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Embracing You

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Living An Impactful Life

Today, as I was walking in Mandeville after work dealing with some business, I met upon some of the students I used to teach and some who used to be in my form class. It's amazing how the smiles on their faces and their jovial nature touched my heart and made me begin to believe that I may have really touched some lives. So many people in this world are seeking selfish ambitions that leave no room for blessing the lives of others. However, living in a way that causes you to make a difference in someone else's life is one of the primary reasons for our existence. The question that I sometimes ask myself is....how can I make a greater difference in this world?

Use Your Career to Help Others

There are some professions that are clearly service oriented such as teaching and careers in the security and medical fields. So, how can a banker or an auditor or a graphic designer use their careers to make a meaningful impact in people's lives? There are so many organisations that are working with children in volatile communities that need help and these trained professionals can provide well needed insight and volunteered time to making these initiatives a success. The banker can teach people to manage money well and the graphic designer can use his or her skills to design material that will benefit the children. This is one of many examples but if you are someone who is truly willing to make a difference in this world, align yourself with either a non-profit or a church based organisaton that is already making a meaningful impact in your community.

Pour Positives Into Others

Sometimes, all someone needs is a smile or an encouraging word. Learn to provide these positives for people in your life instead of automatically thinking of negative things to do and say. Gossiping and slandering others can be very hurtful and can only lead to the same things happening to you eventually. Do what you would want to have others do to you.

Remember to Take Some Time For Yourself

Some people devote all of their time and energy to serving others to the point where they eventually burn out. Replenishing your mental and physical energy is critical in helping you to really contribute 100% to others. There is nothing wrong with taking some time for you and finding your happiness but don't let it get to the point where you believe the world revolves around you.

Be Faithful In the Small Things

The parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30 is one that I believe we often overlook. This parable speaks about a rich man who went away for awhile and left varying sums of money with three of his workers. He gave one five bags of gold, the other two bags, and the other one bag each according to what he was able to manage. Each of the men doubled the amount of money he received with the exception of the servant who received one bag. this servant buried the money and did nothing with it. When the master returned he greatly rewarded the servants who invested his money while he told the servant who didn't to give the money to the servant who had received five bags.

When someone entrust you with a small task don't take it lightly. You may never know how being a blessing to someone can result in an abundance of blessings being returned to you. Regardless of whether it is small or great, you can always make an impact.

Living an impactful life is something I am striving to do because I believe that my life should have meaning. Don't go through the motions in life. Make a difference in someones life today.

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Creating Happiness

Happiness On my birthday, August 30, 2013, I received a phone call from my uncle that I will never forget. We were chatting and laughing and catching up when he paused for a few seconds and then said "Never depend on another people to make you happy. No one else can make you happy but yourself and no one can make you sad unless you allow them to." I have seen quotes that say similar things many times but hearing those words being spoken  to me really brought the message home.

Happiness is an important aspect of life but many people don't realise that it isn't found in wealth or possessions. True happiness is found in appreciating what you have and embracing each challenge and disappointment as it comes. Understanding this fact has led me to write this post so that I can share the wisdom I've garnered over the past two days.

Happiness Requires Effort

As soon as January began this year, I began to make plans for my birthday. I chose where I wanted to go and who I wanted to share that day with me. However, as the year progressed and money got really tight because my temporary job had ended, I abandoned the idea and decided to resort to my usual "sitting at home feeling sorry for my self" birthday. By the middle of August I really began to think about what I was doing and made a decision....no matter what, I was going to ENJOY my birthday and be HAPPY on my birthday. As a result, I made a financial decision and got the money I needed to drive into Kingston and spend an awesome evening with some of the people I value most in my life. I made the sacrifice and ended up having an amazing evening.

The sacrifice that you may have to make may not be financial. It may require you to give up friends who are making you unhappy or it may require you to give up some time that you would spend doing more work than necessary so that you can do something you enjoy.  Nevertheless, when the sacrifice is made you will be amazed at how great you feel.

