Beginning January 2015, I started on a journey of following through with an action plan that included better management of my health, finances, and overall productivity using specific steps on a daily and weekly basis. In April I wrote a post about the results of that endeavor. Six and a half months later, I thought it would be a great opportunity to follow up with the successes and challenges I have since experienced. If you haven’t read the original article, I encourage you to do so.
Without rehashing everything, the main changes I implemented were keeping daily track of my progress in brief journal entries based on an action plan, making a to-do list, and using the Pomodoro technique as a strategy to complete that list. On that daily list I decided to give up alcohol and fast food. Later I added morning set-ups and push-ups at home six days a week.
Since the original post 28 weeks ago, I’ve lost an additional 16 lbs bringing the total loss to 40 lbs in 40 weeks. The great news for everyone out there who hasn’t yet started on a plan is that staying on course gets easier with time.
As one might expect, the first month, and especially the first week, was the most challenging. Since then, consistency has changed the way I think and react to different choices. There are noticeable changes in my ability to resist impulses and bad options, which extend to things beyond my list. I am able to say no and make better buying, eating, and time management decisions with much less effort. This is part of the reason why my improvements in health and productivity have continued.
Let’s start with the challenges. First off, I have not been able to complete every item on my to do list daily. I was much better at this in the beginning then I am now. It remains the one aspect I still need to work on. This may seem to fly in the face of my previous paragraph, but if you understand how I set up my to-do list you will understand. Ideally, it’s best to put the harder things first on that list, and that’s where I’ve had much of my success. Where I have failed is putting too many items on the list. As I’ve achieved many of my goals, I added more. That being the case, the solution is clear, put fewer items on the list. If one finishes those items, then continue with additional items scheduled for a later time.
Also, there has been an occasion or two, where I failed to write down my daily journal entry. In those instances, I went back and wrote down what I remembered for that day and just kept chugging along. It’s key that you do not let a small setback destroy your morale or willingness to continue. Noone is perfect. Pick yourself up, and move on.
With respect to food, it’s true that I am not on a diet. I have never been a fan of diets, and I personally think they can set people up for failure, not because they are not achievable, but because there is a deadline where habits revert back to normal even if the desired results are achieved. It is better if changes are permanent. If you don’t think you can stick with a diet for the rest of your life, don’t start it. Remember, it’s the consistency of the change that will help improve your self control and allow small daily gains to accumulate.
While I am not on a diet, I have changed my eating and drinking habits. There is no one size fits all or magic bullet to achieving success. The key is consistency and making changes that will have a measureable impact over time. I am not asking you to give up things you love, but if you choose to make zero changes and give in to every impulse simply because you want to, don’t expect any progress toward your goal. Choose something you can live with and stick to it. By following through with small changes, you will find that you will make better choices overall as a result, just as I have. Make incremental changes. Once a single good habit is successfully developed, add another.
Also on my list is doing morning set ups and push up. I don’t go to the gym because I know the hassle of parking and my hectic schedule make it less likely I’ll go. This is THE FIRST thing on my to do list. Will power is most abundant in the morning, and I want to make sure that I do them every day (except Saturday), and I have. It takes me between 15-25 minutes depending on the day and routine. Consistency is what is important. Even small changes make a big difference over time. If you don’t want to do push ups or set ups, pick something small you can do daily or regularly that works best for you.
The combination of those changes have given me more self-control, confidence, and improved my health, strength, and outlook on life. I have always been optimistic, but everyone goes through periods of self doubt. I am more optimistic about my future and my ability to achieve my personal goals now than I have ever been.
The successes of the weight loss and improved health have extended into my writing. I published my fourth novel shortly after my original post. That book was selected as a 2015 Independent Author Network Book of the Year Fantasy Finalist, has received numerous five star reviews, including a review from a Top 10 Hall of Fame Reviewer, as well as a garnered a positive quote from Hugo Award Finalist and the Dune series collaborator, Brian Herbert.
I was also able to successfully co-author a peer reviewed scientific paper based on prior research I conducted in collaboration with a group of scientists, which was featured on the cover of one of the most respected scientific journals in the world and has led to additional television airtime.
