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July 2009
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September 2009

look for opportunities (to read!) everywhere



“The worth of a book is to be measured
 by what you can carry away from it.”

James Bryce

I love to read. Love it. I always have and I'm pretty sure I always will. The only problem with reading is there's never enough time for it. Ever. No matter how much I read, there are always more and more books coming out and I can't seem to fit it all in. Like most people, I'm pretty busy so sometimes reading takes a backseat to other priorities in my life. Sometimes I just stare at my pile of To Read books or look at the long queue on and sigh with frustration, "How will ever read them all?" Recently, as I've been working on my own personal development, I've realized that reading is really important to me, both because I love the act of reading and because I love gaining new information from the books I read. Reading is something I love but it also has the added bonus of being pretty good for me. Whether you like to read or not, you can't deny that it has some pretty powerful benefits...

The Benefits of Reading

  • Reading stimulates your brain.
  • Reading improves your memory.
  • Reading keeps you from being bored.
  • Reading teaches you about new things.
  • Reading increases your vocabulary.
  • Reading sharpens your creative skills.
  • Reading encourages you to focus.
  • Reading allows you be adventurous.
  • Reading makes you a better writer.
  • Reading relaxes your racing thoughts.
  • Reading provides entertainment.
  • Reading acts an escape from daily life.
  • Reading heightens your self confidence.
  • Reading expands your communication skills.
  • Reading enlightens you with wisdom.
  • Reading illustrates innovative ideas.
  • Reading keeps you present in the book.
  • Reading inspires you to think independently.
  • Reading opens your heart to others.
  • Reading relieves stress in your life.

Because I've identified reading as one of those things that's really important to me and that I should do more of (you know, the way some people think of exercise or healthy eating...), I've been giving a lot to how I can incorporate more reading into my daily routines -- without sacrificing all of the things I absolutely have to get done. Those of you who love to read probably feel the same way that I do: there's never enough time! So, I've taken it upon myself to offer up some suggestions of how to incorporate more reading into your life. Most likely, if you're anything like me, reading gets put on the back burner of your life because there are many, many other important things to do. I get that, I do, but reading (especially if you enjoy it!) is really important. Really important. And even with a busy, busy life, you can make time for it. Here's how...

Buy Yourself a Kindle

Over the past 10 months or so, reading has changed a lot for me, mostly because I was fortunate enough to add a Kindle to my life (one of the greatest things ever!). One of the best things about having a Kindle (or any other type of electronic reading device) is that you can carry tons of books with you everywhere you go in one light, convenient contraption. I've gotten into the habit of carrying my Kindle with me almost everywhere so anywhere I am, if I have even a moment or two, I can read. Waiting at the doctor's office? Pull out your Kindle! Riding on the train? Get that Kindle out! Stuck in traffic? Kindle time! (Okay, maybe not that last one since that's probably illegal and is definitely dangerous). Anyway, you get the point. Carrying a Kindle's a lot easier than carrying a book (unless the book is really, really light and small) and you can have lots of books with you at one time.

Kindles are expensive so if you're not all that into reading or don't think you'll use it as often as you'd like, this probably isn't the best option for you. Also, if you're a slow reader, having a Kindle with you at all times isn't going to necessarily help you zip through books any faster. It's not for everyone, but for those who really enjoy reading and want to be doing it every free moment they can (like I do), the Kindle is the way to go. However, if you're the kind of person who really wants to read more and absorb more information but just doesn't have the time, the next option might be for you...


Join a Kick-Ass Book Club

One great way to do this is to join a book club. And not just any book club -- a book club that helps you read more efficiently. Where can you find such a club? Recently I was fortunate enough to stumble across the Bottom Line Book Club, a book club created to cater to busy people who want to absorb information quickly. As you probably know, there are so many great resources out there but it's pretty hard to intake all of that information quickly. When you're reading about personal development (as I often am), you probably find yourself overloaded with information, wondering how in the world it all fits together and how you can apply to it your own life. However, with a book club such as Bottom Line, you can gain insights in a condensed, easy-to-understand form that not only provides you with information but also provides guidance on how to apply the concepts to your life. 