Happiness Requires Us to Stop What Comes So Easily

The thing that comes most easily to many of us is negativity. We tell ourselves that we don't look good enough or we don't have any friends or we aren't good enough to do something. According to an article written by Amie (2012) entitled How Thoughts Determine How You Feel negative thoughts feed each other and cause your body to respond physically and emotionally. She states that she experienced headaches, muscle tension and depression because of negative thoughts . However, she also states that when we begin to think positively and make positive statements our body responds positively.

Another call that I got on my birthday was from my aunt and she encouraged me to go into my new job with a positive attitude. Although it is not what I want to do, if I give it 100% then I may just be rewarded with exactly what I want to do. Positive thinking leads to positive results.

Happiness Overcomes Fear

Fear will always be an ever present force in our lives. It is how we choose to deal with it that matters. I provide some tips for overcoming fear in my post entitled Conquering Fear but I will mention here that when we learn to conquer our fears, it frees us from a bondage we have placed ourselves under. Think of a slave who has been shackled and beaten but who has suddenly gotten the strength to shatter the chains. Think of the joy that comes with that experience. This joy is similar to the joy we experience when we learn to overcome our fears. Never let fear take away your joy.

Never Allow Someone to control Your Happiness

When we allow people to have power over our emotions, we become their captives. Always remember that no one can make you happy but yourself. So, when your friend disappoints you by saying that he can't go to the movies with you or he can't come to your celebration then you have two decisions to make. The first decision is to become sad and upset because of the disappointment. The second is to smile, understand where your friend is coming from, and find something else that makes you happy. Probably you can watch a movie at home or find another friend to go out with. Regardless, the point is that you are in control of your emotions and of your happiness. Don't relinquish that control to someone else.

I hope that this post can help you to find true happiness in your life. Always remember that you are the only one who can make you happy.

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Conquering Fear

fear-of-being-sick Fear is like a powerful lion; it preys on us and attacks us with such ferocity that we never want to step forward into new territory. It prevents us from realising our dreams and cripples our potential.  As Charles Stanley aptly puts it "Fear stifles out thinking and actions It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather then risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins."

How can we transform this looming predator into our prey? Here are some tips that I believe we all can apply to make this transformation a reality: Understand Your Limitations The good thing about fear is that it allows us to see what we may not be strong at. However, we shouldn't become consumed by our limitations since they do not negate the fact they our strengths give us the authority to step into new territory. For instance, I know that I am not good at marketing. I couldn't sell a pen to save my life. Nevertheless, in order for me to become an entrepreneur I need to have confidence in myself and what I am offering so that I can approach people and obtain clients. I have to get beyond the voices in my head telling me that people will think I'm stupid or that the product makes no sense and just go out and do what I need to do.

Garner Support Don't be afraid to talk to your friends about your fear. They can help you to overcome it by providing you with good advice or just being there when you need to make the next step. In the scenario I mentioned earlier, for example, my friends have shown me the immense business opportunity I have in my own community. They have opened my eyes to what the business prospects could be and although they can't be with me to help me market the product, they have given me the confidence to move forward.

Believe in Yourself Theodore Roosevelt once said "Believe in yourself and you are halfway there." When you begin to have confidence in your abilities and ideas, fear no longer has control over you. This can be the beginning of many life changing experiences. However, you must be careful of being overconfident. We should embrace our strengths and believe in them but we should also understand our limitations. Understanding your limitations will prevent you from either becoming overwhelmed or disappointed later on. For instance, you may think that you are the best singer in the world and, against the advice of your friends and family, you decide to enter American Idol only to be brutally rejected by the judges. Clearly, your ability isn't singing but maybe it is building beats or writing lyrics. That overconfidence could therefore be misplaced confidence which is why it is important for you to truly understand what your abilities really are and believe in them. It is also important for AT LEAST ONE other person to believe in your abilities as well. If everyone around you and even strangers you meet tell you point blank that what you're trying to do isn't for you then they are more than likely right.

Embrace Change When we are about to enter new seasons in our lives, change is inevitable. Don't let the fear of change hold you back from amazing opportunities. In order to advance, change must happen. I have a friend who got an amazing opportunity to study in Europe for three years. He took the opportunity and has gained so much exposure and experience that he is able to get a job almost anywhere in the world. I can assure you that if I had been offered the same opportunity I would have rejected it because I would fear going into a new environment and leaving those I know behind. When the opportunities arise, don't reject them because you fear change.

