First, a parable: A benevolent king sat upon his throne, sick with dread. “The recent famine has starved my people, and our country lags behind our closest neighbors in both industry and learning. I fear that in our weakened state, we are open to attack from a foreign power.” Each day the king would hold an audience with his subjects, listening to their woes and doing his best to understand the reason for their outrage. Finally, fed up with feeling powerless to help even the poorest of his people, the king called together his council of advisors and ambassadors to discuss what could be done.
“I may not be the best or the brightest here,” said the king, addressing his cabinet. “But I know where we are suffering, as a nation. I have heard our people cry out for food, work, education, and opportunity. I can’t do everything myself, but I will exercise what powers I have over what I can do.” With that, the king sent envoys to neighboring countries with the hand of friendship, thus creating allies and trade. He instructed his dukes and vassals to establish schools in their lands and paid for tradesmen, industrialists, and farmers to teach the people how to advance through burgeoning technology. Finally, he elevated the hardest working of his subjects to new lands and titles. Slowly the country started to prosper, and the people flourished. The king, now free of his distress, surveyed his land with quiet pride and fulfillment, knowing his country was prepared for whatever the future might bring.
Having Eyes to See
Like the king in the story, our minds have the lofty calling of being in charge of it all. But all too often we might feel powerless in the face of what we deem to be overwhelming deficiencies. After all, we can’t be good at everything, and yet there are myriad things outside of our direct control that would weigh in on our health and happiness. Even things we can control might feel out of our reach because we don’t have the knowledge or experience or perceived strength to manipulate them for our good.
In times like these, when we feel as if the whole world is pressing down upon us, it is essential to take stock of the situation in the clear light of day. Therapy, and ultimately change, can only happen when we have an accurate estimation of the problem. Sometimes in order to do this, we need to prepare our minds to receive this news. It is a skill that takes practice and courage to perfect. Once we can honestly look at what needs to change, then we need to be honest with ourselves about what we can do on our own, and what we need help doing.
Healing Through Accomplishment
Don’t underestimate the power of getting things done; making a checklist and crossing things off is a classic tool to help improve your mental health. This list represents actual things that you can do, and as you see it get filled up and checked off, you will realize that you are taking the steps that need to be taken for the good of your own personal kingdom. The checklist might be full of big things like finishing your degree or losing weight, or small things, like raking the backyard or delivering homemade bread to your neighbors. It’s likely your actual list will have a mixture of both. It is imperative that you give yourself the grace to say “I might not know how to do this, but there are people who can help me.” The king from our parable didn’t know how to teach his subjects everything they needed to know, nor could he likely construct the machines necessary to advance his country out of its current predicament. But it was still his responsibility to make sure those things happened. It is okay to realize that you don’t know how to change the oil in your car, but that car is your responsibility nonetheless. Luckily there are people who can help you with that.
Effort is Sacred
When it comes down to it, no one likes feeling powerless. There is little an average person can do to change the turning of the world, or slow the wheels of industry. But realize that effort is sacred, and taking pride in what you can accomplish is essential to bolster your mental health. As President Lincoln said, “All the armies of Europe and Asia…could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher.” He could have easily turned that around and said that we are the authors of our own success, as well.
Bringing relief to the king by serving the individual needs of the people is the principle, and it’s okay if executing on your plan takes time. But it’s important to take time to work towards a goal whose progress you can see in a shorter amount of time. In this way, working with your hands is usually the quickest path to accomplishment. Try building something in the garage, planting a garden, or baking a recipe; lots of little steps–little victories–get us to the big destination.
How Body Image Affects Success
What is one of the first things you put aside in order to complete other tasks? Chances are, your workouts are put on pause, as are your personal interests. When we neglect our health, it can further impact our priorities; if we don’t feel good about how we look or how physically fit we are we may be less inclined to put ourselves out there personally or professionally.
Work, hobbies, exercise, eating well, developing personal relationships, caring for loved ones– all those responsibilities add up. Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough daylight hours to get everything done to have a fulfilling life.
