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January, 2016

3. How Decide to Which Dreams to Pursue…

By January 17, 2016 Career, Making Dreams Come True

Of course no one else can tell you what you should be doing with your life.  Only you can decide that.  Also, no one single approach is going to suit everyone. Some people don’t mind jumping in with both feet and quitting their day job to pursue their dream, trusting that everything will work out. That is fantastic and I really believe that if you really want something, you absolutely should pursue it. But I myself like to be reasonably sure of financial stability and some chance of success before putting in a lot of time and resources. So here is my slightly risk-adverse take on making major, potentially life-changing decisions….

“What should I do with my life?!” 

Remember daydreaming about what you might “be” when you grew up?

I have one amazing friend who, as a child,  said she was going to be a scientist (and has written proof of this!), and then proceeded to do exactly that.  But we don’t all have such foresight! I myself had a list of any number of things, which would change from week to week depending on how I felt at the time.  I have never been able to map out my career years in advance with any certainty, but have taken up opportunities as they arose.  I have no regrets about where I am now and the path I have taken to get here.  So I guess, the point I am making is that:

  1. It’s OK not to know exactly where you want to be in 10 years. There is no harm planning, of course, but be prepared to adapt and change your plans. That way, you will be open to opportunities that might lead you to something even better.
  2. Do have an idea of what sort of thing you might want to do and start there.

I generally set off in the general direction I want to go, and then make more specific decisions and take up various opportunities as they arise.

Say you are interested in science but you are not sure which field.  So at university you try papers in botany, biochemistry, biology and psychology.  You develop a particular interest in one of these areas, start a project with a professor you admire and thus find your way into that field.

 

What If I think I want to do something but am not sure?”

Thinking in terms of these questions usually helps me to clarify if I am really prepared to put in the effort to make something happen.

  1. Is this something I am really prepared to work hard for?
  2. Would my life feel incomplete if I didn’t do this?
  3. What is the chance that I might realise it’s not what I want after all?
  4. If I tried but couldn’t achieve the goal, what would I lose?
  5. Would having tried give me the closure to move onto something else?
  6. Is quitting an option if it doesn’t seem to be working out? If so, how will I decide when to stop?

 

“ Can I really make this happen?”

There is no fool-proof way to eliminate the risk that your time, efforts and other resources might not pay off, but you could consider the following:

  1. Honest self-appraisal. We might be wrong about ourselves of course, so don’t stop there, but it’s the obvious place to start!  Gather all the information you can about what it might take to succeed and then consider your abilities.
  1. Consider the opinion of a trusted family member or friend.  Take their opinion into consideration, but remember those close to us may have  pre-conceived ideas about what we can or can’t do, so this is only one consideration.
  2. Consider getting an opinion from a professional in the field if applicable/possible
  3. If possible try to get some experience in the area you are interested in or take a course to see if you like it and might be good at it.

 

Just for fun, if you are considering pursuing a new path, try this!

Copy, print and fill out the table below…..

 

whichdreamstable

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2. Why you should R-E-A-C-H for your dreams

By January 7, 2016 Career, Making Dreams Come True

Why should you reach for your dreams?

So that you can be fulfilled and happy right? And because you almost certainly can make at least some of your dreams come true.

The more pertinent question is:

“Why shouldn’t you?” (What is stopping you?):

Lack of funds? Time? Too much effort? Don’t think you have what it takes? Commitments to others? Lack of opportunity?

Ok, not every dream anyone ever thought of is going to be realistic. But you owe it to yourself to at least go through the process of figuring out what will really make you happy (if you don’t already know), exploring what it would take to happen, and if you are prepared to do what it takes.

Going this process, if nothing else, will at least allow you some closure if you decide not to pursue a given path. At best, it will start you on the path to fulfilling your wildest dreams!

In my next few posts in the Make-Your-Dreams-Come-True series, we will go through this process…

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How to Use Memories as Inspiration to Inject Magic, Wonderment and Sparkle into Everyday Life

By January 4, 2016 Sparkle, Magic and Wonderment

Remember how you felt on Christmas morning as a child, that frisson of excitement, of magic hanging in the air after weeks of anticipation? Or what about the sparks that flew when you started dating someone special, when you woke every morning unable to think of anything but when you would speak to or see that person next, your impatience to see how the relationship would unfold?

If you are anything like me, these moments of exhilarating happiness and excitement still happen as an adult but became fewer and further between compared with when I was a child. I wondered why, and what I could do to inject more magic and sparkle back into life. So I decided to explore some more examples of magic-infused memories to figure out what made them so special.

Some of my magical memories:

1. Trip to Carcasssonne (see my post from earlier today)

http://chicbalance.com/?cat=8

2. Aeroplane Trips

As a child, whenever we had an overseas trip planned, my sisters and I would be so excited about going on the aeroplane. More excited about the trip there than the holiday itself really…We loved having our own seats with our own light switch and music channels we could control ourselves (back then in the 80s there was just one large movie screen at the front of the cabin which we would watch through the gaps between the seats, never dreaming of the luxury of having a library of movies to choose from like we have today!).  We loved the cosiness of the aeroplane cabin with the soothing white-noise of the airplane propellers when the lights were dimmed.  We would plan what games we would take with us .to play and dream of eating food out of little boxes in a tray and even practice “aeroplane eating” when we played make-believe.  (Having since experienced economy-class aeroplane food as an adult I can’t really explain to you or myself why we had that particular fascination…).  I even loved airports, and still do.  To me, international airports all over the world all have the same air of excitement.  A tantalising port to exotic destinations soon to be reached.

