Guest Post: Goldilocks Goals: How to Make Your Dreams “Just Right”

Like many people, I have a lot of goals. Some of them are big and long-term, which means they mostly live on the back burner. The other goals (making sure the house is clean, driving my oldest to soccer and baseball practices) are smaller, and hover at the forefront of my thoughts.

One of my biggest goals (and also perhaps the farthest toward the back of my activity list) involves writing. I’ve always been a bit of a closet writer, though slightly less closeted since I’ve begun blogging. I’ve got two sci-fi/fantasy novel manuscripts written (though unpublished and never really shown to anyone), and I’ve had an idea for a third for about a year now. I’m even hoping to apply to the Clarion or Odyssey writers’ workshops in the next year or two (could my family cope without me for a chunk of the summer? Do I risk taking a leave of absence from my work?). Despite all these writerly hopes, I haven’t really worked toward actualizing them recently. So many “What ifs” get in the way of starting this third novel, or even trying my hand at writing a short story.

Books
(All the books on my coffee table. Should one of them be mine eventually?)

So what am I going to do about all the questions I keep asking myself?

Downsize the Dream and Chuck the “What ifs”

I think one big change I need to make in my thinking – and something you should think about too if your dreams are BIG but all the “what ifs” keep blocking your path – is to completely lose sight of the gigantic overarching goal. I need to stop asking myself questions like “What if this novel is as bad as the other two?” and “What if I really like this and want to try to do more with it than abandon it in a desktop folder?” and “What if I get caught partway through and have no idea where I want to end up?” Instead, I need to plop myself in front of my computer with a cup of coffee, and start. Start with a few letters, a word, and hopefully build it up from some muddy clay to at least a couple bricks that could, eventually, comprise an entire wall.

Sometimes it’s vital to stop thinking about the forest – or even the entire world in my case – and focus on one little leaf on a sapling.

But then another question arises. When, amidst the helter-skelter of family ballyhoo and brouhaha, of career intrigue and excitement, is the best time for a creative (and frivolous) pursuit?

Anytime and Always

Time is probably the most precious commodity in the world. When we think of our valuables we generally think of diamonds, or fancy electronics, or our families. But an argument can be made that time is probably the most prized of them all. How do you weigh time spent on goals with your family, career aspirations, and personal pursuits? How can I weigh another hike with my family, researching new methods in bed bug treatment, and learning piano or French? I’m constantly struggling to find a “balance,” mostly just kicking my legs as fast as possible and hoping I stay afloat.

But this week, I’ve got a big goal for myself. Anytime I have a few minutes, I’m going to dash to my computer, open the text editor, and focus on my little sapling. I may not get anything written, but I’ll be actively working toward my dreams, in baby steps, and you never know: I may surprise myself with that third manuscript.

Author bio: Maya Rodgers currently leads a satisfying career in pest control (lately she spends most of her time in termite treatment), where she fights bugs and plots how insects will feature in her next novel manuscript. To encourage, embolden, or be entertained, visit her at www.petsandpests.com.

How Are Your Goals Coming?

How are your goals coming along?

I just marked one of my lifetime goals off of my list, traveling to Moscow.

I have always wanted to visit Russia, especially Moscow, and I got the opportunity a few weeks ago.

The architecture was beautiful, and the people were very friendly.

It was quite frustrating not being able to read any of the signs or understand the language, but I booked a half day tour with an English speaking guide, and got to see some amazing sights.

Have your written your goals down this year?

What about your lifetime bucket list?

If you don’t write them down they aren’t goals, only dreams.  Get them written down and start crossing them off of your list!

Guest Post: How to Find Peace in Your Home

It seems like the world’s tempo is accelerating in a way that makes us unable to control our lives. We are either too busy, too stressed out, or too confused about our emotions and the result is a negative feeling that we have at the end of the day.

There are things making us unhappy that are out of our control: a horrible boss, losing a job, an illness of someone close to us. But there are ways to improve our general situation and to feel better, even if we can’t solve those big, burning problems at the moment.

The first step to creating a better life is to find peace in your home.

Things that make us unhappy in our home

There are some things that really bother us in our house, but either because we’re busy with other things, or because we don’t know how to recognize our needs, we are blind to them.