When high-priority tasks push other things to the back burner, we can start to lose confidence in ourselves. We can get caught up in how many to-do list items we check off each day, and berate ourselves for what we have to neglect. If your health and wellness are one of them, let’s take a look at the ways that are detrimental to your overall confidence and success.
How Body Image Affects Self-Esteem in Teens
Living in a world inundated with social media filters, teens are being exposed to more unrealistic beauty and body image standards than ever before. It used to be that advertising, TV shows, and movies were the main channels exposing kids to intimidating standards of what’s beautiful. Now, any time they look at social media they see people their age with filters that give the appearance of perfection.
Without proper disclosure, these filtered faces have a big, negative impact on today’s youth. Teens aren’t able to discern what’s realistic and what’s anatomically unattainable. With everyone online looking perfect, more teens and young adults are taking filtered photos to plastic surgeons in an effort to look like the smooth-faced, doe-eyed, photoshopped images they see daily.
This is why it’s important to put an emphasis on a body’s or mind’s strengths, especially those which can’t be seen. Help the teens in your life accept their bodies and appreciate what they are capable of. Remind them there’s no such thing as the perfect body, and what we see in the media usually isn’t real.
Compliments to Give Teens
It can be hard to give a compliment that isn’t based on appearance. But it’s important so children and teens don’t think their success in life is only tied to their looks. Here are some compliments you can give to the youth in your life that has nothing to do with how their bodies look.
- I’m proud of what you’ve accomplished!
- You make me feel important.
- I love how passionate you are about [sports, education, art, etc…]
- You’re brave to try [XYZ].
- I appreciate the example you set for others.
- I love your imagination.
- I like your sense of style and how you pair colors, textures, etc…
- Your attitude about [XYZ] is helpful!
- I love being around you.
- I admire you for [XYZ].
- With that approach, you’ll go far in life!
- I like how you listen to others.
- You mean a lot to me.
Teach children and adolescents they have more to offer than a pretty face or certain body type. If they’re interested in fashion, makeup, nutrition, or exercise, be sure the emphasis is on enhancing what’s already wonderful about them, rather than changing themselves to get external validation.
How Body Image Affects Success in Adulthood
If you spend your time hating your body, you’re probably not going to try taking care of it. This can not only further harm your health and lower your self-esteem, but it can affect your relationships and your work life.
But recognizing what a gift your body is can take practice. How can you change your mindset to allow you to love your body and exhibit confidence? Change in your attitude and body won’t happen overnight, but here are some suggestions for getting started.
- Take a photo to mark the beginning of your journey
- Dress for the body you already have
- Gradually make adjustments to how you fuel your body
- Join a group for fitness accountability and encouragement
Mark Your Progress
- Focus on non-scale-victories
- Celebrate progress with a non-food-related reward
- Share accomplishments with supportive friends and family
Be Open to Alternatives
- Work on lifestyle changes instead of fad diets
- Consult experts in the fields of nutrition, exercise, and plastic surgery to help you achieve your goals
- Try new forms of working out if the gym isn’t a good fit for you
As you learn to accept your body as it is, you will come to understand you’re worthy of professional and personal success right now- you don’t have to wait until you’re a certain weight, a certain pant size, or can run a certain distance.
Signs You Might Hate Yourself
Negative self-talk can convince you to forgo participating in activities you love or pursuing career advancements you deserve. If you find yourself attributing your failures to how you look, you might have a negative body image that needs to be adjusted.
- You feel guilt when you do something for yourself
- You don’t let yourself feel excited about leisure activities or professional opportunities
- You routinely cancel plans
- You stay in your comfort zone
- You’re pessimistic about everything
- You restrict caloric intake
- You workout to punish yourself for what you’ve eaten
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Remember that what you see in the mirror isn’t an accurate reflection of who you are. Our minds can become accustomed to labeling our bodies in unhealthy ways, regardless of how fit we really are. The concept of “body image” has a lot of layers. There’s the cognitive, the perceptive, the affective, and the behavioral.
