Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our "Busy Badge"

Out of sheer randomness I decided to buy a magazine I had never seen before. Its title, “Be the Best You.” Ok, don’t laugh. I was in the mood for a little inspiration and pick-me-up after getting little sleep and having many tasks on my to-do list for the week. As I read the magazine, it offered some cool quotes and pictures. Two of these particular quotes really stuck out to me. The first:

“Don’t complain. Don’t compare. Don’t covet someone else’s life, and don’t spend your valuable time wishing things were different.”

And the second:

“Is your life full of purposeful accomplishments, or just pointless activities?"

Both of these I ended up cutting out and taping to either side of my mirror so I see them every morning as I get ready. What do they mean to me? One thing…getting over mybusy badge.”

Busy badge?? What is that you are probably wondering? Plain and simple, the busy badge is the pride and joy that many people take in their over-involvement and over-commitment. I am guilty of it just as much as the next person. We feel like we have to do everything under the sun to be classified as “hard workers” or “successful young people.” As we get more involved, we find ourselves practically bragging about how busy we are! We feel that the more stuff we have on our plate the more we prove ourselves to be worthy to others.

The first quote describes common human characteristics: complaining constantly, comparing yourself to others, wanting what someone else has, and wishing things were different. All of these are culprits in the cause for our busy badge. When we see someone else achieve, sometimes the competitive side of us takes hold and we choose to attempt to one-up that individual. Or perhaps we see someone who is well-liked by their peers. We suddenly start becoming involved in what they are so we can somehow reach the level of social status as them. The list goes on and on.

For the past few mornings I have read this first quote aloud to myself. “Becky, don’t complain. Don’t compare. Don’t covet someone else’s life, and don’t waste your valuable time wishing things were different.” Just saying the words aloud reassures me that the life I am living is the best one for me. It may seem silly, but if you think that reciting such words aloud to yourself may make a difference, try it.

After reading this quote, I look over at the other one posing the questions “Is your life full of purposeful accomplishments, or just busy activities?” Immediately your mind may spin into pointless meetings, silly drama at school or work, that extra committee you signed up for just because you allowed yourself to be persuaded. All of these and more are pointless tasks that just consume the valuable time you have to really accomplish something with purpose.

Many of us have a paradigm. A paradigm that our busyness defines our success. The reality is that what we are busy with defines our success. This second quote is so powerful. Where are you spending your time? Is it purposeful, or is it meaningless? If you are spending your valuable time in areas that will not serve the greater good, then stop. Re-evaluate where it is your time is most impactful. You don’t have to wear a busy badge to feel significant.

I am guilty of the busy badge. However, my focus has shifted to being more selective in my time. This semester my focus is on school, Agriculture Ambassadors, Student Alumni Board, work for our Ag Assistant Dean, volunteer work, relationships, and personal development. That is it. Despite how easy it would be for me to get over involved in other groups on campus, I have chosen to refrain.
Part of growing up is re-distributing your time in your new priority areas. This past year, my priority was FFA. Now, I have the chance to adjust. It is never too late to throw away your busy badge and find the true value in what you are doing.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Back to School and TN Adventures!

After a year of traveling the U.S. and devoting my entirety to the National FFA Organization, this past Thursday I returned to the normal life of a college student (well, at least as normal of a life as Becky Sullivan can possibly live :-).

Thursday I attended my first two courses, Crisis Communications and Genetics. I must say it felt incredible to be surrounded by college students again and hear about the new knowledge I have yet to learn this year (yes, I may be a bit of a nerd). Immediately following my Genetics course I made my way to the airport to catch a flight to Nashville Tennessee to present an FFA Leadership Conference with one other presenter (Janette Barnard).

That evening we stayed up late reviewing the curriculum, and then Friday morning we spent gathering and creating the supplies we would be using. Friday about 120-140 eager high school students, freshman through seniors, gathered for our “Inter-Galactic Olympic” themed leadership conference focused around personal development, personal influence, creativity, and different leadership styles. Needless to say, the pictures speak for themselves! To say we had fun wouldn’t be giving it the credit it deserves! We had a GREAT time! We created “space suites,” our own solar systems, and most importantly, we created new friendships among the numerous schools present.

