Direct Payday Advance Lenders: Questions And Answers

Consumers looking for fast cash have come to realize that payday loans have become a very popular source of lending. These loans are short-term, meant to be used for temporary financial use, and unsecured (meaning there is no collateral required in order to get a loan). More than $10 billion is borrowed every year via direct payday advance lenders online and in-store. With thousands of lenders out there, consumers are not at a loss when it comes to borrowing options. If you are considering borrowing with a temporary small-dollar loan such as these but don’t know how the process works, take a few minutes to read about some of the most frequently asked questions and answers in an effort to educate and inform yourself before you set out to get a payday advance.

What should should know the difference between indirect and direct payday advance lenders? Direct lenders must be licensed to loan in the state you live and meet the state’s lending requirements. They will process, fund, and service your loan until it’s paid off. Indirect lenders, on the other hand, are not actual lenders but are a “middle man” to getting a loan with a direct lender. They are paid a commission to find you a lender once you have submitted your application. They won’t fund your loan nor will you deal with them during your loan repayment term. How can you tell? A direct lender will have their licensing information on their wall or website whereas an indirect lender should provide a disclaimer stating they are not a direct lender.

What is the process of getting approved? Most lenders make it very easy too apply via a quick application over the Internet or in-store. While lenders typically have liberal approval requirements, not everyone will be approved. In most cases, all that an applicant needs is: a verifiable income that meets the minimum income requirement, a checking account with direct deposit, and a willingness to repay on their next payday.

Can I still get a payday advance loan if I have filed bankruptcy? Not all lenders are the same in their lending guidelines but most are not concerned with whether or not an applicant has filed for bankruptcy in the past. Most lenders don’t even run a person’s credit history. Provided the applicant is not in a bankruptcy at the time they apply for a loan, they don’t have to worry. One of the biggest advantages of getting these types of short-term loans is that bad credit, spotty credit or not credit at all really doesn’t make a difference in the approval process.

Are payday loans as expensive as people say they are? Compared to paying overdraft fees, late charges, and credit card over-the-limit penalties, payday advances may be the more economical way to go when needing cash. Most direct lenders charge a flat fee per every $100 borrowed as well as assessing a fee if the loan is not paid off within the agreed upon time frame (usually the borrower’s next paycheck). Before you apply for a loan, shop lenders to find the best rates.

What is the difference between a payday loan online or in-store? In the past, payday lenders were found mainly in retail locations. With the Internet, though, consumers have dozens of lending options. Thousands of lenders offer online applications that make it possible for someone to apply for and be approved and funded without ever leaving their house. It’s all about personal preference when it comes to deciding how one wants to go about getting a fast cash loan.

Debt Collection Settlement With Payday Loan Lenders

While today’s economy may be getting better for some of us, the fact is that there are still millions of Americans struggling with debt. Payday loan lenders, as well as all over the U.S., have seen a huge rise in the amount of people turning to short-term cash loans to meet emergency financial needs as well as their monthly budget. When faced with the inability to make payments to creditors, we look at all of our options in an effort to make good on our debts and avoid defaulting on loans. That can include taking out a fast cash payday loan to get through the month. But what happens if you find yourself in the position where you can’t payoff your payday loan lender?

Debt collections settlement has become one way for consumers to find that “happy medium” with their creditors while keeping above float with their finances. If it’s a credit card that’s seen one too many swipes or a cell phone gone wild, chances are that offering up some form of retribution on what you owe may be done via debt collection settlement. But what about the debt you owe on a payday loan? If you have hit the end of the road and no longer know what to do about those endless collection phone calls and letters, it’s time to take action.

The first thing you need to know about debt collection settlement with a payday loan lender or any other creditor, is that it is a last resort. If you have already tried to make payments to your lender and continue to go into default, chances are your account has gone to collections. Many lenders use “in-house” collections while some will sell off defaulted loans to a third-party collector. The first thing you will have to find out is who you are trying to settle with: the lender that originally gave you the loan, or a third-party collector. It’s always important to know your consumer rights when it comes to collecting on a debt. While there are many honest and forthright debt collectors out there, it’s still wise to know where you stand in this type of situation.