- Cognitive: internal thoughts about the body
- Perceptual: how the body is seen (size/shape of body parts)
- Affective: feelings about the body
- Behavioral: actions a person takes to analyze, change, or hide the body
Body Dysmorphic Disorder goes beyond vanity; it’s a condition in which a person is so consumed with their appearance it negatively affects their life on a regular basis. A person living with body dysmorphic disorder believes criticisms about themselves that other people cannot see.
This condition can greatly affect how a person functions day-to-day; a belief that the body is deformed or ugly can make it difficult to leave the house, participate in recreational activities, and interact with others. Unless body dysmorphia is addressed, it can result in a continuous cycle of self-esteem issues related to mental health and perceived body image.
It’s normal to have concerns about one’s appearance and to want to look good. When it becomes an obsession, that’s when it’s time to seek help.
Calling All Daredevils Thrill Seeking and Extreme Sports
The view over the canyon is breathtaking and the climber knows it. As she sits near the edge breathing in the clean air on the summit, she marvels at the beauty here at the edge of a basin carved out by water eons ago. She finishes a protein bar and gets up, checking her shoelaces and patting all around her as she makes sure her equipment is secure. She backs up from the edge and takes one last deep breath before running forward and casting herself over the edge. As she plummets to the ground the bungee cord she’s attached to swings her on a wide arc. Involuntarily she wonders, as she always does, if her companion measured and secured the rope properly. She will soon find out.
The Risk is the Reward
For the habitual thrill-seeker, the feeling of adrenaline that accompanies death-defying feats is the toppings on the sundae. Without that cocktail of anticipation, fear, exhilaration, regret, relief, triumph, and jubilation, none of the activities would hold the same appeal﹘no matter how beautiful the view, or how strenuous the effort. Why do they do it, when the alternative is complete finality? Reasons include:
- The Respect of Onlookers: The old adage of “if it was easy everyone would do it,” is never more true in sports, and even more so in extreme sports. Whether the person is competing to finish a marathon or surf a tidal wave, they are willing to put up with a lot of punishment in the lead-up to a moment of pure adoration by those around them.
- The Feeling of Exceeding a Limitation: In much the same way para-athletes train their mind and bodies to overcome the limitations caused by their disability, participants of extreme sports look at the metaphorical (or in some cases, literal) Everest and say to themselves “what if?” There is no better feeling than seeing an old boundary sail past you in the rush of accomplishment.
- Chasing the Bucket List: Some goals are driven by the hope of apotheosis, others by curiosity; bucket lists take all sorts, and seeing that list get crossed does a lot to convince that life has been well-lived.
For people falling from a cliff with a thick piece of elastic string attached to their ankles, they may have goals that took them to the top of the mountain, but that carousel of feelings while suspended in the air is the gas that makes it go.
From Provocateur to Professional
It’s true that over time the amygdala﹘the emotional center of the brain, where feelings like fear and happiness come from﹘can be conditioned to accept a certain level of risk. After all, the subject of the 2018 documentary Free Solo, Alex Hannold, famously showed no stimulation in the amygdala while taking an MRI and answering questions designed to elicit an emotional response to thrill-seeking. But what happens when those who are drawn by the myriad of emotions from their sport are able to manage that emotional response practically; when they have moved on from provoking the amygdala? Well, many of them become professionals.
The path to these so-called “extreme professions” is different for everyone, but for those that involve passengers, such as a pilot or stunt driver, there are special academies that provide the appropriate licensure. Other individuals forego the route of becoming a professional doer of the sport and opt to be in a career adjacent to the thing that they love, either because they are past their physical prime, or because they want to qualify for more robust insurance. These might include professions like a sports coach or a pit boss.
The often unforeseen consequence of participating in an extreme sport is that in order for an athlete to have the greatest chance of survival over a long period of time, they really need to become an expert in what they’re doing. Car enthusiasts become exceptional car mechanics, and go on to work in auto care shops wherever they live; surfers become swim instructors.
Everyone gets good at estate planning.
