Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty for Taking Days Off in the New Year

Why You Shouldn't Feel Guilty for Taking Days Off in the New Year

Ever since I became a full-time freelance writer, I haven’t taken many full days off. If you’re going to be successful as a new entrepreneur, you have to let go of the idea of having regular days off. The concept of weekends as they exist in the corporate world do not exist in the world of self-employment, which I personally think is a fair compromise for being able to do something you sincerely love.

With that being said, taking time to rest and re-charge is crucial. Running on an empty tank of energy and inspiration leads to work that is less than your best, which doesn’t benefit anyone. While it can be hard to allow yourself time to relax, it must be done. Before the end of the year, I’m actively balancing my work and days off. I’m happily preparing for a busy start to 2017, so I am prioritizing time to relax so that I can be my best self for all upcoming projects.

Even though I fully comprehend the importance of taking time to re-charge, I always feel guilty doing so. I’ll call this feeling “day off guilt.” I’m certain that many of you frequently feel the same way. No matter what job(s) you have, most of us feel like we can’t take days off. And even when you have a day off, many of us pack our schedules with errands, appointments, and chores.  Rarely do we ever use our time to get more sleep, practice a favorite hobby, or spend more time with our friends and family. Instead, we maintain the fast pace of our lives when we should be restoring our minds and bodies.

If this sounds too familiar, I want to give you permission to start using your time off to be the best version of you. In 2017, focus the hours of your days off on leisure and renewal. There are numerous reasons (which I’ll cover in a moment) to get rid of your “day off guilt,” and start making your health a priority. To complement my personal goals of keeping life as simple as possible in the new year, I’m going to ensure that I balance my work load with proper rest. I want to deliver the best blog posts and the highest quality work to my clients. I can’t meet that goal if I don’t take adequate time to renew my mind and body. It took my move in to self-employment to gain this level of self-awareness and acceptance. Now that I’ve made this discovery, I insist on making time for time off.

Why Time Off is Good for You

My needs are not unique in any way. You need regular relaxation as well. The quality of your work will suffer if you don’t leave time to restore your mind and body. If you need a little more convincing, I’m not the only one who makes this argument. Studies show that allowing yourself to take time off boosts productivity, decreases stress, and is beneficial for your brain. These three benefits are only a sampling of the reasons you shouldn’t take pride in always being busy. Our American workplace culture leads us to boast about our unrelenting, full schedules. It’s time to change that way of doing things.

Prioritizing Time Off in 2017

Here is your challenge: starting right now, brainstorm ways that you can achieve a healthy balance in your workload and your relaxation time. Don’t make it a resolution (we all know New Year’s resolutions don’t work very well), but instead make it an active project for yourself that begins immediately. Start thinking of the unnecessary tasks you can eliminate from your schedule. Can you do things in an easier way, or delegate certain tasks? Are you spreading yourself too thin among multiple commitments? Don’t be afraid to step away from things that you know deep down need to be taken off of your schedule. From my own experiences, I know that this is uncomfortable. But if you are being honest with yourself, I’m guessing you already know which commitments can’t stay on your schedule.

While subtracting tasks, don’t forget to add in your planned time to relax. Taking this step in your planning helps ensure you won’t replace one busy activity with another. Think about the activities that will serve you the most. Are you always tired? Schedule an additional hour or two of sleep. Lacking creativity? Make time for your favorite hobby. No matter what you choose, be sure that you are only adding activities that will help restore your mind and body, and help you feel more refreshed when you return to your work. After finding the right balance for you, you’ll be able to see how this new way of organizing your schedule helps you feel better and helps you produce your best work yet.

Why You Need to Set Realistic Expectations for the New Year

Why You Need to Set Realistic Expectations for the New Year
Lately, I’ve seen many variations of the same sentiment posted across social media. If you use social media at all, I’m sure you’ve seen it (and perhaps posted it to your own page) as well. I’m talking about the posts currently circulating that say things like, “2017 will be your best year!” or “nothing bad will happen in 2017 at all, and you’ll find complete peace and joy, and become a millionaire.” Maybe that last one was an exaggeration, but sadly not by much. While positive thinking is always admirable, setting impossible expectations is never healthy.

