Monthly Archives: June 2011

How to Create an In-Case-of-Emergency Everything Document to Keep Your Loved Ones Informed if Worst Comes to Worst

Written by Melanie Pinola

f you were hit by a bus today or were otherwise incapacitated, would your loved ones be able to quickly locate your important information or know how to handle your affairs? Many of us have a great handle on our finances, but our record keeping systems might not be obvious to family members or friends who might need immediate access to them in times of emergency. Here’s a step-by-step guide to organizing your vital information so it can be conveniently and safely accessed when needed.

The Goal: A Master Document or Folder with All Your Important Information

Perhaps the easiest method for creating a centralized document or set of files would be creating a Google Spreadsheet that you could share with your family and friends and keep updated regularly. We’ve created a basic Master Information Kit template just for this purpose. The spreadsheet includes prompts for the information below, but you can customize it for your particular needs. To use the template for yourself, in Google Docs go to File > Make a copy… to save it to your Google account (make sure your version of the document’s sharing settings go back to the default “Private”).

Update: Due to high traffic to the template, Google Docs is only showing it in list view, making it impossible to copy. This zipped file has downloadable versions in PDF, XLS, and ODS formats. You can still import these into your Google Docs account.

There are really only a few steps to setting this organizer up: gathering your records, securely sharing them, and keeping them updated. Follow along and you’ll have your kit set up in no time—and a little extra peace of mind.

Step 1: Gather Your Vital Records to Keep in the Master Information Kit

The most important personal records: First, there are a few documents that you obviously should keep in a secured location (a fire safe or safe deposit box):

  • Social Security card
  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Any other official, hard-to-replace documents
  • Scan these items so you can have a digital record of them as well. If you encrypt the digital files, e.g., with one of our favorite encryption tools TrueCrypt, and you can even upload them to Google Docs and share the files with your loved ones (make a note of them in the spreadsheet).

    You’ll also want to add to your emergency records kit:

    • Contact information: Both your contact information and your emergency contacts’ info. This includes your nearest relatives, your will executor(s), and employers.
    • Will and medical directives: Add a copy of your will/living trust and medical letter of instructions (keep the originals with your legal representative). You can upload a PDF file to Google Docs for this purpose.
    • Insurance: Homeowners, auto, medical, life, disability, and other insurance agents/brokers contact info and policy numbers
    • Financial accounts: Bank, investment, and credit card/loan accounts information, including institution names, phone numbers, and account numbers
    • Health records: Immunization records, allergies, dietary restrictions, medications, medical/surgical treatments
    • Pet information: Description of each pet, vet contact information, and any important medical notes
    • Property: Car information, home purchase papers/deeds, and other home inventory items.

    Again, adjust for your relevant information. Our Master Information Kit spreadsheet includes individual sheets for most of these pieces of information, so just make a copy of the sheet (File > Make a Copy) and start filling it out, in section at a time.

    Step 2: Export Your Accounts Information

    Account Passwords: For login information to important accounts, it’s best not to store your logins in an online document like this. Instead you can export your logins from password managers like Keepass, LastPass, or 1Password to a CSV file and then encrypt it so it can be shared securely. Our spreadsheet template includes a sheet specifically for describing your method of storing these files—the location of your vital documents, and any passwords needed to locate them.

    Step 3: Share Your Master Information Kit and Vital Documents

     

    The Google Docs spreadsheet is easy to share. Once you’ve filled out your version of the spreadsheet, click on the Share button and you can email people who you want to be able to view or edit the document. (Think people who you’d also consider emergency contacts.)

    For your encrypted files, like the logins mentioned above, you could upload them in Google Docs, store on an encrypted USB thumb drive, or use something like Dropbox. Give the recipients your encryption password but for security reasons, only let them write down a hint to the password. E.g., vacation spot 2010 + pet bday + myfavoritesinger’smiddlename. Also, if you use Dropbox, make sure you encrypt sensitive information first. An encrypted zip file seems an ideal solution.

    Step 4. Regularly Update Your Everything Document

    You’ll need to update your files/master records book when you update your accounts.

    Like setting up an emergency plan or a 72-hour emergency kit, this master information kit will need to be reevaluated regularly—consider doing so at least yearly (e.g., at tax time, when you’re already looking at all your accounts) or, better yet, quarterly.

    Set up a reminder on your calendar so you won’t forget. When you get your reminder, don’t wait—just quickly look over the items in your document and if anything has changed, update it. If not, you’ve only lost a couple of minutes of your day toward a very good end.

    More Resources for Creating a Master Information Kit

    If you’re a Quicken user, for example, you may have access to Emergency Records Organizer built into the program, which can compile your emergency documents for you, based on the info you put in Quicken. It should be in the “Property & Debt” menu or you might find the program under your Quicken folder under Program Files.

    Erik Dewey’s free Big Book of Everything is a very thorough organizer for all your affairs, with placeholders for you to record your bank accounts, insurance policies, tax records, and more. The 44-page Big Book of Everything is available in PDF or Excel format.