Once you have determined you are dealing with your payday loan lender directly, consult your budget before calling them to come up with an amount of money you are able to offer on the settlement. Be realistic and don’t offer more than you can actually pay. Start by offering less so you have room to negotiate and don’t ever give an outside collector your bank account or employer information.

While most payday lenders don’t report negatively to the three major credit bureaus, it is still a good idea to ask your lender if they have reported anything on your credit report. While any type of negative information reported before the settlement cannot be removed, you can still work on raising your score once everything is said and done. If you are dealing with a collector, ask that they remove any negative information reported since they took over the debt from the lender. Be sure to monitor your credit report to make sure the negative information was in fact removed.

Lastly, don’t give the lender or collector any money until you have a settlement agreement in writing. If you desire, you can consult with a consumer law lawyer to look over the agreement. Once you have it in writing, have read over it before signing, and have made a copy for your records, you can pay off your debt and move on. If the lender or collector refuses to give you an agreement in writing, make a copy on your own and sent it to them via certified mail with a return receipt requested. Be sure to make good on the settlement as this may be your last option to taking care of that debt once and for all!

Payday Loan Lending Meets Consumers At The Gas Pump

The rise and fall of gas prices continues as consumers hit the pumps waiting to see what they will pay for a gallon of gas. When it comes to filling the tank, payday loans have been known to meet the needs of someone who is low on fuel. The past few years of uncertainty has made being a car owner a little more difficult due to the high cost of gas.

Short-term loans come in handy when there is an unexpected trip to the dentist or a car repair. But as of late, consumers have turned to direct payday lenders online to help meet their needs when it comes to keeping up with the cost of getting from point A to point B. If you aren’t driving a hybrid or other type of car that is made for fuel economy, it’s important to know how to turn a gas guzzler into a sipper and keep your budget from going into the tank!

Consider the following tips when trying to conserve gas and get more mileage for your money. It’s the little things that add up and save you money in the long run:

*Be strategic when running errands- Plan your errands carefully so you driving back and forth and all over town. Try to shop at stores that are located in the same vicinity, finishing up your “to-do” list in one trip. Do you grocery shopping, banking, and dry-cleaning in the same shopping center if possible. Be sure to ask the members of your family if there are any errand they need taken care of as well. You can piggyback on those as well. Park your car in a shaded area to prevent gas evaporation. Not only will you save money on gas, you will get some exercise too! Did you know that parking outward, with the nose of your car forward, also saves gas? Saving a buck or two by doing this can really add up and may prevent you from needing a fast cash payday loan just to fill the tank.

*Be more fuel efficient on the highway- Maintaining a consistent speed while on the highway is a great way to save money in gas. If you are in the position to use cruise control, you will have an easier time staying at the same speed. (On a side note- cruise control can help prevent you from going over the speed limit.) Refrain from breaking too much on the highway as well. While increasing and decreasing speed is an obvious and necessary part of driving, it’s not good to “ride the brakes” when on the highway and/or freeway. If you have access to toll roads, you can utilize them on your daily commute as well in an effort to lessen the stop-and-go of your daily driving. Purchase a monthly pass to avoid having to stop and pay at the toll booth. You may even get a discount for buying one.

*Make sure your tires are properly inflated- Safety is the first and most important reason to have your tires inflated properly but did you know that correctly inflated tires can increase your car’s fuel efficiency by as much as two miles per gallon? That can add up to quite a bit if you do a lot of driving. It’s imperative that you know the PSI (pounds per square inch) of your particular tires as it varies depending on the type and size of the tire(s). Under-inflated tires can cause car accidents and worn out tires can result in blow out’s. Create a routine of checking your tires and always check then before you go on a trip or long drive. The cost of tires may require seeking the help of payday loan lending in which case you can get the cash you need and have new and safe tires as soon as possible.

Aside from tires, it’s make sure your car’s air filter is working properly, that your fuel cap is on tightly when you gas up, and that you are not carrying around too much weight in your car from unnecessary cargo (I don’t mean passengers of course!). While some of these things may seem odd or minimal, by changing your driving behaviors, you can save money and get the most for what you pay for at the pump. Emergencies may be lessened as well as the need for payday loan lending help.