In addition to my published and upcoming works of fiction, I recently began working as a ghostwriter in multiple genres as well as a paid contributor to various scientific and futuristic websites. In total, I have been averaging between 70 to 100 pages of writing per week, and that’s on top of working as a full time science teacher.
While you should not expect lofty goals and changes to happen overnight, lofty goals ARE achievable. If someone tells you not to set big goals or that you should not pursue your dreams IGNORE them and instead take advice from people who have achieved their dreams and big goals. The key, though, to achieving big goals is to lay out a plan with specific steps of how to achieve the big dream that incorporate daily or regular steps that force you to progress along that path.
It’s true that there is no single method to achieve success, but you will find that successful people follow similar patterns. One of those patterns is making a daily goal. I highly recommend that you make a goal for yourself EVERY DAY. Write it down. Use strategies such as the Pomodoro technique to complete those daily goals, and then use those daily goals to achieve larger milestones that are part of your action plan or big dream. With respect to changing habits, pick something that is small and stick with it. You can add to it later once you’ve succeeded with your first step. Consistency is key. Succeeding at the small daily changes are the how in your plan to achieve your vision, no matter how big the goal and no matter what the dream.Roy Huff, MS, MAEd
To give a little background behind the story, I need to backtrack to several years before the present.
In high school, I was a model student, straight-A’s, valedictorian and student body president. That was in spite of living in severe poverty and struggling with an absent father who had serious manic depression, which also led to frequent bouts of homelessness and stints in mental institutions. He was also dealing with being an HIV-positive, gay man in early 1980’s.
I managed to survive my childhood and graduated with bright prospects; however, limited guidance, a few bad choices, and making the decision to go to a college with one of the toughest residency requirements in the country forced my hand and resulted in my early withdrawal from college.
At the age of 29, I found myself in financial turmoil, degree-less, and in the midst of a personal crises. That’s after struggling in my twenties, working two or three jobs simultaneously and trying different approaches to achieve professional success. After numerous failed attempts at business and the stock market, I had the misfortune of earning a real estate license during the height of the housing crises. By mid-2006, I found myself bankrupt and looking for options. That’s when I made the decision to go back to college.
I didn’t have the luxury of being just a student; I had to work two full time jobs while going to school full time and maxing out all of my financial aid options. At one point, I was working on three degrees concurrently while working three jobs. During that time, I also volunteered both in education and in science.
Six years, five degrees, and two graduate degrees later, I had significantly beefed up my resume. I managed to land a post-doc position as a research scientist working on a NASA, grant-funded position at the University of Hawaii.
At that point, I thought I had it made and that the rest of my life was on track. That’s when everything started to fall apart. The budget crisis of 2012 put extra scrutiny on NASA funding and grant money in general, and in April of 2013, I learned that my position would no longer be supported. Fortunately, my masters degree in education allowed me to find a job as a science teacher, but not before the gap in pay depleted my already meager savings. It seemed, though, that things had settled down and I was on another promising career path, climbing my way out of financial hardship.
During 2013, I also had some wonderful successes. I managed to write my first book, then a second, and in January of 2014, a third, which won the 2014 silver metal of the year by Readers' Favorite for best fantasy book. I landed a respected literary manager and agent, Peter Miller, at Global Lion Management, which is why my personal crises came out of nowhere.
Fast forward to early 2014, and a major personal crises once again rocked the foundation of my life. For the sake of the parties involved, I won’t trouble you with the details, but let’s just say that it’s a very common challenge and one that many people deal with, especially in mid-life. On the same day I learned of this crisis, I also found out that my niece had been shot. She was in serious condition, undergoing surgery, and had to have parts of multiple organs removed. That’s when my recent challenges began.
For a short time after the same-day, one-two punch, the thought of suicide danced through my head. While I had no real consideration of following through on the thought, if only for the sake of how my family and friends would be negatively impacted by it, I did feel deeply saddened. I had accomplished so much, and I had so much promise, yet by own personal standard I had failed at some of the most basic parts of life.
After January of 2014, I went through one crisis after another. Most of which, were in large part precipitated by the prior two. During that time, I was trying to finish my fourth book, Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone. I found it more than challenging. My prior book, Everville: The Rise of Mallory, I wrote in six days, but this book was proving more difficult.
