Tetyana Live

A dose of happy

The Money Report: My Own Financial Freedom

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(c) VisualWanderlust.com

I briefly mentioned about finances in my previous posts, but think it’s a good topic to discuss in more detail because most people, I found, didn’t really understand the idea of how I am living without of a stable-paying job.

Throughout my life, I read lots of interesting literature about financial success. Some familiar themes include “achieve financial freedom,” “live your dreams,” “never step foot in the office again,” “automatic millionaire,” etc. Even the titles of these books are just hilarious. It’s like seeing a really great headline in your Facebook newsfeed, clicking on the link, getting bombarded by a bunch of advertisements that shut down your iOS/Android browser and then when you finally read that article, you just feel disappointed and robbed of your time.

People are very attracted to stories that start with: “Lose 10 Lbs in One Week!” “Make Millions of Dollars Without Doing Anything!” “Mad Hair Loss? Grow Your Hair in One Day!” “Get Your Boyfriend to Marry You in 2 Hours,” and the list goes on.

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People love that crap. And really, all of that is a false advertising to get you to spend money.

$10 isn’t a lot for you to throw out? It surely might not be, but brands who run on overnight-life-improvement headlines count on the NUMBER of people who actually fall for their them. And they make it affordable enough that you don’t feel bad when you actually spend that money.

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But we are smarter than that, no?

Ok, back to money. When I first began working on Wall Street, I knew one thing: I have an opportunity to make a great salary. How should I handle it?

While my friends in the same industry were taking amazing trips, shopping, eating at upscale restaurants, attending $200/month gyms…

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…I was in the office, saving every penny, cooking, running by the promenade, and going to a donation-based yoga studio. I was also sleeping in my living room which has no window, so that I could save money on Manhattan rent. There. I just told you my dirty secret. My life didn’t sound so fabulous in the end, did it? It didn’t and it wasn’t.

Logically, once a person achieves better-paying opportunities, he or she would want to step up their lifestyle. He or she will want to “live better,” now that there are means to buy better furniture, wear better quality clothing, get stuff that makes life more convenient, easier, more enjoyable.

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This is exactly the point at which young people take the first step into what some might call a “rat race.” I don’t think it’s so much as keeping up with the Joneses, like it is with the natural need to EXPERIENCE better things. This is where it becomes tricky. It is a NATURAL and normal feeling to develop further. So, people end up taking out loans. They buy expensive things, homes, cars, luxury items, etc. They get really excited.

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What did I do? I kept living the way I lived a few months before I entered my career. I DID NOT downgrade my lifestyle after college when I began working a well-paying job. I simply KEPT it CONSISTENT. Think of it like choosing to buy an upgraded phone. It’s not like you really need it, but it’s just considered “better” and you want to stay “relevant.” When everyone was buying iPhone 5S, I held on to my iPhone 4S. Just a tad longer. Not painfully longer, but just a little bit.

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So why didn’t I upgrade my lifestyle once I began having the means?

One reason was practical.

I knew that I won’t physically have the time do be in a “nice apartment in Midtown” – and instead, I will be busy working late nights (10-11pm). I knew that ordering out or going to restaurants will cause me to gain weight (I became less mobile at a desk job, and felt weary about the additives in restaurant food that might cause me to feel an energy drain.) I knew that buying flattering clothing, to me, was much better than buying expensive clothing. Who was I out to impress? As long as my body was in shape, I was happy with everything I dressed it into.

Another reason was rational. I was at a volatile point in my life! I was switching to a different stage in life…and I KNEW that success takes time, so I stopped the need to rush it in such a soft stage. I knew that someday, I will need a good lump of money. And it’s always nice to have a cushion that me sleep at night. That no matter what happens, I will be fine in the finances department and can focus on more important things.

I hoarded money. I sacrificed short term, short-lasting satisfaction, with a LONG TERM goal that I knew will bring more convenience, happiness, and stress-relief.

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Finally, I stopped obsessing over money. I got busy developing myself as a finance professional and mature person. I read a lot of news, articles, learned job skills, new strategies, networked, hung out with my team, learned about people, learned in-depth economics. I focused on things that were interesting to me. I made it a point to see my friends on the weekends. Sometimes it was as simple as walking around on the beach and drinking tea together. It was less alcohol and more sober connection.

And so, while I was developing myself and enjoying time with my favorite people, money was just coming in. So effortlessly.

So then, this happened. I reaped what was interesting to me at work, I learned enough of what I wanted, I brushed up on my analytical skills, I learned what I liked and disliked in my career. A day came that I felt ready to move on in my life. There, I felt, were some rough edges that I needed to polish. And so, I was financially, mentally, physically READY to leave my job.

And just like that, I created space in my life. I had the time to do things that I craved: writing, reading, thinking, communicating. And then happened this platform, Tetyana Live.

