Define Your Life

I’m sure you know what you want to to today. You might even know your goals for this week. What about this year? This life?
Without set goals, it is too easy to live day-to-day, in a reactive state. If you are living in such a way, you can almost feel as if you are just treading water, trying to stay afloat. Then one day you look up and wonder where the years have gone.

I know what my goals are for this month, this year, and for my life. I am excited each week about the tasks I have to complete. Over the next few weeks I will show you my goals and how I plan to reach some of them while helping you set and reach your own. Today you get to create your own goals and Friday I will show you my list.

Good goals help improve your life in a number of ways:

  • Help reduce the clutter.
    If you know the end results that you are aiming for, then you can eliminate the actions that do not move you towards those ends. Whenever you face a decision, you have criteria to make your decision by. Does this help me reach my goals? If so, do it. If not, then don’t. You will find yourself being more productive because
    you are focusing on what is truly important to you.
    A simple example would be that I want to have a successful website, and I spend time playing Solitaire. Solitaire does nothing to help move me towards the website, so I have a good reason to stop doing this time-wasting activity. By using that time to work on the website, it will become successful faster.
  • Provide energy.
    I don’t know about you, but I am more motivated when I know what I’m working towards. It doesn’t matter if it is homework, running, or some other project; a clearly defined target gives me a finish line. The closer I get to that finish line, the more I want to reach it and the harder I will work.
    This is even more true when working towards something important to me, personally. You will find that, as you reduce the clutter, everything that you are involved in will be more aligned with things that are truly important to you, which will give you even more motivation and energy to complete them.
  • Let you know when to quit.
    Have you ever worked on a project and didn’t know when you were finished? Where you unmotivated and not interested in working on it? A well-defined goal explains when you have reached it so you can rest and move on to the next one.

What makes a goal good:

A good goal is clearly defined, actionable and measurable.
Here is an example of a common goal, one that is not good: Get in better shape.

  • Clearly Defined – What do you mean by “better shape”? Do you want to be stronger, have more endurance, or lose weight? Specify what you mean in your goal.
    ex: I want to be stronger.
  • Actionable – A vague goal does not provide a target to work towards. A good goal narrows your aim.
    ex: I want to bench press more weight.
  • Measurable – You have to know when you have reached your goal. Being measurable draws that line in the sand. If you leave our example alone, “bench press more weight” you could lift one more pound tomorrow and have completed it, or you could continue increasing the weight every week and never feel that you reached your goal. You need to have a specific target to reach.
    ex: I want to bench-press my body-weight.

Today’s Task:

Now that you know the benefits of having defined goals, and what constitutes a good goal, it’s time to set your own goals. There are many names for the goal list that you are about to create, such as Life List and Bucket List. No matter what you call it, it is time to come up with a list of goals that you want to achieve during your life.
Required materials are simple: a piece of paper, writing instrument, and some time.
Instructions are also simple: Write down the things that you want to achieve during your life, keeping in mind that your goals need to be clearly defined, actionable and measurable.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while making your list:

  • Dream big! Don’t think about where you are now, think about what you want to do. No matter what it is, you can do it.
  • Don’t forget to think small. Just because others might not think that it is a spectacular goal doesn’t matter; if it is important to you, include it on your list.
  • Categories: If it is helpful, here are some categories that are commonly included when creating a goal list: Family, Spiritual, Education, Financial, Professional, Travel, Recreation, Hobbies, Community, Charity.
  • You can change your list. A common question is “what if I don’t like my list?” People change over time, including their goals. Fortunately, you can change your list as well. It is not set in stone, and you are the one that made it. Simply make a new list and work on that one instead.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect. If you can’t get all of your goals defined perfectly, just write down what you have. You can narrow them down when it comes time to start working on them.

This is not a new concept, you have probably heard of it before. As have many other people. However, few people actually create the list. Fewer still actually try to complete their list; many tuck it into a drawer and forget all about it until they pull it out some years down the road.

Will you be one of those who either never makes a list or makes one only to tuck it into a drawer somewhere? Or will you take a blank piece of paper and use it to improve the rest of your life?

Photo Scavenger Hunt – Redeveloped!

Nicole has announced another photo scavenger hunt, so I thought I’d jump in again. I definitely enjoyed the last one and expect this one to be just as good.