    There are also a few personal documents organizers in dead-tree version, like For the Recordwith the same purpose, in case you want pre-printed book.

    Our emergency documents template (zip file) is a simplified version for the most essential information and with an eye towards sharing on Google Docs (or downloading and saving).

    Whichever method you choose, having all your vital information in one easily accessible place can be comforting, for both you and your loved ones.

    Do you have all your important information organized somewhere or tips for creating this “everything document”? Let us know in the comments.


    You can follow or contact Melanie Pinola, the author of this post, on Twitter.

    Bonus:I am terrified of this situation.

17 Things That Make You Feel Old

17 Things That Make You Feel Old

source

Written by vadakkus

You are older than you think! Making you think many things happened “recently” is a trick played by your sub-conscious to make you think you are young and kicking. Inspired by XKCD’s Epic diagram that makes people think they are old based on movie release dates, and then 40 things that make you feel old, I present my contribution – with more of Indian stuff thrown in. Enjoy, feel old and miserable!  So,(Note: Important information at the end.)

Do You Realize That:
1. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge was released 16 years ago.

2. Windows XP was released TEN years ago, in 2001.

3. The “new” Millennium is more than a decade old.

4. Chetan Bhagat’s antics have been around for the past 7 years!
5. Pierce Brosnan last acted as James Bond 9 years ago.

7. It’s been 10 years since 9/11

8. The Matrix came out 12 years ago, Keanu Reeves is 46 today

9. Mother Theresa and Lady Diana have been dead for 14 years.

10. Remember Jungle Book on Doordarshan? That was more than 15 years ago.

11. This happened a whopping 17 years ago.

Yes, they are old, too!

12. Macaulay Culkin is 30 today. “Home Alone” came out over 20 years ago.
13. Terminator 2 is 20 years old. Edward Furlong who portrayed kid John Connor is 33 now.

14. Sean Connery is 80 years old and retired.
15. The youngest Spice Girl is 35, the oldest Backstreet Boy 39, Gwen Stefani is 41, Madonna 52

16. The first Harry Potter book came out when I was in High School. 14 years ago!

17. The first season of F.R.I.E.N.D.S was aired 17 years ago! Age of the cast:

18. Remember these Guys?

19. Akshay Kumar is older than the moon landing – He was born in 1967

20. Arnold Schwarzenegger is older than India. He was born in June 1947

21. ‘Kids’ born in 1993 can legally drive, drink and vote this year.

Where are my car keys, bob?

22. Jurassic Park is older than Justin Bieber.

23. Justin Bieber. Rebecca Black. Miley Cyrus.

24. Rajiv Gandhi has been dead for 20 years.

25. Bryan Adams’ cult song “Summer of 69? was released 26 years ago.

26. Kids whom you remember in their diapers posting their pics on Facebook

Not like this, though.

27. Facebook has been around for 7 years. Orkut for 9.

Fraandshipping since 2002

28. Remember the little girl from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? She is 23 now (Sana Saeed)

29. The Maruti Zen was first introduced 18 years ago.

Image Courtesy: I Love India

30. And of course, the Rasna Girl. She is all grown up as well!

Hope you are feeling better now. Please let me know.

(P.S.: It is fine if you want to copy and send this as an email forward, but be kind enough to give me credit and include this as well:  From vadakkus.com, Source: http://bit.ly/feeloldindia Took a lot of work to create this, appreciation is appreciated! )

5 biggest threats to the US economy

Written by telegraph

Hopes that 2011 would see the US recovery strengthen have so far been dashed as higher gasoline and food prices erode the spending power of millions of Americans. Here are the five biggest threats faced by the world’s largest economy:

Five biggest threats to the US economy

Last month saw momentum in the US labour market stall, with just 54,000 jobs created. Few now expect a quick turnaround. Photo: GETTY

Inflation

The petrol station is as reliable a place as any to take America’s economic pulse. The sharp rise in gasoline prices in the first few months of the year knocked the confidence of consumers, who still account for about 70pc of the country’s gross domestic product.

That squeeze has been all the more painful because the majority of Americans have not enjoyed pay rises since the crisis. Indeed, inflation-adjusted average hourly earnings fell 1.6pc in the past 12 months. Like Sir Mervyn King at the Bank of England, Fed chief Ben Bernanke insists that inflation will prove short-lived.

The good news for the bulls is that gasoline prices have dropped by almost 10pc since reaching a three-year high at the start of May. While the news is improving, the Fed and The White House know their control over such a key variable is very limited.

House prices

Alongside their wages, house prices are the yardstick most Americans use to measure their financial well-being. Prices have already dropped a third from the peak they reached in 2006, according to the S&P/Shiller Index.

But the declines aren’t, for now at least, over. Almost three years on and the housing market is still grappling with the excess supply of homes left over by the boom. That’s meant more than a third of the homes currently being sold are classified as distressed sales.

The introduction in 2009 of a tax incentive to buy a home briefly spurred the market, but the volume of sales has retreated since it expired. While further declines in prices don’t pose the threat to America’s financial stability in the way they in 2008, the troubled state of the market remains a ball and chain around the economy.