Too often at the end of a year, we build up an incredible amount of hype for the incoming year. We place an enormous amount of pressure on having this upcoming year be the “best year ever.” Magazines, television programs, and social media alike tell us that this is a completely realistic expectation. You decide that this will be the year you finally lose 20 pounds. It will also be when you revolutionize your diet, your friendships, your home life, and so on. Promotions will knock on your door, your house will be permanently clean and organized, and people will admire how put together your life has become.

But then January 1st rolls around. You vow to get to the gym as soon as possible, start working overtime to earn that promotion, and do everything else that you’ve set out to do. But then, the weeks start to fly by. Unexpected engagements pop up. You catch a cold, and as a result, miss a week at the gym. By mid-year, you decide that you want to change careers instead of going for the promotion you dreamed about. All of a sudden, you’ve reached the end of another year.

I fully recognize that I’m not going to be popular for writing this post. It is far more thrilling to pick up a magazine while in the checkout lane at the grocery store that tells you three easy steps for never having a bad day in the new year. But you know what? Those articles don’t genuinely serve you. Don’t get me wrong — I love to set ambitious goals. In the past three years, I’ve set some pretty crazy goals that I’ve achieved. However, it is often forgotten that setting goals and setting unrealistic expectations are two separate things. Every time I’ve worked toward each of my many dreams, there were countless disappointments, sad times, and difficulties. That is just how life works. Expecting that any given year will be free of problems puts you in a terrible mindset. When you start to face the inevitable tough situations, having unrealistic expectations will cause you to be one of the worst versions of yourself. You will have less patience and be less understanding when things don’t go as you think they should. If you instead choose to optimistically face whatever comes your way, you will feel a lot less pressure and stress. You can work toward your goals with resiliency, strength, and a positive attitude.

The point in all of this is to encourage you to set realistic expectations for 2017. You will undoubtedly have some incredible moments throughout the upcoming 12 months. Be thrilled for all of the wonderful things coming up this next year! But remember, life doesn’t change because of the resolutions you set. Less-than-happy things, frustrating moments, and difficulties will also be part of your year. It is an unavoidable consequence of the human experience. Beginning your year with healthy expectations will help you to be more resilient through those hard times. As a bonus, being in the right mindset will cause you to appreciate the good times even more. Get excited for all that the new year has waiting for you, but always remember to push through the struggles you face.

Make Your Writing Original in Three Steps

Make Your Writing Original in Three Steps

Is it just me, or does it seem like there is a lot of “noise” in the writing world? When I say “noise,” I am referring to the lack of originality in the content posted. There is an overload of articles, books, web pages, blog posts, and so on that, when being brutally honest, are clutter. The same things that have been said thousands of times before are said over and over again. For the reader, trying to find original content about any given subject is exhausting.

Writers are impacted by this overwhelming deluge of unoriginal content even more so than readers. It is incredibly discouraging to think of a topic to write about, only to find that the topic has been written about countless times. For example, searching for a “chocolate chip cookie recipe” yields 1,600,000 results. While not all of these results reflect actual recipes, an insane number of the pages are indeed chocolate chip cookie recipes. This is just one random example of a topic that has been covered one too many times. Multiply this by the millions of other subjects in existence, and you start to have an idea of how much clutter is out there. Ironically, this blog post is even unoriginal. I’m not the first to write about originality in writing. So then, how can writers hope to ever produce anything unique in our modern day, information overloaded world? More importantly, how can writers hope to have their work found in this giant sea of content?

Since both of those questions are too extensive to cover in one blog post, let’s focus on the first thought: making your writing original. Although almost no main idea is ever genuinely original anymore, don’t get discouraged (as I have many times about this very subject). There are still ways that you can make your writing as unique. Check out these three tips on making your content as original as possible:

Focus on adding value
Rather than placing such a heavy emphasis on crafting unique content, think of how you can write content that adds value to the lives of your readers in some way. With a rare few exceptions (especially for non-fiction), you have to accept that what you are writing has, in some way, already been written. You will rarely (if ever) be able to write about something that no one has ever written about. Instead, place your focus on making your content count. Before starting a project, ask yourself why readers should care about your blog post, book, etc. Are you writing just another chocolate chip cookie recipe that adds nothing to what is already available? If so, why would a reader be interested in another average recipe that uses the same ingredients that thousands of others use? Strive to make your words matter.