What is a Photo Scavenger Hunt?
For you new readers, a photo scavenger hunt is exactly what it sounds like; a scavenger hunt where, instead of bringing back the item, you take a photo of it. Of course, this means that it can be more flexible than a traditional scavenger hunt. I can’t very well carry a tiger around with me, but if it’s on the list, I can take a photo of one (from a safe distance).

The List:
I will be adding photos as I take them (Click on photos to see them full-sized).

  1. Souvenir – The mugs have characters from the Finnish children’t story, Moomin, and were a gift from the neighbors. The glassware was a wedding present, it is from a Finnish design company, Marimekko.
    [singlepic id=104 w=320 h=240 float=none]
  2. Fish
  3. Religious Building – This tiny building is located inside the cemetery.
    [singlepic id=101 w=320 h=240 float=none]
  4. Fire Department
    [singlepic id=98 w=320 h=240 float=none]
  5. Manhole Cover
  6. Post Card
  7. Water
    [singlepic id=107 w=320 h=240 float=none]
  8. Communication Device
  9. Life Event
  10. Foreign Stamp
  11. Tree – This is my wife’s favorite tree. Of course, it was windy when we came to photograph it. We might return and try again on a less-windy day.
    [singlepic id=105 w=320 h=240 float=none]
  12. Living Space of Non-Human – at least it used to be.
    [singlepic id=102 w=320 h=240 float=none]
  13. Street Mirror
  14. Decoration Fixed on a House
  15. Foreign Flag
  16. Fire – I love my little can stove! The tea-pot fits perfectly upon it.
    [singlepic id=99 w=320 h=240 float=none]
  17. Antenna – This is just a cool-looking antenna that I had never noticed before.
    [singlepic id=96 w=320 h=240 float=none]
  18. Phone Booth
    [singlepic id=100 w=320 h=240 float=none]
  19. “Verboten” Sign
    [singlepic id=106 w=320 h=240 float=none]
  20. Beach
  21. Cityscape
  22. Something Goofy
  23. Something Carved
    [singlepic id=97 w=320 h=240 float=none]
  24. Eye
  25. Something Rural
    [singlepic id=103 w=320 h=240 float=none]

Life in Ireland with One Suitcase

Have you ever come home from a trip and unpacked stuff that you never used? That won’t happen to me on this trip. I will return from nearly 5 months in Ireland having used everything that I brought. With some careful planning, I was able to fit everything for the trip in a single suitcase and carry-on backpack.

What worked:

  • I planned on dressing in layers to stay warm, and this system worked out quite well. Even with the worst winter in 40 years, I stayed warm and comfortable. I might not have looked properly outfitted, but with thermals, “regular” clothes and the rain jacket on for wind protection was more than enough.
  • My packtowel has been used for the entire trip and has worked splendidly. I have received a number of compliments and jealous looks on weekend excursions; my large bath towel fits into my toiletries bag, while other travelers’ towels took up half of their backpack.
  • The bar shampoo experiment. My bar of J.R. Liggett’s shampoo has lasted the entire trip and will still be in use after I return home. I am looking forward to returning to the Co-op where I purchased it and trying one of the other scents.

What could use some work:

  • Next time I will pack less in the way of clothing. The one dress outfit has only been worn when I pushed the laundry day too far back. Likewise, I could easily get by with fewer socks and underwear.
  • Both my wife and I could have brought less in the way of hobbies. She finished knitting a beautiful scarf for me, but has not used her knitting needles much otherwise.
  • I could pretty safely get by with less in the way of school supplies. It seemed like a waste to buy more when I already had so much at home, so I brought it with me. During orientation the library gave out pads of paper, and I have typed the notes for all but one of my classes. As a compulsive list-maker, the binder full of paper still came in quite handy.

It is quite a feeling to realize that you can comfortably live out of a suitcase. It is nice to know that we can safely pack up and head out to different lands without looking like this guy.

Watch the Sunrise

Just like a sunset, sunrises provide an opportunity to see one of nature’s most frequent wonders. Watching the sun rise can give you a sense of fresh beginnings and is a wonderful way to start the day. It requires a bit of planning, however.

You need to know:

  • what time the sun comes up
  • a good place to watch the sunrise
  • how long it takes to get to your viewing point

A sunrise actually begins about 15 minutes before you can see the sun. The sky starts to change colors, objects begin to take shape, the world unfolds. If you don’t time it right, you will miss out on the best part of the sunrise. This is why you need to know how long it takes to get to your viewing spot, you don’t want to be en route and miss the best part!