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We, as a society, have better access to information than previous generations. In general, we are weaning off McDonalds and GMO-grown food because we are just more sophisticated. We are so much smarter than falling for primitive advertisements or letting FINANCIAL FREEDOM GURUS dictate how happy WE can be if we buy their book and follow their success model. Success means different things to different people!

But they all share one aspect: no success happens overnight.

I worked damn hard. (I loved it, but I worked damn hard.) What I put in is what was put out for me in return. I was rewarded for NON-microwaved and disciplined efforts.

If I can offer some unsolicited advice to you, here it goes:

If you want to live the life you always dreamt of, call your grandma, grandpa, parents, or your mentors and ask them WHAT THEY LEARNED IN THEIR LIFETIME. At the right time with these gemstones of wisdom, your life will take a drastic turn, and you too, will be ready to start a new and incredible chapter.

Why I Chose a Profession That Pays Me Nothing

Photo: VisualWanderlust.com

Photo: VisualWanderlust.com

Ever since I started being active on the blog, people began asking me very valid questions about my life choices. So, it took it upon myself to review them and give honest answers in this post. I think by far, the most relevant question was: why in the world would you leave a Wall Street job with enormous growth opportunities to blog that pays you nothing?

As I self-reflected and continued to write blog posts, I felt an incredible sense of freedom. It’s such a childhood throwback – the ability to make my own choices and spend time in the countryside where all the world was my stage. This is how I feel about Tetyana Live – it is my platform to be who I am without being micromanaged or told that the themes I want to talk about do not align with someone’s agenda.

I write from the heart. If I don’t feel like writing all week, I won’t. But my goal is for every material I share with you to be genuine and rich with enthusiasm and positivity. And it makes me ridiculously happy when I receive feedback from friends and even strangers (gasp!) who say that my blog posts give them a proper mood lift. I live for these kinds of moments.

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Part two about the whole fiasco, though, is the MONEY. No matter how I slice it, I have to live somehow, right? Those who know me personally also know that I worked as investment analyst in a New York bank that paid me very well and taught me lots of wonderful things.

But I love freedom more. I love freedom so much, that I am willing to write on the blog and just be damn happy. And then to wake up in the morning and read all the wonderful comments from you, my friends.

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How about striving for “bigger and better” things? Did I become complacent? Did I give up on my dreams?

What does bigger and better mean? Let’s try to understand…

Shot #1: Luxury Items?

I own a few expensive bags and shoes. Having worked for luxury fashion brands, I’ve learned how “exquisite” the stuff really is. Your shoes were probably still made in China, even though they don’t say it, and your belt buckle will eventually fall off. Trust me, I was the girl you would call to complain about your exquisite luxury pieces.

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And to top that off, having gone through business school, I’ve learned wonderful techniques that brands use to sell their stuff, to create illusions of human hierarchies and photoshop models to make everyone else feel like that kind of beauty and success isn’t attainable. That there are people-aliens and freaks of nature who are just so incredibly beautiful thanks to plastic surgery. No judgement passed, as long as people do what makes them happy. And keep it honest.

Or should I keep a day job so that I could stuff my face with all kinds of restaurant food and check in on Instagram about it? I have eaten in wonderful places. I have also eaten in awful places. But I’ll tell you something – no one, and I mean, no one on this planet cooks as good as my grandmother. Love is what makes her food taste so delicious.

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Should I keep a day job so that I could attend celebrity gyms and get trained by renowned individuals? Or I can just get my face out of the fridge and take my $25 yoga mat and work out in a donation studio that inspires me just as much as it makes me sweat. Where I don’t have to wear see-through $150 Lululemon pants that make me feel uncomfortable just because everyone else is doing it. I’ve done the latter, too.

I can proudly say, that my experiences, self-reflection, and curiosity to try different things gave me the confidence to say yes or no to ANYTHING. I became very clear about what I wanted.

I’ve learned this:

Successful life to ME is internal power and energy, which is nurtured by creativity, freedom to create, and obviously, happiness. And what do you know – I am currently reaping all of those benefits from writing on this blog.

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And guess what! I have wonderful projects coming up that I CANNOT wait to share with you all! Life is amazing. I decided to not let fear of being broke, fear of being less than someone else, fear of the unknown, fear of the future, and just about any other fears dictate my choices.

I’ve found what’s important to me and I feel incredible. It’s the kind of shit philosophers write in their books and life coaches stand on stages for….giving people a ray of hope that they too, can be happy. Look, I’m living it.