10 Reasons Why Believing in a Christian God Is Good for You

NO WORRIES It’s good to know we can hand all our cares and anxieties to God. 1 Peter 5 6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” It’s a great relief to know that God is always there to take care of business, so we don’t have to worry.
SEE BENEATH THE SKIN If we believe in God we don’t need to be concerned about how we look. There is no need to worry about our outward appearance because as 1 Samuel 16.7 tells us: “… the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” If we see others as God sees them, in other words by what’s in their heart, we become better, happier people.
NO NEED TO GOSSIP Social media offers plenty of opportunity for slander and criticism. James gives good advice on this (4:11-12): “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you-who are you to judge your neighbour?” In other words we are in no position to criticize.
HAVE FAITH When we believe in God, we have faith, and faith brings salvation; see Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” What does this really mean? It means trusting in God is a gift so we don’t have to work for it. And faith is its own reward, releasing us from all futile desires and endeavours and sorting out what really matters, the elimination of wicked thoughts.
STAY HEALTHY WITHOUT HAVING TO DIET When we believe in God we don’t have to worry about what we eat. Exodus 23.25 says, “Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water.”
BE STRONG WHEN YOUR HEART IS BROKEN Read Psalm 147.3 which says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Trying to get over the loss of a loved one through bereavement or separation is one of the hardest trials we have to endure. The journey is a lot easier when God is with us.
YOU CAN STAY IN GOOD PHYSICAL SHAPE ALWAYS Exodus 15.26 “For I am the God who heals you.” As Christians we expect good health through prayer and meditation. The only way to see if it works is to try it.
YOU NEVER HAVE TO ASK “WHY AM I HERE?” Pointless existential questions disappear when we believe in God. His purpose for our life becomes manifest and fruitful. Psalm 57:2 says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” The deal is this: if we make all our choices with God in mind, He will fulfil his purpose through us. No more vexing over meaningless days as every day and everything we do has meaning in God’s eyes.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT DYING Ecclesiastes 12.7 says about death “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” This is such a comforting thought, to know that we are eternal spirits, that our appointed time on earth is temporary and our future will be spent in everlasting glory.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO WASTE TIME WONDERING WHERE THE UNIVERSE CAME FROM “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) This is all we need to know about the origins of our environment. And of course, God made us too.What is there not to like?

Is My Pain From Tight Muscles Or Could It Be From Something Else

During the past 35 years of my chiropractic practice, I have been asked many times “Is my neck and back pain from tight muscles or could it be something else?” This article will discuss muscular pain, and other sources of discomfort and how relief of neck and back pain can be achieved.

Recently a patient in her early 30s came to my office with a complaint of chronic lower back pain. Her job required her to perform rigorous physical activities of installing flooring and carpeting. She told me that her discomfort was interfering with her ability to perform her work duties. She was afraid that she would have to discontinue that line of work and take another vocation because of her condition.

When I asked her what she had done previously to help with the problem, she told me she had seen orthopedic specialists who gave her steroid medication and muscle relaxers. She had also seen physical therapists who gave her stretching exercises. She noted these measures gave her some temporary relief but didn’t completely resolve her pain.

When I examined her, we found that she definitely had muscle spasms of her low back. However, her examination revealed a more significant deeper problem. Her muscles were tight and in spasm because they were trying to protect deeper spinal joint misalignments.

I told her that the body will always work to protect an injured area. In her case, her muscles were chronically tight and in spasm because they were doing what they are supposed to do to keep her condition from worsening.

Let’s take a moment to explain the difference between muscular pain and pain from other sources. If we over-use our muscles, they can be sore and go into some degree of spasm; it might be mild, or it could be severe. Typically, this muscle discomfort eases over the course of several days as the body heals itself. This is a completely normal type of healing.

However, if the source of the condition is from a deeper problem, such as a misalignment of spinal joints, superficial muscular pain will be continuous and become chronic. If this is the case treatment of the muscles will only result in temporary, minimal pain relief at best. To correct the problem, we must address the deeper source of pain. Pain relief can only occur if we solve what’s causing the problem.

