Money CAN Buy You Happiness

Yesterday I shared a little $20 challenge that I’m giving myself this week – to give away $20. I shared the challenge on social media and got a load of great feedback from both people who are joining the challenge and people who’ve done similar things before.

One person (Joel Turner on G+) pointed me to a TED video that I’ve posted below. In the video Michael Norton shares some research that takes on the saying ‘Money Can’t Buy You Happiness’. It turns out that Money can in fact buy happiness – if you spend it on the right thing… others.

Check it out for yourself and join our $20 Challenge and come back and tell us what you find!

My $20 Challenge #20Challenge

This morning I heard a challenge that I’m going to take up this week.

Put $20 (substitute the value depending upon your circumstances) in your wallet/purse this week that you’re not allowed to spend on yourself.

Put it in a spot that you don’t normally put cash and where you’ll see it and be reminded of this challenge (I’m going to put it in front of my credit cards).

As you go through the week look for an opportunity to give it away in a way that will make a positive difference for someone else.

You can give it away in any way that you wish.

The object of the challenge is to make someone else’s life better in some way – but I suspect it’ll have more of an impact upon me than anyone else.

  • What impact will being constantly reminded to look for need or opportunity to give around me have upon how I see the world?
  • How will it impact my view of my own circumstances and the perception I have of my own needs and problems?
  • Will being reminded to exercise generosity impact the way I live this week?

I’m not sure of the answers but I’ll be interested to see what happens.

I’d love for others to join me in this little challenge/experiment. Anyone else up for it?

PS: if you join in I’d LOVE to hear how you go with it. What do you do with your $20 and what did you learn during the challenge? Leave a comment below to share how you find the challenge.

How Reading More Can Benefit You

This guest post is by Nick Baker of The Daily Encounters Blog.

The act of reading can be tricky, but also rewarding at the same time.  The main setting of reading at a young age is in school, yet the reading of school books can sometimes be boring, and seem pointless.  This is one reason why we stop reading once we get out of school—we think back to how reading all those educational books was boring, which in turn gives us no motivation to read books when we no longer are forced to.

Reading

Image used with permission

This lack of motivation to read once we grow older stops us from benefiting from the many advantages reading provides to us.  Reading is able to make you more valuable as a person in many ways: as an employee, as a friend, and as an innovator.

Employers rarely ask people if they read or what their favorite books are while they conduct an interview.  That doesn’t mean that your next boss can’t tell whether or not you read, or that you can’t find an opportunity to bring up books you have read.

Vocabulary is one way people can tell if you read. The more you read, the broader your vocabulary gets—as long as you have the motivation to look up what words mean when you come across words you don’t know.  You can use your vocabulary in conversation with employers or business associates to show them you’re knowledgeable. You can even intimidate them with your extensive vocabulary!

Reading books that are centered on your area of business is a great way to boost your career and give you an advantage over others, making you more valuable to your company.  Of course, being more valuable to your company puts you in a better position to get a raise or promotion.

Reading can also be used as a social tool either to make friends, or to further your friendship with current friends.  Reading provides you with insight into other cultures whose people have different backgrounds and personalities. It can help to make you more confident in talking to people from different places, with different interests, since you’re more knowledgeable thanks to your reading.

Along with broadening your knowledge of other cultures, reading always gives you something to talk about with other people, whether you’re discussing a book you’ve read with someone who’s read it or is interested in it, or talking about world or local events you’ve read about in newspapers or magazines.

Innovation is spurred by thought and creativity, both of which reading amplifies in the brain.  No matter what book you’re reading, your brain is working hard and new ideas are always popping up.  Fantasy books can lead your brain to think of more out-of-the-box ideas, whereas biographies and documentaries can spur an idea in your head to follow someone else’s example.

Reading has always had a place in society as a learning tool; however, the learning from books does not have to stop once we leave school.  Books always hold valuable lessons that can advance you in certain aspects of your life—as long as you maintain reading a part of your daily activities.

