Marriage 101: Talking to Your Spouse About Your Past

Sweaty palms, tightness in the chest, nausea . . . these are all symptoms of vulnerability.

New dating relationships always make vulnerable conversations easier to accept, listen to, and understand. It is fresh, and you are still getting to know someone. There seems to be less of a risk in bearing your past to your beloved and less disappointment when listening to theirs.

But what happens when you are well into marriage and your past comes up, whether it be sexual relationships, insecurities, or childhood wounds? These vulnerable conversations can be more difficult and more hurtful. How do you determine what is and is not appropriate to share with your spouse?

Conversations like these can be tricky for a few reasons:

  1. As a married couple, you’re supposed to become one, and this leads to a feeling of obligation to explain every detail of your past.
  2. There are conversations that you might struggle to open up to your partner about because you’re unsure whether or not it is appropriate.

These feelings are completely understandable. Although it is not black and white, I do believe there is a balance between being vulnerable, open, and honest with your spouse while also being prudent in what and how you share.

The most important act of authenticity should be your desire to help your spouse and you become the-best-version-of-yourselves.

It can be confusing trying to determine what is best for your spouse and your marriage. Here are some tips to help you navigate this often sensitive issue.

If You’re Sharing with Your Spouse

Is it necessary?

The first thing to ask yourself before disclosing your past to your spouse is whether or not it is necessary or relevant to your relationship.

If you feel a burning desire to get something off your chest from fifteen years ago, it is worth asking yourself whether or not sharing will result in bringing you closer to each other and to being the-best-version-of-yourself.

If you’ve really been struggling to accept acts of love or touch from your spouse, it may be helpful to share with your partner why that is.

Again, this is about strengthening your marriage and bringing you closer to each other.

Beware of oversharing

Oversharing is one of the easiest things to do when it comes to these dicey topics.

It is vital to first understand that your partner can never be the one to give you the peace of mind and comfort you seek. You need to first forgive yourself.

Always have the intention to forgive. This is a great way to better love, know, and serve your spouse and your marriage.

It is very tempting to spill unnecessary amounts of detail to your spouse in an attempt to alleviate guilt or seek sympathy.

Some things are best shared with a trusted counsel, and that is okay. It is also worth noting that it is easy to confuse oversharing with vulnerability.

I know I have experienced this many times in my own life when oversharing did not help me find the intimacy I sought, but further pushed others away.

As much as you might want to share, your spouse may or may not be ready, and that’s okay!

Be patient with your spouse

It might take time for your partner to absorb everything you disclose to them. Being patient and allowing them to listen and think can be a great act of love for them. Before sharing, it is important to be open to how they might respond.

This is also a great opportunity to trust your spouse more by openly sharing with them.

If Your Spouse Is Sharing with You

Curiosity vs. Constructivity

Something to keep in mind as you are on the receiving end is that it is easy to ask questions out of unhealthy curiosity. Sometimes asking questions or probing deeper can cause more harm than good and set you up for hurt or disappointment.

“Curiosity killed the cat” is something I always try to remember. If I find myself full of questions, I always check my intention first: will it help me love and understand my spouse better, or am I trying to satisfy my own sense of curiosity and power within my relationship?

Resolve to forgive

Before having a conversation, it is important to always have the intention to forgive. You may hear things that are painful or hard to understand.

If it is something that may take a long time, that’s okay! Be kind and patient with yourself. This is a great way to better love, know, and serve your spouse and your marriage.

Last Thoughts

Honesty vs. Vulnerability vs. Authenticity

Something worth mentioning is that as you share with or listen to your spouse, know that not disclosing every detail with your spouse does not mean you are being inauthentic.

It is easy to confuse the two. We can make excuses in our heads for sharing something that may not be constructive and by claiming that it’s authentic and vulnerable.

At the end of the day, the most important act of authenticity should be your desire to help your spouse and you become the-best-version-of-yourselves.

How to Know If You Married the Right Person (and What to Do If You Didn’t)

I should have ordered the cheeseburger.

Sitting there, in that right-off-the-highway Applebee’s, a plate of very mediocre braised pork enchiladas on the table in front of me, I made myself a new rule: always order the cheeseburger when at Applebee’s!

Is there anything worse than ordering the wrong thing?

Well, okay. Sure. Lots of things, actually. In fact, most bad things in life are worse than a regrettable Applebee’s order. A traffic jam when you're already late. A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break. Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife. Meeting the woman of your dreams, then introducing her to your wife.

(Thanks, Alanis.)

Marrying the wrong person. Terrifying, right? And much, much worse than a bad order. Realizing you don’t really want the plate of very mediocre braised pork enchiladas on the table in front of you—disappointing. Realizing you don’t really want the woman sitting at the table opposite you—life-shattering.

But how do you know? How do you if know you married the right person? Ideally, you’d ask these kinds of questions before getting married, and you would date long enough to figure this stuff out. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, intense feelings of romance and lust and excitement blind us and trick us into seeing lasting love where there isn’t any. Sometimes, people change. And sometimes, we just think we really want mediocre braised pork enchiladas.

I am happily married. My wife is beautiful and smart and funny and kind and selfless to a fault (okay, I think that’s everything she told me to write). So, I can really only answer these questions for you from my own personal experience. Here is how I know I married the right person (and I know that I did)—I hope my reasons help you figure out if you have, too.

1. I really look forward to seeing my wife, especially after long periods apart.

2. I feel remorse or regret after a fight. (I am a flawed, stupid man more often than I’d like to admit.)

3. She is smokin’ hot. I almost always feel a strong physical attraction toward her, especially when she’s “not even trying.”

4. I really, really enjoy spending time with my wife.

5. We are okay spending some time apart, too.

6. We make each other laugh, a lot.

7. She annoys the heck out of me (though not nearly as much as I annoy her), and we still come back for more.

8. We still fight . . .

9. But we don’t fight too much (and rarely are our voices raised).

10. She is an incredible mother!

11. She challenges me, calls me out when I’m being a turd, and truly makes me a better man.

12. We share a very strong faith, have similar core beliefs, and agree on how to best parent our children (and we talk about all these things often!).

13. Did I mention she’s smokin’ hot?

So . . . You married the wrong person. Now what?

Are you reading this list and starting to panic? If so, that’s okay.

Because I have a confession to make. There is no cheeseburger on this menu. Just a whole bunch of flawed, broken braised pork enchiladas. (I think my metaphor is breaking down.)

I don’t believe there is such a thing as the right person. A person can be right for you—good for you, even—but the idea of soul mates is a little too predestine-y for my taste. It also makes love seem so . . . easy. Set it, and forget it—you found THE ONE. Now you’re done. Happiness this way, please.

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Would that it were so simple, my friend. Would that it were so simple.

You were made to love. Your spouse was made to love. You took a vow to love each other. But that promise is hard to keep each day. It only really goes wrong when you both stop making that daily effort. After all, you are marrying a real human being. And your spouse is marrying one, too. In every relationship, the fog eventually clears and that reality sets in. This is when marriage actually begins.

I choose to love my wife. Even when it’s hard. Even when I just don’t feel like it. Even when the culture says I don’t have to choose or that I am free to change my mind whenever the mood suits me.

So, what can you do if you are doubting you married the right person?

1. Dedicate yourself to a weekly date night—no excuses.

2. Go to a marriage retreat.

3. Stop watching TV every night and play board games instead—the important thing here is that you are interacting with each other; passivity is the enemy.

4. Pray together, each day—pray for each other, pray for help, pray for love.

5. Talk to your spouse about your feelings—though be tactful! Telling your spouse you feel like you married the wrong person isn’t the best conversation starter in the world. Telling your spouse you want to have a more dynamic and passionate marriage, while acknowledging that you both have things you need to work on, can get the ball rolling.

6. Ask yourself if you are making the intentional choice to be “the right person” for your spouse—you might be surprised how your feelings and view of your spouse grow and mature as a result.

7. Seek marriage counseling.

Love is not all about romantic feelings and gushing gooeyness. That’s just a part of it—a very small part. I didn’t get down on one knee because of butterflies and skipped heartbeats. I got down on one knee because of my thirteen reasons listed above—and about a kerjillion more.

It’s my job to make sure I am the right man for her. Each day.

All I know is that I married an incredible person. She is amazing. Is she perfect? No. Is she perfect for me? Also, no. Last time I checked, she didn’t come from Oil Money, she doesn’t laugh at every one of my jokes, and she absolutely refuses to play video games with me. We like our steaks cooked differently (anything over medium rare is a crime!). I can binge-watch a TV show with the best of them; she gets bored one episode in. She worries about . . . just about everything; I worry about . . . just about nothing.

We are both incredibly flawed. Without tons of effort and intention, neither of us is right for the other.

I choose to love my wife. Even when it’s hard (and, sometimes, it is really hard). Even when I’m tired or hungry or I just don’t feel like it. Even when the culture says I don’t have to choose or that I am free to change my mind whenever the mood suits me. The moment we got married, she became the right person for me. And now it’s my job to make sure I am the right man for her. Each day.

Shoot. I’d marry her all over again today. And I’d marry her tomorrow. And I’d marry her the day after that.

The love is hard. The choice is easy. Because she makes it easy.

And you know what? That’s how I know.

The Elephant in Marriage: Differing Values and What to Do About Them

A few nights ago, I went to a storytelling event where the theme was “Romance or Not.” As you might expect, the stories told were largely about relationships and the hilarious, disastrous, wonderful adventures they can be.

One woman, in particular, described her marriage as akin to “packing for a ski trip and landing on the Caribbean.” There were ups and downs, challenges and blessings that she could not have foreseen. Part of that included differences in values between her and her husband.

When the couple met, she was a working woman with an intimidating career history. She and her soon-to-be husband had come to the agreement that she would continue her career well into their marriage. It was what they both wanted. After all, two paychecks are better than one, right?

However, things took a turn the first moment she held her baby boy in her arms less than a year after getting married.

She didn’t want to go back to work anymore, but her husband’s opinion on the matter had not changed.

And so, almost immediately after the birth of their first child, a baby elephant that she named “Elephantina” was also born into their relationship.

The more you discuss and really listen to each other’s perspectives, the less you’ll get caught off guard when your loved one doesn’t agree with you.

Over the years, Elephantina grew. She began to take up more and more space in their relationship, and the strain became increasingly palpable. Marriage counseling was “okay” but didn’t seem to be doing the trick. The woman admitted that they reached a point where, though still together, neither she nor her husband wore their wedding bands. Her husband was gone a lot, and most of their communication took place over text.

Would their marriage survive the enormous presence of Elephantina—the vast space between them resulting from their different values?

You’d be hard put to find someone who agrees with you on everything. But how different is too different?

I mean if you don’t like olives, cool, more for me!

But what about the big things: religion, parenting styles, financial decisions . . . These are things that have the potential make or break a marriage. These are the things that make Elephantina grow big and tall.

In fact, disagreements on finances are one of the leading causes of stress in a relationship. Other top reasons for marital discord—and even divorce—are sexual differences and different core values or beliefs.

