Category Archives: Life

Finding Happiness

happyI read a fascinating article yesterday in Huffington Post about how explicitly pursuing happiness can actually make you less happy. It enumerated four things we often do in our pursuit of happiness that backfire on us.

First, we try to figure out if we’re happy. This requires us to measure our happiness on a regular basis to assess whether we’re getting happier. In doing so, we begin evaluating our lives instead of experiencing them, which leads to greater levels of dissatisfaction. Second, we tend to overestimate the impact of certain events on our happiness. A promotion, a new relationship, etc. are perceived as things that will make us happier, but over time we readjust to the new norm of a bigger paycheck or the now mundane relationship and no longer derive the same level of happiness from it. Third, we perceive happiness as an individual pursuit, but focusing too much on yourself while neglecting the importance of relationships can have a negative effect. Finally, we seek out intense happiness, which is actually less fulfilling than constant moderate happiness because the peaks and valleys are too extreme.

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Reflections on Aging

agingThese past few weeks have been absolutely crazy. I’ve barely had time to stop and think let alone write much of anything. Work ramped up in the new year, I have a show opening this weekend, so my rehearsal schedule has been intense, and my parents were visiting for two weeks, so I spent what little free time I had with them. This isn’t really anything new, for as long as I can remember I’ve been involved in many different things and there are always periods when it gets a little overwhelming and all I want to do is hibernate for a week or two. But something has felt different lately: I’m starting to get tired.

Now I know I may cause some eyes to roll if I start complaining about feeling old at 26, but I’m starting to notice a perceptible shift. I’m aging, and I can feel it. Last night when I climbed into bed, I could feel every tired muscle in my body slowly begin to relax, making me acutely aware of just how tired my body was. When I look in the mirror now, I see an adult face, not the face of a teenager. A few small wrinkles appear next to my eyes when I smile. I can start to imagine what I might look like and how I might feel in 10 years, and I’m discovering that I’m ok with it.

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2013 Goals

new yearsJust like that another year is gone and it’s time to make some new year’s resolutions. For the next month gyms all across the country will be overcrowded with people who made the resolution to get back in shape. By mid-February things will revert back to normal as over-zealous resolutionaries (best made up word so far this year!) lose their enthusiasm and return to their sedentary lifestyles. One of the nice things about having a blog is that by writing out my goals for the new year and keeping a link to them right at the top of my blog, I can’t pretend they don’t exist once my fervor has waned.

I did a pretty good job with my goals in 2012, and hopefully I can be just as successful this year. Last year my goals were mainly financial goals, with one health/fitness goal that turned out to be too difficult to measure accurately. With that in mind, I tried to expand my goals a little to cover a few more aspects of my life and make sure they’re measurable.

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Reflections on Christmas

ChristmasNow that another Christmas is past us, I’ve been thinking more about the holiday season, frugality, family, and giving. As perhaps you’ve noticed, I hate the concept of expected gifts. I believe gifts should come from the heart, not because the calendar tells you it’s time to buy things. It kills me to see the kids tearing open a dozen gifts and throwing the things that don’t immediately interest them over their shoulder. And the ones that do hold their interest may only do so for a week or two, until they’re distracted by some other new toy or video game. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me when my fiancé and I were shopping for a couple last minute Christmas gifts, and I suggested to him that we buy an additional gift for two of his nephews.

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A Sneak Peek into Your 30s

sneak peekHi, Gen Y Finance Journey Readers! I’m Jana and I run a personal finance blog, Daily Money Shot, where I talk about money (but not the boring parts). I’m also a freelance writer and founder of the blogger mentoring program, Bloggers Helping Bloggers. I’m thrilled to be guest posting here and when you’re done reading what I have to say, come say hi on Twitter or Facebook!

Back in September, a post was published on Gen Y Finance Journey, Six Things I Hope I Know in My Thirties. I loved this post and, since I’m well into my 30s, I figured I could respond to a few of her points and questions with my own experience. So here we go.

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Financial Lessons From My Father

financial lessons

These people look nothing like my father or me, but we did spend a lot of time at the beach!

Yesterday I talked about all the great financial lessons I learned from my mother. I’ve got to give my father some love too, since a big part of my financial belief system comes from him. If my mother keeps me balanced and reminds me to live a little every now and then, it’s because I’ve been heavily influenced by my father’s hyper frugal ways.

My father is the kind of frugal that you really don’t appreciate when you’re a kid.  The kind who, if you ask him for some money so you can go to the mall with your friends, will hand you a $10 bill. But some of my greatest childhood memories are of time spent with my father doing very primal things, like helping him plant seeds for our garden, going to the horse farm to load up the back of his car with manure for said garden (yes, we really did that), cooking and baking, and going on fishing trips. Looking back, you realize these are the kinds of things that really matter.

Here are a few great lessons I learned from my father.

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Financial Lessons From My Mother

financial advice from mom

This is neither me nor my mother. But we both have brown hair, so close enough!

Our parents have a lot to teach us, if we’d just listen to them. You spend most of your teenage years thinking your parents are the least cool people on the planet, so surely anything they say isn’t worth listening to. Then you go to college and bask in the freedom of not having to hear your parents constantly giving you advice. It’s a great time. Finally you join the real world where you slowly but surely realize that all that advice your parents had been giving you over the years was for your own good. Thankfully, your snotty teenage self did absorb some of the things your parents had told you, even though you ignored it at the time.

Looking back, there are several things I learned from my parents that have proved to be invaluable. Today, I’d like to talk about things I learned from my mother.

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Should You Compare Yourself to Others?

compareAs a child you’re always told not to compare yourself to others. If another kid was better at math, a faster runner, skinnier, more popular, you were told to ignore that and just focus on yourself. If you’re always comparing yourself to others, you’ll never be happy, because there will always be someone better than you.