Understand That There May Be Rejection There is always a 50/50 chance that you may not get the response you were hoping for. A classic example of this is the nice guy who is afraid to approach the girl he likes. Of course he is afraid that she will say she doesn't feel the same and only views him as a friend, but she may also actually feel the same way he does. The fact of the matter is that he will never know unless he asks.

Another example is people who go on a job search. You may see a job that you really like and you have 90% of the qualifications for but you don't apply because you believe the HR manager will just tear up your application since you only have 90% of the qualifications. How are you so certain that that's what is going to happen? She may just look at your resume and be so impressed that she calls you for an interview. Take the 50/50 chance.

Fear is the thorn in our sides. Don't allow it to pierce your dreams. Follow these tips and you will be amazed by the opportunities that present themselves.

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Putting Theory Into Practice

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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards a ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast" ~Leonardo Da Vinci

Most of our youthful days are spent in long classes and boring lectures filling our brains with knowledge that we more than likely will never use again for the rest of our lives. What percentage of the world really uses the principles of circle theorem for instance? Who really cares about Pythogarus' theorem?  As an educator, these are the types of questions I have often asked myself but when I really think about it, learning is all about making sense out of nonsense and being able to apply what we read, watch and hear into practice. Our ability to learn in this way helps us to grow as individuals and hone new skills, two things which are very critical for our survival in this world.

So, how can we ensure that we embrace learning as the intertwining of theory and practice? It is not a simple task (as an educator I can assure you that it is extremely difficult). However, I believe that we all can make the most of the knowledge we obtain by following these tips:

Learn to Relate to the Content

Things make sense when we are able to relate to them. This is one of the challenges that I have as an educator because I really cannot relate to most of the content that I teach the students. However, I have to find a way to make what they learn practical and meaningful. Being able to relate to a concept or theory does not necessarily mean that we have to be able to visualise how we can use it in our own lives. According to the Free Online Dictionary relate means "to establish or demonstrate a connection between". You may not be able to make a connection between a theory and your life but you may be able to make a connection between a theory and something you were previously taught. You would be surprised that by doing this your learning experience can become more meaningful.

Understand that There Is a Balance Between Theory and Practice

You can't have theory without practice and you cannot have practice without theory. There are several definitions for theory based on the context but I think the best definition can be found on the Merriam-Webster dictionary. This definition states that a theory is "a belief, policy or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action". Therefore, the belief that in order to develop self defense skills, one has to go to self defense classes is a theory. However, if you don't practice the skills learnt in these classes the theory becomes meaningless.

Use What You Learn As a Guide

How can I use what I learn to guide me to a brighter future? For instance, Mathematics is composed of several theories which, when put into practice, can help us to develop our reasoning ability and therefore make us better decision makers and analysts in the workplace. When you are able to put this level of value on what you are learning it is more likely that you will put out the effort to ensure that it is learnt.

If I had approached learning in this way, I probably would have been able to make better sense of what I was being taught. Nevertheless, I can help my students understand the tips I previously outlined to make the best use of their learning experience. Also, we must never forget that we are always learning in an informal way. By observing people around us we are able to theorise how we can become better people, but to make the best use of this knowledge we need to put these theories into practice. Embrace the lifelong learning experience you are on and make the most of it.

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Loving the Skin I'm In

This is how my body looks now.

This is my goal.

My friends who know me well know that I am always complaining about my body. I either have too much belly fat for my liking or too much fat on my thighs. However, I have come to realise that one of the most important steps for embracing who I am and how I look is putting in the work necessary to get the body I want. It definitely won't happen if I continue complaining.

So now that I have accepted the hard work needed to  achieve the right physique, how can I stick to the routine?

Set Goals

I know that I want to feel good in my own skin. I started working out again this week and everyday when I get up and feel like I don't want to do it I keep seeing the image in my head of how I want to look. Keeping that primary goal in mind has been helping me to stick to the regime.

