Goal Oriented

By Sonsie Zamora

Guide to setting and achieving goals:

checklist

Being accomplished is a sense of self. Having the ability to set goals, and achieve them makes you feel good. You get things done, you have a clearer mind, less stress and you feel better about life because you’re moving forward and on to the next goal as you accomplish others. If there are so many upsides to getting things done, then why are there so many of us that procrastinate? It’s easy to get distracted, there are so many things that can deter us from our course and throw us off track. I’ll give you a step-by-step guide how I set and accomplish goals and maybe it can help you to avoid the distractions and get those things that you’ve been meaning to get done, once and for all.

The first thing I do is make a list of any and all things that I need/want to get done, whether they are major things or just little day-to-day things. Such as; cleaning out that one junk drawer closet in the house, sorting through all of the loose paperwork that has accumulated, finding recipes for dinners, finishing school, applying to scholarships, finally finishing that make-over you started, etc… All of those things that keep me up at night and rattle around in my mind. I find that once I jot them down, I feel much less stressed already. Next I break that major list into three smaller lists; things that must get done this week, things that can be done in a few months, and long-term goals to be accomplished within the year or even more. Depending on the items on your list, you may require even more ‘smaller’ lists. I like to focus on what can be achieved within the year at the most however, because I feel it helps your momentum when you can keep checking short term goals off of your list. It also allows for procrastination when you set your goals too far into the future, because you might think ‘I still have time,’ then before you know it time is up and you missed your opportunity or you’re still stuck with the same to-do list and nothing has been checked off it.

Things that ‘must’ get done of course take priority and I like to focus on the harder things at the beginning of the week so you can get them out of the way. I usually sit down Sunday night before bedtime and write out my weekly schedule, allotting realistic time frames for each thing that needs to get done during the week. If I have a paper for a class due by the end of the week, for example, I’ll allow myself an hour on Monday to write out a quick draft and outline with my ideas. On Wednesday I’ll clean up the draft and add any research and by Friday I’ll finalize the paper. This way I’m not stressing come Friday to try to finish the entire paper all in one sitting. I find by breaking things into tiny weekly to-do’s, that I am more successful and less stressed.

One can apply the same concept of breaking goals up into little tasks, to long-term goals. Let’s say your long-term goal is to lose weight. You wouldn’t start by simply saying ‘tomorrow I will begin losing weight’. First you’d want to establish how many pounds you want to lose and what would be reasonable to lose each week and each month therefore figuring out how much time it would take to reach your final goal. Then you want to write down all of the things involved with losing weight and break those into weekly and monthly goals as well. Such as; cut sugar and fried foods, increase water intake, start a workout regimen, get fun new workout clothes for motivation, join a gym or find a local area to workout, buy a bike, etc. Make sure to keep the goals realistic and break them up into small, un-daunting tasks so you can keep moving toward your final goal and not get stuck along the way.

Distractions can be a huge problem in not reaching your goals. Especially today with all of the cell phone alerts, news feeds, Facebook updates, etc. Try to either turn off your phone and TV when focusing on your tasks, especially if you’re allotting just an hour or so at a time each day for your goals, you can feel less anxiety about allowing yourself that short and uninterrupted time. There’s nothing that can’t wait an hour, especially when the focus is yourself, which is a lot more important that so-and-so’s latest relationship drama or whatever it is. Also allowing your mind to be clear not only sharpens your focus but can also generate new thoughts and ideas and make for a more creative, alert and less stressed mind. Make sure you plan out your ‘fun times’ too. If you’ve been grinding all week, don’t let yourself skip Friday girls’ night, you deserve it. Tomorrow is always another day and you can get right back to the grind again then.

Once you start successfully scratching things off of your list of goals, you will feel your confidence growing and you may start reaching even higher for your next set of goal. Go ahead and start dreaming big! Travel to different countries, do a marathon, write a book, invent something, finish college, get into your best physical shape or whatever else you dream about. You now have a formula to get you there. I hope this helps and don’t stop setting and achieving goals. When you look back on your life 80 years from now, you will feel so fulfilled having accomplished as much as you possibly could and getting the most you desired out of life.