***Special THANKS to Morning Coffee Tees for giving me yet another outlet to express myself. You guys rock! And where would I be without Visual Wanderlust? Well, I guess at home, when she’s at work. ***

Being an Immigrant in America

(c) Taras Shpyrka photo

(c) Taras Shpyrka photo

I have been living in America for the entire second half of my life. I remember being driven in the car after I landed in Newark in 2002, expecting rollercoasters and sky lights but instead, seeing broken buildings and woody highways. We drove for a while, 8 hours to be exact. When I arrived to our home in upstate New York, my stepmother greeted me with my favorite Ukrainian cabbage soup. Not sure if I was tired, but it tasted weird, so I shoved my bowl aside and turned in for the night.

I started school late because I had to wait for my green card to come in the mail. Every morning I would see kids waiting on the sidewalk with their straight-from-the-shower hair to be picked up by a yellow bus. My stepmother and I spent our afternoons going on walks at the park with my baby brother in the stroller. We would feed squirrels. I saw boys playing sports, and thought it was weird how they attacked each other for a deformed-looking football.

Every day I sat on our driveway and wrote letters to my friends and family in Ukraine. I told them  about everything I had experienced – from squirrels, to crazy football, to the yellow bus. I told them how I finally went to school and had to get a picture ID for free lunch and I didn’t smile because I thought it was a passport photo. I told them that I couldn’t understand anything anyone said to me and that maybe people thought I was slow, that I couldn’t open my locker most of the time, and that no one understood why I call myself Tanya when my real name is Tetyana or why I don’t shave my legs. But mostly, I wrote that I really wanted to go back home. America was fun, just for a few months.

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As a yet-to-be-teenager, I dealt with my homesickness by crying at night and reading books in English. I didn’t understand a word, but I read. My English class “daily” write-ups consisted of me writing about horses – all kinds of horses and how much I loved them – and I would volunteer to share with the class. I took Spanish. I loved Spanish. I made friends – we had food fights in the cafeteria, and they took me to play basketball and trick-or-treating with them. We made team t-shirts for volleyball tournaments, took pictures with disposable cameras and I finally understood what Spirit Week was (I even tried out for the cheerleading team but showed up to the tryouts in jeans – still a tad weird). I babysat my little brother after school and on weekends. My letters and phone calls to friends and family in Ukraine became scarce and I didn’t go back to visit.

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I changed schools, got a car and worked two jobs, fought with my parents, plotted to run away, had boyfriends, gained a lot of weight, and took belly-dancing classes. Then I moved to NYC for college and to learn life. I had no clue what I wanted but everything was expensive and I was curious and naive. My soon-to-become best friend taught me how to dress and encouraged me to go back to college a year after I dropped out. This was year 2010.

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That same time, my childhood love found me on Facebook and wrote me a message. As a kid, I was obsessed with this boy but of course, the move to America and the ultimate inability to visit Ukraine forced me to block all of our memories and feelings.

So, at 20 years old I was more rational, yet equally as emotional. I started unblocking my childhood memories with this childhood boy. Then I listened to music from way back when. Then I called him – he was getting married. Then I called my mom. I started talking to her every few weeks and she said that she missed me. Then I got a Ukrainian tattoo on my ankle. I found a better-paying job, saved money, got my US citizenship and flew to Ukraine. It was scary and strange. Ukrainians’ sense of humor was different. I just translated everything I wanted to say from English to Ukrainian and all I could talk about was America. I didn’t go out past 5pm because there was no street lights in the winter and my hometown had a crime alert. I felt desperate to go back to New York, to my college women’s club, my entertainment and my friends.

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In a year, I went back to Ukraine just for the checkmark. I fell in love with a Ukrainian guy and made new friends. People thought I was cool, driven and aggressive. But they would always beat me at card games. I called all of my elementary school friends and we met. We all kind of looked the same with the exception of a few who cut their hair. We talked about the old times and then we created new times. We drank alcohol. And I started coming home every few months.

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I finally learned how to speak Ukrainian like a normal person. I began to tune out angry bus drivers and buy dairy from old village ladies. I stopped being afraid of gypsies. I stopped laughing at how Ukrainians dance and did it myself. I surprised my mom for her birthday. I went to the Ukrainian revolution and lived in the tent with thirty men and three women for two weeks, fighting for democracy and making everyone sandwiches. I was told that I need to stop being so masculine, learn how to be a woman and let men carry my luggage and pay for my coffee. I did. I learned and learned. I appreciated how amazing Ukraine was – how wholesome, strong, hopeful and beautiful the people were – and how they were like me – in search for happiness, for freedom, for creativity, for love, for self-development and for all positive things under the sun.

I realized that being Ukrainian is exotic. I learned that the Ukrainian culture is full of warmth and that no matter how poor the people are, they will take care of you when you’re in their home. (Just make sure you take off your shoes at the door.) Ukrainian people have cats not because they feel depressed but because they think it accessorizes their house and that cats are just part of life. I learned that a Ukrainian Cossack leader, Pylyp Orlyk, established a Constitution which pre-dated the American one. And that my sister wants me to take her bike-riding again and make selfies on the iPhone. And that no one cooks as good as my grandmother.

