high school just got simpler

Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolutions: Why They Do and Don't Work

Happy New Year! Colorful Bubbly for You!

 "Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us." ~Hal Borland

Winter break is coming to a close for most high schools. Once back in school, everyone will probably talk about their New Year's resolution.

Resolutions are common, and even a tradition. Everyone makes at least one.

Resolutions can work for many reasons:
  • It can motivate you to become better.
  • Resolutions help clear out past mistakes, and will create a fresh start.
  • You can complete your resolutions with other people, and help keep each other on track.
That's a short list. I couldn't quite think of other reasons to make a resolution.

Even though I love having that spark of enthusiasm in the beginning of the year, I am not making a resolution. In the past, I have usually forgotten about it by April.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review 2010

The other day, I decided that I needed to reflect on the year. 2010 is coming to a close, and I've done some pretty important things.

A short list of what I've done:
  • Fully recovered from my spinal fusion surgery. I have scoliosis, and in October 2009, I had to get some of my vertebrae fused together, and got two metal rods inserted along my spine. After a year of restrictions, I am now fully recovered.
  • Cut out a lot of my commitments. I feel so much better now that I am not spending time and energy doing things that I don't enjoy.
  • Got back into rock climbing. One restriction I had from my spinal fusion surgery was not being able to climb. I am able to climb again, and I love it!
  • Started this blog! With over 500 views so far, and with only existing for less than two months, who knows how far this blog will get in the whole year of 2011.
  • Started a twitter. It's a great way to socialize and get information out.
  • Started a tumblr blog. I started it for my own personal use and documentation.
2010 was full of other accomplishments, and I know 2011 will be too!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Minute Christmas

Christmas has to be one of my favorite holidays. It is getting closer, and many people wait until the last minute. That's understandable, since there is so much going on: shopping, snow, fun, and parties. 

But there is a downside to this almost perfect season:
  • Commercials about buying, sales, and so much stuff that no one needs.
  • Getting things you don't need, or really even want for that matter.
  • Waste.There is so much trash during Christmas. Trying to get rid of clutter isn't easy during Christmas, with wrapping paper, decorations, and packaging.
  • Focusing on getting presents. What happened to giving?
  • The less fortunate. When you are chowing away on cookies, or playing with a new gadget, remember that there are millions of people who are struggling to make ends meet this holiday season.
I recently went on an outreach trip with my church to an area that is struggling with food. Seeing the people reactions to a simple bag of groceries has opened my eyes to the true meaning of Christmas. Giving your time and love is a much better gift than anything that can be bought. We focus so much on buying and buying and buying, that we forget why we are purchasing things in the first place. Seeing the joy in someone's eyes when they know you thought about them is something that can't be bought. 

I spent a weekend sorting, packaging, and handing out food to hundreds of families. So instead of going to the store at the "last minute" this year to buy that present, go donate your time, or money, to those who truly need it.

Need help getting started? Here are some ideas:
  • Help out at a food pantry. Pantries are incredibly busy this time of the year, especially since it is so cold.
  • Take a friend to the zoo, instead of buying something. The local zoo in my area has thousands of decorations for Christmas, which would brighten up anyone's Christmas.
  • Shovel someone's driveway. This simple act can really help out this winter, especially if you ask for nothing in return.
  • Getting clothes for Christmas? Then donate your old clothes to Goodwill or a used clothing outlet.
There is still time to help. Volunteer, donate, or simply enjoy this season with someone else who needs it.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Simple Living: Part 3

Commitments: we all have them. They eat away at our days, weeks, even free time. Most of the time, there isn't any particular reason you are involved. That "spark" is gone, and you have no interest anymore. 

A couple things come to my mind when I hear about this. Either quit, or get enthusiastic

I recently edited a lot of my commitments. Not only did I free up my time, I got myself more motivated in my other commitments. Now that I have more time on my hands, I can use it to either work on my goals or my hobbies.

"Simplifying my life" like this has opened my eyes. Here's what I recommend you do:

Make a list of all your commitments. Create categories (work, school, sports, hobbies, etc).
  • Work: all those hours you need to log can add up.
  • School: do I need to say this? Homework, projects, and so forth. And you can't get rid of this commitment!
  • Religious: a lot of people are involved with churches, or maybe you go to a service weekly.
  • Hobbies: you might run, or play an instrument. Guess what? That's a commitment too.
  • Home: besides all the regular family things, you have the stuff that needs to be done at home.
  • Online: There are so many things that glue your eyes to the computer: email, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google, blogs, and etc. Limit your time on each. It will help. No need to check every ten minutes. (It will be there later, don't worry!)
Ask yourself: What value am I getting out of this? Would my life be worse without it? Does this affect any of my goals? Is it a life priority? Try to limit only a few in each category when you are done.
This can get deep, and challenging.