Always make an effort to contribute a new perspective
Unique topics are a challenge to find. However, a completely original perspective on the world and everything in it are already available to you. Because you are you, the world appears to you as it does to no one else. We all have a variable set of life experiences and abilities. Therefore, no one can ever have the same exact perspective that you do. Even if you share similar opinions with someone, those opinions truly aren’t identical. Leverage this knowledge in your writing to the fullest. Be as intentional about your word choices as possible to reflect how you individually experience a given topic. Tell stories from your viewpoint. Make sure that your writing voice is consistently reflecting who you are. Doing this alone will help set your work apart from the writing of others.

Research ideas/titles/plot lines for originality
When questioning the originality of your content, do a little research in advance. If you are doubting whether a subject has been written about too frequently, chances are that it has been. Don’t ever write content just to produce content, especially when you know it lacks any kind of originality. If your heart is set on writing about a particular subject, use the previous two tips. Try your best to make the content valuable and reflecting a unique perspective. If you’re unable to do this, it might be best to move on to your next idea.

Also, when contemplating a title for an article or a book, place the title in your favorite search engine and see what comes up. Do not skip this step! Because we are so impacted by the outside world, we can easily lack originality. Titles of movies, books, and articles we’ve experienced can effortlessly leak in to our own writing. For a title that comes up less-than-original, spend some time re-working it. A little effort on this will help it stand out from the rest.

Realistically Pursuing Your Passion Series: Fear

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Can I give you a few inspiring quotes about fear? I hope you said ‘yes,’ because here it goes:

Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” -Paulo Coelho

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

I’m guessing that you’ve read many other sentiments like the ones listed above. Through childhood, our teenage years, and our adult lives, the notion that fear is a bad thing is impressed upon us from many wise sources. No sincerely intelligent person has ever made the argument that living in fear is a positive, healthy way to live. While temporary moments of fear have their place in keeping us safe, fear isn’t meant to be a long-term emotion. Being afraid of what others think about us, or worrying if we are going to succeed at something, are natural thoughts to have because we are imperfect human beings. We are all going to have these thoughts from time to time, and that is perfectly natural. With that being said, when you do experience this negative, limiting emotion, it’s essential to stop it in its tracks.

Fear keeps us from being our best self. It limits what we can achieve, and keeps us from being brave. It is one of the only emotions we experience that can actually lie to us. It tells us we aren’t good enough, skilled enough, and experienced enough. While giving in to these lies may initially feel good (a.k.a. staying inside your comfort zone), taking this course of action is ultimately crushing. We don’t use our gifts and talents to the fullest, and stay in situations that we shouldn’t for too long. Time goes by far too quickly, and we become saddened by the missed opportunities fear convinced us we weren’t good enough to pursue.

If you are serious about going for that promotion, applying for your dream job, starting a business, or making any other amazing (but anxiety-provoking) changes, you first have to get your response to fear under control. It’s not easy, and you won’t be an expert right away, but it is totally worth it. The larger the change you’re making, the more anxious moments you’ll experience. After making several major life changes in the past few years myself (moving 1,000 miles away from home with no job lined up, and just recently becoming a writer + entrepreneur), I’ve experienced all of those fearful thoughts. I’ve questioned myself multiple times about whether I had made the right decisions, wondered if I’d fail miserably, and so on. I’ve relied heavily on my faith to get me through the fear, and to keep me going when I couldn’t on my own.

By now, I think I’ve made my point: if you let fear control your actions, you’ll never go where you’ve dreamed of going. Your comfort zone may initially feel like a good place to be, but you limit yourself greatly in never bravely venturing outside of it. I promise you this — beautiful and wonderful things you once thought impossible live well outside of your comfort zone.