Moving twice, working full time as a teacher with 150+ students, and dealing with multiple crises, any one of which might cripple anyone, may have been a good enough excuse for only writing 100 pages in a year. I just didn't believe that allowing myself to wallow in my own self-pity was constructive, so in October 2014 I made myself an action plan.
I wrote the plan with specific goals and objectives and steps on how to achieve those objects, in typical teacher fashion. I didn’t bother to look at it again until after winter break. That’s when I took the big leap. It wasn't my desire to finish the book that pushed me forward, but rather stepping on the bathroom scale at 198.8 lbs. I come from a family of morbid obesity, and I was always the skinny one. I told myself a long time ago that if I ever got close to 200 lbs I would take the necessary measures to get my weight and lifestyle under control.
One of the goals in my action plan was to continue working on professional development. That included searching for different forms of continuing education and training for specific skill-sets. After topping out at 198.8 lbs, I happened to stumble across an article on MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Learning Course). I am a voracious reader and learner, and this concept drew me in.
One organization mentioned in the article was called Coursera at www.coursera.org , and while browsing their courses, I came across a free, at-your-own-pace MOOC called Learning How to Learn, which was offered by UC San Diego. I devoured the entire course in six days, and I put into place a couple of the strategies discussed in the class.
One of the strategies was called the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a daily timed exercise of 25 minutes (or whatever time one chooses to select). The idea is to set aside all distractions and focus for that time on a specific goal or task. At first, there will be a little mental discomfort, which will soon fade away. At the end of the time, one rewards oneself with a small reward. It might be tv, a piece of chocolate, or anything that one can construct. This trains the brain to release dopamine after the timed exercise is complete.
The second technique was to have a daily to-do list, being careful to put only what can realistically be accomplished given the time frame. Part of the exercise was to review the list the night before and put the tougher things on the list first.
I decided to implement both strategies and put a few things on my daily-to list that were also on my action plan. One of those things was a daily journal, which was also suggested in the course. At that point, I decided that I did not want to diet or go to the gym. I figured I needed to make some lifestyle changes in order to achieve my personal goals. The two key choices I made were to abstain from alcohol and fast food.
Making the decision to completely abstain from both alcohol and fast food was the most critical decision, and it laid the groundwork for my eventual success. I added doing push-ups and set-ups at home about a month into my new strategy. While I did change my eating and drinking habits, I did not starve myself or join some dieting plan. I even continued to occasionally eat out at a restaurant, just not fast-food.
I lost 11 lbs the first four weeks and an additional 13 lbs the following eight weeks, dropping from 198.8lbs to 175 lbs. At the moment I’m writing this, I’m 38 and 5’10”, in case you were trying to calculate my BMI (Body Mass Index). My cholesterol dropped from 225 to 156 and my blood pressure dropped by ten points as well.
Part of the reason why my health was a focus of my action plan was because I believe that having a healthy body can facilitate a healthy mind and better decision making. Along that front, I managed to write the other 100 pages of book #4 in my series during my one week off of spring break. My new book, Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone, will be released the first week of May 2015.
To those people that are interested in losing weight [or any personal goal], my suggestion is not to diet or take some pseudo-scientific weight loss supplement with dubious benefits. I recommend taking a hard look at one’s personal lifestyle, and then deciding on what permanent change is doable within one's life. Make the decision to change and support that decision by 1. Writing down the goal, 2. Keeping a daily journal to monitor progress, 3. Tell supportive friends or family, 4. Support that strategy with A. The Pomodoro Technique and B. a daily to-do list.
I should also say, that one should not get hung up on a daily defeat. My first week failed miserably, and I had a slip up or two the first few weeks in. Don’t let a temporary setback prevent you from realizing your existing gains. Also, don’t wait until New Years, make your decision to follow through with your goal today, because if you wait until tomorrow, you may be waiting for the rest of your life. Finally, check out Coursera and more specificially, Learning How to Learn. You just might be surprised at what wonderful free courses are being offered that could enhance your personal or professional life.
Roy Huff, MS, MAEd
I was tagged in this blog hop by Savannah Grace, my friend and fellow author of I Grew My Boobs in China and the recently published follow up Back Packs and Bra Straps. I was fortunate to have numerous opportunities to work with her in marketing and promotion.
If you want to participate in this blog hop, thank the person who tagged you, tag two or three others, and answer four questions. You should include links as well to the other bloggers.