Nick Baker also writes a Blog about Daily Improvement which gives its readers daily articles on simple things they can do every day to make them happy and improve their life.

 

Why You Should Volunteer

Too often we get caught up in our own lives. We mean to volunteer and “be a good person”—whatever that means—but we just don’t get around to it. For some days, being busy is a good enough excuse. But what you’re missing out on is far more valuable than a little lost leisure time.

Personal satisfaction

You probably remember that feeling you got after participating in your company’s canned food drive last year. But do you remember how quickly it went away? The point to volunteering is to do it regularly enough that you’re getting the full benefit of it along with the nonprofit you’re working with.

Volunteering

Image copyright mangostock - Fotolia.com

Of course, if you’re doing something you hate, quite frankly, you’re never going to feel good about it. The trick is to find something that may not be 100 percent fun, but it is something you can do with a smile on your face.

Gardeners can look for opportunities in the spring to help landscape nonprofits, and those who love children can work at a Boys and Girls Club. If you know a specific craft or skill, contact your local library and see if you can offer a class on it through them. People who enjoy a little alone time can work at historical societies and comb through data and records or even walk cemeteries to record burial sites.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it’s something you don’t mind eating away at your free time or you likely won’t stick with it.

The personal side of networking

If you’re looking for a way to meet people, either as friends or business contacts, look no further than your local food pantry. Volunteering releases all sorts of endorphins that will make you a happier, friendlier person that’s just ripe for hiring or befriending.

Looking for friends? Chances are good you’ll find someone with your same interests if you find a specialized volunteer position. Chances aren’t that great that they’ll be in the same age group (depending on the position), so be open to mentoring a college student or helping a senior.

Better than exercise?

Okay, no, it’s not better for your body than exercising. It will, however, give you some of the same benefits. The Corporation for National and Community Service created a report from 30 studies that showed significant health benefits for those who volunteered 100 hours or more a year.

Heart attack patients were less likely to battle depression after their hospitalization if they were volunteers or if they began to. In one study, those 65 and older lived longer if they volunteered. Another study showed older generations had less of a decline in health. Yet another study showed that those with significant health problems progressed better than science can account for.

In addition to all of that, volunteering gets you off the couch. Whether you’re walking around, playing with children or gardening, you’re going to be moving around. Even volunteering at a food pantry can require anything from lifting and carrying heavy boxes to filling grocery sacks. However, if you have problems with mobility or lifting, don’t hesitate to contact an organization. More than likely, they’ll need someone to work the receptionist’s desk or be a greeter.

Learn new skills

Sure, you could take classes to learn new skills. But they’re not going to be as hands-on as learning in the moment. Many nonprofits use online training to teach their recruits, but others will sit down with you and explain things.
You can learn grant-writing (a semi-lucrative writing career), just by volunteering at an animal shelter. Often, the directors will teach you enough for you to do it and guide you through the first one. Their investment in you pays off as you continue to work with them.

At many organizations, you can learn new computer programs. The volunteers are all busy people, but they’re also patient, and they’ll recognize that it’s important for you to know everything that’s going on in the system. Respect their time and pay attention, and they’ll be as helpful as you need them to be. You can also learn soft skills, like working with children or training animals.

So what are you waiting for?

If you’re looking for a great place to volunteer, check your local United Way. They’re a collection of non-profits, and you’ll be able to talk to someone in person about your skills and where you’d best fit. You can also get information on which non-profits have an upbeat atmosphere instead of a frazzled one. If they’re frazzled because they’re understaffed, go ahead and try them. If they’re frazzled because of poor management, though, they’ll only add stress to your life.

For those who want to type in some keywords and get results, check out Volunteer Match, which lets users type in a keyword and their location to find some options they would be interested in. Go through a search portal like Volunteer Match instead of just Googling a term, though, because many non-profits don’t have websites.

Now get out there and start helping others and yourself!

Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing, and family life. He has a keen interest in blogging and social media and is an advocate for online training.

How to Help Out—and Feel Good!—This Fall

Cooler weather often makes us want to batten down the hatches and hibernate. But this is a great time of year to get involved in some of the global initiatives that are likely to be recognized somehow in your local area.

Help out

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There’s a very full list on Wikipedia, but these are our favorites.

International literacy day: September 8

This UN-endorsed initiative aims to promote literacy around the world. Ask at your local library (or even bookstore!) to find out how you can help celebrate.

Suicide prevention day: September 10

This year’s theme for the WHO-endorsed Suicide Prevention Day is Preventing Suicide in Multicultural Societies. The Wikipedia page provides a wealth of ideas for those who want to help raise awareness of—and help prevent—suicide. Perhaps you could put one of these into action in your community?

International talk like a pirate day: September 19

Who doesn’t get a kick out of talking like a pirate?! Talk like a pirate day is a good excuse to throw a party, wear an eye patch, and address strangers as “me hearties”. Also: studies have shown that talking like a pirate makes you feel good. Okay, maybe we made that up. But this is still one to mark in the diary.

World habitat day: October 3

This UN-supported day recognizes the importance of habitat globally. This year’s theme is Cities and Climate Change, so if you live in a city, you may have a Habitat Day event on your doorstep! Check with your local council or environment groups for details.

World animal day: October 4

World animal day is a great opportunity for animal lovers to come together to celebrate animals. The initiative’s website has a handy search that will tell you about registered events happening in your area—and lets you add your own!

International men’s day: November 19

This event aims to “promote positive aspects of male identity based on the premise that ‘males of all ages respond more energetically to positive role models than they do to negative gender stereotyping.’” Accordingly, the 2011 theme is Giving Boys the Best Possible Start in Life. Get involved! Your local council, schools, or community groups will likely have information on events in your area.

World hello day: November 21

“Greet ten people for peace,” says World Hello Day, which has been going for 39 years. This is one celebration that’s easy to participate in: the aim is to greet ten people on this day, in recognition of the importance of communication in achieving peace. Don’t be shy: say hello!

Don’t forget to check out the complete list—there are plenty of days of recognition, so whatever your passion, there’s bound to be something you can get behind.

Have you thought about getting more involved in your community—local or global—this Fall? Share your plans in the comments.

Developing a Mindset for Social Good

This post is by Angela Irvin of Chrysalides.

Social Good, a term often used by organizations, refers to the ideals and actions that promote a greater benefit for society. In addition to being socially responsible for the societal and environmental effects of their products and services, many organizations become involved with social issues for which they provide philanthropic solutions.

However, we should be reminded that organizations are not inorganic entities; they are human collectives, comprised of individuals. Therefore, the foundation for social good actually starts with the individual.

joining hands

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The concept of social good goes beyond the idea of simple charity. It is an encompassing mindset that stems from an empathetic desire to improve the human condition. However, empathy alone will not lead to a mindset for social good, nor will it always compel an individual to take action.

There are several concepts that are common (and perhaps necessary) in the belief systems of people with a social good mindset.

Interconnectedness

Interconnectedness is a worldview that is rooted in Buddhist philosophy. It is the belief that everything on earth is interrelated, and nothing exists independent of relationships to other things.

A social good mindset embraces the understanding that a problem affecting one segment of society will ultimately affect the whole of society. We are also connected in the sense that each individual reflects the humanness of every other individual. This is the basis of empathy, which allows us to see ourselves in others.

Interconnectedness also applies to our surroundings. Humans are inextricably interdependent with the environment. Abuse of its resources, or disregard for the creatures that exist within it, triggers a domino effect that ultimately affects human life.

Assets vs. limitations

Consider the following quote:

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”—Edward Everett Hale

The key point is not to devalue ourselves by focusing on limitations. Instead, acknowledge the value of what we do have to offer. Even if limited financially, we have natural strengths and talents—which in themselves are valuable. Therefore, every person on earth has a charitable asset base.