Have you ever met a person that doesn’t compare themselves to others? Maybe some adults with amazing discipline, but how about a child? It’s natural to compare yourself to others, so why do we think it’s such a bad thing?
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Giving Up Control and Leaving My Comfort Zone

I know a lot of people hate their first job out of college. With no work experience, freshly minted graduates are forced to accept entry-level jobs that involve a lot of grunt work. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a job with plenty of room for growth, so you don’t have to continue doing menial tasks day in and day out for the next 40 years.

I’m at the turning point in my career right now – we recently brought on two new people in my department, so after four years I’m finally no longer the low man on the totem pole. The extra hands mean I can take on more interesting and challenging tasks. It also means I can delegate some of the menial tasks I had been doing to the newbies. Interestingly, I find myself clinging to many of those menial tasks.

I spent four years figuring out how to optimize efficiency and perfect execution of these menial tasks. They may be boring tasks, but damnit, I do them really well! They give me a sense of accomplishment because I don’t struggle to complete them, I don’t run into roadblocks or procrastination, I just do them and cross them off my list. Some of the new projects I’m working on are difficult and frustrating. I’m doing a lot of writing about one of our products, with three people shouting their ideas at me, and it’s my job to make all three of them happy. When I get particularly frustrating feedback from one (or all) of them, I just want to abandon that project and  turn to my comfort zone of menial tasks I know I’m good at.

Additionally, I have this completely misguided notion that the newbies aren’t going to be able to execute these menial tasks as well as I can. Why I would be concerned that an intelligent college graduate couldn’t figure out how to fill out a form, create a mailing list, or edit a recorded speech to remove “um”s is beyond me. My boss keeps telling me to delegate those tasks to the newbies, but I’m having a hard time letting go.

There are two issues at work here: first is my fear of leaving my comfort zone and taking on new projects that I’m not as good at yet, and second is letting go of this silly notion that I’m the only one who can remove “um”s from a recording.

Four years ago, I was the newbie. I didn’t know how to do anything. The first time my boss asked me to schedule an event, I called up our event manager and she asked me dozens of questions that I didn’t know the answers to. I had to say “let me check on that and get back to you” to nearly everything she asked me. But I learned. And so will the next person. I will also learn how to deal with three people shouting their oftentimes opposing ideas at me. At some point that will become comfortable to me. And then I’ll have to hand that job off to someone else when it’s time for me to move on to my next challenge. And they’ll learn how to deal with it too.

It’s a little early to set my goals for 2013, but I think this might be one of them. I need to learn to let go. Let go of my comfort zone, because that’s the only way I’ll grow. Let go of my need to control all the menial tasks, because in doing so, I’m sending the message to our new hires that I don’t trust them. They are capable people. And so am I. We can all take on new challenges and learn new skills. We’ll make mistakes, but we’ll get through them and come out ready for the next challenge.

The Season of Giving

Now that Halloween’s over, it’s officially Christmas season, or at least that’s what I learned from a trip to Target. In fact, I actually went to Target on October 30th, and the Christmas section was already taking over the Halloween section, so I can only assume that by now Christmas has engulfed about 25% of the store.

I was brought up in a practically-no-gifts house, so the whole concept of buying gifts for people just because the calendar tells me to is very foreign to me. My fiancé, on the other hand, was brought up in a house where Christmas and birthdays meant piles of gifts. It’s a completely different way of life, and it’s hard for either of us to understand the other. But like all other things in relationships, compromise is the answer.

On Christmas, my fiancé likes to give gifts to everyone in his life. He’s a frugal fellow though, so most people just get a dozen or so homemade cookies. That’s a good thing, because if he went out and bought expensive gifts for everyone, my head might explode. He does spend a bit more than I’m comfortable with on his immediate family, though.

My family is Jewish, and my parents were always clearly a little annoyed that the “spirit of giving” associated with Christmas overtook American culture so much that they couldn’t completely deny their children presents during Channukah. Unlike many other Jewish families in our community though, my parents didn’t give us kids presents for every night, and when we did get presents it was something small, like a comic book. My parents didn’t believe in showering kids with gifts on holidays because they didn’t want to instill in us an entitlement or expectation that we “deserve” gifts. If we wanted something, we could ask our parents for it, and if they thought it was reasonable, they’d get it for us, regardless of the time of year. So as an adult, if I see something that I know someone close to me would love, I’ll get it for them, but I won’t give someone an impersonal gift just because it’s Christmastime.

It’s amazing how much we’re shaped by our upbringing in every aspect of our lives. When my fiancé’s sister and sister-in-law email him telling him what he should get their children for Christmas, it rubs me the wrong way like crazy. And my fiancé can’t even begin to understand how I think it’s acceptable to let my brothers’ birthdays go by with just a “Happy Birthday!” phone call.

The key to compromise is accepting that just because you don’t understand someone else’s viewpoint, that doesn’t mean their viewpoint is invalid. I can’t ask my fiancé to stop giving gifts to his family, and he can’t judge me for not giving gifts to mine. But now that we’ve joined our lives, we do have to think about what’s best for us. In the interest of our finances and future goals, he has to keep the amount he spends on his immediate family down. And in the interest of ensuring that my future in-laws don’t hate me, I need to participate in the gift-giving, as much as it kills me to buy a gift for someone “just because.” Thankfully, I have a very personal gift that I know his mother will love already, so I won’t have to grit my teeth buying her some stupid trinket I won’t know if she’ll like anyway. Yay!

Are you in a relationship where you have differing views of gift-giving? How do you deal with it?