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I realized that my polarized identity drove me crazy for 12 years. But my identity – part Ukrainian and part American made me more intelligent, confident, experienced, interesting, balanced, happy, healthy, unbreakable. It gave me the ability to connect with just about anyone on this planet.

And that is such an enormous power.

 

Paying for my Expensive Mistakes

(c) Taras Shpyrka Photography

I wanted to share a very personal story based on an event that occurred to me this past weekend. The reason why I decided to write about it is because it really solidified some of the ideas that I have been discussing here on the blog.


At the end of May, my father asked me to help him book travel tickets for two family members. During this time I was going through quite a patchy transition – I was finishing up time at work, dealing with personal situations, and of course, worrying about future decisions. My mood was not at its best and I responded to his request with irritation. So, I continued to delay responses. One day I got myself together, booked the travel arrangements and closed the case.

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It turns out, that flight dates were all booked wrong. A whole lot wrong – they were paid to take place in June, instead of July. Good luck to me to try and recover international air tickets a month later, for 2 family members (one being on a tourist Visa, visiting the country for the very first time), purchased on a different name, on a different credit card. The airlines probably love me at this point. I had to re-book new tickets and come up with a fat sum of money to cover my father’s initial losses (let’s say a few thousand dollars).

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At the first glance, this doesn’t seem like a striking revelation: didn’t double check, and someone took my money. That’s what happens when you’re not careful, no surprises. But I think that the lessons are very profound during these moments.

The reality is that I held a long-time vendetta against these two family members. This was an opportunity for me to make right with them, to learn to love them, forgive and move on once they arrive from their trip. Maybe there was “unfinished business” and family affairs planned for us, to fix something, to re-connect and re-build…and I tried to stop that natural process? Instead, I carelessly bought the tickets so that my father can finally stop bugging me.

On the surface, I was just me being negligent… but the real challenge was figuring out why I felt that way. And so I did. I learned that I didn’t care much about buying the tickets because I didn’t care about the people whom they were for. As a matter of fact, I was irritated that they’re even showing up. And that’s messed up.

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What did I take away from this experience? Life is my school. I learned that if I approach tasks with negativity, irritation, anger, negligence or any equivalent attitude, I will have to deal with consequences of equal weight; immediately or later. If I am planning to do something just “to get it done”, I might as well not do it at all. Just as the old expression goes: “garbage in, garbage out.”

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People cause their own suffering by treating other humans, things, tasks with negativity (carelessness, anger, hatred, irritation, despise, resentment, jealousy, etc). They become upset with the world, other people, or “God” for life’s problems and their unhappiness.

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As intelligent as people are, they have yet to learn that suffering is a result of their own thoughts and actions. Much can be transferred onto their future children, who seem too innocent to have been at fault.

How do we treat others? Are we saying and thinking negative things about people? Are we holding grudges and resentment towards anyone? Are we complaining about people or obstacles? Are we abusing our bodies? Are we polluting our planet? Are we hauling ourselves to a job that we hate so much just to get a paycheck? If this is the purpose that we ascribe to all these aspects in our life, what kind of results are we expecting in return?

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Lessons: 

1. I do everything with love and care. If I don’t feel good, I won’t do it. I will go out there and make myself feel better first.

2. I have the right to make mistakes.

3. I take responsibility for my mistakes and figure out a way to fix them.

4. Everything that happens is a valuable learning opportunity.

5. Health takes precedence.

6. ***My family is my blood, no matter what. Making right with them is making right with myself.***

Monday Morning Positivity

– A smile is the your best accessory.

(c) Taras Shpyrka Photo

– What is your favorite food for breakfast? I love oatmeal and cinnamon :)

(c) Taras Shpyrka Photo

– Nature makes people look beautiful.

(c) Taras Shpyrka Photo

– How did you communicate today? Sometimes I am in the mood to speak through the lens.

Special Thank You to Taras Shpyrka Photography :) 

No Job Report: One Month Later

IMG_0527Lately every time I check in with my friends and family, I hear the same questions regarding my new job-free life: it’s been a month, what is your next move? You’ve had some time to think about it, where are you going next? What will happen when you run out of savings?

The answer to the above is stable: I am extremely happy to live my life freely and creatively.

I believe that:

  • as long as I create and share with love and passion, goodness will continue to follow,
  • the more positive energy I facilitate through myself, the same amount of it I will receive back. What I put in, is what I will be given. In any case, I choose to put in only the best.

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I think it is a good time for a progress update. Below are some concrete and strategic steps I took to improve my life in the beginning of the month, and their results 30 days later.