This month, Bottom Line Book Club focused on a book called The Flipside: Finding Hidden Opportunities in Life by Adam J. Jackson, which obviously sounds pretty awesome. Of course I would love to read every single word of the book, but I have a stack of books a mile high and very busy week ahead so accessing the book via Bottom Line couldn't have been more perfect for me. When I received the download of the workbook for The Flipside, I was immediately excited. In only 19 pages I would getting the great information I needed, quickly and without hours of reading! What I loved most about this workbook was right up front I got the three main points about the book. According to Bottom Line, The Flipside focuses on three things:

  1. Our perception and experience of reality is all made up
  2. The importance of developing optimistic thinking
  3. Smart questions to find the hidden opportunities

After that I was hooked. I instantly wanted to know more because clearly I want to find the hidden opportunities in life and obviously I was excited to learn that this topic tied in with optimistic thinking. As I scrolled through the workbook, I found not only great information on the topics but an area where I could actually reply to questions in the document. I'm a big fan of workbooks and books that require action so this was great for me. Not only did I get to interact with the workbook (a definite downside when it comes to the Kindle), but I learned exciting things like "How To Become More Optimistic," "The Difference Between Pessimists and Optimists," and a great interactive section that helped me to identify hidden opportunities in my own life. As much as I would have liked to read the entire book (and I may at some point because I really was intrigued by the Bottom Line information!), this resource gave the key points and provided an area where I could take the key messages from The Flipside and actually put them to work for me.

If you love to read and enjoy personal development as much as I do but just don't have the time to squeeze it all into your busy schedule, this is probably a great option for you. Within a short amount of time you can obtain the essential information you need and have a place where you can actually see how to apply the topics you've just read about. Brilliant!

Set Aside Read-Only Time

For those of you with more time on your hands, this is a great option for fitting more reading into your life. The key to this tactic is to set aside time specifically for reading. If you have to get up early, do that. If you have to close yourself in your room and ask for some time away from your family, do that. Do whatever you need to do to set aside time just for reading. If you can, set aside a specific amount of time each day to get some reading done. If you can't do it daily, pick a time each week that you know will work for you and block it off as "read-only" time. If you need to, put it on your calendar. You deserve to indulge in all of the benefits of reading so don't feel guilty about setting time aside for something that doesn't necessarily feel like a necessity.

If reading time seems like it will take time away from those you love, think about ways you can incorporate reading into your relationship with your significant other, children, or friends. Do you have a buddy that love to read? What if you met weekly for some reading time at a local coffee shop? What about your kids? Do they enjoy reading or, if you have really young kids, do they enjoy being read to? Reading often seems like an isolating activity, but it doesn't have to be. You can read with someone or next to someone. You can even take your book (or Kindle!) outside somewhere and make an experience of it. Reading can be fun, romantic, and very interactive, but it's up to you to make it that way.

Like to read? Do you make time in your life for reading? 
 What suggestions do you have for incorporating reading into your life?

words to live by: moments to take your breath away

 look for the positive 

"The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent. Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind. And always remember: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."  


 George Carlin



"Words To Live By" is a new segment on Positively Present. Every Sunday I'll post a quote or lyrics that have inspired me and I hope they'll inspire you too. Comments will be closed on these posts, but feel free to tweet the post if you enjoy it or contact me via Twitter.

how to be beautiful from the outside in


love yourself now 
 "Too many people overvalue what they are not
and undervalue what they are."

Malcolm Forbes

The other day I received an email from a friend who was feeling down about her appearance, primarily because she was comparing herself to others. No matter what she told herself, she just couldn't help but compare her physical appearance to those around her. Reading her email, I could completely relate. There are times when it's just downright impossible not to compare the way I look to those around me. And generally that's not a positive experience because if I decide that I'm the one better off in the comparison I still hate myself for judging and for comparing in the first place. 