You can imagine why this last one especially complicates long-term relationships: he wants to go to one church, and you want to go to another (or no church). She thinks technology is fine for children, while you’re convinced it’s detrimental to their development. He wants to save as much as possible, she’s more focused on enjoying earnings in the present.

And so on. At first, these sorts of issues may not seem like a big deal. But the longer you’re with someone, and the more your lives become entwined, the more difficult it can be to prevent these different outlooks on life from getting between you.

Does different = disaster?

When you find yourself consistently on a different page from your spouse or significant other, you can try these strategies for confronting the challenge that different values in marriage can provide.


If you’re not married yet, for goodness’ sake, make sure to talk about important things. And know that not all big things feel like big things.

How you both unwind after a long day for work, for example, may seem like a trivial detail, but when you live together and experience each other day in and day out, one of the best things you can do is allow the other to decompress the way they want.

Why? Because, say your brand-new husband comes home after a long day at work and you can’t wait to tell him everything that happened to you today. He, on the other hand, desperately wants to just sit for a few minutes and think about nothing. Imposing your need on him will frustrate him because he really needs to chill, and you aren’t allowing him to. It will also be disappointing for you because you know he isn’t listening or responding to what you are saying.

The end result is two people who didn’t get their needs met and are angry at each other because of it. Now your precious evening together has been hijacked by simply not knowing what each other needed in that moment. If you understand that he needs to relax for fifteen minutes right when he goes home, then, when he is ready to listen, you can get what you need: a good listener.

Other things such as how you prefer to spend money (going out to dinner, new clothes, gym memberships, travel, etc.), what your stance is on organized religion and why, what chores you like and which you really hate, traditions that are really important to you and why, how many children you would like to have and when, thoughts on private school versus public versus homeschooling . . .

The more you can cover beforehand the better. Not necessarily because you’re on the lookout for dealbreakers—although you should know what those are for you—but so the transition to married life is smoother.

If you’re already married, all is not lost. Maybe you’ve already figured some of this out—maybe the hard way. But if not, now is a great time to broach some of these topics. The more you discuss and really listen to each other’s perspectives, the less you’ll get caught off guard when your loved one doesn’t agree with you, and the better you can respond with love instead of reacting negatively to your disagreement.

Develop a “We-ness”

This especially applies if you’re already married: you are a team. You are on the same team. You are not just you anymore, you are “we.”

You are each entrusted with the wondrous task of uplifting and encouraging each other, even when you don’t agree.

And if that’s not clear enough, I don’t know what is!!!

The point is, while you are both complete individuals on your own, you are two individuals who have become a united front. This means that while you can and will have disagreements—even on big things—it’s important to not view each other as the opposition.

You are not trying to “win over” your spouse or significant other to “your side.” It’s not your job to convince them of your argument or to prove them wrong. You can share your perspective should explain your reasoning, but that’s where the persuading ends and the accepting begins. You can accept that there is room for differences within your “we.”

You can accept that your loved one is not an extension of yourself.

You can accept that you married someone with their own thoughts, experiences, hurts, dreams, and strengths different from your own.

You can accept that you cannot and should not try to change the person you are with.

This is what it means to love unconditionally. You are no longer just you, you are “we”—even when you disagree.

And that rhymes!

Infuse Your Marriage with Passion and Purpose

Passion & Purpose for Marriage is a half-day event that is enriching marriages across the country. Through Dr. Allen Hunt’s humorous commentary and heartfelt real-life stories, you’ll discover how to fill your relationship with energy and fulfillment that will transform your lives. Don’t miss the opportunity to attend this event in a city near you!

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Practically speaking, to develop this “we-ness,” it is essential that you practice empathy as often as you can. Part of uniting yourself to your beloved means a continual effort to see them. This means not only doing your best to understand superficially what they believe and why, but also really delving into their experience. To put aside your own thoughts, experiences, opinions, and to put yourself instead in their shoes. Ask questions, listen, and use your imagination to get a glimpse of the inner workings of your loved one.

Imagine what it’s like to be them: What do they feel? Why do they feel it? What experiences have influenced their opinions?

Mutual Respect vs. Compromise

At the end of the day, through each other’s differing opinions and beliefs, there should be a high level of regard and respect of each other. Never should we condescend our significant other because of what they believe or feel. Nor should we compromise what we believe or feel. You don’t have to sacrifice what you value to make your spouse happy. You can be open to their opinion and the fact that they could be right, but that’s a conclusion you want to arrive at, not be forced into accepting.

Respect means having an appropriate reverence toward your beloved as an incredible human being worthy of love and adoration.

There can be disagreement within relationships and marriages as long as there is a healthy respect of each other.

And respect means not asking, “Are you crazy?” or, “How can you think that?” And not saying, “That’s ridiculous.” Respect means having an appropriate reverence toward your beloved as an incredible human being worthy of love and adoration.

You are each entrusted with the wondrous task of uplifting and encouraging each other, even when you don’t agree.

In practice, this looks like listening, thinking before you speak, and always using words that uphold the great dignity of your spouse.

In case you’re wondering, the woman at the storytelling event did stay with her husband. They have been married for over fifteen years. He was at the event with their two children listening to her speak, and he kissed her when she sat down after she finished telling her story.

Elephantina is still alive and well—they have disagreements and areas where they don’t see eye to eye. But despite the challenge these differences present, they have chosen to stick together and accept the beauty that is a union of two different people.

And she’s never gone back to work.

Love Is Patient: A Cynic’s Guide to Patience in Relationships

I’m not sure if I really care about being patient.

Why should I? What’s in it for me?

“Patience is a virtue.”


Just what I’ve always wanted—more virtue!

Okay, I guess I do want to be virtuous (whatever that really means), but it’s not exactly the most enticing idea in the world.

The problem is that “patient” is the first word used to describe love in one of the all-time most popular definitions of love, which comes from 1 Corinthians 13.

Whether you’re religious or not, I’m sure you’ve heard it at a wedding:

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Right there at the top: ‘“Love is patient.” This gives the impression that it’s important; patience matters.

Because regardless of whether you care about virtue or not, you probably do care about love.

Love is a virtue—the greatest one, in fact—but somehow no one really talks about that.

We just talk about how beautiful and incredible and life-changing love is: rainbows, butterflies, cutesy photographs, oh my!

“Love is patient.”

We want love. We don’t want patience—unless it’s from someone else, of course.

Maybe that’s why so many of us sign the dotted line on our divorce papers. Maybe that’s why so many of us experience pretty serious and painful marriage problems.

Maybe we heard “patience is a virtue” a little too often (those tired words that mean nothing to us), while “patience will save your marriage” was never spoken.

Patience matters because people are annoying and frustrating and painfully disappointing—there’s just no way around it (as someone who is annoying, frustrating, and painfully disappointing, I can attest to this).

When we’re infatuated, we miraculously overlook this fact. It often comes as a rude awakening when the rose-colored glasses fall off and we realize what we’ve done: idealized someone who’s pretty much just like everyone else.

Your loved one can get on your nerves, and you may find that it is actually harder to be patient with them than with other people.

This makes sense as you see your beloved’s flaws up close, day in and day out. Your patience wears thin quickly because it is tested more than with someone you only see every once in a while. Additionally, because of the level of comfort you have with each other, it can be more difficult to hold back a biting comment or otherwise express your annoyance toward them.

Love is patient, we are not.

This is why, as people who hope to love, who want strong relationships and marriages, who have people in our lives we want to love, we must attempt to conform ourselves to love by striving to be patient.

How though?


Patience is not contingent on the good behavior of others. People are going to screw up, in big ways and small. Things are not going to go as planned, and we will spend a lot of time waiting. Patience demands that we not react harshly to the inevitable instances when our loved ones demonstrate their weaknesses and faults, or when our life together is different from how we imagined it would be.

Love isn’t necessarily something we are just born understanding and able to flawlessly put into practice—far from it. We learn to love slowly, one moment at at time.

Furthermore, we must remember that our desires are not demands. In other words, what we want—especially for and from someone else—should not be imposed on them. Your loved one is not an extension of yourself. We have to accept who they are and where they are, and embrace their complete otherness.

Basically, we can accept that the person we fell in love with—and possibly idealized a little bit—is not perfect. And out of love, we are invited to not merely tolerate their shortcomings, but to be compassionate toward them.

Again . . . how?


Don’t react. It is entirely normal to feel impatient, annoyed, or frustrated toward your loved one. You don’t have to be cheery about the fact that they did something which disappointed you or hurt you in some way (again). Patience comes in the space between what you’re feeling and how you react.

We have a choice whether to react or to respond. Reacting is the immediate sassy comment, eye roll, frustrated sigh, or burst of anger. It is instinctive and thoughtless.

Responding is a deep breath followed by a thought-out, gentle remark or question—or a decision to “let this slide,” because you realize it’s not a matter worth bringing up.

A reaction doesn’t take into account the long-term consequences of an outburst; it is only concerned with the release of strong emotions being felt in the current moment.

The beauty about it is that love not only allows us to be in relationship with others but also makes us a-better-version-of-ourselves.

A response is able to order the emotions to the good of the relationship by holding back angry words or other wounding actions.

A reaction does not take into account the other; it is preoccupied with self. A response is an act of love toward the other and self.

A response serves the relationship, a reaction often wounds it.

Every time you find yourself getting annoyed or frustrated with your significant other, make an effort to see it not as an inconvenience but as an opportunity to love them. What that looks like will depend on the situation. Maybe you need to bring the matter up and have an earnest discussion about it. Maybe you can let it go, or maybe you need to wait to decide what the right course of action is. If you do end up talking about it, the conversation can be fruitful and loving and lead to a stronger relationship, instead of a heated and defensive argument.

Even if this means leaving the room to take a few deep breaths or saying a quick prayer in silence, the point is to give yourself the space you need to respond instead of react. This isn’t burying all your feelings deep down and piling on insincerity toward your loved one. It is finding the best way to handle the matter and not allowing your instincts to sabotage your relationships.

It’s highly unlikely that you will react to something that irks, frustrates, or disappoints you in a loving way. However, you will always have the choice to respond to even the most annoying of instances with love.

Pro tip: Empathy

While you’re taking time to respond, it helps if you step into your loved one’s shoes. Often we can assume the worst intentions because we refuse to simply walk a mile in the other person’s shoes.

Rarely do people do things out of malice. Honestly, most of the times people act out of what they believe to be right, habit, carelessness, or, at worst, woundedness.

If we can understand why our beloved does what they do (especially that which exasperates us), we are much more likely to handle it lovingly when we see that their motive is not to hurt us.

If you’re not sure, ask. In fact, as a general rule, seek understanding from your loved one about their perspective, and do your best to truly see them before you interject your opinions on the matter.

At first glance, it doesn’t feel like patience needs to be high on my priority list.

But when I think about it in the context of love and how patience really is woven into the greatest virtue of all, I realize that if I have any hope of being in lasting relationships with others and eventually a successful marriage, patience is indeed instrumental.

Love isn’t necessarily something we are just born understanding and able to flawlessly put into practice—far from it. We learn to love slowly, one moment at at time. But we keep trying. The beauty about it is that love not only allows us to be in relationship with others but also makes us a-better-version-of-ourselves.