Those issues can be:

  •     A messy house
  •     A partner who isn’t much involved in house matters
  •     Furniture and room decorations that you don’t really like
  •     Not enough windows and light
  •     Not enough guests

These are only a few things that can really bring you down without you even realizing what’s bugging you. Sure, you can see that your bathroom needs cleaning, but until you really clean it, you won’t know how much it’s been going on your nerves.

Redecorate your home

Take a look at your house, all its rooms, and think about what you could change. If your apartment is too dark, you need to open it up somehow. Don’t use curtains or shades, remove furniture that stands in the way of windows or make another window if you have to – but you really need a lot of light coming in.

Try painting your walls a more cheerful color, spray-painting your wood furniture to make it look vintage, buying or making new stuff to warm up the room. Use interesting and original ideas to redecorate. These remodeling activities can be very cheap if you and your partner agree to have a fun DIY adventure. They can also be very therapeutic, especially if you work listening to some great music.

Talk to your partner

If your partner is the main problem things aren’t better organized and more fun at your home, you need to talk to him/her about it. Don’t make the conversation sound like an accusation, but rather as a constructive idea how you can improve your lives. You can discuss it over a romantic dinner with candles, nice music and wine that won’t look like a bribe but as a demonstration of how you should enjoy your home and your time together in full.

Author bio:

This article was written by Allison Moody, a writer, avid reader, amateur dancer, food lover and many other things. She is currently working on promoting her new FREE online app Labeley that lets users design their own beverage labels.

 

Guest Post: 5 Reasons Why You Can’t Fulfill Your Dreams

Almost everyone has heard the famous saying, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” While this is an encouraging statement, is it true?

It’s not as easy as just coming up with something you dream of doing, and then making it happen. There’s much more involved in turning a dream into a reality.

Knowing why you can’t achieve your dreams can help you know what to fine tune, so you have a better chance of achieving them.

Check out these reasons why you can’t fulfill your dreams, so you can start working on how you’ll achieve a dream that’s possible for you.

#1: You Don’t Know What They Are

Have you thought about your dreams lately? Most people lead such hectic lives that they seldom sit back to think about what they would love their life to be like.

You can’t change your life if you don’t know what to change.

Take some moments to think about what you really want to change in your life. Knowing what you want to change is the first step, and it’s the one that you must take.

#2: Your Dreams Are Unrealistic

If you’re 50 years old and have never played a day of tennis in your life, it’s likely you won’t be able to fulfill your dream of winning at Wimbledon. This is quite obvious, but other examples may not be as apparent.

Consider how realistic your dream is…

This may not be easy, and is a big reason why people seek coaching these days. Some people will think their dream is unrealistic because they fear failure, not because it cannot be done.

#3: You Don’t Have Natural Talent

Just like in the example of wanting to win at Wimbledon, if you don’t have a talent in tennis, it’s likely you won’t be able to fulfill your dream. While at times you can learn a skill, there are some things you can’t learn, and it just has to come naturally to you.

Think about your dream and the types of skills and knowledge you need for what you want to do. Then consider whether that is something you can do with the talent you have.

#4: You Don’t Have Enough Time

Some dreams take decades to materialize and others not so long. It’s true that some people can get on the fast track of success, it’s not the case for most people.

Think of someone living the dream you want have and then, consider how long it took that person to achieve that. This will give you a good idea of how possible it is for you to make your dream a reality with the time you have before you do others things in life, such as retire or get too old for it.

#5: You Don’t Think You Can Achieve Them

Finally yet importantly, the fifth reason why you can’t fulfill your dreams is because you don’t think you can do it. Many people put up a roadblock to success because they don’t feel they’ll ever make it. They don’t want to try to achieve them because they fear the ridicule of failing not only from others, but also from themselves. If they don’t try, they don’t fail.

Fear of failure is understandable. However, it’s a common reason why most people never fulfill their dreams. They don’t ever try new things, so they never move forward towards a life they want.

The only way you will achieve your dreams is if you think about them, fine tune them to meet your capabilities and time and take risks. Sure, you may fail along the way to your dream, but if you continue on making adjustments along the way, you can reach the success you want in life

Marcelina Hardy is the staff writer for the iNLP Center, which offers live and online training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Visit iNLP to receive a free coaching session.