I must admit that before the conference I was a bit nervous. Janette and I had never worked together before, much less had a long conversation! Also, neither one of us had ever presented the curriculum—much of which included new activities to be done with a large group of students. As intimidating as this situation sounds, we had two choices. We could be stressed out and spending every waking minute analyzing the curriculum, or, we could get the general picture and decide to trust ourselves and have fun. Which approach did we take? Most definitely the second one!

Because of our choice to trust our instincts and ability to read people—we didn’t only successfully deliver the conference together, but we also had a BLAST doing it! A key learning I have gained from this past year of presenting is that you must enjoy yourself for the participants to enjoy themselves. I feel this is true in anything you do.

For those of us with jobs—in order to enjoy the work atmosphere you work in, you must first choose to enjoy your work! With your family—if you make the choice to have a good time at that next Sunday night dinner, the rest of the family will as well! With that next difficult project, choose to have fun using your creativity, and most likely you will produce your best work! Whatever energy you let off is often reflected back to you by others. In situations where stress tempts to control your emotions, stop and ask yourself “is it worth it.” The answer 99% of the time is no. Only with a level head and an optimistic attitude will you achieve the outcome you so desire.

Speaking of “energy you let off,” a good place to find two extremes of energy is an airport. As I type this blog I am on my third scheduled flight for tonight. My original flight was cancelled due to an unfixable mechanical problem. Second flight was delayed to the point where I couldn’t make my connection. Third time is the charm I am hoping! I now am connecting from Nashville to Denver, and then Denver to Kansas City to put me in about four hours later than originally plan. In situations like this, I am fascinated by observing the reactions of those in my same boat. One lady was cursing and bad talking the airlines, another going on about the money he is going to collect for his inconveniences. Then, there are always those frequent travelers who stand in line quietly, waiting their turn, and politely asking the airport staff for their options.

Those frequent travelers are the ones who have asked themselves “is it worth it?” There answer: no. Life is too short to stress. Why stress when you can be having fun creating space suites out of toilet paper, saran wrap, pipe cleaners, and balloons? Why stress when you can be enjoying the job you wake-up for five days a week? Why stress when you can be laughing at those relatives who never seem to fail at burning something for the Sunday night dinner (i.e. me)? Why? There is no reason why. Ask yourself—is it worth it? If the answer is no, choose to opt for a brighter outlook.

As I return to school it will be difficult. Yes, I am excited and it feels great now! Of course it would, we haven’t done anything except go over the syllabus! However, as the days go on, I, as well as many other students, will have to remind ourselves to not stress out over the little things we can’t control. It is a constant struggle for all of us, yet it never hurts to remind yourself of what really matters.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Small gestures, Big friendships.

“Hey Becky, we got you a gift…its name is Sulley!”
(Boys hand Becky stuffed black gorilla)
Becky smiles big :-)

This past weekend I made my first trip to the snowy state of North Dakota where I helped with an FFA new member conference. I arrived into the Bismarck airport only to find two bright-eyed and eager FFA state officers waiting to pick me up and present me with their hard-earned gorilla that took them THREE tries at the claw machine to win. What a great way to start off the weekend.

Throughout the weekend, much of my time was spent with the seven state officers. Within four days we went from mere acquaintances, all the way to what Andrew qualified as “B.F.F.’s” (for those of us who have been out of middle school for a while that means Best Friends Forever).

There is truly nothing I enjoy more than making new friends. Yes, that sounds cheesy, yet it is the truth. From the very beginning of my journey in North Dakota, those seven students did anything and everything to bring joy to my trip. Whether it was the little gorilla they gave me at the airport, or the B.F.F. tape bracelet that Andrew made me and put around my arm before I left. Every kind gesture they did, even if it was as simple as tape, it made my day!