Red Light on Sex Trafficking

By Sonsie Zamora

NotforSale

Human trafficking generates $9.5 billion annually in the US (www.thecoveringhouse.org, 2015). This is startling. It gets worse. The average age of entry into prostitution for a child victim in the US is 13-14 years old. We always think this could never happen to me, not to my family. But it does happen to children in all walks of life. There is no stereotypical child that this happens to. I watched a documentary recently called ’Tricked’ (2013), where this happened to educated college girls, girls from wealthy families, girls sold by their own families and many other examples. About 300,000 children in the US are at risk of being prostituted.

First let’s break down the stereotypes and barriers so we can better understand these situations. Many times we think, ‘well, if the girls don’t want to be prostitutes, why don’t they just leave?’ There are many reasons why not. These girls (and boys) can be young, naive and vulnerable for one. Also pimps have an approach called ‘boyfriending’ where they pretend to be your boyfriend initially in order to lure you in, then they’ll suddenly change the situation and get physically abusive, cut you off from family and friends, lock you in rooms and threaten you, among many other things. This is their tactic to gain trust and then control over the prostitute. A pimp can also wine, dine and promise these young individuals lots of money and pretty things to entice them into believing this lifestyle is glamorous and promising. Many times these young people have zero choice about being where they are. They are trapped. This is modern-day slavery, to say it mildly.

So the system is flawed already because it’s designed to prosecute the prostitute, who likely doesn’t want to be there in the first place, and not the pimp. The prostitutes are the ones making the transaction and the one in the limelight doing the act, so they make for easy targets. The pimps hide easily and if they do get caught, the prostitutes will usually lie for them for fear of retaliation. Because these vulnerable and mold-able young women are dragged into this lifestyle so young, after some time, they might not know any other way. Even if they did, they are fearful for their life, their families lives and don’t know how to get in contact with anyone that will believe and help them. If they do contemplate it or have means, they are filled with so much fear and shame over what they’ve been forced to do, so they don’t want to come forward. It’s easier to give up. Their spirits have been broken.

So what can we do to change this? We can start by teaching ourselves and our children to be cautious of whom they trust. If someone is promising you the world and it sounds too good to be true…it probably is. There is no ‘easy money’ in life. Everything in life has a price, just like everyone in life has a value. We need to be aware of the facts as adults, parents and neighbors, and don’t turn a blind eye. Don’t think your family cannot be touched by this. One in three teens on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.

We also need to change the way the legal system works. We are persecuting our youth for prostituting when we need to be asking who is behind it. Can we offer the youth help? Can we get in contact with their families? We need to crack down on the johns that enter into this behavior also. The documentary ‘Tricked’ that I watched interviewed johns justifying their behavior of purchasing sex because they said the girls ‘were earning a living just like anybody else’ or that they ‘appeared to be happy and enjoyed what they did’. This isn’t the case. No little girl in the US dreams of becoming a prostitute when they grow up…and certainly not when they haven’t even grown up yet.

 

References:

The Covering House. (2015). The Facts. Retrieved from http://thecoveringhouse.org/act/resources-2/sex-trafficking-statistics-source-documentation/

Wells, J. (Producer). Wasson, John-Keith & Wells, J. (Directors). (2013). Tricked: The Documentary.

Role Models

By Sonsie Zamora

mlkdreamEveryone can benefit by having someone to look up to and goals to strive toward. Do you have a role model?

When I say ‘role model’, I don’t mean Beyonce because she’s amazing or Jennifer Lawrence because she’s famous. I mean on a deeper level; really study what they stand/stood for and how they got to where they are/were. Choose someone whose life and goals are something that you hope to be in sync with. As young people, we feel like we have all the time in the world to achieve everything we want to but the reality is that there is a small window of opportunity where we can really shape and decide who we are and who we want to become. Choices we make now will follow us forever and influence other choices we make later in life. Nobody wants to look back on their life 50 years from now and wish they would have done more. Now is the time!