Guest Post: How Do I Image SEO?

ImageSEO

Images are more than just decorative additives that can turn a webpage into an engaging piece of information. They are also perfect assets that can be used to gain some love from the search engines. I have often seen many places where people overlook the search engine optimization of images whereas they can be used to drive traffic not only from the image search but also from the normal universal search results. However, benefiting from image SEO means you must implement some SEO tactics, including using the right anchor text, alt text, descriptive tagging, and few others. These are not hard though; if you can optimize a webpage, there is nothing so new about optimizing an image than playing around with your primary keyword. Here are few tips I have created to guide you towards better image SEO.

Use the Right Image

Using an image for any purpose online should start from searching and using the right image. Just like some images can skyrocket the stickiness of a webpage, others may do more harm than good. Hence the right image must compliment the rest of the content on the webpage. Notably, while most people use to Google out images for their blog posts, it is important you note that companies and sites can take legal action against you if you use an image that you don’t have the permission to re-use. This is why you must create an image yourself, buy license for your images or search and use royalty-free images or creative commons. Personally, I prefer using the creative commons search in Flickr for free images and iStockPhoto to buy license for those I can’t really pass by.

Optimize the File Name

Why leave an image name as 000000000039.jpg when the name can be changed to something that blends with the content of the page. There is no secret to optimizing the image name except to use keyword rich words as your filename. If your blog post is optimized for “Panda Update,” ensure that the image filename reflects that. Additionally, all the images on your site must be of common filetypes like .JPEG, .GIF, .PNG and .BMP and must be placed in one file on your site. This helps the search bots to easily identify and include them in search results. For instance, all the images I used on my review blog where I share reviews about digital product creation services like Mixbook and Pinnacle Studio bear the product name as their filename. This is also what each review page is optimized for.

The Alt Text

This is the first image optimization technique I learnt. Many of us do ignore this section when using images online. Even if you are using a text image, the search bots can’t yet see and categorize it based on the texts, but depends on the surrounding descriptions like the alt text, tags, filename and others to associate it with any keyword. Hence the alt text or tag must be optimized with the same keyword you have in the filename. This is very important.

Anchor Text

You may be asking how an anchor text applies to images. I have seen several places where people link to images with keywords like photo, image or any other generic text that doesn’t really describe what the image is all about. In this case, search engines won’t know how to categorize the link and image. But imagine that you used an anchor text that describes the image, you are not only telling the search bots what message the image is carrying and when to include it in search results, but also revealing to readers what they should expect to see in the image.

Avoid Over-Optimization

If you are yet to wake up to the demands of the recent penguin update, it targets keyword stuffing (over-optimization). SEO has suddenly turned into a two-edged sword which will reward your site if done well or hurt your site at the slightest wrong step – it is just a matter of when. To this end, you should avoid stuffing the filename, the alt text or tag and the anchor text with your keyword. While keeping these forms short and as descriptive as possible, I use the keyword only once in each case and have never had any penalty for it.

Think that optimizing your images is a waste of time? Think again! Just like normal webpages, you can also optimize your images not only for search engines but also to increase user experience.

Author Bio

Steven is an internet marketer with a strong experience in SEO and SMO. He is the main editor at the VeryBestSoftware.Net, where he shares his assessments on various online services like photo sharing platforms, photo booking sites and remote printing for businesses.

Guest Post: Developing Your Leadership Skills to Help Find Your Peak

Are great leaders born or bred? Sure, there are those that seem born naturally charismatic who attract followers from the playground all the way to the board room. And as evidenced through many politicians and celebrities, those charismatic, magnetic people can easily self-destruct while many of the quieter, more serious sorts end up in the most responsible positions.

Why? Because there are as many diverse approaches to leadership as there are people, and the style is often situational. Despite style, it’s the fundamental principles of leadership that endure over time.

Too often, leadership is confused with management. Leadership and management are two entirely separate things, but the tendency to group them together can lead to confusion for those looking to take on a leadership role.

Management is about completing tasks in the most efficient way possible. This can mean developing and managing resources, including employees. The main goal is to streamline processes and improve return on investment with the bottom line always in mind.