Improvement is hard-earned, and sometimes the hard part is simply pausing when you feel the familiar rush of irritation welling up inside.

And remember: Patience is a virtue!

And, practice makes perfect!

And other annoying axioms.

23 Reasons Why I Won’t Go Out with You—And 3 Reasons Why I Might

You know what I wish?

I wish dating played out in real life more like it does in my head . . .

You dress up; he arrives at seven and is all like, “Woah, you look incredible!” (and you’re like, “Yeah, I know”); you have a fun night out (including a delicious free meal); you say a sweet goodbye; he says he hopes to “see you again soon.” You later fall asleep smiling as you recall how nice the evening was.

But in my experience, that is often not how it goes.

And maybe it’s just me (it usually is), but dating just seems to have gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. Especially when you think of what it was in our parents’ or grandparents’ generations.

The mystery of getting to know someone in person, the loveliness of saying goodbye at the door followed by a swift kiss on the cheek, the courtesy and gallantry . . . I often feel like it has all been replaced by screens and swipes and snaps and we-should-hang-out-sometimes.

I’m sure there are myriad reasons for this shift and that only part of it has to do with technology, but in any case, I’ve set out to correct it —at least in my own dating life.

So guys, know this: women do want to go out with you. We really do. But sometimes we can’t. We can’t because we want to be treated a certain way. We value certain qualities in a potential mate. We want to have a good and healthy relationship, not one determinedly doomed for a direly disastrous demise.

Pretty good alliteration there, huh?

Perhaps you find this list entirely unrealistic. But I can think of a world where these “high standards” were just the norm.

For your sake as much as mine, I put together this list of twenty-three reasons why I won’t go out with you.

Read it and weep, gentlemen.

Or laugh hysterically because you think I’m crazy.

1. I won’t go out with you because, as it turns out, you’re seeing someone else . . .

2. Or you stopped seeing someone else way too recently . . .

3. And, as it also turns out, you treat sex with the same gravitas as trying on a pair of khakis.

4. I won’t go out with you because you asked me out via some form of social media or over text and refuse to pick up the phone or talk to me in person (I guess you never got your cooties immunization).

5. I won’t go out with you because you still haven’t asked me, and I can only text someone for so long before I get bored or forget to respond. (For the record, I honestly don’t enjoy texting.)

6. I won’t go out with you because you have a “socialism’s not that bad” type of perspective—I guess it seems pretty reasonable when you’re living out of your parents’ basement.

7. I won’t go out with you because you’re too busy watching Netflix to pick up a book.

8. I won’t go out with you because you watch porn and are unwilling to stop.

9. I won’t go out with you because you don’t get the door for me, or anyone else.

10. I won’t go out with you because you can’t decide where we should go to eat, much less what you’re looking for in a relationship. Seriously, just pick one already. (But don’t pick a place I don’t want to go to.)

11. I won’t go out with you because you talk about yourself way too much and take yourself much too seriously.

12. I won’t go out with you because you respond to my jokes with a blank stare (I’m funny okay?).

13. I won’t go out with you because you’re on your phone while we’re together.

14. I won’t go out with you because you think Parks and Rec is better than The Office. That’s just wrong. It’s science.

15. I won’t go out with you because you have the gall to tell me I look “nice.”

I want to be challenged to be the-best-version-of-myself by the people I surround myself with. I suspect you might appreciate someone who pushes you to be the best man you can be.

16. I won’t go out with you because you’re lazy. Do some yard work. It won’t kill you.

17. I won’t go out with you because you’re too scared to talk about topics that really matter or anything controversial. And I’m deep. Like the ocean.

18. I won’t go out with you because you don’t take initiative, and I won’t wait around.

19. I won’t go out with you because you’re “more of a tea person.” Unless you’re British, in which case this is acceptable.

20. I won’t go out with you because you stand for nothing—so you’ll fall for anything.

21. I won’t go out with you because you don’t take care of yourself. “Sexy slob” is not a thing.

22. I won’t go out with you because you expect love to be easy.

23. I won’t go out with you because you laughed hysterically at this list and now you think I’m crazy.

Perhaps you find this list entirely unrealistic. You wouldn’t be the first (my ex thinks so, too). But I can think of a world where these “high standards” were just the norm. A world where men lifted their hats when they greeted a woman, where “calling on someone” meant actually seeing them and talking to them in person, where courtship trumped “talking” and commitment conquered fear.

Additionally, I know men who meet my expectations—and then some. And just as I want to be challenged to be the-best-version-of-myself by the people I surround myself with, I suspect you might appreciate someone who pushes you to be the best man you can be.

And if you don’t, maybe you should.

That said, here are three reasons I would go out with you:

1. You’re a good man.

2. You challenge me to be a better woman.

3. You’re willing to give it (relationships, life) all you’ve got.

So I guess now might be a good time for you to come up with all the reasons you wouldn’t go out with me . . . because I really can’t think of any.

3 Simple and Surefire Ways to Be Happier (with Rebuttals to All Your Silly Objections)

If you don’t want to be happier, go ahead and stop reading. I don’t want to waste your time.

If you do want to be happier . . . well, I still don’t want to waste your time. So here they are—my three simple ways to be happier:

  1. Get Off Social Media
  2. Stop Watching the News
  3. Read this Article

Pretty simple, right? But, wait. What’s this? You have objections? Okay, then! Let’s talk about all those silly excuses that cause you to resist happiness.

1. Get Off Social Media

As an older millennial (though I identify as a Gen-Xer), I know the risks of disparaging social media. My pronouncement of “Get off the Instagram!” will sound more like an irrelevant old curmudgeon’s cry of “Get off my lawn!” But I don’t care. Get off the Instagram! And . . . you know what? Stay off my lawn!

If you want to change the world, get off your phone, go outside, and change the world!

For years we’ve known there is an association between social media and depression. But there was always that nagging little voice of dissension saying, “Correlation doesn’t mean causation!” Well, sometimes it does. And this is one of those times. A recent study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology doesn’t just reaffirm the link between the two. It definitely shows that people are actually happier when they are not using social media.

With that said, let’s hear those excuses.

Silly Objection #1: But it’s how I keep up with old friends . . .

One of my biggest issues with social media is what it has done to the word friend. When I was using Facebook many moons ago, I had a “Friends List,” at its peak, of about 670 people. What a farce! I didn’t have 670 friends—not even close!

This word has been so watered down by social media, I posit we need a new word for a real friend. A person that will help you at the drop of a hat, at two o’clock in the morning no questions asked. How about . . . uberfreund?

You aren’t getting on social media to keep up with old friends. At best, you’re clinging to nostalgia and the glory days (I can empathize with this, but life moves on—you should move on with it). At worst, you want to peek in on former acquaintances to see how much weight they’ve gained since college.

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When I was growing up, before cell phones, it was easy to know who your real friends were. They were the people whose home phone numbers you had memorized. Today, I don’t know what it would be. But if you want to keep up with these people, I suggest you stop showing your friendship by clicking a thumbs-up icon and pick up the phone instead!

Silly Objection #2: But I hardly ever get on there anyway . . .

Good. If you rarely use it, then it should be pretty easy to stop completely. (Also, you probably use it more than you think!)

Silly Objection #3: But I won’t be able to debate politics . . .

I can vividly remember the post that did it. The post that changed my mind. It was eloquently written and deeply profound. It went against everything I believed in but was expressed with so much passion and clarity that I had to take a personal day off work to reflect upon all its meaning and nuance—to reflect upon my own life and decisions. That Facebook post was a mirror, and I did not like what I saw. It changed my life.

Oh . . . wait. No, it didn’t. This has never happened once in the history of ever.

If you want to change the world, get off your phone, go outside, and change the world!

Silly Objection #4: But it’s a great way to share photos of my kids with my family . . .

First of all, how big is your family that a simple email won’t get this done?

Second of all, from my experience, when it comes to photos on social media, people fall into one of two camps:

  1. People who post photos to show the world how amazing their life is.
  2. People who look at photos to compare their own lives to the fake lives presented on social media by the people in the first camp.

Neither camp is all that great. My advice: get off the hamster wheel of jealousy—there are better ways to burn calories.

Silly Objection #5: But memes and gifs and cat videos and stuff . . .

I get it. There’s a lot of funny, inspiring, amazing content shared on social media. Maybe you even found this very article linked in your Facebook feed. If you weren’t using social media, you wouldn’t be reading this now.

I am oddly okay with this. If the price of you being happier my wit and wisdom going unread, I will gladly pay for it. If my wit and wisdom not being read is the price of you being happier, I will gladly pay it. Maybe you’ve visited this site before, maybe this is your first time . . . but take a look around. Notice anything different about this site compared to ones like it? No ads. You aren’t an impression here. You aren’t a view nor a click. You are a human being. You deserve to be happy. And that’s all I really want for you.

Just because you like something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t make you miserable. Oddly enough, the things we like most are often the things that bring us the most pain.

Plus, you can bookmark this site and come back whenever you want, without going through the middle man. Or sign up at the bottom of the page to receive more articles via email. We’d love to have you!

2. Stop Watching the News

News platforms are desperate for your attention. So desperate, in fact, they will do anything for it. Anything! Even convert three feet of molehills into an entire mountain range—twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

But once again, studies are discovering that watching the news regularly can have a negative impact on your mental health. People who see negative images or stories regularly (that is to say, anyone who watches cable news regularly) experience higher levels of stress, anxiety, and mood swings.

Why put yourself through that?

Silly Objection #1: But I need to know what’s going on in the world . . .


How does knowing what terrible thing happened in New York make you a happier person in New Mexico? They didn’t need to know these things one hundred years ago. Or five hundred years ago.

Now get this. The brain is actually wired to want to hear bad news. We seek out these perceived dangers because—as far as our brains are concerned—we need to know where danger is coming from in order to survive. It wants to detect threats, not ignore them. This is why it’s so tempting to watch the news. This is also why—along with a dash of schadenfreude—we like to seek out juicy, horrifying gossip.

You don’t need that kind of negativity! Plus, there’s nothing you’ll hear in the news that you can’t find in War and Peace or the Bible or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Shakespeare or The Great Gatsby.

Silly Objection #2: But I really, really like it . . .

Gonna be honest. You might have me on this one. If you can say you genuinely enjoy watching the news and it doesn’t cause stress or anxiety, then go for it.

However, I will say this: “But I really, really like it . . .” is the same excuse every addict in the history of the world has and will use. Just because you like something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t make you miserable. In fact, oddly enough, the things we like most are often the things that bring us the most pain. Don’t ask me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Silly Objection #3: But I won’t be able to debate politics . . .

This again?! Did everyone take a debate course while I was in my second gym class senior year? Sheesh.

Look. I love a good debate. I will play devil’s advocate in any situation. In fact, in the Herbert Family, we can argue for hours before we realize we are all in agreement and arguing the same point. We even have a family motto: “He who is loudest is rightest!”

But what I don’t like about political debates is that 1) they are very shallow, and people don’t change their minds (and things get very personal, very quickly), and 2) we tend to condense beautiful, complex, lovely people into two camps (like I did just a few points ago in the social media section)—in this case, Left or Right.