Today it is so easy to look over the power of small gestures. Why do we need a holiday to celebrate those relationships in our lives? Why don’t we practice the act of being appreciative each day?

A perfect example of someone who values “small gestures” would be my roommate and dear friend (why not, we’ll call her one of my B.F.F.’s) Emily. The other day I was driving back from the airport and was absolutely exhausted. When I got home my eye caught a glimpse of a note on my bedroom door. It was from Emily. She had taken a heart shaped sticky note and written funny jokes on it that would make me smile. That right there gave me the power to change my attitude to become more positive and cheerful.

Whether you leave a note, win a gorilla out of a claw machine, make a tape bracelet, or simply smile at someone on the street—don’t underestimate the power of small gestures.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Life Coaches

Have you ever seen advertised on the television “Life coaches!" Live the life you want with the small price of $300 a session. Sessions 50 minutes each.”

OK, so perhaps you haven’t seen these exact commercials, but watch for them. If you go to google and type in life coaches you will see people whose sole business is based on telling people what they need to change about the way they are living. CEO’s of major companies, celebrities, and individuals you may think are completely happy pay a stranger to help them re-balance their life to aid in their inner peace.

Whether you believe in these “life coaches” advertised or not, one thing is true, we all need a little help from time to time.

One of my dear friends, Sharita, is one of the busiest life coaches I know! No, she does not get paid, advertise, and she is not yet graduated from college. Rather, people are drawn to her because she has figured out something special. She has learned over the years what it means to be truly happy—to be beautiful on the inside and out.

Sharita must have a least a dozen people who call on her for life-advice, “coffee dates” to talk issues out, and pep talks when needed. She is encouraging, optimistic, and a true believer in the fact that you create the life you live.

So if you truly create the life you live, how do you create change? What factors in your life contribute to your happiness? While Sharita was coaching one of her friends on relationships, she made a valid point. To be happy and content means to (1) figure out who you really are, and (2) present yourself on the outside they way you want to be perceived. Basically, being beautiful from the inside to the out (cliché, maybe, but a much needed reminder for many of us).

Those people who are often always surrounded by crowds of friends are the ones who have mastered this balance of knowing who they are, and presenting that person fully to the outer world. They know their talents, likes, dislikes, and passions. These are the people who are confident with themselves, no matter whether the fit the stereotypical mold of society or not.

Being a college student, and even when I was in high school, you learn that many people base their happiness on being in a relationship. They feel that if they are single, there is apparently something wrong with them. This is by NO MEANS the case at all! Being single is not a negative thing, it just means you know what you are looking for (isn't that what is most important?). For those people who are in truly happy and healthy relationships, it is because they have discovered who they are, and have found that special person who complements them. The first step, is knowing you. Once you can accomplish this, portray it to the world and those dreams you are reaching for will suddenly seem much easier to achieve.

When it comes to your current situation, remember that it is OK to need a “life coach” at times. Maybe you are seeking advice on your self-esteem, or relationship life. Find someone you consider a success in the area which you lack in, and don’t be afraid to ask for their advice. Life is all about growing as a person…we all must do this in order to reach the happiness which we desire.

One little piece of advice I would offer: your life coach can be someone you see everyday. You don’t have to pay someone hundreds of dollars to diagnosis your inner problems, the help you need is often right in your neighborhood.

Remember, we all need life coaches at times. Don’t be afraid to start down a path of growth in which you have been seeking for a long time.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Good Habits in Good Areas

Christmas break is a wonderful time to see family, relax, and over-indulge in things that don’t look so good on the hips and thighs :-). Most students are ecstatic about break and rather hesitant about returning to school. However, there are a hand full of students who love the holidays, yet can’t wait for the hustle and bustle of school and events to start up once again! Which group of students do I fit? If you guessed the second group, you are correct.

It isn’t that I don’t love my family, or enjoy spending time relaxing with friends. However, there is a certain natural need in me to be productive and busy to feel good. That is right, in order for me to feel truly happy about my day, I must have a feeling of accomplishment. However, this break I have found myself being lazy, and feeling rather dull and un-inspired at the end of the day.

