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Welcome!

The purpose of this website is to be a resource for those who are curious about how to live a joyful life. Why? Because a joyful life means a more peaceful life.

The content is largely free to keep it accessible for as many people as possible.

How often we believe we don’t have what we need to be joyful, and yet we have the potential within us already. True Freedom is dedicated to supporting you in discovering this, not through dogmatic teachings, but rather by encouraging you to be an independent thinker and walk your own path.

Perhaps you’re here for a reason. Take a look around, and see what happens!

- Amanda

    Effective Goal Setting

    Why Set Goals?

    Are you someone who creates goals for yourself? Many people do, but we find it hard to follow through, whether it’s in the form of a picture of what you looked like twenty years ago taped to your fridge or a New Year’s resolution that never changes because you gave up by February.

    Or, maybe you find them relatively pointless.

    I used to do everything I could to reach the goals I set for myself. In my early to mid-twenties, they were mostly financial because that’s what was important to me; trying to save up a certain amount of money or to be able to retire early. When I would succeed, I would be overjoyed, but if I failed to achieve them, I would become disheartened.

    I’ve also been through a stage when I saw no reason to make them. Why did we need goals? Everything happens in its own time, right?

    Over time, I’ve come to believe goal setting is important because it sets our sight on where we want to go. It provides us with direction. It helps us get clarity on how we want to spend our time and energy. It gives us an opportunity to evaluate what we want in life, and perhaps more importantly, why we want it.

    For example, perhaps you have a goal to retire by the age of 50. If you’re too caught up in the end, rather than the means, you might find yourself really sacrificing a lot to reach your goal:

    • Quality of life (ex. living like a pauper or working long hours at the office)
    • Family or personal relationships (ex. you have your sights set so strongly on accomplishing something that you begin to neglect others)
    • Your physical and/or mental health (ex. heart disease, anxiety)

    Perhaps you accomplish your goal of early retirement. Then what? Do you know what you’d like to do with your newfound free time? Maybe you get bored because you don’t know what to do with yourself. Did you put yourself (and others) through hardship for all those years just to… languish?

    Once you become clearer on why you want to retire early, for example pursuing a passion, spending time with family, or traveling more, then you won’t set yourself up for disappointment later on. Even better, maybe you’ll find a way to begin doing some of these things before retirement.

    But it doesn’t end there.

    Releasing Expectation

    It’s just as crucial to release your attachment to the outcome. This may sound illogical, or even for those of you who are tough on yourself, it may sound like you’re being too “soft” -- or giving yourself a way out. But in reality, I found this actually helped me to achieve my goals.

    If we’re too attached to an outcome, good or bad, we have so much riding on it that it can discourage us if that plan doesn’t work out as we’d hoped. This may cause us to give up on our goals altogether. We might quit too early.

    Let’s say you’ve always dreamed of opening up a restaurant. You have everything riding on this venture; you’ve invested your money (perhaps even the money of other investors), and you’ve been working day and night. The restaurant fails. You become distraught and give up on your dream altogether. This is because you were too attached to the outcome of the restaurant succeeding. Because it didn’t, you quit.

    What would happen if you dropped your attachment to the results?

    By the way, this doesn’t mean you don’t try. But what if you started out with the mindset that you would approach this as a big experiment. If it works out -- great, if it doesn’t, that’s okay too.

    Why? Because you’ll try again.

    Maybe this time you’ll make some adjustments to your overall costs so your profit margins are larger, change the location, or revisit the menu. You attempt to learn from your mistakes and give it another go.

    Because you’re not attached to a certain outcome, you don’t kill yourself in the process. You work hard and give it your best, but you don’t sacrifice your health or personal relationships in the meantime. You don’t lose your temper frequently because you’re stressed out and under financial strain. If you run out of money in the process, you’ll just try something else to earn some more or borrow money until you have enough to try again.

    How would this new mindset affect your decision to take a risk?

     

    How to Set Goals That Will Actually Help You

    1.) Allow yourself some time to journal or think about what you’d like to do in your life. What would you do if you knew you had two months to live? What would you do if money were no object?

    2.) Now give some direction and set parameters to your desire. If you want to write a book, schedule a start and end date for getting your first chapter completed. If you want to get in better shape, set a bar for your weight, endurance, muscle mass, speed, etc.

    3.) Once you have your goals set, do a check by actually imagining yourself not reaching your goal. Are you dissuaded from trying again? Then imagine yourself reaching your goal. Are you so elated that future failure will disillusion you?