The social good mindset is not deterred by limitations, because there is always an asset to offer. In other words, we should do what we can with what we have – and if we can’t do a lot, then do a little.

No action is too small

We don’t need give a grand performance in order to make a difference; small actions matter. Many people are deterred from acting due to the erroneous belief that their actions are too small to make a difference. However, it is important to think in terms of collective actions and understand that small actions contribute to a larger cause.

For example, if we visualize the vastness of an ocean, one act can be likened to a drop. However, though only a drop, each drop is a necessary component of the whole. Therefore, to understand the impact of a drop, simply imagine the outcome if there were no drops—the ocean would cease to exist.

The social good mindset is not concerned with the size of an act. In addition to the power of collective actions, we should remember that in the ocean, even a lone raindrop makes a ripple.

Spheres of influence

Whether we realize it or not, we influence the world on a daily basis. The social good mindset recognizes that regardless of occupation or social position, each of us is centered within a personal sphere of influence.

We’ve undoubtedly influenced many, even if only by sharing our experiences and insights. Kind actions tend to have a ripple effect, and we should keep in mind that our actions are often paid forward without us realizing it.

Internal locus of control

A high sense of internal control is vital to the social good mindset.

A person with an internal locus of control believes that success or failure is within their personal control and is determined by their skill and effort. By contrast, individuals with a high external locus of control believe that success or failure is determined by something outside of themselves, such as fate, luck, or powerful others.

In a recent study,* researchers compared the personality variables of Holocaust heroes (non-Jewish civilians who risked their lives to save others) to the traits of bystanders who offered no assistance. The study found that those who risked their lives to save persecuted neighbors had a higher sense of internal control than those who did not offer assistance. Additionally they found that those with an internal locus of control also possessed a stronger sense of social responsibility.

A person with a social good mindset believes they can accomplish great things through their own efforts, and they don’t wait for someone else to save the day.

Sense of purpose

The most important characteristic of the social good mindset is that it stems from a sense of purpose. Purpose is the primary motivation for the social good mindset. It shapes our thinking and guides our actions toward higher goals. When our purpose directs us toward social good, we become energized toward that pursuit. Therefore, we don’t look for reasons of why we can’t do something; we see only that we must do something.

Finally, the social good mindset doesn’t ponder the reasons for human existence, because it intuits the following answer:

“We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”—Steve Jobs

How many of the listed characteristics and beliefs do you embrace in your own life? What other characteristics do you think are important?

*Reference: Midlarsky, E., Fagin Jones, S. and Corley, R. P. (2005), Personality Correlates of Heroic Rescue During the Holocaust. Journal of Personality, 73: 907–934

Angela Irvin is motivational blogger with a background in psychology and philosophy. Her writings stress the themes of thought-awareness, personal development, and purposeful living. She holds a degree in Health Administration and is currently pursuing an additional degree in Clinical Psychology. You can read more of her articles at her blog, Chrysalides, or in the Happiness Community on Wellsphere.com.

7 Ways Travel Makes You FeelGooder

This post is by Ryan Barton of Smart Marketing.

“So, what do you think the chances are that we’ll catch our flight?”

“When does it leave?” asks the border agent.

“4:30.”

“You’ll be spending the night here in London, I’m afraid,” he says, handing back our passports. He glances at the line behind us, “Next!”

My wife and Iook at each other and sprint towards the baggage carousel. One bag, two bags, three bags, go!

Pushing our luggage ahead of us, we navigate the crowded corridor between baggage claim and the train to Terminal 1.

There’s only one flight a day; we have to catch this flight, we have to get home.

Image is author's own

Out of breath, we stumble to the subway platform; there’s no train.

“When’s the next train?!,” I blurt to the attendant. She looks at her watch, “‘Bout five minutes.”