Try having a real conversation with someone. Get to know them beyond Blue or Red. The news won’t tell you that your neighbor is a veteran who did two tours in Iraq, loves reading Harry Potter, breeds Guinea pigs, and is afraid of spiders. But a real conversation will.

Silly Objection #4: But I really only read or listen to the news . . .

Are we splitting hairs here? Fine. Instead of watching the news, just pretend I originally said consuming the news. Watching, listening to, reading, imbibing through osmosis, download it straight into your brain like in The Matrix, whatever!

Silly Objection #5: But, but, but . . .

Well, now you’re just embarrassing yourself.

3. Read this Article

Hey! You already did this one. Neat.

Be honest. You feel a little happier, don’t you?

Silly Objection #1: But I didn’t want to read this article . . .

Too late!

5 Kind of Fun Strategies to Stay Motivated at Work

When I was growing up, my mom often made us listen to one of her favorite bands, Pink Martini, as we drove around in our white minivan from one activity to the next.

They are an international jazzy sort of group that record songs in various languages: some originals, some classics, and all unlikely favorites of an eight-year-old who failed to realize this genre was too sophisticated for her.

One of my favorites was a French tune entitled “Sympathique” which translates to “Nice” or “Pleasurable.” This song taught me the only French phrase I know:

“Je ne veux pas travailler
Je ne veux pas déjeuner
Je veux seulement l'oublier
Et puis je fume.”

In English . . .

“I don’t want to work
I don’t want to eat breakfast
I only want to forget
And then smoke.”

In those days, I had little knowledge of what the words meant as I enthusiastically sang along . . . now I know better, and they often resonate with me.

Ultimately, motivation at work is something we can choose on any given day, including today!

There are definitely days I’d prefer not to go to work—although I don’t smoke, and I like to eat breakfast (or any meal, really).

I think we all have those days where we are unmotivated, don’t feel productive, or are just stuck in a work rut.

This doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, that you should quit, or stay home and smoke. There are simple, actionable steps you can take toward finding motivation at work once again (and none of them involve starting an unhealthy, expensive habit . . . even if I still think it looks cool).

1. Mix It Up

Routines are good and fine but sometimes if we’re in a rut, we need to snap out of it. Some ideas:

  • Get up early and go to a cozy coffee shop to read before work.
  • Stop by a local bakery and start your day off with a delicious croissant or breakfast sandwich.
  • If you’re married, surprise your spouse with an early breakfast in bed. (If you’re not married, try having breakfast at your kitchen table for once instead of over the sink seconds before running out the door).
  • Ask some friends if they want to get drinks on a random weeknight (or try your hand at bartending and invite them to your house for a cocktail).
  • Find a trivia event at a local restaurant or bar and make a team with your co-workers.
  • Go to an exercise class you’ve never tried before (kickboxing, barre, yoga, pilates, etc.).

A simple change in your day-to-day rituals can bring a sense of freshness, inspire your work week, and help you rekindle your motivation to kill it at your job.

2. Invest in Your Coworkers.

How well do you know the people you work alongside day in and day out? You may engage in small talk in the breakroom or greet them in the hallway, but do you know anything about them other than their job title?

View your work as a mission you have chosen to accept: “I will find meaning in this difficult or menial job, and I will do it to the best of my ability.”

It is worth getting to know the people you work with. This also gives you a greater incentive to work hard (even if you’re feeling unmotivated in a specific task) and be proud of the company you are a part of.

Invite someone from work to lunch or to grab coffee this week, it’ll break up your workday in a pleasant way and give you something to look forward to.

Just don’t invite Peter . . . he’s weird.

3. Elevate Your Workflow

“Change your habits, change your life.”

- Matthew Kelly

Do your work habits need changing? There are ways you can get yourself in the mood to work and have a productive day. Try listening to an inspiring work-related podcast on your way to the office, or read a chapter in one of these books:

You can also switch up your work playlist by making a new one or choosing one already crafted on Spotify, Pandora, or Youtube. Consider trying a genre you’ve never listened to before or checking out a new artist (maybe Pink Martini!).

Make sure your office is clean, and if you don’t have any photos or decor you enjoy, bring one or two pieces in to brighten up your workspace.

If you can bring a sense of purpose into your possibly mundane job, you will work harder, become a better coworker, and even improve your workplace.

I find my photos of myself incredibly inspiring. 😉

Find a few inspirational quotes that speak to you and place them where you can see them often.

There are also a plethora of productivity hacks to try when you’re feeling particularly unmotivated or tempted to procrastinate. You may have to practice trial and error, finding what works for you.

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4. Challenge Yourself

I have the privilege of having a job I enjoy. I know many people don’t. If you find your job meaningless or even downright painful, take heart.

View your work as a mission you have chosen to accept: “I will find meaning in this difficult or menial job, and I will do it to the best of my ability.”

Sometimes motivation just means a change in mindset. It can feel a bit like lying to yourself (bending the truth possibly), but the reality is that we need work. We need work because we have financial responsibilities, and we need work because (as much as that French song may have said otherwise) too much downtime isn’t good for us—and neither is smoking. (For the record, I do not endorse smoking.)

Please don’t sue me.

Find meaning and a sense of achievement in doing things well, even if no one notices.

You have a choice: to make the most of where you are and the work entrusted to you, or to let the days slip by.

Find meaning in the fact that you are providing for yourself and your loved ones (or potentially your future self or family).

Find meaning in the fact that work is designed to make us better people.

If you can bring a sense of purpose into your possibly mundane job, you will work harder, become a better coworker, and even improve your workplace.

Challenge yourself today: Do your job, and do it well. Smile at the coworker you’re not crazy about (but not at Peter, because he’s the actual worst). Pay extra attention to the task at hand instead of letting your mind wander. Make a to-do list to start your day in an organized manner . . .

And then take pride in the fact that you went the extra mile today (or extra inch), and thereby took one small step toward becoming a-better-version-of-yourself.

5. Be grateful

If you’re reading this, I would assume that you have a job. Not everyone does. Work—as sometimes frustrating, tiring, or boring as it can be—is a gift. Even if you are not where you want to be, even if you know this isn’t a “good fit,” be grateful that you have a regular paycheck, something to do, and an opportunity to do it with distinction.

You have a choice: to make the most of where you are and the work entrusted to you, or to let the days slip by full of wistfulness and “if onlys.”

My mother instilled in me a love for Pink Martini, but as much as I will belt the song with enthusiasm, I most likely won’t stay home and smoke anytime soon . . . even though I may not feel like working. Ultimately, motivation at work is something we can choose on any given day, including today!

Playing Defense: 4 Invaluable Parenting Tips for Preventing Bad Behavior

There is a common saying (which I think I just made up right now). How do you prevent your kids from behaving badly?

You don’t have kids!

Okay. I know what you’re thinking: Har har, Peter. But your title is promising me tips to prevent bad behavior, and you just implied you cannot prevent bad behavior. Why must you turn this website into a house of lies?!

Well, dear reader, you can never truly prevent your toddler from misbehaving. He is going to act out, he is going to test boundaries, and he is definitely going to tinkle in places you don’t want him to tinkle. You can, however, do everything in your power to prevent some bad behavior, even if you cannot prevent it entirely.

Before I jump into these life-saving tips, I want to make an important distinction. There are no bad kids. There is only bad behavior. It is frustrating to be a kid, and it's natural to express this frustration. Imagine going to a country you’ve never visited, where they speak a language you do not know. Now, imagine that everyone there is ten times larger than you. That’s what it’s like. You cannot communicate your wishes. You cannot understand others. And you can be picked up and plopped wherever the giants want to plop you. You’d be frustrated, too.

With that said, let’s dive in. Here are the four tried-and-true tips to help you prevent your toddler from misbehaving.

1. Provide Options

Most human beings don’t like being told what to do. Some will even do the opposite, just because. That is the burden of free will.

Toddlers thrive when operating within boundaries and within the familiar.

When you take charge as a parent and force your will upon your little one—and it won’t matter what it is—you will invariably be met with resistance. Seriously. You could say, “Eat this ice cream for breakfast!” and depending on your toddler’s mood, you might get a “No! No! No!” in reply.

If you give options, though, your toddler is given some degree of agency. “It’s time for breakfast. Did you want your green plate or your yellow plate?” Even if the choice is superficial, that’s all people—including toddlers—really want: choice.


  • “It’s time to go upstairs for a bath; do you want me to carry you, or do you want to walk?”
  • “We’re going to eat lunch; did you want grapes or strawberries with your hotdog?”
  • “I need to change your diaper; do you want to do it now or in one minute?”

2. Don’t Ask, Do Tell

I know what you’re thinking: Wait. Didn’t you just ask, like, ten gazillion questions in the tip above?

Yes. But notice that these questions all follow a declarative statement: It’s time to go upstairs, we’re going to eat lunch; I need to change your diaper.

When you ask a question, you must be prepared to accept the answer—otherwise, it’s better to not ask at all. In other words, if you say something like, “Want to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house?” and your toddler says, “No!” then you ideally wouldn’t go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. If you ask these types of leading question, expecting to get the answer you want, you should make every effort to follow through. Otherwise, your toddler will only be confused and frustrated when he answers differently, and you do the opposite anyway.

Lovingly teaching your child about consequences and how to make great decisions is the most important thing you can do as a parent.

My wife and I both suffer from a bad case of the “okays?” In some of our failed attempts at giving our toddler some autonomy in her life, we provide an option, but the worst kind—the kind that has an obvious answer we want and an obvious answer we do not want.

We are going to change your diaper now, okay?
We’re going to get dressed before we read a story, okay?
Don’t rub spaghetti into your hair like its dandruff shampoo, okay?

To break this habit, we are trying to replace “okay” with “understand.” The former can be confused with asking for permission, while the latter is just designed to help foster a dialogue with your little one (softening your commands).

“I am going to take away your toothbrush now, okay?”
“I am going to take away your toothbrush now, understand?”

See the difference? Words matter!

HOW TO APPLY: Get into the habit of telling your child what is going to happen—this part is not a choice: “We are going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.” And then dress that up in some options: “Do you want to wear your white shoes or your pink shoes?”

3. Give a Heads Up

If I am busy writing in my office and my boss shows up unannounced telling me to stop what I’m doing and come to a meeting, I would feel a good amount of stress. If this happened all the time, I would be downright upset. It’s disrespectful.

Yet we do this to children all the time. They will be playing happily when BLAMMO! Mommy or Daddy will just up and announce that it’s time to go to bed or eat dinner. Just because you are bigger and older doesn’t mean you don’t have to respect your little one—in fact, it is precisely because you are bigger and older that you should be extra careful and respectful about how you interact with your toddler.

HOW TO APPLY: Warn your toddler of impending change. Say things like, “In one minute we’re going to go inside.” Or, “We are going to play for five more minutes.” It doesn’t matter if your little tike doesn’t have any concept of time . . . time is a construct anyway!

4. Establish Routines

Toddlers, like most adults, thrive when operating within boundaries and within the familiar. They are more comfortable at home, around people they know, and will act out much less frequently than when their environment is constantly changing. This is why it’s important to establish routines in your toddler’s life and that you try to stick to them—even if it means sacrificing your own fun.