Unemployment

It’s been the recovery’s Achilles heel. About 8m jobs were lost to the recession. Just over 1m have been created since.

After a disappointing 2010, the labour market gained momentum in the first four months of this year, helping push the unemployment below 9pc for the first time since the crisis. Importantly, signs of a turn in the market helped consumers battling higher gas prices.

Last month saw that momentum stall, with just 54,000 jobs created. Few now expect a quick turnaround. The Fed last week forecast that unemployment will stay above 8pc throughout 2012.

The more pressing question is whether May’s disappointment is the start of a worrying trend. The release this Friday’s release of June’s figure will begin to offer an answer.

The deficit

As with unemployment, there’s no quick fix to America’s deficit. A combination of costly, state-funded retirement programmes, high defence spending and the financial crisis have sent America’s share of debt to GDP ballooning to 62pc last year from 40pc before the recession.

Without an agreement to cut spending on programmes such as medicare, as well as tax increases, that ratio will worsen. Any accord before next year’s presidential election would be a major surprise.

But there’s a far more urgent deadline. If Congress fails to lift the country’s legal borrowing limit by August 2, the US could potentially default on its debt. Focused on Europe’s debt crisis, bond investors have so far paid little attention. But Republicans last week walked out of negotiations that have become increasingly fraught.

Though a failure to lift the limit remains remote, the prospect of negotiations going right to the wire and fraying investors’ nerves during a difficult summer is highly likely.

Europe’s debt crisis

Europe’s debt crisis has been lapping against US shores for more than a year now. And the failure of European leaders to find an answer is an increasing source of concern in Washington.

Mr Bernanke said last week that US banks have little direct exposure to Greek government debt. But there’s no doubt a disorderly default by Greece would cause convulsions across financial markets.

Perhaps the biggest impact of the current episode has been to drain some confidence from financial markets as well as businesses. The US economy can ill afford for more to seep away over the next few months.

Bonus:Obama is boring 😐

5 Ways To Age Gracefully and Healthfully

Written by Julia Austin

Add years and quality to your life with these 5 tips.

Most of us say we would like to age gracefully. But the concept seems pretty much out of our hands or in the hands of a plastic surgeon. We say we aren’t going to take those drastic measures, but then many of us end up doing so. Why? Because we didn’t just take the simple, natural measures we could have taken daily while we were still young. Did you know that only ONE THIRD of what controls how gracefully we will age is determined by genetics? It’s shocking, I know. Maybe your dad’s gray hairs that popped up at the age of 30 or your mom’s arthritis doesn’t have to be a major panic point for you after all. One third is genetics. That means there is an entire two thirds that are completely based on your own choices. Here are some of the healthiest ways to approach those choices:

The Pursuit of Happiness

It shouldn’t end with career, marriage and family. Because sadly, as you age, these things may become less present in your life. But happiness boosts the immune system and reduces stress. When you are stressed, your heart rate goes up, your digestion slows, and blood flow is even blocked to certain muscles. If you experience chronic stress, these conditions could lead to actual physical disorders likeobesity, diabetes, ulcers and even cancer.

Keep active and involved. Happiness is easier to cultivate than you think. Believe that life still has enjoyable experiences to offer you. Even if you just don’t see how you can be happy as you age, force yourself to go to events, to gatherings, to dinner with friends. You’ll usually be pleasantly surprised with what you find and positive attitude and optimism are linked to longevity. If you’re not sure what makes you happy, learn. Take notes at times when you feel particularly uplifted, and those when you feel anxiety-ridden. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing? Adjust your daily activities accordingly.

Older Women Laughing

Photo: Microsoft Images Older Women Laughing

Don’t Run From Novelty

The brain loves new experiences and sensations. Have you ever really regretted trying something new? So long as it didn’t harm you, what you probably felt most of the time was a rush. It feels good to know you have the guts to put yourself in unfamiliar environments and try things you aren’t necessarily skilled at. Sometimes you have to fumble in order to have a new, enjoyable experience. But what you remember more than getting it wrong is how exciting it was to try something new.

Contrary to what many people believe, your brain has the ability to continue building neural connections throughout life. So don’t be afraid of new phenomena that simply didn’t exist when you were younger. Jump head first into social media classes, or trying a new food trend everyone is raving about. Doing so will cultivate curiosity, creativity and an open mind, additional traits linked to longevity.

Be Your Own Cheerleader

We are always harder on ourselves than others. We’ll spend hours cooking a healthy meal for a friend on the weekend; meanwhile we take ourselves through fast-food drive-thru’s during the week. We tell our friends how gorgeous they are and make self-deprecating comments about ourselves.

It may be harder than ever to do so now that you’re aging, but it’s also more important than ever to love yourself. Tell yourself you are fabulous. Make yourself fabulous by dressing up, standing up straight and quitting those self-deprecating thoughts and comments. Do the things that make you happy more often, and remind yourself it’s because you deserve to. Why? Because your body becomes stressed when you have thoughts like “I’m not good enough.” And we already know stress is bad for the body.