Maybe you have a lot of people motivating you in life, or maybe you have no one. But I want to make sure to tell you that you truly can be anything and anybody you want to be in life. Don’t let your surroundings or people decide for you. Find someone that motivates you in life, if you don’t have someone already, and make a clear path to the goals you want to achieve and stay focused. A role model can be a source of constant motivation when you need that boost. They can keep you on track when friends, or life, try to steer you in another direction.

There are many people and qualities that inspire me but one example of someone I strive to be like is JK Rowling. She believed in the stories she had to tell so much so that she continued to persevere despite many set backs. It took her 7 years to write the first Harry Potter book and during the same time period she got a divorce, became a single mother and lost her own mother. She stayed motivated however despite all of this and kept writing. In the span of 5 years following that period, she went from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status. That is amazing and her current success is astronomical and something out of a fairy tale, to me.

If you don’t have a role model off the top of your head, start by thinking about what qualities you would appreciate in a role model; someone that is hard working? Someone that is brave and stays positive no matter what? Someone that is accomplished and successful? Someone that makes a difference in the world? Someone that overcame a huge obstacle or tragedy in life? Someone athletic? Someone that dedicated their lives to others? Think of any and all qualities that you wish to be or that motivate you and list them. If this doesn’t make you think of any one person that inspires you, that’s ok. There can be many, many people that inspire you or sometimes it’s certain qualities about people that keep us in awe. The point is to never stop being motivated and inspired by others and to never stop dreaming as big as you possibly can.

The Black Box: Mental Health and Stress on Young Minds

depression aa women

By: Destiny Bryant

I’m certain I’m not the only one when I say that I have a lot going on right now. I, like so many other people, have big plans for this year. Publish a novel, do stand-up, be more independent, and so on. With all these things that I wish to accomplish this year, comes other tasks that have to be done to make those happen. These tasks have taken up a significant amount of time. I can no longer sit and watch TV all day if I want to get these things done. I have to get up and get out. Put things and myself on the line and through dedication and hard work hope that it’ll pay off. You want C? Do A and B to make it happen. I often wonder am I using my time effectively, what I should be doing, and what else will I do if things don’t turn out the way that I would have liked? This constant back-and-forth thinking has brought a lot of stress into my life.

Some are blessed with both the ability and the means to deal with stress and keep it at bay. I was not one of those people. In my case, stress is something I have to actively search for and minimize in my life like shopping around for the best price of an item.

This became clear to me towards the end of my high school career.

teenage depression

Background

My parents expected a lot out of me and I expected twice as much out of myself. They wanted me to go to college and get the perfect husband, house, kids, job, etc. The whole American dream sh-bang. For a while, I thought that’s what I wanted too. I took my academic career very seriously to the point where I had begun to define myself through my academic achievements. To get a higher-end grade in a higher-end class meant that I was higher-end. Anything under an A gave me a panic attack and I felt like crap. Hell, if I got a 95% or lower, it was not fun times. I studied constantly, so much so that I was eating or sleeping up to code with the standards of the typical teenager. Come my sophomore year, the stress was so bad I couldn’t sleep at night or eat. I felt like I was being smothered between two elephants. I couldn’t breathe or focus on anything beyond my first name. I was only found in two places-school and home. If I wasn’t at school pretending not to be sleep, I was at home sleeping. The days consisted of the following: Wake up, go to school, come straight home, sleep, and repeat. I was sleeping about 15-17 hours a day during the week and more if it was the weekend. Despite getting so many hours, I was exhausted during the short periods of being awake. I was too tired to eat or do homework so it didn’t get done. My father would wake me up to eat and I’d a couple bites before falling asleep again. I had gone from an alert straight-A student to a D-student sleeping in class all the time.

I remember once junior year this girl named Jessica was telling the class that she wanted to go to Sac State and in an effort to be more social, something my therapist at the time had recommended, I told her that my dad goes to there and maybe I would too. She then asked me what grade I had in the class we were in, I told her I was failing. She told me that she thought I was stupid. Perhaps she didn’t mean it in an insulting way but I took it personally. She was condemning me, a person, with no consideration of my personality or life’s experiences but because of this one grade in this one class was an “F”, an object. The rest of the class heard her and I couldn’t help but interpret their silence and nods as if they were in agreement.