1. What are you working on?
Currently, I am working on book number four in the Everville series, Everville: The Fall of Brackenbone. It is currently expected to be released in late January. I’m also having a free Kindle ebook promo for Everville: The Rise of Mallory, the first ever, beginning Black Friday through December 2nd.
In addition, I have been working on numerous pieces of free verse and flash fiction. Most recently, I had a poem entitled Roots published by Synchronized Chaos November 1st. I also plan to have my first draft of book number five in the Everville series done by the end of Summer 2015. My first three books were also recently republished under the 21st Century Lion books publishing label and released via Amazon’s White Glove program in early August.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I think one of the main differences that separates my writing from others is that I like to have some positive element embedded within the story and a sense of optimism that is lacking in a lot of current writing. Fantasy, and especially science fiction, has tended to carry much of the current dysfunction of society and politics forward without any real resolution. I think the future is a lot brighter, and while some human conventions will never change, I certainly think we will be dealing with novel issues in the future. You can fine more about my thoughts of the future here.
3. Why do you write what you do?
I’m a huge science fiction and fantasy buff. I’m a science teacher and a research scientist as well. I’m a futurist and an optimist, so I like to infuse that in my writing. More recently, I’ve taken to writing poetry and flash fiction when I don’t have time to write all day. I’m a fan of literary classics, and poetry allows me dabble in different genres and express a variety of thoughts and emotions.
4. How does your writing process work?
I am very much a marathon writer, which can sometimes get in the way of writing. I live a busy life, so I have taken to writing shorter pieces when I don’t have half a day or all day to write. I generally require a lot of concentration, so I sequester myself on my couch or in my room with as little distractions as possible when I am writing all day. When I am writing shorter pieces, I allow myself a few distractions. For long days, I split up the day with a few fifteen to twenty minutes breaks.
The questions are below:
1. What are you working on?
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
3. Why do you write what you do?
4. How does your writing process work?
My list of authors tagged will be added in the next couple of days, and I am excited about reading from those authors…
Fiction writing was never something that I aspired to. As a child and a young adult, my focus was elsewhere, namely, science and business. Writing happened by accident; it was a confluence of events that led to a paper, then a book, and finally a series. It was a curious occurrence, which took me on a journey on which I am still traveling.
School was something that came naturally to me; writing flowed equally as well. In high school, my passion was weather and physics, although, I did equally enjoy art as well as the written word. I read mostly science non-fiction in my spare time and watched science fiction whenever I had the opportunity. The writing that I did was mainly for school assignments and limited in scope. It wasn’t until I began working on my second degree at UH West Oahu that I had my first minor epiphany that fiction writing was something that I might be good at.
When working on my BA in Humanities/History, I took a class in Japanese history. At the time, I was reading the Japanese classic The Tale of Genji and was tasked with writing a summary/critique or a short piece of fiction in the style of Genji. I chose the latter, and my professor, Jayson Chun, bestowed upon me great praise.
The idea of fiction writing simmered on low in the background of my mind after that event until another required paper a few years later. During that time, I was working on my fourth degree in operational meteorology. As part of a required supplemental writing class I was taking online at the Community College of Denver, I wrote a short creative writing paper. I forgot who, but one student in particular mentioned that she wanted to read an entire book about Everville. That was seed that took root in my mind, and it eventually led to the book’s completion.
The first book, Everville: The First Pillar, was written in fits and starts. I wrote the first thirty pages over eighteen months. I had decided that I would write it, but the idea of getting a literary agent and a publisher put it on the back burner and encouraged procrastination. It wasn’t until I read How I sold 1 Million Books in 5 Months by John Locke that I decided to finish the book in short order. The book convinced me that given my knowledge in business and marketing, I could reach an audience by going at it alone. I still wanted an agent and a publisher, but I made the choice that I would not allow that particular obstacle to keep me from completing the book. I did, however, decide that I needed to drop out of my sixth degree program, a third Masters in systems engineering at Iowa State University, since I was already working as a full time scientist and a part time tutor.