In my patient’s case, treatment consisted of utilizing gentle, chiropractic spinal adjustments to correct the misalignment of the spinal bones of her back. After her first treatment she immediately felt the muscular spasm relax and loosen. She said: “Wow, I feel looser already!” It took some more treatments of safe, chiropractic adjustments to fully correct the deeper alignment problem so that she could perform her job free of pain.

Chiropractors are specialist healthcare providers, when it comes to relieving spinal neck pain and pain of the lower spine. Chiropractors are trained to diagnose and treat physical, mechanical alignment problems of spine pain. Most patients who go to chiropractors find that having chiropractic treatment is a safe, pleasant experience because it relieves tightness and spasm of the muscles by correcting the deeper spinal misalignment.

Remember, sore muscles should normally heal after a few days of rest. If, however, chronic muscular tightness, stiffness or spasm persists, it is most likely due to a deeper spinal misalignment problem. In this case, it is prudent to seek gentle, safe chiropractic care for muscle pain relief.

SEO Services in Digital Marketing

SEO is complex small business SEO doesn’t make it any smaller than big business SEO. You can do the bare minimum but if you don’t do all the tactics, you’re wasting your efforts. SEO requires ongoing work and is not sufficient to do it only once. There are one-time optimizations with no maintenance but SEO is an ongoing work in progress. It comprises:

1. Publishing new content regularly

2. Renewing existing pages frequently

3. Adding new links to new pages and going back to old pages

4. Adding new links to new pages and going back to old pages

5. Promoting content via channels such as social media and email

Often many times small business owners have plenty on their plate with their day-to-day activities. With the assistance of an SEO services company your site can create traffic and leads for you while you can focus on your customers. A professional SEO service provider has the best tools and the knowledge to leverage your business.

You may be at a point where you are thinking of hiring an SEO services company for your business. However, you are wondering what they do. In this segment, we will take a closer look, have a clear picture and become aware of the terms used in conversations with an SEO service provider.

On-page SEO

The efforts that an SEO services company does focuses on ‘crawlability’ and usability of your website pages. They will optimize your sections of the website that the public sees and that are read by the search engines. This comprises:

1. Content: They will make your content relevant to the keywords you are ranking for.

2. Structure: They will arrange your linking hierarchy and make search engines easily crawl.

3. Meta Data: They guarantee your page has title tags, image tags, headers, meta descriptions that have targeted keywords.

4. Experience: They will identify how engaging your page is and provide feedback for improvement from a user experience perspective.

Off-page SEO

This involved your website’s backend essentials. They will help you with:

1. Site Performance: This encompasses website responsiveness, load speed, and image size functionable on all devices.

2. Domain Authority: They will make sure you are on the good side with Google terms.

3. Backlinks: They will help you construct links to your site from other reliable websites.

Advantages of Using a Website SEO Service

Website SEO services are mandatory to enhance the ranking and visibility of the website to your targeted customers and can benefit your business. Let’s see a few benefits:

Increased Traffic

SEO Services use specialized and tested SEO optimization techniques to increase website traffic, which directly affects business profit. An SEO expert performs the audits and makes essential changes to the website that are crucial for your online business success. This means you can pay close attention to other aspects of your business, such as your product/service offer and customers.

Return on investment

When you spend on SEO services to rank your website you bring more visitors, the conversion rate will increase automatically, and you can make money most effectively.

Guaranteed Success

The expert teams have years of experience with on-page and off-page optimization of the website content. The service providers know how to achieve outstanding results quickly, and they use analytical data to ensure that efforts are going in the right way to increase your sales.

5 Of the Hottest Digital Marketing Jobs

In case you’re hoping to change into or fabricate a vocation in the circle of digital marketing, you’re doubtlessly glancing at the perfect spot. This is on the grounds that there are a huge load of various professions in this field, every one of which is very changed as far as required ranges of abilities just as inclination and regular capacities.

Regardless of whether you veer towards business and the board, tech or the innovative finish of the range, there will consistently be advanced positions accessible. Here’s a breakdown of a portion of the regions that are required to be popular and have a strong compensation direction in the coming years.

1. Content Managers and Strategists

Content administration is actually a focal part for any organization or digital marketing group as it addresses practically all degrees of marketing – and it incorporates considerably more than simply composing and online media movement.