The train arrives. Travelers get off, travelers get on, doors shut, and we’re on our way.

If we miss this flight, we’ll find a hotel? If we miss this flight, we’ll sleep on the floor? If we miss this flight…

Six minutes later, the subway doors open and a young American couple frantically begins their race towards the next terminal’s elevators.

Three weeks in Europe, and we’re spending our last few minutes sweating through Heathrow.

We charge out of the elevators and locate our airline’s check-in desk in the distance. We check our baggage, move through security (belt off, hat off, iPad out, no security alarms, iPad in, hat on, belt on, go!), and slide into the aircraft before the doors shut behind us.

Finally in our seats, my wife looks at her sweating husband. “You may want to change your shirt.”

Travel is an investment

It’s been three weeks since we returned home from our whirlwind tour of Europe.

Sure, our time in Heathrow may have been the most exciting, heart-pounding leg. It may have challenged our comfort levels and sanity more than any other country did. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. What a story; what an experience!

And while we were sad to return home, I’ve personally never had so much clarity, peace, and happiness as I do now.

For you, travel is getting from Point A to Point B. For many, it’s a means to relaxation. And for others, it’s the simple thrill of seeing a new stamp in a passport book.

Whatever the reason, when travelling, you collect amazing, memorable experiences along the way.

Removing yourself from daily routines refines who you are; it’s something new. It sharpens you, removes the excess, and re-energizes your soul.

7 ways travel will enhance your life

Travel is more than scoring a tan and eliminating the bags under your eyes; that’s what your backyard’s for.

Here’s why I travel; seven ways I believe it makes you a better person:

1. Clarity

I’m a huge advocate for changing your routines. When we’re in “the grind,” we dig ourselves into such a rut we can’t see out.

By changing routines, you’re forcing yourself to ask why you’re doing what you’re doing; maybe there’s a better way of doing it.

Travel does just that. From the moment you land in a new city, your routines change. You’re not driving, you’re walking. You’re not hustling around the office, you’re admiring new scenery.

Personally, I ask if it’s worth doing in the first place. And by eliminating burdensome tasks, I enjoy renewed clarity.

2. Perspective

Back at home, my morning routine was simple — wake up, turn on phone, check email, check Twitter, shower, check email, check Twitter… Chances are, you know the cycle too.

While traveling, my phone’s turned off. And after three weeks of breaking that cycle, suddenly Twitter wasn’t all that important; spending time with my wife was.

Two years ago, we traveled through Cartagena — an amazing city of color and culture.

But like many cities, the poverty surrounding historic locales reminds you how fortunate you are to live where you live, eat what you eat, and sleep in the comfy bed you do. Suddenly, all those minute problems you stress about don’t seem so big anymore.

3. Culture

In my beloved suburb outside Los Angeles, you’ll have a hard time finding a building older than 20 years. We live in a “new” city, where anything older has either deteriorated or been rebuilt.

Contrast that with Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia—Gaudi’s famed basilica that’s still being built 129 years after the project started and isn’t scheduled to be completed for another 15.

The same goes for having dinner in a Parisian café at midnight, snorkeling among the kelp forests in Alaska, or walking through the throngs of pigeons in Venice’s St. Mark’s Square.

That’s culture, that’s collecting stories, and that’s the complete opposite of walking through your neighborhood big box retailer.

Experiencing another’s culture — their food, their lifestyle, the things they prioritize—adds to your cultural quiver; that’s something you can’t buy locally.

4. Inspiration

At home, inspiration is elusive. It certainly doesn’t come from 10 hours in a cubical or a noisy cafe.

So I take long bike rides at night, I enjoy fresh air on morning walks, I play with the dogs—anything that isn’t explicitly “work.” Because that’s when the best ideas come—when I’m able to think without distraction.

When I’m travelling, my mind is elsewhere; and yet, travelling kick-starts idea fires. I don’t plan on it, but without fail, I smuggle new ideas back into the country.