In December of 2013, I wrote the remaining 170 pages of my first young adult epic fantasy book in periodic holiday and weekend marathon runs. I wrote no more than ten to fifteen pages a day, though, usually I wrote less. I spent the next six months heavily promoting it until I started writing my second book, Everville: The City of Worms. The second book I wrote in ten days, the last ten days of Summer Break before the start of the school year, which as a newly hired science teacher, would require most of my time.
My plan was to write the third book in the series during the 2013 Fall Break. That proved a little too ambitious, but I did end up completing it over the final six days of Winter Break in 35 to 40 page-a-day marathons. I spent the three weeks after finishing the first draft on editing and marketing its launch. It was during the launch promotion that I was signed to my current literary and film manager, Peter Miller the literary lion, President and Founder of Global Lion Intellectual Property Management, Inc.
I can say that out of necessity I am a marathon writer and a daily promoter. Ideas simmer in my brain until there is sufficient time for me to put words on paper. The ideas I have for more books are abundant, and as time permits, those ideas will find their way onto the pages of more books in the coming months and years. It is my hope that those words will be the seeds of other ideas that inspire others, whether in writing, invention, or in the decisions of daily life.
-Roy Huff, MS, MAEd
As the excesses and relative prosperity of The Roaring Twenties gave way to The Great Depression, history was once again engaging in a process of punctuated equilibrium. The decade of the 1930’s saw some of greatest wealth destruction and asset inflation of the modern era. It was a period of great geopolitical unrest and perverse theory that led to such atrocities as the Rape of Nanking and the gas chambers of Auschwitz, circa 1941.
The world was once again embroiled in a great war that resulted in the loss of millions of lives, a process that continued well beyond the war’s conclusion. It was against this backdrop that The Greatest Generation was raised. The austerity of the thirties and the harshness of war provided a constant example of reality, a reality that is often forgotten in times of peace and prosperity.
The men that fought in World War II and the women that powered the factories in their absence grew up with an understanding of an undeniable truth, a truth to which many of our time seem unaware. It was this understanding that led to subsequent decades of unprecedented wealth and prosperity powered by hard work and an appreciation for the privilege of life. History shows us, however, that mankind’s grasp of certain simple truths often proves fleeting.
The truth to which I am referring is the fact that the only things one deserves are the fruits of one’s labor and the consequences of one’s actions. This awareness provided The Greatest Generation with a strong work ethic, an understanding of frugality, and a respect for authority. It does not take long, though, to be hit in the face with the sense of entitlement that is pervasive among the youth of our generation.
In spite of the recent economic malaise, modern efficiencies have allowed even the poorest among us to enjoy conveniences that provide constant entertainment and an ever-shrinking attention span. While wealth and technology are certainly not evils in and of themselves, the love of money and an abundance of hubris can create a lethal combination capable of tearing apart the fabric of any society.
While it is impossible to stop basic political and economic cycles, history provides us with a blueprint we can follow to live our lives and prepare for the uncertainty that will always exist. That blueprint starts with an understanding that the choices we make have consequences. The lives we live are a direct result of those choices. If we choose to ignore that simple fact, we will never maximize the potential within us. More importantly, if we allow arrogance to goad us into a sense of undeserved entitlement we will destroy our incentive and the ability to harness the opportunities that present themselves or prepare for the uncertainties that lie ahead.
The decisions we make and the realities that we choose to accept will determine whether or not we will be able to ride out the tide of difficult times. The youth of our generation will soon be faced with that harsh reality, and in the end, it will be up to them whether or not to be a student of history or a slave to it.
There are many reasons why writers write. Some have a story that simply has to be told, others like to create worlds that can be shaped and molded by their own thoughts and desires. Regardless of the reason, the end product is not just ink on paper or words on a screen; the final product is a blue print that can be used as inspiration for more ideas and a driver of innovation and technology that can be developed further at some point in the future.
There are numerous examples of how fiction has inspired real life events. Science fiction is especially conducive to seeding ideas for technological advancements. Cell phones, the landing on the moon, and many other events and inventions started out as ideas that were once just words read by someone who thought that the ideas those words represented just might be possible.