Content administrators need to comprehend not just how to make SEO-accommodating substance starting from the earliest stage, yet how to coordinate, store, and oversee it too. They need to see how it takes care of various subsets of the marketing plan. They additionally need to have a grip on the most proficient method to create and share the colossal assortment of content that is out there.

2. Virtual Reality Developers and Editors

This is a significant innovative work however it’s so new and intriguing and there’s a lot of space for the individuals who are in the domain of imaginative – tech. In the event that you are somebody with a foundation that consolidates innovation and imagination, on the off chance that you are into illustrations or even embellishments, virtual reality may be an incredible field for you.

Individuals come into virtual reality from the video expressions or in the event that they are knowledgeable in different innovative programming suites. You may wind up with a chief sort job or begin as a partner, analyzer or editorial manager.

3. Search Engine optimization/SEM Specialists

Search engine optimization and SEM are significant for strong digital marketing campaigns and to this end, any individual who can show a strong specialized information and join it with digital marketing aptitude, particularly in the administrative finish of the range, will be the most elevated worker in this field.

Search engine optimization and SEM are hard to represent considerable authority in, to some extent since search engine algorithms are continually fluctuating. Organizations should keep awake to-date to have a reliably high ROI and the greater the business is, the more unpredictable this can be. Moreover, online business locales and those that rely exceptionally upon web traffic for benefits will be especially subject to a solid SEO/SEM system.

4. UX Designer

Client Experience (UX) designers are answerable for the end-to-end development of websites and digital marketing applications. They may or may not have a profound specialized foundation or they might be better knowledgeable on the design end of the range.

UX designers are centered around understanding the site from an entire marketing experience, and to that end they need to understand crowds just as they have inside and out information on the services or products a given customer offers.

5. Email Marketing Specialist

Email marketing is an illustration of a particular zone of content optimization and marketing. Individuals accountable for email marketing are normally incredibly knowledgeable in marketing just as editing and copywriting.

Email keeps on being perhaps the most grounded method of substance out there. To do this well you should have the option to compose powerfully. You’ll likewise be responsible for campaigns, dispatches, and PR exercises dependent on broad information bases of user information and different records.

Google Analytics Mistakes To Not Do

Mistake #1: Using Outdated Tracking Code

When you create a new site design and don’t update your tracking code (especially if you’ve switched from Google Analytics to Google Tag Manager), you risk it being outdated. Always make sure you’re using the most up-to-date version of your tracking code as a precaution against these types of errors. The traffic will usually display inflated figures, but unless you look deeper, you won’t know where the duplicated traffic is coming from. Even then, it’s difficult to pinpoint. To find it, we’ll need to use a Google Chrome plugin. Make sure you’re not using any duplicate tracking codes by using the Google Tag Assistant Chrome extension. When you have several instances of the same tracking code enabled, this will appear as a red tag inside the extension.

Mistake #2: Ignoring Signs of Scraping

One potential cause of inflated data in your GA account is scraping. If your site was scraped but the Google Analytics tracking code was not removed, you might be getting traffic from a duplicate site in your GA. Investigate and inspect these domains for scraped content if you find a lot of traffic in Google Analytics data from one of these sites. This should immediately stand out to you. If you see a lot of your own content on the new site, double-check to make sure your tracking code wasn’t transferred over as well.

Mistake #3: Not Switching http:// to https:// in Your GA Admin Panel

If you’re migrating your website, make sure your admin panel is migrated from http:// to https:// as well. If you want to ensure that your traffic data is accurately tracked, you must get this right. You risk forgetting to include any of your reporting data in your Google Analytics monitoring if you don’t.

Mistake #4: Ignoring Spam/Bot Traffic

Spam and bot traffic are also issues you should be aware of. You may be affecting the accuracy of your Google Analytics monitoring if you neglect the possible effects of spam and bot traffic. When it comes to spam and bot traffic, this can result in traffic performance over-inflation and, as a result, inaccuracies in your data reporting. This occurs because spam and bot traffic are not regarded as reliable sources of traffic. If you believe your search traffic is growing but you base your decision on spam and bot traffic, you might be in for a world of disappointment. This is why it’s crucial to make sure that any SEO strategy decisions are focused on actual users and traffic, not spam or bots.

