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Last year it was 35 acts of kindness. This year: 36 letters.

Getting older isn’t always looked upon favorably, but I’d like to think I’m becoming more confident and more thoughtful each year. On August 6, I turn 36.

Leading up to my birthday, my goal is to write 36 letters. The hope is to share gratitude and inspire generosity and love within my friend circles.

Consideration should be the norm, not the exception, and I believe — now more than ever before — it is our responsibility to make the communities in which we live more tolerant and kind. That’s my birthday wish.

Draft your dream team

As the coach of your life, be sure these players are on your team:

The Mentor – This is a person you respect and admire, someone who’s “been there.” You see their life and think “That’s what I want.” These people remind you to look at the big picture.

An Advisee – Someone you mentor. They are eager to learn from you and respect your work. Your willingness to teach them and spend time with them reaffirms your own knowledge and skills, even reminding you where you’ve come from and lessons you’ve learned along the way.

Your Advocate – No matter what circumstance you find yourself in, you need people who fight for you and honor what you stand for.

Supporting Star – You challenge each other to become the best you can be. You compare notes, support each other, and get competitive when it’s beneficial. This could be a colleague or friend, someone you feel comfortable delegating work to or can trust to help when you unexpectedly head out of town.

A Neutral – This is someone who can provide an outside perspective when needed, a person with no direct investment in your life or work.

The Wildcard – The Wildcard is just that, wild. Someone in an industry completely different than your own, an energy that keeps you on your toes and brings you new ideas and experiences.

The people around you can make the difference between pushing beyond your limits and settling for less. Find those who motivate, inspire, and encourage you to do better.

Modified from this post, March 2013.

Bookmark your dreams

Many years ago, a coach gave me an assignment that changed my life.

Write down 50 – 100 things you’d like to do.

My original list contained almost 90 items, goals ranging from learning to tie a necktie to finishing a marathon. I revisit this list from time to time. It has served as a guidepost for sorting out impulse and helping me decide whether my choices are circumstantial or made with intention.

It’s impossible to forge ahead if you don’t have a direction. (I didn’t always know this.) When you focus your efforts, you’re much more likely to get it done.

Step 1: Make time

Mark your calendar and commit. Set aside one undisturbed hour in a space you feel comfortable.

Step 2: Write

While writing your list, let yourself play and dream. Don’t pause to question. Don’t edit. Just write.

Step 3: Bookmark

Place your list someplace safe so you can return to it and reassess whether these goals are where you’d like to concentrate your energy. It’s never “too late” to dream.

Modified from Dream Chasers, posted December 2012.

What keeps you going? (4 ways to spark curiosity)

I’ve been asked what keeps me motivated. The question echoes when I pick up a book, stop at a piece of art, choose a film, or marvel at a friend’s project. What drives passion and fuels excitement? Curiosity.

What keeps you going?

I understand when life becomes disenchanting and hard, curiosity isn’t a natural tendency. The ability to become and remain curious is something like a well; a source that gives back with the right attention. Here are four ways you can spark your own curiosity:

Prepare yourself

Curiosity, like creativity, requires space and intention. You have to invite curiosity into your life. It starts with awareness and depends on your ability to observe not only the world around you, but yourself.

Get active

Curiosity requires participation. When you become curious, you no longer passively gaze at photographs or mindlessly consume shows. Curious individuals wonder. They wonder why certain topics are triggers and think of questions to ask creators.

Lose your pride

Curiosity demands that you set aside “expertness” and search for that which you do not know. You might feel silly or out of place, but your questions will direct you to new territories of understanding.

Aim for overexposure

Search for a variety of sources: Books, people, professionals, amateurs, stories, news, programs, Google, teachers, friends, art, songs, podcasts. The more sources you confront, the richer your experiences become.

How do you feed your curiosity? Tweet me @redheadlefthand.