We keep a very strict bedtime for our daughter and almost never keep her up past it. I think a lot of friends and family think we’re crazy how obsessive we are about it. But, again, imagine if you couldn’t control much in your own life and someone else decided that instead of going to bed tonight, you were going to go hang out at a strange house for a few hours.

In other words, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

HOW TO APPLY: When you find a routine that works for you and your little one, try to stick to it. If you do need to break the routine, be sure to give a heads up—and try not to change too much all at once. This will only cause extra stress for your little one.

Your kid needs discipline. Rules and boundaries—paradoxically—make life freer and more open and exciting. Lovingly teaching your child about consequences and how to make great decisions is the most important thing you can do as a parent.

It won’t be easy. But it is the hard path that leads to greatness. You can walk it. And you’re not walking it alone. May the wind be always at your back; may the sun shine warm upon your face; and may your toddler not try to eat your dog’s droppings like a brownie.

You’ve got this. Good luck!

If you like this article, you will love . . .

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Love Is Patient, but I'm Not

What to Do When You Feel Lost (and a Little Scared)

Do you know where you’re going?

There are days I feel full of purpose and drive, charging ahead and crossing off my to-do list with vigorous enthusiasm.

And then there are days that I feel . . . well, lost.

I’m hit with the cold truth that adulthood doesn’t exactly look like an episode of Friends (that show has a lot of false advertising to answer for).

I don’t know why I’m here, where I’m going, or even who I am. It’s during these days that I question just about everything. My job, the town I live in, my proclivity for ending clauses in prepositions, my friendships, and pretty much every major life decision I’ve ever made . . . not to mention where on earth I’m heading (other than to the closest happy hour—ASAP).

It is during these days that I’m overwhelmed by hopelessness. I long for the safety and comfort I had as a child, which I’ve left behind. I wish the weight of responsibility wasn’t quite so heavy, or at the very least, that I had a map which directed me to where I was meant to be, to safety.

It is ironic that, as young children, we are impatient for the days when we will finally be “free.” When we can finally go wherever we want, be whoever we want, and do whatever we want.

Allowing ourselves to dream is how we become inspired and find direction. Have you dreamt about what kind of person do you want to be?

Milestones like getting your license, turning eighteen, going to college, and turning twenty-one are often eagerly anticipated as glorious occasions.

Until, sooner or later, you are rudely awakened by all sorts of bills, the high cost of living, separation from loved ones, forty-hour work weeks (and no summer vacation whatsoever), car troubles, and the vast expanse that is the unknown.

On these days, I inwardly repeat over and over again: I just want to go home.

I think I understand how Dorothy felt.

The problem is that “home” as I knew it doesn’t really exist anymore. And I’m sure this is the case for most of us out in the adult world. Our siblings and friends have moved away. We can no longer depend on our parents to support us, and even they cannot protect us from the decisions we are faced with (although they may try).

If you’re having one of those days (or weeks or months) when you feel lost; or when you’re overwhelmed by responsibility and the enormity of life; or if you are unsure where to go from here, what you are supposed to do, or what you want . . . here is my advice.

Step 1: Embrace the Discomfort

You don’t feel good. You may be on the verge of snapping and trying desperately to keep your bubbling emotions under wraps. Well, don’t. Suppressing emotions is widely known to be unhelpful and detrimental to your emotional and mental health. Feel what you need to feel. The more you fight it, the harder it will be to move on in a healthy way. If you’re at work or in another public place, go for a walk, sit in your car, or head for any other space you can get five minutes alone.

Treat your emotions as a guest in your home. You can let them in, observe them, spend some time with them, and eventually, one way or another, they will head on out.

You may not be able to do this in five minutes. But you can, over time, explore these difficult feelings by spending time alone in the classroom of silence.

Emotions are like children. The more we ignore them, the louder they get. And if you feed them after midnight, they turn into gremlins. Wait, that’s not children or emotions.

Anyway, if you’re feeling especially anxious or overwhelmed in this stage of life, take time daily to spend time alone and in silence, giving these unpleasant emotions your full attention and seeking to understand why they exist. During this time, journaling can be especially helpful.

Step 2: Practice Present Moment Awareness

There is goodness where you are right now.

Look out! The goodness is right behind you!

It may not look or feel this way. The situation may seem dire from where you’re standing or your future may appear helplessly unplanned, however, I am certain that you have things you can be grateful for at this very moment.

We get ahead of ourselves thinking about an uncertain future, which is why we have to be grounded in what is reality—not fear about what could be.

Whether it’s simply the ability to breathe, a sunny day, an encouraging word from a friend, your favorite song, a good hug, a hot cup of coffee, an epic high five, a paycheck, a warm sweater . . . they may seem minute compared to whatever concerns you’re facing, but gratitude is an enormous factor to overall happiness and well-being. Practicing with the small things will make it easier to see all the good—big and small—that exists in your life.

If you are worried about what is going to happen (whether it’s with work, a relationship, a financial or health burden, or life in general), remind yourself of where you are right now.

Often we get ahead of ourselves thinking about an uncertain future, which is why we have to be grounded in what is reality—not fear about what could be. The more we practice present moment awareness, the more we are able to give our full attention to life as it is and not as we fear it might be.

Fear =/= reality.

Unless you’re living in a horror movie. And if you do live in a horror movie, for heaven’s sake, don’t go in there!

Step 3: Dream a Dream

It’s easy to get lost in the practicality of the everyday, and then suddenly it’s five years later and you find yourself dissatisfied and discontent with your life.

Allowing ourselves to dream is how we become inspired and find direction. What do you want to accomplish, personally or professionally? Where would you like to go? What kind of person do you want to be? What is quality would you like to develop?

If you need some inspiration, read a book, pick up a magazine, or think about someone you look up to. What about them speaks to you? What are you drawn to? What do you want your life to look like?

It can be as simple as learning how to cook (well) or as big as moving across the world, but our hearts yearn for the things that will bring us fulfillment and joy—and too often we don’t give these “heart things” a chance.

Make a list of things you would like to do, and pick one to begin with.

You can do this in a dream journal (a plain ol’ journal for your dreams and goals). Write them down, evaluate them, and pick one or two to pursue at any point in time. How can you get started? What is a small, simple step you can take today? When do you want to achieve this goal?

Whether it’s saving ten dollars a week for a trip to Europe or inviting a few friends over for a small dinner party, we can and should pursue things that bring joy and meaning into our lives. We may convince ourselves that we don’t “need” these sorts of things or that they are not “realistic,” but it is our ability to dream which has brought every necessary change and thing of beauty into this world.

If you have no idea where to start, begin with these four questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What am I here for?
  3. What matters most?
  4. What matters least?

Step 4: Seek Counsel

Sometimes you just need to talk to someone. Choose wisely, someone with more experience and similar values to you is important. Peers are great, but very often they are not the best source of helpful, trustworthy advice. Instead, it might be a mentor; a pastor; a hilarious, gorgeous, intelligent woman who writes awesome articles; or just a friend who is a little more versed in the matter than you. Ask this wise person to meet you for coffee.

The process of unloading your struggles and talking through what you’re experiencing can be highly therapeutic in and of itself. You may also get some much-needed wisdom and perspective for what you are going through.

If you are experiencing severe unhappiness and anxiety, it might be worth seeking professional help in the form of a counselor or therapist. While there is a stigma around therapy, it is one of the most helpful and healthy things you can do (at least that’s what my therapist tells me).

As highly relational beings, we shouldn’t close ourselves off from the world when we’re going through something. It’s important to stay open and get help when we need it. A listening ear and a gentle word from someone who is looking out for you can go a long way.

Step 5: Challenge Your Mindset

“An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.”

- Gilbert Chesterton

This quote has stuck with me and is one I bring to mind often when faced with the frustrating, tedious, and uncertain parts of life. Life is an adventure. It’s not an easy drive that you can mindlessly cruise through. It’s full of highs and lows, challenges, beauty, goodness, and heartbreak.

You’ll never have it all figured out—none of us do. But you do have the ability to choose. To choose what kind of person you want to be, and what you would like to do with this short, precious life. You also have a calling, should you choose to accept it (though this calling won’t self-destruct in five seconds, probably). A mission you were specifically created for that will make you a-better-version-of-yourself, bring you joy and fulfillment, and make the world a better place (cliché, but true).

Even if you’re facing something particularly difficult or simply feel at a loss for why you’re here, find comfort in this truth: you were made for a purpose, and no one else can fulfill it.

The world needs you and all you have to offer. You have immense value in who you are—brokenness and all. Don’t let fear and discouragement rob you of this fact. It’s okay to be down, just know that the moment will come for you to get back up. The world needs you to.

Mo Money, Mo Problems: How to Make a Budget for Beginners

A few months ago I had a rude awakening, which led me to discover the importance of making a budget.

Basically, I was making more money than I ever had before in my life, yet a vast majority of it was mysteriously disappearing.

To my surprise, it wasn’t a lawless bandit getting away with my earnings. I was the guilty one. Me and my craft-beer-drinking, trend-adhering, no-expense-sparing self.

Like I said, it was a rude awakening.

I had never given budgeting much thought other than when my family (or certain *ahem* coworkers) brought it up, insisting it was necessary—to which I would roll my eyes and then hastily change the subject.

Having finally come to the conclusion myself the hard way (ah, how the mighty have fallen), I realized I had no idea where to start.

After doing a tiny bit of research of my own and then asking for a lot of help, I was able to break down into the following simple steps the seemingly scary process of creating a personal budget. I tried to make it as straightforward and even fun as possible (fun might be a strong word . . . fun-ish, perhaps).

First and foremost: A budget is a tool designed to save you money, not merely to observe where all your money went last month. In other words, you are in charge of where your money goes.

Choice. It’s a thing, and you have it.

Having said that, here are some tips for getting started with your monthly budget:

1. Audit

Spend one to two months recording what you spend your money on. Try to break it down into categories. The most common are savings, emergency fund, groceries, gas and transportation, mortgage or rent, car payment, charitable giving, entertainment, personal, clothing, saving for vacation, debt and student loans, bills (cable, internet, garbage, water, electricity, gas, phone, etc.), and miscellaneous.

Make it easy: This should be simple enough if your bank has an app, which most do. Look it up in the app store if you don’t have it already. Download it, and then log in. It will keep track of every single transaction you make. All you have to do is pull it up on your phone at the end of the month!

2. Savings come first—period

This money (savings means “retirement”) is untouchable. It’s ideally 15 percent of your salary.

Make it easy: Start small (e.g., 3 to 5 percent) and increase by 1 or 2 percent every year (or more often, if you can). Simply talk to your HR person about how to allocate a certain percentage of each paycheck to a different account (this would be your savings). They can walk you through the process if you’re not sure how to set this up . . . yay Toby!

Make it fun: Saving can feel like a pain in the derriere. A good way to build this crucial habit of setting aside money is to celebrate! When you’ve achieved a certain milestone in your savings account (you can decide this number ahead of time), pop open a bottle of champagne with a few friends and raise a glass to financial freedom.