One of my friends recommended to me that I read the book "Make Today Count" by John Maxwell. I started reading it the 31st of December. In this book, Maxwell focuses on major areas of each person’s life: attitude, priorities, health, family, thinking, commitment, finances, faith, relationships, generosity, values, and growth. Each of these areas are major contributors as to how we feel based on how much attention we give them.

It is a goal of mine to show each of these twelve areas the time and effort needed to make me internally at peace. However, like any goal, you must start one step at a time. The first areas I have chosen to focus on health, thinking, commitment, and relationships.

In the area of health, it is quite simple. Eat healthy and exercise. I go through spurts. One month I can be very disciplined, and another I can have one day where I mess up and all the sudden I hate myself for those one or two mistakes. This causes me to fall into a spiral of bad habits. Currently, I have most definitely enjoyed to many Christmas Break delights and not enough running. Starting this Monday (yes, this is my verbal commitment to all), I will begin my normal workout routine once again, as well as healthy eating. My mother put it best, “Becky, you have to make the choice to change. Start now.” She is right. For all of us, if you want to be healthier, learn what you need to do and begin today.

While health helps me to physically feel good, thinking is an area that many of us can overlook. In Maxwell’s book, he mentions many different types of thinking (strategic thinking, possibility thinking, reflective thinking, and creative thinking— just to name a few). It is so easy for us to overlook the time we should commit to deep thinking. I began the day after Christmas journaling everyday. I have been successful thus far. Each morning, I fix my breakfast and hot tea, and as I am eating I journal my thoughts from the previous day, and what I want to accomplish in that day. Journaling is my outlet for reflective thinking. To grow in the area of realistic thinking (building of facts), I have made the habit of reading each night before going to bed. The books I read vary, and the time I read depends on how tiered I am. Overall, it is important for us to not overlook the extreme growth we can undergo by allotting time in our day to think about what has occurred, what could be, what is, and much more.

In the area of commitment, it is quite simple. “If something is worth doing, than I will commit myself to carrying it through.”—Maxwell. Whatever your priorities are, if they are truly important to you, than you must make the daily commitment to following-through with them. Commitment must be renewed each day. Staying committed to a goal or priority of yours probably isn’t easy, but that is what makes the end result that much more worth while.

Finally, there is the area of relationships which all of us struggle with at times. There is the relationship you have with your family, your friends, your teachers, your mentors, and even those strangers who you interact with each day at your favorite restaurant or coffee shop. If there is one common piece of knowledge I have heard over the years, it is that relationships are the most important thing in this world. People are the most important thing in this world. We must love our neighbors as if they were us. This doesn’t mean to completely neglect your personal needs, but it does mean to throw the meaningless parts of your day to the side and take on more quality time with those you love. Write a card, call a friend, smile at a stranger. Love all, and Serve all, as the famous Hard Rock CafĂ© slogan goes!

The previous areas mentioned are the ones I have chosen to begin my focus on. Where do you feel you need to focus? Whatever you choose, tell a friend. Choose someone to be your accountability-partner to help you carry-through with your action plan. My accountability partners are my mom, roommates, and best friends here at Kansas State.

Create those good habits that are going to help you be happy. Christmas break has been a struggle for me because I have had to learn to re-focus my energy on areas I have neglected in the recent past. My sense of accomplishment now doesn’t have to be writing an English paper or completing expense reports for my FFA travels. No, my sense of accomplishment can come from those truly important parts of our lives.

No Better Time Than NOW!

Two days ago I attended the funeral of a good friend’s father who passed away from lung cancer. I had never met her father, yet there is a lot you can learn about a person from those final farewells of friends and family.

At the beginning of the funeral was a slide show of her dad from a toddler to the caring father he grew to be. Family talked about what a hard worker he was, how he loved to joke around, but most of all, he was the type of person who would do anything for those he loves most. Before he passed, he told a dear friend to share an important message that sounded like this:

“As you look at those pictures, what do you see? You see family. It is all about family. Find what is really, and I mean really important in life, and spend your time there.”