Another goal that I have is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I remember a nurse who goes to my church telling me that sweat is good for our bodies because it eliminates the toxins that cause us to get sick. When she said that in July it clicked in my head that I need to start taking exercise seriously for the good sake of my health.

View Your Health As Important

Exercise is not only important for necessary sweat production, but it also helps you to keep a healthy heart and body weight. According to an article entitled "Health Benefits of Exercise" found at http://www.nutristrategy.com/health.htm, exercise is important for the following reasons:

"It encourages a healthy heart. When you exercise your heart rate increases and this helps to strengthen your heart muscles, lower your blood pressure,increase your good cholesterol levels, lower your bad cholesterol levels, improve blood flow and allows your heart to work at its full potential."

"It reduces body fat thus preventing obesity, high blood pressure, and noninsulin dependent diabetes."

"It prevents back pain and bone loss when endurance and strength building exercises are incorporated."

"It reduces stress and creates a healthy self-image."

Be Realistic

Exercise does not bring about instantaneous change. My personality type automatically leads me to think unrealistically more often than not. When I look at myself in the mirror and I'm not seeing the toned midsection, it is discouraging. However, why should I expect that to happen in a week? Change takes time and hard work. When you understand this you will be more willing to stick to your routine.

Hard Work Leads to Results

Whether you go to the gym or you use aerobic videos, you have to develop self-motivation. I used to believe that I had to have company or someone telling me to go and exercise in order to do it. This is not the best way to approach exercise because if you aren't able to motivate yourself, you are going to give up when there is no one there to push you. Always remember that the hard work you put in will yield the best results.

Take the steps that you need to make today to improve your health and your physical well being. Begin to embrace become the best "you" possible.

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Making Yourself Employable...the Interview and Beyond

Have you ever gone to a job interview at a company that you have ALWAYS admired and wanted to work for, thought that the interview went well, then you never hear from the company again? It can be a really heartbreaking experience but you have to know what you should do to get more than your foot in the door. Experience teaches wisdom Regardless of what people say, experience trumps everything else. Imagine how impactful you can be when you are young, have the right personality for the job, and you have experience to back it. You become almost unstoppable. A company has to invest more time and money to train inexperienced employees and in this economic crisis most companies are trying to avoid doing that. Even if the experience is small, it really does help.

Go into the interview with the right attitude Your attitude begins with the way you dress and physically present yourself. In the first 5 seconds of meeting you, people make judgements about you based on your appearance. Females, wear something that you are COMFORTABLE in not the tight pants and skirts that make you feel self conscious or a pair of heels you can hardly walk in. Heels allude to the confidence of a woman I believe but you have to wear heels that are comfortable, not just because they look good. Also, don't wear sleeveless tops or dresses (if you do, wear a jacket to cover your arms). Being able to see your armpits isn't necessarily attractive.

Men, looking casual and laid back is NOT the way to go. A nice pair of black pants, nice shoes, a button down shirt, and a tie make you look professional and serious about the job.

The next thing an interviewer looks at is the way you speak and comprehend questions. You may be nervous but try to avoid using clutch words such as ahm and well. If you are unsure of a question, ask for clarification. If you need a few seconds to answer, begin your response by restating the question in your own words. Be confident in your approach but not to the point of being arrogant. Maintain eye contact with all of the interviewers in the room and never forget to smile. People like a personality that they can warm up to and they believe can fit well in their company.

Becareful of the very nice interviewer My mom used to work in human resources and she says that she was always the nicest interviewer. She would make the interviewee feel comfortable and relaxed so that she can get a feel of who they are. This approach means that she will be more critical of the interviewee, and though you may believe the interview went really well, she already knew you weren't right for the job by the middle of the interview process. This just goes to show that you should never be too confident about an interview. When you are too confident you are bound to end up with heartbreak.

Don't rely too heavily on prayer This may seem like a very unorthodox suggestion. Of course you should pray and have faith but also bear in mind that there will be 10 to 20 people praying for the exact same job. God decides who gets the job so you just have to leave it in His hands. If it's meant to be yours then it will be yours. If it isn't you just have to learn to move on.