3. Getting up early for road trips

As a child, we would regularly get up in the early hours when it was still dark to start a long trip to visit my aunt and cousins. I loved spending time with my cousins, but the trip itself was exciting. As with overseas plane flights, it was the start of an exciting journey, with the thought of the whole trip stretching out in front of you. But there was also a definite novelty associated with being awake and having somewhere to go at a time of day when I would normally not be allowed up. There was a certain magic in the night air, the crisp coolness of it, the blanket of darkness just beyond the window, sprinkled with the twinkling lights of stars and street lamps which made the interior of the car all the cosier. Then of course there was the magic of a beautiful sunrise….I enjoyed sharing these experiences with my parents and later my siblings.

4. A special dinner after a busy day at work

I remember, one day I had a special romantic dinner at a restaurant to look forward to for the evening. I had quite a busy work day to get through beforehand, but having somewhere special to go afterwards infused the whole day with excitement. At the end of the day I was able to pack up and mentally and physically, close the door on work and enthusiastically start the next exciting part of my day.

5. Summer holidays after exams

I was something of a geek at high school and university… I studied pretty hard, and the end of year exams were associated with weeks of discipline, sacrifice, hard work, stress and fatigue. So handing in that last exam paper for the year and stepping out into the sunshine came with a certain euphoria (probably heightened by the delirium of sleep deprivation!). The moment was particularly exhilarating if I knew I had “aced” the exam, but even when I didn’t feel so great about it, there was a certain relief in knowing it was all over and I could look forward to starting the summer holidays.

6. An exciting new project

There is nothing like a new project you are passionate about to fill you with enthusiasm and excitement. For me right now, that is this blog! I don’t know where this will lead, if anyone will read it, or like it, or if I will still be writing it in a year. But I do know that I have always wanted to write for others as well as myself since I was a child. I am writing about things I am passionate about, am excited to share my thoughts with you, and am dreaming about the possibilities of what I will explore and where this might go.

7. Christmas…this deserves a post of its own! I will come back to this one next December…

 

So in considering what  made these childhood and adult memories so magical, I noticed the following:

a) All have an element of anticipation. Of looking forward to something that promises to be exciting and delightful for a reasonably long period of time. Anticipation of an exotic holiday, of a whole day filled with wonderful possibilities, of a whole evening out in a lovely restaurant, of the whole of the summer holidays, of all the possibilities and potential for success of a new project, of finding wonderful and delightful things when setting out to explore an exciting new place.I have decided anticipation at the beginning of something nice is possibly the best part of a pleasurable experience. When the entire experience is still in store, but yet tantilisingly close. The magical memory is complete when the things we look forward to are every bit as amazing as we imagined or if we are lucky even better!

b) Novelty

Being awake at an unusual time (for a nice reason!), seeing a new place, trying new food, doing something different –the novelty of these elements helped to add an extra sparkle to make the experience special. Trying something different is such a refreshing change to everyday life which can get a little mundane sometimes.

c) Contrast

Pleasurable experiences are heightened by contrast. The contrast of having something like a busy work day or exams and then being to suddenly switch into celebration/holiday mode, letting the pressures of whatever else there is to worry about in life lift away, if only for that period of time.

d) An interesting challenge

It is great to have hobbies you enjoy, and if you are lucky a job you love. The start of a new project you are passionate about is so exciting, a time filled with creativity, purpose and potential.

e) Shared experience

All of these experiences involve sharing moments with others, whether with loved ones, fellow students or you, my readers! This is not to say you can’t have magical moments on your own (I have had quite a few). But having someone to share the experience with,  whether at the time or by telling them about it afterwards often seems to heighten the experience.

Try this!

  1. List at least 5 memories of times that felt magical and exciting. Go on, take a stroll down memory lane and indulge in reliving some of your most wonderfully delightful memories
  2. For each memory, write down what you think made it so wonderful
  3. Use those reasons to inspire a list of ways you can inject more magic and wonderment into your life now!
  4. Think about how you can add anticipation, novelty and passion into your life and consider how you might share the experience with others.

À demain!