Sometimes it’s a photograph, sometimes it’s people watching, sometimes it’s observing an old-time business owner greet loyal customers by name, and other times, it’s just getting out of your day-to-day rut.

5. Delegation

Are you like me? You firmly believe the best and only way to do something is by doing it yourself. That makes it really hard to let go. My wife and I had the great fortune of taking a month off for each of the last two years.

She had to learn to let go and delegate the care of her kids—the dogs—to somebody else. Let’s not even get started with how (and how often) the house was cleaned.

I had to learn how to give proactive and detailed feedback to my assistant so Rhyno continued operating in my absence.

If we hadn’t traveled, we never would’ve been presented with those challenges. But since, we’ve grown, we’ve learned, and we’re ready for what’s next.

6. Relationships

As the old adage goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. That’s why travel is great for building strong, boundary-respecting relationships.

Professionally, I told my clients I’d be off the grid and travelling. That meant working together to ensure all projects were wrapped before I left.

Because when I left, I was gone. No amount of emails, phone calls, text messages, Twitter DMs or carrier pigeons was going to yield a response. The result? My clients respected my time away, appreciated me upon my return, and were eager to get back to work when the vacation veil was lifted; so was I.

But the same principle also applies to our personal relationships. Look beyond the romantic cliches and you’ll see the same is true for your family and friends. Who can you not wait to see? Who’s greeting you at the airport when you’re back in town?

You’ll soon remember why some people are in your life and what makes them so special. Those are the people who fill you up and enrich your life; everybody else simply drains you dry.

7. Confidence

Inherently, travel will force you to do something you’re uncomfortable with; it’ll challenge your comfort zones over and over again. But that’s how you grow and discover new confidence.

When we sprinted through Heathrow and still made our flight, we triumphed. That built confidence.

When I taught her how to snorkel in Hawaii, she struggled to breathe, but conquered it in just an hour’s time. Now, she’s a pro, looking to dive in any country we visit.

Embrace the portions of travel that make you say “if I can do this, I can do anything.” Those confidence-building experiences are precious.

Do you have a travel story?

Has travel made you a better person? How has it helped you grow in ways you didn’t expect? Or maybe you have other reasons you enjoy travelling.

Whatever the case may be, share your story below!

Ryan Barton is the author of “Smart Marketing” — a 169-page marketing blueprint for small business success. Follow him on Twitter, Google+, or subscribe to his blog.

Why I Love … My Heroes

This post is by Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views.

You might not know their names. However, once I tell you their stories, they will be your heroes too. They don’t wear capes or have secret identities. What they do have in common is a need to help others—both animals and people.

Their stories are inspirational; if I’m having a bad day, interviewing my heroes transforms my mood. That positive feeling is reinforced when I write about them.

My blog, Pet News and Views, focuses on the positive side of animal welfare. I spend my days with people and animals who make a difference. Judy Fridono and her surfing dog Ricochet (yes, you read that right) are two of my heroes.  Ricochet, a golden retriever, surfs for charity. Together they have raised $100,000 to help disabled children and adults. Watch this video and I guarantee you will feel good.

Eldad and Audrey Hagar of  Hope For Paws get the hero tag because of their rescue work. This husband and wife team, in California, have rescued thousands of abused dogs and cats from scary situations. I don’t know how they do it. Talking to them lifts my spirits. And there are others who are in the trenches doing amazing rescue work.

Then there are the trainers who work with rescue dogs, therapy dogs for children with epilepsy, and military service dogs. When I heard about the dog who could detect seizures a few minutes before they occur and how a child has cut back on her medication thanks to this dog’s actions, I got teary-eyed.

The people who work with and on behalf of animals are my heroes. The animals are heroic too. I know the power animals have on us. When I’m feeling sad, my cat is right at my side. Heck, he sits on the desk while I write.  I’ve been known to type with one hand, while the other pets Earl Gray, my cat.