Keep your options open Although this may be the place at which you have always wanted to work, bear in mind that several other people have also been interviewed for the same position. As a result, it is wise for you to cast your net in other seas to increase your chances of getting hired. Having a job is the most important thing. When you have a job, you can manage your resources so that you can get the right training to work in the industry you are interested in.

I am anxiously awaiting the results of an interview that I did at a company I really want to work for. It has been hard for me to follow these steps but I am learning to just leave everything in God's hands. What is to be must be.

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Oops...I'm Broke!

Easy-ways-to-make-money-online1 So you've gotten your pay cheque and you can finally get out of the state of your "end of month blues". It's time to celebrate right? Or probably it's time to pay off all the bills and take out a loan for that car you've been eyeing. So you put your plans in place and meet all of your obligations then when the end of the second week in the month comes around you begin to wonder...where did all the money go?

One of the relationships that we neglect the most is the relationship we have with the money we earn. Very few people learn the art of making money their friend and instead become a slave to it. When I was about 14 years old my uncle gave me this book called "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" written by Robert Kiyosaki. That book has changed my life and the way I view money. I firmly believe that regardless of how much you earn, it is possible for you to live a debt free and comfortable life instead of living from pay cheque to pay cheque. This is one of the reasons why I want to become a financial consultant so that I can help people better manage their finances.

Throughout my short time on this earth, I have learnt quite a bit about how to control money instead of having it control you. I have observed people, read that life changing book I mentioned earlier, and made a few mistakes of my own. These are the few words of wisdom that I would like to share with you:

1. Learn to Gauge Your Spending

One would think that the first thing I would say is "prepare a budget". I have tried that on many occasions and I have never been able to stick to it. However, in my mind I always have what I like to call a "mental budget". I always know the amount of money that is in my accounts and try my best to determine what I can really afford to spend on. Granted, when I am hungry and feel for a pizza I end up spending money that I don't want to spend but I'll talk more about this later. Neverthless, this is a very good habit to adopt because you will force yourself not to spend unnecessarily.

2. ALWAYS Pay Yourself First

One of the key principles from "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" that I will never forget is the fact that you should always put your savings away first. Most people pay their bills first and buy groceries then worry about saving. That's not the way to do it. Always set aside a set portion of your income each month first, regardless of your expenses, and put it in an INVESTMENT account. Once that money is in that account it should no longer exist in your mind in order to prevent you from withdrawing from it when little "emergencies" arise. Saving in this way will result in you accumulating money overtime that can be used for major emergencies later down the road or to invest in profitable ventures.

3. INVEST, INVEST, INVEST

As a child I, of course, did not have alot of money and didn't have a job. However, I made it my point of duty to look for companies that offered investment products with attractive interest rates. LONG TERM INVESTMENTS are the best because they provide you with higher returns over a long period of time and do not require a large amount of capital to begin with (although the more you invest is the greater the returns). Stocks, though risky, are a form of long term investment. Bonds, purchasing company shares, and government papers are also long term investment options. Also, when you put your money in a long term investment account you know that it will not be beneficial for you to withdraw money from the account until the period of investment has elapsed since your returns will be far less. I had to withdraw money from my long term investment account to help pay my boarding expenses while on hall and it really messed up my returns.

One of my hopes is that I will be able to save enough money to one day invest in some company shares or to invest in a company. That is my way of making my money work for me. Always look for ways to make your money do some real work instead of just sitting in a bank account earning a measly yearly interest.

4. Don't "Binge Spend"

I have a problem. When I know that I have enough money in my account I will buy things unnecessarily just because I like them. I have never really had a lot of money so I don't really have a lot of those unnecessary things but the point is that I have them. I also buy a lot of pizza (*covers face*) and pizza a'int cheap out here so you know what happens to my pocket by the end of the month.

5. Minimise Your Expenses...Increase Your Assets

Your expenses should never be more than half of your income. When that happens you end up borrowing money and that leads you into debt. Conserve as much as you can so that your utility bills are not that high. DON'T GET MARRIED UNTIL YOU CAN SUFFICEINTLY SUPPORT YOURSELF. Don't buy a car unless it is absolutely necessary for your job. I know in America people have to have cars in order to get to and from work, but in Jamaica our transportation system is good enough that we can survive without one and paying for a car out here causes people to incur ridiculous expenses. DON'T HAVE CHILDREN UNTIL YOU CAN AFFORD THEM (try to avoid situations where accidents can happen too). Instead, use what you earn now to invest and build your asset pool.