Leaders, on the other hand, focus on blazing the path to new territory. They aren’t overly concerned with the details of how they are going to get to where they want to go. Instead, they tend to focus on what they can achieve when they reach their goals. They think about the future, not how to get better results from current processes.

A recent example of good leadership can be taken from the late Steve Jobs, who lead Apple into new territory by focusing on the development of products that were the first of their kind. He didn’t concern himself, at least initially, with the manufacturing process of iPhones. Instead he focused on communicating his vision to his top employees, leading them in the development of the technology that would make it possible. He had a single-minded focus on creating the products he saw as being the future of Apple.

That’s leadership. Overseeing the supply chain and logistics of getting the iPhone from the manufacturing floor to market is also important, but that’s management.

Effective Leadership Begins with Certain Character Traits

There are certain character traits vital to those wishing to become great leaders. There are no shortcuts that can substitute for these qualities – working to develop them is the price a good leader pays to become successful.

Honesty. A person who fakes his or her way through professional life can, admittedly, succeed for a time. But eventually employees and peers detect the cracks in the façade. Honesty about where a leader wants to take an organization and transparency in the methods used to achieve it are central to the success of any good leader. Think, for example, of politicians – the most effective are those who have clear objectives and are elected by a majority who agree with those objectives. Those who say one thing during the campaign and do another when in office often find themselves in trouble with voters.

Forward-looking. Leaders do not dwell in the past, on mistakes or successes. Leaders look toward the future and ascertain the best direction for the company, based on the core values of the leader and organization. They are concentrating on where they can go, not where they have been, both as individuals and as leaders of the company.

Intelligent and inspiring. Nobody wants to follow someone who is clearly not caught up on the latest happenings not only in their industry, but in business strategy as a whole. Staying smart in these areas is a necessity for a leader. Being an inspiration is a tougher task, but if a person bases decisions on reasoned thought and not emotion, and also shows the sort of dedication and stamina under duress that others will find admirable, they are on their way to becoming inspirational leaders.

Broad-minded. While the ultimate goal is always in mind, a good leader also seeks out a diverse set of people from whom to seek advice and who also have input on the final strategy.

Leadership Methods Can Vary by Situation

There are as many different variations on good leadership as there are good leaders.  For example, Microsoft’s Bill Gates became known for utilizing an intense, analytical style in governing his employees. His superior vision and ability to build a winning, cutting-edge management team lead to a culture of excellence at Microsoft, which dominated the computer industry for decades.

Others excel at creating empathy for the customer. Jeff Brazos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is famous for requiring managers at all levels of the company – including himself and his executive team – to spend two days a year in the call center, listening to customers and learning about their experience interacting with the online retailer.

Despite the fine-grain details and differences in leadership styles, most fall into one of several categories. The best leaders often use a combination of two or more of the following methods.

Authoritarian. This is the method in which a leader decides how things will be done, then effectively communicates it to the employees. This is not to be confused with bossing people around, which is something a good leader never does. Rather, in this case the leader knows the ultimate goal clearly without needing outside advice.

Democratic. Here, the leader seeks advice from others before formulating a plan. This method works well when a leader wants to get buy-in from employees. However, leaders should not appear indecisive or in need of others to provide them with direction and ideas.

Delegate. Some leaders also choose to delegate authority to others for certain areas of the business operation. This can be necessary for larger businesses and not so effective in smaller operations where a more hands-on approach might be necessary.

Whatever style a leader chooses, the important thing is to stay true to the core traits and values that make a leader who he or she really is. Employees will be able to see the authenticity and will respond.

This guest post was provided by Dean Vella who writes for University Alliance on topics pertaining to the subjects of leadership skills training and negotiation training .

Using LinkedIn to Grow Your Small Business

I am not sure how many of you out there are familiar with the business networking site LinkedIn, but if you’re not you should be.

LinkedIn is a social networking site focused on the business community that was started in 2002.  It currently has over 161 million members, and is getting new members at 2 per second.

This isn’t like the other social media site such as Facebook and MySpace, LinkedIn allows you to connect and network with high level decision makers.  At one point the average household income of the members was $104,000.

As you can see, LinkedIn can provide valuable connections for your small business.  However, directly connecting to others is only the tip of the iceberg.  LinkedIn also provides groups you can join to connect to others based on industry, interest, or affiliation.