Become A Social Butterfly

Research shows that those who are more socially connected—that doesn’t just mean going to activities and events but actually cultivating friendships from them—live longer. This is just another way to ward offdepression.

Older couples socializing

Photo: Microsoft Images Older Couples Socializing

As we age and can no longer do the things we used to do, we begin to feel “useless.” But something you can always offer is a set of ears, some good advice and if anything, the ability to make someone laugh. Think about how much the friends who do that for you mean to you? You mean just as much to them. You may not be a doctor, actress, or entrepreneur anymore. But through all of those years of work, you also became the unique, entertaining and wise individual you are. That is something you will always have to offer.

Exercise

I saved it till the last point to keep your attention. I know you’ve heard it before, but it can’t hurt to hear it again. Exercising regularly makes you less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, dementia, osteoarthritis, depression and obesity. One study found that women who walk briskly for just 5 hours a week have a 76% higher chance of aging gracefully and healthfully, with less physical and mental impairment. Of course, if you are aging, you can’t exactly run an hour a day or rock climb like you used to (if you used to at all). Look into low impact workouts like walking, resistance training, tai chi and yoga.

Woman doing yoga

Photo: Microsoft Images Woman Doing Yoga

You can’t control every biological process that goes on in your body as you age, but what you can always control is your outlook and the lifestyle choices you make. Turns out that’s more than half the battle. About 66%, to be exact!

Bonus: Best Pizzeria review ever.

Top 10 Ways to Save Money with Your Smartphone

Written by lifehacker

Your smartphone might be an expensive pocket computer, but it can help make up for its high price tag by cutting costs in other ways. Here are our top 10 ways to save money with your smartphone.

10. Find Fee-Free ATMs

ATM fees are ridiculously high, with many charging around $3 for a transaction outside of your bank. This is easily avoidable by simply checking for the nearest fee-free ATM using your bank’s smartphone app. Most large banks have them for both iPhone and Android, and if not you can always save a bookmark for your bank’s ATM locator page. Either way you’ll be able to check in a pinch and avoid that hefty fee.

9. Always Have Your Coupons

Top 10 Ways to Save Money with Your SmartphoneCoupons are an obvious way to save some cash, but you don’t always have them with you. That’s where coupon apps come in. They provide you with a large database of coupons for various stores so you always have them when you need them. There are tons of options, but Coupon Sherpa for iPhone andThe Coupons for Android will get the job done. You may also want to download store-specific apps for access to exclusive deals.

8. Use an App to Compare Prices When Shopping

Top 10 Ways to Save Money with Your SmartphoneWhen at a brick and mortar store, prices tend to be higher. If you’ve got a smartphone you can quickly check to see if any online prices are better than what you’re seeing locally. You do this by scanning the barcode on the back of a product with your smartphone’s camera and a price comparison app. For iPhone, we likeRedLaser and Google Shopper (or Amazon Mobile, if all you need is Amazon). For Android, Google Shopper is the way to go (orAmazon Mobile if that’s your thing).

7. Keep Digital Copies of Discount Cards

Top 10 Ways to Save Money with Your SmartphoneDiscount cards are really handy when you’re shopping, but once they start to accumulate they become pretty much unmanageable—at least in the real world. Your smartphone, however, can store these cards for quick retrieval. While you could just take pictures of them and store them on your phone, a free app called CardStar (for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry) will help you manage them all. It’ll also give you relevant coupons, too, which is a nice added bonus.

6. Actually Use Your Phone to Save Money

Top 10 Ways to Save Money with Your SmartphoneIf you’re trying to save, it helps to put together a budget and track your spending. These are both things your smartphone can handle pretty well with just the right app. We like the free Jumsoft Money app for iPhone, butBillMinder is also a good option as it tries to keep you from forgetting your bills so you don’t end up paying late fees. On Android, check out Moneywise, Pageonce, orEasyMoney (if you’ve got $10 to spend on an app).

5. Save Money on Groceries

Top 10 Ways to Save Money with Your SmartphoneWe’re very fond of Grocery IQ, which is an all-around great app for managing all of your grocery shopping needs. When you run out of something at home, you can just use Grocery IQ to scan the barcode and immediately add it to your groceries list. What’s particularly helpful, however, is Grocery IQ’s excellent abilities to keep track of your grocery store discount cards and any current deals/coupons so you never miss out. It’s really handy and a free download for both Android and iPhone.

4. Get Cheap Gas

Top 10 Ways to Save Money with Your SmartphoneIt’s easy to just go out and pick the closest gas station, but generally one of the gas stations a bit our of the way is going to be your best bet. You don’t want to venture off to a farther gas station just because it’ll save you money, as often times the transport costs will eat up your savings, so a gas price finder app us really helpful to have in your pocket. We like GasBuddy on both iPhone and Android.