As I mentioned before, I was extremely busy and worked long hours. Many important things took a backseat. One of them, was space in my home. Yes, I live in a tiny home (called “shoebox” in NYC tongue, but I think it’s a negative connotation, so I say tiny home). Space is a luxury here, so any wrongdoing and spacial abuse/neglect will lead to consequences. Any inch of clutter, unnecessary stuff, old clothes, canned food for the next Hurricane Sandy drains energy.

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I technically missed my spring cleaning deadline, so I had to do a major overhaul in the summertime. Best thing I’ve ever done. Granted, I had the time, but I really took the time. I was thorough and heartless. I threw out things that I pitied last year (of course, without even using them for that whole year). So, my rule of thumb is: if you haven’t used it in 6 months, toss it, or better yet – donate it, if it fits the bill. Cleaning includes: cleaning your email inbox, computer files, browsing history, etc :)

Bottom line is: cleaning clutter and maintaining clean space is extremely important. As a matter of fact, it is the first thing that I did after I quit. Clean and orderly home = positive and abundant energy. It’s also an invitation for new and better things to occupy the extra space.

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Status update on exercise: I still exercise 5-6 days per week. I absolutely love it and think I am addicted to something good. I lost 5 pounds, gained more muscle, and most importantly – I feel energized. My mood has become more stable and any small annoyances are felt and dealt with immediately. I also learned a very good lesson when I double sprained my wrist. And that is: rest or you will pay for it by missing your favorite exercise.

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Nevertheless, I still went to the gym and focused on my legs and abs. 10 days after the painful sprain, I went back to yoga and felt as strong as ever. Such an indescribable feeling!

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Being away from the office also gave me more control over whom and what I occupy my time with. I developed a very low tolerance for negativity. First, reading news was one of my favorite morning activities. But over the last month I became extremely choosy with what I read.

Media thrives off of negative and scary news. But this type of news also cultivates thoughts charged with fear, anger, insecurities, and sometimes even hatred. My question was: WHAT IF….we surround ourselves with positivity, grow and develop this instead? Our thoughts hold a lot of energy and tend to materialize – they are like seeds that implant themselves inside us and grow. Flowers or weeds? Our choice.

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I have discovered a website, called SunnySkyz.com for a daily dosage of positive news, feel-good pictures and awesome mood-boosters. Such amazing therapy.

Also, JBR blog compiled some great quotes:

  • Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. – Lucille Ball
  • You have to believe in yourself before anybody else believes in you. – Ray LaMontagne
  • Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. – William Arthur Ward
  • Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. – Henry David Thoreau

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How to Always Feel Motivated

IMG_0479Have you ever set up a New Year’s resolution? If not, let’s see which ones others have set for themselves!

USA.gov reveals that the most popular and re-occurring resolution is “to lose weight.” With no sarcasm intended, I love going to the gym during the month of January. This is when I stand in line to use fitness equipment and machines. I’m quite excited to see so many people taking initiative to improve their well-being (even though it means I have to wait).

But fast-forward a few months, the gyms become less and less occupied and the faces – more and more familiar. According to Forbes, 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions and out of those, 8% (!!!) actually maintain them. 

“More often than not, people who fail to keep their resolutions blame their own lack of willpower.” – Dan Diamond, health columnist

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Why do we lose our willpower and motivation so quickly? Before we could discover the answer, let’s see: what was the reason we created our goal in the first place? And…

If “losing weight” was so important to most people who set up New Year’s resolutions, if it was a true need, either for belonging, acceptance, or self-esteem, then why is it that so few people actually followed through with their goal? 

One answer is that people who set up such goals did it for the wrong reasons: to impress others, to get their crush to notice them, to prove to someone else that he/she can do it… The list can go on. But the list shares a common theme: the goal was made to please someone else.

People who are consistent with their goals do it for themselves and their own happiness. Yes, I said it. This is the only sustainable reason. Motivation to be happy, every day, in every moment, is the hardest and most underrated concept I have ever (personally) stumbled upon.

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How do I know? Well, I’ve been there. I have dieted and exercised to please my partner. To cut to the chase: two years later, I was at the same weight as I started. I would make short-term, huge goals, strain and pressure my body, get sick of it, eat more, get more stressed, eat more, crash diet, repeat. Waste of time. Don’t try it.

Yet, a few years later, when I decided to prioritize Happiness and make it an actual DAILY GOAL, I could not stop pursuing health, positive relationships/friendships, dream career goals… In other words, if losing weight and going to the gym make me happy, why would I ever drop out? When I realized that without utmost health I cannot enjoy anything else in life, how could I possibly be careless towards health? If positive relationships nurture my happiness, why would I stop building and improving them?

Why would I want to stop doing anything that makes me happy? Why would I even need to be motivated to be happy?

Throughout our lives, often without thinking, we pursue things that make us happy and deviate from those that make us unhappy. And so, we are totally able to  ACTIVELY attract positive things. We can pursue careers of passion, healthy marriages, perfect bodies. We are the ones in charge of all choices that we make. We are motivated to make those choices every day, effortlessly.