By joining these groups, you automatically are pseudo-connected to everyone in the group.  You can send them invitations directly since you are in the same group.  You are also able to create and join in discussions within the group.  The more active you are in a group, the more you are recognized.

In addition to joining groups, you are able to create your own group.

As the owner of the group, you are now able to send messages to the entire group.  This is key because these messages go into the members actual inbox, not their LinkedIn inbox.  This is a great way to quickly build a massive email list for your small business. Many people create local groups and have in person group meetings as well as just connecting online.

There is also the benefit of finding employees for your small business through LinkedIn.  Many job seekers head to LinkedIn to find their next position.  Executives from all of the Fortune 500 are represented on the site, and the sites job board is very active.

In future articles I will explore specific areas within LinkedIn.  From creating or beefing up your profile to creating and running your first group.  You can also join my group on LinkedIn, The Small Business Success Network.

I hope to see you there!

30 Ways in 30 Days to Find Your Peak – Day 30: Forgive

Welcome Back! If you are just getting started, I suggest you go back and review the previous posts in the series here.

Well, here we are at the end of our 30 days.  Have you enjoyed it?  I know I have had a wonderful time coming up with these articles, I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have.

If you would like to see more of this type of series, please let me know in the comments.

Forgive

I have saved one of the most important ones for last.  By doing this, you will improve not only your life, but another person’s as well.

There are so many people out there that feel that they have been wronged in some way and are unable to forgive the other person.

Holding on to things like this can destroy your life.  While it is sometime very hard, you have to forgive these people.

If possible, you should let them know that you are forgiving them, because more often than not, they realize what they have done and are just too proud to say they are sorry.

I will bet if you start by forgiving them you will get an apology in return.

I know there are those of you that are saying that I don’t know what you went through, and you are right, but I do know that if you really look at it, you  are getting no benefit from holding that grudge against that person.

So why not forgive them?

No action steps for today, but you know what you need to do, so just go and do it.

Thanks for sticking with me for the whole month, I hope you have gotten something out of the 30 days!

30 Ways in 30 Days to Find Your Peak – Day 29: Create Your Bucket List

Welcome Back! If you are just getting started, I suggest you go back and review the previous posts in the series here.

Create Your Bucket List

Have you ever seen the movie The Bucket List?  If not, you should check it out, really funny movie!

A bucket list is basically a list of goals you want to accomplish within your lifetime.  The ultimate long term goal list.

I try to tackle a couple goals from my bucket list each year, my list has about 150 goals to which I will add a couple every few years.

These can be anything, places to visit, skills to learn, experiences to have, people to meet, it is only limited by your imagination.

You should try to shoot for 100 goals initially, I know people that have over 500!  Google bucket list, you will see some amazing ones out there.

Action Steps

Once again, pretty simple, get to writing!

As I said above, shoot for 100 goals initially, and go from there.

I would love to hear about some of your goals in the comments!

30 Ways in 30 Days to Find Your Peak – Day 28: Start a Savings Plan

Welcome Back! If you are just getting started, I suggest you go back and review the previous posts in the series here.

Start a Savings Plan

Even though we are getting close to the end of this series, I don’t want you to think that makes this any less important.

YOU NEED TO START SAVING TODAY!

This is so important, because none of us are getting any younger, and one day you are not going to be able to work for your money, and will have to rely on what you have saved over the years.

You really don’t think social security is going to be around then do you?

First off, you need an emergency fund.  The amount of this varies depending on who you talk to, but initially, before you save for anything else, you need to have $1000 saved as an emergency fund.

The reason for this is in case you have a car break down or other such emergency, you won’t have to charge it.

After you have your emergency fund started, max out any retirement you can starting with a matching 401k.  Any matching funds are free money, so take full advantage of them.

Once you have maxed out your retirement, then you can build on your emergency fund until you have at least six months of expenses saved.

After that, then start saving for other things.  Be sure to check with your financial adviser on the best place to put your money in order to maximize the value!

Start saving right away, even if it is a very small amount.  Once you get in the habit, it will become a lot easier to just put the money away and forget about it.

Action Steps

Open an account and start saving!  Pretty simple, huh?