3. Make Calls Using VOIP

Top 10 Ways to Save Money with Your SmartphoneMaybe you’ve got unlimited data. Maybe you’re on Wi-Fi a lot. So long as you have a good means of keeping your phone connected you can start making VOIP calls to save your minutes. The simplest way to go about this is to just use Skype (for iPhone, Android, andBlackBerry). Alternatively, Talkatone lets you make free Google Voice VOIP calls on your iPhone and GrooVe IP does that same for Android.

2. Don’t Pay for Text Messages

Top 10 Ways to Save Money with Your SmartphoneText messages are a pricey add-on to your service plan but there are tons of apps that let you do it for free. Most notable is the freeGoogle Voice, which provides free SMS text messages and a free phone number. TextFree for iPhone and Android also gets the job done, but you can’t have a single, unified phone number like Google Voice can provide.

1. Tether at Little to No Cost

Top 10 Ways to Save Money with Your SmartphoneCellphone carriers love to gouge you on tethering, but if you’re paying a specific price for a data connection you should be able to use that connection however you want—especially if you’re paying for a finite amount. To tether without the monthly fee on your iPhone you’ll need to jailbreak and purchase MyWi. Yeah, it’ll cost you $20 but you’re only paying it once. On Android, just grab PdaNet. Both should have you tethering freely in no time.


Got any other great ways to save money with your smartphone? Let’s hear ’em in the comments!

 

Bonus: Great turn out at the r/antarctica meet up

How to Be More Confident by Accepting These 4 Transforming Beliefs

This is a guest post from Allison Nelms

If you’re like me, you have trouble feeling confident sometimes. Slowly but surely, I’ve been learning how to gain confidence over the past few years, and I finally feel ready to write about it to help others do the same. Maybe calling these statements “truths” sounds too bold, but I have chosen to personally believe in them out of faith, simply because it helps me. All attitudes in life seem to be like that – beliefs we choose to take on can either help or hurt us. My life has greatly improved from choosing to try out new beliefs and end old habits. If you want to know how to be more confident, please consider the following statements that I’ve found to be extremely helpful in my own life.

1. You can be your own best friend or your own worst enemy.

You might’ve heard the saying, “You’re your own worst enemy.” This is often true – we tend to judge ourselves much more harshly than anyone else would. Try to give yourself a break! Instead of putting yourself down, build yourself up. You can be your own best friend by telling yourself the things that you would tell a dear friend or loved one. If someone you knew was going through a rough time, how would you support them? What would you say? Start doing these things for yourself. There’s no reason why you don’t deserve encouragement and support, so if no one is providing that for you right now, try to provide it for yourself.

Example: Talking yourself through anxious feelings before a challenging situation:

Best friend: “Okay, I want to [talk to this person/give this presentation/go to this party], but I feel pretty nervous. I guess I’m afraid of what kind of impression I’ll give… But there’s nothing serious to worry about. I’ll probably do better than I think. It’s worth a shot.”

Worst enemy: “Okay, I want to [talk to this person/give this presentation/go to this party], but I feel pretty nervous. Every time I do this, it turns out the same. I’ll look [stupid/lame/ugly/etc]. Why would anyone want to listen to what I have to say, anyway?

How to Be More ConfidentPhoto by bingramos on flickr.

It’s pretty obvious, I think, which type of inner dialogue is going to hurt you. Trust me, I’ve engaged in plenty of negative self-talk, and I still struggle occasionally. It’s an on-going process. I know how hard it can be to break out of the habit of bashing yourself, but let me assure you that it’s absolutely possible.

If you wonder how it’s possible to be your own best friend, consider how it’s possible for you to be your own worst enemy. What are some of the negative thoughts you tell yourself? The fact of the matter is these are just beliefs you are choosing to accept based on faith, self-fulfilling prophecy, or some outside source. Fortunately you aren’t stuck with these thoughts – it is possible to let them go over time.

When you decide to start building yourself up rather than breaking yourself down, you will inevitably gain more experience that will strengthen you and build your confidence. One way to gain more experience is to consider the next new belief.

2. Failure is all about perspective.

How you identify failure and what you do with it can greatly affect your confidence. You can either see failures as failures, or you can see them as experiences that didn’t go the way you hoped or planned for. Failure can be such a harsh word. I’ve only called myself a failure once or twice in my life, and I remember I felt terrible as soon as I said it. No matter what you decide to call it, what really makes a difference is how you process the experience and what you do with it. There are various perspectives you can choose to take on failure.

Example: Using failure as a learning experience rather than a reason to discourage you from living freely.

Failure setting you back: “Well, I knew that was gonna happen. I’ll never try doing that again… why even bother? I’m a failure.

Failure moving you forward: “Well, that sucks. I feel pretty disappointed. But maybe [this wasn’t my fault/the odds were against me/it’ll go better next time/etc]. At least I took a chance, which is better than not doing anything at all. I know what it’s like to not try, and that doesn’t ever feel good.”

Do you see how it’s more helpful to use failure as a tool for your own success? Nothing great can come from giving up and calling yourself a failure. Instead, use perceived failure to your advantage. If you try something and mess up, so what? Did the world end? You might as well take it as a learning experience and opportunity to grow. When you can accept this idea, it’ll be easier to acknowledge and act on the next new belief.