Plan on watching tomorrow’s sunrise. Pick your spot, check the times and set your alarm!

Chase a Sunset

How often do you take the time to really appreciate a beautiful sunset? Do you do more than look for a few seconds and comment/think how beautiful it is before you continue whatever you were doing? This is something that I often have a hard time with and am trying to work on.

I have heard that sunsets are like snowflakes, no two are alike. When you start to pay attention, it is easy to see that this is true. The clouds are different, the coloration is more or less vivid, the horizon changes depending on your location. However, if you don’t take the time to really look, you might never appreciate this fact. “It’s a sunset, look at the pretty colors” and move on…

Today’s challenge is two-part:

  1. When you see a sunset, “chase it down”
  2. Really take time time to appreciate a sunset

Chase it down by finding the best vantage point to view the sunset. This might be as simple as walking around a building or to the side of some trees so that you have a better view. It could mean getting in the car and driving to a nearby hill.

Appreciate the sunset by taking 10 or 15 minutes to really watch it. Pay attention to the changing colors of the clouds, how the silhouetted trees/buildings change from a purple to black, to the fading color of the sky. Don’t forget that the sky continues to change even after the sun is out of sight.

This evening, pay attention. I want to hear about your sunset views in the comments!

Take Up An Old Challenge

Rubix Cube Do you remember these things? I had one when I was younger and finally, out of frustration, put it back together by peeling off the stickers and putting them where they needed to be.

Recently, I decided that I wanted to finally “beat” this toy and requested one for Christmas. “It will be a good way to pass time during my flight to Ireland,” I thought. I struggled with it for some time before giving up, frustrated once again, and tucking it back into my carry-on bag. After arriving in Ireland, I placed the mixed-up cube on my desk. After seeing it every day for 3 months, I decided to take up the challenge once again. With some help from the good ole internet, I quickly discovered that there are many ways to solve the cube and set about learning one of them.

You might see this as cheating (I did initially), but I am pleased with the results. I learned from others and applied this information to my own situation. My cube has been solved a number of times now. I still have some trouble remembering the final steps required, but I only started practicing over the past weekend and have not yet focused on those steps.

What un-beaten challenges do you still have? This can be anything that you want to do but have never completed. Is there a book you always wanted to read, a race you want to run or a daytrip you want to take? What are you waiting for, go do it! Don’t make excuses! How long have you been making excuses and have not completed your challenge? You don’t want that to continue…

Many challenges don’t have to be finished in one setting. Work on it during your lunch break. 15 minutes a day quickly adds up. Do one small task/part every day and you will be amazed at how quickly you finish.

Start right now! Take the initial step right now. Determine the dates for your race (giving you a deadline to work towards), order that puzzle or book you have never completed, or make a list of equipment you might need on your day trip. Don’t make excuses and keep working toward beating that old challenge!

Reach Out to Someone

What do you do when you are driving aroudn town on your tractor, can’t find your friends, and are bored? If you are a particular young Finnish man*, you call the local radio station and try to talk your way into a free prize. There are no contests going on, no give-aways currently taking place, nothing free available. You call and tell tham that you are bored and would like to win something, perhaps if you tell a good enough story or sing a good enough song. Sometimes it even works.

I have to admit that this had never occurred to me. While I do not even have access to a tractor, I still find myself bored at times. The radio contests are never conveniently timed for meƶ it never occurred to me to make my own.

Are you not comfortable calling up a stranger? Instead of calling a radio station, you can call someone you know but have not spoken to in some time: perhaps a friend you have fallen out of touch with or a family member that you have not spoken to recently.

* Not all young Finns drive around town on their tractors. In fact, this is the only tractor you will see driving around the city. This particular young man does not yet have his driver’s license (he’s only 17 and you cannot test for it until 18) and drives a tractor for his job. He is allowed to drive it around during his off-hours and takes full advantage of this opportunity.

Heading to Suomi

My wife and I are heading to Suomi (Finland) tomorrow. We can’t wait!

My wife studied there during high school, and lived with a host family while she was there. We’re being met by her host mom at the airport and we’ll be staying with them for 10 days (gotta love Easter break!). She is very excited about seeing her host family again, and introducing us to each other. I’ve heard a lot about them and can’t wait to meet them and experience this very important part of her life.

