May 2015 archive

The Simple Desire to Write

IMG_2163I simply love to write.

It’s been a hobby since I was a tiny child writing ‘stories’ that were nothing more than scribbles on a piece of paper. In fact, I won $500 Toys “R” Us dollars when I was in 5th grade for submitting a story about a princess that lived in a castle.

Best year ever.

But I digress. The urge to write comes and goes, from starting a few novels during college (that, to this day, consist of two abandoned chapters- sound familiar, writers?), to writing music during the quarter-life crisis years, to now writing blog posts and books in the hope of helping others.

What a fantastic journey.

I’m sure a few of you can relate to this type of desire.

Getting so lost in your art that you forget to eat, find that the sun came and went without notice, and that you’ve somehow misplaced entire days.

It’s the best kind of focus that only shows itself during rare times of quiet, contemplative reflection. Yet, once it gets some attention, it takes on a life of its own. You find that your art starts to create itself, and you become the fascinated observer.

I love every part of this.

Sleeping for only a few hours at a time because the drive is too strong. Careful to obey its every whim, for fear that you might break the spell and never experience the same calm yet frenzied state ever again.

If you’ve never felt this way before, search hard for your passions. Let yourself be alone, and don’t be afraid to create.

It’s one of the more beautiful pieces of life.

Happy living and happy creating.

Why You Should Plan a Dream Date

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I planned a dream date for myself this past Friday night. Just me, my thoughts and dreams.

That’s right. Not that kind of ‘dream date.’

This is the type of date everyone should plan at least once a week, because it’s important to take some time alone to reflect on life, work on one’s goals, and because we could always use more dreamers in the world.

I believe it’s important to really indulge in one’s desires, but like most people, I don’t always have time to invest in my aspirations.

So I started setting aside time for what I call ‘dream dates.’

If you have ideas that you’ve often considered turning into something bigger, I guarantee you’ll be a fan of this process.

How to plan your dream date:

  1. Start writing a list of the ideas you’ve been excited about in the past 12 months.

Most likely you’ve been putting off committing to any one goal because it’s just too much to wrap your head around with too little time, or maybe you feel silly even considering writing that novel or starting that new company. However, everyone starts somewhere, and making your list will get you excited all over again; you might even find yourself adding new ideas that you didn’t know you had.

  1. Stop yourself at 5 ideas.

Write down as many dreams as you want, but narrow it down to 5 for the time being. A long list can easily start to overwhelm you, but 5 dreams on a Post It Note is just fun and exhilarating. You’ll likely end up gravitating toward one or two ideas during your ‘date,’ and you can save the others for the following week.

  1. Find a 3-hour block of time where you can be alone.

You might not be able to find complete solitude, but find an empty bedroom, quiet coffee shop, or park bench. Have a notebook, pen, laptop, and maybe even an inspirational book with you (I suggest the short, yet brilliant, read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz). Take this time to write down ideas, reflect, and search the Internet to spark additional creativity.

  1. Fall down the rabbit hole.

Get lost in the next 3 hours. Try to cut out all distractions.

You’re not going to finish your dream list, but that’s kind of the point. You’ll probably end up with more dreams than you know what to do with.

For the next 3 hours you’re going to see where one or two different dreams take you. Don’t force one particular idea, let it choose you. Do whatever feels right.

You might end up researching something in particular that takes you from one website, to the next, to the next, and be amazed at the new inspiration that washes over you. It’s also possible that you might just dive right into that influential book for 30 minutes, and come up with a completely new dream to add to the list and focus on for the next 2 and a half hours.

Enjoy.

If your dream date experience is anything like mine, you’ll be reluctant to stop at the end of 3 hours. It’ll feel like you got lost in conversation with an old friend, having no idea how you ended up riveted in deep discussion.

  1. Reflect.

Write down your experience. What was it like? What did you discover? I actually have a few notebooks for all my thoughts and aspirations, and someday I hope to get close to accomplishing them all. Pick a notebook, and finalize a few of your current ideas.

  1. Plan a second date.

So the first date went well? You really hit it off? Set aside 3 hours next week to go on your second date. It doesn’t have to be in the same setting, for the same amount of time, or with the same dreams.

The important thing is that you make you a priority.

Take 3 hours. Imagine. Create. Plan. Innovate. Smile. Repeat.

We go on dates with friends and significant others, but we rarely spend quality time with the person who matters most. Enjoy your own company, and always take the time to dream big.

Let Your Mind Wander, and Find Yourself on a True Journey

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Positive thinking is a powerful thing.

It’s the best way to get where you’d like to be, in school, work, relationships, and life.