I fell behind in my work and was freaking out. My grades continued to fall along with my self-esteem. I went from being at the top of my class to a D-student fighting like hell just to get out of bed in morning. I timed my mornings so that I would show up just before the warning bell would ring so that I didn’t have to talk to anyone. After a while I was able to sleep but that’s was just about it. . I was sleeping about 15-17 hours a day. When I finally got to school, I was tired all over again before first period ended. If I wasn’t at school pretending to be awake, I was at home sleeping I sat in the back to ensure that I could get some sleep. I had no business being here trying to learn, I thought, it wasn’t like I was going to live long enough to use the information anyway. So I didn’t even try.

I vowed that my junior year will be one of correction. Catching up and making up for the momentum lost during the previous school year. I was enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at my school. It was thought to be more prestigious than the AP program. Get your IB diploma, they said, and you could skip your freshmen year of college. It was one thing to please my parents and live the good life but to be a seventeen year old college sophomore from the get-go that was just beyond awesome! Maybe then I’ll actually learn something new and be able to apply it to my life!

  • I would be exposed to new information at the college level.
  • I would be surrounded by people who like to learn and grow like me. I just might actually make friends. Like goes with like, right?
  • The grading process would be based on my ability to apply the information I was given rather than factors that my previous classes were graded on that I felt were irrelevant or did not provide an accurate representation of one’s ability to apply such information like attendance and whether or not I brought my book to class.

I don’t want to be here. They don’t want me here. I’m not getting anything out of this. So why am I here? Good question.

Then I had an idea.

I was placed into the level I was at because of my test scores. My scores reflected the level I should be in and then I followed the system up. What if I tested through all the levels? Can I then. . .leave? What if my scores were so high that they had to hand my high diploma or move me to another school so that I could “reach my full potential”? Either way it provided a way out and I’d be free the center of all my anxiety and numbness, my high school. I got in touch with my counselor immediately.

The thought of being free some this place consumed me. I was sure that if I got away from here, this would be better for me. I could have a fresh, new start and everything would be rainbows and sunshine afterwards. I just had to get away from here. I was hoping to come up with an elegant plan for my departure if you will. I sat down in that chair with my posture strong, ready to conquer the world if need be. So when she told me it wouldn’t be possible to graduate earlier from when I was supposed to I was surprised. She then proceeded to talk to me about managing my current workload so that I could graduate on time. It didn’t sit well with me. I was sure there was a way. After all, she works for the high school, isn’t her job to keep students in school and “on the right track”? I searched far and wide for a solution. I then found the California High School Proficiency Certificate program website, took the test, got my certificate and moved on.

Why I Bring This Up

I finished out my junior year and my dad unenrolled me from the school, much to my teacher’s and Blondie’s dismay. They all thought that I’d be better off sticking it out here. That’s the cycle that was before me. I’m sure their good people and didn’t mean any harm perhaps I am in the wrong within their mindset. Finishing high school and going off to college for a good life has worked for so many maybe they did only want what was best for me. But they didn’t see how unhappy I was there. They didn’t see my battles I faced on an everyday basis just to perform normal tasks. They couldn’t see because I wouldn’t let them. As my symptoms got worse, the more I put on a front that everything was okay and that it was all sunshine and rainbows. I thought I could take care of these symptoms by myself. It didn’t cross my mind that it was okay to ask for help until later on. But later is always better than never.

Mental health is essential for any person to function at their best. Take that away from them and you hurt that person’s ability to grow and progress in life. I get the impression that mental health is not in the front of the minds of people my age like physical health is. But that doesn’t change the fact that being mentally healthy is just as important as the other categories. The mind is the tool by which we see the world and learn from it. When the mind is not healthy, everything from your outlook to your decisions is at risk as well.

I may tell jokes for a living but one thing that I am serious about is helping people. If you feel like you’re alone in the world with no one to turn to, know that it is okay to ask for help. We may live in a cruel world but that doesn’t mean we or our circumstances have to be. From parents to peers to trained professionals there’s always an ear lobe willing to listen if you’re willing to look for it.

tell someone