3. Build your emergency fund

You need to have a solid emergency fund in place. Only you can determine what you are comfortable with, but let’s just say three months’ salary in liquid cash. That means not only saving for your retirement, but also for your safety net. This will ensure a safety net when your car breaks down, your fridge stops working, or a health problem crops up.

Talking about finances is never fun, and keeping track of them can be even less so. But it will be infinitely worth it.

Make it easy: This should be your priority if you don’t have an emergency fund already. Decide how much you feel comfortable with for this purpose and then create an account just for emergencies. Set aside money in your monthly budget for this account, and then when you’ve reached the allotted amount, you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do if your car breaks down somewhere down the line.

After you’ve finished building your emergency fund (huge accomplishment, by the way), you can put that money toward your retirement fund.

4. Pick a software

Mint and EveryDollar have good free options. Find a budgeting app you like and start setting up the categories you determined in your audit. Some premium (paid) features allow you to connect directly to credit cards and bank accounts. This is probably not worth it, especially if you are looking to save money. The point of the app is to keep track of how much you’re spending and how much you have left in your budget. It can feel like a nuisance when every time you make a purchase you have to type it in, but it is well worth the small trouble, and it makes it a lot easier to stay in your budget.

5. Create your budget.

Determine how much you bring in per month. This might vary based on how you are paid (usually either twice a month or every two weeks.) This is your pool of money to work with. Now, break it down into your categories. Be realistic. If you spent $500 on groceries during your audit months, don’t commit to a $200 budget on groceries. You are only setting yourself up to fail.

Make it easy: I used this excel document (download or PDF) which made it easy peasy for me, I just had to plug in the numbers!

Make it fun: This doesn’t have to be as boring or painful as it sounds. Get your comfy clothes on, pour yourself a beer (although beware of the pricey craft selection), turn on some tunes, and get started. You can also have a gathering of a few friends if you all are in need of getting your finances in order.

6. Report your spendings

Get in the habit of entering any purchase into your budgeting app immediately after it happens so things don’t get ignored or missed.

You’re setting yourself up for success financially and becoming truly independent.

Another way of doing this is to take twenty minutes a week (Saturday or Sunday evening, for example) to look through all your spendings and physically write them down in a notebook. It may sound tedious, but with music and a glass of wine, it won’t feel as painful. This process will help you keep a close eye on your finances and develop intentionality about your budget.

Make it fun: Every time you do this, you can do your happy dance or listen to your favorite song because you’re killing it.

7. Pause before you pay

Really hold yourself accountable to the budget you made by learning to do without. Get in the habit of checking your budget before making purchases. As restricting as this sounds, I promise that you’re really freeing yourself from the slavery of immediate gratification and clutter. You’re setting yourself up for success financially and becoming truly independent.

Make it fun: Challenge yourself and a group of friends to a no-new-purchase month. During this time, don’t buy anything you don’t strictly need (i.e. food, gas . . .). If you feel tempted, shoot one of these friends a text to hold yourself accountable—a little encouragement can go a long way. After the thirty days are up, treat yourselves to a fun night out!

8. Keep it up

You will need to do a budget every month because you will have different needs every month. I know, I know it may feel like drudgery at times, but I swear it’s so worth it. Too many people experience the fallout of poor financial planning and suffer a lot of strain and discontent because of it. This doesn’t have to be you.

9. Pick yourself back up

When you fail (you will probably fail at some point or another), strive to do better next month. Constantly review where you are going over budget and how you can do better.


  • For large purchases, save in advance for them by budgeting small amounts leading up to the purchase. If you need to buy a couch, do not use the emergency fund (there are very few couch emergencies!). Instead, do with a Goodwill couch and save $50 a month for several months—and then buy a new couch.
  • Use cash whenever possible. If you have a $100 a month for entertainment, take out $100 from the ATM on the first of the month and that is that. When you run out of that money, you have to wait until next month. Credit cards make it disastrously easy to cheat.
  • If you finish paying off a debt, like a car payment, continue making those “payments” into a separate account for when you’ll need to buy a new car years from now. This way you aren’t paying interest on another car loan in the future (interest is a killer). It is tempting to enjoy the new amount of money each month . . . but it’s a trap!
  • Talking about finances is never fun, and keeping track of them can be even less so. But take it from someone who sorely needed this advice six months ago . . . it’s dead useful and will be infinitely worth it.

A Guide to Nontoxic Masculinity: How to Be a Good Guy, Starting Today

Don’t grope people!

As of writing this, men, this sentiment seems to be the bar we have set for ourselves. As long as you can manage to keep your hands to yourself, you’re considered a decent guy. If a male celebrity can get through his career without a sex scandal, it feels nothing short of a miracle. What happened?

Guys, this was going to be my intro (and, I guess, technically it still is). But then I thought about all the men in my life. Strong men of faith. Amazing fathers and loving husbands. Veterans and farmers and teachers. Men with beards and muscles. Men who wear skinny jeans and write poetry. Laconic men and garrulous men. Men who drink only Budweiser and men who drink nothing but craft beer. Serious men and hilarious men. Great thinking men and great feeling men. All of them good men.

Despite what the media and culture say, the great majority of men already know how to be good. Being a good guy is the same as being a good human—i.e., you avoid being a jerkwad. You do what you learned in kindergarten and follow the Ten Commandments. Not perfect, but good.

Maybe I am just lucky, but most of the men I know are not rapists, gropers, or cat-callers. The problem is, there seems to be a philosophy out there gaining traction that says you cannot be manly and good at the same time.

A real man loves with everything he’s got.

This is why I don’t care to discuss how to be a good guy. But instead, how to be a good guy—how to be a good man. Or, in other words, how to be good at being a man.


What does it mean to be strong? It means that you beat up nerds and stuff them in lockers every chance you get. Duh.

This, I hope, is obviously a joke. Because strength does not mean violence or rage—and it never did. A violent storm can be considered strong. So can a mild current. A storm’s impact is brief and fleeting; the slow current moves mountains and shapes the planet.

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A good man is a strong man. He is not afraid nor ashamed of his strength. And this doesn’t have to mean only physical strength (though it certainly does mean that, too); it can also mean strong beliefs, strong principles, and the strength and courage to defend these beliefs and principles.

A good man uses his strength, not to push down the weak, but to carry the weak on his shoulders—like Atlas carries the world, or like Christ carries his cross. A good man is strong.


  1. Read books written by strong men (e.g., J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Fulton Sheen, Robert Penn Warren) or read books about strong men (Louis Zamperini, Winston Churchill, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Oskar Schindler). The Bible is another great place to start to see the best (and worst) of men. St. Paul did much of his writing from prison. That’s pretty manly.
  2. Hit up the gym. Or do push-ups each night. You don’t have to be built like The Rock to be a good man, but you should treat your body well and take your physical health seriously.


If it helps, there is another word for disciplined . . . “free.”

A good guy is free—free from addiction, free from fear, free from impulsivity.

Most of the sins of men—and I will not deny that history is painted black with too many of them—come down to one simple reality: A man was not in control of himself. He lacked discipline. He was a slave to his impulses. And an impulsive man is a dangerous man.

Self-mastery is the key to being a good man. Denying yourself certain worldly pleasures is not an idea you will hear championed very often. In fact, the media and culture—the same media and culture that tell us how scummy men are—will tell you, “If it feels good, do it.” But a good man is a disciplined man.

A man’s will and his word are everything. Do whatever you can to never break either.


  1. Fast. Pick a day of the week and, if you’re healthy enough, don’t eat that day. Or, don’t snack between meals. Or, don’t have sweets on weekdays. The discipline you gain from fasting will spill over into all areas of your life.
  2. Take cold showers. It’s terrible—believe me—but it is one of the ultimate examples of self-denial. You are proving to yourself that you are in control, not your senses or desires.


Good men are kind. Good men rewind. (If you do not understand this reference, ask your dad about his Blockbuster card.)

Kindness is not weakness. I know what you’re thinking: “Nice guys finish last” or “Girls don’t like nice guys!”

The problem here is confusing “nice” with “kind” . . . they are not the same thing. We have too many nice guys and not nearly enough good guys. Nice guys still ogle. Nice guys still “ask for nudes.” Nice guys still look at pornography. Nice guys still grope.

Niceness is a façade. It is an outward presentation—for the sake of the self. Kindness, on the other hand, comes from the heart—for the sake of the other. How can you tell the difference?

A nice man will act a certain way when he knows he is being watched and another way when he knows he isn’t.

A kind man will act the same, virtuous way whether he is being observed or not.


  1. Practice patience. Understanding that everyone is dealing with their own “stuff” is one of the best things you can do. Give the benefit of the doubt and relax!
  2. Practice humility. One way to do this is to give generously and volunteer often. Another great way to do this is to not let your career or title define who you are. Let your relationships matter most in life, not the horsepower of your car or the square footage of your house—because have you ever met a humble jerk? Yeah. Me neither.


There are jars to be opened and bugs to be squashed! Get your shining suit of armor out of storage; it’s time to mount up!

Chivalry has become a bit of a dirty word these days, hasn’t it? Opening the door for a woman is perceived as Bond villain levels of madness. But chivalry, at its most basic, is just the idea that it is man's duty to protect women and children—at all costs.

A loving man is kind, even to his enemies. And the loving man is chivalrous to the point of absurdity.

This ruffles feathers. But think about it. A female wolf can sure as heck take care of herself. But that doesn’t mean the alpha male won’t put his life on the line to defend her (and her pups). It’s not that the woman can’t do it herself; it’s that the man should do it for her.

It’s common sense! Men were designed to protect women and children. It is our role. It is why we are shaped the way we are, it is why we are wired the way we are, and it is why testosterone courses through our bodies.

When a man hurts a woman, when he uses his strength to take advantage of a woman, he is going against nature. He is going against manhood itself.


  1. Stop looking at porn. We are just now learning all the negative side effects of porn and what it can do to a man’s brain. But we both know that the man watching that stuff in the dark, by himself, behind a locked door . . . he is not the-best-version-of-himself.
  2. Call, don’t text. If you want to ask out a girl, pick up the phone and call her. Have the courage to get rejected. Be bold! Be chivalrous!


Love is the manliest thing you can do.

You were put here to love. Love your wife, love your daughter, love your son, love your friends, love your neighbor, love your co-workers . . .

It is love, above all else, that makes a man a man.

We need more real men, not fewer. Strong men. Disciplined men. Courageous men. Honorable men. Honest men. Loving men.

A loving man has the strength to do the right thing, even when that’s the hard thing. A loving man has the discipline to deny himself the things he knows will bring him (or others) misery. A loving man is kind, even to his enemies. And the loving man is chivalrous to the point of absurdity.

A real man loves with everything he’s got.


  1. Practice romance. Write poetry or love letters. Cook your wife or girlfriend dinner. Surprise your beloved without an agenda. And if you are single, love your future wife by being the best man you can be.
  2. Die for your family. Each day. It is your duty to serve your wife and kids. Even after a 10-hour day and a 7-day week of work—this is your purpose. There is no “what’s in it for me” . . . your wife and kids come before you (and your career). Be present. Listen. Sacrifice.