If fear regularly holds you back, let’s get you moving forward. You are good enough, smart enough, and talented enough to start realistically pursuing your passion. To get you going, I have some homework for you. By the next post in this series (Thursday, December 8th), do the following: write a list of 3-5 fears you have about pursuing your passion. Be brutally honest, and don’t hold back. You need to better understand the specific fears that are holding you back. In the next post, we’re going to analyze your list and help you break past each worry. After moving past those fears, we’ll talk about the next step!

Have a beautiful start to your week!
-Valerie

Realistically Pursuing Your Passion: Part 1

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From early 2014 until about two months ago, Our Healthy Foodie Life was more of a hobby blog for me. I have written professionally since age 13, and I wanted a way to keep my writing sharp. I became anxious that I’d forever lose who I am as a writer while working a 9-5 job. I chose to hone my writing by sharing healthy recipes, advice, and personal experiences related to healthy living. That was, as I briefly mentioned, until about two months ago.

As a tiny bit of backstory before we move on (I won’t bore you, I promise!), I have always wanted to be a professional writer. That was the first sincere profession I decided upon. I can’t begin to describe the excitement I experienced as a geeky 13-year-old, reading through the pages of the Writer’s Market handbook to see which magazines accepted pitches from freelancers. Months later, I found an unpaid opportunity to write articles for a website dedicated to providing news about NASCAR (I definitely wasn’t a normal teenage girl), and stuck with it until my sophomore year in high school. Being a writer has always felt like it was something that I am, rather than a job or hobby. Through schooling and every job I’ve had, I have always felt like I was still a writer at heart.

To try and wrap up the “me” part of this post, and start talking about why this is relevant to you, feeling like a writer without actually doing any real day-to-day writing caused some intense dissonance. I finally got to the point where (bringing us to present day) I knew my real job title needed to match the title I’ve always felt I held internally. I made the wildly terrifying decision to leave my 9-5 to become a freelance writer. The experience was even more anxiety-producing than when my husband and I left our hometown to move 1,000 miles away (with no jobs lined up) to live on the coast of South Carolina. Yeah, it has been that intense.

Despite the fear and uncertainty, every single moment of this fairly recent journey has already been so worth it. I am learning a tremendous amount each day. I am picking up new skills, new knowledge, meeting new people, and getting to practice the profession I was born to do. I am also turning this blog in to a full-time professional blog, which has been a fun few weeks of planning, and migrating content to WordPress (finally!).

My purpose in writing this post (and the posts and vlogs that will follow) is to set the new direction of the blog, and to inspire + coach you through pursuing your passion. I will still post recipes (more than ever before, actually), but this isn’t a food-exclusive blog. I love helping to motivate and encourage others to live their best life possible, so that is what I’m going to do! I think you’ll really like the incredible content I have planned for new the Our Healthy Foodie Life.

With all of that out of the way, I need to ask you this super important question: What is it that you would do for your career if you could? Maybe you know the answer, and maybe you don’t. Which ever is true for you, it’s ok!

In this series of posts, I’m going to encourage you to be brave. I’m going to give you strategies for doing what you might think is impossible. I’ll also help you set specific goals so that you know exactly where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there. Even if you think the time to jump in to your dream career has passed, I’m here to let you know it hasn’t. No matter where you are at this moment in your life, there are realistic things that you can do to re-shape your life, and dive in to what you’re passionate about. Start to get excited for this series. Following along might just change the course of your life!

To help encourage you further, I’ll be giving progress updates in posts and a weekly vlog. I’m still working through this adjustment of having taken the leap to pursue what I’ve always been passionate about. I am very much in the stage of finding what works and what doesn’t, and how to navigate through this new start as a writer and entrepreneur. There will be tough weeks, and there will undoubtedly be struggles. Nothing worth achieving is easy, but you can succeed. I believe in you!

On Sunday (12/4), I will be posting a video introduction and the first official post of the series. Please mark your calendar to come back and start to follow along. I don’t know about you, but I’m so thrilled to have you start your journey of pursuing your passion. You are going to do so well…I just know it!  See you Sunday!