Does it make sense that choices made for us by other people ..or..

choices that we make to please other people hold much less meaning to us

if they do not align with what we ultimately want?

If there is less meaning, there is less motivation.

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Happiness is a need. It is just as important of a need as love, self-esteem, self-realization. Without happiness there will be none of the above. Happy people live for their own happiness first, because it is the only kind of happiness that is sustainable. And when they are happy, they make other people feel the same way. Happy people do not wait for other things/events/people to make them happy or to motivate them to go and do something.

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Their motivation is to live life and enjoy it, year round. Do things that make you happy and you will never need to be motivated again.

And with that said, the second Miss Universe runner-up, Diana Garkusha from Ukraine shared with the world on Instagram her secret (read caption below the photo):

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The Most Attractive Woman

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What Men Want” run the headlines on magazines and titles of beauty websites, alluring women to flock to them for advice on how to seduce their significant others.

So, how much have we learned?

Women graduated from all this knowledge, perfected facial contouring with a pound of makeup and walked down the runway in couture fashion. But at end the of the night, the makeup and Spanx came off – welcome back dark under-eye circles, dull skin, fat belly, cellulite, clumps of hair falling out…

Forgive me for bringing this back, but what was Drake thinking when he said we look prettiest while chilling in sweatpants with NO makeup? Is he crazy? All this unappreciated effort…

At this point, men are just screaming it at us, but we aren’t listening. We are too busy reading posts written by women who tell us what men want. Maybe, can we give Drake a chance?

Maybe, the most attractive woman is a natural, happy woman. One who learned to be in tune with her body, mind, unique characteristics. One who consistently takes care of these qualities, along with her surroundings, the little details.

You may wonder what “unique characteristics” I am talking about. Yes, I do mean, men and women are programmed differently, not just on the outside. The slightest variation in their brain make-up makes an enormous difference in how women perceive the world, feel and act in it. (Information source: The Female Brain written by Dr. Louann Brizendine – a book I strongly suggest for all to read)

And here goes my little story on how I personally verified this. As a child and young girl, I despised femininity. Granted, many girls until puberty (before hormones kick in) feel relatively equal to boys and that is very normal. But I was also very resistant to training from my grandmother, who attempted to teach me embroidery and cooking (she made it clear that I was irresponsible when it came to the house stuff). She tried to forbid me from playing in the dirt and climbing trees. I responded with serious rebellion. I hated anything that reminded me of typical activities performed by women (I grew up in Ukraine, and the cooking/cleaning was done by women, for the most part).

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But as life would have it, in a few years I moved to the United States and faced another challenge with my stepmother. She was knowledgeable in style, picked my clothes, forced me to keep my room clean, and taught me maternal skills by holding me responsible for the home and helping her raise my baby brother.

This new training that I despised so much, opened up a channel and opportunity for me to connect with my femininity. Each person in this world has both masculine and feminine qualities for different purposes in life, in very different dosages. Each quality can be developed and suppressed. And so, the more I developed my feminine qualities, the more comfortable I became in my skin.

This all shifted tremendously again, when I moved to New York City at seventeen years old and chose a hyper-independent lifestyle, which lasted for good 7 years. My professional choices, the need to survive and thrive in a tough city required me to tap into my masculinity and develop assertiveness, aggression, unfeelingness (this is all controlled by testosterone).

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Not long into this process and I began experiencing health issues, small and large ones – stress, anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, dark circles under eyes, brow wrinkles, skin breakouts, problematic relationships, suppressed creativity, among many other private ones. The health impact on me was more significant compared to childhood. Things became much more serious. I felt out of tune with myself.

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Luckily, my state was not completely hopeless. Life gave me a lot of help by strategically placing people and information (books, interactions) to teach me how to fix my issues.

“Issues” or “unresolved questions”, as I learned, are tools that body+mind use to communicate with us. This communication forces us to acknowledge, to become aware, to find a way to resolve the issues at hand. Often times we resort to taking medicine, drinking alcohol or doing drugs, clearly understanding that this is just a band-aid. The body and mind WILL find a way to speak to the individual by manifesting themselves into more difficult health problems. If not now, then later.

And so, I listened. I tuned into my body and thoughts. I took the little steps, put a little extra effort each day. And as a rule, it continues to be a process of perfecting the little details, working on myself, which is really the hardest part of living. Yes, it is making my bed, cleaning my space, taking care of my body, learning how to be a better person and more specifically, developing femininity.

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An ancient proverb goes: “Don’t want to be wise? Then suffer.”

To love and to be happy… To create, to learn to develop self…

The energy women create, the glow of their skin and hair, fresh smell of their bodies, their natural, clean features, their gentle touch, their soft voice, their manners, their profound wisdom, their internal strength, their patience, love and care – those are some of the qualities that make women so attractive, sultry, seductive, magnetic. These features are not just attained. They require deep effort and time. They become a career.