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A Magical trip to Carcassonne, France

By January 4, 2016 French Inspired, Sparkle, Magic and Wonderment, Travel

I have been lucky enough to have had many magical moments on overseas holidays.  However some stand out in my memories more than others.  Carcassonne is a charming hilltop town in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of Southern France, surrounded by a medieval fortress.  We were a travelling party of 5 and had hired a car to take a road trip, driving from town to town.  We loved seeing the landscape of gently rolling hills and green countryside as we travelled.  As we were travelling in a car we were able to stop to pick poppies in a field which we had never seen growing wild before and take lots of photos and practice our French on the locals!

carcassonne1carcassonne0carcassone2carcassonne3

We stayed in a little hotel just outside the city walls of Carcasonne and had a breath-taking view of the medieval town, which certainly seemed take on a magical quality as it lit up at dusk (see above).  Immediately we began talking about how this conjured up romanticised visions of princesses and knights, and of the medieval citizens scurrying behind the safety of the city walls and closing the gates to protect the town…

It was a chilly, grey and drizzly evening, but already enchanted by this charming town, we were completely un-deterred and we put on our winter coats. armed ourselves with umbrellas and set off walking into the town.  The town shops were still open, but the wet cobblestone streets were empty and there were no other tourists to be seen.  It was as if we had the town to ourselves.  We ducked into a cosily lit sweet shop and spent a happy 20 minutes marvelling over the variety of and selecting some to sample before braving the rain again.

carcassone4carcassonne5carcassone7

 

We wandered around, and came across, among other sights, a square, a beautiful church with stained glass windows lit up by candles,   a well, and a poster exalting the local dish, Cassoulet!

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By now the light was fading and we looked for somewhere to have dinner.  We were welcomed by the owner of a charming country pub and climbed the stone stairs to the restaurant on the upper floor.  The room was delightfully warm and lit by candles and a crackling fire.  The waiter was hospitable, charming and of course knowledgeable about wine.  We did order the famed cassoulet, a provincial dish of duck leg, sausage and haricot beans cooked in a clay pot.  The warm and hearty meal was the perfect end to a magical fairy tale of a day.

carcassonne9

 

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1. How to Make New Year (or Any-Time-Of-Year) Dreams and Resolutions that Really Happen

By January 3, 2016 Festivity and celebrations, Making Dreams Come True, Organsation and Planning

I like to categorise my dreams and resolutions/goals into different aspects of life such as those listed here. You will probably want to modify this list based on what you want to work on this year.

Categories for Dreams and Resolutions

  1. Family/relationships
  2. Work/career
  3. Home
  4. Fitness and health
  5. Helping others
  6. Hobbies/interests/other pursuits
  7. Self development/improvement
  8. Enjoying life
  9. Style/image

Try this!

  1. Review last years accomplishments                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If you wrote down resolutions or goals last year, get them out and check off what you have accomplished. Even if you didn’t formally write down anything down last year, you can still think of all the things you accomplished. Congratulate yourself on the goals you have seen through. For the ones you haven’t, don’t beat yourself up –instead reassess whether you still want to achieve them. If so, put them back on the list for this year and make up your mind to refine or adapt your plan to achieving them.
  2. Dream big, for the long term                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Go ahead and write down for each category, anything you would ideally like to achieve in your lifetime. Don’t be afraid to DREAM REALLY BIG, and write down your heart’s desire. You don’t need to share this with anyone else, but be honest with yourself. Write down as many dreams as you like for each category.
  3. Refine your list to goals really worth fighting for                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Success in anything generally requires hard work and often a certain degree of risk.   The risk of efforts and other resources and sacrifices not paying off. Some dreams are merely whimsical, for example in a fantasy alternate universe I might like to be a foreign diplomat, opera singer or Hollywood actress. However when it comes down to it I just don’t have the passion to seriously pursue any of these things. So dig deep and decide which dreams you are really passionate about. The ones you don’t mind working long and hard for and really committing to.

This is my first post in the Make-Your-Dreams-Come-True series.   I like to sleep on a list like this, and let thoughts and ideas randomly run through my mind for a few days before writing a more specific plan of how to achieve these goals.

So, see you here tomorrow for something different, a special post to kick off the New Year about how to inject magic, sparkle and wonderment into everyday life.  We’ll come back to our lists of dreams and resolutions to make a game plan to make them happen in a later post!

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New Year Reflections

By January 3, 2016 Festivity and celebrations, Recipes
chicbalance.com

I love New Year! It’s a great time to look forward to the next year as a fresh new start, a chance to take stock of last years accomplishments, tie up loose ends and set new goals.  I like to do this as actively and specifically as possible (as will described in the next post!).  It’s a time to tidy and organise before diving into work and other projects with new vigor.

A big festive party with a crowd count-down can be fun.  But equally enjoyable might be a small intimate dinner party or a quiet night in, watching a festive New Year movie (Bridget Jones is one of my favourites) and making New Years resolutions over some champagne. Another one of my favourite ways to celebrate New Year is a to pack some hot chocolate and snacks and have a romantic night out watching fireworks on a picnic blanket,

New Year falls during summer here in new Zealand, so New Year celebrations also often feature a visit to the beach. One of my favourite New Year recipies are Sand Dollar Cookies.  They are light and sandy in texture and so feel very summery! The recipe, posted by Susan S on the “Diamonds for Dessert” is based on a Chinese New Year cookie recipe. http://www.diamondsfordessert.com/2011/06/sand-dollar-cookies.html

I like to whip up a batch early in the morning while listening to Christmas music to get in the spirit for a day of New Year fun in the sun.

What season is it where you are and what local events and resources can you use to create your own new and special traditions?

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