We need more real men, not fewer. Strong men. Disciplined men. Kind men. Chivalrous men. Courageous men. Honorable men. Honest men. Manly men. Loving men. These are the qualities of a good man. These are the qualities of a man you’d want your daughter to marry.

Basically, what I am saying is this:

If you want to be a good man . . . BE A MAN!

What You Can Learn from My Month Without Wi-Fi

It started out of laziness. I didn’t want to call the internet company.

And so a week went by.

Finally, I did call. I spoke with a kind woman from somewhere across the ocean who informed me that my address wasn’t showing up in their system.

So I gave up.

I could have investigated further, but after the first few days of living without internet, I wondered if maybe I didn’t really need it after all.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t.

My biggest hesitation about getting Wi-Fi was that I knew I would be tempted to stay at my new place enjoying the thousands of ways you can entertain and distract yourself online—instead of, you know, actually living.

Moving is hard. Starting over is hard. Meeting people is hard. Starting a new job is hard.

You know what’s easy? Watching The Office for three hours.

I have an unfortunate tendency of using technology as a crutch: When I’m sad, there are funny YouTube videos of old Saturday Night Live skits to watch. When I’m annoyed or frustrated, I can scroll through Facebook and read other people’s rants about politics to distract myself from my own woes. When I’m lonely, I can choose from a plethora of cheesy rom-coms to escape the discomfort of an aching heart.

It’s so darn easy.

So I decided—only partially motivated by laziness—to cut the cord (pun intended) and take a little sabbatical from my technological ways (at least while I was at home).

It was honestly one of the most freeing things in the world.

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In a way, it kind of felt like being a kid again . . . when you’re only allowed to watch TV at certain times, and your parents urge you to “go play outside.” You act as if they are exiling you to Siberia—and then go outside and have an absolute ball.

That’s what it felt like.

I realized there was a whole wide world out there—unknown and a little scary, yes—but also incredibly wonderful. I ventured so many places I otherwise wouldn’t have. Just knowing I couldn’t go home and watch Michael Scott’s antics until I fell asleep motivated me to stay out and spend my afternoon exploring.

I walked the city streets, found my favorite restaurant, went to the park, sought out live music, made new friends, wrote, read, called my family, attended events where I knew next to no one, finally made some headway on that stack of books that’s been guilting me, had fruitful conversations with my roommate, chatted with strangers, went on a couple of impromptu dates, learned to sit alone in the silence . . . I lived.

Technology is a good thing. But it’s not the best thing.

Of course, there were also a lot of difficulties that came from the absence of a faithful crutch. I experienced more discomfort during those days than I had in a while. I had to face head-on all the feelings I had been hiding from behind a screen. It was not pleasant, but it was real.

The great thing, too, is that during what was roughly a month and a half of no Wi-Fi, I discovered the beauty of spending time away from screens. Which means that, even now that we do have Wi-Fi (thanks to my much more responsible roommate), I have been able to resist the temptation to fall back into my wireless habits.

Technology is a good thing. But it’s not the best thing.

The best things in life are a good kiss, a long hug, an honest conversation, a sunrise, an act of forgiveness, a hard run, a loud laugh, a loving gaze . . . those are the moments. And you don’t need Wi-Fi to experience them. In fact, Wi-Fi may prevent you from experiencing them.

If you take away anything from my time without Wi-Fi, know that your best life—the-best-version-of-yourself—exists off the web. It is not your curated photos or clever captions. It will not come in an Amazon box or make an appearance in a funny skit. This is it—and while you’re scrolling through pictures of people you hardly know and watching shows you’ve seen ten times, time is passing you by and gently bending your spine.

Life is short, friends.

I know it seems like a harmless, trivial thing, but I fear that I am losing my zest for life and opting to hide in the virtual world instead. As pretty and perfect and convenient as it may be, this world is just not real.

I also realize the irony that you are reading this online (and I’m writing this on my computer). Again, my message is not to condemn technology, but rather to encourage using it appropriately instead of excessively. In any case, I’d rather you never read another article from me again if it means you are enjoying your life and being present to each and every precious moment.

This week, I invite you into your own home, with your family and friends. Enjoy your time with them and make the most of it—you don’t have as much of it as you think you do.

The-best-version-of-yourself exists off the web. Enjoy your life and be present to each and every precious moment.

You probably have Wi-Fi, and getting rid of it may not be a feasible option. So, here are some ideas to unplug without having to call the kind woman from somewhere across the ocean to cancel your internet service.

  • After my W-iFi sabbatical, I changed my phone settings so that everything displayed in black and white. This has been super helpful in my attempt to use my phone less. The chemical reaction isn’t as strong and makes it less addictive.
  • During the week, I strive to leave my work computer at work. It’s one less screen to worry about, and it decreases the temptation to do things online—including “finishing up” work things that can wait.
  • When I’m out with friends, I try to just leave my phone in my bag. I might take it out to take some pictures (of course everyone wants to know my every move), but I don’t just leave it out on the table if we’re eating out or getting coffee. Even facedown, it’s still a distraction. To be completely honest, this one is still pretty difficult for me—but I want to keep working on it.
  • I have a designated chair in my living room and another in my bedroom with blankets and a lamp that I use for reading. Having cozy spots like this make opening a book feel more inviting and relaxing, thereby decreasing the temptation to watch a show instead.
  • This may seem a bit extreme but we don’t have a television at all. I have no plans of getting one, either. We have a lovely piece of artwork on the mantle over the fireplace, and it makes me so happy every time I look at it. I wanted our living room to be a place for heartfelt conversations, hearty laughter, and shared memories—not Netflix marathons. I know this could be asking a lot . . . just think about it.

I want to live a life brimming with moments—ordinary moments with none of the curated perfection and all of the beauty this broken world has to offer. During my time without Wi-Fi, I was reminded that these moments are waiting for me, just beyond the screen in front of my face—and I suspect they there are waiting for you, too.

25 Inspirational Quotes to Keep You Motivated with Your New Year’s Resolutions

New year, new you!

Until it’s mid-January and you realize that training for a 10K wasn’t as exciting as you thought it would be. In fact, running for more than twenty minutes is downright torture, if you ask me.

It’s become a common phenomenon to set resolutions for the New Year; to view January 1 as a fresh start, a new leaf.

Personally, I love beginnings. A new season, year, month, week . . . sponge (it’s so exciting when you get to wash dishes with one that is bright yellow instead of slightly brown).

I love new beginnings, as most people do, because of the hope they inspire. Things don’t have to stay the way they were; there is a time for change, an opportunity for growth, and endless possibilities. And the biggest, brightest possibility is the change you can make toward becoming the best-version-of-yourself.

Often, the challenge is that we may have every intention of seizing these fresh starts, but soon after, we drop the ball in one way or another. We set goals and fail to accomplish them, maybe fail to even come close.

For this reason, it’s pretty easy to develop a healthy skepticism toward New Year’s resolutions (at least if you’re like me and prone to cynicism).

You may have been let down one too many times to partake in this annual ritual, and I certainly hesitated before writing down 2019 goals, but I think New Year’s resolutions can “work.” There are things you can do to help you along the way such as . . .

  • setting goals that are realistic for you, e.g., eating one serving of veggies per day if right now you’re not eating any.
  • setting goals that are more or less enjoyable, e.g., if you hate running, don’t force yourself to be a runner—try a different type of exercise! There’s a whole wide world out there of ways you can stay active: pilates, yoga, swimming, kickboxing . . .
  • setting goals that are actionable, e.g., I will exercise two times per week, instead of I will get into shape.

Additionally, it is important to stay inspired. Inspiration can play a large role in the way we lead our lives, especially when it comes to doing things that are challenging.

“People don’t do anything until they’re inspired, but once they’re inspired, there is almost nothing they can’t do.”

To help you keep the inspiration going in 2019, I’ve pulled together a list of some beautiful, inspirational quotes. I tried to find them a bit off the beaten path, so hopefully you haven’t heard them a million times before. Read them, read them again, and maybe even write your favorite one down and place it somewhere you can see it often.

The more we are regularly flooded with inspiration, the more we will find ourselves willing to be pushed outside of our comfort zones to accomplish great things (even if that great thing is eating a serving of green beans tonight).

Here are twenty-five inspirational quotes to keep you motivated as you work toward your goals for the coming year. And remember, our lives change when our habits change.

“Don’t ever be afraid of things. It’s such a dreadful slavery. Let’s be daring and adventurous and expectant. Let’s dance to meet life and all it can bring to us, even if it brings scads of trouble and typhoid and twins!”

“I found it is the small, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay . . . small acts of kindness and love.”

“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

“We are what we believe we are.”

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside of us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

“The future starts today, not tomorrow.”

“Perhaps I am stronger than I think.”

“You have been chosen. Therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.”

“Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.”

“Let us come alive to the splendor that is all around us and see the beauty in ordinary things.”

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is beauty, admire it. Life is a dream, realize it.”

“The way get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

“Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

“It is time to dare and to endure.”

“I figure life’s a gift, and I don’t intend on wasting it.”

“Not all that is gold glitters, not all who wander are lost.”

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

“Even miracles take a little time.”

When life gives you lemons give them back and tell them you want coffee.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

“Press forward, and fear nothing.”

It is a new year, and we are given a new day every twenty-four hours—pretty cool, huh? New beginnings are provided continually; therefore, let us not grow weary or give up on our resolutions simply because we feel tired or because we already dropped the ball.

The world needs you to be fully alive and inspired to the brim. Take a few minutes to look over those New Year’s resolutions again, and remind yourself why you set them in the first place. Change is healthy, necessary, and always possible.

Here’s to a year full of beauty, wonder, and growth ahead.

Life is choices. What choices will you make this year?

16 Things That Make My Daily Life Better

Most mornings, I’m not exactly thrilled when my alarm goes off.

I don’t jump up and down in excitement when something else gets added to my plate at work or it’s time to pay bills or someone bails on me. Things happen on a daily basis that get on my nerves . . . even if they are the smallest of offenses.

The ensuing anxiety and frustration can blind me from all the goodness, beauty, and wonder that surrounds me daily, and they ultimately rob me of my life—the life I want to live. The life that is good and joyful and chock-full of countless opportunities to practice gratitude.

Gratitude is the reality check that the sullen, angsty teenager living inside of me needs.

In this moment of gratitude, we are surrounded by good things. We only need to pause long enough to make note of them.

I know I often need help remembering this. Maybe you do, too. If so, here is a list of things you and I can be grateful for right now (even if you’re having a really annoying day).

1. Music

There really is nothing so wonderful as a good song. I mean songs that somehow understand what you’re experiencing and can convey that beautifully. How does that even happen?! There are songs I’ve listened to probably hundreds of times . . . because I can (and because they’re amazing). A couple of my current favorites are “Farther Along” by Josh Garrels and “The Storehouse” by Gray Havens.

2. Sunshine

Walking outside and feeling the warmth on your face . . . it’s incredible. Especially after a few days of rain (which happen often here in Cincinnati where I live and work). The shining sun is something I hope I never take for granted again.

