10 Regrets to Avoid Like the Plague!

Looking back on your life so far, do you have any regrets? Are there things you did and wish you hadn’t—or things you didn’t do and wish you had? Any relationships that are strained? Opportunities missed?  Bridges burned?

Although these are some of life’s most important questions, too many people wait until the end to ask them—and by then, it’s too late.  We’ll all have regrets from time to time. However, you can minimize big ones (or avoid them altogether) if you periodically ask yourself these questions (and then actually do something about it!).  Today is the best time to start!

When it comes to considering our regrets, there is wisdom to be gained from senior citizens who are in a naturally more reflective stage of life.  If you ask them about their life regrets, you’ll likely hear some—or maybe even all—of the following:

  1. I didn’t spend enough time with my loved ones
  2. I didn’t tell my family and friends that I loved them often enough
  3. I was too stubborn or proud to admit my mistakes and apologize
  4. I chose bitterness over reconciliation
  5. I allowed my life to be consumed by work
  6. I was too hesitant to take risks, try new things, and live my passion
  7. I wasted too much time
  8. I didn’t appreciate the little things in life
  9. I valued things over relationships
  10. I worried too much

Do any of these apply to you? Be honest! Although regrets run the gamut, did you notice that most involve relationships and priorities? This is why it’s so important that your life is balanced, you fully invest in relationships, and your priorities are right.

This discipline is a great one for all ages.  Consider sharing it with the young people in your life. It will help you—and them—make needed midcourse corrections and “relationship repairs” along the way.

Be forewarned, though: it’s not easy, and it takes a strong dose of courage, humility, and determination. Wouldn’t it be great, though, to get to the end of life and be able to say, “FEW REGRETS?!?”

10 Financial Mistakes You Should Avoid

Money, money, money.

Few things in life generate as much interest yet demand more responsibility. And while money itself will not bring happiness, mismanaging it can surely ruin a peson’s chances  for success and cause a lot ofUNhappiness.
The principles of wise financial management aren’t that tough to master. You simply need to know the basics and abide by the disciplines and key principles. It also pays to understand and avoid these ten most common financial mistakes:

  1. failure to set goals and plan for major purchases and retirement
  2. spending more than you earn and failing to budget and monitor expenses
  3. incurring too much debt, including excessive credit card usage
  4. investing too little and starting too late
  5. incurring significant fixed expenses that can’t be reduced in difficult economic times (e.g., spending too much on housing and cars)
  6. ill-timed investment decisions (“buy high, sell low” habits and market timing)
  7. poorly diversified investment portfolios (overly concentrated in high risk stocks)
  8. impulse buying and lack of value consciousness when shopping
  9. inadequate financial knowledge
  10. lack of discipline and personal responsibility

We all need to keep these principles in mind both now and in the future. Periodically review how you’re doing in each of these areas, and encourage the young people in your life to do the same.

If we can all successfully avoid these traps, we’ll be in excellent financial shape!

What are some ways you’ve learned to avoid–or overcome–costly money mistakes in your own life? Do you ideas for passing these principles on to young people? Please share your suggestions and comments below.

A Call to Love

“All you need is love.” The famous mantra from the almost five-decade old Beatles song can still  be found carved into trees, on artwork hung around homes, printed onto T-shirts, on bumper stickers, and much more. The song itself is inspiring; asking us to look within our hearts to see how we can help change the world. However, as omnipresent as this phrase is, how big of a role does it actually have in defining us, shaping us, and influencing our actions?  If we took a moment to sit down and think about what defines our lives, would it be the love we demonstrate toward others?

Unfortunately, many people find their worth and success in power, money, status, or material things. What if—instead of by our winning percentage, job titles, or personal wealth—we were measured in terms of units of love, kindness, generosity, compassion, and encouragement offered to others? One thing’s for certain. The world would be a far better place. And, amazingly, it wouldn’t cost us anything.