As a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I am personally hoping for the day when some scientist discovers a way to travel across the universe, back in time, and through a parallel dimension. I would also like to see material sciences create special fabrics and metals with spatial properties that allow us to access the empty space within atoms or create a true cloak of invisibility. As strange as some of these ideas sound, many of them are already being studied and developed today. Scientists have been inspired by cryogenics to create new fields in medicine such as bio-vitrification, which is currently used in organ transplants as well as by companies such as the Alcor Life Extension Foundation to research methods of creating operational states of suspended animation. I firmly believe that we will some day be able to utilize these technologies to create multi-generational ships that travel across the galaxy, allow mankind to explore and colonize the vast reaches of space and beyond, as well as to extend the life of man to approach that of immortality.
Fiction has not just driven technology; it also has been a springboard for social commentary and pointing out problems within societies and governments. It has allowed thinkers and philosophers to ponder what the world would be like if specific events or societal constructs were different. From William Shakespeare to Thomas Moore to George Orwell and Ayn Rand, utopian and dystopian stories have flourished as outlets to describe what ills society in a fictional setting that can be analyzed and digested divorced from its own reality and political constraints. It has been the products of these pioneers and these thinkers that have led to the paradigm shifts and the cultural renaissances that have provided some of the greatest leaps in the evolution of mankind.
While many people hold the belief that the human race will self-destruct in short order, I am not one of those people. I am a futurist and an optimist. It is true that people often ignore the lessons of history, but it is also true that man has been marching steadily forward. While that march has not been uniform, it has been present nonetheless. It has been present because since the invention of papyrus by the Egyptians, the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, and the Kindle by Amazon, people have continued to write; people have continued to inspire, and people have continued to lay the foundation and the framework for future generations in the form of the written word.
While not every word will generate an epiphany in the reader, there will be some; there will be a few, and there will be that one in a million idea that started out as a scribble on a piece of paper or keystroke on a computer used in a fictional work by some as of yet unknown author that changed the world.Roy Huff, MS, MAEd
Originally posted at the American Diversity Report HERE.
For those who have given into cynicism, the topic of perseverance may seem irrelevant. The idea that working hard at something will eventually pay off in the end may seem naïve. We work because we have to, not because we have some long-term dream that we hope someday to achieve. The economic downturn, has at least anecdotally, strengthened that notion. I was reminded of this fact after watching the movie The Internship, which, by the way, I highly recommend. It certainly seems that some people, especially as of late, have relegated the belief that anyone can reach beyond their means or class to the realm of fantasy and fiction.
I wrote an earlier post on how it’s not a good idea to make New Year’s resolutions. This was not because I don’t believe in setting lofty goals or having seemingly impossible dreams; it’s because accomplishing a goal requires hard work, determination, a plan of action, perseverance, and a sense of optimism and follow through which are unlikely to be achieved by simply participating in an annual ritual.
To the cynic, perseverance is pointless, akin to watching a hamster spin its wheel while making no real progress in forward motion. To the dreamer, it is the lack of understanding of what is required and a lack of follow through that can often lead to defeat. Perseverance, however, requires something that both the cynic and the dreamer often both lack, namely, patience.
While it’s true that even the hardest workers and planners can still fail at achieving their goals or dreams, the reason that most dreams go unrealized is not because those dreams aren’t unachievable or are unrealistic. The reason they go unrealized is usually because of three things. Lack of belief is the reason that is perhaps most self-evident. Lack of planning is the second reason and the easiest to correct. Finally, there is patience. Patience is a character trait that simply has to be developed over time. Patience is the killer. Patience is what is required in order set forth a proper plan of action that includes sufficient forethought, research, and a list of steps that need to be followed over time in order to achieve one’s goal.
Patience and a sense of optimism are both necessary before one can accomplish a goal, but ironically, taking the pragmatic steps of doing a little research and planning can help start one on the path of developing both optimism and patience. For at least some, a lack of belief can be corrected by doing a little research. If the research shows strong evidence that a goal is achievable, then the cynic can often be won over. If the dreamer, who often already has an over abundance of faith, does a little research, then the dreamer will be more likely to have the patience necessary to keep striving for the dream because the required steps have already been created to allow for an effective and pragmatic approach, which should provide real gains over time.
Unfortunately, the sad fact is that the cynic is often so set in their ways that it is nearly impossible to get them to take the first step of doing a little research, and with the dreamer, they are often so starry eyed that they rush in head first without taking the necessary steps of research and planning. This is the reason that most people don’t persevere; they lack belief or patience, which can often be overcome with sufficient research and planning.