3. Confidence will come from facing your fears.

Think about it – if you were already absolutely confident about everything, you wouldn’t have a single fear! Confidence comes after you face your fears, meaning there’s no quick and easy way to total confidence. The type of confidence you can have right now, however, is the kind that propels you to taking risks and facing your fears. There has to be some part of you deep inside that believes, “I can do it.” Find this voice. You wouldn’t be reading this article right now if that courage didn’t exist within you.

During my time in therapy, I’ve come across some very powerful and inspiring quotes shared by my therapist and others that moved me forward and continue to today. I’d like to share one that I find particularly moving and relevant:

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”   Mary Anne Radmacher

This is a popular quote for a reason. You will be more confident after you decide to listen to that quiet voice. Have the strength to face whatever makes you feel afraid, knowing that you will survive. You could come out of the experience learning that you can handle the situation in the future.

The things we fear are often dramatized in our heads. Did you ever get through an experience you feared and thought, “That’s wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be!”? Remember that experience and use it to give you more confidence. Even if an experience turns out to be just as scary or even worse than you expected, that’s okay. You got through it, and you should acknowledge that as a success regardless.

As you face your fears more and more, the anxiety will decrease over time as long as you persist through it. If you bail on the experience early, the anxiety can come back stronger in the future. The key is to persist. It can take some time for the brain to learn that these situations are not worthy of fight-or-flight responses. (Check back soon for an article on this concept in greater detail.)

The thing about this belief is you have to act on it to gain confidence, and you will be more willing to act on it if you can believe in the next idea.

4. You can’t compare to anyone, and no one can compare to you.

This is a tough one. I would guess that this is one of the hardest concepts for people to accept, but once they do, it is life-changing. I admit that I’m still learning to live by this belief today.

How to Be More ConfidentPhoto by pinksherbet on flickr.

You are an incredibly unique person, and your uniqueness is what makes you a valuable person. Everyone is valuable! It can be thrilling to imagine how truly unique every single person is. We all have different personalities, appearances, voices, perspectives, hopes, fears, and dreams. We come from different cultures and families. There are so many variables that make each of us unique, and that’s beautiful. So how can we compare ourselves? It’s one thing to say Bob is better at playing basketball than Bill, but it doesn’t make sense to say Bill is inferior, or Bob is a better person. And that’s exactly what we do when we compare ourselves to others and base our value on things like appearance and achievements.

When you acknowledge your uniqueness and inherent value, you can let go of the need for others’ approval to feel good about yourself. You can also let go of the pressure to meet other people’s standards. It’s difficult to do this, because it’s become a habit. Most of us have been conditioned since our childhood to seek approval and meet certain standards. Acceptance from our parents, teachers, and friends could have come from how well we did at something, for example. Then as we grow older, we learn about societal values and the importance of wealth, success, and power. We also learn that other people have expectations, and combined with whatever type of habits and beliefs we developed as children, these standards can make us feel overwhelmed.

It’s important to realize that you don’t need to meet other people’s standards or gain their approval in order to be a valuable person. You already are! Don’t get caught up in the superior/inferior mindset – remember that you are unique and not measurable.

Summary

Try out these new beliefs and see how they work for you. Chances are the beliefs you’ve been holding onto are dragging you down, one way or another. If you can start encouraging yourself, using failure to your advantage, facing your fears, and valuing yourself without comparing yourself, you will be more confident. I wish you the best with these new ways of thinking.

Do you agree or disagree with something you read here or want to comment in general? Please join in the discussion below!

5 Ways to Break Up with Your Girlfriend Without Hurting Her Feelings

Written by collegehumor
Breaking up with someone is the worst. They get all sad and start crying. Then they’re like, “But I thought you loved me.” Awkward! Who wants to deal with that? Not me. Here are five fool-proof ways to kick someone out of your life without having to watch them turn into an emotional wreck. Note: Although these all say “girlfriend,” they’re sure to work on boys, too.

5 Myths Atheists Believe about Religion

Written by Be Scofield

Despite their emphasis on reason, evidence and a desire to see through false truth claims, many atheists hold surprisingly ill-informed beliefs about religion. Many of these myths go unquestioned simply because they serve the purpose of discrediting religion at large. They allow for the construction of a straw man i.e. a distorted and simplistic representation of religion which can be easily attacked, summarily dismissed and ridiculed. Others who genuinely believe these false claims merely have a limited understanding of the ideas involved and have never thoroughly examined them. But, myths are myths and they should be acknowledged for what they are.

I’m not saying that atheists aren’t knowledgeable when it comes to religion. To the contrary, atheists in general know more about the particularities of religion than most religious people do. A recent study confirmed it. I have no doubt that they can rattle off all of the myths, falsities, fanciful claims, dangerous ideas and barbarous actions committed by the religious. It makes sense as a targeted group will generally know more about the dominant group than the other way around. But of course simply knowing more than other religious people about their traditions doesn’t preclude holding to false beliefs of their own.