6. Plan Your Entertainment Properly

I like going out with my friends and my taste is such that i like to go to places like the movies, OMG, Cuddyz, Tracks and Records, Devon House etc. These places are not cheap. I therefore know that I have to tailor my lifestyle to suit my pay cheque. This means that I can't go and watch a movie every week (unless I am going on the two for one night and the other person splits the cost) and I most certainly can't go to my favourite hang out spots every weekend. Since I like going out, I have learnt the hard way that I need to tone it down to probably 2 to 3 outings per month and keep my spending at these places at a minimum.

7. Know your skills and market them

When you know what you are capable of, you can market yourself to people and therefore earn a little extra cash on the side. Paying yourself FIRST applies here in the same way that it applies to your regular pay cheque. Therefore, all of your extra cash shouldn't be spent splurging on something you've always wanted. Ensure that you put a portion away in your investment account.

8. Minimise your risk

Some people are high risk and know how to make great profits from risky situations. I am risk adverse and will therefore not pretend that I am comfortable in high stakes. For instance, I will not embark on major projects unless I see the funding that is available to make the project work. I have learnt that from at least one experience in my life. Although risk is good, I wouldn't suggest that you make huge risks when it comes to your money.

9. DO NOT get a credit card

Credit cards make you think that you have money that you really don't have. The bank charges associated with their usage are enough to drive anyone crazy and are a quick launch into a sea of debt. Instead, get a Visa Debit card. Visa Debit cards use the money that YOU put into the bank instead of the money the bank gives you. You are also able to use them online to make purchases. In Jamaica, there are two banks that offer Visa Debit cards: Scotiabank and First Caribbean International bank. You can look at what they offer and then make your decision.

I am still in the learning phase of good money management and some of the things I have listed are things that I need to employ myself. Nevertheless, I hope this post helps you to view your money differently and take you out of whatever financial crisis you may be in.

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Waiting on God

How do we really trust God when we have so many issues trusting some of the people in our own lives? When life is taking a completely different course from what we want or expect, how do we trust that God has our best interests at heart? When we are jobless or stuck in a career that we desperately want to get out of, how do we trust that God will provide? Trusting God has been something that I have really struggled with over the past few years. When I was younger I had no issue trusting that God would work things out but I think that as I got older and began to view the world differently ( and also saw my life taking unexpected turns) I began to doubt. There is a journal that one of my students gave me for Teachers Day that has the infamous Jeremiah 29:11 passage on it. It says "For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord,'plans to prosper and not to harm you, to give you HOPEand a FUTURE." This is my favourite passage of Scripture because God said those words to Jeremiah in a period in his life where he felt lost and hopeless. I feel the same way but every time I say that passage I am reminded of the fact that God has not forgotten me and that whatever He allows to happen in my life will help me to prosper as long ad I am faithful to Him.

Another passage that has helped me when I have really started to doubt God is Psalm 139:13. It says "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together on my mother's womb." Have you ever watched someone knit? It is a tedious task that takes hours of dedication and detailed work. When the creator of a knitted garment is finished then he or she is filled with a sense of pride because of what has been created and then allows that knitted garment to be used in a useful way by another individual. If God could spend so much time to make me, then I must have some worth and value and He must want what's best for me in order for me to make Him proud. He will also guide me to do things that will benefit others and help me to serve my purpose.

So, whenever you feel doubtful about what God is doing in your life, just remember those two verses. God took the time to create you so you have to trust that He is doing what is best for you to help you to make your impact in the world.