I will get to meet new people, visit another country, sample new foods, and other exciting things. Of course, my wife can’t wait for the opportunity to be the guide. Generally, I am the one with the “inside knowledge” about a place or activity, so she’s looking forward to this change of roles.

I’ve already checked, and there are a number of geocaches in the area, so we should have no problem pushing past the 400 milestone, which we have been hovering just under for some time now. We will be taking our travel bugs and geocoins with us, as well.

We’re packed and ready to go, now we’re just counting down the hours! I will be sure and give a trip report once we return.

10 Ways to Get More Adventure in Your Life

Here are 10 simple ways to put more adventure in your life.

  1. Do something new
    Big range available here… do something that is new to you. This could be trying a new activity, meeting new people, or going somewhere you have never been before.
  2. Do something old in a new place
    Any every-day action can be made new exciting when you do it in a new setting. Your lunch will be much better if you eat sitting in a park instead of at your desk. Your supper tonight will be more exciting if you have a picnic instead of a “normal meal”.
  3. Pursue an interest
    Pick out something that you have always wanted to try, and start today! What are you waiting for?
  4. Go somewhere familiar and look at it in a new way
    There are many places that you visit on a regular basis and because of this familiarity you don’t really look at them. Go somewhere familiar and explore it as if it was new!
  5. Travel in a new way
    Either take a new route or try a new mode of transportation. You might be surprised how much you overlook out of familiarity on a habitual route.
  6. Try a new version of something familiar
    Do you purchase the same things every time you go to the store? Take the few extra moments next time and try a different version or brand of a product you use!
  7. Try a new food
    New food is one of the easiest things that you can introduce some variety into your life. If you don’t like it, you don’t have a large investment, and you can easily avoid it next time. You never know where you will find a new favorite!
  8. Take a break
    Sometimes the best thing you can do is give yourself a chance to recharge. On the way home from work, stop and sit in a park for a few minutes. Sit in the yard and read a book for an hour. Enjoy a hot bath.
  9. Turn off the TV
    Take control of your time and go have an adventure of your own, instead of watching someone else’s adventure.
  10. Plan your next adventure
    Want something bigger than the other 9? Sit down and plan your dream adventure!

Which of these are you going to try today?

How Do You Define a Place?

What makes somewhere worth visiting? After leaving, why do you gush about one place and forget another? I’m sure that everyone will answer these questions differently. However, there is an easy way to determine your personal definition of a place. Think about your favorite trip (or the one you dream about.) What first comes to mind? Is it the people, food, the landscape, music or something else? Whatever it is, that is how you define that place (it may be different for different places).


The first few weeks my wife and I spent here in Ireland, we visited the largest cities. Dublin and Cork are fabulous places, full of amazing buildings and historic places. However, we came away less than thrilled. Neither of us are city people, we much prefer the wild places. When we pictured Ireland we both saw a rolling green countryside criss-crossed with stone walls, the fields dotted with sheep all watched over by thatched-roof buildings. The cities, of course, offered none of these things.


Finally, we headed to Galway and spent all of one night there before heading out to The Burren (Irish for Rocky Place). This was the country that we had been picturing; we saw our rolling hills, endless stone walls and sheep. We also visited the Cliffs of Moher. (I got to wave “back home” across the ocean.) The weekend was far too short, and the bus did not stay at any of the stops nearly long enough. We will definitely be returning.


When you go somewhere, be sure and seek out what really interests you. Don’t allow yourself to get caught in the trap of seeing what everyone else recommends! You might have different tastes than they do. Many of our fellow students are most interested in seeking out new pubs with traditional music. While we enjoy the music, we have no interest in visiting the pubs. So we seek out our own adventure.


Our own adventure includes not only the amazing landscapes, but also local foods. We are visiting local eateries in search of traditional foods (and yes, this did include a stop at a pub for a pint… gotta try it out, after all!) Our collection of recipes is growing, so that we can prepare our favorites when we return home. You can see a soup recipe here.

As you can see your definition of a place might not be a single thing, but a combination. My wife and I view Ireland as the places, the food and the people. In the places where we don’t experience all of these things to our satisfaction, we will leave disappointed and they will slip from our minds. Once you know how you define a place, you will know what you need to search out in places you visit, to ensure that you have a fulfilling and warmly remembered experience.