There are certainly more than five myths about religion that are perpetuated by some atheists (and in some cases the religious). However, I’ve chosen what I feel to be the most significant false claims made by atheists to help provide a more accurate understanding of religion and to pave the groundwork for dialogue between these seemingly two opposing groups.

Now, let’s examine these myths.

5. Liberal and Moderate Religion Justifies Religious Extremism

While this often repeated claim seems logical at first glance, upon examination it is nothing more than another simplistic idea that provides a feel good rallying cry for those who want to denounce religion in its entirety.

Sam Harris states that moderates are “in large part responsible for the religious conflict in our world” and “religious tolerance–born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God–is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss.” And Richard Dawkins states, “The teachings of ‘moderate’ religion, though not extremist in themselves, are an open invitation to extremism.” Christopher Hitchens has called liberation theology “sinister nonsense” and compared the liberal Unitarian tradition to rats and vermin.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it leads to some unwanted logical conclusions when applied equally to other ideas. It is hypocritical to selectively apply the principle where it suits one’s needs but not elsewhere.

We can ask whether or not all liberal and moderate expressions of something are responsible for their most extreme forms. Are the people who casually smoke marijuana in any way responsible for the death of someone involved in a violent heroin drug trade? Is a social drinker of alcohol creating the environment that leads to alcoholism? Should they be shunned for supporting conditions that cause tens of thousands of alcohol-related unwanted deaths? Is a pediatrician responsible for Nazi medical experiments simply because he or she participates in the field of medicine? How about politics? Is a liberal democracy responsible for forms of government such as totalitarianism or fascism? Is a very progressive Democrat like Dennis Kucinich responsible for George Bush’s torture policies because he merely participates in the U.S. political system? If so, it means that one’s participation in a political system should be blamed for the worst crimes of any government leader.

I could list example after example, but to state my point simply, the more rational and tolerant uses of science, religion, medicine or government cannot be blamed for the destructive and harmful uses of them.

4. Religion Requires a Belief in a Supernatural God

This claim, expressed by Christopher Hitchens as “to be religious is to be a theist” seems to be a difficult myth for some atheists to abandon. Many seem content with this intellectually inaccurate definition of religion. However, if you open any “Religion 101? textbook you will find a variety of traditions that don’t require belief in any god, miracles or supernatural entities including Taoism, Jainism, Confucianism and Buddhism. Unitarian Universalism doesn’t require belief in any divinity either. And of course there are non-theists such as deists, pantheists and panentheists who are practicing members of Christianity, Judaism and Islam as well as other progressive traditions. There are many Christians who don’t literally believe the stories of the Bible. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of them. Thomas Jefferson, as well as other “founding fathers” are prominent examples of deists within American history. Jefferson created his own Bible in which he removed all references to miracles and supernatural claims. But yet he was still religious. He stated,

“The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills. –Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

Others simply describe God as the natural order, the healing and renewing power of existence or the creative principle in life. Yet, despite all of these non-supernatural God forms many still attend religious services, draw inspiration from sacred texts and enjoy the benefits of a spiritual community.

I understand why anti-religious atheists are so reluctant to accept the fact that being religious doesn’t mean belief in the supernatural. The simplistic and convenient myth they’ve constructed would be shattered. It would be much harder to attack religion as it would mean a more sophisticated and refined critique, one that would be more difficult to arouse the passions of dogmatic religion haters.

3. Religion Causes Bad Behavior

A common way for atheists to denounce religion is to simply list all of the horrors that have been done in the name of religion and then say, “Look how awful religion is!” Religion becomes synonymous with all of the bad things done by religious people. But is religion the cause of bad behavior or simply a mitigating factor? Christopher Hitchens provides some surprising insight: “What’s innate in our species isn’t the fault of religion. But the bad things that are innate in our species are strengthened by religion and sanctified by it… So religion is a very powerful re-enforcer of our backward, clannish, tribal element. But you can’t say it’s the cause of it. To the contrary, it’s the product of it.” Amen! Hitchens says that religion is not the cause of bad behavior! Many of us religious progressives have been making this point for a long time. Of course religion is also a very powerful re-enforcer of our most beautiful, inspiring and profound aspects as well. It can inspire the best and worst in us.

This point is very important because it focuses the attention on the real source of bad behavior which is human nature, not religion. Understanding this is important when defending against attempts to dismiss religion because of the bad things done in its name. Certainly, religion plays a role in conflicts but it is just one factor among many such as ideological, political and sociological ones. If religion were the cause of bad behavior getting rid of it would simply make all divisiveness and conflict disappear. But of course this would not be the case. And, if religion were to be eliminated other forms of associations with the same group dynamics and dangers would arise.

Religion is like a knife which can be used by a surgeon to save lives or as a dagger to kill someone.

2. Atheists are Anti-Religious

This false belief stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what atheism and religion are. Atheism is not in any way shape or form related to an opinion about religion. It is simply the assertion that god does not exist, nothing more and nothing less. Religion is a broad category that encompasses traditions which include supernatural belief and those that do not. And, as I’ve already stated there are many atheists who are already religious practitioners.