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The development of these feminine pieces, tapping into the deep feminine energy is what made me, personally, happy, calm and firm in my life’s purpose. I am fully aware of how “unconventional” this is, and probably goes against everything feminists ever fought for. So, I will accept the criticism with a grain of salt and peaceful satisfaction, because at some point, I used to think the same thing.

 

Basic Steps to Happy Weight Loss

FullSizeRender-3No doubt that we are a few weeks into the summer, but looking slightly better than yesterday never hurt anybody :)

After I cleared up my schedule, I have been committed to fitness 6 days per week. This includes either calisthenics (working out with own body: push ups, pull ups, abs…), yoga, and mild cardio. I’m also a fan of walking and normally do a few miles per day around the city in addition to my chosen gym schedule. (Photo of me was taken after 2 weeks of fitness and clean eating prior to which I had no definition at all).

There’s nothing wrong with experimenting what works best for you – actually this is strongly encouraged. I’ve tried ballet/barre classes, weight training, swimming, belly-dancing, running, yoga. The time of the day during which you work out is also important. Clearly, so is diet (I would say 80% of physical appearance is what/how much you eat).

** Before we start, let’s remember two nutrition facts that go hand-in-hand with time of exercise: (1) fat sticks to fat, (2) muscle eats up fat **

How is this important?

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With that in mind, if you haven’t figured out your best time, working out in the evening is better for weight loss because muscles work even when the body rests. So while you sleep, your fat will be gradually converting itself into muscle.

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There’s a myth that you need to fill up with protein post-workout. Yes, this is an option for someone who wants to bulk up (picture above). If you want to lose weight (muscle eats fat), avoid eating anything heavy. I personally prefer a feminine dancer/ballerina body to a ripped fitspo model. But that’s just me!

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The less food you put into your belly after workouts, the more fat will be burned off your body. The body usually allocates energy by using fuel that’s already in the stomach, and if there is not enough there, it turns to eating up excess fat on the body.

*** If your workouts are strenuous, then eat as you see fit. Listen to your body! ***

Breakfast

Never skip breakfast – I hope I didn’t surprise you. As a matter of fact, this is your moment to have a well-sized meal or biggest one of the day. Carbs are better at this time, as your body is crazy for fuel after a nice fat burn all-nighter. Lunch should gradually convert into protein or something slightly heavier than breakfast.

I never understood the idea of working out on an empty OR full stomach. I head over to the gym or studio when my meal is digested.

My favorite time to eat breakfast is 8:00am and it will comprise of homemade oatmeal/barley groats/grits/rice/cous-cous with unsweetened almond milk (as you see, there are so many wonderful options). Sometimes, upon desire I will add raisins or cranberries. I am obsessed with ground cinnamon, so I usually sprinkle that for some added taste. Cinnamon also helps regulate the feeling of hunger, so it’s a double win for me.

As a rule, I need to have a coffee in the morning. I am not addicted and can easily function without it, but one cup does me no harm. I drink my coffee plain black (yes, that took some getting used to, but now I actually learned to appreciate different roasts and elements) :)

At 10:00am I go to yoga class. If I skip yoga that day to work and research, I make up the workout in the gym in the late afternoon. I am an early riser, so late morning is a more preferable time to work out for me. Around 11:30am I have a probiotic drink. My favorite ones include Kevita brand with strawberry, mango and mojito flavors. They are only 20 calories per bottle and taste amazing. Sometimes I drink Gingerade GT Kombucha or make my own with: 1 cup of water, 2 table spoons of Bragg (the best brand!) apple cider vinegar and 1/2 squeezed fresh lemon.

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The legend goes that queen Cleopatra drank a cup of water infused with apple cider vinegar every morning to stay healthy and beautiful.

Do not drink while you eat. I am actually surprised by how many people don’t follow this rule. Drinking during food dilutes digestive juices, slowing down the process and encouraging food fermentation in the belly. Drink 20 minutes prior to eating and not earlier than 40 minutes post-meal.

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Back to the schedule…

My routine keeps me satisfied until 12:30 – 1:30pm and then I break for lunch. This is a much more flexible time of the day for me diet-wise, but I would usually eat fruit and drink vegetable juices at this point. I’ve also discovered new love for sweet potato, yams, and taro root with coconut milk and tapioca. Sometimes, I crave soup or something salty. Again, options are vast and I love what I eat!