    If the answer is ‘yes’, you may want to wait until you can honestly say these feelings won’t affect your persistence. This may take you multiple tries because our minds are not conditioned to think this way. However, you’ll be better off by embarking on your mission with a balanced mind ahead of time.

     

    Relaxing

    You can now take the first small step toward your goal without all the pressure of your happiness being dependent on a positive result.

    If you reach your goal successfully, that’s great and you can fully enjoy it. However, if it doesn’t, that doesn’t necessarily signify the end. The ability to maintain your desire to do the things you want in spite of “failures” along the way is a clear test of whether or not you are too emotionally invested. Rarely do people succeed on their first try; usually they have large bumps along the way. Think about the hugely successful people you hear about; they usually have a story about their multiple struggles in the process.

    Don’t be afraid to fail. Heck, fail over and over again. You’ll learn more, and give yourself an opportunity to improve each time. Rarely is it just: success. But rather: failure, failure, failure, and then maybe success.

     

    Want more? You might also like:

    Increasing Productivity

    The Importance of Money

    Tuscan Lemon Cake

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    Being Unsure

    Do you ever feel pressured to make decisions in life?

    Are you on the fence about whether or not to have children, get married, or go back to school? Do you feel undecided about your career? Does even thinking about these topics make you uncomfortable?

    It can be unnerving to be undecided about these things. We feel we have to say definitively one way or another, just so we can give people a firm answer when asked. A bunch of stammering and awkward silences are not widely accepted responses.

    The problem is: if we're pressured into making big decisions we feel just so-so about, we're probably going to end up unhappy later on. And not only will we be unhappy, but we'll potentially be making the other people involved unhappy as well.

    For example, I know many people who want to have kids, or have them already, and I know many people who know they never want to have kids. And then there's me. I'm just not sure yet.

    For awhile I was on auto-pilot; preparing myself to get married and start a family because that’s what most people I knew did eventually. One day I wasn't so sure about this plan. At first I was queasy about being in this new grey area of indecisiveness; I felt isolated, but now I've accepted it.

    I used to really envy people that just… knew. They knew what their life would be like when they grew up. They knew what their house would look like, right down to the crown moulding. They knew from the tender age of five they wanted to be a jiu jitsu instructor. To make matters worse, they appeared totally happy and comfortable in these decisions, which I found especially irritating ;)

     

    Releasing envy

    I realized after awhile that people are at different places in life. Some of us live in a black and white world and some of us live in a perpetual sea of grey. Once I stopped wishing that I lived on the black and white side, I had more peace because I had developed patience for myself. I will know eventually when I need to know. This takes an element of trust, but for those of you with a strong sense of intuition, you can have more faith in this approach because you’ve probably felt a calling to do something (ex. parent, write, paint, play a sport, garden, etc.) at some point in your life – whether you’ve acted on it or not.

    Sure there is a practical element of age; as a woman I have biological limitations on the time frame in which I can have children. However, I keep this as more of a background timeframe in mind, rather than a flashing red light at the forefront of my mind, urging me to make impulsive decisions. I’m cognizant of a general timeline, but I don’t let it create reactions out of fear. I don’t want to search desperately for a husband just so I can have children and fit in better with society. Who would benefit from that? I can’t think of anyone in that situation.

    I focused on how it’s really in the best interest of others if we’re really solid on these decisions. Who wants to be born to a parent who’s unsure if they want children? Who wants to be married to someone who’s not sure if they want to be? Would you prefer to collaborate with a classmate or co-worker who knew they wanted to be there, or were “pushed” into being there?

     

    Floating

    For those of us fence-sitters, I don't think we have to have this all sorted out right now. I believe a fair number of us, at least at certain times, are in the middle of a continuum of sorts. We're neither here nor there yet -- but it's okay.

    I wanted to write this because I found it comforting to know other people were in the same boat. The same creaky old boat that might just be floating there; without a captain telling it in which direction to sail. So if you're reading this and you can relate in some way, I hope you know you're not the first person to feel like this even though it may seem like it. One day we'll set sailing with a destination in mind, and when that happens, we'll rest assured we chose that destination confidently.

     

    Want more? You might also like:

    Understanding Surrender

    How to Get What You Really Want: Manifesting Decoded

    Finding Mentors

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    Tuscan Lemon Cake

    (serves 8-10)

    IMG_2806

    I went to the farmer’s market yesterday and found some Meyer lemons. They looked interesting and I’d never really used them before. The guy working there explained to me they’re like a cross between a lemon and an orange. He was friendly, and they were such a beautiful color that before I knew what was happening, I had purchased three. But now I didn’t know what to do with them. When in doubt, make cake. I looked up some Tuscan cake recipes online and found this one. However, I adapted it for my preferences.