That is another side effect of extreme sports: when you’re waiting for the bungee cord to got taut, the fear is abated in part by confidence in your preparation, both for what you’re doing and if something should go wrong. No matter what the sport is, all thrill seekers﹘from skydivers to scuba divers﹘should get acquainted with their local estate planning law firm.
The world of extreme sports is a thrilling one but comes at a high risk. It’s the type of thing where everyone can try it once, but only the people who have dedicated themselves to technical perfection, who are meticulously attentive to details, and who are able to master their emotions ever get the chance to do it a second time.
Here’s How to Prepare for a Retirement You’ll Enjoy
When you’ve worked your entire life, there’s nothing more fulfilling than retiring from your job and living out the rest of your life in peace and style. Getting to that phase of retirement isn’t always easy, but with the right preparation and planning, it’s well worth it. Here are some things you’ll need to retire the way you want to.
Get Your Current Finances in Order
If you haven’t yet spoken with a financial advisor, make an appointment. This meeting can occur years before you retire or years after. You can’t make it too early or too late.
You’ll discuss your current assets, retirement savings and goals, investments, debt, and more. Depending on what stage of the planning process you’re in, you’ll make goals and schedules to help you achieve the retirement you want.
If you have debts that need to be repaid, you’ll also want to seek credit counseling. A counselor can help you visualize your debts and current financial needs in order to make informed decisions for your future.
You’ll want to discuss ways to protect your assets so that you can liquefy or pass them down to your children when you’re gone. Nobody likes estate planning, but it’s an important part of the retirement process.
It’s also wise to invest and diversify your portfolios. Do some research on investments that interest you and ask your financial advisor for guidance in maximizing these investments and getting the highest returns.
Save for Future Medical Costs
While you’re planning for your financial future, consider potential medical costs. You don’t always know what medical bills will hit you in the future, and you don’t want your children to be liable for your bills and debts.
You might not realize it now, but you could end up relying on Medicaid at some point in the future. There’s nothing wrong with that but be sure that your nest egg isn’t being put at risk in the process. You might speak with an attorney about planning a Medicaid trust to help protect your finances while getting you the medical repayment you need.
A financial advisor will have some good ideas about what you should save for medical costs, but current financial experts recommend saving about $300K for medical expenses during retirement.
Live Somewhere Amazing
Now to the fun part! Choose where you’re going to live out the rest of your life. Will it be a small, rural, breathtaking mountain town where you can go skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer? A house on the beach where you can swim or walk along the sand all year long? Will it be next door to your grandkids?
Wherever you plan to go, consider what you want to do and where you want to be as you age. Expenses play a role. If you’re going to be on a fixed income, you’ll need to live somewhere with an affordable cost of living. If you have a little extra to burn, you’d have your pick.
Consider access to medical care and family as well. You don’t want to be cut off from the things that are most important to you as you age, but don’t let that ruin your sense of adventure!
Consider Your Family
Although your children and relatives may not be living with you when you retire, you should still factor them into your retirement plans. Whether you’re seeking a little more space from them or more closeness, this may influence where you decide to retire.
In some cases, your children may want you to live with them. You’ll want to consider how you feel about that, your current health needs, and your expenses before making that decision.
Furthermore, do you want to pass it on to your children and grandchildren? You certainly don’t want them to inherit debt, medical expenses and other issues, which underscores the importance of careful financial planning. Estate planning is another essential step to ensuring your peace of mind in retirement.
One of the best things that comes with age is wisdom and patience. You’ve learned a little about how frugal living enables you to have everything you’ll need or want in life. So, whether you have a lot or a little saved for retirement, you can use self-control to live the life you want without worrying about your later years and the legacy you’ll live behind.
It’s much easier to enjoy all the benefits of retirement when you’re not spending money on frivolous wants. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend money in retirement—you’ve earned a few splurges, after all. Just be choosy about how you spend.
Evaluate what you want at the end of your life, whether it’s lots of experiences through travel, a boat to sail around the harbor, or just lots of family time. Then, make spending choices that allow you to achieve these goals. These insightful, frugal decisions will provide you the relaxing retirement you need.
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