First, before I go on, let me say that my friend is quite pretty. She's the kind of girl you'll be walking with and randomly guys will look over and say, "Hi!" as if something compelled them to utter the word. She's beautiful. But, like most beautiful women, that doesn't necessarily stop her from feeling down on herself or from comparing the way she looks to the other women around her. 

I don't want to make this all about women, but I really can only speak from the point of view of a woman. From my personal experience -- all of the experiences I've heard about from other women over the last twenty-six years -- it's pretty darn hard not to compare yourself to other women and not to, at times, feel insecure, even if you happen to be a dashingly beautiful lass like my friend. So, I've given it some thought and rather than reinforce my usual "love yourself!" lesson (which, don't get me wrong, I still wholeheartedly believe in), I've decided to write a post on how to deal with transforming your outer beauty into an internal, lasting beauty. And, really, that comes down to not comparing yourself to others. You might be able to validate yourself based on your physical appearance sometimes, but is that ever really enough? To be truly happy, you have to be happy with who YOU are, no matter what other people look like or say or do.

 How To Stop Comparing

  1. Remind yourself that you're not alone. It's definitely hard not to compare yourself to others. I don't know whether it's a trait we're born with or one we learn from our societies, but it's definitely a hard habit to break so cut yourself some slack and don't beat yourself up every time you find yourself looking at the guy or girl next to you and thinking, "Man, s/he is way better looking than me." It's normal to do this from time to time, but it's not normal to obsess about it or to let it make you feel terrible about yourself. Whatever you do, make sue you reinforce the positive notion that no matter what you look like, you are more than your appearance.

  2. Remember all of the things that are great about YOU. Whenever I find myself feel bad about myself for any reason, I remind myself of my good traits. I tell myself that I'm great at something and focus on the non-physical aspects of my awesomeness. And when I do this, I make sure I'm not comparing. For example, I'll say to myself, "I'm a great writer," not "She might be gorgeous, but I'm definitely a better writer than her." Pump yourself up, but not at the expense of others. Focus on your positive traits (and, yes, you know you have tons of them!). 

  3. Tell everyone you know to stop talking about appearance. This is a hard one but for a lot of us, the reaction to compare stems from those around us who are also comparing. When we hear others doing the comparing, it's tempting to join right in. In addition, the more those around us talk about and worry about their physical appearances, the more we will too. If it comes up in conversation after you've already asked friends and family not to make it a priority, simply say, "I hear what you are saying but, as I mentioned to you before, I don't think its healthy or productive for me to focus so much on physical appearance." Make it all about you by using the words "I" and "me," because the last thing your companion wants to hear is you bashing him/her for bringing up a topic s/he probably already feels insecure about. 

I've found that it's hard not to let my ego get the best of me sometimes. I know there are probably better ways to handle comparisons to others (like, maybe, eliminating all earthly possessions or something like that), but, hey, I'm not perfect. When faced with a society that's constantly bombarding you with images of how you can (and should!) look better than you do, it's pretty hard sometimes not to compare yourself to others. For right now I can only say that I'm going to work on embracing the positive in and around me every moment. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we should focus on the great things in our lives that aren't physically represented. We have to counteract society's focus on physical appearance with more important, essential things (such as amazing talents or great friendships).

Sadly, I don't think we're ever going to be able to escape the notion that what we look like impacts our world (society, our friends, and our minds have tainted us too much), but we can do our best to shift our focus to more important, valuable things. We need to remember that no matter what we look like, no matter who is better looking or less attractive than we are, we have a lot more to offer to the world than physical appearance. Without physical beauty, you will still be fabulous, creative, intelligent, generous, loving, thoughtful, passionate people. Keep smiling and believing in your awesomeness! You're beautiful outside and in and no one else's comments, beauty, or attitude can take that away from you. 

Do you find yourself comparing yourself to others?
How do you deal with these comparisons?