If you think about various times in your life, you will see times when you were getting all the breaks and times when nothing seemed to go right. The times when things go well make you confident, and this confidence gives you power, and this power makes more things go well. We must take advantage of this momentum of luck.
Shake off bad luck as soon as possible. When you are down, you notice problems. When you are hopeful, you notice opportunities. If you focus on maintaining hopefulness, bad luck will turn more quickly. If you’re down, watch a comedy, call an upbeat friend, treat yourself extra well – whatever works to get you humming again.
In the professional arena, the momentum of luck can propel a career. We all get breaks along the way. The “lucky” few are actually the few who take advantage of these breaks. Recognize good fortune in however small a package it may now seem (a different role, a new client). Let luck propel you to new experiences, new relationships, and new opportunities for good luck. You don’t just have to work harder (although that helps). You also need to welcome the luck that comes your way.
If you’re not lucky, change your luck. Do something new. Have you met anyone new lately? Have you checked out the new business in your neighborhood? Have you listened to what people around you are talking about – is there a new market opportunity, a better way to do something, a potential career opening? Pay attention. Look for the upside. Are you feeling lucky yet?
Flexibility is critical to sticking to your goals. This is not contradictory. Flexibility is not giving up. Flexibility gives yourself the freedom to choose the best path to reach your goals. Achieving goals is not a linear process. There are setbacks and plateaus along the way. To overcome these, you need flexibility in three key areas
YOUR STRATEGY. You need a strategy for achieving your goal. However, your strategy may not work. When I set out to lose weight, I adopted a weight training regimen from a respected fitness magazine. It wasn’t working, and a trainer suggested an alternative. It was contrary to what I was doing, but it worked! Stick to your goal, not to your strategy. Be flexible enough to adapt your initial plan when necessary.
YOUR TIMELINE. It’s good to have a timeline for achieving small successes along the way to your ultimate goal. If you want to lose weight, target one pound at a time. However, successes don’t always come regularly. You may hit a plateau, where you keep working, but nothing changes. You need extra time to pull out of these plateaus. Be flexible and patient, so you don’t just throw out your goal with your initial timeline.
YOUR ASSUMPTIONS. When you pick a goal, it is because you have certain assumptions about what it means to achieve it. Sometimes you’re wrong. Weight loss was my goal because I was more confident at a former, lighter weight. However, after achieving my target weight, I still wasn’t confident. My goal expanded and included trying new styles, improving my posture, and reaching a healthy weight. Flexibility means realigning your goals to your true needs, so what you get in the end is what you really wanted.
When we kick off the new year, we probably pick resolutions that we hope we’ll stick to and achieve. Sometimes goals are not achieved because they are set too high too soon (e.g., lose five pounds in one week). The wrong goal can set you back. Therefore, before you can even think about sticking to it, you need to carefully define your “it”
GO WITH WHAT’S INTERESTING. In a previous newsletter, I outlined an exercise to identify 100 dreams. When you have 100 (or more) dreams, you don’t need to feel pressured to pick the right one. Instead, you have many paths to fulfillment. Go with what moves you right now.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR TIME. If you just started a new job, you need time to establish yourself in that company. That may mean working harder and longer hours to learn the ropes. Now may not be the best time to sign up for all those classes you’ve always wanted to take. Overextending yourself may demoralize you. Put extra time in your schedule for new goals to take longer than they should. Don’t choose goals that have a time conflict with your current schedule.
LET YOUR GOALS REINFORCE EACH OTHER. If your list includes getting fit, learning to cook, and saving extra money, take a healthy cooking class and walk to work to save the extra money. While you work towards your cooking and savings goals, you work towards your fitness goal.
Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. – Anonymous
Have you missed the momentum of January for your New Year’s resolutions? Did Valentine’s Day pass with you again not sending cards to your loved ones? Did you not get your finances in order as you promised you would do after last April’s tax filing?
In the short term, it may seem like you’ve missed the boat. In the short term, there are specific circumstances that make it seem like the opportune moment has passed. But in the long term, there are many short terms. There will be other circumstances that will make the opportune moment to fulfill our goals come around again. In this way, there is not only one opportune moment to start on our goals. We just need to start, and there is no better time than right now.
We are not destined to just one ending for our story. We craft our own ending day in and day out by what we actively do. If we spend our days lamenting our past and what we did or didn’t do, then our end will be based on our past. But if we start on our goals right now, then we change the outcome for ourselves. This doesn’t ensure a happy ending or that we’ll meet our goals exactly as we planned. But at least we’ll be the hero of our own story.