A call to action

I have developed a deep bond with many of my readers. I request that they send e-mails to congress to stop the wild horse round up, sign a pledge stating they will not shop at stores that sell puppies (these stories support puppy mills), or leave a comment on my site so a pet food company will donate food to an animal shelter. I truly love my readers because they come through each and every time.

Some people don’t understand

Animal welfare people are often asked, “Why help animals when there are so many people suffering?” Did you know that most people who help animals also help people? It’s true. And when we help animals, we actually help ourselves. The love we get back from animals is immeasurable.

Being true to my beliefs

Recently a major clothing company approached me about purchasing a banner ad on my site. They were talking about a good deal of money. I was elated. Then I found out that this company came out with a perfume, and my ethical side kicked in. I sent an e-mail asking if they test on animals. They said they did, and I had to turn down the ad. Darn, I could have used that money.

I am following my bliss by writing about my heroes—both two- and four-legged—and the rewards are slowly coming to fruition. I can’t rely on my blog for my full income yet. However, other opportunities like speaking gigs are arising.

My agenda

I want everyone who reads Pet News and Views to spay and neuter their pets. I want people to adopt from local shelters and rescue groups. I want people to promise never to wear fur. I want people to be kind to animals, and in turn, to be kind to one another.

My husband sometimes calls me a dreamer. I just interviewed a hero of mine who is working to get people throughout the world to spay/neuter their pets. He is getting endorsements from celebrities and has just launched a nonprofit for students to get involved. His organization is called 600 Million. There are 600 million stray dogs in the world living in deplorable conditions. Without spaying/neutering these dogs, these 600 million dogs can give birth to between one and three billion puppies each year.

During my interview with this hero, I was told that there are scientists researching oral contraceptives that would sterilize these dogs. This person was so positive that a solution would be found.

The skeptic in me kicked in. However, he and others like him who are working tirelessly to make this a better world continue to make me believe. They are the dreamers, and I’m so proud of them.

Michele C. Hollow writes the blog Pet News and Views (http://petnewsandviews.com). Her blog has been nominated for Best Pet Award. You can follow and link with her at: Facebook: Michele C. Hollow, Facebook: Pet News and Views, Twitter: @michelechollow, @PetNewsAndViews. LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/michelechollow.

How Feeding Others Feeds Your Soul

This post is by Sheila Hart-O’Connor of www.writerathart.com.

My mother has the belief that when you’re feeling down, the best way to improve your outlook is to help someone in need.

It’s easier said than done, when all you want to do is crawl under a rock or hide away in your bed.

A few months ago, in the thick of a Midwestern winter, I got the blahs. In general, things were just not going the way I wanted. Shades of grey out the window weren’t helping either. But after a couple hours of indulging in self-pity, I thought it might be time to put those motherly words of wisdom to the test. I logged on to a local volunteer web site to see if there ways that I could put that energy to better use.

With my interest in anything environmental and my love for the outdoors, I immediately clicked on a listing for a nearby organic garden. After reading the description, I learned that this garden was a very special place. Not only was all of the food grown organically, but it was also produced specifically for low-income families. It seemed meant to be.

A greener thumb than before

I’m not a gardener. So it goes without saying that I’m not the owner of a green thumb. However, two weeks ago when the day of the event finally arrived, I went with a clean slate. I’d never done large-scale gardening, but I was really excited about participating with other people. And even more excited when I found out that they didn’t have inherent gardening talents either.

Because it was early spring, most of the time was spent weeding the garden. Toward the end, however, we did get to plant some seeds for lettuce, radishes, and cucumbers. Would you guess I actually enjoyed myself, and even learned some things about gardening along the way? I genuinely felt good about what I was doing, and I was so excited that these efforts were going to yield great, healthy food options for people who truly needed it.

The problems of a few months earlier seemed so distant, replaced by the satisfaction of an unselfish act. Mom was right!

Have you found that giving to others feeds your soul?