    For example, I like the idea of using whole-wheat flour instead because it’s less processed than white flour. I also buy the highest-quality ingredients I can find and reasonably afford. I used organic butter but I couldn’t find organic buttermilk so I just used conventional. Ideally, I’d use free-range, organic eggs but I didn’t have any at home so I used the regular kind -- no sweat. Just do the best with what you have!

    The result? The cake was tender, the citrus flavor -- clean and subtle. It’s not an in-your-face citrus flavor. For me, it wasn’t overly sweet either.*

    *If you like your cakes sweeter, increase the amount of sugar from 1 cup to 1 ½ cups (or 2 cups if you like it very sweet).

     


    IMG_2792

    Ingredients*

    3 Cups whole wheat flour + additional amount (1 Tbsp) to flour the pan

    1 tsp Baking Powder

    1/4 tsp salt

    1 stick unsalted butter + butter wrapper or additional butter to grease the pan

    1 Cup sugar

    1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (optional)

    3 large eggs

    1 Cup buttermilk

    Juice (about 4 Tbsp) and zest of one Meyer lemon (or large regular lemon)

    *All ingredients should be at room temperature.

     


     

    Directions

    Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

    In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Zest and juice the lemon.

    Butter and flour a loaf pan for easy cake removal when baked – I use the butter wrapper and then lightly sprinkle a small amount of flour all over the pan – shifting the pan back and forth to evenly coat the butter.

    IMG_2794

    Using an electric mixer (or stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter and sugar until well combined – about 3 minutes. Add in vanilla bean seeds and mix well. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy.

    IMG_2799

    With the mixer on a low speed alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as you go.

    IMG_2800

     

    Add the lemon juice and zest and continue to mix until well combined.  Do not over-mix.

    IMG_2801

    Spread the mixture into the pan – using the rubber spatula to evenly distribute the batter and flatten out the top. Lick batter off rubber spatula.

    IMG_2802

    Bake for one hour. Check for doneness by inserting cake tester or toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done.

    IMG_2804

    Remove cake from oven, let it rest five minutes, and then remove it from the pan.  The cake came out very easily (I just turned the pan upside down). Enjoy the citrusy lusciousness!

    IMG_2807

     

    Storage

    I (obviously) cut into this right away and had a slice for breakfast. However, it was too much cake for us to eat at one time. My friend who used to be a baker advised me to slice the entire cake up, and then individually wrap each slice and store them in the freezer.

    This way, you can enjoy a slice whenever you like. Simply unwrap a piece, put it on a plate, and microwave it for about 30-40 seconds on high. The cake will be warm and tender.

     

    Want more? You might also like:

    Recipe Revamp: Picadillo 

    Chocolate Pomegranate Oatmeal

    A Look at Fasting: My 24-Hour Fast

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    Increasing Productivity

    Increasing Productivity

    This is the year. This is the year you’re finally going to write that book that’s been incubating inside your head for all those years. You say to yourself: “Okay, today I’m going to write a chapter. Or maybe just a paragraph. Yeah, a paragraph… Say, I’m thirsty. I can make some of that amazing coffee I bought the other day. Hey someone tweeted at me! Shoot, do I have any milk? Oh that’s right, I have to go to the store. Before I do that, let me look up that recipe I saw earlier. I should really be healthier. FI-nally this person wrote me back; let me reply to their email. Oh yeah, what was I doing?...”

    How is it Michelangelo, at the age of 26, could sculpt The David, but we can’t take a single step toward our goals? Answer: Michelangelo didn’t have Facebook. Researchers from Stanford have found: “People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.”1

    But do we really need a scientific study to prove this? How productive are you when you’re intermittently checking your email, surfing the web, or texting versus when you’re distraction-free? Do you ever find yourself at the end of a workday, only to think to yourself: I feel like I didn’t get anything done? Many times we have plans to start that business, plant a garden, or read that book, but it doesn’t get done because we end up doing multiple things and getting distracted away. As a result, nothing important really gets done, or if it does, it may not get done well or takes us much longer than we want.

    Do you waste your time on distracting thoughts darting all over the place? You might notice your mind flit and float about; jumping from one thing to another. We wake up and declare: Okay I’m going to get X done today! But then we start messaging our friend or perusing some social media site, and then *POOF* another opportunity to get something done dies. These smaller activities have a time and place, but if we learned how to control when, and how much of our efforts to dedicate toward them, we could channel all our energy into one, sole important task that always gets sabotaged by “shiny objects” flickering in and out of our minds.