People I admire most demonstrate an incredible capacity to love. It’s weaved into their very being, and you can recognize it in an instant. They put other people first. They have a heart to serve and make a difference, using what gifts they have to benefit others. People with an incredible capacity to love are joyful and bring joy to their friends, family, co-workers.

In addition to their inherent kindness, they have a special way of showing others that they’re worthy of being loved—especially when they’re not feeling very deserving. What an extraordinary gift affirmation is to give others! Helping others discover their own worth is a remarkable bestowal that one can only do with love.

Here’s a timeless truth: It’s impossible to live a life of significance without demonstrating strong character and a large capacity to love. People may achieve great success in their careers and finances, but if they lack strong intrinsic values and goodwill toward others, their legacies and reputations will have a hollow ring.

Fortunately, it isn’t rocket science. It simply requires a deliberate mindset (and “heartset”). It requires a commitment to use every opportunity to show you care. I encourage you to wake up every morning and seek every opportunity to love others that day. If you allow love to be the measure of your personal success, you will be astounded at the positive impact you make on others, and the joy you will experience in return.

If your life were measured by units of “love given,” how do you think you would rate? Who and how could you love a little more? What changes could you make to improve your score and how would you live your life differently?

7 Easy Tips for Learning to Speak Comfortably in Groups

What do people most frequently mention as their greatest fear? Public speaking in front of an audience! (I know this all too well, having botched my wedding vows and the two lines in my 8th grade play!) The good news is this fear (and insecurity) can be overcome with proper training and experience. It’s a leadership and life skill that deserves high priority in every school and in every grade.
One reason we hesitate to “put ourselves out there” in front of a crowd is our fear of saying something stupid or our mind going blank just in time for the punch line.  However, speaking comfortably in front of groups is a skill that can be learned—I’m proof of that. Developing this skill helps immensely in life, especially in your career where so many positions and opportunities demand excellent communication.

Here are some helpful communication confidence boosters:

  • Lower your expectations of yourself—you don’t need an orator’s eloquence to deliver a successful presentation. What’s important is that you are clear, interesting, enthusiastic, and relevant to your audience.
  • Take comfort that you usually know more about your subject than your audience and only you know exactly what you want to say. If you make a small mistake, it is very likely that no one will notice.
  • Recognize that most audiences want you to succeed and are on your side. They are not judging you.
  • Avoid excessive detail. Conciseness is your friend.
  • Tell stories. Make your presentation personal.
  • Show lots of enthusiasm and expression. This means smiling and being congenial, as well as aware of your body language. How are you standing? Are you gesturing with your hands? Gestures can aid in your presentation, but can also be distracting if overdone.
  • Try to have fun with it! And, recognize that a little nervousness is okay—they won’t even notice it!

If all else fails, you can always try the “imagine your audience in their underwear” trick. Frankly, that never worked for me, but it might for you.

I’m infinitely better in front of groups than I used to be since adopting the above strategies, and it’s opened up so many opportunities. If I can, you and the young people in your life can, too!

Are you comfortable speaking in front of groups? What hurdles do you need to overcome to build your confidence? What personal tips have helped you in your public speaking?

Studying for Success: Part Three

Now you’re ready to roll. You’ve prepared well for your exam (using what you learned about my winning study method in parts one and two)  and are supremely confident in your ability to perform. But wait—there are still a few other pointers that will help during your exams! Often, you’ll have essay tests instead of (or in addition to) multiple choice or short-answer exams. Here are my four tips to helping you efficiently and effectively take essay-style tests:

  1. If you are given the potential questions ahead of time, keep them in mind while you review. On the night before the exam, identify which questions you’re most comfortable with and develop a list of key words. I often used acronyms of these terms to help me remember the main points.
  2. This next step is key, and happens when you actually receive your exam. Peruse the essay questions. Answer the easiest one first and the hardest last. Many students answer the questions in the same sequence provided by the professor but panic when the first question is difficult. By answering the easiest questions first, you’ll be able to contemplate the more difficult questions in the meantime. It’s multi-tasking at its best! By the time you answer the most difficult question, you’ll have had ample preparation while you wrote your answers to the other questions.
  3. When answering essay questions, be aware that professors look for key words or phrases when they grade. I always made it a point to include as many key words/concepts as I could in a given essay. If the test asks for you to list five key aspects, I’d give them at least eight. This gives you an extra cushion in case your terms don’t exactly correspond to your professor’s.
  4. After your exam, you’ll want to analyze your performance and make mid-course corrections for next time. Study your incorrect/weaker answers to see what you could have done differently in your preparation. Then, modify your methods accordingly.

Be sure to ask your professor for help when necessary. If I struggled with exams or concepts, I made a beeline to his/her office. Remember, you and your parents are paying big bucks to attend college. You’re perfectly entitled to take your professors’ time! This is especially important in cumulative subjects like math. Otherwise, you’ll be digging a deeper and deeper ditch.

College academics are tougher than those in high school, but they’re not impossible. Perhaps the biggest adjustment is the need for better organization and discipline. Whether or not you adopt this study method, the basic principles do work. Good luck!

Are you disciplined and organized when it comes to your study method?  What works for you? In what areas do you need to improve? Share your ideas and questions with us; we’d love to hear from you!

Studying for Success: Part Two

Hopefully you read last week’s post describing four tips for successful exam preparation. (The four pointers were: 1- Know your audience, 2- Take detailed notes, 3- Highlight while you read, and 4- Complete all assigned reading several days before the test date.) If you missed, it, here’s the LINK. Today, I’ll share my last two pointers for becoming a supremely confident test-taker:

  1. Develop your study schedule. This requires estimating how many study hours are needed to achieve an excellent result. Determining the amount of hours is an inexact science, but the bottom line is you’re better off overestimating than underestimating. Take into consideration the extent of your study material, the size and type of the test, etc.
    Once you’ve estimated your required study time, assign review hours into your daily schedule. Generally speaking, for midterms and finals, you should plan on studying over a four-day period for each exam. In building my schedule, I would work backwards from the exam date. My objective was always to complete my review by the night before the exam. For example, if my test was on Friday, I would start my review on Monday. That would give me the four days of review I required. Then, it was simply a matter of assigning my study hours to those days, taking into account my class schedule, activities, and the like.
  2. Review your study material (textbook and notebook) using the “rainbow highlighter method.” Here’s how it works: Let’s assume your exam covers five chapters of material. Start your review with the first chapter, rereading the yellow highlighted portion from your initial reading. Because this will be your second reading of that material, your ability to understand and recall it will be twice as good (remember, recall is all about reps!). However, there may still be detail or concepts you’re not totally confident about and where another review would help. Simply take a different color highlighter (e.g., lime green) and highlight those sentences you’ll want to review again tomorrow.
    Repeat this process again the next day using yet a different color (e.g., orange), but only reread the yellow-green section. You’re now reading this information for the fourth time, highlighting in orange any sentences you want to read again tomorrow. This will be yet a further reduction in the amount you need to reread.

You can see how your confidence grows and grows as the amount of material you highlight shrinks and shrinks. At the end of your review period, you’ve used several different highlighted colors and seen the most difficult material four to five times. This degree of repetition has a powerful impact on your ability to recall the material—not to mention your confidence as you enter the exam!

So there you have it: my six best tips for achieving your ultimate performance and, with effort, hopefully your best grades ever. This method is excellent at instilling confidence, which is a necessity in achieving under pressure. It completely transformed my academic performance and I hope it will for you, too.

If you’re a teacher, parent, or have a young person in your life who is currently in college or high school, I encourage you to share this with them! Becoming an efficient studier is an important skill to master throughout life.

How do prepare for an exam? If you’re a teacher, do you have your own tips that you share with your students? Do you currently practice any of the above tips? As always, feel free to share your own thoughts, ideas, or experiences.