Most people aren’t as familiar as they should be with the the power of positive thinking; they’re more familiar with the nagging voice in their head (that sounds a lot like them). It tells them they’re making bad decisions, they should be ashamed of themselves, and that they’ll never amount to anything.

That voice can be pretty brutal.

But what if we changed this? Somehow, right around the time I left for college as an 18 year old, I turned off that voice (for the most part). I decided to start cheering for myself instead, applauding my efforts, even when they failed. If the ‘mean’ voice managed to make an appearance, the ‘nice’ voice would shoo her away.

One of the best tips I can give my college students to help them present a successful speech, is to imagine (repeatedly) that they’ve already given a successful speech. They shouldn’t just think to themselves, “You’ll do great, you’ll do great, etc..” That’s a good start, but you should try to actually feel it, live it, try your best to mentally practice the situation before it happens, and be specific.

If you were giving a speech, this might be part of the positive visualization you’d use (you can fill in the blanks as you let your mind get creative):

Imagine yourself standing at the front of the room (How do you feel? Happy? Confident? Remember, nothing negative!). You feel that you’re dressed perfectly for the occasion (What exactly are you wearing? Jewelry? A tie? What color is your shirt? It looks great!) as you look out at the audience (31 people to be exact, they all look supportive, and they’re smiling, eager to hear your message). You start your speech and it’s already a success (you sound enthusiastic as a speaker, you feel confident, and the audience leans in showing their interest).

Doesn’t that feel great?

It’s no wonder professional athletes who practice positive imagery in place of physical practice do just as well when the big game comes around. It’s no wonder that so many successful people spend a significant amount of time imagining positive outcomes and even visually represent those outcomes on vision boards.

I recently listened to a book on tape, and couldn’t believe that- yet again- I was hearing about visualization. It was a book about public speaking, not about new age thinking, so I was surprised; it seems that positive thinking is taking over.

As the story goes, the author’s wife had her own writing aspirations, and he recalls her spending as much time writing her first book as she did imagining what outfit she would wear to a jam-packed book signing for her hit novel (these were all hopes and dreams; she’d had no previous success as an author).

Sure enough, both the writing and the fantasizing paid off, and played out exactly as this new author had hoped.

You don’t have to be a professional athlete, successful author, public speaker, or wealthy entrepreneur to practice visualization and picture life unfolding the way you’d like it to.

Start small.

I pictured myself teaching enthusiastic college students (‘enthusiastic’ being the key word here), feeling successful regardless of what my income might be, and being happy with the simple things life has to offer. I didn’t always do it intentionally, but you know those moments that you find yourself tuned out during conversation, or lost in thought while you’re laying in bed at night? That’s when the magic (science, actually) happened for me.

The trick is to train your kind, positive voice to make an appearance more often. That voice has big plans for you, and will support all the ideas you have in the making.

Be kind to yourself, then let your mind wander, and find yourself on a true journey.

New Tips for Happy Adjunct Professors

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During the past few days, I’ve been called and emailed by adjuncts needing advice. During those conversations, I realized I’ve learned a few more tricks to being happy, efficient, and effective as an adjunct instructor.

It’s only been a year since Happy Professor was published, but here are some of the new tips that weren’t in the book:

1. When you’re hoping a school will hire you, first, apply for a part-time position, then email the dean of the department you’ll be working for to let them know you’ve applied.

Having applied for the job and having gone the extra step to contact them will increase your chances of being hired. In your brief and purposeful email, tell them you’ll be available any time and any day of the week to teach, including Fridays and Saturdays (most teachers don’t want these time slots, so it’ll give you a huge advantage over other applicants). After you’ve worked there for a semester, you can easily change the days and times that you teach.

2. Even if you’re scheduled to teach at a different school during certain days of the week, still tell the new school you can work anytime and any day of the week.

The odds of getting double booked is very small (unless you’re working at a number of schools), but if you do, you can always work with the schools to figure it out.

3. Schedule early morning (8:30 am or 9:30 am), late night (6 pm-9 pm), Friday, and weekend classes if you want to make life easy on yourself. These will be your most dedicated and eager students.

The people who sign up for these classes tend to take school more seriously than the students signing up for a 1 pm class. That means you’ll have to deal with fewer excuses, less late work, and an easier semester for you as the instructor. (Note: I made the switch to early morning classes last school year. Although I’m not usually a morning person, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. That’s how amazing my early students are.)

If you ever need tips as a new or tired adjunct, don’t hesitate to contact me at erin@happyprofessor.com. Ask anyone, I love helping students and instructors.

Happy teaching!