     

    Here are some ways to increase your productivity:

    Set a time limit. Many people work better under some kind of pressure. Does your two-year old nap from 1PM to 3PM every afternoon? Then you know you have 120 minutes of the most beautiful silence to focus on getting something completed. Don’t have a child-shaped alarm clock? Set yourself a time deadline of 60 minutes, 90 minutes, or whatever to get your task done. Just by knowing you have a limited window, you’ll probably be more likely to focus. As I write this article, I know that in 30 minutes I have to start making dinner for my parents. Suddenly, I come to the sad realization now is not the time for studying the 15 amazing ways one can use an old toilet paper roll.

    Divide and conquer. Not all tasks are created equal. Categorize them starting from “pretty mindless” all the way up to “requires uninterrupted, intense thought”. Remember your sacred pocket of time? You may want to use this time wisely and dedicate it to the things that require sustained amounts of focused attention. For example, I wake up around 5AM every day. I love getting up and having a couple hours to write before the world “begins” at 8AMish; whether it’s working on a book, or writing an article. Most people are not up at this hour, so I have some quiet time to tap into my creative flow. On the flip side, it would not be wise to use this precious time on low-level tasks like checking my email, or sorting through my expenses for the month. I can do these things while the TV is on, or while my friend is telling me I should get married soon. For this reason, I save these tasks for later in the day when I’m bound to have more interaction.

    Turn off your internet. If you’re doing something that doesn’t require getting online, turn off web access on your phone, computer, or both. This decreases the odds of you doing a Facebook peek or seeing an incoming email notification that sucks your attention away.

    Turn off your phone. Unless a close relative is having heart surgery, it’s probably okay to turn your phone off for a little bit. I find I can really streamline my work if I can direct my concentration into blocks of time, instead of working and getting interrupted frequently.

    Keep a notepad handy. Have a notepad to jot down bursts of thought that come up so you can do them later -- not now. Did you get the grandest idea, but you’re in the middle of doing something? You can write it down instead of stopping what you’re doing.

    Focus on the breath. If I find my mind wandering, I’ll turn my attention back to my inhales and exhales to center myself again. It quiets my brain a bit so I can go back to the task at hand. Try it and see if you like it.

    Listen to music. Sometimes I listen to audiobooks or talks if I’m doing a more mundane task like unpacking boxes or organizing a closet. It keeps me doing what I need to get done for a longer period of time because I’m following a storyline or an educational piece. It keeps me "in the zone" and prevents me from getting bored and quitting.

    Make it easy. If I’m working on an article, I leave it open on my desktop so I can go back and work on it easily. If I have to turn on my computer, open up my writing software, and search for the file I was working on -- it’s less likely to happen. Even though it only takes a few minutes, it still creates hurdles. Instead, when I think about working on my article and I have it ready to go on my computer, it seems like something pretty easy -- as opposed to having to jump through all these hoops to work on it.

     

    How efficient could you be if you could create an environment where it’s easier to focus combined with making an effort to steadily concentrate? What would you accomplish? If I’m feeling lackluster, I often remind myself of the broad range of things people can do with just one hour; Michelangelo could sculpt The David’s left kneecap, or I could watch endless videos of Siamese cats performing show tunes. There’s plenty of time for that, but now is the time for work.

     

    1. Stanford Report, http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/august24/multitask-research-study-082409.html

     

    Want more? You might also like:

    The Importance of Money

    How to Get What You Really Want: Manifesting Decoded

    Understanding Surrender

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    Generosity and Guilt

    Do you feel like you could be doing more to help a friend, family member, your community, or the world? I’m not here to pressure you into doing anything because I don’t think that’s necessarily the answer, but rather I’d like to focus on what to do with this guilty feeling for those of us that have it so it no longer torments us.

     

    Putting on Your Oxygen Mask First

    First, if you’re someone who’s struggling to make ends meet, you may not want to donate money. You are probably the person who needs to be the receiver right now, not the giver. It’s like on a plane; they recommend you secure your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. If you do benefit from the generosity of others, perhaps it will encourage you to pay it forward when you have something extra because you know what it’s like to struggle.

    If you still feel compelled to do something, maybe you could donate your time. Could you help out a family member with some yard work or tutor a child in your community? Maybe you could babysit someone’s kids for an evening.

     

    What if You Have Enough But It’s Still Hard to Donate?

    Now let’s say you think you have enough, but it’s just hard to part with your resources. Have you thought about volunteering at your kid’s school or donating to a cause, but when the moment came you just couldn’t bring yourself to do it? If you’re like me, the frequent thoughts that you’re a bad person may continue to haunt you; you may notice your head slowly lowering in shame when you hear your friend recount their Thanksgiving spent working at a soup kitchen – but you still don’t take action.