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Investing in Your Development

How can I become a better person? Almost everyday I wake up and ask myself that question. Becoming a better person helps you to ensure that you will leave a positive mark in the world when you die. I believe that the following steps can help us become better people: Know Your Priorities There will always be people who challenge what you believe in and will try to sidetrack you from what you need to do to grow. When you know what you stand for, noone can stand in your way. However, how do we know what our major priorities should be? I believe that as a Christian my number one priority should be strengthening my relationship with God. If there are things in my life that are getting in the way of that then I need to get rid of them. My second priority is advancing my career. In order to fulfill the objectives needed to meet this priority I need to ask myself these questions: 1. Do I have the education and skills needed to enter the career path I have choosen? 2. How do I get a job in the field I am interested in? 3. What education and skills do I need to have in order to be promoted? The third priority that I believe I should have is looking for ways to answer the question "How can I help people?". This leads me to my next point.

Learn to be Selfless Very few people are born with the natural ability to give their time and resources willingly to help others. Despite this fact, I believe that this is a skill that we all can learn. When we help others, we are able to become better people ourselves.

Use your Strengths to Your Advantage I tend to be very negative about myself and focus solely on my flaws. These thoughts are not beneficial to anyone's mental well being and can only lead to negative thoughts and actions throughout each day. Yes, we should be aware of our flaws but we should also be aware of our strengths. Although I am still discovering what my strengths are, I realise how important it is for me to embrace and develop them in order to create a healthy self image. Do things and get training, if necessary, to develop your strengths.

See Your Health As Important I am always thinking about my calorie intake and how what I am eating is not good for my health. However, I have never done much to put my thoughts into action. It is very hard to make a decision to live a healthy lifestyle but doing so can only bring positive energy into your life. I started exercising again and as I go through each day I feel as though I have more energy and the pain that I was feeling has vanished. Taking care of your physical well being while you're young means that when you get older you will have fewer issues to deal with as it relates to your health.

What will you do today to become the best you? Begin each day with the question "How can I become a better person today?" and take the necessary steps to make that happen.

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The Importance of National Pride

"I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him" ~Abraham Lincoln National pride surges when major athletic events are happening or when Independence Day comes around. We expect that Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the other athletes will do well and we cannot help but reflect on the contributions of our forefathers to nation building on Independence Day. However, what concerns me is the fact that national pride sharply declines when these events pass. Of course things are terribly wrong with our country but the same is true for many other countries around the world (first world countries included).

I want to challenge us to view national pride as a form of personal development by highlighting the following points: Where there is unity there is strength When the races are being broadcast it is amazing to see how quickly people gather, wherever they are, to catch the excitement. There is joy and hugs and laughter all around when we place in the top three and happiness, despite our disappointment, when we do not place. The unity that is present in these few moments is something I believe we should have in every facet of life. That camaraderie and dedication to the greater good of the country can only help to make the nation better. When we inject some hope into our country and stop the negativity we end up injecting some positivity in our own lives.

Bringing hope to the nation can inspire people to do great things We depend on our political leaders to give the country direction and work in the best interest of the poor. Although a lot of things cannot fall into place until this is done, I also believe that we each have a responsibility to have a spirit of hope for the country. So many people walk around with a chip on their shoulders because they think the country is doomed. Why don't we instead think of what we can do to bring hope to the country? Are there any community projects that we could get involved in that can make a difference in people's lives? When we learn to be positive and give more of ourself to others there is no doubt that the greatest reward we will feel is the satisfaction we get of knowing that we have made a difference. Represent your country well Wherever I go in the world I will always be Jamaican. People respond to the way we treat them and speak about our country. If we treat people harshly or only have negative things to say about our country then that will leave a bad impression on people's minds of Jamaica. If we are more positive then there is a great possibility that someone we meet will want to visit Jamaica therefore increasing the country's tourism income. These small things make a world of difference.

I challenge us to view our country differently and do what we can to build our nation. There is power in the small things we do.

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Serving God

Serving God is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I'm being real here. It requires a wholehearted self-giving that digs deep into your soul and forces you to eliminate personal desires and motives. It is time consuming and oftentimes lacks rewards. However, it is one of the most peaceful and joyful experiences. I have been working at this summer camp at church for the past three weeks and I believe that it has brought a change in my heart. When I look at the faces of these youth and see the impact that the sessions are having on them I feel a sense of peace and happiness. A sense of purpose.