Sitting there, I couldn’t help but evaluate my own life. Am I spending my time in the places I truly believe are most important? Am I fulfilling the unique purpose only I can fill? Do I appreciate the blessings in my life? Do I give back?

The funeral concluded with the Reverend giving a sermon and reading a few verses out of the bible. Family wept and friends comforted. The service ended, and as people began to reminisce, memories of the beloved dad infused the church offering a gleam of happiness in an area of sadness.

Myself and other college and high school friends waiting to give our dear friend a hug and comfort her in anyway we could. Although I never met her father, it was obvious that he loved her and her siblings more than the world. He filled their home with love, and if you ask me, there is no greater purpose to fulfill than that.

When you leave a funeral, it is only natural to fall into a reflective mode on your own life. This past year as a national officer, as weird as it may sound, I often ask myself the question “If I were to die today, would I be happy with the life I lived?” As negative as this question may seem to ask yourself, it served me as comfort. Throughout life we make sacrifices and avoid temptations all for what we think is right. When I reflect on my own life, I couldn’t be happier with those things I have given up to allow me to serve a greater purpose with integrity.

Then question we should continually ask ourselves is “How do I want to live my life?”
The answer is…just kidding! Only you can decide what that answer is for you. Here are a few quotes that may help you stimulate your thoughts:

“Take the first step toward learning to enjoy your everyday life by making the most of life. Embrace your life, because God is never going to give you someone else’s.”

“Don’t complain; don’t compare; don’t covet someone else’s life, and don’t spend your valuable time wishing things were different.”

And finally…

“True life is really not found in arriving at a destination; it is found in the journey.”

There is no better time than now. If there is a change you want to make, choose to start today—don’t put off living the life you truly want.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Little Introduction :-)

My name is Becky.

I am a student studying agriculture at the one and only Kansas State University. I have a younger brother who is a freshman in high school (killer competitor on the wii), and an older sister who works at a feedlot in Western Kansas (yep, she is a real cowgirl). My parents are happily married and living out their life's still heavily involved and devoted to making the children successful and happy.

Some people know me as the over-involved college student. Many know me as a past National Officer for the National FFA Organization (if your not sure what FFA is, you should check it out at ffa.org). However, those who are closest to me know me as the girl who always has a smile on her face. The one who isn't shy to make new friends, loves deep conversations, and can't wait to travel and experience something new.

This past year I took a break from my studies to devote my knowledge, skills, and talents to inspiring young people all across America through the FFA Organization. I had five phenomenal teammates. Between the five of us we traveled 300-330 days out of the year, traveled 120,000 miles, visited 39 out of 50 states, and we developed and delivered 100 workshops and 90 motivational speeches. All that we did was to promote agriculture education and inspire our youth to be leaders in whatever career field they desire to pursue.

Now, I am about to return to what some would call "a normal life." Personally, I say there is no such thing as normal. There is, however, such a thing as a paradigm. Many people have the paradigm that all college students do is party, skip classes, date, party, and finally, party. This paradigm may be true about some college students, but most definitely not all. As a matter of fact, I would argue that the majority of students are doing so much more than the public ever sees or hears about.

I have three goals in writing this blog:

1) To capture my experiences transitioning back to college

2) Document daily learning's that help us grow as a person

3) Illustrate to public the great things that college students are doing each day

The title of my blog is Choose to Live. Why? Choose to Live is my personal Mission Statement. In life, it is easy to slide along with the crowd. However, it takes a conscious choice to live out those dreams and aspirations you have deep down within you. My mission is to make decisions based on what I really want out of life. I would encourage each of us to think about what our personal mission is, and seek the discipline to follow it on a daily basis.

I am by no means the expert at living. No one is. I can however offer my experiences and how they shape the life that I live. Maybe, just maybe some of what I may experience could be of help and assistance to others.

We are given the gift of free will, so let's use it. Choose to really live your life...

and do it.