Mistake #5: Not Assessing Sampled Traffic vs. Unsampled Traffic

This could be an error in your data monitoring decision-making if your Google Analytics account relies on sampled traffic.

What is sampled traffic?

Unsampled and sampled modes are available in Google Analytics. Unsampled data processing means that Google Analytics is tracking all possible Google traffic and is not using sampled data processing.

Default reports are not subject to sampling. The following general sampling thresholds apply to ad hoc queries of your data:

Analytics Standard: 500k sessions at the property level for the date range you are using

Analytics 360: 100M sessions at the view level for the date range you are using

When you create a default report in Google Analytics, however, this data is not subject to the sampling listed above.

When you’re reporting, make sure you’re not relying on sampled data. And, if you’re relying on this information, you’re aware of the implications of the sampled data.

Mistake #6: Ignoring the Hostname in URLs

Google Analytics does not include the hostname in the URL by default. When dealing with several subdomains, this can be difficult because you never know where the traffic is coming from. Always make sure that you know 100% where the traffic is coming from. At least you will know 100% at all times what’s going on with the hostname in your URLs. Your local SEO company can help you do this and more seamlessly for you.

Develop Your Road Map to Success

One of the mechanisms the mind uses to sort through the enormous amounts of data that flow in daily, and keep it manageable is called “preparatory set.” It helps your brain to focus on items deemed important. You can “program” that mechanism by writing down the things you want to accomplish and making them clear. Once programmed, it directs your attention to certain events and occurrences. To illustrate: when you decide you want a certain car you see them everywhere, you notice each one on the freeway, you see every ad or commercial. Preparatory set works that way. Once you program it with your goals (visualizing in addition to writing is most effective) you will automatically be more aware of certain events, opportunities and people who can be helpful. You’ll also be more clear about what you want, and this will sneak into your conversation and your general attitude, where others can pick up on it. It’s not really magic, unless you believe as I do, that the mind is a miracle in itself.

For example, to make it easy to include easy exercise in your life, write down your goal (I will walk an extra half hour a day) and picture yourself walking and enjoying it: perhaps you picture parking a few blocks away (where it’s cheaper) and walk the rest of the way, or get off the bus or subway one stop early, or walk to that nearby restaurant for lunch, or take the stairs instead of the elevator when you can, or take a sandwich to a nearby park, or take the dog for a bit longer walk than usual before and after work. If you picture yourself walking and enjoying it, you’ll soon find that you’re noticing new and different ways you can walk more without stressing about it.

As soon as you have a goal, you can actually make a “road map” for yourself.

Creating a visual representation of what you want to achieve can do several things: First, the process of creating it will force you to be more specific and clear about what you want. Second, taking the time and energy to create it is a powerful signal to yourself that you are serious about accomplishing it. It sets an intention. Third, if you keep it where you can see it, it will be a powerful reminder of your intentions for your own life.

Your visual road map consists of two parts: 1) a picture of your destination, and 2) your map of how to get there.

Road Map Exercise 1: Picturing Your Destination

This is a visual representation of your ideal life, and you will use it for the next several years to remind and motivate yourself, so treat it as the important project it is. When you look at your finished picture, you should be able to see each of your goals clearly represented.

Preparation

1. Collect the materials necessary to make a collage you can write on: a large piece of paper and colored markers, pens, paints, pastels or other art materials; several magazines full of pictures and advertisements that you can cut out, paste or a glue stick, and several photos of you and others in your life. If you enjoy drawing, you may want to dispense with the magazine pictures and draw your own. If you’re a computer whiz, computer art may be the way you do this. You can also add solid objects, pieces of cloth or jewelry, tokens and keepsakes that are meaningful to you. Keep in mind that colorful, graphic pictures are powerful subconscious stimulants, and the point of this exercise is to help to focus your subconscious on your goals and dreams.

2. Divide your paper into sections representing your personal life, your business or career, your family life, your friends and your free time.