For a few, the prudent, they will take their cue from those who’ve already achieved success, from those who’ve already figured out the secret to accomplishing one’s goals, and from those who’ve already realized their dreams. The prudent, will spend a sufficient amount of research and planning, which will allow them to create an effective strategy to make slow and steady forward motion in the direction of achieving their goal. This will reinforce their belief in success, and it will help them create the additional resolve needed to problem shoot through the obstacles that are certain to come their way on their journey to the finish line.Roy Huff, MS, MAEd
Originally posted on Ann Pearlman's blog here.
I’m sure by now that many of those reading this who have made New Year’s resolutions have already given up on them. That’s not a criticism of the reader or those who make New Year’s resolutions but rather a statement of widely held belief. Every year, people across the globe decide to make the present January 1st, the month, day, and year they will follow through on their most difficult challenges and succeed at them only to a few short weeks later abandon the idea altogether. The question then arises, why do people continue to make New Year’s resolutions despite continuing to fail at them?
I personally have never made a New Year’s resolution, though I have toyed with the idea an occasion or two. Over time, I slowly came to the understanding of why that was the case.
I have achieved many accomplishments. I’ve been fortunate enough to run a marathon, skydive, climb mountains, travel the world, earn five degrees, pursue numerous other endeavors, live half of my life in Hawaii, and more recently write an epic fantasy novel.
Despite my seemingly intriguing resume, my life is far from perfect and how things look on paper seldom tells the whole story. While I have followed through on many of my dreams and goals, I suffer from the original sin of being human. Namely, I often defer to self-gratification, laziness, and procrastination as opposed to pursuing nobler pursuits and making more efficacious use of my time. Despite that shared liability, I was afforded the opportunity of having access to a strong support system with people who believed in me. That has given me a slight edge by instilling in me optimism and determination; traits that are often in short supply.
Growing up, I was raised in a broken home. I went from living in a rundown trailer park in Kentucky to an urban ghetto in North Carolina. I’ve been threatened at gunpoint, beaten up, and spent many days avoiding the frequent gunfire that littered my neighborhood. Each day, I would not only have to worry about whether I was in the line of fire of competing drug dealers but also when I was going to eat my next meal, as pictures of my younger malnourished self can attest to.
Living in an environment populated with pervasive crime, drug use, and with people who have given up on all hope was challenging to say the least. The general area where I grew up was not kind to many passers by, as demonstrated by the murder of Michael Jordan’s father. When even the local Domino’s Pizza wouldn’t deliver to your neighborhood because of their drivers continuously getting robbed, you knew you were living in a bad neighborhood.
Fortunately, I did have people that I could turn to for advice. I did have examples of success and role models that I could strive to emulate. I had dreams and goals that many did not. When I was having a difficult time, my escape was reading The Chronicles of Narnia, watching episodes of the original Doctor Who, Quantum Leap, and every single episode of Star Trek The Next Generation.
Yes, I was that skinny; nerdy kid that many people chided and laughed at. I did my best to take it in stride. Instead of turning to crack cocaine that was being sold in the stairwell where I walked through every day on my way to school or to the 40’s and Boone’s Farm that were consumed in massive quantities on my street corner, I opted to look inward and imagine the possible as well as the seemingly impossible .
When attempting to tackle fears and challenges or pursue dreams and goals, many people often have the wrong approach.
In the end, it’s not about whether you win or lose. It’s not even about how you play the game. What it’s really about is whether or not you choose to play the game at all. Making a New Year’s resolution implicitly tells your subconscious mind that you have failed at it before and will likely fail again. Going through the motions of making the resolution provides a sense of accomplishment that will soon be replaced with a sense of failure once you realize the reason you put off doing it in the first place was because it seemed too daunting and had an unrealistic likelihood of being achieved. This only serves to reinforce the already existing subconscious belief held before once it fails.
Instead of making a resolution, a better approach is to make a list of goals and dreams, or a single goal or dream, accompanied with small steps that can be taken to eventually realize those outcomes. I recommend making that list today, or any day except New Years. More importantly, one must insure that a short-term failure or departure from those steps does not mean the goal is not achievable. Sometimes timelines are missed, sometimes steps are skipped, but the critical thing to remember is that one must get in the regular habit of making small actions towards a specific goal. In addition, one must persuade oneself that the goal is achievable in spite of the opinions of others or even one’s own previously held belief. While it’s certainly true that not every goal or dream will be achieved, it’s also true that none of them will be achieved if every February you wait until next January to make your next resolution that your subconscious mind believes is already destined to fail.