3. Laughter

A good laugh is a cure for even the most tiresome of days. When a coworker makes me genuinely laugh, my whole day is vastly improved. I am very blessed that I am presented with countless opportunities to laugh daily. Even on the days where it’s more difficult to find those opportunities for mirth, I spend a few minutes looking at memes and suddenly everything’s okay again. Example: I enjoyed writing this article a thousand times more when I decided to incorporate GIFs (#bestjobever).

4. Words

Have you ever read something that resonated with you at a deep level? It doesn’t really matter who wrote them or when, words have a way of nourishing and inspiring us that I can’t help but be in awe of. There are quotes and passages from books that I can confidently say have changed my life for the better. Example: Sometimes I’ll look up quotes by some of my favorite authors for a little inspiration. A recent find is the following from author C. S. Lewis:

“Each day we are becoming a creature of splendid glory or one of unthinkable horror.”

5. Wonder

When was the last time you were in awe of something? It’s so easy for us (at least for me) to become jaded as adults. We rarely let ourselves be awestruck—it’s not “cool.” But being truly in awe of something—the stars, a mountain, a beautiful song or story—is actually the appropriate response to the wondrous things in life . . . and it’s so freeing.

6. Green space

Wide open spaces just make my soul happy. Parks, the countryside, backyards . . . somehow I can’t help but be more relaxed and carefree when I’m surrounded by green. Science has proven that green space improves our mood, satisfaction, and personal sense of peace. Example: Yesterday I picked up some donuts and went to a park with an incredible view—my roommate and I made the most of an incredibly beautiful fall evening, and it was just what I needed.

7. Mornings

Yes, it’s hard to get out of bed (like, really hard), especially if it’s still dark out—but it’s so worth it. The brisk air, the mysterious colors, the peaceful silence, and the infinite possibilities. It is so worth it. Starting my day earlier has really set me up to make the most out of my week and appreciate every moment we’re given.

8. Blankets

They are the best thing, aren’t they? So warm, so cozy, so lovely. Every cold morning that I snuggle up with my biggest blanket and a mug of hot coffee . . . I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly content.

9. Affirmations

Kind, honest words are like a blanket for the heart. They provide warmth and comfort that I can hold on to. A genuine compliment is something I treasure and make an effort to give out often.

10. Walks

Moving is so good. It is so darn easy and comfortable to sit for long hours at my desk . . . a little too comfortable. Getting up and going for a walk helps wake me up, clear my head, and come back with a little more clarity and focus (plus it’s a healthy habit to get into).

11. Photographs

I know today we just snap a million photos with our smartphones and then never look at them again, so pictures aren’t really a big deal. But a candid, beautiful photo of a loved one is something I treasure. Photographs allow us to capture sacred moments with friends and family and revisit them as often as we’d like, something I am infinitely grateful for.

12. Colorful leaves

As I write this, the tree outside my window bears some of the prettiest leaves I’ve possibly ever seen. The shades of gold and red take my breath away each time I glance out the window. My work day is improved one thousand percent because of this natural phenomenon that occurs in the fall.

13. Good listeners

Those people who make you feel important and valued, who not only hear what you are saying but also what you’re not saying . . . I am so lucky to have people like that in my life. We all want to be seen, heard . . . known. It’s easy to think about ten other things when someone is talking to us, but I know that when we put all our focus on who is in front of us it makes a world a difference.

14. Children

Every time I see a child or get to spend time with one, I am so appreciative. Children are such wonderful teachers for us grown-ups. They show us how to be, as opposed to just do things all the time. They are naturally inclined to authenticity and purity. I love kids and am grateful for every second I have with them.

15. Stories

Reading, in general, makes me so happy, but recently I’ve felt especially grateful for those great storybooks that never get old. Reading Gone with the Wind has reminded me of all the goodness and beauty that exists within the imagination of creatives such as Margaret Mitchell (and many, many others) who took the time to write these classic novels. Perhaps the most incredible part is how much truth these pieces of fiction reveal.

16. Generosity

The only reason I’m here (alive and well) is because of the generosity of others. My parents, my friends, my coworkers, the gifts of others (time, money, advice) have sustained me since the beginning of my precious life. Just this morning, I had to get a ride to work from my roommate. Yesterday evening, my friend’s father dropped off a couch they no longer needed. There are thousands of instances I could recall that have gotten me to where I am today, and they all include the lavish generosity of others.

You get the point. There is so, so much to be grateful for in this short life that it's mind-numbing. So, even if you are having a quite frustrating day, take a second to say the one thing we all need to say more often: thank you.

7 Things to Avoid When Raising a Toddler

I do not play a father on TV, but I am one in real life.

Am I an expert? I don’t know . . . ask me again in thirty years. But I have been given a lot of parenting advice (from books, online, family and friends, or even unsolicited from complete strangers). Most of the advice I’ve gotten is great. Some of it has been not so great.

And just so we’re clear. I have tried (whether deliberately or accidentally) all the things on this list. They didn’t work for us, and I doubt they’ll work for you—especially considering that parenting is a marathon and not a sprint.

Here are the seven things I would advise you to avoid when raising a toddler.

1. Distracting

You see the shoulders lift and the hands clench. A tantrum is imminent. “Quick! Look at that butterfly! Wow!” Crisis averted.

I see this offered as advice all over the place—and my wife and I are fairly guilty of it ourselves—but distracting your toddler right before or even while he’s having a meltdown solves approximately nothing. It is a temporary fix at best. Avoiding conflict is almost never the correct course of action.

Instead, use these meltdowns as an opportunity to teach your toddler. Let him feel what he needs to feel, and let him express what he needs to express—and then explain your position to him. If you’re setting expectations, it should be easy: “I said you only get one cookie. I know you’re upset you can’t have another, but I am not going to let you.”

If you’re in public, it’s an opportunity to work on your “parent shrug.” I’ve perfected mine.

2. Giving In

Sometimes this advice is dressed up as “pick your battles,” but it boils down to caving and letting your child have their way.

Parenting is hard. But when you are really struggling, find comfort in this thought: If this isn’t the hardest thing you’ve ever done, you’re doing it wrong.

When you give in, what you are really doing is avoiding conflict. You say, “No! You cannot have another cookie.” And then your toddler cries and cries and—OMG! Look at that pouty face!—and your heart melts, and you have a headache anyway . . . what harm can one more cookie do? A lot of harm, actually. Kids, even toddlers, will learn how to manipulate you to get their way from a very early age. Giving in is a short-sighted solution. Stay strong!

3. Doing “Whatever It Takes”

I hear this one thrown out a lot, and I think it—like most parenting advice—comes from a good place. Basically, the advice is to “survive.” Being a new parent (especially a mom) is incredibly difficult. So, in an attempt to empathize, you’ll hear someone say, “Just do whatever it takes to get by.” This usually means using phones, tablets, and TVs to distract your child, or giving in to a tantrum for a moment of peace, or even keeping your baby out past her bedtime so you can enjoy some social time.

This concept of “doing whatever it takes to get by” is only true and good to a point. If by it, we mean “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and “Give yourself a break” and “Nobody is perfect,” then I think it’s great advice. The house can go to ruins and the to-do list can wait while you are looking after a toddler and your new baby (remember that parent shrug?). But the danger arises when “Do whatever it takes” transforms (as it often does) into “Do whatever is easiest.”

Parenting is not about doing whatever is easiest. It is about doing whatever is best for your child. This is usually—so it goes—whatever is most difficult. Sitting your kid in front of the TV for eight hours a day would be an amazing break, but at what cost? Feeding your kid chicken nuggets and M&Ms will stop her crying, but is that really what you want fueling your little one’s growth?

Parenting is hard. But when you are really struggling, find comfort in this thought: If this isn’t the hardest thing you’ve ever done, you’re doing it wrong.

4. Helping Too Much

I absolutely love helping my daughter. Sometimes, when I watch her try something new, I secretly hope she fails just so I can help her. It doesn’t make me a bad dad; it makes me a human. Because for that small moment, I get to be Super Dad and save the day. I am needed. I am a hero.

Your son or daughter needs to know—deep in his or her bones—how great a person he or she can truly be. Learning to succeed as well as to fail is part of that process.

But do you know what’s truly heroic? Letting your child fail.

It’s so hard watching while you could be helping, but you should generally never do for your kid what your kid can do for himself. Otherwise, you are only stunting his ability to grow into a person of possibility. Your son or daughter needs to know—deep in his or her bones—how great a person he or she can truly be. And learning to succeed as well as to fail helps that process. This can never happen if you are doing everything for them.

5. Bargaining with Sugar

In our house, sweets are never used as a reward or as a punishment. We believe doing so puts too much emphasis on the treat instead of the behavior. Sweets become forbidden fruit. Or, maybe, forbidden Fruit Roll-Ups? Best case scenario, your toddler will behave how you want them to only for the reward (i.e., no reward, no good behavior). Worst case scenario . . . diabetes (okay, maybe that’s a bit histrionic, but consuming too much sugar is a nasty, unhealthy habit).

I know it can be tempting to use something your kid loves to encourage (or discourage) behavior, but in the long run, it’s just another form of conflict avoidance. Instead of using conflict as a chance to teach your child about how to behave and why, you avoid the conflict and teach your kid how to act in order to get a lollipop or piece of chocolate.

Reassure your toddler by showing you are in control. This will comfort your child.

6. Getting Angry

“Put the fear of God in them.” (You would be God in this metaphor.)

Maybe I should rephrase this to “Showing Anger.” You are probably going to get angry, but you should never, ever act out of anger. You must remember that your toddler is learning about, well . . . everything! One of the ways to learn is to push the envelope, to test you. But when your toddler throws that open-fisted haymaker or tosses food onto the ground, what he is really asking is, “Are you in control here?”

Reassure your toddler by showing you are in control—of the situation and of your emotions. This will comfort your child. And though he will definitely test you again, he needs to know that you are in control and that you aren’t going to flip out at a moment’s notice.

7. Disciplining Retroactively

When disciplining your child, you have to make sure the perceived consequence is directly connected with the undesirable behavior. This means that if you didn’t catch your toddler in the act, then you just have to let it go and try again next time. Here’s an example:

Little Jessica is coloring with her markers. The rice on the stovetop boils over and you hear the sizzle. You run over to turn the heat down, but when you return, you notice little Jessica has drawn a rainbow on your nice white living room walls. You absolutely lose it. “No, Jessica!” you scold. You are beside yourself with anger. “You need a time out!”

Flash forward to the next day. Little Jessica is coloring with her markers. Your phone chimes. You’ve got a new text. You go check your phone, but when you return, you notice little Jessica has drawn a horse on the wall. “Jessica!” you shout, thinking to yourself how in the world she could do this again one day later.

Grinning, she replies, “You did not like the rainbow, so this time I drew a horse.”

See what happened? Because you were distracted and unable to catch her in the act of drawing on the walls, she might mistake what she is being punished for. The mom in this example thought she was scolding her child for drawing on the walls; the little girl thought she was being punished for drawing a rainbow.

Act immediately. If the moment passes and you missed it, then . . . oh well. Just shrug your shoulders and move on. You