3. Title each section, and think about what, if you designed your own life, you would want to create in that section.

4. Begin with the personal life section, and think about what activities represent the private, personal part of your life-including the images that symbolize you. Begin with a picture of you as you are, or as you would like to be (in a graduation gown, wedding clothing, thinner, successful, you can paste a small picture of your head or face on a magazine picture if you wish). Are there hobbies or talents that are important to you? What kinds of images make you feel good about yourself? What symbols would you use to represent yourself? What do you want to use to represent your physical health? Your happiness? Your determination? Choose one or two images to represent the various ways you identify yourself: Hobbies, spirituality, relaxing, exercising, working, parenting, having fun.

5. Now, look for pictures of concrete items or goals that would complete the personal section of your road map, such as the following: Your home, car, clothing, travel, pets, personal growth goals and any other significant factors representing your personal life.

6. Arrange these pictures in the personal section of your collage in a way that suits you, or draw representations of the items that are important to you. Be sure your chosen picture of yourself is front and center of this personal section. Arrange and rearrange and adjust your collection of pictures until the final result pleases you.

7. Now complete the other sections of your results picture in a similar fashion. Each section will probably include some elements repeated from the personal section because you will personally be involved in each category. Use an image of your idealized self prominently in each section; either create a different version of your idealized self for each section, or use black-and-white or color photocopies of your original in each section.

When you have arranged your picture, stand back and take a look to see if it reflects your ideal life. If not, play with it some more. If it is, paste things down or save, and place the collage where you can look at it often. This picture only needs to represent your future as you presently think it should be; you can alter your picture, add to it or make a new one as your goals grow and change.

Road Map Exercise 2: Making Your Road Map

Once you put the necessary time and energy into picturing your destination, you’ll find that by focusing on specifics and details you have clarified your picture. Most people who have done this process in workshops and classes report that they feel very motivated, much clearer and energized by their vision. Take that energy and use it now to create your road map; a plan of action to get you to your destination.

1. Use a separate piece of paper or artboard, and entitle the left side of the roadmap “Where I am Now.” Place sufficient symbols, words or numbers to indicate where you are now in all the areas outlined on your destination picture.

2. Entitle the right side of the paper or artboard “My Destination” and arrange similar symbols, words or numbers to indicate where you will be when you reach your goals.

3. Divide the space in between into columns, and in those columns, develop the steps you’ll need to accomplish to get from where you are now to your destination. For example: In the work area, the steps might be 1) graduate from school, 2) do a job search 3) develop career skills, experience and expertise, and 4) move up in your career. (Each of these steps can be broken down into smaller steps, as you approach that segment of the Roadmap and need to accomplish specific goals).

Use Your Roadmap Daily

After completing your destination picture and road map, use them daily to remain focused on your goals and maintain your motivation. Keep them where you can review them frequently, and change and update them as needed. You’ll find that having a clear picture of your goals and aspirations in front of you will make it much easier to reach them.

All your decisions from now on can be made in relationship to your road map. If you consider each of your subsequent decisions according to whether it will get you closer to your goal or not, your choices will become clearer and more direct.

Using your destination picture and road map to set your priorities and to keep you focused will help you keep all the important areas of your life balanced and will help shape your future. Knowing where you want to go and how to get there will minimize your tendencies to worry, and reduce your indecisiveness and confusion.

Circles of Closeness: Friendship and Intimacy

There are different levels of closeness in friendships. Some people become friends because circumstances bring them together. Perhaps you worked with someone and ate lunch together fairly often, but when one of you left the job, the friendship didn’t survive. Or you were quite friendly with a neighbor who moved away, and your contact ended.

You probably know what’s like to get together with a close friend who you haven’t seen for a long time. It’s as though you were never apart. Your connection is based on many shared experiences, values, and feelings, and it remains strong. Circumstantial friendships don’t provide the same type of bond, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable.

It’s likely that when you enter a new environment, you will meet people you enjoy, but don’t feel a deep connection to. These friendships are like pleasant conveniences, where both parties benefit by the contact, but neither has the interest to pursue the friendship further. The relationship may feel vaguely uncomfortable or wrong, as if there is something “false” about it.

You may enjoy having lunch with colleagues at work, chatting with them about work problems and gossip, and you may even meet some of them before class to exercise. But when you change jobs, most of those friendships are replaced by connections with colleagues in the new office.