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Dinner menu for me mostly consists of light food: salads or more fruit, based on preference. For foodies, my biggest suggestion is to try and separate carbs and proteins. There is an entire science behind this, but the best way to explain why is: think back to your last Chipotle visit. Many people complain that while the food is so delicious, it makes them feel bloated and heavy. The reason for this is because all food combination rules have been broken at Chipotle – proteins, carbs, dairy and veggies have been mixed at once, confusing digestive agents in the stomach. Different agents are sent to the belly to break down carbs and different ones to break down proteins. When they meet, they stall each other, slow down digestion, and the body ends up releasing toxins from poorly-digested food remains.

Quick rules:

Protein can be paired with veggies. So can carbs. Avoid carbs and protein together. Eat fruit on its own. Protein is digested in 3-4 hours, carbs in 2-3, fruit – 45 minutes, veggies – about 1 hour. Once these times have lapsed, you can eat other combinations without mounting pressure on your body.

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An important thing to remember here is: you should eat what your body likes. Of course, we can eat all the french fries and ice cream, but my post wasn’t written to support addictive junk food (sorry) and unfortunately, I have no magic formulas on how to look hot while eating crap.

Any approach to life change, body change, health change has to start in the mind first. If there is no order in the mind, there will be no order anywhere else in your life. That said, the results will happen with consistency. Give it two weeks, the results will show and diet/exercise will become an indisputable part of your day. I actually have no idea, at this point how is it that I chose NOT to exercise in the past. It is one of the best feelings in the world. How?

Simple. Choose exercise activities that you truly enjoy. Some of my friends like boxing, some Insanity, some running or lifting weights. To each is own! Do you like group exercises? How is the trainer? Would you like to have his/her body? How do you feel when you walk out of class or your chosen activity?

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I began to appreciate yoga because like many New Yorkers, I felt stressed and anxious on a daily basis. I did not know how to relax. Yoga helps me manage stress, builds muscles where I want them, improves my strength capabilities, and still challenges me to “reach higher and sit lower.” :) In just two weeks I began to do at least 10 real pushups per set, hold my planks for much longer, feel more flexible, sleep better, and burn inner/outer thigh fat.

Surely, my schedule and diet plan won’t work for everyone. And they are not supposed to. The real success will be a product of different experiences and preferences for different bodies. But some of the above rules are a good way to start thinking about exercise differently. One more gem for the road. Ask yourself: what kind of a body would I like to achieve? Visualize it in your mind, print it on paper, look at in on Instagram, whatever works for you. And then conquer!

 

How I Went from Muffins to Salad

I’ve never been into fitness or sports. When I was little, my father suggested that I take dancing classes, which I rudely rejected and opted for tree-climbing and roaming around with friends. No one in my family made a big deal about body or health consciousness because that was a part of our everyday living. My grandmother and mother cooked food at home and I had little pocket money to spend on junk food.

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It all changed when I moved to America. I was introduced to concepts such as cheap, low-quality school cafeteria food (and I was on free lunch), chocolate milk as a beverage that is somehow compatible with any menu, snack machines, and best one of all – emotional eating. I guess I felt a lot of pressure in a new environment – having to learn English, making new friends, getting good grades, helping at home, and of course, missing my family, friends and activities in Ukraine – school trips, singing ensemble, poetry writing.

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Only now I understand that this was a crucial time to set up life’s foundations (I was entering my teenage years) and my preliminary habits were formed on a basis of pressure and unhappiness.  It got worse when I turned 16. My breakfast usually included packaged chocolate chip mini muffins and bottled Starbucks mocha, three cookies and chocolate milk for lunch, and Subway sandwiches for dinner, not counting occasional large snack binges such as pints of ice cream or pizza. Luckily, at this time I began driving my car and joined a belly-dancing group which gave me some sort of outlet.

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Even when I moved to New York City from upstate New York, it took me a few years to observe the environment and conclude that body and health are everything. In the fashion capital of the world, I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful people who inspired me to re-think my lifestyle. The other part of it was experiencing health problems which forced me to change the way I ate and exercised. And finally, it was a realization that I want to have a healthy family, live long enough to spend time with my great-grandchildren, feel and look good as a woman that I am! Aren’t these thoughts convincing enough to start living better??

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I started educating myself on labels and deciphering between chemical and real ingredients in food. I began to flirt with yoga and gym memberships. And yes, I jumped on the bandwagon of cold-pressed green juices (they’re good!!)

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The first step was the mind. The goal is to everyday (!) understand what is making me happy or unhappy; get inspired: use social media/articles/blogs, make friends who share same interests; take action: make lists or things that need attention and change; execute: for the first two weeks I forced myself to employ positive habits, go to yoga class and gym; keep track: consistently record daily meals and workouts.

Solgar-Chromium-Picolinate-033984008724Regarding my sugar cravings on a more practical note: I began taking Solgar’s Chromium Picolinate vitamin supplement ($8 per bottle) which balances blood sugar. The results are truly remarkable, to my surprise.

Big, difficult changes happen with small, consistent steps and I will stand by this!

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