Try to cut them out temporarily. See how you are after a week of edits. If you like what you're seeing, cut out more. You may feel guilty, but if it isn't helping you get to what you want, why stay?

Remember that it's what is important to you when other people try to pressure you into something. Don't fall into a hole you can't get out of.

Doing this personally has been life changing. I am now only focusing on certain things. My calendar isn't flooded with meetings, appointments, and such. I am able to work on goals, hobbies, and being with friends and family. You will be thankful for simplifying your commitments, I sure am.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Go With the Flow

Rock Garden On The River

There are so many things in life that we cannot control. These things can cause us frustration, stress, and anger. The best way to let ourselves not be affected by uncontrollable scenarios is to learn to go with the flow.

Your day can be going as smooth as ever, but the tiniest thing that happens can ruin it. Life has its twists and turns, and they can frustrate you. You get angry, rush through things, and the change of what normally happens creates stress.

If you go with the flow of life, it will become easier. Take what life throws at you. Instead of being irrational and getting mad, go with the flow. Accept the change, whether its temporary or permanent, and create the best of what happens.

Everyone has their own life. Other people's choices can affect yours. Instead of getting angry, do something constructive about it. You can influence a lot, but many things are just uncontrollable. 

Remember to breathe, and to laugh. Looking at life calmly and with a positive attitude helps when you get something thrown your way. Enjoy the flow of life and accept change.
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Simple Living: Part 2

I've made great progress so far with living simply.

My Venturing Crew has just merged with another. I chose to not rejoin, providing me with more time. The Crew wasn't currently doing anything productive, just wasting my time. But I do not regret being involved. I learned great skills, and it gave me wonderful opportunities. Now I can plan to do more high adventure things without the limits of other people.

Last week, I did a little experiment. I went the entire week wearing only two pairs of jeans, a fleece jacket, and plain, simple shirts. It was so much easier to pick out clothes to wear that day, because I could match anything with jeans. I am planning on going through and removing all the clothes I don't ever wear now.

My school has a separate line for snacks, junk food, and drinks. I have been phasing out buying these foods at school, and I have never felt healthier. I am still buying fries at lunch, which is a problem. Getting rid of fries is my next goal regarding food.

My room has stayed "clean" now for about a week and a half. I am decluttering my room, and I'm loving it. I know where everything is, and I don't have to worry about losing anything again. My friend came over unexpectedly last night, and I wasn't ashamed to bring him into my room. I am currently working on my bookcase, which is a nightmare!

Overall, my goal to live simply is going well. I am seeing more things now that I can change. The process is long, but very enjoyable. It's given me motivation to do more things. Both the outcome and the process are worth it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


You have probably been enthusiastic about something before. Used the right way, it can drive you to do amazing things.

An old quote that I like to live by is "Be the most enthusiastic person you know." If you go into something with a good attitude, good will come from it. Likewise, if you start something with the mindset of "This is going to suck," then it probably will.  

If you try to have fun, you most likely will! Get passionate about whatever it is you are doing. Whether it's volunteering at a food pantry, or doing chores. Make it fun and enjoyable. It's amazing what can happen when you create an enthusiastic environment. Morale is lifted, and everyone else doing it will enjoy it too.

Enthusiastic people make things go smoothly. They are driven, and are the ones who accomplish their goals. Find something to get excited about, and use that to drive everything. 

Enthusiasm is contagious. So be the most enthusiastic person you know.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Keeping Faith

View of Mountains in Zion National Park, Utah,...

Having something to live for is very important to me. My faith is what I live for. It keeps me going. Having faith can mean going to church, or even just knowing that there will be a better tomorrow.

To me, having any kind of faith is essential to living a zen lifestyle. It gives me motivation. Living simply and having faith go hand in hand. The determination to live minimally and simply bring you that much closer to the world, the community, and yourself.

Faith to me is living for my friends, family, and loved ones. When I am faced with a challenge, I do it not only for betterment of myself, but for the betterment of others. 

Figuring out what you are living for is a personal journey. Using faith as a motivational tool, to me, is what keeping faith is all about. It's my backbone, and I wouldn't be here without it.
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How to: Do Nothing

Let Me Fill to the Full of My Heart With ...No...
I know every teenager has used the expression "Nothing" when asked what they are doing, at least once.