There is no need to feel guilty if one or more of your friendships feels circumstantial. It is very helpful for both of you to have one another at this moment; you can enjoy whatever you share and move on when it’s over. Most likely your friend has similar benign feelings of friendship toward you, and the parting is not more than mildly sad for either of you. Don’t deprive yourself of this pleasant contact because it doesn’t meet some expectation, and don’t try to force it to be more than it is. There’s no reason to back away from a temporary, congenial connection.

Circles of Friends

Every friendship is different, and you deserve to have a full spectrum of friends in your life. You can picture your friendships as a series of concentric circles, one inside the other. At the outermost circle are the people you like but haven’t gotten to know well: folks you’ve met at work, church, or other groups; friends of friends and other pleasant acquaintances. Some of these people will never be closer to you than they are now. Some of them, however, become closer to you and move into the next circle. These are people you see fairly often and like quite a bit. They may be circumstantial friends who are meaningful to you at the time, but who don’t stay around. Or they may be members of a group you spend time with, but not special friends of yours. If you’re particularly fond of a casual friend, it’s worth your while to make an effort to get closer. Let an acquaintance know you’d like to have more personal contact by inviting him or her to coffee after a meeting or to a party at your house.

Perhaps your relationship will move into the third circle: developing friends. You’ll both take the opportunity to know each other better and learn whether you have much in common. With some effort, and some luck, the friendship may eventually move into the fourth circle: close friends. It usually takes some time for a relationship to develop this far, but when it does, you both will share a long-term connection.

Nothing enriches life like friendships. You probably remember the old adage, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold.” As your life develops, you learn how true this is. With plenty of friends around, you can make sure that you get your full measure of delight, support, and companionship.

Different Strokes

We all have different categories of people in our lives. There are family members, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and acquaintances. And within each of these categories, there are levels of closeness. In your family, for example, you may feel closer and more comfortable with one sister or cousin than you are with another. Or, in your circle of friends, some may be much more reliable and warm than others. Even in business, some colleagues may be true friends, while others are more distant. The differences in these relationships determine how much distance or closeness will work in them. Knowing how to differentiate between levels of friendhips will make a big difference.

Circles of Closeness

To create a mental picture of how the various kinds of intimacy exist in your life, you can imagine your relationships as organized into a series of concentric circles, with you in the center of all of them.

The center circle: Intimacy: The people you consider most important to you, who are your closest friends and family, fill the center circle, the smallest one. The circle is small because relatively few people meet the requirements to get into the “inner circle.” It is reserved for those who are special: your closest friends, your spouse or partner, and your family.

The second circle: Warm friendship: The circle just outside that one, the second circle, is for warm friends and family members whom you like, but perhaps do not know well enough to trust completely, or who have some characteristics that make being closer impossible. This can be true for people you like a lot, but who are far away, or who can’t be trusted to keep commitments or to respond when you need them.

Third circle: Friendly connections: This circle is for people you know and like, but don’t yet know well enough to consider them warm friends. These people may be friends of your friends or family members, or other people you like and enjoy spending time with, but with whom you have not yet made an individual connection. Some of these acquaintances may very well move on into your second circle after some time and experience, others may drift away.

Fourth circle: Circumstantial friends: These people may be neighbors, co-workers, other parents in your child’s pre-school, or people who are fun to talk to while you work out at the gym, but aren’t much closer in your personal life. These people are friendly and convenient for doing certain things together (for example, a co-worker with whom you have lunch) but if the circumstances change (you change jobs or move away), the friendships don’t last. Once in a while, a circumstantial friend becomes a personal friend, and moves into the third circle, or even closer.

Fifth circle: Acquaintances: This final circle is for people you’ve recently met and haven’t had a chance to screen for more intimate circles, or friends of friends, or other people you hardly know, but consider friendly. You may get to know some of these people better as time goes on.

Being Selective

Each of these circles calls for a different level of privacy. If you have carefully considered who to allow into the innermost circle, for example, it will contain the people with whom you are the most comfortable being intimate. These are the people with whom you share your personal thoughts, your secrets, your sexuality and your living space (just how close you get depends on your personal preferences, and on how considerate and caring they are).

With each successive circle, the level of intimacy and sharing of your private self diminishes. A new work colleague in the outermost circle, for example, will probably know only general information about you, and very little about your personal life.