Roy Huff, MS, MAEd
A Christmas Carol has always been a holiday favorite. It’s difficult not to appreciate the story of a once noble figure who has become jaded through greed and age, a figure who is haunted by the three ghosts of Christmas. It’s a story that shows a person with a singular focus and obsession with greed. It is a timeless classic that teaches a moral tale of what happens to people when they focus on the ends without regard for the means.
As a child, Christmas often captivates the imagination. The holiday season brings images of a winter wonderland, presents, and miracles. Children often wonder why many parents and adults don’t share the same fascination and anticipation.
As adults, Christmas often becomes a chore and a reminder of all the things that one doesn’t possess. It can be a reminder of how growing up requires responsibilities and obligations.
This year has seen so many tragedies. Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey, the Batman movie massacre in Aurora Colorado, conflict in the Middle East, and political division during a heated election have all taken their toll.
It’s easy to understand how one can feel depressed, dejected, hopeless, and without direction. Devastating tragedies will happen every year. Family and financial obligations, responsibilities, and work will always happen regardless of how much one dislikes them. In these situations, why not accept the idea that Christmas is a fascination best left to the youth?
Yet somehow, many victims of tragedies find hope in the smallest things. Survival brings the promise of another tomorrow. The loss of everything can put in perspective the true value of life, love, friends, and family. The obligations of adulthood and the stresses of the daily grind become irrelevant in the face of losing everything.
As we get older many of us slowly become obsessed with the trivial. The clothes we wear, the car we drive, the latest electronic gadget, and worrying too much about what other people think can cause us to lose perspective of the things that are truly important. Our focus on success or dwelling on the obligations we have to meet prevent us from seeing what really matters. In short, we have allowed ourselves to become Ebenezer Scrooge.
This holiday season, we should all learn from the three ghosts of Christmas. We should follow the example of Ebenezer Scrooge when he awoke to find that he didn’t miss Christmas after all, when he realized he still had a chance to embrace what was truly important.
Lets embrace the holiday spirit and choose happiness over triviality. No matter how bad your situation or how great your responsibilities, take time to appreciate the things that are truly important. Allow yourself to appreciate life, love, friends, and family. Allow yourself to enjoy the things that make life worth living and set aside the things that are trivial and small.
Roy Huff, MS, MAEd
I am usually a very upbeat and optimistic person! I always have been. I grew up poor with single mom. Despite intense adversity, I managed to achieve some moderate success in my life. The sense of optimism and hope I had always propelled me forward to reach for my dreams.
So let me start by saying I love my job. I love everything I do. I recently decided to finish the fantasy novel I’ve been writing for the past two years in my spare time and have it published in a few months. Today, though, I didn’t do any writing. I worked. I did the usual mundane day-to-day stuff that everyone does. I did other things too. It was stressful, busy, and unfulfilling.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been having that on again off again feeling of disillusionment.
I am making some rather impressive progress in my career including achieving a life long dream, but something has been nagging at me.
Something has been missing. Perhaps it has been purpose, desire, or reason. Then it dawned on me.
The 24/7 social media in-your-face instant access to everything has robbed us of our heroes.
It seems we are all at fault, all jaded, all hiding something, and lack the genuine goodness that we once aspired too. All the heroes have now become reflections of our inner self that is corrupt, at least according to what we see in the media.
We no longer aspire to greatness. We have become a society of cynics.
I have decided that I can no longer be a cynic. Every mother, father, sister, brother, teacher, friend, or superhero may not be perfect, but it is not perfection that we need.
What we need is to know that there is goodness and greatness in all of us. We are not perfect and never will be. We will do terrible things and so will our heroes, but that will not keep them from being our heroes or make them no longer worthy of our admiration.
It’s time we believe in ourselves again. It’s time we stop throwing away our appreciation and hope for cynicism. It’s time we forgive our heroes and ourselves.
Roy Huff, MS, MAEd