Doing nothing is actually incredible. It is the most simple way to relax. Sure, doing nothing can waste time, but it doesn't have to. It's an art. Actually, doing nothing helps you be more productive.

Baby Steps
First, focus on 5 minutes. Preferably every day, maybe a couple times a day. Practice in a safe place: a bedroom, a man-cave, or even a living room. Cut out all distractions. Turn off the radio, your phone, an mp3 player, everything. And do NOT turn that television on! It helps me to be laying down, or sitting reclined. Close your eyes, and do nothing.

Don't forget this! Breathing is the best place to start when doing nothing. Breathe slowly, and feel your breath. In through the nose, out through the nose. Notice your lungs filling and emptying. Feel the breath in your body. Don't think about anything. Just breathing. Just relaxing. Just nothing.

Work up to 20 minutes, or even half an hour. Doing nothing every day helps clear your mind, and frees your attention. If you need to schedule your do nothing time, then by all means do so. Doing nothing gives you more time to focus on the task at hand.

You will become relaxed, and ready to let the day flow with ease.
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Goals Made Simple


My favorite blog, Zen Habits, did a blog on goal setting. I liked it so much, I started applying it to everything.

I have achieved many goals using Zen Habit's system, but modified it for myself, and still keeping it simple.

My steps:

1. Brainstorm. List everything you would like to achieve. Don't forget anything. Write it all down.

2. Figure out all the benefits. Take a look at your list. Figure out which ones are most beneficial and which ones will change your life most.

3. Keep it SMART. This little acronym, from the Boy Scouts of America, is incredibly useful to determine goals.

  • Specific: Know what your goal is. Run a marathon, exercise more, or get straight A's. Name your goal with 2-5 words or even less. Having a short little saying for your goal will help you stay on track.
  • Measurable: Be able to measure the goal. Know how much is needed to complete it, and what it will take. Is it a large, long term goal, or a small one?
  • Attainable: Is it possible? Make sure you don't need to complete another goal before you start this one. Can you achieve this goal realistically?
  • Relevant: Do you want this? IF you hate running, don't set a goal to run a marathon. Determine whether this goal is relevant to you, your life, and what you want.
  • Timely: Work on a goal that will fit in with what you have time to do. Estimate when you will start and finish. Will it take a year? Six months? How about a week?

4. Prioritize. Make this goal a priority. Put effort into accomplishing your goal. Purpose your day so that you are doing at least one thing towards it a day. Do it in baby steps.

Focus on one goal at a time. It is less stressful knowing that you are working on one thing instead of three or four. Also, doing this creates a habit out of working on that goal. Once it turns into a habit, you can start working on another goal. You won't need to worry about your first goal, you formed a habit. It's now automatic and you can let your mind think about other things.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Give Your Day Purpose

Two Surfers do Pre-stretches on Morro Strand S...I feel at peace at the end of the day when I accomplish something important. I like focusing on three most important tasks (MIT) for the day. These MITs can be anything, like writing a new blog, going to the gym, decluttering, or that big school project. I try to pick three because I like having time to spend on last minute plans, or reflection.

You can do other things during the day, but your MITs should be what you need to get done. At least one MIT should be goal related. The other two are usually work/school related, but they don't have to be. This concept is fantastic. You will get the most important tasks done and out of the way, and your goals will be moving forward.

Try to get as many MITs done in the morning. If you wait until after school/work, then you will end up pushing them off even further. Doing your MITs in the morning gets them out of the way, and the rest of your day will be a piece of cake. 

Implementing this small concept into your day will create amazing outcomes in your life and your goals.
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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Simple Living: Part 1

I have embarked on a journey to cut back on unnecessary things. To live simply. I'm not getting rid of the fun in my life, just what I don't really need. In high school, this is easier said than done.

The definition of "necessary" is really only food, clothes, and shelter. But that really isn't all. You have friends, hobbies, and everything else that makes you happy. Also, I'll look at all the time spent on commitments. Do I really need to be involved with all of them?

In short: eliminate everything that doesn't make you happy.

First is food. This is a struggle for most, and I am still battling this. My goal is to have a whole food diet, consisting of basic, all natural foods. Granted, I won't be able to eat sweets and candies, but a treat every now and then won't hurt. You could say that chocolate, coffee, or french fries make you happy. But isn't that the very thing I am talking about? Do you really need food to make you happy? Currently, I have my coffee intake to about once a month, when I am hanging out with friends at a coffee shop. Sometimes I even get tea, or a smoothie. Those are a treat!

Next is clothing. Everyone has a certain taste and style. I understand that. But spending hundreds of dollars on one "outfit" is just plain silly to me. A shirt, pair of jeans, and maybe a jacket is all I really wear; I am going to clear out all my unnecessary clothes soon.