    You might even tell yourself: “You have more than enough -- don’t be so greedy!” I would see an opportunity to give money to a good cause, but when the moment came to give something, I would feel a pang of fear and a physical and mental tightness. I wouldn’t end up doing it, but I would still think about it endlessly.

    I think many of us would like to donate more to charities or volunteer our time, even if it’s just helping out a friend, but sometimes we feel like we can’t because we believe our money and/or time are scarce. How can I find the time to help someone out with something if I can barely fit everything I need to do into my day? How can I donate money to someone in need when I work so hard and I can barely pay my bills or I don’t know what’ll happen if a rainy day comes along? What about other concerns like: Well, my five dollars won’t make a difference so why should I bother? How do I know the money I give that homeless person won’t be spent on terrible whiskey?

    My answer is that you have to find a way to make giving work for you too. I expect some criticism from this – as at first it may sound selfish. For example, if you’re concerned that giving your money to homeless people only encourages them to buy drugs and alcohol, maybe you could donate directly to someone you know who could use some help, or work at an organization where you know exactly how the funds are being directed. If you’re a strict vegetarian, perhaps serving turkey to others doesn’t feel right to you. So then spend your time working at an animal shelter or animal rescue center. My point is, you should feel good about how you’re giving.

    I see people criticize the intentions of some who give to charity. We’re shamed into believing we shouldn’t donate money because it makes us feel better. Well, why not? While I agree true charity is done without expectation (like giving money to a hospital because you want them to name the wing after you or something like that), what’s wrong with feeling good about donating? When I give money to someone, I do it without expecting anything in return, but it does make me feel good too. Everyone wins, which I think is the best possible outcome.

     

    Improved Life by Giving

    As a result of being more generous with my resources, I’ve found my life is easier. I no longer feel that physical and emotional tightness closing in on me periodically. Those sporadic pangs of guilt have gone away because I’m now giving more freely. I feel more useful, and I have a greater sense of purpose because I can do more to support others during their hard times. It’s also made me more compassionate, because I can understand if I were in their situation, I could use some help too. It’s made me more appreciative of others when they buy me dinner or take time to show me how to do something. Overall, I can summarize it by saying I feel a “lightness” that just didn’t exist when I was hoarding my time and money. Life just feels… easier

    I’m still being pragmatic, and I’m not giving away all my money so I have nothing to live on. Nor am I volunteering all my time so I’m not able to work. However, I have found I’m able to take care of my needs as well as attend to the needs of others. I may not save the world today, but I can at least help out someone in a small way. As a result, maybe that person will pay it forward and help out someone else.

    I was surprised when I noticed I became more generous after I left the finance world and started making less money. When I was writing this article, I thought about why, and I think it’s because when I was working in finance I didn’t like what I was doing as much, so I would think: “Oh hell I worked so hard for that money. I gave up all my extra time for that money.” As a result, it was painful to part with it because I thought about how much I had to sacrifice to earn it. However, now I observe myself having less of an attachment to money, and I think much of it has to do with realizing I can do what I enjoy and make it back. I don’t know how long it will take me, but I can do it. Therefore, to part with money isn’t as painful because it’s not such a “sacrifice” for me to earn it anymore.

    And you know what? I’m finding it gets easier the more I do it.

    Looking back on my experience, I do see how people can become attached to money -- even when they’re making a lot of money. We build ourselves a cage – granted it might be a 24K gold cage – but a cage nonetheless.

     

    Here are some tips that may help you:

    • I try to put myself in their shoes. Would I want someone to show me how to do something if I didn’t know how? If I were in an unfamiliar city, would I be grateful if someone took the time to give me some really great directions? If I was short on cash, would I be appreciative if someone bought me a meal and expected nothing in return?
    • I focus on the fact that when others are doing well around me, that’s better for everyone – including myself. My main motive is not self-serving, but it’s worthwhile to know, and experience, that many times what’s good for you is also good for others. See if this is true for you.
    • Finally, if you don’t want to, or can’t, donate that’s your choice too. Don’t let societal pressure force you into anything, including giving. Own your choice and make peace with it.

    See if anything happens when you alleviate feelings of guilt or shame either through acceptance that you’re not in a position to give right now, becoming comfortable with the fact you don’t want to donate, or finding your unique way to give back. You may find yourself shifting back and forth between these – play around with it!

     

    Want more? You might also like:

    The Importance of Money

    Understanding Surrender

    How to Get What You Really Want: Manifesting Decoded

    Read More