Despite atheism being quite a straightforward concept, many continually misrepresent what it means. A prominent example comes from the atheist writer Greta Christina. She recently stated, “Atheists, by definition, don’t think any religion has any reasonable likelihood of being true.” Wrong. Atheists by definition assert that god does not exist. Besides, what does it mean for a religion to be true or not true when a religion doesn’t require any supernatural belief? Again, being an atheist has nothing to do with ones position on religion. A fellow atheist seminarian friend of mine at Starr King School for the Ministry clearly demonstrates this point:

First, I think there is a difference between being an atheist and being anti-religious. They are orthogonal. There is also a difference between being anti-religious and being opposed to the effects of particular religious traditions. These terms should not be conflated. Since when did not believing in God mean that you are opposed to other people believing in God and or practicing religion regardless of whether they believe? I am an atheist. Just to be clear, by that I mean I don’t believe that there is a god, a higher consciousness, or a spirit. I am also opposed to the effects of certain religious traditions. But I am not by any means anti-religious. I don’t deny the value that religion or religious practice, (whether actual belief in god and the afterlife, or simply liking the pretty candles at mass and multiple opportunities for community) brings to people including myself. Religion has a lot to offer and to deny that is to deny the complexity of the human condition.

The concept of an atheist who practices religion is hard to swallow for many. Yet, the simple facts reveal millions of people who practice religion and are simultaneously atheists.

Elsewhere there are examples of atheists and agnostics who support and work in relation to religion. Bruce Sheiman, author of “An Atheist Defends Religion,” has done great work on the subject. Chris Stedman of NonProphet Status is an atheist who has worked with Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Youth Core and is now working for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard as the Interfaith and Community Service Fellow. In fact, the silent majority of atheists are not militant, but because of popular anti-religious voices like Christopher Hitchens atheism becomes associated with the most stridently militant.

1. All Religions are the Same and are “Equally Crazy”

Many atheists often claim that they are wrongly accused of not understanding the differences between religions. “Of course we do!” I’ve heard them say. But yet this is meaningless unless they are willing to treat these differences differently. Case and point is the latest article from Greta Christina where she asks, “Are All Religions Equally Crazy?” and answers a resounding, Yes. She describes a number of strange Mormon beliefs and practices, but then realizes that other religions aren’t any better. If her point was to illustrate that some religions have strange beliefs, she succeeded. She concludes,

But all religions are out of touch with reality. All religions are implausible, based on cognitive biases, and unsupported by any good evidence whatsoever. All of them ultimately rely on faith — i.e., an irrational attachment to a pre-existing idea regardless of any evidence that contradicts it — as the core foundation of their belief. All of them contort, ignore, or deny reality in order to maintain their attachment to their faith.

This conclusion is simply false. Her reasoning sweeps up all religious expressions including those which aren’t reliant upon any supernatural beliefs, miracles or magical claims. For example, by using the term “all religions” she conflates a church attending atheist Unitarian Universalist with a Bible believing, homophobic theist. The venerable Vietnamese Buddhist religious leader Thich Nhat Hanh becomes synonymous with Pat Robertson simply because they are both religious leaders. Dr. King is in the same category as Osama Bin Laden. Deists are conflated with theists. Those who reject literal religious claims are placed in the same category who believe snakes talked in the Bible. Christina leaves no room for religious people who are tolerant, non-believers or those who view religion metaphorically. Writing an article that concludes all religions are equally crazy is like saying that all Americans are nationalists and imperialists and then pointing to the part of the population that supports U.S. wars.

Where is the evidence that many of these atheists can make any meaningful distinctions between religions? It’s one thing to make the claim but where is the recognition of humanistic, non-literal and progressive religious traditions? Hitchens calls Unitarianism rats and vermin. Christina calls all religions equally crazy. Dawkins says the teachings of moderate religion lead to extremism. Harris claims that moderates are responsible for much of the conflict in the world. If there were any serious attempts to show they know the difference between religions, these leaders in the movement would have exhibited it by now. But time and time again all we get from these prominent atheists something akin to “all religions are equally crazy.”

I think we can move beyond the religion = crazy/atheism = dangerous dichotomy that so dominates our day. To do so we must honestly examine the myths and misunderstandings of both positions. Genuine dialogue between the religious and non-religious is possible. We are better at finding points of agreement politically, socially and ideologically and seeking common ground to organize around. We certainly won’t agree on everything, but in the end all parties should leave more knowledgeable and better prepared to deal with the way religion impacts our everyday lives and the global sphere.

Be Scofield is a writer, founder of www.godblessthewholeworld.org and a Dr. King scholar. He writes and blogs for Tikkun Magazine and his work has appeared on Alternet.org and Integral World among others. Be is pursuing a Master’s of Divinity in the Unitarian Universalist tradition with a dual certificate in women studies in religion and sacred dance with a concentration in Buddhism

Bonus: My roommate doesn’t own an iron

Bonus: My roommate doesn't own an iron