Finally, commitments. So far, so good. I have already cut out a lot of unneeded commitments in my life. I play violin, and I enjoy it. But I was taking private lessons, and they bored the heck out of me. So I decided to quit. It wasn't doing me any good by continuing to go to them. It was a waste of money. I also am in Boy Scouts. That can take up a lot of time. I am already an Eagle Scout, so there is no need for me to be super involved. I still want to be a part of it, but I can focus on giving back to my troop, helping the younger Scouts, and let others take the lead.

What I've cut out so far:
  • Coffee (still need to get rid of this completely)
  • A few commitments
What I still need to cut out:
  • Unnecessary clothes
  • Knick-knacks in my room
  • Eating out
  • Candy and sweets
  • Other commitments
I have cut out a lot so far. I am feeling less stressed, getting better grades, and spending more time with friends. I have a lot of work to do still, but I am enjoying it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Focus on Doing

Recently, my high school has allowed cell phone and mp3 player usage during class changes and lunch periods. Once people were allowed to do this, everyone was buried in their phones. At lunch, everybody is either texting or listening to music. I jumped on this opportunity as fast as everyone else.

Being a teen, I would constantly text, and listen to music. Now, though, I resent even carrying electronics in school. If I text in the hallways, I constantly need to check to see where I am going. It's like texting and driving. You shouldn't do it.

After being exposed to the freedom of texting in school, I no longer want to. I'd much rather be present and talk with my friends that are around me. I like being with my friends now more than trying to hold a conversation with someone in a different room (I can catch up with them later anyway).

This brings me to the zen proverb, "When walking, walk. When eating, eat." This concept is so simple, and incredibly easy. While at school, turn off your phone. Be with your friends, talk, have a good time where you are. You won't be penalized for not updating your facebook status at noon. What would you say? You, and everyone else, can wait until later in the day.

Right now you are probably checking facebook, listening to music, and texting friends. All at the same time. So much information is distracting, and your brain misses what's important. We are constantly thinking about last night, what's for dinner, schoolwork, a new movie, and all sorts of things that distract you from what you're doing now.

Focus on doing. Don't focus on what's going on with someone else. It doesn't matter what it is: walking, doing homework, eating, playing, laughing, or even breathing. When you focus on the now and the doing, everything else melts away. This simple way of living is beautiful.

Choose one thing right now. Focus on just that. Clear out everything else. Get rid of distractions. Really, clear your environment of everything but one thing you want to focus on. Once you finish reading this, turn off your Internet. Read a book, write a story, eat an apple. Do whatever it is slowly. Enjoy every moment of what you're doing now.

Everything else is meaningless. Just you, and now.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stressful Student Habits

Everyday in school, I see the same thing. People doing homework right before class, rushing to get there on time, and then wondering why they are so stressed.

There can be many reasons why high schoolers are stressed so much, but it all narrows down to one thing: complications. The habits that students form complicate their life so much. Cutting these complicated lifestyles out can form better student habits.

A day in the life: go to bed late, wake up at the last minute, skip breakfast, rush to school, and you know what happens next. If you wait till eleven at night to do homework, you are going to get to bed late. And the cycle continues. You can relieve yourself of so much stress if you just change a couple things:
  • Getting up earlier. Don't get up cold turkey, do it moderately. Set your alarm two, maybe five minutes earlier every day (or every other if you are not a morning person). Doing this gradually lets you ease into it, eventually letting you get so much more done in the mornings. Like:
  • Eating breakfast. Breakfast not only wakes you up, it keeps you awake. They don't call it the "most important meal of the day" for nothing. Key proteins, vitamins, even just carbs in the morning can help relieve that morning hassle.
  • Doing your homework right after school. Doing this immediately when you get home is almost common sense when you think about it. The material is fresh in your mind, and you will definitely still have a school mindset. Doing it when you are home is less distracting as well since most parents will be at work. You won't be tired right after school, unless you play an after-school sport, so make use of that time.
  • Slowing down. Don't rush through things. Take your time to make sure to get that good grade, or say "Hey" to a friend in the halls, but arrive to class on time! If you are constantly worried about the next class, or what you are doing after school, you aren't giving the present your full attention. Slow down, and give it your best quality work.
*This list is not complete with every change needed to get rid of stress. The purpose of this is to introduce you to the kinds of changes you need to make.

Once these changes are made, new ones will appear to you, and happen on their own. Grades will increase, you will have more free time, and most of all: you will have less stress.