Although there are rarely any substantial monetary rewards, giving my all to service for the spiritual or emotional upliftment of youth has helped me to develop confidence in my limited abilities as well as helped me to truly understand how God wants to use me to help people.  I prefer to have this type of self understanding than great wealth and accolades.

Last night i spent the evening with two of my mom's friends from the United States who have dedicated their lives to serving God through the InterVarsity ministry at the university level. They have so many stories to share about the lives they have touched and the people they have met because of where their ministry has taken them. They emphasised the importance of prayer and how prayer and faith in God have caused wonderful things to happen in their ministry and their personal lives. They insipired me to give more of myself to God and His work.

Serving God is the hardest thing you will ever do but it is the most rewarding experience you will ever have. Lives are transformed by the simple things you say and do as you are led by His Holy Spirit.

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God, Where are You?

Image There was a period in my life where I was so angry with and disappointed in God. For my entire life until my second year of university I believed with very great conviction that God wanted me to be a medical doctor. I worked so hard to ensure that I did my part to make that fall into place and I trusted that God would do the rest. At the end of sixth form, I applied for medical school and was instead accepted into the Pure and Applied Sciences program. After going through an extremely rough and depressing first year, I reapplied for medicine and guess what? I got accepted for a program that was well out of my father's budget. After all of my effort my only question was....God, where are you? How could you have told me this and cause this to happen?

I could have allowed that experience to make me bitter but instead I decided to make the most of my university experience and really get involved. This allowed me to evolve as a person and after all was said and done I believe that God did not allow medicine to work out for me for that very reason...so that I could EVOLVE. You see, if I had been in medical school I would never have had many of the experiences and adventures I have had. I also would not have been able to become actively involved in my church. So, it really is not that God wasn't there...He was always there but He wanted to steer me on another path to accomplish a greater purpose.

No one who I know really knows or understands the struggles my family has gone through. No one knows the times when there was hardly any food in the house and the years my mom went without a job. Many close family friends were probably wondering where God was in our situation. However, He was right there and truly manifested Himself in the strength and courage my mother displayed through it all.

I am learning and embracing the true value and meaning of faith. Faith is believing that even though life is not happening according to your agenda, God has everything under control. Faith is understanding that you will never be able to understand everything that is or is not happening in your life but knowing that in the end everything will be fine.

Also, we have to be able to quickly identify when bitterness is seeping into our lives. Bitterness is a big wall that prevents us from evolving into better people. Some people may become bitter through grief as they wonder why God would chose to take away their family members. Others may become bitter due to envy of others and still others may become bitter for the same reasons I did. However, never lose sight of the fact that God sees the bigger picture and the only way that you can truly become who you're meant to be is if you have faith and trust Him to take control.

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Know Thyself

Image Who am I? Seems like a simple question right? But if you really pause to think about it...what would your response be? Personally, I would give a generic answer such as, "Hi. I'm Christine and I'm a caring person."  However, truly knowing oneself extends far beyond the superficial and forces us to embrace every facet of who we are (both good and bad; both strengths and weaknesses).

I could very easily point out everything I dislike about myself and I have yet to truly embrace the good qualities that I have. As a result, I tend to look for someone to show me what good there really is in me and this, naturally, leads to problems in the intimate relationships I have had. Before you can share yourself with someone else you have to be able to appreciate and accept every facet of your being....you have to be able to know and love who you are. Loving yourself means that you understand your strengths and weaknesses and you know how to minimise your weaknesses and maximise your strengths.

Comparison is one of the things that leads to self-hatred and low self esteem. Trust me, I've been there and done that. However, we have to realise that there will ALWAYS be someone who is better than us or who has more talents than we do. The moment we are able to stop looking at what others have and begin to strengthen what we already possess is when we have truly discovered the meaning of our lives. Look at it this way, people go to the gym to develop their physique. The more they work out is the stronger and more toned they become. If they don't work out they go back to square one and are therefore not able to become the "sexy beasts" they know they can become. Similarly, if we don't do things to develop the strengths we have, they will become underdeveloped and we won't be able to maximise our true potential.

I am beginning my journey of self discovery and I hope that this will help me to have an excellent relationship with my life long partner in the future. Will you begin to embrace who you are and truly LOVE yourself?

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