Sheila Hart-O’Connor is a copywriter that enjoys helping businesses and individuals build long-lasting relationships with their customers through effective and relevant online communication. Her work and accomplishments can be viewed online at www.writerathart.com.

How to Be More Confident

This post is by Steve of TheConfidenceGuyOnline.com.

Confidence opens doors. Fact.

It gives you the ability to make great decisions based on what matters to you, and that opens up your life in ways that ring true and chime with the way you hoped your life would be.

Confidence is the world’s best kept secret—the quality that allows you to get out there and put a big ol’ dent in the universe.

But, more so even than your car keys, phone or sense of humor, it’s the easiest thing in the world to misplace or forget. And while misplacing your car keys can be an inconvenience, misplacing your self-confidence can put your whole life into reverse—and end up hurting like hell. So here are five simple steps to start being more confident today.

1. Open your arms

Go through life with your fists clenched and arms crossed tightly in front of you, and you’ll miss out on a lot of stuff. That tightness puts limits on what you do and how you think, and if those limits persist you’ll end up living smaller and smaller as time goes by.

So you gotta be open. Open to risk, open to possibility and open to opportunity. It’s by allowing those things into your life that you get to stretch yourself, and the more you stretch yourself, the more confident you become in allowing those things into your life and stretching yourself.

Don’t let risk, possibility, and opportunity into your life and your confidence will shrink and atrophy, making it harder and harder to take that next chance. But let those three things in and you’ll become a confidence powerhouse.

2. Know where you’re hiding

It’s all well and good for me to tell you to be open to risk, possibility, and opportunity, but if it was that easy you’d be doing it all the time, right? So the flip side of that is to know where you’re hiding from those things—how you’re stepping back and what you tell yourself when you hold yourself back.

“I’m not good enough.” “I’m not smart enough.” “I’m not ready enough.” Those are all stories we tell ourselves to make it okay to not go ahead with something. While that’s just swell if it’s done for the right reasons, if it’s done for the wrong reasons (e.g. because you’re afraid of screwing up, or afraid of getting it right) then you’re kidding yourself.

This is about being radically honest with yourself. A scary notion, but a critical one. Keep kidding yourself that you don’t need, can’t get, aren’t good enough or can’t deal with going after what matters to you and you’ll wind up old, lost and full of regrets.

Know what stories you tell yourself and don’t hide.

3. Do something

With all that said and done, it’s crunch time. You actually have to stand up and do something.

Just one thing. It doesn’t matter what. Doesn’t matter if it’s a big leap or a tiny step. Just do one thing about what matters to you, or one thing about where you’re hiding from what matters to you.

You can have all the good intentions in the world, but without repeated, meaningful action it’s all for nothing. Watch for when you’re wrapping yourself up in second-guessing and look for when you’re employing delaying tactics to keep you away from doing something.

Then take a breath, tell yourself that you’ll be just fine, and do it.

4. Laugh

People take life too seriously, don’t you think? I always notice a change in myself if I go a day or two without laughing—I get too wrapped up in the detail and drama of things, and my world ends up spiraling inwards.

Sure, sometimes life hurts, but things are only a big deal or a drama if you decide they are. Get too wrapped up in the drama and all you’ll see is more drama and all the tiny, pesky details. Some people even keep those things close because they provide a layer of comfort (of being right, of being familiar, and of being safe), but with your arms open you don’t need to cling on to those things for comfort.

So laugh. Remember what really matters to you and look at your life with a sense of curiosity, lightness and fun.
That’s how you get to be at your best, and that’s how you’ll free yourself up to be naturally confident.

5. Rinse and repeat

Keep doing steps 1 to 4. Simple as that.

Steve is a superstar confidence coach who makes you want to build a life you love. He also makes a fantastic ragu, and while he can’t promise you a batch, he’ll promise to help you find your natural confidence so that you can put your dent in the universe. Grab his RSS feed here and follow Steve on Twitter.